As the beginning of football season has dawned, Major League Baseball has officially become an even lower priority, for some, than before. With the absence of NFL action, many casual fans migrated to the MLB. When pre-season football began, those fans are nowhere to be seen. America’s favorite pastime becomes America’s time waster. Sports fans have slowly, over time, fallen out of love with baseball, and fallen in love with the action-packed NFL. High speeds, big hits, and notorious scandals have captivated America. The youth today are spending more time in peewee football than in little league baseball. The MLB has lost an entire generation of future fans to the NFL. What is truly happening to MLB when football season starts?
Baseball has benefits over the NFL. Games are played almost daily. When pro football abandons you on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, MLB is there to cure your sports fix. When money may be tight, you can hit up a baseball game. The average MLB ticket price is just $28, compared to the average NFL ticket at $84. Most MLB stadiums offer free parking, and at a not-so-bad walking distance. Most NFL stadiums want to charge almost a quarter of the average ticket price just to park. Despite these factors, a lot of people still choose to stay home and catch Sunday football, rather than go out to a baseball game. “Watching at home is free!” you say? This is true. Yet, why when football starts, does baseball become less and less watched?
The casual fan will tune in during October, if their team makes the playoffs. The casual fan may even keep up with the World Series games. The casual fan may even watch the World Series games, if convenient. The “casual” part is what grabs my attention. How and when did MLB gain so many “casual” fans? What caused baseball to stop being America’s favorite sport? As an avid baseball fan, a true lover of the game, it becomes infuriating to see the passion for baseball decline. Who’s to blame? What’s to blame? I can tell you who I think is at fault. Major League Baseball is at fault. They are the reason for their own demise.
Major League Baseball is a business. They’re an entertainment business, but a business nevertheless. MLB leaders should focus more on investing in their business, and less on reaping the rewards. As ive stated before, MLB is losing a generation of future fans and players to football. This is a problem that could potentially be fixed rather easily. They have already taken the steps to do so. When Rob Manfred took over as the commissioner of MLB in January, he announced a plan to spend money on youth participation. The MLB player’s union and MLB headquarters combined to spend $30 million on a handful of programs. A handful. While yes, spending money so that kids can play ball is wonderful, I question the decision to limit the spending. I know the proper business decision is to not spend every penny you have, but when you’re talking about the future of your organization, how can you cheap out? Major League Baseball has more than $30 million to spend. They made $9 billion in profit in 2014. Heed my warning, that number will decline over the next five years, unless they elect to focus more time and cash on the youth of today.
The youth today is what I like to call the “i” generation. With iPods, and iPhones, and iPads running rampant in our young, instant gratification has become the standard. Organizations like the NFL and the NBA offer forms of instant gratification. Between the hard hits in football, to the constant scoring of basketball, there just isn’t room for baseball in many American homes. MLB isn’t an instant gratification sport. Scores are often low, home runs have declined, and old-school grinding baseball is back. Watching a sacrifice bunt isn’t the same as watching a running back truck over a linebacker. Watching second base get stolen isn’t the same as watching a five yard slant route that turns into thirty yards. Baseball has to bring back the power. In an era of baseball where power at the plate was dominate, fans hopes and dreams were crushed to learn that the majority of their favorite power hitters were on PEDs. And now that PEDs have fallen off the map, so has the power.
I’m not an advocate for using PEDs, or anything that would alter a players true skill, but baseball has to find a way to get back the power, and find a way to get runs scored. The simple fact is this: runs fill seats and bring in fans. This goes for the MLB front office, down to each individual team. If runs are scored, revenue will be gained. And if runs can keep getting scored, fans will fall back in love with America’s favorite pastime. Smart business moves are ones that alter your business to fit the requirement of your customer. And right now, baseball isn’t fitting the customer’s needs.
An opinion is just that: an opinion. This is just simply one person’s opinion. I write this today, weeping the death of baseball for the remainder of the year. I have seen the change already, football is now dominating the news, radio, and Twitter and Facebook feeds. I long for the day that no matter what sport season is in session, baseball is the top talk of the town. That won’t happen without more effort being put in from MLB and team owners. I would hate to see the day that baseball dies for good, and not just for the year.