The MLB struggles to find new audiences


Cameron M

The Boston Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays in August 2019


Major League Baseball, once America’s most popular league, is currently struggling to compete with the likes of the NFL and NBA.

The 2020 World Series is the least watched World Series ever, with viewership being 32 percent lower than the previous low. 12.62 million viewers watched the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in six games, compared with 16.5 million viewers who watched the Washington Nationals win in an equivalent game.

Why is this? The MLB has many problems with the players and staying relevant in today’s competitive sports market.

The Players

It is well known that the MLB is struggling with advertising their players.

Mike Trout, who plays for the Los Angeles Angels, is bound to be one of the greatest MLB players ever. He is going to go down with the likeness of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. However, this is widely unknown to the average person.

If he were to be compared with athletes of other sports, he would be similar to Lebron James and Tom Brady. However, studies have shown that only 43% of Americans know about Mike Trout compared with 91% and 88% of Americans knowing of Tom Brady and Lebron James respectively.

LeBron James and Tom Brady have their own clothing line, shoes and are in countless commercials and advertisements. While Mike Trout appears in none of these. Both Mike Trout and the MLB are remaining stagnant on his status in pop culture, when both parties would benefit from more exposure.

While the MLB may have struck out on Mike Trout. They have a new batter on deck: Fernando Tatis Jr, Son of former MLB Player Fernando Tatis Sr, Jr. can be the new face of baseball.

He is breaking the unspoken rules of baseball, making the game more fun. He notoriously swung at a 3-1 pitch with the bases loaded, hitting a grand slam. This rule breaking mentality is good for baseball, it redefines the game and makes it more exciting to watch.

Fernando Tatis Jr. is also exciting to watch. At Shortstop, he makes diving catches and miraculous throws. And his hitting skills are elite.

He is already being advertised more, the unspoken rule controversy sparked lots of debate and he was recently revealed as the cover athlete of video game MLB The Show 21, which is going to be playable on Xbox for the first time ever.

The MLB got an easy pitch thrown to them with Fernando Tatis Jr. Will they strike out or hit a home run?

The “No-Fun League”

To many people, the MLB is unwatchable. Many frequently label the games as boring and too long. This is a huge ongoing problem for the league. The average length for a nine-inning game fifty years ago was 2 hours and 25 minutes. This number has increased by almost 30% to 3 hours and 6 minutes. The lengthening of game time combined with decreasing attention spans is an ugly combination for the sport.

The MLB and also actively shuts down attempts by players to make their sport more entertaining. For example, bat flips after home runs are actively frowned upon. Meanwhile in leagues like the  also has goofy mascots like the NC Dino’s whose mascot is notoriously nicknamed “Swole Daddy.” The MLB needs to look to their foreign competitors to see how they can make their league more fun.

The league could also look to its own past to see how to make their sport more entertaining. One of the most entertaining eras of the MLB was the steroid era where Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Ken Griffey Jr. were in a homerun chase to see who could break Roger Maris’ single season homerun record of 61 home runs. This was followed by an era of complete dominance by Barry Bonds in his attempt to break Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs in his career.

This is fun baseball. I’m not saying that the MLB should endorse doing steroids but, the game was obviously a lot more entertaining when we are able to witness such feats. The MLB should embrace this era of baseball instead of treating it like its red-headed stepchild and pretending it doesn’t exist. Also, PLEASE put Barry Bonds and Roger Clements in the Hall of Fame!

The MLB could also make changes to increase its fan outreach. The average MLB stadium was only 66% full, with an average attendance of around 28,000 people per game. Some teams like the Miami Marlins had an average attendance of 10,000 per game.

It is for these reasons that I believe that teams should make weekday games free. Many teams don’t even see ticket sales as revenue drivers. Noah Garden, M.L.B. executive vice president for business and sales said “We don’t look at it as a revenue driver.” Instead many teams look to experiences outside of the ticket sales like concession and merchandise sales to drive their profits instead.

If they make weekday games free, then more people will go to the games. In turn people will spend more money on food, drinks and merchandise sales. Also, they will get more invested in the team and are likely to go to more games and watch them on TV. Free tickets also may provoke parents to bring children to the games, which creates a new generation of baseball fans.

It’s the bottom of the ninth for the MLB and the pressure is on.