There’s Nothing Wrong with Baseball — Except the Production Values

The game of baseball itself is fine. There are other areas in which it can improve, though. (via U.S. Navy)

The prevailing opinion among baseball stalwarts is that the recent aesthetic changes in the game — namely, the increase of home runs, strikeouts and defensive shifts, and the decrease of hits and small-ball strategies such as the hit-and-run— have been bad. This reaction is to be expected. In nearly every era of baseball, players and commentators from previous eras have expressed displeasure with the changes they saw in the game. The current era’s baseball conservatives, though — those who would prefer the game to be played like it was for most of the 20th century — are pinning to these changes the fact that attendance is down and that baseball is attracting fewer and fewer young fans. Major League Baseball’s experimentation with banning the shift and moving back the pitcher’s mound would seem to suggest that even MLB believes that there is some validity to this connection.

Few seem to believe that the problem attracting younger fans may have nothing to do with the game at all. Home runs are fun, and there are more of them. Strikeouts are fun, and there are more of them, too. It seems at least likely that the problem baseball has with attracting new young fans is its production values.

The primary assumption from baseball conservatives is that prospective younger fans are noticing (and not liking) a historic spike in home runs and reduction of hits. For example, in a Bleacher Report article about “Why MLB Greats Think Baseball’s In Trouble,” after listing the number of ways the game has recently changed, author Scott Miller notes that “perhaps not coincidentally, per-game attendance…has dropped to its lowest point in 15 years.”

In fairness, many baseball critics also point to an increase in average game length, and a few are going so far as to correlate increased fastball velocity (in pursuit of strikeouts) as a reason why games are longer. But when one looks at the context of the per-game averages of these “historic” highs and lows, one may also notice that these changes are not as extreme as advertised. The reason for the focus on per-game averages is because that’s what casual fans watch — a game. They don’t watch stats, nor are they paying attention to a series of games like they’re an aggregate event. The past, present, and future of baseball rely on how much fans enjoy watching the individual event of a game.

A “new era” of baseball had its first notable impact in 2016, when the average number of home runs per game exceeded 1.15 for just the second time in history. And while it’s a relatively small sample size, 2016-2019 does indeed to be the beginning of a new home run era. From 1994 (the first season home runs per game cracked 1.00) through 2015, the average number of home runs per-game was 1.04. Since 2016 — and including pre-All Star break 2019 — it’s been 1.22. The average number of hits since 2011, when the use of the shift began to rise, has stood at 8.63. From 1994-2010 it was 9.13.

It would be naïve to assert that these are insignificant statistical changes, but it is also reactionary to assume that while watching a game, casual fans, young fans, and new fans are really noticing a 0.18 home run increase, or the reduction of half of a hit. Even the increase in game length isn’t appreciably drastic. Excluding extra-inning games, in 15 of the 20 years from 1994-2013, average game length took at least two hours, 50 minutes. The average length of a nine-inning game hit three hours for the first time in 2014, but has yet to exceed three hours, five minutes. Again, this is not an insignificant increase, but noticing the addition of 10 minutes of game time is generally the sort of thing that happens when one is bored or anxious, not when one is engaging in the experience of a new sport.

What prospective fans are assuredly more able to notice is the outdated presentation of the sport. Unless one is knowledgeable of the rules, the strategy, and the history, a baseball broadcast will look like a game of catch with 8.63 hits. This is barely hyperbole. Watch nearly any major league broadcast and you will hear mostly the following: narration of things that have already happened (“swing and a miss”) or that a viewer can see on the screen (balls and strikes), anecdotes from former players, news from around the league, and even discussions of things that have nothing to do with baseball.

The latter topics are exemplary of how many play-by-play and color commentators appear to be bored by the game. Some announcers even go so far as to passive-aggressively vent about their distaste for baseball’s changes. For example, in the bottom of the 10th of a July 7 Rangers vs. Twins game, Dick Bremer, the Twins play-by-play announcer, let fans know of a Twins defensive shift by saying, “Twins shift to a four-man (pause) five-man outfield. Whatever.” And of course, there was no explanation as to why the Twins made the switch.

