Yanks-Phils Classic sees 42% ratings jump over ’08

A year ago, those in charge of baseball were panicking a bit. The 2008 World Series ended amidst some weather-inspired controversies, and no one had watched. Ratings were down 20 percent from 2007, and average of just over 13 million fans, the lowest total since FOX started broadcasting the Fall Classic, tuned in per game. Baseball was on the verge of losing its wider national audience.

However, with the onset of the MLB Network’s wall-to-wall coverage of the sport and, more importantly, the return of the Yankees, the villain of October, to the World Series, ratings for the Series were up a record 42 percent over last year. Although this year’s wasn’t the most watched World Series of recent times, it was the fourth-highest viewed of the last decade and has restored baseball’s October dominance and popularity. Over 19 million fans tuned in each night to watch the Yankees battle the Phillies, and the numbers suggest that the Yankees, as I’ve said before, are good for baseball.

Maury Brown at the Biz of Baseball has more on the ratings:

Fueled by outstanding individual and team performances, dramatic come-from-behind wins and the most one-run games in a single postseason, each round of the 2009 MLB Postseason generated double-digit percentage year-to-year increases in average viewership as compared to 2008, capped by the 2009 World Series averaging 19.4 million viewers, a +42% increase over last year and the largest-ever year-to-year gain in viewership (previous high was 36% from 2000-2001, which followed a low viewership showing for the Subway Series).

Complete 2009 MLB Postseason coverage on FOX and TBS averaged 9.0 million viewers, up +30% over last year and the most-watched since 2005. In addition to the +42% viewership gain for the World Series on FOX, viewership for the Division Series on TBS was up +11% over last year and viewership for the League Championship Series on FOX and TBS increased +14% over 2008.

The 2009 MLB Postseason delivered extraordinary results for FOX and TBS, including leading TBS to the most-watched week in its 33-year history, and catapulting FOX to a commanding +22% lead in the key Adult 18-49 demographic against its network competition. The huge Adult 18-49 season-to-date advantage for FOX is the largest in the network’s history in the fourth quarter and the largest fourth-quarter lead for any network since 2003.

In addition to these hearty aggregate numbers, the World Series was the highest-rated network primetime show during the six nights of games, reports Brown. All over the country, people wanted to watch the Yankees.

And so fans may hate the Yanks. They may root against the team and its payroll. They may say the Steinbrenners bought another title. But the reality of it is simple: Baseball fans tune into watch Goliath because they hope David can win. When David happens to be another team with a payroll in excess of $100 million from a major media market, baseball executives can go home happy. This year, the World Series was very, very good for baseball.

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A nice day for parade

It’s a beautiful November day in New York City. The skies are clear blue, and the temperatures are hovering in the upper 40s. You couldn’t ask for a nicer day for a parade. So let’s have one.

In honor of your 2009 World Series Champions, the City of New York is hosting a ticker tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan. The march toward City Hall starts at 11 a.m. and ends at around 12:30 p.m. when the Mayor will present the Yanks with keys to the city. While an estimated 500,000-1 million fans will turn out for the celebration downtown, many of us have to go to school or work. Fear not though for the parade is being broadcast live for free online via MLB.com. The YES Network and MLB Network will be carrying it live, and the city’s local news stations should be as well.

So for those of you watching at home, those of you furtively catching glimpses of the parade will in your cubicle, those of you in class, this thread’s for you. Toast the team; cheer the World Series victory; and bask in the glow of winning after a nine-year wait. For us Yankee fans, it seemed to be an eternity.

The most important game of the year

AL Burnett in Game Two of the World SeriesFans are quick to throw around the “must win” or “huge game” or (ahem) “playoff preview” moniker these days. If a team loses two games in a row with a division rival set to come into town over the weekend, then it’s called a big game. No matter what fans call it, you can always tell which games are the most important by how the team treats them. When Ian Kennedy is brought into the eighth inning with a one-run lead in Anaheim for his first action of the season, then yeah, it’s not all that important.

Most of the time for a playoff club, the most important game of the season is a Game Seven, or an elimination game where the season was on the line. Those are the true “must-wins,” not those dumb games in June that seem important just because the offense is in a little bit of a funk.

For the 2009 Yankees, the most important game of the year seems pretty clear to me: Game Two of the World Series.

Think about the circumstances coming into the game. Cliff Lee had just manhandled the Yankees the night before. He crushed them, grabbing liners behind his back and shagging pop-ups nonchalantly when he wasn’t striking guys out. For a team that had dominated the competition during the regular season and made good clubs like the Twins and Angels look like Little League teams with all the mistakes they forced, Game One of the World Series was a humbling experience.

