Friday, August 18, 2006

Flyover Country: Or, How the Bankees Killed Baseball

More annoying than the late NY/Boston beast of Bennifer is the money media baseball machine known as the Bankees. The two largest payrolls in baseball will play each other this weekend, as media bias continues to demonstrate a (north) East Coast bias. Starting today, the Yankees and Red Sox play five games in four days at Fenway. Four of those five games will presented as national broadcasts – three on ESPN, one on Fox. Over the same period of time, the White Sox and Twins have a huge show down in Minneapolis this weekend, and then the Sox head to Detroit on Monday to start a four game set. None of those games will be shown on national TV. The White Sox have a better record than NY and Bos, and are the defending champs. The Twins have a better record than Boston and have been a more interesting story this year, having a phenomenal June and July to make the AL Central a three-way race – something that didn’t seem possible at the end of May. Heck, it’s a wonder they’re still holding on with only two solid pitchers in the rotation. Detroit, as we know, is the Cinderella story of the year, with more wins than anyone in baseball. It seems as though the AL East is the only race that matters. That’s another reason why I desperately want the wildcard to come out of the AL Central. At least one half of the Bankees will be at home in October.

I understand the number of fans for Boston & NY is larger than for all of the Midwest clubs, but it doesn’t seem to make sense long-term for baseball. True fans of the game understand a good story, for the most part, without ESPN telling them. However, for critical ratings during the playoffs or World Series, if Boston & NY aren’t in the World Series, the average person might not think there’s a good story and will then watch the next episode of American Idol’s Talent Search In the Name of Jingoistic Bikini Raids. This will result in lower Series ratings, driving down the overall cost/value of baseball. The networks will come out ahead, MLB will not. But then again we all know Bud’s not that bright.

It’s not just the national networks either. The local Fox affiliate repeatedly shows New York and/or Boston games for their Saturday game of the week. Fox usually has three games to choose from for that Saturday game. Our Fox affiliate buys in to the East Coast bias, three times this season an available Detroit or Chicago game (with playoff impacts for the Twins) has not been shown in that slot in favor of the Bankees. Why wouldn’t you show the games that have more local interest?