Some interesting research was published at Baseball Essential by @CespedesBBQ into the frequency of appearances by teams on Sunday Night Baseball over the last decade. As you’d expect, the list is led by the Yankees and the Red Sox. Not only do they rank #1 (Yankees – 51) and #2 (Red Sox – 47) in appearances, but the matchup is the most popular over the last 10 years by a long shot. Yankees-Red Sox has more than twice as many games (31) as the next most popular matchup, another famous MLB rivalry, Cardinals-Cubs (13 games). It’s easy to explain why: ratings. It’s about as surprising as Alex Rodriguez getting caught using PEDs.
What’s more interesting is the teams at the other end of the spectrum. Only 2 MLB teams have not made an appearance on Sunday Night Baseball in the last decade – the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays. Five other teams made less than 5 appearances on SNB – the Marlins, Diamondbacks, Royals, Rockies, and Pirates. Of note from that list is Pittsburgh, who just made their first appearances on Sunday Night Baseball since 2002 last year.
So why the blackout of the Jays and Mariners? Well, you can’t exactly just point to both teams being miserable on the field. Granted, the Blue Jays have not made the postseason since their second World Series title in 1993 (which is a surprising 21 year playoff drought), but they’ve had 6 .500 or better seasons in the last decade. Their lowest win total was 73 wins. But in a crowded AL East, they haven’t been able to match the long-term success of Boston or New York, nor have they reached the short-term heights of Tampa Bay and Baltimore.
The Mariners are also on a lengthy postseason drought (spanning 13 seasons), but have also had multiple winning seasons in that timeframe. They’ve had 3 winning seasons the past decade, but that’s been balanced out by 2 100 loss seasons as well. Again though, in a crowded AL West with Texas, Oakland, and the Angels they are often squeezed out of any national spotlight.
The next question is the drawing power of the teams at hand. ESPN might be within their rights to wonder whether a Canadian market could draw south of the border, but one would think the Mariners wouldn’t have much trouble. Especially with a stud pitcher like Felix Hernandez, a great pitching duel featuring the former Cy Young winner should certainly be worthy of at least one appearance.
ESPN’s early season schedule for Sunday Night Baseball this year is more of the same with Yanks-Sox overload, but here’s hoping there might just be a bit more balance to showcase some other teams outside the usual suspects at some point.