Critically and unfortunately, this resistance to talking about the game, let alone accepting its changes, is often most noticeable during national ESPN broadcasts. During the July 14 Dodgers vs. Red Sox game, it appeared as though producers decided on topics to be addressed before the game even started. In the third inning Matt Vasgersian, Jessica Mendoza and Alex Rodriguez discussed Dodgers prospects and Alex Rodriguez’s marriage to Jennifer Lopez (who was shown on camera) more than any individual plate appearance. In the fourth inning, the topic was Fenway Park, complete with the background on Boston’s mascot, and information on ticket prices. The game seemed an afterthought. The pregame show for the July 21 broadcast included a feature where players tried to guess the meaning of acronyms like FIP, WOA, and UZR.

Sure, every sport has its share of “back in my day” voices, but baseball’s competitors are often sports that are so inherently action-packed that even when the communicators of the sport criticize, it may not matter to a prospective fan. Baseball is not one of them. It is difficult for new fans to recognize some of the most important aspects of the game without a little guidance and it should be no surprise that young people are bored by a game that they don’t understand. It seems unlikely that new fans are going to invest their time in baseball when the communicators debase the strategies and statistics and often aren’t interested enough to pay attention.

Going to baseball games further illustrates how little the sport seems to want to welcome new fans. At a recent Yankees vs. Rays game, the most current song played inside Tropicana Field (other than the players’ walk-up music) was an organ rendition of “Seven Nation Army,” which is a 16-year-old song. Even its use as a “fight song” is pushing a decade. In addition to the entertainment being outdated, there are some distinct disadvantages to outdoor stadiums (of which there are 23). Baseball is played in the hottest regions of the country during the hottest time of year, and outdoor stadiums are limited in the kinds of between-action entertainment they can muster.

If Major League Baseball is genuinely concerned about attracting new fans, these are the places it should start. Both baseball broadcasts and baseball stadiums desperately need to update the ways they engage with new fans. First, broadcasts need to do a better job explaining to a viewer the most important battle of the entire game: that between a hitter and pitcher. This confrontation is so important that Cubs manager Joe Maddon once said that the game could easily be called “pitching.” Yet, some broadcast crews often talk over entire plate appearances while barely acknowledging that a player has come to bat. Some of the most important insights are virtually non-existent: how a pitcher will attempt to approach a plate appearance based on his arsenal, the situation, and the batter’s strengths; predictions of what pitch will be used in a particular count and where it will be located, and how a previous plate appearance is affecting a current one.

Football would serve as a reasonable example of how a game should be narrated, in particular the way Tony Romo announces games. Romo does an excellent job explaining how defenses and offenses are set up and what a team is attempting to accomplish, and at times appears clairvoyant in his ability to call plays before they happen. He is fun, engaging, and — importantly — willing to talk about plays in non-football speak.

Attendance may also be improved by updating in-game entertainment, and coming to terms with a likely reality that all stadiums will soon need to be domed. As for the former, baseball can look to the NBA as a model of how to reach younger fans: playing more hip-hop, pop, and other contemporary music — including music that is popular with the nationalities that are largely represented in baseball. Other ideas: updating light/laser shows, investing in 3D projection technology, and increasing the number of ways fans can use augmented reality, Twitter, Snapchat, and/or Instagram before, during, and after the game.

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It’s time to accept that younger fans will need a little more than the game to get them to buy a ticket and travel to a ballpark. The American entertainment industry, from musicians to movie theaters have had to figure out how to market their product to a generation of individuals who have more ways to spend their disposable income, but less disposable income to spend. A recent Merrill Lynch report found that Americans aged 18-34 collectively hold about $2 trillion dollars’ worth of student loan, credit card, mortgage, and car payment debt. Young adults are also saving money at record rates. Baseball’s decline was probably inevitable, but maintaining even the status quo will take some work.

