Expiration date looms for Major League Baseball

Photo by photo courtesy of MLB

Zach Rever and Jake White

In 2016, Hi’s Eye wrote an article on the decline of Major League Baseball. It opened with the question: Is America’s pastime past its time? Three years later, it is safe to say that the answer is yes.

Eight major league teams have reported that they were down more than 2,000 fans per game in the month of April. Also, according to fangraphs.com, the average number of viewers who watch baseball games on TV is also steadily decreasing. 

So why has baseball, which at one time used to fill stadiums, become so unpopular? Many believe it is due to the slow nature of the game.

“I don’t like watching baseball because of the pace,” said junior Jacob Harnisher. Harnisher compared baseball to football, a sport he enjoys watching. “When watching football, there is a lot of contact and excitement. Baseball is just very procedural.” 

Some believe there is a deeper meaning for why baseball is losing so many viewers beyond its slower pace. “There’s been a correlation between viewership going down in the last 10 years as smartphone use has gone up,” said Social Studies Teacher Joe Berardi. “People don’t have the attention spans they used to.”

Statistics back up Berardi’s statement; the younger generations are becoming less interested in the sport. According to 2017 Nielsen Ratings, baseball has the oldest viewers of the major sports. The average baseball fan is 16 years older than the average basketball fan.

Another reason why younger generations have become less interested in baseball is because of how much longer the game has become. Last year, the average 9 inning baseball game was 3 hours and 8 minutes, up nearly 30 minutes from 2005 and up an hour since 1940. 

In a study conducted by Baseball Statistician Steve Moyer, the average baseball game contains less than 18 minutes of action. The 3-hour games are filled with time between batters, pitches, and innings, which totals to over 2 hours and 20 minutes of dead time.

MLB is aware of its decline in viewership and is actively attempting to make the game more exciting for younger fans. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has experimented with rule changes in the Atlantic League in an effort to speed up the game. Such proposals include eliminating mound visits entirely, reducing the time between innings by 30 seconds, and even moving the pitcher’s mound back by 2 feet. 

To further increase viewership, MLB is trying to grow its international market by having teams play games around the globe. In the 2019 season, MLB series are being held in Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and England. The decision to explore the international market has paid off, as the number of MLB fans has increased in Japan and Mexico, with Mexico increasing its TV audience by 76 percent from 2015 to 2018, according to the L.A. Times.

While MLB has been successful in increasing its viewership globally, in America, it appears that its efforts are too little too late. Baseball is fading, and the end of America’s pastime is in sight.