Baseball Isn’t Really Broken, But Here Are Some Items To Fix
Don't Believe Everything You Hear About MLB, But Here are Five Changes to ConsiderBy Cam Giangrande Last season MLB games averaged three hours and nine minutes. NFL games averaged 3:11. Baseball plays their games essentially in the same window of time as football does, yet MLB is under siege to shorten their games. Since the day he took over for Bud Selig, commissioner Rob Manfred’s mission has been to shorten the time of games. His argument is that longer games hurt attendance and television ratings. Television ratings are down as is attendance and “pace of play” is the scapegoat. Somehow, just shaving 10-15 minutes off a game will put more fannies in the seats or in front of their televisions. It’s not that simple, and far more complex than just one issue. In looking at the demographics of the game, we’re told that MLB has the oldest viewership; and that it’s a problem. The average age of a person watching a baseball game is 53, while the NFL is 47 years old, and the NBA is under 40, at 37 years of age. In 1980, the average viewer was in their late 40s; today it’s 53 years old. However, the lifespan of a person was 72 years old in 1980, whereas today it’s 78 years old. The population in general is getting older, so of course the age of viewers is getting older too. We’re told attendance is down. That’s true in recent years, but it has nothing to do with pace of play. If we again compare figures with 1980, the numbers are startling. To begin with, there were only 26 teams compared to 30 teams today; meaning the league was strong enough to expand. In 1980, only one team, (Dodgers) drew over three million people. Last season, seven teams did. In 1980, seven teams drew over two million people. Last season, 16 teams did. And, in 1980 three teams drew under a million people per game. In fact, the Minnesota Twins drew less than 10,000 people per game in 1980. Last season, no team drew under one million fans. And, if we put it in perspective, over 72 million people still went out to the old ballpark last season to watch a game.
- Expand the league to 32 teams. Create four divisions with four teams in each division. Have them play each other more often generating more intense rivalries based on geography.
- With expansion to 32 teams, add one additional playoff team in each league from five to six. The extra playoff slot will keep more teams in the race deeper into the season, which will help attendance and television revenue.
- Due to expansion, reduce rosters to 24 players from the 25 there are today. Adding two new teams will generate an extra 48 players and subtracting one from the existing 30 teams will still create 18 additional MLB players. This may force teams to keep one less pitcher, which reduces pitching changes.
- In addition to a luxury tax, establish a salary floor. Come up with some ratio that a team with lower revenues can’t fall below. Something like: a team must stay within 25% of the league’s prior year’s average salary. If the league average was 160 million dollars in 2017, the lowest payroll a team could have heading into 2018 would be 120 million. This would create a more competitive game that can generate closer divisions with more teams in the playoff picture, which would increase interest, attendance, and television ratings.
- Start the games slightly sooner. Growing up, I can remember games starting at 7:35pm. Today, most of them start at 7:05pm. Move the games up 10 minutes to 6:55. This still gives plenty of time for the 9-5 worker to get to the ballpark during the summer, and makes it a bit easier to allow a child to stay up and watch an entire game.
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