A big boost to these efforts would be making all stadiums domed, whether it be entirely, partially, or with a retractable roof. For a variety of reasons, it is much easier to create a spectacle of light and sound indoors, and it is a much more comfortable environment for fans. It should not be overlooked that the past decade has seen a succession of record-breaking summer temperatures in regions where many teams play. Granted, there is no empirical evidence for this, but isn’t it possible that young fans are not excited about sitting in 90-degree heat to watch a game that they barely understand, all while listening to music that was made before they were born, and watching hot dog mascots race each other? Does that need a chart?

At the ballpark, even in open-air stadiums, event coordinators need to play a lot more contemporary music in between innings, and in-between away-team plate appearances (home players have their own entrance music). They could borrow from NBA games and show, on the Jumbotron, pictures from the game that fans have posted on Twitter and Instagram. They could hold special events in which fans are allowed on the field to take advantage of the Instagram-ability of that field as well as the dugout. Stadiums could even begin using augmented reality platforms to get fans to walk around the stadium. And of course, following U.S. Cellular Park’s lead, stadiums could also make fireworks more than just a “Friday night home game” type of thing. Indoor baseball stadiums will be even better equipped to use new projection technology and put more effort into creating a concert-type atmosphere.

There are even improvements that can address pace of play and the home run spike (which is attracting the ire of even progressive baseball outlets like FanGraphs). As for the latter, outfield fence distances merely have to be 400 feet at center and 325 feet at the foul poles, a regulation put into place in 1958 (and a few stadiums don’t even meet those standards). The median average distance for home run hitters in 2019 is 399 feet. We are seeing the strongest and most skilled home run hitters in the game’s history hit home runs over walls that were regulated 60 years ago. Additionally — as the aforementioned FanGraphs article points out — there is mounting evidence that the ball at the major league (as well as the Triple-A) level is “juiced.” This could be remedied.

As for average game length, the league’s first three-hour per-game average coincided with the first season of expanded replay, which is likely not a coincidence. Currently, even though replays are viewed and decided upon at an office in New York, fans still have to endure every umpire running off the field to wait for a verdict. Why? Can MLB simply hire more umpires to watch games at the Replay Command Center so they are able to anticipate when a challenge may occur and make a quicker decision? Can a crew chief also be equipped with an earpiece so that decision can be easily relayed without requiring all umpires to walk off the field?

On television, commentators could work through a fairly standard process to keep fans aware of what’s happening. When a hitter comes to the plate, commentary can focus on his strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and if he is on a notable hot streak. They should even be able to work in how the pitcher will likely approach this hitter and whatever the situation might be. Then, a prediction of where the next pitch will go and what it will be. Then, by the time a pitcher gets into his windup, silence. After the pitch is delivered, depending on what type of pitch it was, where it went, whether it was a ball or strike, and whether the batter swung, commentators can discuss whether that pitch and location will be repeated, or whether the pitcher will try something different. Additionally, commentators can let fans know if a batter will be looking for the same pitch or whether he will prepare for something different. In addition to these details, subsequent plate appearances will be able to include insight about how previous plate appearances impact the current one.

Increased awareness of the devastating effects of concussions in recent years has had a significant impact on the number of kids playing contact sports, particularly football. Baseball’s relative safety and need for less equipment make it an appealing alternative to football — and, indeed, the specter of CTE may be partially responsible for the concurrent drop in youth football enrollment and rise in youth baseball enrollment that we’ve seen over the past few years. Baseball currently has an opportunity better than any since the rise of the NFL to capitalize on the youth market.

Still, when it came down to it, Kyler Murray chose football over baseball — and an increased risk of getting CTE — because he loves the game of football. Major League Baseball should want the next Kyler Murray to love baseball. Baseball can help accomplish this by using broadcasts to offer insight into the intricacies that have made fans like me such avid appreciators of its cruel beauty. The next Kyler Murray may also enjoy being in a stadium that is designed to speak to his sense of fun.


