This past postseason, I watched a lot of the National League side of things. Since I avoid watching Yankees games whenever I can, I focused on the NLCS and the World Series. Neither of those series, thankfully, had those dastardly pinstripes in them. Over the two series, I saw quite a few Giants games. By the end of the World Series, I was starting to get familiar with their players. I had seen Lincecum a few times, the first time I had ever seen him on TV. I saw their line-up, obviously, quite a bit and started to get to know it. It was nice. I recently read an article that stated that was one reason the Giants-Rangers World Series was good for baseball. It gave a chance for the whole country to see two teams that weren’t the Red Sox or Yankees. Not only are those two teams in the playoffs a lot, but they dominate the nationally covered games on Fox and ESPN. If the Red Sox are playing the Yankees, it’s assumed that both networks will cover those games. So, it was nice for the rest of the country to be Texas and San Francisco fans for a while. That got me to thinking. That is really the reason there are so many Yankees fans all over the country. Back when the World Series was the only nationally televised game, the Yankees were in it every year. People across the country became familiar with Mickey Mantle, the way I became familiar with Buster Posey. It’s also the reason there are so many Braves fans all over the place. Not only were they in the playoffs every year, but their games were all televised nationally on TBS. Simple exposure created such large followings. What if Major League Baseball took that idea, and ran with it?
What if MLB selected national telecasts in order to build fan bases? What if they selected a team or two that needed some help, say the Pirates and the Royals, and showed their games all year? What if they tried to build larger fan bases for weaker teams? Would that work?
Naturally, there are all sorts of rights issues that would need to be worked out. I’m assuming that Fox would balk at the idea of showing a Pirates game every Saturday, just as ESPN would protest having to show the Royals. But, the MLB has their own network, right? They can just do it themselves. So, have a game of the week, or two. But, instead of always showing a “top” match-up, show the Pirates and Royals. How about Royals on Tuesday, and Pirates on Thursday? The MLB network could simply show the feed from the regular local broadcast. That way the Royals and Pirates wouldn’t lose their television broadcast profits…if they have any. The MLB network wouldn’t need to hire a new broadcast team. They could find an ad spot or two to make it even more worth their while. Maybe even start those games early…say six o’clock…to give them no competition from other games for an hour. But, then just go from there.
So, every Tuesday night, there’s a Royals game on TV. You’d still get to see all the other “major” teams. You’d still have the other stars from other teams on national TV. But, the nation would build a relationship with the Royals. I could see Zack Greinke quite a few times if I wanted to. Probably four or five times, on average, over the course of the year. I’d see the young stars in 25 games over the year. Maybe I’d become a fan of one or two of them. Maybe a couple extra people would buy a Royals hat. Maybe one extra person would buy a Greinke jersey. Same thing would go for the Pirates. Just a little bit more exposure over a season for these lesser-known clubs. When the Sox play the Royals, I’ll at least know the other players. That has to help my interest. When the Sox go to Pittsburgh, knowing the other team a little better would be nice. The next year? Pick two different teams. Maybe they Royals and Pirates will keep some of their new fans. Maybe pick each team for two years? Then, pick different teams from each league, and build their fan bases as well. Isn’t that win-win for the teams, the fans, and MLB?
Or, I guess, win-win-win?