After a thrilling start to the 2015 World Series, the Kansas City Royals took out the New York Mets and won their second World Series title. While the two cities were very excited about their teams (especially a massive city like New York), there wasn't too much buzz generated from the national media.
Game 1 of the World Series drew a 4.6 rating, which was tops for the night, but there were actually fewer people watching the game than NCIS at 8pm on CBS. It’s not a good sign, and baseball really needs a huge matchup to get interest back on the World Series. Not to say that Royals-Mets is a bad matchup, it just doesn’t have the same appeal that the Cubs and Blue Jays would have had.
It’s hardly the worst matchup to ever be featured in the World Series, as there have been some absolute snoozers to determine the MLB Champion. Between uninteresting teams, lack of starpower and small markets, some matchups just haven’t reached the masses, and here are the 15 worst World Series matchups in terms of interest. There will be a bit of a recency bias since it was hard to gauge interest in the 1950’s, so keep that in mind.
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The 2002 edition of the World Series pitted the Anaheim Angels against the San Francisco Giants. Both teams had at least at least 95 wins coming into the postseason, but there was not a lot of buzz about the two west coast teams. It’s not their fault, but having two teams that are used to playing games early into the hours of the morning of the east coast just doesn’t draw much national interest. Add in the fact that the Angels are sort of seen as the secondary team in their market behind the Dodgers and the main storyline was that of Barry Bonds against a team that hadn’t won it before.
Coming into the 2010 World Series, the San Francisco Giants had not won the championship since 1954. Still, for some reason, people just weren’t interested in the fact that they were fighting to break their long slump against a team that had never won the World Series before. Perhaps a big part of it was the fact that neither team dominated the regular season as the Giants and Rangers won 92 and 90 games respectively and it’s possible that the lack of a national following for each team made the 2010 World Series the fourth least watched of all-time.
There was probably a time more than a decade ago when the Cardinals and the Red Sox would have been a really interesting World Series matchup, but it certainly wasn’t 2013. The Red Sox were far removed from busting their drought and won the 2004 and 2007 World Series while the Cardinals won the 2006 and 2011 World Series. Whoever won this series was going to have their third championship in less than a decade, meaning a lot of people were just not invested at all. The series that pitted two 97-65 teams against each other averaged 14.9 million viewers throughout the six game matchup, fifth lowest in World Series history.
Personally, this is my favorite World Series of the past 30 years. It was just so exciting in a time where baseball was still relatively hurting from the 1994 strike and the seventh game going into extra innings was a shock. There was a lot of star power in the lineups for both teams, but they would mainly become stars with other franchises. Miami and Cleveland don’t have large followings nationally, and the Indians weren’t even all that impressive with a record of 86-75 in a weak American League Central. People weren’t tuning in much until the deciding game, and they missed out on a great series.
At the time of the 2000 World Series, media outlets had to be excited at the prospect of two New York teams facing off against each other. The only thing was, nobody outside of The Big Apple really cared all that much. People were sick of the Yankees winning all the time at that point, and the Mets just don’t have the same draw. Outside of the east coast, there was very little buzz about the series after the novelty of “The Subway Series” wore off quickly and it was one of the least watched World Series between 1994 and 2002.
Once again, the Yankees were back in the World Series after winning in 2000 and losing in 2001. This time, they were playing the Florida Marlins, and interesting team that had a lot of stars such as Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett and Derrek Lee. While the Marlins were an interesting team, the 2003 World Series was simply one that the people didn’t want. People were excited for a possible Cubs-Red Sox World Series matchup as both teams were facing long droughts, but the Marlins and Yankees defeated them in the CS matchups, leaving people fatigued on the World Series.
The 1998 Yankees were one of the most dominant teams in recent memory, finishing the regular season with a record of 114-48. The Padres were no pushover, either, finishing with 98 wins and beating the Braves in six games in the National League Championship Series. Ratings were up from the 1997 World Series, but they weren’t nearly as high as they were in 1996 and 1999 when the Yankees squared off with the Braves both times. Sadly, people just weren’t interested in seeing the Padres, and it wasn’t much of a series anyway as the Yankees rolled in a four game sweep.
