When major league baseball realigned its divisions in the early 1970’s and implemented the wild card several years later, the explanation given was that such changes would increase spectator interest in more cities as the season wound down if more teams were in the hunt for a post-season berth. The unspoken motive behind the decision was to increase television revenues by extending the season generally and, baseball executives hoped, to more large markets.
The Commissioner’s office could barely conceal its glee when teams from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago were in the hunt; conversely, they secretly must have rooted against a post-season filled with the likes of Cleveland, Kansas City or Milwaukee. No need to worry there, Bud; thanks in part to television revenues, small market teams have generally been infrequent visitors to the post-season for quite some time.
The point of all of this preamble is that despite the increased attendance and television ratings in cities such as Philadelphia, San Diego and Minneapolis as the recently-concluded Wild Card chase produced, the benefits of an extended season with more teams participating seems ultimately to have fallen short of MLB’s objectives. At least that is the preliminary conclusion we must draw based on the series of ads running on television starring former Dodgers’ manager Tommy Lasorda.
In them, Lasorda, dressed in black tie, visits the homes of various fans whose teams failed to make the playoffs. Finding them hiding in various places, mourning their home team’s failure to make the playoffs (one is up in a tree, another in a kitchen cabinet), Lasorda doesn’t merely coax them to come out, he exhorts them to get a grip and watch the post-season on television.
Real fans don’t hide in October. They celebrate it!, he admonishes one fan. It’s October. You’re a baseball fan. Watch the games!, he virtually shouts at another, concluding, I live for this! You live for this! The world lives for this! To the TV!
Judging from comments in the phlogosphere, few "real fans" are watching much if any of the current playoffs. And with the Yankees and Dodgers already eliminated, Tommy’s hard sell just got harder.