Envisioning a bold new National League

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There are three sleeping giants in the National League, and, no, I am not talking about San Francisco. The National League should have a trio of flagship franchises who have regular-season pennant races against their natural rivals, create playoff rivalries amongst each other and regularly become the senior circuit’s representative in the World Series.

And their fan bases would have tentacles throughout the country to get transplanted fans and bandwagon jumpers to give them a national presence, in the way that the Yankees and Red Sox became polarizing, yet undeniably popular, teams. When any of these three teams come to town, tickets would be hard to get (and their prices jacked up). Fans would boo the team and the ever-present fans who make the trip to follow their club.

There could be a thriving and astonishingly popular National League. The problem is, the three potential flagship teams—the Mets, the Cubs and the Dodgers—are all a mess right now. And baseball should be doing everything in its power to get those three clubs to thrive, be productive, to win and have star power.

Now, this notion spits in the face in the idealistic, “we want every team to win every year, including the small market clubs,” mantra that we are all supposed to chant in the name of fairness. But guess what? Expanding the appeal of baseball isn’t always fair. It needs to be intertwined with television exposure.

I knew several people at Fox Sports who, in 2008, were practically acting as if it were Mardis Gras when it looked like the Cubs, Dodgers and Mets were all going to make the playoffs at once. Instead, the Mets fell apart, letting the Brewers in. The mood soured after that. Then the Cubs were swept and the Dodgers were eliminated, and the Phillies, not yet a national team, were in. It was a morgue at Fox during that World Series.

But, more importantly, which kind of team could spark rivalries with other teams in its division? A nondescript franchise from a small market? Or a team with deep roots in a big city? It is vital not only to have good teams to root for, but a bad guy to root against. As I stated in one of my blog videos, it is like a James Bond film. The best ones have the coolest villains.

The league is healthiest when the Yankees are good, just like the NBA needs the Celtics and Lakers to be good and football wants the Cowboys and Steelers to be good. Their popularity goes beyond the city limits. (Seriously, how many transplanted Mariners fans do you know?) Also, the venom of the opposition is stronger. (When was the last time you heard someone say, “I don’t care who wins as long as it isn’t the Marlins!”)

So the trio of National League teams could spark interest on both coasts and the Midwest unlike any other combination of teams, and do so with distinct identities and blood enemies within their division.

The New York Mets

Always the sloppier alternative to the uptight, full-of-themselves Yankees, the Mets could embody the glamor of the big city but have a sense of humor about it. Basically, if the Yankees are Wall Street, the Mets would be the Village. Enough people are raised to despise the Yankees to make rooting for them impossible. But the Mets don’t carry that baggage with them.

They could embody the scrappy, lunch pail New Yorker, all the while taking on the challenge of their rivals in Philadelphia. And over the years, the teams from Miami (transplanted New Yorkers), Atlanta (Southerners not trusting those yankees—the team and the people) and Washington (the REAL epicenter of the country) would take their shots at the Mets. There would be wonderful geographical and cultural rivalries, plus a little bit of likable scrappy little brother quality that the Mets would have.

Alas, the team is a mess. In somevways, 2006 was the worst thing that happened to the team. As they were one Carlos Beltran swing from the World Series (and maybe taking control of New York baseball), they have been operating as if they are just one player away from the elite level of teams. The result has been a string of horrible contracts and ill-fitting players. How was it everyone on the planet Earth knew Jason Bay was the wrong fit for CitiField except the people cutting him a check?

How can a single team possibly have so many massive deals for the likes of Oliver Perez, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo and see them not only be unproductive but also untradeable? How could a team suffer back-to-back collapses like they did in 2007 and 2008 and later have the indignity of Johan Santana‘s injuries?

The Mets seem to be trying to right their ship. Sandy Alderson rebuilt the A’s and the Padres and could be the right man for the job. Terry Collins is a curious choice for manager, but maybe a change in culture is what they need. Just don’t be too rigid, Terry. These are the Mets, not the Yankees.

The Chicago Cubs

Like their team name, the Cubs need to be the cute and cuddly National League powerhouse. They have the Midwest, homemade apple pie appeal. They play in a neighborhood where you can see the houses (with advertisements on the roof) from the ballpark. You almost expect someone from one of the houses to knock on the clubhouse door with a freshly baked pecan pie “for the boys.” They play in a quaint park that looks like it has been untouched by time.

