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Mid-day Extra: What high ratings mean for baseball

Members of the Detroit Tigers celebrate after the Tigers won the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 6, 2011 in New York.

For many Americans, fall means not just pumpkins and Halloween costumes, but lots and lots of baseball.

Last Thursday night, the Tigers cemented their league division title against the Yankees in front of an average of 9.7 million viewers on TBS. That was the most to watch a league division series game on cable ever.

But what do ratings really mean for the baseball business?

Here to talk with us about what ratings really mean is sports reporter from USA Today, Paul White. He joins us from Arlington, Texas today, where he's covering the American League series.

It turns out that these good ratings numbers might not really be an overall trend for the season, but instead thanks to one factor in particular: the Yankees. According to White, teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox consistently score higher ratings.

When teams with big fan bases like these drop off earlier in the championship season, it can mean poor ratings for baseball. In 2010, ratings for the World Series were at an all-time low.

There are a few exceptions to this rule though, and they are usually the underdogs. Fans love the kind of compelling story that comes with a team that isn't expected to win.

Still, ratings numbers for baseball don't even compare to America's other favorite pastime, football. That is in part because of a different contract system with TV networks, where the NFL can make billions more than the MLB.

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