It is easy to watch ESPN and think that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are the only two teams in Major League Baseball.
And while that is annoying to the most passionate baseball fans, it is understandable. The “E” in ESPN stands for “Entertainment” and the “N” does not stand for “News.” ESPN is a business and the Yankees and Red Sox sell better than the other teams, by a large margin.
But while it is expected for ESPN, it is a little surprising to see the same level of bias coming from MLB’s own network. Sure, the MLB Network is also a business and ratings are king. But we would also think the league would want to promote its business.
And yet, if we look at the Spring Training games that will be aired on the MLB Network, we see a who’s-who of big market, high-payroll clubs.
The seven teams that will make at least eight appearances on the MLB Network this spring include the Red Sox, both teams from New York and both teams from Los Angeles. Those seven teams had an average opening day payroll of $134.5 million last year. The 12 teams that will have fewer than five spring games televised, had an average payroll of $72.2 million in 2010.
MLB wants to promote their stars, and thanks to free agency and lack of a salary cap, most of those stars are in big markets. But many of the small market teams have talented young players that should be promoted to the next generation of baseball fan. And many of those players play for teams that struggle to sell tickets.
Giving those players and those small- and mid-market teams more exposure would go a long ways to helping to promote those products and increase their attendance. But Major League Baseball appears to be more concerned with ratings and short-term advertising revenue.
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