And the team itself would have that lovable quality. The fans in the bleachers would embrace their players and the faithful would call them all by their first names. And each player would go on about how great the tradition, the ivy and the fan base are as they fight to bring home a title.

And, of course, they are the keepers of the last great baseball curse. If Red Sox fans turned the whole “Reverse the Curse” rallying cry to national prominence like they had never seen before, the Cubs’ need to win a World Series could make them the biggest team in baseball not named the Yankees.

Besides, Chicago is a hell of a lot bigger than Boston, and the Red Sox have won it twice. That storyline is getting stale. There are a whole bunch of new grandmas and grandpas who are dying without seeing their team win a World Series. This season will be 103 years and counting. (But who is counting?)

And the happy, feel-good, “Gosh darn it, we really want to win now!” approach could spark the other teams in their division. Their natural rivals, the Cardinals, have won the titles and currently have the aces the Cubs want. They could be the bullies keeping the nice, sweet Cubs from winning. You have the defending division champion Reds feeling that they are the true scrappy underdogs. Milwaukee fans to the north probably would want to beat the Cubs just to see their fans squirm some more. Houston fans, who have had their share of postseason strife, would have no patience for Cubs pity. And Pirate fans? Forget it. They would hear Cubs misery and think “Cry me a river!”

Of course the Cubs are in worse shape than the Mets. Both teams have expensive and bloated contracts that were the result of a series of failed pennant runs. And now Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, et al, are making the payroll huge and the rewards minimal. Unlike the Mets, the Cubs have yet to clean house.

Jim Hendry, the man who assembled an expensive but bad veteran team, still has his job and is making deals (like the Matt Garza trade or the Carlos Pena signing) that would only make sense if the Cubs were only a player or two away from being a contender.

They aren’t. They are a lot of players away from being a contender (and perhaps a new GM away as well). Cub fans have been waiting for more than a century for a title. It will probably take a few years longer.

The Los Angeles Dodgers

If the Mets are the scrappy underdogs from the big city, and the Cubs are the lovable neighborhood team, then the Dodgers are the glamorous team. They have stars on the field and bigger stars in the box seats and luxury suites to cut to during the game. For the casual fan who just wants to gawk over famous faces, they would turn to the Dodgers. Their park isn’t nestled into a neighborhood. It sits on a mountain overlooking the City of Angels.

Plus, their history isn’t that of losing or falling short. When the Dodgers have won, they’ve done so with some of the biggest names in the game and a steady manager guiding the way. They’ve done it with charismatic ace pitchers and steady clutch hitting. And they’ve won with a flair for the dramatic befitting a Hollywood script.

The have the world champion Giants in their division, and their fans hate everything about Los Angeles. They have the Padres to the south whose fans (when they show up) would love to knock the Dodgers off their perch. And the fans in Colorado and Arizona would just love to upset the apple cart and stick it to California.

The Dodgers of recent years got real close to the World Series and looked like they were fitting right into the classic Dodger mold. They had the style, the manager and a lot of the talent. But they desperately needed the big ace. The Clayton Kershaws and Chad Billingsleys of the world were talented, but they lacked a true No. 1 starter.

After Joe Torre arrived in Los Angeles, the 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 AL Cy Young winners all changed teams. Cliff Lee changed teams four times! CC Sabathia changed uniforms twice! Roy Halladay went elsewhere. Johan Santana, Dan Haren, John Lackey… etc., etc., etc. And none of them went to Chavez Ravine. It is no mystery why.

The McCourts can claim all they want that their reenacting of The War of the Roses had no effect on how they spent money on their team. Reality and logic paint a different picture. Reality and logic rarely lose to someone going through a painful public divorce.

So the Torre era ended and the Don Mattingly era begins. The Dodgers seem to be in even more denial than the Cubs

Now before anyone says, “How can you tell what the personalities of the teams will be unless you know who the players are?” let me make two important points:

First of all, the personality of every single professional sports team conforms with the city they play in, no matter who the players are. A Los Angeles team that wins will always be considered glamorous. A Pittsburgh championship team will be labeled “scrappy” and “blue collar” regardless of the personel.

