There’s no denying the enigma known as Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who is objecting a wrongful 211 game suspension levied by Major League Baseball, is no stranger to overshadowing MLB’s post-season. During the 2007 World Series, Rodriguez opted out of his historic 10 year, $252 million contract. The decision sent shock waves around the country as most baseball fans lost interest in a Boston-Colorado World Series and squarely turned their attention to A-Rod’s pursuit of a new contract.
The media’s fascination with A-Rod is not good news for Turner Sports or FOX, who televise MLB’s post-season games. MLB and network executives would love nothing more than for A-Rod to disappear until after the World Series. A-Rod’s mere public presence, sans a New York Yankee
uniform, bat or glove, is enough to cause a major divergence of public interest. MLB and its network partners are in a very precarious position.
Even without the presence of A-Rod, Commissioner Bud Selig faces stiff competition for viewership from the NFL. Given the NFL’s expanding schedule, Selig must maximize playoff ratings by keeping the media focused on the diamond. Perennial AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw headline the playoff field, but Selig does not have the Yankees or their heavy New York viewership in the fold.
Media interest and public appeal translates into TV ratings that ultimately determine the success (or failure) of MLB’s post-season. The Yankees and stalwart New York viewership have driven post-season ratings for the last 15 years. MLB will attempt to overcome increased NFL viewership without the aid of the Yankees or New York viewership.
In addition, MLB must divert attention away from its most polarizing player to maintain interest in post-season play. Depending on how heated A-Rod’s legal battle gets, MLB could see its post-season reduced to an afterthought.
A New York-less playoff will make it hard for MLB’s network partners to generate ratings in the country’s largest media market. A-Rod’s legal battle will make that task even tougher.
Hypothetically speaking, imagine if MLB sold broadcast rights to the hearing locally? There’s no doubt the telecast would produce a higher rating in New York than for any of the playoff match-ups.
When it comes to TV ratings, A-Rod is one of the biggest difference makers in professional sports. Ratings on the YES Network plummeted by 39 percent as A-Rod rehabbed a multitude of injuries. As soon as he returned, ratings spiked. The Yankees were not a good team this season. Oddmakers pegged the Yankees’ win/loss over/under at 84.5 wins
. Still, A-Rod is a must-see athlete that drives ratings.
Now he could affect MLB and its quest for post-season ratings, in a different manner…by once again stealing the post-season show without taking one at-bat…