By: Elias Gordon
On September 28th, an article was published about the problems with Major League Baseball’s 162-game season. While there are parts of this article that I agree with, such as the fact that the MLB is struggling to reach a widestream, casual audience, there are many parts that I think are wrong. As the article shares, besides the huge baseball fans, baseball is a tough sport to follow, and I would agree, however the 162-game season is not the reason.
There are two main problems with the MLB right now: the difference in teams’ talent due to spending, and the time between action in games. This last issue is what the original Pirates’ Hook article is based on, so this is the issue I’ll discuss. The pace of play is slow but manageable, a pitcher can usually throw two or three pitches in the time it would take an NFL team to run one play and get ready for the next. The real problem is the time between action in many games. If we more frequently got exciting triples, stolen bases, and close plays at the plate then the pace of play issue would simply disappear, and that is what the MLB should be focusing on fixing, and they are making an attempt with doing things like banning the shift.
The Pirate’s Hook article claims that baseball games are “long, boring, and low stakes.” The argument that baseball is slow and boring is fair, but completely neglects the fact that the MLB is taking steps to combat this. The MLB is implementing a 15-second pitch clock and a 20-second pitch clock with runners on base. Hitters will only be able to call one time-out per at-bat. An extra ball or strike will be added to the count depending on which side breaks the rules. These measures will speed up the game and discourage players from time-wasting antics of old.
The example you use of the 30-game NCAA basketball season is not without its flaws either. Who wouldn’t rather watch the Yankees play the A’s, in which any team can win despite heavy odds towards one side, than Duke or UNC play their second or third-string players to beat up on D2 schools where the outcome can be decided before the game happens?
Comparing baseball to the NFL or basketball, as the op-ed tries to do, simply won’t work. Baseball is far more accessible to sports fans than football or basketball. In North Carolina alone, you are almost never 30 minutes away from a minor-league park. Attending a baseball game is more of an experience than an event, and I would argue far more enjoyable than attending a football game. The cost of going to a game, particularly minor league baseball, where the price of tickets isn’t as prohibitive as the price of admission to, say, a Carolina Panthers game or a Duke Men’s Basketball game encourages a wider variety of people to go to games.
One can’t compare baseball to other sports because baseball is, at its heart, centered on an entire experience, not just the game. Of the thousands of people that go to ball games in summer, I would imagine very few of them are there for a high-stakes, 1A showdown. Many of them go to the ballpark for the experience. Go with friends, eat junk food, take a picture with the mascot, sing along to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th inning stretch, cheer when your team is winning and boo when your team is losing. I think the majority of fans at regular-season MLB games are there for a good time in community, not for a constant laser focus on the field, and yet there are a good amount of these people at any and every game, all season long, major and minor.
Finally, reducing the number of games simply won’t work. Since so much of baseball is the experience, reducing the number of games would provide less opportunity for casual fans to have a good time at the park, and make baseball feel like a mere transaction, which it is not and does not try to be (during the regular season). Reducing the number of games would also kill already-struggling franchises financially, with decreased ticket sales. And then what would happen to the many businesses near ballparks that rely on the season to make ends meet?
The MLB (and the minor league system) has plenty of casual fans, more than any other sport. They are not trying to be the NFL, NBA, or NCAA, and they don’t need to be. The MLB does require far more passion and dedication to be a diehard fan, yes, but the MLB is making steps to change that. But by not providing any ideas that demonstrate understanding of the game or the appeal of the game, the Pirate’s Hook article falls short.