A team like the 1979 Pirates was considered to be a tough, likable squad who reflected the Steel City. But if you took the Hall of Famers (Willie Stargell and Bert Blyleven) and superstars (like Dave Parker and John Candelaria), the crazy stars on their hats and dancing to disco music and transplanted that to the Giants, people would say they reflected the loose, crazy attitude of San Francisco.

No matter who is on the Mets, Cubs or Dodgers, the franchise’s and city’s personality will override the players. Look how Kirk Gibson went from the rough-around-the-edges, tough-as-nails Detroit Tiger to the dramatic, “Hollywood ending that can’t be written in a movie” star of the Dodgers! It was the same guy playing the same way. Different perceptions.

Secondly, and most importantly, this is about marketing and perception. The Red Sox of 2004 were portrayed as a crazy, close-knit bunch winning for the dying grandparents of New England. In truth, they were almost all cobbled together from other teams, and they won because their pitching staff was deep, not because their hair was long. It made for a nice story, but if the Red Sox bullpen wavered in the ALCS, then Dave Roberts‘ stolen base would have been a forgotten footnote.

As I said in my video about marketing the Giants, baseball needs to add juice to their fan base. (No, not THAT kind of juice.) The trio of National League powerhouses in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles should be driving the National League. It should be a shorthand of what kind of fan you are—the way being a Raider, Packer, Cowboy or Steeler fan is in football.

Now, there is hope. Lots of bad contracts are coming off the books for the Mets and Cubs after the 2011 season. And no doubt soon a new ownership will take over the Dodgers. They will have money. But then again, the problem for the Cubs and the Mets wasn’t failing to spend enough money, but spending it wisely.

Those three teams should get wise. They have a unique opportunity to define the National League for a new generation of fans.

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Comments

  1. Jim G. said...

    Paul,
    By your logic, why have any of the small-market non-“flagship” teams in the first place?  Just contract the leagues to the “profitable” teams and be happy with your television ratings.
    Maybe the small markets should create their own league separate from the big markets. Sure, the superstar players will bolt for the big markets as soon as they can, but that happens now anyway.

  2. Brandon Reinoehl said...

    I love the excitement of the upcoming baseball season every year but I’m beyond tired of 2 things:
    1.  Experts, pundits, fans, etc actually predicting Cubs success.  How can anyone take them seriously.  Losers aren’t lovable especially at this level of futility.  The Cubs are loved because of the neighborhood they play in.  It’s a great, great party and the games are a mere sideshow.
    2.  Experts, pundits, fans, etc saying how good it would be for baseball that the Cubs would at least get to the World Series.  I can’t deny this but I’m still tired of it.  But then, the fan base just wouldn’t have the self-righteousness of being devoted to a loser (not that they’ll ever be anything but losers).

  3. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Jim G

    Having the big market teams be robust is good for the Small Market clubs and for the league as a whole.

    Goliaths like the Red Sox and Yankees draw bigger crowds and get more attention when they come to town. And with the possible exception of the Phillies, there is no Goliath in the National League.

    The whole “slaying the giant” (not the SF Giants) scenario is always the most compelling story in sport, which is why you also need the small revenue teams.

    The NCAA tourney is compelling when some college you’ve never heard of wins games, but it is even MORE exciting when that obscure college beats traditional powerhouses like Duke, Kentucky or UNC.

    Having a trio of superpowers in the National League could put 20 some odd games on a small market team’s schedule that fans circle in red and get super excited about.

    It also would make a small market clubs post season success more dramatic.

    Let’s say a team like the Cincinnati Reds wins it all. That would be cool.

    But if the story line was “They defeated the mighty Cubs for the Division, beat the powerhouse Mets and Dodgers in the playoffs and then brought down the unbeatable Yankees in the World Series” then it becomes a storyline for all time.

    I am saying baseball has no shortage of Davids. They need more Goliaths and it will make each year more exciting and compelling.

  4. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Brandon is proving my point to a T.
    He would root extra hard against the Cubs and it would be more fun for him to watch the Cubs lose if they were actually good.

    It isn’t always about wanting your team to win.
    It is also about watching a team you hate lose.

