Games 163 and 164: Rescuing Two Big Market MLB Teams

in sports •  13 days ago

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There are 162 games in Major League Baseball’s regular season, but this year they still weren’t enough. Going into this season, several of the top teams were from big media markets. The owners and advertisers in any league are happy when big market teams play well because it means the possibility of more shared revenues coming in from ticket sales, TV rights, advertising, licensing, merchandising, and other streams of income. Plus, there are those extra games in the playoffs, which add to the financial bottom line.

So baseball must have been thrilled when experts predicted that the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs would be among this season’s top finishers. Those are the three largest media markets in the United States; the owners could not have scripted things better. And those three teams, along with the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, and Washington Nationals, were said to have the best chances to go deep into the playoffs and perhaps contend for a championship.

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Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. Source:AP.com.

But baseball is a funny thing. On any given day or in any given season, any team can exceed expectations. Even the best built models can fail to predict the outcome.

Some Surprises

By the late summer, it seemed like the experts’ predictions were fairly accurate. Houston was as good as everyone thought they’d be on the heels of their championship last season. The biggest surprises were the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Oakland Athletics coming on as strong as they did with very young teams. The Atlanta and Philly surges in the National League East division put the final nails in the coffin of the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are always picked to do well, but as usual, they failed to meet those expectations.

The only other surprise was the extent of the Boston Red Sox dominance in the American League East division. Most models had the Sox finishing with roughly the same number of wins as the New York Yankees. Yet the Red Sox were even better than anticipated and won plenty more games than the Yankees did. That’s not to say that the Yankees fell short of expectations; the Red Sox exceeded their similar expectations and won their division handily.

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Source: Creative Commons via Wikimedia.com by Keith Allison.

Struggles in Chicago and Los Angeles

As summer turned to fall, inevitability turned to a struggle for two teams that many people picked to be battling for the National League pennant. The Chicago Cubs came in with that fearsome lineup, great pitching, and a celebrity manager who helped them win their first world title in the modern era in 2016. Similarly, the Los Angeles Dodgers were considered one of baseball’s deepest teams last year, a roster to which they added a rough diamond of a slugger in Max Muncy, plus a resurgent Matt Kemp. Forget scrapping their way to 80 wins; both the Dodgers and Cubs were built to win 95 games apiece.

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Crowd at the Cubs 2016 World Series parade.

Instead, late in the season, they faced increased competition. In the National League West, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies challenged the Dodgers, who were not able to seal the deal on their division title. After the last game of the season, the Dodgers and Rockies remained locked in a tie. Similarly, in the NL Central, the Cubs were supposed to run away with the division crown, but could not. The Milwaukee Brewers had a great season and the St. Louis Cardinals had a stirring late season run, leaving the Cubs and Brewers tied after the last game had been played.

The Unthinkable: Games 163 and 164

At the end of the regular season, two divisions were tied. Each of these teams had played 162 games over a period of six months, yet they had to play one more to decide both the NL Central and West divisions. Whichever two teams won these tiebreaker games would head straight for the playoffs. The two losers of these tiebreaking games would end up in Wild Card games with only a one-game chance to make the playoffs and contend for a championship.

A Wild Card games is a one-shot, “must win” elimination game. The winner goes to the playoffs and the loser goes home. I’ve always criticized the one-game system because I don’t like reducing the whole season down to a single sample. I’d prefer they play a 3-game series to determine the Wild Card winner. But one game it is.

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And so, this year, in a period of three days, we had two Game 163s to determine NL division winners, plus the two Wild Card games (one in each league). And three big market teams (that should have punched their tickets to the playoffs many weeks earlier) were stuck playing in these games. A day after the season should have finished, the Dodgers had to play the Rockies in Game 163, while the Cubs faced the Brewers in their own 163.

The Cubs were eliminated after losing the tiebreaker to the Brewers and then dropping the Wild Card game to the Rockies. No doubt, the league owners and advertisers grimaced as one of the Top 3 media markets was eliminated from baseball’s postseason.

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Chicago lightning strikes. Source: Creative Commons via Flickr.com by Nimesh Madhavan.

The Dodgers beat the Rockies in Game 163 to win the NL West division and earn the ticket to the playoffs that came with it. No doubt, the league owners and advertisers cheered (some of them quietly), since Los Angeles is one of the top media and entertainment markets in the country.

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The Yankees had to play the one-game, “must win” Wild Card faceoff with the Oakland Athletics. They won and advanced to the playoffs. No doubt, the league owners and advertisers again cheered (some of them quietly, because everyone else hates the Yankees), since their revenue-sharing checks are higher in any year when the scions of the nation’s largest media market get to play postseason baseball.

The Safety Net Worked This Time

For the league’s money people, this could have been a disaster. When a Kansas City or a Minnesota sneaks through, knocking out a New York or a Los Angeles, millions of potential viewers are eliminated also. For perspective, the New York metropolitan area has more than seven million households plugged into TV and a robust nationwide fan following, while Kansas City has less than one million TV households and many fewer from outside that local area. You can see some of the others listed here.

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Screenshot from Wikipedia page. Please see link in "Reference" section below.

It would have been easier for these big market teams to have won their divisions outright and not been forced to play tiebreakers and “must win” games just to qualify for the playoffs. And yet, when the dust had settled, two of the three big teams made it through. Chicago was a loss, but the league still got the Yankees and Dodgers into the playoffs for at least one series apiece.

