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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The MLB doesn’t need unnecessary change

Slow, long and boring are three words that many would use to describe the current state of baseball. Formerly thought of as America’s pastime, baseball has been on the decline since the 1980s. The MLB seems to be losing traction across the country with less young people tuning in than ever and should attempt to revitalize its popularity before irreversible damage is done.

Under Commissioner Rob Manfred’s leadership since 2014, the MLB has implemented numerous reactionary changes, including banning defensive shifts, altering ball dynamics and adjusting uniforms and sponsors, in a bid to address declining public interest.

In 2022, pitchers, fans and analysts around the league started to take notice of balls traveling much further than before and an increased home run rate around the league. 2022 broke records for home runs hit in a season and for the first time ever, over 15% of hits recorded went out of the park. At first glance, this may seem like a good thing, but it leads to a more boring product overall.

A new strategy taking over baseball is the three true outcomes tactic. Three true outcomes is a strategy that relies on home runs, walks and strikeouts to focus on runs but this has led to far fewer baserunners which directly leads to less exciting games.

With the adoption of the pitch clock in 2023, the MLB has attempted to speed up the pace of play. Unfortunately, the less runners and balls in play there are, the less the fans are interested. 

Lower batting averages are leading to less exciting games as players aim for the fences. Going into 2022, the league-wide batting average dropped to .243, third lowest in history behind .239 in 1908, and .238 in 1968, not exactly fresh competition.

This lack of batting led to an overcorrection of hitters trying the three true outcomes; More home runs and fewer balls in play, leading to a more boring product for fans. The MLB wanted exciting home runs, but they proved to be out of touch as this resulted in the ball being out of play more than ever before.

From 2009-2018, the amount of balls in play has been declining by about 1,000 per season. The average per game has dropped from 27 to only 24. With these continuing trends, the fleeing fans are predicting a more boring experience than ever before.

Baseball has been extensively covered in the news due to its declining fan interest, they should stick with the basics on how to get their audience back. Through the pitch clock, shift changes and juicing the balls to speed the game up, it resulted in a watered-down product that was less exciting for fans.  

The MLB should stick to their roots, keep the old rules and what fans used to love. The MLB has survived through lockouts and world wars, a small decrease in viewership shouldn’t force the commissioner to attempt to completely change the rules.  

The MLB has a lot of options for future plans. Instead of trying to overcorrect the apparent issue, they should maintain their rules and shift their focus to branding and trying to reach out to new fans.  

With so many stars like Shohei Ohtani or Ronald Acuña Jr. and super teams like the Braves or Dodgers, the MLB should have no problem pushing these stars online and inviting fans to watch these legendary players perform at the highest level.  

Little League baseball is one of the most popular sports in the country so there is no reason that the MLB should have such a tough time advertising their product to kids across the country.   

In 2023, the MLB World Series drew in an average of 9.11 million viewers per game, whereas the NFL season boasted a whopping 17.9 million viewers per game, nearly double the MLB’s numbers. While the NFL dominates in all sports viewership, it’s not fair to use it as the ultimate standard; instead, the MLB could learn from the NFL to reach its full potential nationwide.

The MLB is full of historic players and historic fanbases that are some of the most loyal in the country. Instead of trying to change everything to gain interest, they should simply stick with their guns, don’t try and juice the balls, don’t make new rules to satisfy non-fans and don’t change the game for people who don’t watch. The MLB is a legendary league and the fans will remain if you keep the game what it once was. 

This story was written by Conor McPherson. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on X at @ConorMcPherson

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