WILL THE FUTURE INCLUDE BASEBALL?

By:  Kurt Snyder

You don’t have to go too far to hear it. You don’t have to go too far to see it. On the radio. On the internet. The message is loud and clear. And it is consistent. Baseball is in trouble and not many care.

Nobody cares? Well, let’s just say fans are supporting this sport less and less. So many things are to blame that we need to take the worst offender and deal with that.

The game of baseball has evolved before our eyes. So much is going on with the game all at once.

From a pace of play standpoint, the Commissioner has tinkered with our game. He and his brain trust are trying hard to take minutes out of a game that few are watching.

And it appears to be a mistake, centering all of the attention on pace of play. Would fans really care how long the games are if the excitement level was at, let’s say, an exciting level?

When did anyone ever say, ‘it was an exciting game, but it was just too long.’ When do you really notice the length of a game? Well, if you are checking the time, chances are you’re bored.

Yes, what we are finding is that the game doesn’t need to be shorter to be loved, it needs to be more exciting. There are plenty of things you can blame it on, but the day analytics came to roost is the day the game changed and not for the better.

There were some interesting comments on Sunday. Your responses to our Question of the Week were very telling. What is building in baseball is the ultimate ‘when worlds collide’ scenario.

Analytics has turned baseball into an all-or-nothing sport and it’s not helping the appeal. If players aren’t hitting home runs, they are striking out! And who’s finding that exciting every night?

Pitchers like Matt Boyd are near the top of the league in strikeouts, but given how the game is played now, doesn’t it take a little bit of starch out of it? Are you as impressed by that as you would have normally been, say, 5 years ago?

The game has changed that dramatically. I understand that there is more than one way to skin a cat. And I understand that the game will change over time.  It’s inevitable.

Technology alone changes processes across the board, beyond sports, in every walk of life. So I get why analytics must now be considered when you are looking to compete. The edge is in the data and every team is working hard at being the best at using the data to their advantage.

It is smart and understandable. But while teams use data to win games, they are boring the hell out of the fan base. The Commissioner can beat his head against a wall trying to fix pace of play, but who is telling him this is the root of all evil?

Because it’s not. Analytics is. It is ruining baseball. It helps teams strategize but the fans are not entertained. They are becoming more and more disinterested. And in the entertainment industry, isn’t this the biggest of all sins?

At a time when the game is searching for ways to impress or entertain or whatever they are looking to get out of the younger fan, today’s baseball is confusing the older fan now as well.

The older fans are the purists. Until now, they have loved and counted on the simplicity of the game. But simplicity is now being kicked out the back door in favor of analytical formulas and more and more stats.

Major League Baseball had better be careful. Because as the game moves to remake itself, fans need to be first in line to approve.

We are ultimately the most important variable. Statistics show we aren’t coming to games anymore. So you can stick ‘exit velocity’ where the sun don’t shine.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how fast the ball leaves the park if fewer fans are coming in to see it.


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23 thoughts on “WILL THE FUTURE INCLUDE BASEBALL?

  1. Super blog post Kurt! I’m 100% for more action and any sensible rules changes to promote the same without altering the fundamentals of the game. And what effect do shows like MLB’s “Quick Pitch” and streaming videos have on live TV viewership? Things have become so boring I often check-in later to see the few exciting things that happened in a game.

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  2. “Until now, they have loved and counted on the simplicity of the game.” I disagree in that though it looks simple, baseball is a complex game with many variables and adjustments to be made. There also seem to be cyclical trends in baseball, and its demise is often prematurely predicted during such phases. I suspect that one of the adjustments to the current use of analytics will be teaching young, fast position players to take a Tony Gwinn approach to hitting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s right Dennis. Hit it where they ain’t! If teams play straight up analytics then it doesn’t seem very different than computer simulated game.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good point Dennis. Analytics can be defeated by doing the OPPOSITE of what the analytics “predict” you will do in that situation. But you need guys athletic enough and smart enough to do it. And coaches and owners daring enough to try the contrarian approach.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ESPN baseball is unwatchable because the screen is overloaded with graphics on launch angles, exit velocity, etc.. The announcers never shut up. Every decent play is the greatest play they have ever seen. Baseball to me growing up was a spiritual game. The technocrats and marketers have removed the spirit and made it soulless. Teams wear different uniforms every game! Hard to relate to it. But I love watching my granddaughter’s softball games, just kids playing for the joy of it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My only problem with ESPN is ARod, but that is a huge problem. Can’t stand the guy. Ms Mendoza is fine by me.