    I was at a bar in Walla Walla Washington when the Angels eliminated the Yankees in the 2002 playoffs. You would have thought everyone there was born and raised in Orange County they were rooting for the Angels so hard.

    They wanted to see the mighty Yankees fall.

    I was in a bar in Los Angeles when the Rays beat my Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS. The place was going nuts.

    Were they Rays fans? Of course not. But they wanted to see the Sox and us annoying fans cry in their milk.

    That desire to watch a big team collapse is part of fandom.

    And having three teams in the NL to match that popularity AND notoriety can only help the game

  5. AaronB said...

    This is what I hate…it’s not just baseball, but all sports.  Why do we need the Cubs to be good?  Why do we need the Dodgers to be good?  Why does everyone want the “old” powers in college football, like Michigan & Nebraska to be good?  The NFL needs a team in LA…I get so tired of it.  The NFL is doing just fine without LA, although I realize they will have time w/in 5 years.  College football has become really exciting, with new faces like TCU, VA Tech, to name couple, becoming relevant. 

    Baseball?  The Midwest already has a “premier” team in the Cardinals.  They are everything the Cubs are not, winners, run well, better fan support…all things Cubs really envy.  The rest of the NL Central, the Brewers have quietly put together a team that can be very dangerous, the Reds have plenty of good young talent, and half the ‘03 Cards on their roster, and they are the reigning division champs…so what if the Cubs don’t have it.  The Dodgers have historically been the other premier NL franchise along with the Cards so it would be nice if they could put it together, but their AL counterpart has been model franchise. 

    Mets?  Who cares.  In case no one has noticed, the Philly’s have become the top dog in the NL, and dare I say it, in all of baseball.  They have money, fan support, are winners, and are run a whole lot better than the Yankees and Cubs, two franchises who just keep throwing money at problem until they can get something that works. 

    Anyway, I’ll stop my rant.  It just gets me when people moan about the large markets and how they are no good.  I often think they are so preoccupied with wanting the big markets to succeed that they fail to recognize the good:  like the Giant’s 1st CA WS title, for example.

  6. Luis said...

    How was it everyone on the planet Earth knew Jason Bay was the wrong fit for CitiField except the people cutting him a check?

    How can a single team possibly have so many massive deals for the likes of Oliver Perez, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo and see them not only be unproductive but also untradeable? How could a team suffer back-to-back collapses like they did in 2007 and 2008

    DO you REALLY have to ask that??  A profound inability to create depth and a poor understanding of how to manage a bullpen.

  7. MikeS said...

    “The whole “slaying the giant” (not the SF Giants) scenario is always the most compelling story in sport, which is why you also need the small revenue teams.”

    Even if this statement ahs some economic validity, this is so freaking arrogant it turns my stomach.  22 teams in MLB do not exist so that the teams from Boston, NY, Philadelphia, Chicago and LA have something to do until the playoffs roll around.  Those same 22 teams do not exist solely to be “giant slayers.”  They do not exist to develop players for the big market teams to buy.  If MLB ever really starts to believe that or if the fans of those 22 teams really start to believe it MLB is done.  Look what has happened in Pittsburgh and KC where the fans believe it.

    The NFL is healthy because it has the most healthy franchises and the best competitive balance.  MLB is healthy because Boston and NY are perrenially good.  What happens to MLB when those two teams go through a downturn?  Think it can’t happen?  You already pointed out that the Mets and Cubs suck despite spending plenty of money.

  8. Dave Studeman said...

    How was it everyone on the planet Earth knew Jason Bay was the wrong fit for CitiField except the people cutting him a check?

    Blaming the Mets for his performance in 2010 because he didn’t “fit” in Citi Field is misleading.

    Jason Bay Slugging Percentage at home in 2010: .459
    Jason Bay Slugging Percentage away in 2010: .354

    Plus, so what if Bay’s surface stats suffer at Citi? That’s to be expected.  Every batter’s stats suffer at Citi. That doesn’t make offense less important. According to Hit Tracker, Bay hit very few cheap home runs in 2009. It was not a bad assumption to think that he’d hit 25-30 HR playing for the Mets.

    I wouldn’t have signed Bay, but that’s because of the long-term contract for a player who I don’t think will age well.

