Baseball changes may drive fan interest


Major League Baseball owners have met, and they are making some moves that may drive fan interest, which could be a boon to both ticket sales and broadcast revenues. A team is switching leagues and perhaps creating a new rivalry, and the playoffs are expanding without adding a ton of weight to an already-full calendar.

The rivalry will be in Texas. Currently there are 16 teams in the National League and 14 in the American League, but a move by the Houston Astros to the American will balance that out and possibly create a natural rivalry with the Dallas-Fort Worth Texas Rangers franchise.

It will also open the intriguing need for interleague play from Day One of the season all the way to Day One Hundred Sixty Two.

The other big change is the addition of an extra wild card team per league. At the moment, three division winners and one wild card team compete in the playoffs. Under the proposed format, two wild cards would meet in a one-game playoff to earn the right to compete in the playoff format as it now exists.

That would add a layer – and a high-stakes must-see single game – to the playoff season without adding another week during which the weather figures to be veering out of comfortable baseball temperatures.
It also will keep more teams in the playoff hunt longer, feeding interest in numerous cities and at the nation level.

RBR-TVBR observation: The long baseball season has always been the purest test of team quality in professional sports, and it is only diluted every time the playoff format gets closer to the come-one, come-all postseason that has characterized football to an extent and is a major feature of basketball and hockey.

The question is how far can the owners go without damaging the integrity of the sport? Will fans abandon it if a clearly superior team has a few unlucky days in the fall and suffers an early playoff exit while an obviously weaker team moves on and perhaps wins it all?

But the luck factor being proposed here only affects the two teams with the least claim to a post season berth – to this long-time baseball fan, it looks like a great way to drum up interest and revenue without really diluting the postseason at all. And many broadcasters will benefit.