A Field of Dreams quote sums up the impact baseball has had on the last century: “America has rolled on like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased by a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”
The 100-year span of baseball’s popularity sealed its place as America’s pastime. But today, mainstream sports networks only discuss baseball during the World Series, or a juicy scandal.
The Houston Astros’ cheating scandal where they stole opposing teams’ signs has brought attention to baseball for all the wrong reasons. With attendance numbers plummeting and a scandal rocking Major League Baseball’s foundation, is baseball dying?
According to Forbes, the MLB has seen a seven per cent drop in attendance since 2015. Other leagues like the National Football League have also seen their attendance decline, having their lowest attendance numbers since 2004. It’s not just a baseball problem, it’s a sports problem.
Baseball’s modern narrative is that it’s boring and the games are too long. Even though NFL games are longer, the league is combating this by experimenting with time clocks for pitchers, limiting their time to throw their pitch and limiting pitching changes.
This has received mixed reactions from players and fans alike. By trying to keep up with the adrenaline-pumping action of basketball, the MLB is alienating its core fan base.
What is its brand?
At the end of the day, pro baseball is a business and like any other business, it needs a brand. Now, they’re stuck between keeping the old-school traditions, and adapting for the future.
Part of baseball’s lore are the unspoken rules that are more important than the ones written down. Some are superstitious like not stepping on the baseline, but the most famous is no showboating or taunting, such as flipping your bat, or staring down the pitcher after a home run.
If you hit a home run, don’t flip your bat, don’t taunt the other team, don’t disrespect the game. By showing any emotion, the opposing team’s pitcher will hit the batter with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball to their head the next time they bat.
This divide in player culture peaked when Chicago White Sox player Tim Anderson got hit in the head by the pitcher after hitting homerun the previous at-bat last year.
Baseball isn’t dead yet, but their civil war of tradition versus entertainment might tear the league apart.