Commentary

This Year, It’s Phillies, Mets, Sox, Yanks, Everyone Else

Let’s be real, people: Major League Baseball loves its east coast franchises.

They bring ratings. They have large pockets of fans. They can spread the fanbases across the country. They’re competitive. They’re filled with character.

For years it was the Red Sox and Yankees. Everyone else could attempt to earn that type of cache, but none ever neared. Every two weeks ESPN was showing one or the other, or both, on its Sunday Night game of the week. We all yelled, but we can’t deny the power the teams had on not just American culture, but baseball as a global enterprise. Merchandise, foreign-born players, television rights – the Sox and Yankees ruled the world for a reason; they were competitive on the field, they were globally competitive.

Recently the Mets hopped on the Sox and Yankees bus. The other New York team has a built-in advantage: They’re a New York team. They became competitive, and now boast a wealth of popular foreign-born players, a good coin to hold when promoting your brand globally. Moreover they sport a new field, whether tainted by our economic downfall or not.

And just as recently the Phillies have joined the three. You can thank the Commissioner’s Trophy for some of this, but you can also look at young(er) stars Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge. Rollins and Howard, alone, are keeping Dick’s Sporting Goods afloat. Utley is promoting fitness like it’s his job … well, it is. Hamels? He’s just the newest poster boy celebrity in baseball. And Lidge, while not so much a celebrity, has the wonderful privilege of getting face time every couple minutes on ESPN and the MLB Network, because he’s the one who leaped in the air and fell to his knees on October 29, 2008.

There are, of course, other reasons the Phils are now in the elite class of baseball’s marketing genius. They too are spreading out globally, mostly with acquisition Chan Ho Park. Now a good chunk of South Korea will be wearing Phillies red simply because Park will be throwing every fifth day. Panama, meanwhile, loves its Chooch. And while it’s not a foreign nation, the entire island of Hawaii worships at the altar of Shane Victorino. Slowly but surely the Phils are planting seeds in other places – they’re becoming a brand, more than ever.

You saw some of this come alive during the postseason, with Citizens Bank Park standing as the backdrop for some of the biggest moments of 2008. The sea of red waving towels, the green hues of the fences, the old-timey brick and steel holding up the beauty: The ballpark shone during the postseason, lifting it to a level usually held for Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium: The level of postseason haven.

Sure there are other teams casually scraping the level of these four teams. The Cubs attract a lot of attention, the Cardinals have fair presence, and the Dodgers and Angels get ink, as well. But when push comes to shove, the east coast usually wins, for better or worse. For the Phillies, it’s a good thing. More exposure. More big games. More chances to shine. More memories. More fans. More money. And ultimately – if handled correctly – more appearances in the postseason.

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