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Congratulations to the revenue monsters! And fortunately, each of these teams is fun to watch also. The playoffs should be quite interesting.

Reference:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_television_stations_in_North_America_by_media_market#United_States

Photos are public domain unless otherwise credited in the text.

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As a Jays fan, this was a particularly tough year to watch. After about 70-90 games our season was already over. Being in the AL East has made it difficult, but this year especially, the Yanks and the Sox were on a different level.

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I think ownership knew what it was getting in Mark Shapiro: someone who can cut budgets and pretend to stay competitive. The latter is a tougher act in a division like that.

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Exactly! The departure of Anthopolous never sat well with me, he had built the team into a perennial contender after years of mediocrity. It’s been all down hill since then

My suports are always with small underdogs teams. I like.to suport then. Because they were hoping for.that for.thwre motivation. Everyone need suport in game. Big teams invest big to get the title but underdogs play for just doing something

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Go underdogs!

Am always rooting for the smaller teams. That said though, the bigger ones will continue to command all the attention. Shame about the Chicago Cubs but it was nice to see the others advance

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Yes, I like to see the underdog teams do well also.

Having 162 games in a single league ia not enough is showing the people intrests in baseball. Baseball is such a very intresting game. You must have to put 100% when a player is signed in big team. Definetly a big franchise needs big results. Congratulations to the revenue monsters beacause its going to be a high revenue collection.

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162 is tedious, but not enough this year. One full season was not enough to determine a winner, which probably speaks to the parity of talent in the National League.

Always trust remains on small teams. They got big success in the majer leagues. Beacause people not expecting good tesults from them.

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Keep expectations low and outperform them!

If I’m playing centerfield, that’s an inside the park home run to start the game. Not going near those bees.

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Naw, you're in left field, man. I'm playing center. Put me in, coach!

oh 163 games? I'm from Venezuela and our baseball league just have 8 teams. so that's why we have less game. btw our tournoument is starting this month

If the Jays do well, the Canadian markets win the lottery. Everyone becomes a baseball fan overnight if the Jays make the playoffs.

Needless to say; I've already switched over to hockey.

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Now there's a real sport. :)

@donkeypong, Do you explain to me first? Baseball is America's most popular and important game? I have noticed that the United States media institutions and advertisers earn a huge income from baseball. Major teams expect to be capable players. But lower level teams are always gaining experience through defeats and coming forward. It's great.

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There's a fair amount of parity below the top teams, though there also is a group at the bottom that have no chance.

great information,i inspire of your all post for using steemit..you are great person..you are my icon on steemit..

This loos to be intrsting league having more than 160 games. Will be great to see undersogs teams. And wishes good for all small and big teams. Sometime underdogs do well than big trams. My support is for undedogs.

Mlb Games At Different Stadiums, Example Texas vs Houston Moved to Tampa Bay due to hurricane Harvey

The popularity of baseball in the South Asian countries is very low. However, the baseball game between the main teams is also enjoyed by the Internet and television. Although the main teams are in the day, it seems that the lower teams are capable of achieving their talents. Your submission is very clear.

i am incredibly sad they sprayed the bees. unless there were players allergic they should have just played through it, bees are dieing off enough as it is. clear out the stands near the swarm and reset them or compensate them if possible but don't kill the bees.

I'll have to send Brian here @donkeypong; baseball's just not my thing :) I am happy to see that hockey's started up again!

I’m surprised max scherzer struck out some of the highest batting average players in the league

Baseball is a popular and Interesting game. If they are small parties. The people did not come so much from them.

@donkeypong the big revenue generating teams may keep the sport profitable, but it sometimes makes for bad competition as they have all the money to spend.

Good to see the little guys at least holding up

Nice post

Those are the three largest media markets in the United States;
I agree... Nice game to explore in.

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Great. Baseball never ceases to amaze us. Thanks for those spectacular photos.

I am just introducing the basketball. The more I watch this game the more I love it. Thanks for your creativity.

I m sports lover.I realy like baseball.Every player play by heart.This is most popular game in the world.This is very interesting game.My suports are always with small underdogs team.This is very big league.Hopefully very match will be going so interesting.Very wonderful weather.Very big media markets.Thanks fir sharing.dear.

It's amazing how much money those players can win with playing some games, even those on a bench regardless of whether it's a big or small team

Hi @donkeypong ,You said right that any team can exceed from expectations. But i don't expect much because when it goes against of expectations, it hurts. Baseball is my favourite and i love to watching.we should just enjoy the favourite scenes while watching.

You are always so interesting to write about sports. It can be seen that it ignites you in its own way. And even a person far from sports, from baseball is interested in reading these stories. You could use a sports analyst job.

This is so true! Really good article about this perspective. I for one have been a lifelong Cubs fan and when I live in Kansas City 5 years ago (they both sucked) I became a Royals fan as well. Little did I know that 3 years later both of them are going to multiple world series haha.

MLB hated seeing the Royals go but it was awesome being a fan and awesome in Kansas City.

The cubs laying an egg in the wildcard ruined the MLBs big market trifecta for sure. I still think the wildcard should be a 3 game series but that is a conversation for another day. :)

Congratulations @donkeypong!
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