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Best: When Yankees win, so do Fox and TBS

New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson (14) gets hit

New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson (14) gets hit with champagne in their celebration of ALDS Game 3 . (Oct. 9, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

We have had four decades to get used to it, yet "Texas Rangers" still doesn't sound quite right.

It's a mixed marriage between a football state and a hockey nickname, one that has produced a reliably mediocre baseball franchise.

Now, thanks mostly to a pitcher passing through on his way to the Bronx next season, the uninspiring Rangers are all that stand in the way of a World Series capable of distracting Football Nation.

The best possible matchup, of course, is Phillies-Yankees, a Series that would excite both purists and TV executives and be widely anticipated even in regions west and south of Citizens Bank Park.

And Giants-Yankees would suffice, featuring venerable franchises who first met in 1921 and '22, when they shared the Polo Grounds long before the football Giants and Jets stole the idea in Jersey.

But Rangers-Phillies, or worse, Rangers-Giants? Even though both of those matchups would include television markets among the nation's six largest . . . Yuck.

Fox executives will tell you, as they always do when asked about matchups, that long series between unattractive draws are better than short ones between ratings darlings. And it's true.

But baseball has no margin for error. To fully capture the nation's attention, it needs big names, big franchises and a long, hard battle.

Remember that Sports Illustrated cover story from the fall of 2008, which featured an open letter to Bud Selig with suggestions on how to save the beleaguered World Series?

The story followed a rain-interrupted five-game Series between the Phillies and Rays that averaged a record-low 8.5 percent of homes and 13.6 million viewers.

Writer Tom Verducci offered the commissioner several helpful suggestions. But as it turned out, the situation improved on its own last autumn. How?

Phillies + Yankees + six games, the first World Series that long since 2003.

Presto: The average rating improved to 11.7, the best since the Red Sox's historic triumph in 2004. The 39 percent year-to-year increase was the biggest in Series history.

The Rays helpfully stepped aside in the first round this season, but Cliff Lee and the Rangers now are in the way.

When the Rays and Rangers met in Game 4 of the ALDS Sunday - head-to-head against the NFL - they generated the lowest viewership (2.2 million) in the four years TBS has carried the playoffs.

Now comes the LCS round, the finale for TBS, so it will hold nothing back. That includes a new gimmick called "Foul Pole Cam," a camera attached to the pole in right for Rangers home games that will offer a clear look down the line.

Because this is as far as TBS goes, the network got the reward that mattered most when the Yankees dismissed the Twins in the ALDS. The last time it was TBS' turn on the ALCS, the Yankees didn't even make the playoffs.

Now the Bombers are back in the spotlight, even if it is without their old partners in ratings heaven from Boston.

TBS will be happy with a series that goes six or seven no matter who wins. Fox? It doesn't care if it goes only four, as long as you-know-who advances.


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