World Series Hopes

While there are still a couple of games left, and the wild card spots are still being decided, it’s pretty well set which teams are going to the playoffs. So very soon, you’ll start seeing odds on the World Series. I’m not so dedicated a fan (or bettor) to really care about that sort of thing. I’ll be watching anyway.

But I am free to muse on which teams I would like to see (anyone but the St. Louis Cardinals, essentially) in the World Series. Rather than run down the various pluses and minuses for each team, I thought I’d instead look at possible W.S. pairings according to what I suspect FOX would like to see.

It’s no secret that the national TV ratings for the World Series have been slipping over the years. That’s not so big a deal – ratings for all TV have been slipping for years. There are both more networks and more entertainment options available to us. One should not compare the ratings for the current World Series to past ones, or even to other sporting events. Compare them instead to what else is on at the same time.

FOX surely wants to capture the largest possible TV markets in order to bring in more casual fans. Die-hard baseball fans will watch no matter what teams are playing; FOX wants the casual fans who will watch not just because it’s their team or their city. That means the Los Angeles market this year. But it doesn’t mean one wants both the Dodgers and Angels. That’s too much overlap, and as we saw with the 2000 World Series between the Mets and the Yankees, the country outside of the teams’ home area won’t care. St. Louis has a geographically broad fan base, but casual fans are likely to be put off by seeing them yet again (in the past ten years, the Cardinals have made it to the playoffs seven times and the World Series four times – more than any other team). And I’m probably not the only fan who’s had it with the Cardinals’ “best baseball fans in the country” shtick. Give it a rest already!

The network is probably also looking for a good story; something they can hang promotions on. Say a small market team, one that hasn’t been to the World Series in ages. Baltimore, Kansas City and Washington fit that bill. Detroit has been to the World Series in recent years, but has failed to take home the trophy every time. Could this be their last chance? Another good story is a veteran player finally making it to the Series; I don’t see that here.

TV executives would also like to have a Big Name Star Player to feature; someone with a nationwide reputation. A Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout, or Bryce Harper, for example. That hurts the Cardinals and Orioles, to some extent. Very good teams, but no marquee players.

Where does that leave us?

Things will be pretty good if either (but not both!) the Dodgers or Angels make it in. The Giants and A’s can both get there via the Wild Card, but an all-California series would be almost as bad as an all-Los Angeles one. Good outcomes from a national TV perspective are then Angels vs. Pirates or Nationals, and Dodgers vs. Royals, Orioles, or Tigers.

Personally, I’d love to see the Pirates and Royals. We shall see…

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