The Cubs have gone to one World Series since 1938, and it was one of the worst World Series matchups of all-time when they squared off against the Tigers in 1945. World War II was coming to an end at the time, but there were still plenty of star players missing from this World Series thanks to MLB rules. Hank Greenberg was basically the only star player in this World Series, and he hit the only two home runs for Detroit in all seven games. The only real interesting thing about this showdown was the start of the “Curse of the Billy Goat” in Chicago.
Everyone always talked about the Cubs and Red Sox going for extremely long periods without a World Series title, but hardly anyone ever talked about the White Sox despite not winning for 88 years when the 2005 World Series rolled around. Chicago and Houston are two of the biggest cities in the United States, but the White Sox played second fiddle in their own city and the Astros simply had no national appeal. The 2004 World Series between Boston and St. Louis saw an average of more than 25 million viewers for the four game series, but the 2005 edition with the White Sox and Astros only had around 18 million.
The 2006 World Series had two teams facing off that hadn’t won a World Series since the 1980’s, but apparently that wasn’t enough to get people to care. The Tigers were a solid club that unfortunately didn’t appeal to a broad audience, and the Cardinals were one of the worst teams to make it to the World Series, finishing the regular season at just 83-78. It was a perfect storm of disinterest, and it reflected in the ratings. Viewership dropped from the 2005 World Series, and barely 16 million people tuned in to see the Cardinals celebrate their first title in 24 years.
The 1989 World Series will always be remembered as the time when Game 3 was interrupted by a massive earthquake that shook up the Bay Area. What people don’t remember is the fact that ratings plummeted between the previous four World Series and the 1989 edition. In 1988, an average of more than 35 million people watched each game between the Dodgers and Athletics, but the Giants and Athletics in 1989 were only able to draw in less than 25 million each game. Outside of the earthquake, the series wasn’t even that memorable as the Athletics rolled 4-0 in a sweep.
Had the Red Sox not won the 2004 World Series against the Cardinals, there would have been a lot of interest in this matchup. However, the allure of breaking the curse had vanished and the Red Sox were paired up with the Colorado Rockies. Colorado was the Wild Card team that year, finishing the regular season with 90 wins, but they have one of the smallest (if not the smallest) national fanbase. Viewership floundered as the clinching game for the Red Sox was the only time more than 17 million people tuned in. It was up from the Tigers-Cardinals series, but not by a whole lot.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers simply do not carry large audiences. The Giants had already ended their long streak of no championships in 2010 when they defeated the Rangers, so that appeal to the casual fan was out the window. No World Series in history has had a lower average rating, as only 12.7 million people tuned in on average to the four game sweep that handed the Giants their second title in three years. The alternative was Yankees vs. Cardinals, so be careful what you wish for.
Last year’s World Series was an exciting one, there’s no doubt about that. People seem to remember the series as being an underappreciated one, but everyone seems to forget that neither team reached the 90 win mark in the regular season, meaning the Giants would have finished nine games out of the playoffs in 2015 with the 88 wins they had in 2014. The Royals were a nice story, but people were so used to them being completely irrelevant without a national following that they didn’t bother to tune in. Ratings were up slightly from the 2012 World Series, but it’s still the third-least watched series with 13.8 million viewers.
In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies were marking their 28th season without a championship and got their chance to break that slump in a matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays. It doesn’t matter who Tampa Bay would have played in that series, people just weren’t going to care much. Tampa was a very good team, winning 97 games in the regular season with interesting people on their roster like Carl Crawford, Joe Maddon, James Shields and more, but they couldn’t even get fans in their own city to watch them, let alone a national audience. There has only been one documented World Series game that has had less than 10 million people watching, and it came in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series. It was the ultimate “Oh, the World Series is on?” matchup when channel flipping ever.
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