I apoligize in advance for the length of this column, but I think it will be worth your time and probably give you a couple of laughs if you make it through the end.
Believe it or not, all 30 teams in Major League Baseball already know how they are going to do this season. How do they know? It's all in the marketing my friend. And now, if you don't mind, let's step away from the insanity of no lefties in the Rays' bullpen and Jorge Cantu wants to be traded as we look at how the other teams are selling themselves.
This is has become an annual tradition of mine. Come opening day, I cruise around other MLB sites and see what the big sales pitch is. Some season slogans are creative, others are dull, while quite a few are just plain dumb. In a column I wrote on February 16th, I said I really liked the Rays slogan for 2007, "More than just a game." I liked it most for its honesty-- with a team relatively unchanged from last season a postseason berth probably isn't in the cards this season. So, let's pump up the fact that going to a Rays game is fun, even if the outcome of the game isn't.
You'll notice if you bounce around the other 29 MLB websites, the teams that aren't guaranteed a playoff spot or long lines wrapping around the box office have to come up with a slogan. The world champion Cardinals, Yankees, and Red Sox don't need an ad campaign with razzle and dazzle. As long as there is an open keg of Old Style in Wrigley Field, the Cubs don't need a campaign. As long as Cubs fans live in Milwaukee, the Brewers won't need a campaign. As long as Peter Angelos remains a cheap bastard, the Orioles won't have a campaign.
So the other teams in MLB can't just roll up the blinds at the ticket window and expect the gates to be stormed by people hungering for baseball, especially if the team may have to luck its way into the postseason. These teams then have to spend thousands of dollars on marketing groups headed up by people who never picked up a baseball bat, and thus the silly slogan is born.
Before we look at this season's attempts to stuff a few more people in the stadium, a quick reminder of my picks for dumbest ad campaign in MLB the past two seasons:
2005-- Pittsburgh's "Come Hungry" campaign
2006-- Detroit's "Who's Your Tiger?" campaign
* First the nominees for "winning = ticket sales" ad campaigns: The Padres, A's, Yankees, and Cardinals have slapped some kind of postseason success logo up and that's good enough for them. Must be nice.
* The "It worked well enough last year" group includes the Twins, Giants, Angels, Tigers and Pirates.
The Twins claim their "This is Twins Territory" campaign was so successful, they brought it back by popular demand. As long as notorious penny pincher Carl Pohlad owns this team though, I'll always believe he just didn't want to invest in something new.
The Giants again go with "Your SF Giants", apparently still trying to alert people in the other city by the bay that the Giants are not moving to Tampa Bay.
The Tigers return with their silly "Who's Your Tiger?" campaign from last season. I guess the eight-year-old who came up with that still works for little or no money.
Speaking of cheap, the Pirates again go with "We Will". We will win? We will lose? We will, we will, rock you? Chances are "we will" precedes "miss the playoffs again for the 15th consecutive season."
The Angels again roll with "The A-Team!" Knowing Mr. T's financial situation, I'm sure there's some kind of kickback here.
* Alright, let's now go top to bottom, alphabetically, up to my selection for dumbest ad campaign of the season:
The Houston Astros proudly proclaim this season is "the return of the good guys". I don't know if this is saying the Astros will be good again like they were in 2005, or if Andy Pettitte and Aubrey Huff were assholes and the team is glad they're gone.
The Blue Jays get aggressive this year with, "It's always game time". Great, just another reason why the Jays will be loaded with injuries again. Game time is all the time and these kids just can't get any down time.
The Braves are suddenly coming up with slogans, and this year they try, "Welcome to the bigs". One look at the Braves' depth chart and those words have probably been uttered to most of the 25 active players recently. Less veterans, more kids still having to prove something, and probably a fourth-place finish in the NL East.
The Diamondbacks scream, "Are you ready?!?" For another ho-hum season in the desert? Not really, but at least the new unis look nice.
