October 29, 2010
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That is all anyone in the media talks about all season long. When the Yankees get eliminated from the playoffs, the talk is about how no one will be watching the World Series this year.
The way they make it sound, it was only fair for the American League East powerhouses to allow the junior varsity kids to play in a World Series every now and then. The San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers made it to the World Series, but everyone who follows baseball knows one thing. There is no way that a team from west of the Mississippi is actually better than the beasts from the east.
While much of the blame falls on the media, particularly ESPN, Major League Baseball must take its fair share of the blame. Baseball is the only sport in which no one cares about teams outside of the major markets.
Case in point. In Major League Baseball, the team that plays in the Dallas area is a small market. In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys are one of the league favorites.
It is always interesting to hear the commentators during playoff games. On Thursday night, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck talk as if Matt Cain was a guy who is coming out of nowhere. That he really isn't that good and that his performance is out of the ordinary.
For those who actually watch baseball, and not just the once-a-week national broadcast of the Yankees or Red Sox, know who exactly who Cain is, and just how good he actually is.
Take a look at the two teams in this Series. Why aren't the Rangers marketable? They have an incredible story in Josh Hamilton, a well-told story of redemption. On top of that, they have a young team that can crush the ball. Even more, they have two guys on their team who have had very good Major League careers that are finally getting a chance at a ring in Vladimir Guerrero and Michael Young. Guys like Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andruws are good players who are fun to watch.
The Giants are very similar. They have a 22-year-old catcher in Buster Posey who has the composure of a grizzled veteran. They have a starting rotation that is second to none in the league. On top of that, they have their own redemption stories in guys like Aubrey Huff, who toiled his way into obscurity in Baltimore and Detroit before becoming a leader in the Giants' clubhouse. Cody Ross, possibly the biggest surprise of the postseason, was a waiver claim from the Florida Marlins.
Despite the stories that are readily available, no one has heard of any of these guys. Why? The answer is simple. Major League Baseball has done nothing to combat the east coast media love affair with the Yankees and Red Sox. They have allowed everyone to believe that the rest of the league are also-rans to the two big boys in the game.
That type of marketing may be good for ratings on Sunday Night Baseball when Joe Morgan can rave about how good both teams are, but simply wouldn't compete with the Big Red Machine that he was not only a part of but the unheralded hero of.
The ratings might be good during the regular season, but when those teams falter in the playoffs, fans are left without any knowledge of any other team. Instead of learning who those teams are, people simply figure that the best team didn't win and wait for next year when the Yankees or Red Sox can dominate again.
All the while, Major League Baseball sits around wondering why their playoff games can't compete in the ratings with week four of the NFL.
The answer is right in front of them. Instead of marketing two teams and allowing people to believe that the National League is the farm system for the American League, give face time to every team, let people know that, as good as those teams might be, there are clubs out there who can beat them.
Then, and only then, will people start to care about baseball again.
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