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3cardmonty
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3cardmonty

Definitely agree that broadcasters engaging in off-topic banter is supremely obnoxious. It’s why I usually choose the radio feed on mlbtv. Also agree that all the hand-wringing over less balls in play is completely overblown. Really don’t see the between-innings music choices as being very important to anyone. Ultimately you’re paying to watch the game, all the other stuff is just to occupy your attention during breaks. I’d think that if teams really cared about attracting younger fans to the park they’d maybe stop the absurd price gouging for beer and food.

drewsylvania
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Member
drewsylvania

And tickets. It used to be you could actually (gasp!) get tickets at face value. MLB is killing itself with their hypocritical self-scalping.

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

The price gouging on food isn’t a big issue for stadiums that let you bring in your own (with reasonable exceptions).

Spahn_and_Sain
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Spahn_and_Sain

Shorten the ad break by 30 seconds each time and you shave off 8-1/2 minutes from game time right there while also needing less attention-holding interim entertainment.

Spahn_and_Sain
Member
Spahn_and_Sain

Also, the comment in the article about Replay Reviews is also exactly right. It’s pretty obvious when a review might be coming and there’s no reason why the “guys in New York” shouldn’t be able to get ahead of that and to render a decision on most cases within about 15 seconds of the review actually being announced (also, they should announce what has been challenged and what is being reviewed so the fans in the stadium and commenters aren’t left fumbling for an explanation. The idea of just leaving it as dead air time is so, so dumb).

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

I certainly hate it when TV announcers interview someone for an entire inning while barely paying attention to the game, and you have some points about better strategic commentary and faster replays, but baseball is NOT a concert, and it should NOT be treated as such! Baseball has been and always will be best played outdoors. Closing the roof in ballparks that have them is only a backup plan for bad weather or excessive heat, otherwise the roofs wouldn’t be retractable at all. Most fans don’t care about the summer heat as long as it doesn’t get too unbearable. Why… Read more »

DBall
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DBall

Baseball like a concert is ENTERTAINMENT, if you want the sport to survive as a mainstream sport for the next few decades they will need to adapt to what a new generation wants to watch and how they want to watch it. Baseball can easily be played outdoors with a retractable roof when its nice and comfortable outside but its undisputed fact that temperatures are increasing and there are less and less days through the year with comfortable outdoor weather. Baseball is filled with billionaire owners who can easily afford an extra 50-100million to add retractable roofs to all new… Read more »

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

It’s a completely different kind of entertainment, so you have to treat it differently. Not even the younger generation cares about stuff like contemporary pop music at sporting events. Even the “overdone gimmicks” are more entertaining than that. (What could possibly do in the 20 seconds between pitches, anyway?) Baseball remains mainstream by not making itself extremely tacky just to please a few Millenials who aren’t likely to become real fans anyway. Retractable roofs are only necessary in certain locations. In most places, the heat cools down at night and is only unbearable for a very small percentage of the… Read more »

DBall
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DBall

I’d have to disagree, musical accompaniment has a lot to do with the feeling of engagement and excitement. Watch your favorite movie/theater scenes but change the music to something random and it can very easily lose the feel or remove the music and the scene will just die. The right music can very much put one in a better or more excitable mood to be more engaged. All entertainment is about engaging your senses and the better coordinated that engagement the more entertaining things tend to be. Different generations will have different music/sounds that it associates with different emotional states… Read more »

DBall
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DBall

Considering the article is about engaging younger fans and how the broadcasts work id say the issues with TV is very much relevant and its quite amusing how you call it irrelevant but still have to get a jab in their about how “real” sports fans should engage with the sport. Whatever a “real” sports fan is.

Signed,

Fake sports fan.

Famous Mortimer
Member

Out of interest, why play the national anthem at a domestic sporting event? I could understand if it was team USA playing team Mexico, or whatever.

Spahn_and_Sain
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Spahn_and_Sain

“God Bless America” can go right out the window. It’s a tragedy that Miller Park made time for that in the 7th inning stretch by taking away the “One More Time…” reprise of “Roll out the Barrel.”

TimBasuino
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TimBasuino

Great article, apart of course from the dome stadium suggestion. Definitely agree that the in-game interviews are obnoxious.

