In perhaps the strangest World Series in history, the Washington Nationals upset the Houston Astros. Wednesday’s 6-2 Game 7 win ended the only Series in history in which the home team failed to win a game.
Only the first game of the Series was close, and this World Series will be remembered for not only the road-field advantage, but for a controversial call in Game 6 that turned out not to matter in the final result.
The Series also featured many of the top-shelf starters in the game: Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander for Houston and Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin for Washington.
Scherzer’s recovery from his neck injury to deliver a gritty start in Game 7 was inspiring, but Strasburg’s excellent starts in Games 2 and 6 earned him the Most Valuable Player.
The win might be painful for Orioles fans, some of whom did root for the Nationals. Others rooted against them, and many just didn’t care. The enmity between the teams won’t go away. The suit of MASN TV rights is far from settled, and until that day comes, the teams won’t much care for each other.
For older Orioles fans, the Astros’ inability to win a Series in which they were heavily favored will remind them of 1969-1971 when the Orioles won 318 games, played in the Series three times and won only in 1970.
Houston, which won 311 games in the last three seasons, won the World Series in 2017, but lost in the American League Championship Series a year ago.
Ratings down: For the first five games of the Series, television ratings were the lowest in recorded history. That was worrisome because Washington and Houston are the sixth- and seventh-largest television markets in the country.
Ratings increased measurably for the sixth game, and helped by the incessant talk of the umpiring controversy and a Game 7, they were expected to rise markedly on Wednesday.
Some can blame the length of the games for low ratings. Friday’s brutally long Game 3, in which only five runs were scored but still ended at 12:10 a.m. is a prime example.
East Coast viewers complain about the late end, but a large part of the viewing audience is in the Pacific time zone, which has seven major league teams.
Most West Coast viewers might not be home in time for the games that begin just after 5 p.m. there, though they won’t be falling asleep for games that end at about 9 p.m.
While an earlier start might help East Coast ratings, starting games just after 7, might really hurt ratings out West, but I’d like to give that a shot. In recent years, MLB moved start times to just after 8, but lengthier games have nullified the sleep gain for the east.
The ratings aren’t helped by the absence of teams that are more well-known nationally. A Dodgers-Yankees World Series would be a ratings boon, and having the Red Sox, Cubs or Cardinals helps, too.
It would help if more postseason games were more consistently on Fox, something that apparently will change in 2022 when Fox’s seven-year extension with MLB begins.
Too many postseason games are on FoxSports1, which isn’t on some cable systems. Others are on MLB Network, where even fewer people watch.
While MLB Network is a valuable resource for hard-core fans, it’s not available on many cable systems, particularly in hotels, and casual fans might be unaware of its existence.
TBS, which broadcasts one set of the Division Series and League Championship Series each season, does a fine job, but fans aren’t used to tuning in to the network for baseball. They do cover a weekly game on Sunday beginning after the All-Star Game, but it’s not Fox.
Putting more postseason games on Fox will allow casual fans to get used to watching excellent teams such as the Astros, and even though the Nationals beat two of the most glamorous teams, the Dodgers and Cardinals, in the first two rounds of the playoffs, they still weren’t well-known nationally.
Fun at Nationals Park: Nationals Park has never been one of my favorite venues, but the atmosphere at last weekend’s World Series games might make me change my opinion.
Seeing the enthusiastic Nationals fans dressed in red made the park look lovely and got me thinking about how great Oriole Park would look for a World Series.
We got a preview in 2012 and 2014, but Camden Yards remains one of eight current ballparks that hasn’t had a World Series game. It’s by far the oldest of the eight.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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