The good folks in marketing at Fox Sports have to do some heavy lifting to get casual fans excited about this year’s potential World Series match ups.
Forget Northeast Bias. Philadelphia, New York and Boston are sitting this one out. There is no Red Sox Boston Strong team to promote. No “Win it for Derek Jeter” Yankee team to bang the drum for.
The Cubs and Braves, whose popularity encompasses entire regions of the country, are gone. That eliminates most teams with fan bases that stretch around the country. Plus the Pacific Northwest is out with the Mariners eliminated. Texas is gone with a pair of lousy teams.
It will be “roll up your sleeves and get to work time” to bang the drum for any potential match ups.
But there are great stars playing this fall. Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Jon Lester, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, James Shields, Alex Gordon, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Max Scherzer, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright, among others, will all appear in at least one post season game.
And weren’t fans supposedly tired of New York (and the Jeter love fest) and Boston (and my fellow obnoxious fans)?
Los Angeles will be a market that Fox craves, and one where they can send their stars to promote shows at a very little cost.
So let’s continue a proud Sully Baseball Tradition and figure out which match up Fox wants and which ones will have them making a noose.
Counting down from most desirable to least…
1. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Baltimore Orioles
The LA market is a sleeping Giant (bad metaphor intended) for baseball’s popularity. Plus the introduction of Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig to the national audience couldn’t hurt. Neither would the Buck Showalter vs. Don Mattingly managerial master vs. the student storyline.
The Orioles have probably the most transplanted fans of any of the teams still alive and they could very well become the next franchise to explode in popularity like the Red Sox in the late 1990’s.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Oakland Athletics
Lots of clips of Kirk Gibson and Tommy Lasorda to cut to. But the main reason why this could work for a national audience would be to include Yankees and Red Sox fans by proxy.
Beloved former Yankee star Don Mattingly never won a World Series ring in all his years in the Bronx. Seeing him get one as LA manager would get Yankee fans all boo hoo hooing just after drying their eyes post Jeter.
Meanwhile lots of former Red Sox, including Jon Lester and former champions Coco Crisp and Jonny Gomes, wear the green and gold. It feels like the Green Sox play in the East Bay.
Plus Brad Pitt could be sitting by the dugout as B Roll for Moneyball 2.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Detroit Tigers
If Fox wants to showcase the biggest stars in the game, you can’t do much better than Los Angeles and Detroit. Between Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, David Price and Max Scherzer, 4 of the last 5 AL Cy Young winners would get a start. Assuming Clayton Kershaw wins this year, that would make 3 of the last 4 NL Cy Young winners as well.
Throw in Miguel Cabrera, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, batting title contender Victor Martinez, speed demon Dee Gordon, fan favorite Torii Hunter and come back player Matt Kemp and you have many players who are worthy of a big time showcase. Plus these are two teams that have come close lately but haven’t won it all since the mid 1980’s.
Essentially the winner gets Kirk Gibson’s legacy.
4. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The St. Louis Cardinals vs. Albert Pujols?
Between Pujols, David Freese, C. J. Wilson and the injured Josh Hamilton, the Angels seem hellbent to replay the 2011 World Series every day across the highway from Disneyland.
Why not complete the reunion at the stadium where the glorious Game 6 was played?
5. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Of course single market series are terrible for ratings. But this one could be great for selling the sport. Trout and Kershaw are two of baseball’s biggest names. Yasiel Puig is one of the biggest lightning rods in the sport. Albert Pujols is one of the most recognizable faces. Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia both appeared in The Simpsons baseball episode.
Maybe The Simpsons can show up to a game. It IS on Fox!
6. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Kansas City Royals
It might get confusing figuring out which team wearing blue and white with cursive letters on the front is which. But this would be a classic David and Goliath series. The big budget Dodgers against the team that symbolizes small market, the Royals.
7. San Francisco Giants vs. Baltimore Orioles
The all black and orange series. Both teams have likable stars (Posey, Bumgarner, Jones, Markakis) and possible Hall of Fame managers (Bochy and Showalter.) The Giants have a chance for World Series number 3 this decade and have potential lunatic Hunter Pence inspiring them.
A World Series played in Camden Yards and AT&T Park would be visually spectacular. Plus the Giants popularity is growing and the Orioles could potentially sky rockey.
8. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Baltimore Orioles
These franchises saw a lot of success in the 1960s and 1980s. Amazingly, the two bird teams have not met in the World Series, unless you count when the Orioles were the St. Louis Browns and played in the 1944 Series. I don’t.
Terrific history and tradition with both teams mixed with a mobile fan base could give this series some juice.
Having Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken FINALLY at the same World Series would be cool, even if it is only to throw out the first pitch.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
If baseball wants to market stars the way the NBA showcased their brightest lights in the 1990’s, what match up could be cooler than Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout? Both are impossible to root against.
10. Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Remember when “Bryce Harper vs. Mike Trout” looked like it was going to be a valid debate? Trout has run away with the production, but Harper could claim the “But I have the Ring!” title, a la Jeter over A-Rod, Nomar, Vizquel and Tejada.
11. Washington Nationals vs. Detroit Tigers
As pitching match ups go, few series would be as intriguing as this one. Zimmermann, Roark, Strasburg, Price, Scherzer, Fister… wait. Which team does Fister play for again?
12. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Baltimore Orioles
Is it still cool to bust out Disco Albums? This would be a “We Are Family” rematch. I recommend every game played in throwback uniforms… and rebuild Three Rivers Stadium.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Detroit Tigers
Can’t get more old school than these two franchises. They haven’t met in the post season since Honus Wagner’s Pirates beat Ty Cobb’s Tigers in 1909. That is REALLY Old School.
14. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Oakland Athletics
This would be more intriguing if Tony LaRussa and Mark McGwire were still in the Cardinals dugout. Instead it would be a “Who is more obnoxious? Billy Beane’s smugness or Cardinal fans and their Best Fans in Baseball” label.
15. San Francisco Giants vs. Detroit Tigers
It’s a rematch of the one sided sweep of 2 years ago that failed to capture anyone’s imagination east of Sacramento.
16. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers
They don’t meet every year in the World Series… it just feels like it. The last time they did, 2006, was the sloppiest Series in decades. The rematch can’t be worse. Both Leyland and LaRussa are gone now.
17. San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The last time they met it was the Steroid-apalooza of 2002. Dusty Baker’s kid is now old enough to run across the field.
18. Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles
Worth seeing just to see how people in Baltimore get upset every time it is called “The Beltway Series.” IT IS THE PARKWAY SERIES!!!
19. San Francisco Giants vs. Kansas City Royals
Can we convince Joe Montana to throw out the first pitch in every game in San Francisco and Kansas City?
20. Washington Nationals vs. Oakland Athletics
The know it all series. The Nats out smarted themselves in 2012 by resting Strasburg. Meanwhile Billy Beane is the smartest guy in baseball. Just ask him!
21. Washington Nationals vs. Kansas City Royals
The second most popular team of the Mid Atlantic Region takes on the second most popular team in Missouri? A ratings bonanza!
22. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Kansas City Royals
Tough sell outside of Missouri. Can Don Denkinger throw out the first pitch?
23. San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland Athletics
Great. A single region series that includes memories of an earthquake and death. Bring the kids!
24. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Oakland Athletics
Can we convince everyone this is a Steelers/Raiders game?
25. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Kansas City Royals
Fox will return to Gotham already in progress.