Hey everyone, there is still an exciting baseball season going on. No seriously, take a look at the standings. Normally this is when casual fans are hopping on the bandwagon getting ready for the playoffs. As usual in recent history, the MLB has been overshadowed by start of the NFL and college football season. Baseball also has to deal with a presidential election that is a ratings monster. The powers that be would want nothing more than a Cubs v. Red Sox World Series to pull people back to America’s past time.
Look at the contenders in the American League. Texas is a young hungry group with strong pitching. They also lack any major star power. The Indians have the fun ‘Year of Cleveland’ storyline building off the city’s NBA championship, but the Indians won’t garner ratings from the masses. Baltimore and Toronto — the two most likely wild-card teams — are fun, but again, they probably aren’t making people flip the channel to watch the game. The Red Sox combine a major media market, potential MVP in Mookie Betts, and David Ortiz’s retirement tour. Now that is a story Turner and Fox can get behind during playoff games.
The National League is a much better situation. At least the contenders are in major media markets with Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco all in the mix. The problem is that every impartial observer will be cheering for the Cubs. It makes sense. The team is filled with young, name brand talent. They have a quirky coach. O yeah, there’s also that small thing where the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. That’s 108 years of futility. The Red Sox story wrote itself in 2004. The Cubs story may be even better if they can pull it out.
Imagine a World Series where the Giants play the Indians. Sure it is good baseball, but it’s not even close to the Cubs v. Red Sox blockbuster. Really make any combination that doesn’t have the Cubs or Red Sox involved and World Series TV ratings will struggle.
MLB is fighting an uphill battle already with the addition of presidential debates and programming drawing everyone’s attention. The league needs a break. That break could come in the form of a Boston v. Chicago match up. That would make TV partners happy. It would make sponsors happy. It would make me happy. Well, I don’t matter much, but Cubs v. Red Sox is important to generate interest among young fans. MLB should also make sure its ready for cord cutters and digital viewers. MLBAM has always been a leader in that regard so that’s not a concern. The biggest concern has to be what teams end up making a playoff push. MLB execs will say it doesn’t matter. But they are all secretly cheering for what could be one of the biggest World Series in recent memory.