Since I didn’t have a rooting interest, I watched the Yankees’ celebration seeing the look of ecstasy on the players’ faces along with their adoring fans. It was living vicariously since I knew that my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates would never likely get to the World Series in my lifetime ever again — certainly not under the present system used in baseball that mostly rewards the teams that are willing and able to spend the most for players. In Pittsburgh, a successful baseball season is now defined as finishing over .500 — which the Pirates have now failed to do over the last 17 seasons with no apparent end in sight.
In any one season, only one team can win it all. But there was always that hope for the losers who say “Wait Till Next Year” when the season starts anew and offers a fresh chance for everybody.
But especially for fans in smaller markets, that hope has vanished. They know that occasionally teams from small markets can get lucky and make the post-season playoffs. But even if they do, that means that the best emerging players will soon be attracted to the teams with the most money to spend so the joy will be short-lived. This happened twice after a pair of improbable World Series victories by the Florida Marlins which were followed by the dismantling of the teams for financial reasons. In effect, we have a system where the small market teams function as a farm team for the larger market teams with deeper pockets.
The Yankees have been notorious for their payrolls that dwarf those of most other teams. So after their victory, there is always the question of whether they won because of things like “character” or whether they are just simply The best team money could buy.
The Yankees are not a big-market team. They DWARF big-market teams. They are quantitatively different from every other team in baseball and every other team in American sports. They don't just spend more money than every other team. They spend A LOT more money than every other team. The Boston Red Sox spend $50 million more than the Kansas City Royals? Who cares? The Yankees spend $80 million more than the Boston Red Sox.
The larger question is whether this has caused overall interest in the sport to decline. Several generations ago, baseball certainly earned its title in America as The National Pastime and the World Series was one of the most watched TV events of the year. Examining World Series television ratings over the last 25 years however, the percentage share of households watching TV who are tuned in has declined from in the 40s in the 1980s down to the 20s in the 1990s and in this decade mostly in the high teens. In contrast, National Football League Super Bowl television ratings through the years boast share ratings of at least 60% and sometimes 70%. In addition, NBC who presented the latest Super Bowl was able to command a cool $3 million for a 30 second ad.