This is the one week of the year where anything goes for sports talk. Typically, I write about the Celtics, NBA, or the sport that ranks 2nd on many lists of popular sports, basketball. Football would rank one, and in third is baseball. America’s past time has now become a borderline afterthought in many eyes. Many nights, people may have work, go out with friends, or may just totally forget the Red Sox are playing the Texas Rangers on a random Wednesday night. There has been plenty of talk among sports radio in Boston about the reason the game is declining in popularity despite the baseballs being “juiced.”
1998 was one of the biggest years in baseball. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa stole headlines not just in sports sections but front pages of newspapers as the chase to 70 home runs was on and eventually McGwire got the best of Sosa (With some help……). Barry Bonds eventually broke McGwire’s record just three years later with 73 dingers. Those steroid users, um, I mean players got fans in seats and had us taking time from our schedule to watch random games. Baseball eventually caught onto the steroid scandal and the rest was history. The game is cleaner, the ball is apparently “juiced” and three players are at the 30 home run mark already. Christian Yelich (31), Cody Bellinger (30), and rookie Pete Alonso (30). Unfortunately, those three players aren’t cutting it for popularity, nor is baseball’s current golden boy Mike Trout. There are as many reasons for baseballs popularity drought as there are shifts in the field.
- There are no “bad guys” in the game: I can already hear people say ‘what about Bryce Harper’. If Bryce Harper is a bad guy in baseball, then the Red Sox closer situation isn’t a concern. Harper signed with Philadelphia for 13 years and $330 million. He went for the money and as I’ve written before, we would all go for the highest paying offer. Manny Machado is considered a “bad guy” if you want to get technical. He’s spiked a couple of guys including Dustin Pedroia. Machado now plays in San Diego which is the 29th TV market in the country so one of the newest Padres is tucked away under the California sun. Fans need someone to go to the stadium to boo. Basketball has LeBron/Kevin Durant, Football has Tom Brady, and Hockey had Matt Cooke. Again, two of those three sports rank above baseball.
- Shorten the schedule: I may be the only person that thinks this, but do we need baseball games at the end of March? Do we need a game between the Marlins and Mets in New York at the end of September. I understand what October baseball means to the historians. Unfortunately for baseball though, they can’t afford to appease those people anymore. The new generation is the “microwave society.” We want things, and we want them done quickly. MLB should shorten their schedule to 112 games. While we’re the “microwave society”, we always want more. Some teams wouldn’t play in a certain park in the same league. If Mike Trout visited Fenway Park once every 2-3 years, wouldn’t that be worth the $200 to take a game in even in bad weather? This may not be popular, but again baseball has to do what it can to preserve itself.
- Appeal to the youth: Kids may sing Sweet Caroline and eat cotton candy at the ole ballyard (although cotton candy is good at any age, anywhere) MLB needs some more family friendly times. Right now, games average just over 3 hours. If a game starts at 7, that means it ends at 10, or at Fenway a 9-inning game can end in 4+ hours. I’m not a parent, but I can’t imagine a young baseball player/fan is easy to deal with going to sleep at 11 at night. Getting some more 4pm or 5pm could show the potential players of tomorrow some of their favorite players and spark the interest of potential fair weather fans.
Baseball can be fun to watch, but when people can watch the Kentucky Derby between pitches or can make cross country flights in the same time as a 11 inning game, it’s not fun. The pitch clock issue will fix itself with time as the younger players make their way through the ranks and it becomes second nature to throw a pitch within 0:20. Rob Manfred has been given a full count, will he strike out and end the game?
Only time will tell.
-John Luck (@jluck_89)