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Fox needs luck, but Mets should bring more local viewers to World Series

You might think that the ratings for the 2015 league championships in major league baseball would have hit a home run in Western New York since the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets were involved.

After all, the Buffalo Bisons are a minor league affiliate of the Blue Jays, who play 90 miles to the north. And the Bisons used to be affiliated with the Mets, whose games are carried on a cable channel that comes into WNY.

But it has been more like a double than a home run.

The five games in Kansas City’s American League Championship Series victory over Toronto carried on cable Fox Sports 1 and Fox averaged a 2.44 rating and it only reached that high because of a 4.3 rating for the one game on the broadcast network, Fox. The four games on Fox Sports 1 averaged a 2.0.

The four games in the New York Mets sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series carried on cable’s TBS averaged a 3.7 local rating.

Those anemic ratings still were much better than the local ratings for the league championship in 2014 when neither team with a local connection was involved.

The two cable networks traded or alternated the league championships they carried, with Fox Sports 1 getting the National League and TBS the American League last year.

In 2014, San Francisco’s five-game series victory over St. Louis in the National League championship averaged a lowly local rating of 1.2 on Fox Sports 1 a year ago.

Kansas City’s four-game sweep over Baltimore in the National League championship averaged a 2.5 local rating on WTBS.

Those are the kind of ratings for the lower-rated prime time entertainment series on Fox and higher-rated series on the CW.

Many fans have complained that the difficulty of finding Fox Sports 1 contributed to the lower ratings for the A.L. series. But that’s a flimsy excuse. How hard is it to find Channel 400 on cable after you’ve found it once? The local ratings really just call into question how interested most of WNY is in baseball these days.

The participation of the Mets in the World Series should be a boost to Channel 29, the local Fox affiliate that it is carrying the Fall Classic with Kansas City.

But Fox will need some luck for the Series that starts tonight to do as well as the series between eventual champion San Francisco and Kansas City in 2014.

That series went seven games, with Game 7 getting a strong 11.9 rating here. That boosted the seven-game series average to a 6.9, which is about what “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Blacklist” frequently get here.

Of course, the big difference is sporting events get a higher percentage of make viewership and that is attractive to advertisers.

Joe Buck will do the play-by-play, with Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci the game analysts. Ken Rosenthal and Erin Andrews are the reporters.

The pre-game and post-game host is Kevin Burkhardt. He is joined in the studio by Alex Rodriguez, Pete Rose, Raul Ibanez and Frank Thomas, who all worked the A.L. championship series for Fox Sports 1.

A-Rod was most impressive during the A.L. championship series. Rose had the most head-shaking takes, which led him at one point to be trending on Twitter.

That led A-Rod to deliver this terrific line to Rose: “It is never good to be trending on Twitter.”

In a conference call to promote the Series, Rodriguez offered the following takes, according to a Fox release.

A-Rod: “We’re very lucky in this World Series. It’s not often that you get the best two teams and the hottest two teams. I grew up watching baseball and watching the 1986 Mets. The biggest resemblance to me between the 2015 team and the 1986 team are the once-in-a-century power pitchers. If you ask people who watched the ’86 Mets, they probably said these guys are going to win three or four championships in the next five years – same could be said about these Mets.”

A-Rod on playing the Royals, “a fast, physical team”: “I know that as a middle infielder, there’s a lot of stress especially when you play a team that’s young and athletic and always runs hard. But here’s another way to look at it. You have 27 outs, and you have 14 or 15 strikeouts on average per night. That’s 12 balls that are put in play. Of those 12, five or six of them are going to be lazy fly balls or easy outs. As an infielder, if you make a handful of plays, you will be shaking hands and win the game. The Mets will be pushed and challenged in a way they haven’t been pushed before.”

A-Rod on K.C.’s improvement since losing last year’s World Series: “When you have a team that’s as aggressive as they are, that’s usually synonymous with an undisciplined team. Kansas City is not that way at all. They have the unique characteristic that they are aggressive, but they don’t chase bad pitches and will take their walks. Everyone thinks the Royals will be better because they have the experience of last year. That’s true, but they also have become a better team. This team is a year older, they’ve been together like frat boys for 10 years and when you bring in Ben Zobrist and Kendrys Morales, who are switch hitters who annihilate great pitching, that’s a (heck) of an addition.”

A-Rod on working with Rose: “He has been fascinating to be around and has been entertaining. He has been around the game almost 60 years and every time I come to the studio or the green room I am looking forward to seeing his perspective. I want to see how he sees it through his lens. It has been quite an education and has been a lot of fun...but one thing is, I don’t talk fashion or bow ties with Pete.”

 apergament@buffnews.com

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