The postseason begins
After a wild final day, baseball’s postseason is set. Three of the eight spots go to the Yankees, Mets and Dodgers, big-market teams who seem to have plenty of fans who root against them rather than for them.
Baseball has talked a good game about competitive balance and keeping small-market teams viable as potential champions. And yes, the postseason also includes Minnesota, San Diego and Oakland, which baseball probably considers small.
Yet, I wonder whether, with 30 teams, baseball gets more interest in its postseason by encouraging hatred of the Yankees than support for one’s home team. After all, if you hate the Yankees enough to watch, you’re still watching. And in a 30-team league, the odds that your team will make the World Series are about 7% in a perfectly-balanced league. (Although it seems way less even in big-market Philadelphia.)
These musings are a setup for a rough segue to shameless self-promotion. In a forthcoming Berkeley Technology Law Journal article by Tim Zuercher and myself, we argue that, for this and other reasons, antitrust should reject its current consideration of competitive balance as a justification for anticompetitive behavior in sports leagues. We also argue that this reasoning has implications for dealing with intellectual property in professional sports.