  9. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Ahhhh the NFL competitive balance argument

    MLB has had 9 different teams win the World Series in the last 10 years and since 2000 only the Pirates, Royals, Blue Jays, Nationals and Orioles have missed the playoffs. And yet I still have to hear about how the NFL is more balanced

    The NFL will never be topped in terms of TV revenues because it is perfectly designed for television. Teams play once a week. Have all the baseball fans watch just one game a week and you’ll see ratings go up.

    But the NFL plays their games up to the drama of television and creates a compelling product with drama and stories… the kind of drama and stories that baseball never knows what to do with.

    How could they drop the ball in promoting their sport when a team like Tampa Bay confounded the experts and played the ultimate spoiler?

    As I said in my video that was posted here, I think baseball needs to market teams like the Giants and play up to the fans West of Pennsylvania. Like it or not, the “I can’t wait to beat that team” mentality is a sure fire way to drum up more interest.

    There is already a power in the East with the Phillies, a potential power in the Central with the Cardinals and a Defending Champion in the West with San Francisco.

    The Phillies edging out the Braves… that’s good baseball
    The Phillies edging out the Mets… that’s a blood feud.

    The Reds and Cardinals going at it… damn fun.
    The Cubs and the Cardinals going at it… epic

    The Giants beating out the Padres… thrilling
    The Giants beating out the Dodgers… the latest chapter in a long rivalry from both coasts.

    Look, I love baseball and if the World Series was between the Diamondbacks and the Royals, I’d watch every pitch.

    The expansion of the appeal of baseball has nothing to do with soft or hard caps or small or big markets. It has to do with playing to the TV crowd.

    And you can do with a small market club winning. Many small market clubs have.
    But to make the sport a bigger draw (and putting more dough into the pockets of those small markets) you need the bad guys.

    Watch Royals attendance when the Red Sox or Yankees show up.

    Oakland pays their bills when Boston and New York show up.

    More bad guys equal more big games. More big games equal more people showing up and more eye balls on the TV.

    That equals more money and teams increasing their chances of keeping their players.

    As for Pittsburgh and Kansas City… they were very badly run for a long time. Hopefully things will turn around for them with new management. (The Pirates especially have always been one of my favorite teams)

    The cycle of small revenue teams, even durng the days of the Reserve Clause, was they would be good for a few years, then retreat to rebuild… back and forth.

    For those years in the cycle where they would be good, having the big bully on the block to gun for would increase interest and build up the “It’s our turn to get them.”

    And in the down years, the fans would say “As long as it isn’t the Cubs/Dodgers/Mets” like they already do with the Red Sox & Yankees.

    And hey! Maybe a small market club could pick up a few bandwagon fans along the way.

  10. MikeS said...

    I saw the video. I loved it and agreed with it. This piece, obviously not so much.

    Baseball needs to market baseball. Not just Yankees-Red Sox. They haven’t figured out how to do that. Most casual fans don’t know who Joey Votto or Zach Grienke are but they know the Yankees middle relievers.

    It’s not because they are the Yankees, it’s because they are good. But they are good (in large part) because they can outspend their mistakes like no other team in sports.

    Why does attendance go up in small markets when the Yankees come to town? Same reason. When the Royals or Blue Jays were good they were a road draw. In 1990 the Red Sox and Yankees were not. At least nothing like they are now.

    Comparing to the NFL is admittedly hard. As you pointed out, a whole different animal. But consider this – the NFL is hoping the Bears and Jets win this weekend but if they don’t, the Super Bowl will be fine without them. The ratings won’t be all that much different and the ads are already paid for. It’s not the apocalypse MLB had over Texas – SF. The NFL has learned to market the game, not just two teams.

  11. Casper said...

    Transplanted Mariner fan here.  We’re around, but for understandable reasons we don’t talk about it much.  I do wear the hat, though, right here in the middle of Phillie country.  I suspect most people think the “S” stands for Scranton.

    Seriously, it seems to me that baseball isn’t supposed to be in a kind of professional rassling situation, where every team has to act out a persona in some national melodrama that gets scripted by the media.  The game is good enough without gimmickry.

