COLUMN: MLB can’t keep up, adjust to the times
Maybe the six most important words in baseball are take me out to the ballgame.
The problem nowadays is that nobody’s going.
Major League Baseball has been struggling with viewership in recent years, and Tuesday’s All-Star Game set a new low. The Home Run Derby was up, but the actual game was down.
It just feels like more and more people are caring less about baseball. The NFL and NBA are still very popular, so why not MLB?
Well, for one, MLB fails to have the superstars that are in the other two sports. There are a few like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw. By superstar, I mean a player you have to see. No matter what day of the week it is or how much money it costs, fans will find a way to see that player in person.
Besides Trout and Harper, what other player would you pay just to see him?
There is nobody on the Pittsburgh Pirates or Cleveland Indians. Maybe Francisco Lindor in the near future, but not right now.
Superstars draw ratings, even against poor teams. Just look at the 1990s as an example. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are the first four names I can think of off the top of my head. Although they were/are controversial, we needed to see them.
Ken Griffey Jr. is that one exception to the rule. He was so good and popular that he didn’t need any controversy.
The problem now is the impact of social media and the Internet. The NFL is only 16 games long during the regular season, and the NBA is 82. Players have time to go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and interact with other players and fans.
MLB is a grueling 162-game schedule with a month of playoffs. From what other media outlets have guessed before, they don’t have the time to interact on the Internet as NFL or NBA players. They want to spend as much time with their families as much as possible. You can’t blame them for that.
Hopefully this does not come out wrong, but maybe there are not enough Americans swinging the bat or fielding a ground ball. Trout, Harper and Kershaw are, but those were the only names I can think of without going to Google.
Take a moment to think about the most popular athletes in football and basketball. Are any of them not American?
It’s hard for us to relate with them when they’re from a completely different world. It’s a little cringe-worthy to hear an interview from a player that needs a translator.
Why is soccer the No. 1 sport in the world? Look at how many fans can connect with their favorite players.
MLB also can be a slow game, and you need patience for it. Many are talking about how Tuesday’s All-Star Game was boring and lacked excitement. Yes, there were not many exciting moments, but it was a very good, competitive contest. But, no, millenials don’t want to wait for something great to happen. They need it right now. They get that in football and basketball.
As a side note, I’m not mentioning the NHL. I don’t know much about the sport to comment on. I believe it has the lowest ratings for all four major sports combined, but I know it has a strong fan base. If baseball keeps trending downward, maybe hockey can catch up to it one day.
Back to pacing, MLB may be slow, but nothing is slower than soccer. I’m sorry, but it’s true. The difference is that soccer does such a tremendous job building it up and how important one goal is.
The excitement we feel with a touchdown, slam dunk or game-winning field goal once was the case for home runs. Chicks dig the long balls, and guys once did, too.
Now, there are too many home runs to the point where it’s becoming boring. Seriously, it feels like players are either striking out or going deep, with nothing in between. And, they’re fine with striking out, as opposed to years past where striking out was a big deal.
Hitting at least 20 or 25 home runs per season is nothing anymore. If a player can’t do that, then nobody’s going to care, unless he’s a great fielder who makes tremendous plays or is super fast and steals bases.
Huh, stealing bases. Why is that a lost art? It’s what helped make Rickey Henderson a legend, as well as Kenny Lofton for Cleveland fans.
Maybe a problem with that, as well as a problem with fans, involves instant replays. How many times does a player steal second or third base easily but is out because he doesn’t keep his hand or foot on the bag? I truly believe replays are hurting the sport and not just in baseball.
Oh, did you also happen to see that robotic umpire in the Atlantic League on Wednesday? Combined with replays and all of these rule changes, baseball is getting worse.
Commissioner Rob Manfred needs a way to figure out how to get more fans to attend games. Constant rule changes and worrying about the pace are not helping.
I miss home-plate collisions (although I understand why those are illegal) and managers getting ejected constantly. Because of replays, we don’t see many getting tossed. The once in a while it happens, everybody watches it.
How would I improve the game to get more fans? I have no idea. That’s not my job. But, Manfred and company must do something soon to change it. Even I don’t watch every game anymore. I still could because I love baseball that much, but not everybody is me.