MLB used to be the pride of American Sports, but since its days of the steroid era where fans kept up with what was happening, it has been losing its “attractiveness”. MLB may still be bringing in over $10 Billion dollars in revenue (2019) but make no mistake, it seems to be a dying sport. MLB’s outreach to fans has been terrible over the last several years and its marketing of players and the league itself has been horrendous. MLB is having an attendance problem, fewer and fewer people were going to games in person before the pandemic hit.
Some people attribute this to the scheduling of games being when the majority of people are still at work when it’s not summertime. I, however, attribute this to the length of the season. It’s not hard to realize that a majority of MLB’s fans are casual fans, meaning they enjoy the game of baseball for the time that they are watching it, but they don’t engage in the fandoms or keep up with what is happening around the league consistently. The 162 game season is too long of a season for most people to truly pay attention to consistently or become truly engaged with the sport.
There’s a reason why the NFL and the NBA didn’t have attendance issues before the pandemic hit and it doesn’t have to do with the pace of play of individual games… I’m referring to you, Manfred. The NFL and the NBA have significantly shorter seasons than MLB and their attendance is always high *for the average capacity of their arenas* and their viewership is always consistently high.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that if Mike Trout, who is the undisputed best player in baseball, were to walk into a random subway, the majority of people wouldn’t recognize him, and that’s an issue. The NFL and the NBA do a TREMENDOUS job of marketing their players to the point where their players intentionally look for the camera after scoring a touchdown or hitting a three pointer. Before games when players are walking through the tunnels, they showcase the clothes that they’re wearing, and then it’s showcased all over the media. Unless an MLB player makes a 5-star catch, you won’t see any MLB coverage on platforms not called MLB Network.
MLB has said in the past that their goal is to grow the game all over the world and all over the country, well you can’t do that if you have blackouts of games for people who pay for MLB TV who want to watch their local team now can you Commissioner Manfred… as a whole, MLB has completely whiffed on its marketing “goals”. They paid too much attention to wanting to speed up the pace of play on a game that doesn’t run on a clock and not enough time appeasing their fans.
If MLB wants to get back into the national spotlight of the major US sports they absolutely need to make changes on how they operate. Starting with the length of the season. Shortening the season to 120-125 games wouldn’t be the end of the world for those who are die-hard 162 game fans but it would make teams more competitive throughout the season and retain fan interest.
If MLB wants to increase their average attendance of games, they need to schedule games when fans are more often available to attend. Noon games and games that start before 4:15 pm are not helping to get fans into the ballpark. Want more fans at the ballpark? Start games at 6:05 pm and later, no one wants to sit in the hot sun during a three-hour game anyway.
MARKET YOUR PLAYERS. Show off their clothes when they’re walking in, let them wear custom cleats with designs on them, let them wear custom-designed gear in general consistently, we as fans love the custom gear, have one on one interviews with them, promote them nationally, and not just locally for the team they play for. There are so many ways to market players and MLB is doing a terrible job in virtually every way possible.
Make mic’d ups a consistent thing, hearing what the players talk about among each other while on the field and hearing how managers and umpires argue is media and fandom gold. New camera angles would be a fantastic edition, having umpire/catcher cams would 100% make the game more fun. As fans, most of us don’t know what it’s like to go up against 100+mph or 90mph sliders and changeups, while seeing what the umpire sees and actually see how close of a call it would be.
Lastly, just stop blacking out games to paying customers who can’t even watch their favorite team who they’re paying to see.