Famous Mortimer
Member

Last time I went to a game in 90+ degree heat, the bleacher seats were literally impossible to sit on, so hot were they. I just didn’t bother going again til it cooled down. Why the opposition to domes?

Barney Coolio
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Barney Coolio

Where was that?

Famous Mortimer
Member

Busch.

coldbagel12
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coldbagel12

You make some good points, like having more broadcasters that know and use advanced stats and dejuicing the ball, but requiring every stadium to be a dome is unnecessary, the music is fine, baseball teams already put social media posts on the Jumbotron during games, and idle banter by the broadcast team is not a bad thing. Some of my favorite moments of watching or listening to a game are when the broadcaster tells a good story, or has a good interview. Do you really want every at bat to be a rehashing of the exact same list of each… Read more »

Spahn_and_Sain
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Spahn_and_Sain

Good banter is good, bad banter is awful. Generally, I think the radio broadcasters do a better job with their asides (I may be biased listening mostly to one of the best racounteurs, Bob Uecker to listen to) because they need to stay connected to the play-by-play as well.

jarhead659
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jarhead659

Andrew, you’re right – or at least moving in the right direction – and I’m old. The responses you’ve gotten are the responses of long-time baseball fans and reflect nothing more than their desire for status quo (excepting announcers…). They don’t go to NBA games, or probably don’t even watch them, they have no understanding of what young people want for their entertainment dollar. Maybe someone in MLB will read this and actually think about the things you’ve discussed – I hope so. Great article.

drewsylvania
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Member
drewsylvania

I’m 43 and even I know that the game has a problem appealing to young fans. I think it can be done in a way that both older fans (minus a few curmudgeons) and young fans can enjoy it. Make the changes enjoyable.

liljaycup
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liljaycup

It’s not just the NBA, either. I’m a hockey and baseball fan, and my best friend has only just started to watch hockey. And he’s amazed at the differences in broadcasts and game experiences. For one, take a look at the access offered to fans during the run up to the stadium series (with road to the winter classic coverage) and even the freaking playoffs! I’m a fan of the Blues and Cardinals, and one of the reasons the Blues winning a championship this year matters so much more to me than any Cardinals win is because I felt like… Read more »

mcbruster
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mcbruster

As someone just getting into baseball I agree with your article, especially the points you made about broadcasters discussing the strategies of the game. I listen to the games on the at bat radio app and the commenters do a good job explaining some of the strategy on the field, but i am regularly googling terms and stats I do not understand. Do not get me wrong my enjoyment of the game is enhanced from the learning aspect (i.e. listening to podcasts, reading articles, and etc about baseball strategy). But it really is a barrier to entry if fans have… Read more »

drewsylvania
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Member
drewsylvania

100%. The broadcasts could easily make this easier. Explain a different stat every game, for instance. Or at a minimum tell folks they can find a more detail explanation of a stat at (shortened hyperlink).

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

Well, they don’t have to go so far as to use advanced stats, just discuss strategy more in easy to understand terms.

vslyke
Member

Increasing the volume and turning baseball into a version of Galaxy Bowling is going to turn off the best current customers (the older generation tends not to respond well to over stimulation) and do little to bring in young customers. Instead, baseball should look to musical theater, which has boomed by letting new voices express themselves in ways that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. The “Let the Kids Play” initiative is on the right path, but needs some of the older voices in the game to move out of the way.

Brendan
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Member
Brendan

I agree on the announcers — particularly the ESPN crew seem to be bystanders who are only mildly and occasionally interested in the game. Maybe this mimics the casual fan well enough, who knows? The local teams seem to be a bit better in many cases, but not always. There are exceptions (a few recent sessions where Joe Girardi was the color commentator were quite good and closer to the Romo-esque way of doing things). As for the commentary on the live experience, ugh. I guess at this point I’m becoming irrelevant as someone who is middle-aged, but those kinds… Read more »

manormachine
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manormachine

The more old farts complain about this article, the more I believe that it is spot on. Announcers need to be positive about the way baseball is played today and make an effort to explain it to fans while being entertaining. Don’t be distracted by the “laser show” throwaway idea, domed stadiums will be a necessity in the future because of climate change. The 18 to 35 demographic is economically screwed and doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on baseball, especially with the high cost of living in the urban areas where most teams are located. Prices need… Read more »

drewsylvania
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Member
drewsylvania

You bring up a good point. For better or worse, younger folk want to drink all night. Hard to want to do that when crappy beer is $8.