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  4. Mcwatt has good points. I would also offer that I began to attend less when my team decided not to compete for a few years and MLB is rife with those kinds of teams. Not a great product when they play each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with the brain trust that games are way too slow. But I disagree with how they are trying to change that. What bothers me is all of the shenanigans between the pitcher and the hitter. Focus of hitters on their batting gloves is annoying as hell. Pitchers who are afraid to throw the ball should go back to minors until they learn to pitch. Most of the stepping out of the box is happening because a hitter can only stand there ready for a pitch about so long before he HAS to step out and relax a bit.

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  6. Kurt, i am surprised at you. Your premise is right on, but to lay the blame for baseball’s decline to Analytics is much too simplistic and misses the mark…Baseball as a spectator sport has been losing fans for decades and there are many factors…one being the length of games, which can be traced to Holly’s favorite team. There may not be a solution, but for baseball to survive as a Major sport they need to gather a new generation of fans…things have changed radically since the days of your and my youth where we went to Tiger Stadium and all the rest of the World was shut out…It was the Magical Kingdom.

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  7. It should be some solace to fans everywhere and people that love the game like Kurt and Holly that while Major League attendance is having problems…that most Minor League teams are seeing an increase in attendance..the same goes for the Amateur Leagues…My brother often takes his daughter to those games now, he says it is more economical and a lot more fun for the kids…

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  8. Analytics is absolutely killing the game and at this point the only thing left to do is inform the family. So if the patient is doomed let’s fiddle with the little things. Pace of play: Outlaw the use of any type of glove by an offensive player, no batting gloves, no sliding mittens, and while we’re at it take off the body armor that would be the envy of every hockey player on the planet. No pitcher shall be allowed to step off the rubber after coming set or batter allowed to step out unless they have a hornet in their shorts. No team meetings at the mound that doesn’t result in a pitching change. There the game is faster but still dying.

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    • If my memory serves me, when I was a kid only the catcher and one infielder could come to the mound. Today I’m surprised that all the players don’t come to the mound including the bullpen and bench.

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  9. Perhaps it is inevitable. Generations ago, two of the most popular sports in the US were boxing and horse racing. I honestly don’t encounter anybody in my life now who has any real interest in either of these sports. My sixteen-year-old son has zero interest in baseball, nor do any of his friends.

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  10. Oh, some teams ARE exciting to watch, i.e. the Astros. Teams do not need increased ballpark attendance anymore to achieve increased revenue. Baseball television viewership trends via RSN’s remain strong overall, as 55″+ HD television screens allow viewing at home as good (or better) than at the ballpark. Unfortunately, too many teams are flat out boring, i.e. the Detroit Tigers.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kurt, you absolutely hit the nail on the head – at least for the older fans like me. Very few young boys (at least where I live) play baseball past 12 years old. And to be honest, the talent level and baseball IQ of those that do is horrible. The thing that I find interesting is that girls’ softball (starting in middle school) is much better. The interest is there, the quality of play is better, and the game is infinitely more watchable. Maybe MLB can learn something from watching the College Softball.

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  12. Thank the Lord for utube. I enjoy immersing myself is 50’s, 60’s, 70’s replays of real baseball heroes of the past. (’71 All Star game Tiger Stadium anyone ? – 21 future hall of famers on the rosters) I get very little joy with today’s game, er business. Yup, I’m an “oldster”

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  13. Today’s blog is so spot on it may be the best article I have read in a long time. How did we lose sight that the length of a game matters not as long as we are entertained? Fix the excitement of the game and they will come. End video replay. Like when fans of hockey lost interest when fighting went away, baseball fans love the manager and umpire arguments. Kill the shift by not allowing a “rover” like in softball.

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  14. Here’s a thought. Make the pitchers throw underhand. The pitches would be easy to hit, but difficult to hit over the fence, meaning lots of action. Yes it’s a silly idea, but todays youth expect non stop action to keep their attention. They can change the rules, but they can’t change the players as long as they’re being taught that way. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.

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  15. So many thoughts.. so little time.
    Here’s one: The infield shift has dictated that you need to hit the ball in the air to have a realistic chance at a hit. The best kind of hit in the air is the one that leaves the park.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Baseball has lost its nostalgic lustre, which gave the game so much of its appeal. Nowadays, it is difficult to see past the multimillionaires and Scott Boras-type agents because the business aspect of the game stomps on the nostalgia. Throw in Selig’s unbalanced schedule and interleague play, and you have a product that pales in comparison to the good ol’ days. Once that appeal is gone, good luck in finding a continued audience.

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    • For nostalgia sake, and for my entertainment, put our Tiger’s back in the AL East! There is n denial that a lot of the luster was lost when the tigers went into the AL Central. I want to see the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays. I don’t give a hoot about seeing the Royals, White Sox, Twins, and the Indians. But then, I am 63 years old.

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  17. Tiger catcher prospect Jake Rogers has thrown out nearly 70% of base stealers this year….if they can only keep him away from Lloyd and have someone teach him to hit even a little….

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