By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
October 20, 2011
Lucy Van Pelt, she of “Peanuts” fame (and presumably no relation to ESPN’s Scott Van P), once whispered to Charlie Brown in late December, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know.”
Which is precisely how Major League Baseball’s big celebratory season felt for most of the 2000’s, as the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Boston Red Sox held a near chokehold on the World Series.
No more. 2010’s Fall Classic saw the triumph of the hipster West Coast Giants, and this year, World Series version 107, it’s all about the Heartland – to such a degree that it almost seems like it was engineered by that most American of syndicates, the GOP, to serve as a backdrop for the seemingly dozens of Republican presidential candidates vying to capture the hearts and minds of America’s central swath of Red States.
Game One of the World Series, pitting the St. Louis Cardinals against the Texas Rangers, was Wednesday night, and without knowing who will ultimately be crowned champion, here are some of the things we can take away from the 2011 season. Despite ongoing economic turbulence, league-wide attendance increased 0.8% over last season to 73.4 million, the most since 2008. Thanks to sponsorship renewals from Bayer, Chevrolet and other corporate backers, MLB gross revenues are at an all-time high of $7.5 billion+.
However, interest in this World Series could be slim compared to recent years. This is just the third time since 1995 that neither World Series team has a top ten payroll. Also hurting matters – the top seven most popular MLB teams, according to Harris Poll data, were eliminated before the League Championship Series, or failed to make the playoffs.
As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief.”
And although Commissioner Bud Selig remains optimistic, MLB has a collective bargaining agreement that expires this December. During the 2006 World Series, MLB and its players association announced that they had come to terms on a five-year CBA that “set a new benchmark for timing," and "aspired to match it this year," according to Newsday. But baseball insiders aren’t all that optimistic that MLB’s next CBA will be completed so swiftly, and if other labor negotiations are any indicator, it could be a long offseason for baseball. Enjoy the World Series while you can.
Stat Sheet: Cardinals vs. Rangers
St. Louis Cardinals
Payroll: $105.4 million
Value: $518 million
Value % increase after last World Series appearance: 7% (2006 World Series champs)
*Below MLB average growth of 14%, but the Cardinals saw a big increase the prior year when they opened new Busch Stadium
Operating income: $19.8 million
Payroll: $92.3 million
Value: $561 million
Value % increase after last World Series appearance: 24% (2010 World Series runner-up)
*Above league average of 7%, but inflated by a bankruptcy auction that took place mid-season
Operating income: $22.6 million
St. Louis Cardinals: $1.17 million
Texas Rangers: $961,000
St. Louis Cardinals: $5.76 million
Texas Rangers: $5.84 million
St. Louis Cardinals: $222,000
Texas Rangers: $235,000
**All numbers according to baseball media valuations