I probably shouldn’t be writing this for a couple of reasons.
1. I don’t need you taking my easy money. It’s almost unfathomable how much these people will pay you to sit in a room for 60-90 minutes and unload on their products.
2. I’m sure it’s unethical on some level to get in on a study group and then talk about what everyone else said. But I didn’t sign anything, so screw it.
Let me back up…
A couple of weeks ago a marketing research company here in St. Louis called me up. If you’re not familiar with these places, it’s basically a phone call telling you that you’ve got free money waiting to get picked up. They’ll ask you about 10 questions ranging from your living situation to your salary and you answer them. If you qualify, you come in after work and make about 75 bucks to talk about what you like/dislike about Thing X with a moderator and usually 6-8 other people.
They hand you a real check after you leave and all you need is a first name.
No forms, no complicated procedures. Show up, talk about Thing X and leave with the check. That’s it. That’s the gig.
Again, I shouldn’t be telling you this, since the more people that do this, the fewer studies I’ll have the chance to do… but whatever- this one is worth sharing.
So in the past I’ve personally done these for stuff like new TV shows, razors and chicken pot pies. They’re easy and fun, but not anything I’m really passionate about. Which makes sense. I shave, but I’m not passionate about razors. If Gillette can figure out a way to move my needle and get me even a little excited about a razor? We’ll I’ll probably buy Gillette. Get enough guys like me and all of a sudden these focus groups pay off.
So when the company called and came right off the top with “Who do you think the NL MVP should be?” I knew that this was going to be a study I wanted to be in on.
I gave sufficient answers and they booked me for last night.
All the guys in this particular study were 28-35 year old males that loved baseball. I would describe the 9 other guys as 7 pretty pure (get rid of the DH etc) hardliners and 3 fairly progressive (pitch clock wouldn’t be that bad) moderates. Everyone seemed to have a girlfriend and a dog. One guy plugged Viva El Birdos and another accidentally gave the URL where he steals MLB games online.
That was actually pretty awkward for everyone. Anyway…
In no particular order, here are the things we learned:
+ MLB is really interested in metal bats for the Home Run Derby. This was brought up at least twice separately for discussion by the moderator and mentioned a third time in passing. In the room, even the purists were OK with tinkering with the HR Derby and didn’t feel like it would be sacrilegious to change the format of the thing completely.
VERDICT? I don’t know how they do this with people in the OF stands… but I sure as hell was vocal in supporting seeing what these guys could do with the pipes.
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+ MLB wants to push the young stars to popularity levels that were enjoyed by Big Mac and Barry Bonds and wanted to know who they should promote more/better. Joe Mauer came up more often than anyone. Felix Hernandez was also a popular choice. Other names that drew a reaction were Roy Halladay, Carlos Gonzalez and for some reason, VEB guy was very interested in Dan Uggla.
VERDICT? This discussion point was pretty boring. Joe Mauer isn’t all that interesting for a reason. I kind of laid back on this one.
+ Broadcasters were a hot topic, both locally and nationally. Let me give it to you straight- Dan and Al better hope that FSN never commissions one of these things. They were BLASTED for a good 5 minutes on everything from mispronunciation to not doing research. This was the most unanimous and loud the room got. Everyone was tired of them. Nationally- Joe Buck and Harold Reynolds had some room support, while Chris Berman and Joe Morgan did not. Mike Shannon beer jokes were cracked at least three times.
VERDICT? In a surprising twist, Tim McCarver actually didn’t have a vocal chastiser in the room. Perhaps the internet hate machine isn’t as strong against Timmy Mac as I anticipated.
+ These guys were looking for ‘the juice’ as they put it. I think I may have used that term first, but the moderator latched on to it. We used it unironically for 90 minutes, so that has to be good for baseball, right?
VERDICT? Everyone was looking for less pussies in the game. Take the armor off, let pitchers pitch inside and get rid of the warnings. Surprisingly, MLB wanted to know if it’d be helpful to have in-game reminders of bad blood. They used Brandon Phillips as an example and wondered if a graphic package to tell us why this was an interesting at bat would help. They seemed to want to get reactions on how to stir shit up. This could be a good development.
Other quick hits...
+ MLB doesn’t like being compared to golf on any level. They’re pretty much mortified that people think they can just sleep through games.
+ They want to integrate more Twitter/Facebook/Other into their coverage and into game action.
+ They know that the guaranteed contracts have diluted the competition and think that getting players less comfortable could be good for competition.
+ Kyle Lohse was brought up by me at least 4 times and every single time his name was mentioned, at least one guy groaned. That can’t be good.
+ Aaron Miles and Brendan Ryan also were names that came up multiple times and we’re not sure the moderator (who was from Boston) knew who the hell we were talking about.
+ This place had a nice pre-game spread of Jimmy John’s and cookies.
We talked about a whole crapload of other stuff, but I think the main points above are what are driving the MLB thought process moving forward. Obviously, they’re probably doing these in other markets with other people. But they did acknowledge that St. Louis has a great pool of knowledgeable fans they can pull from and want our input from the Midwest.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk pot pies. Promise.