Well, the Tampa Bay Rays have been eliminated from Major League Baseball’s playoffs.
After defeating the Texas Rangers in convincing fashion in the first playoff game between the teams, the Rays dropped the next three games of the series.
Despite Tampa’s early exit, MLB is going to be better off thanks to the Rays making the playoffs instead of the Boston Red Sox.
That does not make any sense, though. How could it be better for a small-market team to be in the postseason instead of a money-spending, controversy-laden team of media darlings?
Trust me, this situation will help professional baseball in the near future.
The exposure of teams like the Rays, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2011 postseason proves to fans that small-market teams can survive in a league run on dollars and cents.
Casual baseball viewers like watching the big-market teams in the playoffs because it means they can see the teams and players they are used to seeing.
But what happens when small-market teams start making the postseason with consistency? The casual fan goes from begrudgingly watching them to getting behind them year after year.
Once this happens, ratings are up no matter if the small-market or big-market teams are in the playoffs.
Plus, small-market teams getting the national spotlight for a while will build their fan bases, which in turn will benefit MLB.
Milwaukee got the Brewers in 1969. Tampa Bay and Arizona had to wait until 1998 for their teams.
Building the fan bases in these cities allows both the team owners and MLB suits to generate money they were not able to before.
Fans will pay to see a successful team that previously performed poorly. MLB will then have a reason to put games featuring small-market teams on ESPN.
A variety of games on ESPN instead of the constant Yankees-Red Sox matchup would draw higher ratings and, over time, more fans and money for MLB.
This would also ensure that MLB would not have to deal with a team relocating.
In relocation, not only do you lose the fans from the location where a team originally was, but you also usually do not gain too many fans in the new location.
Sure, the new location’s fans are briefly interested. But it is likely they have gotten past not having a baseball team, and local baseball just is not that important.
Next year’s postseason could feature eight big-market teams. MLB executives should hope that does not happen and attempt to ride the small-market teams to a big payday.
Imagine MLB making more money off of teams that use less money. It would have brought the late George Steinbrenner to tears.