The Dodgers slogan isn't flashy (It's Time for Dodger Baseball!) but the way they write it is. Written in a 1954-esque style script, it appears somebody gave the marketing keys to Vin Scully. Either that, or the Dodgers are willing to bring Duke Snider back so he can earn an honest living and not evade the IRS again.
I like the Rays' honesty in their ad campaign, but the Indians may have beaten the Rays in the honesty department this season. Ya ready for this? "Indians '07" Yep... they're the Indians and it's 2007. Or is it 1907? The 1907 Indians also finished in fourth place, so there may not be much of a difference between now and then.
You have to look hard for the Mariners' campaign, but I found it and it sucks; "Mariners baseball... my oh my". Well, I've heard different, more obscene descriptions of Mariners baseball recently, so I guess this is kid-tested and mother-approved.
The Marlins have the hysterical, "You Gotta Be Here!" campaign this season. Well I guess you gotta be there, because judging by the attendance figures you haven't been there recently. It is a step up from, "Oh please, oh please just show up!"
The Mets have an equally goofy campaign, proclaiming, "Your Season Has Come". Wow... after failing to do anything in two seasons of winter little league baseball, and playing nothing but beer-league softball (even that was six years ago), I've finally earned a season with the Mets! Baseball HAS been beddy beddy good to me!
The Nationals actually have a great and clever campaign. "Pledge Your Allegiance" is topical considering where the team plays, and is also a slight dig at the Orioles who continue to lose fans every day. Still, considering how painful of a rebuilding process the Beltway will see in the next few years, fans may be pledging their allegiance to masochism.
The Reds go with, "C You There!" Get it? There's a "C" on their hats. Ummm... yeah.
In January the Rockies rolled out a "R You In?" slogan, but it hasn't been back up as the team sticks with their previous "Gen-R-ation" campaign. Apparently their marketing genius really likes instant messaging, since he or she can't spell a damn thing right.
Think your job sucks? Ever thought of selling tickets for the Royals? There, doesn't that put everything in perspective? The Royals have to be the most creative, and this year they came up with "True Blue Tradition". Sadly, that's all the Royals have... true royal blue tradition from George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Dan Quisenberry, and the greatness that is Buddy Biancalana. KC is still looking back at 1985, and owner David Glass is still counting every dollar in his pocket.
The White Sox don't have the advantage of selling world champion t-shirts this season, so the south siders had to create the odd campaign of, "Back to the Grind". True, the Sox have to get back to the style of play that got them a championship in 2005, but that approach just seems so depressing. You almost want to bring a gun to U.S. Cellular Field to off yourself. If you talk yourself out of the suicide, you can then protect yourself from the late night hoodlums in that part of town.
* The runner-up for dumbest ad campaign in 2007 is... the Texas Rangers notable attempt at selling tickets; "You Could Use Some Baseball". Let's do the math kids-- 35 seasons, three playoff appearances (none since 1999), and zero championships. Yes, the people of Arlington, Texas, sure could use some baseball, and not the crap the Rangers will serve up this season.
* Finally, the winner of the dumbest ad campaign in 2007 goes to our brothers in the city of brotherly love. The Phillies dare to ask, "Goosebumps-- What Will They Do For You?" No really, that is their big-money ad campaign this season. Granted the Phils may finally put together a postseason run for the first time since 1993, but goosebumps? What about Ryan Howard, or Jimmy Rollins, or Chase Utley, or Pat Burrell, or the incredible changes Pat Gillick has brought to Philly during the past few months? GOOSEBUMPS?!? I haven't gotten those from watching the Phillies since Tug McGraw threw his arms up in the air when he recorded the final out against the Royals in 1980. If the Phillies get that far this year, other side effects could include nausea, vomiting, and listening to Philly fans all offseason long bragging about their team. Please consult a doctor.
So there you have it, a look at how the other teams honestly think how they'll fare this season. With 22 teams not making the playoffs this season, I can guarantee at least 22 more crazy, lame, or just plain dumb ad campaigns in 2008.