Devern Hansack
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Devern Hansack

Living in Denver, part of the reason why the Rockies have such consistently high attendance is because of reasonable ticket prices, a bar area within the stadium, and proximity to nightlife. Reduced cost / improved concessions would also be a way to get more fans to the park, and getting people there will help convert casuals.

Spahn_and_Sain
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Spahn_and_Sain

Not belittling the impact of climate change, but I don’t think the average baseball experience is so terribly affected that it domes “will be a necessity.” In the US, high temperature rises have been on the scale of 3° F over the last 50 years or .6° F per decade. For a sedentary activity, that’s not overly impactful. People go to baseball games in part to enjoy the summer weather, overall domes have more impact on attendance by making rainy and chilly (April/October) games more comfortable than they do making summer days more air conditioned. I do think more stadia… Read more »

drewsylvania
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Member
drewsylvania

Great, great piece. I think the biggest win–and easiest change to make–would be broadcasters that actually care and a production that involves talking about the fine points of the game. It is a very complicated sport to learn if you aren’t trying to play it–and if you don’t understand a sport or learn the intricacies, there’s less appreciation for it.

wroehl
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wroehl

I agree that baseball may well be its own worst enemy. I’m old enough (60) to remember how old timers in the 70s and 80s bad mouthed the players of the day. And old enough to see the irony of guys who played in the 70s and 80s bad mouthing today’s players exactly the same way. So there seems to be something inherent in baseball that makes today’s game never as good as the remembered game of one’s youth. Where I potentially disagree is with the issue of attendance. First, there is a lot of evidence that attendance figures, both… Read more »

mgwalker
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Member
mgwalker

The single greatest thing that baseball has going for it, pastime-wise, is that it is played outside on grass, increasingly with pleasant views of the surrounding city. This is why most attendees at baseball games are families (what are the fractions of female attendees at NFL, NBA, MLB games?). Unless the team is a contender, people go to the ballpark largely because it’s a nice place to spend a summer evening, providing a picnic-like atmosphere. Covering that up with a dome and drowning it out with a laser light show is a step in the wrong direction.

DMata
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Member
DMata

Biggest thing for me is the directing of the TV broadcasts. I just don’t want to see nonstop close-ups of dudes’ faces while they chew gum or spit sunflower seeds. The College World Series had an alternate broadcast on the ESPN app where the camera would default to a view of the field and occasionally take advantage of a camera on the umpire. It was great. Knocking on the ESPN Sunday crew is low-hanging fruit, but they are truly horrible. Also, I believe you missed a word in this sentence: “And while it’s a relatively small sample size, 2016-2019 does… Read more »

evo34
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evo34

Agree, esp with the unnecessary closeups. Let’s not forget the way ESPN manually increases the volume on every pitch, to make sure that a routine grounder sounds like 600 foot bomb.

Werthless
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Werthless

A big challenge for baseball, and why baseball announcers struggle following the Romo model, is that baseball seasons are 10 times as long. The challenge to fill the air time with “new” material is one that makes commenting on a baseball game more difficult than a football game. If a football announcer repeats his observations about strategy (X coach likes to go for it on 4th down), it’s only somewhat noticeable. If a baseball player makes the same observation at 10x the frequency, he’s going to be tuned out. Fortunately, there is a ton of content/stats available to a creative… Read more »

jarhead659
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jarhead659

Just as an aside, Brian Anderson, the Rays color guy, does exactly that several times a game, for several batters at a time, and it is enjoyable, and I do learn. Obviously he can’t do it 70 times a game, and as the article quoted Joe Madden, you could call the game “pitching’. So even with the occasional breakdown of what several batters are looking for and where their heat zones are combined with what the pitcher throws, why, and what he will try to do next, there is a lot of time between pitches where even the best announcing… Read more »

Devern Hansack
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Devern Hansack

I think this is pretty spot on. Another idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while is encouraging fan engagement via supporter sections with chants, songs, instruments, like in soccer. There’s not much atmosphere in the sport today, which makes it feel a bit sterile.

