By R.J. Anderson //
Ben Kabak has a good take on River Avenue Blues in response to an article that bemoans the current playoff format because it limits September excitement. Ben covers just about everything in a better fashion than I could have. The only point I would add is that I think winning the division goes beyond home field advantage in the performance sense.
The playoff format is five games then seven from there on out. If the Rays win the division then they will host games one and two, with the chance of hosting game five too. In the next two rounds, the home/away breakdown would go: H, H, A, A, A, H, and H. Essentially, the away team hosts more playoff games if the series only goes five, with the teams hosting an equal amount if the series goes four or six, and the home team hosting more if it goes seven.
On the surface, you want that seventh game to be at home, but how often do series go seven games? Since 2000, there have been 30 series with the potential to go seven games. Nine have gone the distance – or 30%. The average length of those series is something like 5.7 games; with 14 of 30 going at least six games. What that means, is that the majority of series – if only by one – have went five games at the most. That would mean there is about a 50/50 shot the home team hosts fewer playoff games in the ALCS and WS than it plays road games.
Stuart Sternberg credited the Rays’ meltdown in game five of the ALCS for creating extra revenue through the means of allowing the team to play game six and seven at the Trop. I believe he even attributed the signing of Brian Shouse and Joe Nelson to those games in particularly, meaning the revenue added was something along the lines of $1-2 million total. I’m not privy to the exact figures so bare with me if that seems off. I assume that total rose for the World Series and lowered for the first round games. I’m not going to attempt to put a dollar figure o those, but given the historical information, if the Rays lose the division and have the ALCS go six games or fewer, they stand to make as much home revenue as they would if they won the division. The same is true for the World Series.
The other side to this is the brand and marketing gain from winning the division. There is no way to put a price on this either, but there is something magical about a division pennant. Maybe that makes up for an extra home game or two in the postseason, maybe not. I have no way of knowing. Which means the equation for whether the Rays lose financially if they lose the division is something like this:
The Rays lose if …
Marketing/branding gain from winning division is > extra home playoff game or two
The Rays win if …
Marketing/branding gain from winning division is < extra home playoff game or two
This ignores the performance aspect on the field entirely, which might be even more important than the other means of revenue boosts. After all, winning the World Series must carry with it more prestige than a divisional, wild card, or league championship banner. Not to mention the level of satisfaction likely shoots through the roof too and could be the difference between the Rays securing a new stadium and the alternatives.
Note: Here’s a table that illustrates what I mean more clearly (the “winner” is the one who hosts more games); the axis are the lengths of the two series: