Weather-permitting, a lot of eyes — including some very interested parties at Turner Sports — will be focused on Saturday’s New York Mets-Florida Marlins matchup at 1:05 p.m.
Now down two games to the National League East-leading Phillies and one to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card hunt, the Amazins are sending out ace, off-season acquisition Johan Santana on three days rest to fry the Fish. Should the Mets fail, the Phillies would win the division without having to take out the lowly 100-loss Washington Nationals in the late-afternoon window. Moreover, a Milwaukee triumph over the NL Central winners, the Chicago Cubs, in that same time slot, would mark the second straight season the Mets let a senior circuit playoff berth slip in September.
Not to mention putting a major damper on tomorrow’s sendoff of Shea, which will give way to Citifield in 2009.
Brew Crew backers aside, most around MLB’s Park Ave offices — save perhaps for a former Milwaukee owner — have to favor a 2008 version of a Mets miracle.
Don’t get me wrong. The Brewers seeking their first postseason position since they were the American League representatives in a seven-game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1982 World Series is a compelling story. The team has strong young hitters in Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Prince Fielder and C.C. Sabathia has been the NL’s best pitcher since arriving from the Cleveland Indians in a June trade. Additionally, Sabathia and/or right-hander Ben Sheets are likely to depart as free agents after this season, meaning this a must-win Milwaukee moment.
Still, Bernie Brewer and Nielsen market No. 35 doesn’t equate to the Big Apple. With the Yankees failing to make the post-season for the first time since 1995 (thank you Brian Cashman), TBS, which exclusively offers all four Division Series and the American League Championship Series this time around, wouldn’t have a horse in the No. 1 market.
Otherwise, TBS looks to be in pretty good shape to repeat as cable’s primetime champion in October. Los Angeles, the nation’s No. 2 market will have two entries in the playoffs with the Dodgers and Angels (of Anaheim). The Phillies, barring a collapse evocative of Gene Mauch circa 1964, will bring the No. 4 Nielsen market to the postseason party.
Lucky No. 7 Boston is in the hunt as the Wild Card Red Sox look to repeat and claim their third crown in five years. The Halos-Bosox series should be boffo.
The worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays, after dropping the word Devil from their moniker and picking first in the draft for a decade or so, finally received a payoff, if not necessarily in the stands. FSN Florida saw a 95% rise in Rays’s ratings this season in the Tampa-St. Pete DMA, No. 13 in the Nielsen standings.
There are also plenty of eyeballs at stake for Turner in whether the Rays host either the Chicago White Sox and No. 3 Chitown, or the Minnesota Twins, who play in market No. 15, as the AL Central winner. The Twins, the sweepers of three from the White Sox this week before falling to the KC Royals last night, are up a half-game –the teams are tied in the loss column. As such, the Chisox are slated to play a make-up game Monday at Cellular Field against the Tigers, if matters have not been resolved.
The smallest markets notwithstanding, Twins-Tampa also would put MLB’s worst two buildings, The Baggie and The Trop, on national display. With the White Sox ending their own 88-year World Series winless streak in 2005, Pale Hose fervor, though, is not nearly as great.
Still, TBS is already playing with house money in the Second City. Long-suffering Cubs fans are hoping Lou Piniella’s bunch can put an end to the curses of billy goats, black cats and Steve Bartman. The Northsiders’ push to end the Cubbies 100-year World Series drought should play huge on the small screen.
Even bigger if the Mets manage to get in as the Wild Card and take their at bats at Wrigley.