Parity in baseball necessary for good ratings
Baseball might be regarded as America’s pastime, but in recent years TV ratings would have made it seem like it was merely a figment of America’s past. This season’s happenings, however, showed that baseball might not be as dead as we might have thought.
FOX released its World Series ratings, and despite the series between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals only going five games, it showed improvement from the previous year’s Giants-Royals series. Most importantly, it bucked the trend of an aging World Series audience and attracted over 30 percent more young viewers than the previous year.
All in all, baseball couldn’t have asked for a better season for fans, especially younger ones. The addition of a play-in game for both the NL and AL provided plenty of late season excitement, and in the most non-traditional baseball result one could imagine, the Houston Astros beat the storied New York Yankees franchise to advance to the ALDS which they eventually lost to the World Series champion Royals. In the NL, the Pittsburgh Pirates once again nearly found postseason success as a small market franchise, bested only by Cubs pitcher Jake Arrietta’s continued dominance.
The final four teams consisted of the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. Try waking someone up from 2013 and explaining that. Each team was looking to end a long-standing World Series drought, with a new generation of fans cheering each team on to win the first title in their lifetime. (Okay, maybe a few generations of Cubs fans were hoping for a title.)
The New York Mets fanbase had an awakening this season from a long and lonely hibernation, where they hid from consistently poor quality baseball. After years of watching losing teams take the field, fans were finally rewarded with a dream run to the Series this year. Kansas City had the same thing happen last year, and both attendance and local TV ratings skyrocketed in 2015.
Gone are the days where the top teams were without fail those with the highest payroll, and it might seem strange to see ratings improve with teams other than the Red Sox or Yankees involved. It shouldn’t. Fans love parity in sports, and baseball is finally starting to show some season after season. It still remains the only major sport in the United States without a salary cap, and possesses the smallest playoff of any league, but small market, low-payroll teams like Kansas City have been able to find recent success anyway.
It’s time for baseball to reassert itself among new generations, and new-age fans won’t settle for teams that can’t compete day in and day out (the 2015 Atlanta Braves). Parity isn’t only good for TV ratings and fan interest, it’s necessary. The MLB can’t continue to hope teams will overcome payroll disparities and find success. The league needs to reassess the salary cap issue before it begins losing fan interest once again.