East Coast Bias and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Part 4: The Blue Jays

(Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

As part of my study of ESPN’s scheduling patterns for Sunday Night Baseball, I was somewhat surprised to see that the  team with the biggest discrepancy between performance and appearances on SNB were the Toronto Blue Jays.

Seriously. The Blue Jays had the 15th best record in baseball from 2007 to 2011, but were tied for 30th (dead last), with no appearances. They’ve had two of the best players in the game to knowledgeable baseball fans: Roy Halladay and then Jose Bautista have been in Toronto. But, guess what, they haven’t shown up on Sunday Night Baseball in recent years. At all. In fact, it was a bit of a surprise when I saw them on Monday Night Baseball earlier this season. Apparently, Tim Kurkjian had to appeal straight to the State Department to get some passport problems fixed, which is probably a good indication of how rarely ESPN gets up there.

But why, exactly, are the Blue Jays so ignored by ESPN, despite the fact they usually have a winning team? Well, there are two reasons, read on to see them.

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East Coast Bias and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Part 3: Who gets ignored

As noted yesterday and the day before, ESPN does indeed have East Coast teams on Sunday Night Baseball more than many teams from other areas. However, it isn’t because ESPN wants teams closer to Bristol, it’s just that teams on the East Coast tend to do well both on the field and in the ratings, so it makes sense to schedule them more.

That said, there are some teams that end up getting the short end of the stick because of this. These are some of those teams.

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East Coast Bias and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, Part 2

As we saw yesterday, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball does, in general, feature more eastern teams than teams in other parts of the country.

But, as I said yesterday, that isn’t telling the whole story. Yes, there is an East Coast Bias in appearances, but that bias is not necessarily geographical so much as it is based on two factors: finding the best stories (which are usually the best teams), and getting the most eyeballs watching the games. In fact, at one point a VP of Programming and Acquisitions at ESPN even said as much.

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East Coast Bias and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, Part 1

Over the past few months, I finished a project for school (the last project before I graduated!) on something of my choosing. I chose, as the title of this post suggests, to look at whether “East Coast Bias” existed in the selection of who was playing on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, and, if so, why.

I’m not going to bore you with the whole thing (although perhaps I’ll put it up as a download later), but I do want to summarize my findings.

In essence, it is true that teams on the East Coast (or at least the East divisions) do appear most often on Sunday Night Baseball. Here are the top ten teams in appearances from 2007 to 2011 on Sunday Night Baseball*.

1. Yankees (25 appearances)
2. Red Sox (24)
3(T). Cubs and Cardinals (23)
5. Mets (22)
6. Phillies (20)
7. Dodgers (18)
8. Braves (17)
9. Angels (12)
10. Tigers (11)

There really aren’t many surprises here. If you asked an average baseball fan to list the ten teams they think are on ESPN the most, they’d probably give you roughly this same list. However, you will note that half of these teams are in either the AL East or NL East, including three of the top five.

So, yeah, the East is dominant in Sunday Night Baseball appearances. But that only tells half the story. Stay tuned in the next few days when I cover why (hint: it’s a mixture of good teams and big markets- surprise, surprise), as well as what teams might have the biggest beef.

*By the way, note that, with the exception of times where Opening Night has been a Sunday, every team is allowed a maximum of five appearances per year on SNB. Just a few days ago, in fact, ESPN’s Buster Olney mentioned this after somebody accused ESPN of ignoring the Bay Area. (For the curious, the Giants were tied for 12th in most appearances).