Baseball, as a result of the plethora of issues it is a victim of, is a dying sport, the dwindling viewership and impassioned audience furthering its decline. Is there anything we can do to save it?
by Prithvi Prem
Baseball, America’s Pastime, has been the trademark and one of the most followed sports in the United States over the last century. However, the popularity of the sport has drastically declined over the last few years. While the 2016 MLB (Major League Baseball) World Series averaged 22.8 million viewers, the 2020 edition only averaged 9.8 million viewers. That’s a 57% decrease in viewership over just 5 years. This rapid decline only means one thing: baseball isn’t interesting anymore.
This is where the Trilemma is presented. What are the main issues with the MLB, and how can they be fixed in order to rekindle the amount of interest in the sport?
Issue 1: Foreign Substances
The common conclusion many people come to regarding their decreased engagement is that Baseball is boring. Compared to other sports like Basketball and American Football, Baseball is a relatively low-scoring game with close to no action. In the 2021 season, there has been an average of 7.9 hits per team per game, ranging the lowest number in MLB History. The average number of hits per game has declined every year since 2006 when it was 9.3. There could be 2 reasons for this: either the hitters have gotten worse or the pitchers have gotten better. However, considering that 6776 home runs were hit in the 2019 season (the most in MLB history), the second scenario is more probable. Every pitcher’s goal for the game is to throw as many strikes as possible and to get as many batters out as possible. Furthermore, various factors play into throwing strikes: the specific pitch that is thrown, the weather, and even very specific details such as the spin rate of the baseball. Therefore, in normal situations, most pitchers have good control over their pitches and grips. However, in situations where these factors turn out unfavorable, many, if not all, pitchers tend to have close to no control over their pitches, which can drop the spin rate and make them easier to hit.
As a result of this phenomenon, some pitchers tend to use liquids such as pine tar, sunscreen, or other foreign substances to improve their control and gain a better grip of the ball. With a better grip, pitchers can increase the spin rate of their baseballs, which make their pitches nearly impossible to hit. Although the use of these substances is technically illegal, the MLB officials and umpires do not enforce the rule, meaning that pitchers can get away with using the substances.
How can MLB fix this? As integrity is the most important aspect of sportsmanship, the MLB should prioritize this quality by issuing a total ban on foreign substances. Mandating all pitchers to go through checks to look for any substances they might be using would also be a product of this rule. Even if the hitters might be able to hit more balls due to the lack of control from the pitchers, the MLB can maintain the integrity of the sport.
Issue 2: Post-Season Format
The second issue with Baseball has to do with its format for the postseason. Currently, each MLB team plays 162 regular-season games to determine whether they can make the Playoffs or not. Unfortunately, out of the 15 teams from each league, only 5 teams from the National League and 5 teams from the American League get to play Playoff Baseball. This format might not be as rewarding for many teams, who after putting in so much work to play all 162 games, miss out on Playoff Baseball.
To counter this, the MLB should expand the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams. They can also switch to a tournament format, where the last 16 battle it out to decide a winner for the season. The 16 teams would be made up of every division’s first and second place teams, as well as each conference’s top 2 wild card teams. With more teams in the playoffs, the MLB can gain a huge boost in viewership and attendance due to the increase in participating teams.
Issue 3: Ticket Prices
The average ticket price in the MLB is around $32. However, a study also showed that the average MLB fan spends around $42 per game, whether it’s buying food, drinks, or merchandise. That comes out to a total of $74 dollars per game which is around 6.5 hours of work for the average American. This is a large number, representing the commitment and hard work a person would need to put in in order to be able to watch a game. The MLB, in all of its capability, should reduce ticket prices to at least $10, if not $5. Stadiums and teams would still make more than enough revenue with free tickets. Therefore, establishing lower ticket prices would motivate more people to invest their time into a game, boosting attendance and creating a much more lively environment. With better access to these games, this would also help create more lifelong baseball fans who can come to as many games as they want to with these massively reduced ticket prices.
If the MLB made these 3 changes, it would improve both the quality of each game as well as the atmosphere among the audience. These policies would both boost viewership, attendance to games, and the amount of action at every game. Baseball is currently a dying sport; if the MLB doesn’t make any changes, the same decline would continue until the inevitable decimation of the sport. Baseball is certainly a large part of this country’s history as well as a large part of many Americans’ lives around the country. Considering the large impact it has had, seeing it die before our eyes would further decimate the originality of the nation.