If you’re a living, breathing person, I don’t have to tell you that baseball is dying. You know that already, because you’ve probably found yourself watching less and less Major League Baseball over the last two decades. The hardcore fans exist, but generally, viewership and (more importantly) participation are down.
Last night, Keith Olbermann did a segment on this trend, and said that this could be the league’s biggest crisis since the 1994 strike. Watch:
If you’re short on time, here are the most salient points (handily assembled into charts by Olbermann/ESPN).
Here are the declining ratings for “games of the week”:
Here are the declining ratings for the World Series over the last 19 years:
It goes beyond raw ratings numbers. This chart shows how baseball’s median fan age is getting older (at a much faster rate than the NBA’s):
And it doesn’t look like that aging trend will reverse anytime soon — this chart shows the declining number of kids who list baseball as their favorite sport:
As young Americans turn away from baseball and towards sports like basketball and even, yes, soccer (Lionel Messi is ranked fourth among most popular athletes for fans over the age of 12; Mike Trout is 100th), the MLB needs to figure out a way to make baseball more accessible and fun, on both a viewership and participation level.
Olbermann also touches on how the salary cap and revenue sharing keeps in NFL franchises in places like Kansas City afloat. Perhaps the MLB should be taking a look at how to help smaller markets retain talent and stay competitive, rather than banking on the Yankees and Dodgers to carry the day.
Or, they can just expand their potential market by going to Europe. Via SB Nation:
Outgoing Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig hopes to announce plans for regular season games in Europe before he leaves office, according to multiple reports.
The league has its eye on London and Amsterdam as potential hosts, Eric Fisher of SportsBusiness Journal tweeted. Of the two sites, Selig believes Amsterdam is “more prepared” to host games as soon as 2015, per Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi.
Rather than fighting declining ratings at home, baseball hopes to catch on abroad — we’ve already seen MLB games played in Australia — the same way the NBA has. Basketball rode a wave of international fervor following the 1992 Olympics in Madrid that is paying massive dividends today (in terms of brand awareness, profit and actual basketball talent), so Selig and company may be on to something.
The difference is, basketball is more popular than ever, especially among young people, here in the States. That’s what gives the NBA the leverage to push outwards and expand globally. If baseball starts playing games that matter in Amsterdam (which should be even more difficult for American viewers to watch or care about) without securing its domestic fan base first, will the game be “America’s pastime” anymore? Does that matter? Would you even care?
Probably not, which is why the MLB is moving on from us — we’ve already, generally speaking, moved on from them. .