- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2009

Here we are, the last day in October, and Saturday night will be only Game 3 of the World Series.

Consider this, then, as you prepare to watch the game coming from Philadelphia - this game could have been in Denver.

Yes, Denver, with about 1 1/2 feet of snow, the worst October storm the city has seen in more than a decade.

If the Rockies had repeated their 2007 miracle run and made it through the postseason, Game 3 may not have started until Veterans Day. Instead of watching football on Thanksgiving Day, we could have been watching Game 7.

And let’s get really nuts with projected baseball disasters - what if next year the Rockies make it to the World Series and they are playing the Minnesota Twins in their new open-air ballpark come November? It could be known as the 2010-2011 World Series.

Fortunately for Major League Baseball, it got nearly the best scenario it could have hoped for in the Fall (Winter) Classic - the Yankees against the Phillies.

If baseball were “American Idol” or some other orchestrated show that passes for real drama, we would have the Yankees facing the Los Angeles Dodgers - the two biggest markets in the country, with Joe Torre returning to Yankee Stadium, Manny Ramirez going against Alex Rodriguez in a battle of disgraced steroid users and, hey, the McCourts’ divorce battle playing out on national television.

The World Series, though, still appears to be something that television hasn’t yet gotten full content control over, thank goodness. It’s not Yankees-Dodgers, but television got the next best thing in Yankees-Phillies.

Unlike last year, when the Tampa Bay Rays’ underdog story failed to bring in viewers, this contest features the television gold standard, the Yankees, facing the defending champions Phillies, and people are paying attention.

According to Fox, Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night was seen in an average of 11.7 percent of U.S. homes in the top 50 television markets. The 11.7 rating was 44 percent higher than last year’s Game 2 between the Phillies and Rays.

Nearly 19 million people watched the Yankees’ 3-1 win - the highest-rated and most watched Game 2 matchup since the 2004 Series between Boston and St. Louis.

It is a Series filled with star power - A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley. It is not a stretch to believe that Thursday night’s show was boosted by the presence of the self-proclaimed most influential player ever to set foot in Yankee Stadium - Pedro Martinez. Fox executives should give Phillies manager Charlie Manuel a bonus for that decision (which was the right baseball decision as well because Cole Hamels looks like a deer in headlights and should not be allowed anywhere near the mound at Yankee Stadium).

The first two games have averaged an 11.8 rating, a 37 percent gain over last year, and 19.2 million viewers. The ratings likely will continue to rise as the Series gains momentum, particularly if there is a memorable game Saturday or Sunday to get the water cooler talk going. That hasn’t really happened yet. As much as Cliff Lee’s dominant performance in Game 1 was admirable, the 6-1 beating of New York was hardly a compelling game. And while Pedro and A.J. Burnett dueling for the first six innings of Thursday’s game was compelling, the 3-1 ending was hardly sizzling.

We haven’t had that sort of moment that winds up on the “Today” show the next morning - no particular dramatic controversy (other than the umpires continually blowing calls, fueling the cry for instant replay), no bad blood, no dramatic Jimmy Rollins game-winning-double-like finish. Hopefully the Series will extend to seven games with those kind of moments yet to come.

So if you were programming the Series, what would your outcome be in that seventh and final game? What is the best story - a Philadelphia one or a Damn Yankees show?

You want the Yankees to lose.

The Yankees may have the largest fan base, but there are so many more baseball fans that would love to watch the Yankees lose, it just makes for a better ending. And there can be particular glee for all those fans in cities where the owners spend less on payroll than Yankees fans do on season tickets - places such as Kansas City, Pittsburgh and the District - in knowing that if New York loses the series, the Yankees will have spent $1.6 billion in payroll since the last time they had their hands on the trophy. That’s also what it cost to build the new Yankee Stadium.

Excess failure is a better story than excess success.

We’ve seen the Yankees win the World Series - heck, 26 times now. But they haven’t won since 2000, having lost in both trips they have made since. And if they lose once again, we perhaps could start seeing a role reversal here - the Yankees becoming the cursed Red Sox, the team that keeps getting just close enough to make its fans suffer and suffer and suffer.

Of course, it would be nine years down, 77 years to go to match the pain of Boston fans. Really, who outside of anyone getting a paycheck from George Steinbrenner wants to see them win this one for George?

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