Hearing that the Yankees and Red Sox are playing on national TV is enough to make a baseball fan's head explode. It seems like very time the two teams play on a weekend, Fox will carry the Saturday game nationally, and ESPN will carry the Sunday game nationally. It's one of those tried and true strategies that is effective, yet infuriating at the same time. It makes sense for the national networks to do this though, since a recent Harris poll identified the Yankees and Red Sox has the two most popular teams in the league once again. The Yankees have been baseball's most popular team for a decade, so this isn't exactly surprising.
Anyway, this past weekend was one of those weekends were the Yankees and Red Sox played, and sure enough, they were featured on both Fox and ESPN. ESPN's broadcast of Boston's 8-7, 11 inning, nearly five hour marathon picked up 2.6 million viewers, the highest viewership of the season for ESPN and a jump of 47% from last year's Rangers-Angels matchup. Not to be outdone, Fox drew a 2.5 overnight rating for their broadcast of the Yankees' 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon, tied for their higher overnight of the season with Yankees-Red Sox on June 1 and Yankees-Orioles on June 29.
So while the diehard fans are infuriated to see the Yankees and Red Sox on national TV again and again and again, the casual fans are eating it up with a spoon in comparison to the other matchups trotted out there by the networks this season. While it sure would be great to see the Pirates or the Athletics get some national love, I doubt that casual fans would be able to pick Andrew McCutchen or Yoenis Cespedes out of a lineup. That's a shame, but it's another example of the MLB marketing machine continuing to fail at promoting the athletes as opposed to the teams. While that might work for the NFL, it hasn't worked out very well for MLB thusfar.