Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Media Markets for MLB

This Major League Baseball season has seen the decline of some major clubs, but more importantly, some new markets have come out of the depth of the league to make a splash. Teams often looked at as the laughingstock of their respective divisions have grabbed the ball by the seams and taken advantage of division rivals blunders.

The Baltimore Orioles have made the playoffs only three times since 1980 and zero times in the past 15 years. This season, their 112th season in franchise history, and 59th in Baltimore, the O's broke through and had their first non-losing season since 1997. Taking advantage of the newly added second wildcard spot, the O's finally made it back to the playoffs, thanks to a young, vibrant lineup and pitching rotation, and the decline of some power programs across the American League. The Boston Red Sox lost 90 games for the first time in 46 years and the LA Angels of Anaheim, with the 4th highest payroll in baseball, struggled toward the end of the season, finishing 5 games behind the next featured ball club in the American League west. With the second biggest attendence increase in the majors this season (the biggest being the Marlins, who moved into a new stadium), the O's have set themselves a great base for the rebirth of their historic program.

The Oakland Athletics have been shaped by a season of injuries and hardships, but have stepped on the accelerator in the second half, with a record of 57-26 over the final three months of the season. With the oldest player on the team being 32 years old, the team has an incredible future ahead.
The A's beat out the two time defending American League champion Texas Rangers and newly structured Los Angeles Angels to win the American League west. Possibly the most amazing part about their season is that the Oakland A's rank 29th out of 30 teams in payroll. Finally, the foundations of Billy Beane's sabermetric radicalism have found success in this decade after the teams decline following the 2006 season. The A's attendance went up 12.3% from 2011, bringing back the fans that followed the team so wholeheartedly in the 1990's and early 2000's and inspiring a city that has had no major sport success in over 10 years.


One of the only five teams in baseball to never drop below .500, the Washington Nationals have held strong control over the National League since Opening Day. With two emerging superstars in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, a strong middle infield with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, young, consistent starting pitching in Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, and veteran leadership in Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals are set to be a powerhouse in the National League. They lived up to the hype. Going from under .500 a year ago, to the best record in baseball, the Nats have inspired 2,370,794 fans to come through the turnstiles at Nationals Park, 430,000 more than last season.

These formally small market franchises may be setting the groundwork for some new super powers in Major League Baseball and the attendance increases will definitely help these programs increase their spending power. The 2012 MLB regular season saw the highest attendance totals since 2008 with a total of 74.86 million attendees, up 2% from last season. Even with huge decreases from clubs like Houston, Cleveland and Minnesota, there is an upside for the MLB yet. With these new markets in large cities that have the capability to yield major increases in ticket sales across the country, there could be competition at the high end of spending spectrum. The northeastern market will continue to saturate and a new growth will help the west compete. Either way, MLB still has more room to grow in the major sport landscape.

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