The baseball season is almost here, with the beginning of spring training upon us. I can’t wait to see the game flash across my screen, while I skip past it to find a basketball game (during the spring), anything else (during the summer) or a football game (during the fall).
For someone who started really paying attention to baseball during the height of the steroid era, baseball couldn’t really get any more boring than it is today. When I was a kid, guys would hit the ball – to borrow a line from Uncle Rico – “about a quarter mile” or “over dem mountains”. The single season home run record was broken twice by the time I was eight.
That’s what made me tune in. I just wanted to see a baseball get obliterated over the fence into the outstretched glove of a guy in the last row of the stadium. I wanted to see the guys in San Francisco frantically paddle over to retrieve a home run in their kayak every time Barry Bonds’ freakish swing connected with a baseball. Baseball, for me, was a version of “American Gladiators” that you could read about in the paper.
And the “roid rage” made everything better. There were so many great moments of people acting insane. For example, Roger Clemens threw a broken bat at Mike Piazza…in the World Series. Could you imagine if that happened today? Twitter would absolutely freak out and Clemens would have been suspended for the rest of his life, not to mention he would have to deal with bloggers and internet trolls. You know what ended up happening to Clemens in 2000? Nothing. He just continued pitching.
Now, baseball is a watered down shell of the steroid era. Purists truly are getting what they want: Solid line drives, bunts to get the runner over, and strategic pitching changes. Unfortunately for most baseball purists and avid fans of Major League Baseball, the average fan isn’t tuning in to watch a baseball game during the regular season or playoffs.
“Playoffs? Scott, c’mon people, watch the playoffs.”
I legitimately just had to use Google to find out who won the World Series last season because the MLB playoffs are so forgettable. (It was the Giants. Save your bandwidth).
And as far as the regular season goes, regular season baseball just isn’t interesting enough for anything other than background noise while I take a nap. Baseball stadiums have such a relaxing atmosphere, unlike the other major sports. It kind of makes me wonder how the crowd isn’t asleep. Plus, with a 162-game season, each game almost seems inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
It isn’t just viewers who are being bored to death by baseball, kids have also started to slowly turn their backs on the sport. According to the Wall Street Journal, there has been a 25 percent drop in the number of Little League Baseball players, as of 2011. The Wall Street Journal also pointed out that baseball now ranks fourth behind basketball, football and soccer in participation.
Apparently kids have found an alternative to standing in right field and picking dandelions while a 6 year old tries to connect with the ball sitting on a tee. They would rather go run around on a field, court or just hit something.
Baseball has noticed the problem as well and has set out to try and make the games shorter. These rules, according to ESPN, are, ”mandating that managers stay in the dugout during replay challenges, that hitters keep at least one foot in the batter’s box during at-bats, a prompt return to play after TV commercial breaks and timed pitching changes.”
I don’t know that any of these rules are going to do anything to attract viewers. Just because paint dries faster doesn’t mean that I all of a sudden want to watch paint dry.
Major League Baseball doesn’t have to change if it doesn’t want to. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who enjoy it the way it is. However, if they want to attract the average sports fan as well as America’s youth, it might be time to start looking at a different blueprint.
Until then, I will be savoring the basketball playoffs and then surviving the baseball season until football starts.
Follow Scott Carroll on Twitter @ScottyCTellem