Sports fans claim that they love a great underdog story. The Miracle USA Hockey Team, George Mason basketball and their Final Four run of 2006, and the 1969 Miracle Mets were all stories that will be told for lifetimes. But there is one thing that fans love more than underdogs: Powerhouse programs and organizations matching up to win a championship.
People love to watch two “big dogs” go at it on the national stage with all of the chips on the line and baseball is no exception.
New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are the three largest cities in the United States and naturally are also the three largest markets for professional sports. According to Forbes, the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs are the first, second, and fifth most valuable teams based around the team’s net worth. More fans tune in to watch these big market teams take the field every day than any other organization around the league and when they are successful, so too is all of Major League Baseball.
In what would only be the second time in Major League Baseball history, the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs are all in line to make the Postseason. The only other time that ever happened was recently in 2015, a season in which the Yankees bowed out early, losing in the Wild Card game.
Now 2017, the Yankees are yet again lined up to make the Postseason as a Wild Card team. They have been somewhat of a surprise after expectations were that they would not contend for the playoffs until 2018 or later. The Dodgers have put together one of the best seasons in MLB history thus far as they are challenging the 2001 Mariners and 1906 Cubs for most wins in a season. The Cubs find themselves on top of a division that no one wants to take control of. Coming off a historic season, the team has seen somewhat of a World Series hangover. With that being said, they still boast a roster that has more than enough talent to make a deep Postseason run.
With the success of these powerhouse organizations, national broadcasts have seen a serious uptick in people tuning in to watch. Both FS1 and ESPN have seen an increase in viewers this season compared to 2016, with FS1 seeing a 17% increase and ESPN getting an uptick of 15%.
The popularity of these teams also hinges on the types of players they have on their roster. All three teams have been assembled in a way that has proven that a changing of the guard has occurred regarding roster construction. As recent as five years ago, these three teams that swim in their riches would be spending their offseason tossing around their cash as if their lives depended on it. Signing massive free agent deals was the way large market teams used to win, but it is 2017 and we know that is not how it works now.
All three teams have become experts in creating lineups out of young, cost-controlled players. This is proven by the players that each organization is building around on offense. While the days of young talent that is vaulting teams to the Postseason is upon us, young players are also growing the popularity of each team.
The Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs each have two very clear-cut young superstars that man the middle of the order for their respective teams. They are putting up stellar stats and they are also the faces of their franchise.
The Yankees have two guys by the name of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
The Dodgers employ the likes of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger.
The Cubs have 2016 MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
These two-headed monsters are not only powering their teams into the Postseason this year, but they are putting their organizations back on the map in terms of the powerhouse super teams that baseball fans expect from the three largest markets in the country.
Commissioner Rob Manfred and the rest of Major League Baseball front offices won’t need to worry about Postseason match-ups that include the likes of Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland, and other small markets and the low television ratings that come with those teams. It is looking like 2017 will be a year that the commissioner as well as the fans across the country will be able to enjoy as the big dogs are making their push to occupy their respective slots in the playoffs and potentially the World Series.
Greg Huss, Baseline Times MLB Contributor
Feature photo provided by Ron Cogswell