By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
October 18, 2013
Here we are on the doorstep of the World Series and the front porch of Halloween, and it’s gotten us to thinking. If baseball had been around in 1820, surely Washington Irving’s famed, doomed character Ichabod Crane would have been a Red Sox fan? And wouldn’t Crane, like a majority of modern day American baseball fans, the media, and Major League Baseball sponsors, really want to see the Boston Red Sox play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series?
It’d be a classic matchup, for sure. The classic Sox, playing in 100-year old Fenway Park, the cradle of Americana and baseball, wrapped around New England foliage tours, claret leaves, and pumpkin patches. Versus the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine, the L.A. Basin below bathed in the molten gold Indian summer twilight that drew to California the Plein Air painters, Okies, and O’Malleys alike.
Lobster rolls vs. Dodger Dogs. Kennedys vs. Kardashians. The Way Things Were vs. the Way Things Were to Be. Alas, with two neck-and-neck American League Championship Series and National League Championship Series, that fantasy matchup may not come to pass. But one thing is certain—whether it ends up being the Dodgers or the St. Louis Cardinals vs. either the Detroit Tigers or the Red Sox, the World Series will field two of baseball’s most historic teams.
The 2013 regular season, however, wasn’t exactly a banner year for MLB. League-wide attendance dropped 1% on the season, with four teams experiencing double-digit percentage drops compared to last season. In particular, Marlins posted the worst second-year attendance for a new ballpark in at least 30 years. On the TV side, Fox posted its second-straight year of record low TV ratings with an average of just 2.4 million viewers for Saturday afternoon broadcasts. The league undoubtedly would prefer to see these numbers trend in the opposite direction.
But despite a relative down year, all is not lost for MLB. The average team is valued at $744 million, up 23% over last year, according to an annual study conducted by Forbes. The growing sports TV rights bubble is distributing hundreds of millions—if not billions—of dollars to teams for local TV rights. Most promising, the league is emerging from the steroid era with a bevy of young stars to carry it into the future. Of MLB’s 20 best-selling jerseys on the season, 16 are players under the age of 30. And regardless of locale or name on the World Series clubhouse door, baseball continues to be a springboard for creativity.
For as much success as the Dodgers are having on the field in reaching the NLCS, they’re having success off the field as well. The team averaged 46,000 fans per home game this season, up 13% from last year and marking the first time since 2009 the team has lead MLB in attendance.
One of the things that’s helped make business easier for the Dodgers front office is the use of Citrix GoToMeeting, which also executives to have HD videoconferencing with partners across the world. GoToMeeting has helped improve the Dodgers’ business efficiency so much that the team also has been using the product to give fans a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Borne out of Citrix’s sponsorship deal with the AM570 Fox Sports radio station in Los Angeles, which holds broadcast rights to Dodgers games, fans tell the team why they’re worthy of a videoconference, face-to-face meeting with a Dodger legend. So far, Dodgers legends Steve Yeager, Rick Monday, Ron Cey, and most recently Maury Wills have participated.
In the American League, the Tigers’ currently struggling, former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is featured in a new Chrysler ad for its 300 sedan and Town & Country minivan, “Road to Greatness,” airing during ALCS and NLCS games as well as the upcoming World Series. The ad, according to MLive, showcases Cabrera along with “numerous high school and Little League baseball games” to illustrate “the journey youth baseball players must take if they aspire to greatness on the field.” Cabrera is the latest Tigers star to pitch for Chrysler—previous ads have featured musicians Eminem and Iggy Pop, Lions DT Ndamukong Suh and fashion designer John Varvatos.
Baseball’s 2013 postseason has provided some marquee ratings numbers as well. According to Nielsen figures, Fox is averaging a 4.4 rating and 6.9 million viewers through ALCS games so far, up more than 26% from the net’s early NLCS telecasts last season. TBS, meanwhile, is averaging a 3.2 rating and five million viewers through its 2013 NLCS telecasts, down compared to the 3.8 rating and 5.9 million viewers for the Tigers-Yankees ALCS in 2012, but up from a 2.6 rating and 4.1 million viewers in 2011.
And while Fenway Park’s fabled Green Monster may well indeed come out to play before Halloween, one place we definitely won’t be seeing a World Series game played any time soon is San Jose.
Last Friday, a U.S. District judge dismissed San Jose’s illegal-monopoly claims against MLB over a purported A’s move to that city. While the city can still pursue legal action regarding a ballpark land deal with the A’s, last week’s ruling was widely viewed as a major win for MLB, and it’s likely the ballpark case in itself isn’t going to land San Jose the team.