Friday, October 3, 2008

Off Topic: Does baseball need the Dodgers and Red Sox?

Going into the baseball postseason, several storylines surfaced, along with potential in-state world series match ups. In Southern California, fans are hopeful for the long awaited “freeway” series, with both the Dodgers and Angels qualifying for the playoffs. The windy city remains hopeful that the Cubs would meet the White Sox. Floridians look for their beloved Rays to complete their run from worse to first. And as for Beantown, they are the defending champions looking to build on their own legacy. And of course, if those Sox of Boston face the Cubs of Chi-Town, we’ll have the cursed of yesterday versus the curse of today, with all games played in historic ballparks. But with all this potential, and World Series ratings mostly miserable in previous years, which World Series contest would be best for baseball? The answer is about as simple as the NBA needing (and getting) the Celts and Lakers in the finals. Major League Baseball needs the Red Sox and Dodgers.

No disrespect to any of the other franchises still competing, but if there was ever a series to pump the ratings, this would be it. Fewer mid-season trades were greater than the Sox sending Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles. It resulted in the Dodgers being launched to the top of the NL West and into championship contention. Let’s just imagine all the hype that would surround a Dodgers/Red Sox World Series. Let’s imagine Manny, now clad in Dodger blue, being greeted at Fenway. Let’s imagine Theo Epstein sitting there hoping and praying that his defending champions won’t lose to an opponent that has an increase in power, based on his decision to trade.

Outside of the Ramirez drama, look at Joe Torre. The former Yankees skipper was forced out of New York, and would be in position to win another Series, as Hank Steinbrenner and the Yankees’ roster watches from their living rooms. From 3,000 miles across country, Torre can still act as a thorn in the Red Sox sides. Would the people in New York have interest in this series? Damn right they would. Torre, as a Yankees manager, rallied his team from late season deficits to participate in October. Now Torre, as a Dodgers manager, did the same for the blue crew, with the Dodgers needing a fierce run in the final weeks to overtake the division leading Diamondbacks. For everyone in New York that said Torre was the problem with the Yanks, it's time to rethink that. It's another season without vacationing in October, regardless of league and roster.

And let’s not forget Dodger owner Frank McCourt and the tale of two cities. McCourt, a Boston man has been building what I like to call “Red Sox West” in Los Angeles. If you just look at his actions over the years, you can see that he’s a fan of the Red Sox, though he owns the Dodgers. Since McCourt took ownership of the Dodgers in ’04, he’s acquired former Red Sox lovechild, Nomar Garciaparra, hired and fired former Red Sox manager Grady Little, brought former Red Sox ace Derek Lowe to L.A, hired long time Red Sox coaching nemesis Joe Torre, and put Red Sox superstar Manny Ramirez in Dodger blue. I’m sure I’ve missed some other L.A/Boston connections in his 4 years of ownership, but you get the point.

A regional series is great for the town it’s being played in, but not good for baseball as a whole. “Worse to first” is a great story that may have a fairytale ending, but if the Rays’ own fans in Tampa don’t offer much interest in their home team, why should we think the rest of the nation would? The Cubs would draw a large audience, being centrally located, and with people having interest in the breaking or continuation of “the curse”, but much would be pending on the opponent. If baseball wants to make an October splash, there’s no better way than the Dodgers and the Red Sox. And of course, the worse case scenario may actually be the Brewers versus the Rays, but I don't see that happening.

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