The Texas Rangers are going to return to the World Series in 2011 after having been there in 2010. The San Francisco Giants are not. After two AL West titles and two pennants, to the public perception, the Rangers are understood to be in a legitimate contention phase of their success cycle. It's a distinction that the Giants haven't yet reached despite winning the World Series last year, a distinction that the Rockies held briefly after returning to the playoffs for the second time in three years in 2009, but have since quickly lost with two straight disappointments.
There are two things that matter at the box office for sports franchises:
- How good your team is
- How good the ticket buying public thinks your team is
Improving the former should improve a team's win/loss record, which in turn will typically improve their public standing. Improving the latter can improve the franchise's bottom line, and that added revenue can in turn be used to improve the team's actual talent level. What's interesting to me is when we see disparities/contradictions between the two, as is the case in Tampa Bay, where the ticket buying public remains wary of a franchise unwilling to retain veterans, or this past season in Colorado, where in 2011 fans continued to support a team that was flailing in the current.
Right now the Rays major problem is that the residents of Tampa Bay and vicinity don't see value in the baseball product. Whether it's a generic disdain among West Floridians for the sport on the whole, or just the specific Rays experience of playing baseball in an abandoned warehouse, the end result is that Tampa Bay will continue to be a farm system for the major players. This is where the Rockies situation might actually be preferable. The team currently is unready to return to the limelight, there are several areas of need, but the one big advantage the Rockies have right now is that loyal ticket buying fanbase. This gives the Rockies more leeway in being able to retain players like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and build around them. Wiser decisions about improving the on field results have to be made, however, if the team wants to keep this fan goodwill.
The Rangers, because of their repeat pennant are almost certainly enjoying strength in both fan perception of the team and in the team's actual talent level. Their story should serve as a caution to the Rockies and the rest of the N.L. West about how quickly a team in a major media market can transform itself from a fiscal disaster and wrecked ownership situation into a juggernaut. It might not take long after the removal of Frank McCourt for the Dodgers to get up to full speed.
I missed the discussion a couple of days ago of the arrest of Drew Pomeranz in Mississippi for disturbing the peace. It's an unfortunate situation that experience shows will become political and either be over or under-reacted to by baseball fans. Oxford police were out in force Thursday night on a generic sweep of alcohol related violations, including crackdowns on bars breaking city fire codes. The 39 arrests made in the town Thursday were more than twice as many as occurred on any given 24 hour period in at least the last two months. It seems the university party culture had gotten a bit out of hand and Pomeranz may have been caught in the sweep.
This isn't meant to condone illegal behavior, and I hope culpable parties get just punishments for breaking the law, but I'm just pointing out that there is a wrong place and time element to this story for Pomeranz. Maybe it's actually more of a right place/right time situation, as hopefully Pomeranz will learn to moderate his off field behavior as he matures, and the arrest might have been a necessary wake up call for the pitcher to help him along this path before a far worse scenario developed.