    It’s not that I hate the villain teams of the East—I’m just sooooooooooooo tired of them.  My heart leaps with gladness every time a mega star tells the Yankees to stuff their checkbook and take a flying leap.  Smaller audiences for the World Series seems a small price to pay for the occasional rest from the NY-LA-CHI obsession of the sports world.

  12. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    MikeS

    I agree with you. This is coming from a Native New Englander who lived most of his adult life in New York… there is too much Red Sox/Yankees fixation.

    What I wrote about the National League was the idea to create big natural rivals and the kind of teams you love to root against in each Division, creating match ups that get national attention.

    “In 1990 the Red Sox and Yankees were not”

    Actually the Red Sox won the 1990 Division Title, but I understand what you are trying to say.

    The A’s were the big bad team back then, and the fact that the Dodgers knocked them off in 1988 and the Reds knocked them off in 1990 and the Blue Jays knocked them off in 1992 made those titles all the more exciting.

    I picked the Mets, Dodgers and Cubs because teams in big cities are easy Goliaths and they have many natural rivals.

    Keep in mind the NFL figured out how to market the game in TV in the 1960s. Baseball still behaves like it is 1950 and everyone is talking about Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

  13. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Casper,

    I one breath you say you don’t care about rooting against the Goliaths of the game and in the next sentence you say your heart leaps with gladness when someone sticks it to them

    Interesting.

    Also smaller audiences for the World Series means less money for those small market teams to keep their players.

    Build up the rivalries and make it so some small market clubs can actually have a national following.

    Sure the NFL can have teams like Indianapolis and New Orleans and Green Bay and Pittsburgh be big draws… but they also have a nearly 50 year head start in marketing their game to baseball.

    Each Division should have a team with a national following of people who love them and people who hate them.

    When they lose it will make more fans hearts leap with gladness

  14. KJOK said...

    The Mets, Dodgers, and even Cubs (2 first place finishes) were all pretty good in the 1980’s, so I think we’ve already experienced this.  I don’t remember it causing any great increase in interest in baseball.

  15. zubin said...

    Compare MLB to the NFL.  In the NFL, New York does have a particularly sucessful history, LA doesn’t have a team and one of the leagues most sucessful franchises calls a city of 600,000 home.  Yet the NFL has greater popularity than MLB despite the flesh covered robots that dominate their game.  Now, I do understand there are big differences in the marketability of the two sports.  Most importantly, with 81 home games per year baseball teams do require a larger population base.  However, MLB need not focus on the largest cities to market the game.

    In the long run what is good for baseball is to grow the fanbase across the US, not just in the three or four largest media markets.  In fact, I’ll argue that continuing to promote the largest baseball markets at the expense of smaller markets only intensifies market disparity and alienates the fanbase in general.

  16. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    it is futile to compare the MLB to the NFL
    The NFL is designed for TV in a way that baseball could never approach. For baseball to fixate on football would be like the producers of Mad Men wondering how they will get as many viewers as American Idol

    It ain’t happening… even without Simon.

    I am not saying in this article to only grow baseball in the large media markets. I am saying having the Goliaths in the league HELPS the smaller market teams market their games.

    It builds rivalries and has more games where the Pittsburghs and San Diegos of the world can circle on their calendar to say “I can’t wait to beat THAT team.”

  17. Ken said...

    I can agree with the article’s major points, but does it really matter?  Baseball is awash in money.  If the TV ratings and gate receipts are marginally higher, the players and owners will be slightly richer.  But I don’t see how that will affect how I enjoy the game.

  18. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    a fair point Ken

    Truth be told, I am watching baseball no matter who is good.

    I am thinking of ways for baseball to stay healthy and for the smaller market clubs to have more big games on the schedule.

    I’m not thinking about us. I am thinking about the many potential fans who right now don’t really follow it

  19. Joe said...

    Typical elitist pig tripe. Only large market teams should be consistently competitive and the small market teams are fodder for the big boys like European Soccer. So if the Marlins, Brewers, and D-Backs became the dominant NL teams then that wouldn’t be good enough for you?

    “And baseball should be doing everything in its power to get those three clubs to thrive, be productive, to win and have star power.”

