World Series Notebook

Looking at Low World Series Ratings, Bud Selig Stresses Baseball's Competitive Balance

It took two extra days to end Philadelphia's 28 years of frustration as the Phillies win their first World Series since 1980 with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in a continuation of Game 5.
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 23, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Oct. 22 -- Just before the first pitch of what many expect to be the lowest-rated World Series in history, in terms of television viewership, Commissioner Bud Selig characterized the ratings as a short-term concession to the long-term growth made possible by the sport's competitive balance.

"You have to have a sport that produces hope and faith," Selig said prior to Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies, "because it's that hope and faith that sustains the sport."

With the Rays and Phillies prevailing over the sexier story lines and wider appeal of the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers in the respective league championship series, baseball and network partner Fox face the possibility of viewership ratings that could sink below the 2006 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers, which drew a 10.1 rating and 17 share.

Selig, though, pointed to Game 7 of the ALCS on TBS, which was the highest-rated baseball game ever on cable television, as proof the game is still a television draw.

"That didn't look too bad to me," he said.

Either the Phillies or Rays will become the eighth franchise in the past nine years to win the World Series, while 17 of the majors' 30 teams have played in the World Series in the past 12 years, including this season.

"I say to you, the growth of this sport has been accelerated since 2000 at an exponential rate," Selig said, "and I think there are many factors involved, one of which is competitive balance. Just look at who's won in the last seven or eight years. It didn't happen by accident."

The Future of Price

David Price's success this postseason as a multipurpose reliever for the Rays has drawn comparisons to Francisco Rodriguez's emergence in 2002 for the Anaheim Angels.

Both were called up to the majors in September, giving opponents little chance to develop complete scouting reports.

The one major difference is that Rodriguez remained a reliever, while Price is expected to return next season to starting, a role he has performed his entire career until this fall.

"There's no question David Price's future is in the rotation," Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman said. Asked if it will happen next year, he said, "A lot of it [depends upon] our other personnel, so it's hard to answer. But I can't envision a scenario where he doesn't wind up starting."

Two Lefties Get the Call

The matchup of Philadelphia's Cole Hamels and Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir marked the first time two left-handers have started Game 1 of a World Series since Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees and Al Leiter of the New York Mets squared off in 2000.

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