Baseball has been a staple of American culture for more than a century. There was a time where the World Series was no the most watched event in the country. Not the Super Bowl, not the NBA finals or the Stanley Cup finals but baseballs championship. Unfortunately for all of the baseball purists out there, those times are long gone. The MLB has been struggling with television viewership and attendance for the past decade. If one was to tune into a Wednesday night baseball on ESPN you could see the stadium riddled with empty seats. Or the game could be blacked out due to the lack of attendance. But how has it gotten to this point? Well, there are a few reasons.
1. Pace of Play
It's the easiest criticism when it comes to the game. Forbes recorded that the average length of a game is about 2 hours and 52 minutes, and that's actually a 10-minute improvement. There are so many nuances to the game which factor into its length. Whether it's the pitcher taking the signs from the catcher, the hitter taking years to step back into the box, or when a new pitcher enters the game and gets to throw 500 warm-up pitches. Yet a lot of this stuff is unavoidable. But what is avoidable is the new replay system. The replay system was popularized by the NFL to help slow down plays and make sure that the call was correct. Naturally, every sports league is now trying to copy it and the system just doesn't translate. The problem isn't how many times plays are looked at, it's how long each replay takes. Whenever a manager challenges a play, the play gets sent to New York so an outside official can review it and make the correct call. Even some of the simplest and most obvious calls can add an extra 15 minutes to an already long affair.
2. Quality of Teams in the League
An issue the league has avoided quite well in years past but has finally caught up to them. There hasn't been a season that I can remember that has been so top heavy. It is unquestionable that this season the World Series champion will either be the Yankees, Red Sox or Astros. This trio of teams has completely dominated the rest of the league since the first pitch of the season. All three also have more than 60 wins along with the Seattle Mariners but their best player is suspended until August and they haven't sniffed the postseason in 17 strenuous seasons. It's a shame that these teams won't meet in the fall classic because their NL competition is non-existent.
Remember when I mentioned the AL having four teams with more than 60 wins? Well, the national league doesn't even have one. What also hurts the NL's chances of winning is that the teams leading their divisions have not had success in recent years. Meaning this is their first seasons of playing winning baseball and they do not have a lot of postseason experience. The Yankees went to the ALCS last year, Boston has multiple players who have played in the playoffs and a couple who play in the World Series and Houston are the defending champions and only improved their roster since. So when most of the success/coverage is alienated to these three teams, it sort of becomes dull and not very watchable. Just look at the NBA finals the last four years. Because the Cavaliers and Warriors are so stacked, you can easily predict them meeting in the championship. This season in the MLB is beginning to mirror the NBA.
3. The Season is Way Too Long
Do we really need 162 games to decide who the best teams are? I'll admit I love baseball and the length of the season doesn't irk me that much. But if you were to ask anyone else why they aren't a fan nowadays, the answer you'd most likely get is "The season is too long." And when you combine this with three-hour game lengths, your league will lose viewers fast, especially from the younger demographic.
4. The League Doesn't Market its Stars
I have a question for everyone... who is the best player in the MLB? Let me guess you had to Google it, and you shouldn't have to. Everyone knows names like Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. Because they were everywhere. They received coverage from the biggest news-outlets and were some of the best players in the league. But today it's tough for most to even recognize a player. The reason why is because the league barely markets its players. In today's world of sports football players and especially basketball players dominate the major markets. They are on all the poster, sports drink bottles and commercials. But it's not like the MLB doesn't have the resources to put their players in the spotlight. It is one of the most diverse leagues in all of the sports in terms of back round. If the MLB made an actual effort some of these players could receive worldwide exposure and recognizability. Instead, they'll just settle for the cheap cards that no one buys anymore.
Oh and one more thing. I'll save you the google search and tell you that the best player in the league is Mike Trout. Try and remember his name because he is currently on pace to become the greatest player of all time. I wouldn't want to miss out on watching him play if I were you.