    What powers exactly are you suggesting Bud Selig/MLB front office should use to help these teams out? Give them a couple of extra draft picks? Tax breaks? This is written as if you want to give them a bailout, too bad if Cubs, Mets, and Dodgers management are the AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Citigroup of baseball.

    Shame on you for thinking the Nats, Pirates, and Padres could never make for “poor James Bond villains”.

  20. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    “So if the Marlins, Brewers, and D-Backs became the dominant NL teams then that wouldn’t be good enough for you?”

    It would be fine for me. In terms of marketing the sport it wouldn’t be

    By the way, tell the fans of Arizona to sell out an NLCS game next time.

    “What powers exactly are you suggesting Bud Selig/MLB front office should use to help these teams out? “

    Publicity.
    Marketing.

    “Shame on you for thinking the Nats, Pirates, and Padres could never make for “poor James Bond villains”.

    You can shame me all you want… it is hard to get people to HATE the underdog.

    What I am talking about is having a strong National League with more natural rivalries, more games where small revenue teams sell out their buildings and more regular season interest.

    So I can see how you would be against all of that

  21. Scott said...

    The problem with baseball is not with TV ratings. It’s the fact that people who are baseball fans, generally only like and keep up with their team.  I’m a huge Braves fan but once they are eliminated from post season play I am usually so mad that I can’t stand to watch any more baseball.  I’ll keep up with it and watch a few innings here and there and check the internet to see who won but I’m not living and dying for every pitch like I am when the Braves are in.  I think most fans are like me. That’s why you see a huge ratings drop off when teams start getting eliminated from the playoffs. And teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Braves, Dodgers, Cardinals, Cubs, etc who have big national fan bases you have more fans that keep being fans because their teams are still in versus if the Rangers or Rays make the playoffs where they have little to no fans outside of their respective cities. 

    But I do see what you are saying about having another team to hate besides the Yankees and Red Sox. Heck in the 90s a lot of people rooted against the Braves because they made the playoffs every year. It’s good to root against the big bad bully.  Phillies have really grabbed that title in NL though and I think you will start to see a lot of ill will going there way.

  22. Zubin said...

    Paul:
    Sorry, but I can hardly dsagree more with the “solution” you suggest.  If you want more “big games” on the schedule, the best way to achieve this would be to design a league where there is as much parity as possible.  What you are suggesting, intentionally or not, would unbalance the cost structure of the NL even further and create less parity.  Esentially you’d create two or three more Yankee or Red Sox franchises.  And while the press coverage for these two teams has been great for their fans, I have not seen it help out the Blue Jays, Orioles or even the Rays.

  23. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Zubin, in case you haven’t noticed, the National League has HAD parity.

    Since 2006 all five NL West teams have made the post season
    Since 2003 four of five NL East teams have made the playoffs
    Since 2005 five of the six NL Central teams have made the playoffs

    Since 1999, nine different teams have won the NL Pennant.

    (Also remember that there have been 9 different World Series winners in the last 10 seasons.)

    Since 2001, only the Blue Jays, Nationals, Orioles, Royals and Pirates have missed the playoffs. And only the Pirates have failed to have a winning season in that time (counting the Expos.)

    And only one team has made the playoffs each of the last 3 seasons, and it isn’t the Red Sox or Yankees… it is the Phillies.

    Meanwhile if the Steelers win then there is yet ANOTHER multiple champion in the NFL

    And assuming the NBA will be won by the Celtics, Heat, Spurs or Lakers, then yet another title will be won by the same old group. (Those four teams have won every title since 1999 save for the 2004 year.)

    Yet I keep hearing “baseball has no parity.”
    Compared to what?

    This is the subject of the new video I am shooting for my blog… stay tuned

  24. zubin said...

    Once a team hits the playoffs, the winner is determined by what is, relatively a crapshoot.  I am therefore really interested in which teams make the playoffs when dicussing parity…  And I agree that the NL has had relative parity.  My point is promoting two or three franchises in the NL (similar to the attention the Yankees or Red Sox get) would destroy that parity.

  25. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    How?

    By promoting inter division rivalries?
    By having more games to circle in red on the schedule?

    I was in San Diego this Labor Day weekend. The Padres were in first place. The weather was perfect and Petco is a beautiful convienient ballpark to get to.

    The place was half empty.

