Inevitably, we are going to hear the following from the talking heads in the next couple of weeks:
“Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are praying the Yankees and Phillies make it to the World Series.”
The logic is sound.
A Yankees-Phillies World Series is the match-up that would almost certainly lead to the biggest television ratings. And bigger TV ratings means more money for MLB when it comes time to negotiate their next TV contract.
But in the long run, what does this do for the growth of the sport? Not much.
The Yankees and Phillies ranked 1-2 in attendance this season, with both teams selling more than 3.5 million tickets. Both teams already have huge national fanbases and are among the leaders in merchandise sales. While a return trip to the World Series would likely increase these figures, growth would be modest.
Meanwhile, playoff teams like the Rays and Reds rank in the bottom-half of attendance. That means there is plenty of room to grow in Cincinnati and more importantly, the state of Florida, which is still an untapped market for baseball.
If the Reds or the Rays reach the World Series, it would likely mean significant growth for the fanbases of both teams. And a bigger fanbase means more ticket sales in the coming seasons, higher local TV ratings, and more merchandise sales. More importantly, it would mean getting more people interested in Major League Baseball.
While the networks would prefer the national ratings bonanza, in the end, Major League Baseball doesn’t need anymore Yankees or Phillies fans. What they need is more fans of teams like the Reds and Rays.
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