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Baseball's Postseason Conundrum: Parity or Ratings?

Spot-on column this weekend from Sean McAdam, who asked the perfect MLB postseason question: Which is more important for baseball – parity that it appears to be achieving this season, or sports fans actually watching the postseason? McAdam sums it up more eloquently than anyone else has (and many have tried):

Though it gets little credit for it, MLB has achieved the parity it long sought.

But that parity comes with a price, and the bill will come due when the national TV ratings are released for the two League Championship Series and, later, the World Series.

Already, the Division Series’ numbers were down about 15 percent. And remember: The Yanks and Phils, which typically attract big ratings, were involved.

It was a rough weekend for MLB, though the drama was compelling: Two 1-run game fives were played on Friday (ratings were good, but can you imagine what they might been on a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night?), a rain-delayed game on Saturday night, and a rainout Sunday night. All weekend, the sport took a backseat to football (and the college football games were non-competitive Saturday). Back to McAdam …

And that’s where baseball has a major problem. They don’t want the same, familiar teams — Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies — in the LCS and World Series every year, because people complain that, well, they’re the same familiar teams and that’s no room for underdogs in baseball.

But when those underdog clubs like the Brewers or Tigers play deep into October, people don’t watch. Or, more to the point, not as many watch as when the Sox, Yanks or Phils are involved.

And now, the line you’ve all been repeating: Why should baseball care fans about ratings? Maybe they shouldn’t. Bud Selig? That’s another story:

As baseball gets closer to negotiate new TV deals, it finds itself in a no-win situation: If the most popular teams dominate October (and ratings), the sport has to listen about the uneven playing field. Meanwhile, if some different clubs reach the Series, not enough people are interested.

Back in 2000, FOX outbid NBC/ESPN for “Saturday baseball, the All-Star Game, selected Division Series games and exclusive coverage of both League Championship Series and the World Series.” In 2006, that contract was renewed, and it runs through 2013. If Bud Selig is looking for leverage, will he be able to use this October’s postseason ratings? [CSNNE.com]

Previously: The Yankees Losing Won’t Be Bad for Postseason Baseball Ratings, But a Non-Competitive World Series Would

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