    It isn’t enough to simply root for your team to win. You also need a team to want to lose.

  26. Scott said...

    Petco was probably empty on labor day because it was labor day and San Diego has some of the best beaches in the world.  And it’s free to go to the beach.  San Diego has supported the Padres for years. This year was just a weird circumstance. The economy is bad and no one thought the team would be any good.  I would like to see what the local TV and radio ratings were because I bet those were really high. 

    And the NBA has the least parity of any league.  Do you guys realize that since 1980 there has been only 8 franchises to win a NBA title? And that won’t change this year because there is no way the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, or Spurs won’t win the title.  That is crazy 30 years and only 8 franchises have titles.  You can actually go further back than that and it’s still a small number because the Lakers and Celtics dominated the early part of the NBA as well. I mean the Lakers and Celtics have over half of the NBA titles ever.

  27. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Scott… I am shooting a video tomorrow at the Rose Bowl about that very topic

    MLB has the reputation of having no parity (untrue) which brings people to say they need a salary cap… and the salary cap sports have the same teams winning over and over again.

    Baseball needs to market its game better, have bigger rivalries within the divisions and showcase their stars.

    And somehow combat the biggest complaints.

    The Red Sox and Yankees win every year (which they don’t)

    There’s no hope for the small market teams (which there is)

    And nobody cares but in the Northeast (well DO something about that!)

    As I said, people like watching the underdog take out the big bad guy… which is all this article was suggesting to hype up. Give it a shot!

  28. Scott said...

    Paul,

    I don’t know what was up with San Diego last year then. I remember when Petco opened up they drew over 3 million and they had that one game playoff in 2007 I thought they drew pretty well that year too. 

    MLB needs to market itself better that is for sure. Baseball is popular all over the country but ESPN only talks about the North East teams. But if you watch the MLB draft, which I am sure you do, you will notice that a lot of the players come from California, Texas, Metro Atlanta, and Florida.  And the Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, and White Sox are all popular in the mid west. The Braves are popular in the south east. I would assume the Rangers will grow in popularity in Texas this year. Dodgers, Angels, and Giants seem to draw 3 million fans every year.  It’s all perception problems for MLB and a good PR and marketing firm would take care of that.  Not sure why they don’t get on that.  Market the hell out of Jason Heyward, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Justin Upton, and Evan Longoria.  Those are all marketable guys.

  29. zubin said...

    Most divsions have a reasonable amount of parity, the obvious exception is the AL East, a divsion that has been dominated by the two teams with the largest payrolls in all of MLB.  And yes, I am aware of the Rays, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees have missed the playoffs only once in the past 16 seasons and the Bo’Sox have missed only 2 of the last 8.

    Making the Cubs, Mets and Dodgers into another Yankees or Red Sox simply isn’t good for MLB as a whole.

  30. zubin said...

    Didn’t I mention the Rays?
    .
    You really think the Rays record over the past three years is more significant than the Yankees over 16 years or the Red Sox over 8 years?

  31. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Actually it shows that yes indeed the notion of “No team can beat the Red Sox or Yankees” isn’t exactly valid.

    Actually it throws water in the whole “Yankees and Red Sox just dominate everyone” concept.

    You don’t like seeing the Sox and Yankees in it every year?

    Well in 3 of the last 5 years, your wish has been granted.

    Baseball needs to somehow combat this fiction that there is no competitive balance (there is. Not an opinion. A fact.) and that somehow they don’t have a product that each team doesn’t have a chance.

    9 different World Series winners in the last 10 years?

    Since 2001 only the Padres, Pirates, Nationals, Brewers, Orioles, Blue Jays and Royals failed to make the LCS… and the Pirates, Royals and Orioles were horribly run and the Expos/Nationals didn’t even have an owner for a stretch of time!

    Yet somehow baseball has to wear the hairshirt of “the same teams win every year” (fiction) unlike football where each franchise has hope (fiction.)

  32. zubin said...

    Who ever wrote “No team can beat the Red Sox or Yankees”?

    Um again, who wrote that?  I wrote (more or less)that the Yankees and Red Sox have dominated over the past eight years.

    Again, the record of the past eight years clearly shows there has not been competitive balance in the AL East.  I really don’t get how and why you are arguing this.

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