The Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants will start a three-game series at AT&T Park this evening. And Fox Sports executives should be paying close attention to these games. This could be a post season match up this October and if they showed some imagination, this could be a thrilling and very marketable series.
A common complaint about falling baseball television ratings, as mentioned in ESPN among other places, is that only the traditional powerhouses draw viewers. The 2009 World Series between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies drew solid numbers according to TV by the Numbers. According to USA Today, the 2010 series between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers was the worst ever.
Northeast teams draw big numbers. Other cities do not.
But last year's World Series showed that thrills and great baseball could win the day. The match up between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals looked like it was going to be a ratings loser. But the ratings spiked, according to The Huffington Post and Nielsen.com, as the drama of the series built up. The Game Seven ratings were among the highest in years.
There is an audience out there that wants to see good baseball with great story lines.
Washington versus San Francisco has the potential of a great seven game series if the two teams met in the National League Championship Series.
Both teams are flushed with dynamic pitching. Even if Stephen Strasburg is shut down for insane reasons and Tim Lincecum is not up to his normal standards, the pitching will be outstanding. Gio Gonzalez is a Cy Young candidate, Jordan Zimmermann is outstanding and Washington's bullpen depth is outstanding.
The Giants still have Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Volgelsong to start if Lincecum is slumping.
But their lineups are filled with charismatic and exciting players as well. Fox should be salivating at the prospect of Bryce Harper playing on the big stage. His numbers might not be the eye-popping MVP that Mike Trout is now. But he is young, cocky and plays with a flair for the dramatic. In other words he is the type of star that television should be embracing to promote baseball.
Throw in some solid power from Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, Mike Morse and a rejuvenated Jayson Werth and the team can put some runs on the board.
Meanwhile the Giants have the most colorfully fun lineup in the National League. Buster Posey is making a case to be the National League MVP. Throw in an All-Star known as Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval) and another one called the Melk Man (Melky Cabrera) and the games can market themselves.
The traditional market teams are easier to sell to because baseball runs deeper in their culture. Of course a Red Sox and Mets World Series would draw more than two expansion teams. Obviously Fox would want nothing more than the Yankees to play the Cubs.
But there are other reasons to watch baseball. And seeing two young teams play with style and substance could be a foundation to bring in fans who are tired of the same old teams.
Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard and Stephen Strasburg are all 28 years old or younger.
They are a young foundation of exciting players on two teams that play on opposite coasts that do not bring the baggage of the recent Northeastern World Series winner nor the Cardinals.
In other words, it is something young, new and exciting.
If only television liked things like that.