Cubs suddenly have prime-time look

Yankees vs. Red Sox takes a back seat as Chicago gets better TV treatment

NLCS notebook

October 09, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - Could the television ratings wars be experiencing a changing of the guard? It would appear so. The two League Championship Series games were played at the same time last night, and Game 2 between the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins was broadcast to more homes than the game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox - two of the teams with the greatest national fan support.

The networks clearly are infatuated with the Cubs, based on their repeated presence in prime time this postseason. But there is little question that the ALCS features the more compelling all-around matchup, both from a competitive and historical perspective.

Last night, the viewers got to decide, if they had both the national broadcast channel and the cable channel available for the concurrent games. The only question is why they weren't stacked so that fans could watch both.

"There are advantages to putting them on at the same time and letting people see the game they want to see, rather than start one game at 4 [p.m.] while people are still at work." said MLB executive vice president Sandy Alderson. "This way, you"re not disadvantaging the fans of each team.

"You disadvantage the fans who want to watch both games, and I'd like to watch both games, too. If you"re in Boston and it starts at 4, that whole market is unhappy."

Alderson doesn't make that decision. The scheduling of the television broadcasts is generally left to the network executives who are trying to make the most money in advertising revenues. They apparently felt that the best way to get back their rights fees and make a profit was to run last night's games concurrently.

What is more interesting is that they determined that the Cubs and the non-descript Marlins would be of more interest to fans in several large markets where the Yankees and Red Sox have substantial followings.

"I think it's a tribute to the Cubs and Marlins starting to establish themselves as exciting young teams." Alderson said.

He's half right, but he's too polite to say. The reason is the Cubs, who entered the postseason as everybody's lovable underdog. The Marlins might be the better team, but they don't have a superstar in right field and they don't have Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. And they don't play in Chicago.

Packing Pro Player

The Marlins have been one of the worst-drawing teams in baseball the past few years, but that changed in 2003 - for obvious reasons. The emergence of rookie phenom Dontrelle Willis and the club's midseason surge into contention brought the fans out of the woodwork.

Tomorrow night, Pro Player Stadium will be packed, which is something the Marlins haven't seen very often.

"They haven't been used to having big crowds in Florida." said Marlins manager Jack McKeon. "And I think every time we had a big crowd, we were getting big crowds when Willis pitched and the people came out and saw the exciting ballclub that we did have. I think that started to attract more and more fans.

" ... I think we energized the community, really, the last month of the season, and subsequently they started to come out and we had crowds of 38,000, 30,000 and even on a Sunday afternoon when it's so hot down there, 20,000 people."

Cubs" Gonzalez upbeat

Cubs infielder Alex Gonzalez drove in three runs in Game 1, but he had to battle all year to keep from getting down on himself for his so-so offensive performance. He did that by focusing on defense.

"I tried separating the two." he said. "Defense and offense are equally important throughout the season, so if things weren't going right for me offensively, then I focused all my attention out on the field, to help the team defensively. But I thought I contributed a lot to the team winning this year, and [I got] some clutch hits."

Manager Dusty Baker agreed, but he wouldn't let Gonzalez entirely off the hook for this inconsistency at the plate.

"He has had some big hits, and he had a tough year, too, at the same time." Baker said. "He's had both. You get .222, that's .222. But he has 20 homers, and he's got some big hits."

Familiar face

Florida infielder Lenny Harris opened the season with the Cubs and closed it with the Marlins. He is the only player in NLCS history to play for both teams in the same season. That last happened in the ALCS in 1983, when Aurelio Rodriguez played for the Orioles and the White Sox.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.