As I settle into the overflow pressbox here at AT&T Park (no joke, it’s at the top of the 300 level… Look for the green section at the top of the ballpark up the 3rd baseline when the game begins to air) two things strike me: This World Series is affirmation for Bud Selig, and it’s a different world than the last time the Giants were in the Fall Classic.
Over and over, the idea that the Yankees were beat by the Rangers and to a lesser extent the Giants winning over the Phillies means that – in a nutshell – variety is the spice of life.
Or is it, money doesn’t always trump smarts?
On the latter, consider… The Rangers Opening Day payroll of $55,250,544 – the 27th ranked payroll out of all 30 clubs – is almost $600,000 less than the Opening Day payroll the Rangers had… in 2005. And that’s not accounting inflation. For the Giants, they beat the Phillies, who fielded MLB’s 4th highest Opening Day payroll ($141,928,379), but still ranked 9th out of 30 at $98,641,333. Opening Day payroll for the Giants this season increased 19 percent from last year from $82,616,450. Still, the fact that you have two teams with an Opening Day payroll that was under $100 million is good for the overall. “Hope” is no longer some foreign concept.
This isn’t to say that another Yankees-Phillies World Series wouldn’t have been good, rather that the unexpected nature of the two clubs that made it to baseball’s premier event is a sign that the game, as a whole, will benefit.
I don’t blame FOX, TBS, and ESPN for flooding their MLB schedules with Yankees-Red Sox tilts. They are generated from ratings, meaning fans are the ultimate decider in what you watch.
But, as MLB Network makes its way into more homes, and the idea that yes, you don’t have to have the biggest, baddest level of player payroll to be competitive on a given year, average fans will start to shift from their zombie state into the full palette that is offered by 30 clubs as opposed to just a handful.
As for the Giants, the sea of orange and black that is descending on AT&T Park is focused far differently than in 2002 when Dusty Baker handed the game ball to Russ Ortiz in Game 6, and thus, in a most superstitious way, jinxed the Giants from winning their first World Series since jumping coasts in 1958.
Then, the focus was Barry Bonds. Where it was “chicks dig the long ball”, if you excuse the sexual innuendo, 2010 may go down as “chicks dig the slider.”
Instead of a slugging-based club with an alleged steroid user at the helm, its heroes are a Freak of a pitcher (Lincecum), and a player snatched up on waivers (Cody Ross). The roster at least feels more functional than dysfunctional than that 2002 team and fans seem as jacked – possibly more – than when they were in the Series the last time.
The one thing about this Series is it will be historic. No matter the outcome, you either get a winner for a franchise that had never won a postseason series, let alone a World Series (Rangers), or a storied franchise who has had to point to their days in New York as glory finally getting to say that their relocation partner from the ‘50s in LA isn’t the only one to win a Fall Classic.
So, if you only watch the World Series, and haven’t been bit by baseball’s regular season bug unless it’s been the Red Sox or Yankees, you’re in for a treat. This one feels different, and in that, it’s all good.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for freelance and looks forward to your comments.