Not only did the Yankees come into Game Two already down one-love in the series, they were going on the road to Philadelphia for the next three games. Heading down the turnpike down two games to none was something the Bombers wanted to avoid at all costs. So they gave the ball to AJ Burnett, the most unpredictable starter in their playoff rotation.

And AJ delivered.

He pounded the zone early all night, throwing first pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. He threw his fastball and curve at almost a 1:1 ratio (53 fastballs, 45 curves), and allowed the first four batters in Philly’s’ lineup to reach base just twice, and one of those instances was an intentional walk to Chase Utley. Burnett sat down the last eight batters he faced, and the only run he gave up came on a ball that ricocheted off Alex Rodriguez‘s glove.

It was a masterful performance, and the game was more important to the outcome of the Yankees’ season than either of his Game Five starts (ALCS or World Series). Opposing starter Pedro Martinez held the Yankees’ offense down, meaning there was little margin for error. Anytime a starter can hand the ball off to Mariano Rivera in a playoff game, then you know he’s done his job and then some.

Let’s give AJ some props. He’s frustrating as hell, but the dude was money in the team’s most important game of their championship  season.

Photo Credit: David J. Phillip, AP

RAB’s parade meet-up details

RAB parade meetup location

You see that little star? That’s where we’re going to meet-up for the parade tomorrow. Specifically, it’s the northwest corner of the Beekman and Nassau Street intersection. Here’s the map so you can zoom in and stuff. Joe and I are shooting to get there around 8:30-9 a.m., but you’re welcome to come whenever.

The parade comes right up Broadway, so we’ll have to finagle our way over to get a good luck. I’m not 100% certain, but I believe they’ll set up a big screen in City Hall Park to show all the speeches and stuff. After the parade and stuff, we’re probably going to go grab a bite to eat somewhere, and everyone’s more than welcome to come. Leave any suggestions or anything in the comments.

If you want to come and hang out and watch the parade, email Joe or me, and we’ll exchange cell numbers to coordinate. If you do that tomorrow, e-mail Joe because he has the BlackBerry.

Also, if anyone has a better spot, let us know via e-mail and we’ll update plans.

Closing it out while fighting an injury

As the Stadium emptied out and the Yanks continued to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning, Mariano Rivera stopped by the ESPN stage to chat with Peter Gammons, Steve Berman and Dave Winfield about winning the World Series. Rivera is just three and a half weeks shy of his 40th birthday, and his face expressed elation at capturing a fifth ring.

He started out the interview by talking about the long wait, putting the ghosts of 2001 to bed and Andy Pettitte. Laughing at how Pettitte performed on three days’ rest, Rivera simply said with a smile, “That old goat is wonderful.”

I know Rivera won’t complain about his workload, but he had a very long season this year. Although his regular season innings total of 66.1 was a seven-year low, his 16 postseason innings are the most he has thrown since 2003. He was clearly feeling the effects of making 78 appearances this year. “I’m beat up, man,” he said to the ESPN crew.

And then he let slip a secret. “My side was killing me. I don’t know how I finished,” Rivera said. Yankee fans had a feeling something was wrong with Rivera during Game 4 when FOX caught him holding a heating pack to his right side, and last night, he confirmed what he called a “rib injury.”

Rivera labored last night. He needed 41 pitches to get five outs after using just 13 to get the previous five outs. His velocity seemed to be a tick lower than usual, and his control wasn’t as sharp as it generally is. When the game, the season, the World Series ended, though, Rivera was on the mound, and he could rest his rib. “We did not want to say about it,” he said. “Thank God we finished that today because I don’t think I could go another day with that.”

After the game, though, Rivera said he could keep going. He wants to pitch for another five years and might just be serious about it. “I’m serious,” he said to Chad Jennings. “I hope the organization does whatever it takes to bring me back.”

In today’s Times, Jack Curry writes glowingly of Rivera, and it’s no secret that Mariano is my favorite player. In fact, for every single playoff game this season, I wore my Rivera 42 2008 All Star Game jersey. Now, we hear he is injured, and he closed out the World Series while hurt. Yet, it doesn’t show. He takes the ball; he throws that cutter; he gets his outs. The legend and the greatness of Mo just continues to grow, and five years after he retires, I’ll be in Cooperstown with him, watching a great player earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.