BY STEVEN DAVIES
Preseason baseball is underway in the consistently warmer southern states, meaning that spring is soon approaching. However, Major League Baseball is facing a major crisis; baseball’s golden era is fading. The saying, “baseball is America’s pastime” is laughed at by most millennials. It seems that the sport of baseball is washing away from relevance. The once nationalized game is now facing a downward spiral in viewership.
Criticisms for the game include: it’s too slow, there’s too many games, not enough action, too many players, and others among a long list.
“It is just kind of boring to me,” said Kevin Hughes, a 20-year old without a favorite team. “I only watch the playoffs, and that is if nothing else is on.”
In 2004, the MLB World Series had 25.47 million viewers, according to Statista.com, and although there was a slight increase in 2015 from 2014, it was still only 14.7 million viewers in a little over 10 years.
Ideas as to why baseball is dying mount but salaries for teams appear to be unaffected. The top payroll to start the 2015 season was the Los Angeles Dodgers with a total of $272,789,040. The top payroll in 2000 belonged to the New York Yankees at just $92,538,260, according to the MLB. This can be attributed to new television deals that pay teams an astonishing amount of money to air games.
Some teams have even founded their own networks in order the hike up prices for providers such as Verizon and Time Warner. So, although viewership is down, salaries continue to climb.
Many young fans seen wearing baseball hats and jerseys might have a above average knowledge of the team and sport in general, but not significant enough to prove that baseball is expanding in any way. With 162 regular season games though, it is tough to place blame on them. Still, viewership is down from years past and is showing no evidence of being revived – at least not right now.
A few new rules have been added in the past off seasons in order the help speed the game along. For example, the batter can no longer step out of the batter’s box during an at-bat, unless a pitch is fouled out of play. This rule alone shaved an average of 6 minutes off games in 2015, according to CBS Sports.
“My dad is a huge fan so I grew up going to games,” said Anthony Galasso, a 23-year old New York Met fan. “I watch the playoffs too, especially since the Mets have been in it.”
Shortening the season is out of question. Not only would the player’s union vote against it for the fact of salary reduction, but also for the fact that the player’s statistics will decrease with it. With less games, records in every statistical category would be untouchable. For example: home runs, runs batted in, strikeouts, saves.
The argument for the game not being exciting is a personal opinion. A viewer either likes baseball or doesn’t. Just like a television show you might come across while flipping through channels; baseball either catches your eye, or you pass on by. In reality, more consistent pitchers have created tougher times for batters in the past decade.
There have been more no-hitters and perfect games in the last 5 years than the previous 10. There have been 31 no-hitters or perfect games since 2010. There were only 15 from 2000-2009, according to MLB.com.
“I don’t even watch 20 games a year,” said Matt Schiumo, a 20-year old New York Yankee fan. “I tune in more to the playoffs though.”
With 30 major league teams and a 40-man roster, there are approximately 1,200 major league players, not counting call-ups and injured reserve. Even following one team takes knowledge and memory. While a football team carries 53 men on the active roster, football is more popular on television and even still, an intermediate fan would not know all 53.
“Baseball needs a record chaser,” said Galasso. “They need someone close to a important record to attract people.”
Schiumo said cheaper tickets would help.
To be clear, baseball is not going anywhere. It will continue to be broadcast on television, highlighted on ESPN, and reviewed on the local news. The game itself just might need a push in the right direction. Although, don’t be fooled, baseball is still desired by some younger fans.
“I watch close to 100 games a year,” said Galasso. “I even go to about 20 games a year.”
Baseball has its niche though. From April to October, a game can be found at nearly any time from noon to midnight. Consistent scheduling helps draw in fans on some days. But how long will they watch, and are they coming back the next day?
“They have to speed it up,” said Hughes.
The MLB has its work cut out for them. They need to maintain the structure of the game of baseball, yet cater to a younger, less-intrigued generation. While baseball trends downward, solutions must start to be put into action.