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

You must’ve never experienced a good Wave.

Bryz
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Member

There’s never a good Wave.

shampain
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shampain

I came here to post this exact thing. Go to a game in Japan, Korea, or Latin America and the atmosphere is electric because the fans are participating, not just observing.

Psychic... Powerless...
Member
Psychic... Powerless...

Despite what the first paragraph suggests, it is possible to feel baseball is trending in a negative direction without being “conservative” or resistant to change.

Personally, I embrace defensive shifts and don’t miss sub-optimal strategies such as bunting and hit-and-runs. But compared to when I was a kid (mid-70s), games are significantly longer (40%+) and have fewer balls in play, fewer base runners and fewer defensive plays — in other words, longer games with less action and less variety.

Also, regarding strikeouts being fun: In a big situation? Absolutely. 20+ times a game? IMO, no.

stevemillburg
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stevemillburg

I’m 65, and I absolutely agree that you’re on the right track. The biggest problem with the announcers is that they themselves seem to find the game boring, so they cast about for something more entertaining to talk about. Hence the lame banter, “back in my day” rants, interviews with promoters of local charity events, etc. Radio announcers for many, maybe even most teams don’t even mention each pitch anymore, which used to be (and still should be) an absolute requirement. If the announcers (TV and radio) actually let themselves (or made themselves) get caught up in the ebb and… Read more »

Famous Mortimer
Member

I think hardcore fans doubting that event X or event Y will not cause any fan to switch off is just as blinkered as anything else you said in this (mostly excellent) article. Of course, no-one’s going “well, this was 0.35 more strikeouts per game than a year ago” but there’s a drip-drip-drip effect that is manifestly causing fewer people to go to baseball games. Every time someone leaves a baseball game vaguely bored at what they perceive as a lack of interesting action, it makes them that little bit less likely to go to another. Which is why baseball… Read more »

evo34
Member
evo34

Agree. I’m 48 and have always followed baseball — but I no longer attend games. As recently as 5 years ago, I would typically attend 2-3 games a year. Trying to think of why this is the case, a few things come to mind (some general, some more specific to my taste): 1) It’s much easier to follow the action on TV. With HD TV, K Zone, etc., you can really observe the finer points of what is happening in the game, which is nearly impossible from 80% of the seats in a MLB stadium. 2) All the stepping out… Read more »

Spahn_and_Sain
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Spahn_and_Sain

It would make a lot of sense for MLB to provide a ‘lite’ version of the pitch tracker from Gameday that followed the game live and put it on a simple site like TeamName.com/strikezone. I know all the info is there for the viewing in AtBat, but the app is much better for following along in a dedicated way rather than for a quick check, as it reloads frequently and you have to go through a series of screens to see what you want.

Anon
Member
Anon

An additional problem is broadcasters who are out of touch with the changes in the game. I’ll watch the MLB Network from time to time and they will trot out Bob Costas and Jim Kaat. Costas is fine, but Kaat spends the entire broadcast referencing players, coaches and other figures from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Guys he played with and against. That’s great if the fan is 70 and knows who Sam McDowell is, but you aren’t drawing in any younger fans with references that are obscure to the average fan. I mean, I know who Sam McDowell is,… Read more »

chrlud64
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chrlud64

Baseball is not declining in popularity and attendance because it isn’t hip and cool or politically correct or is difficult to understand and boring. If sports like football and basketball need all these bells and whistles to attract fans then that probably means that what’s happening on the field or court probably isn’t very exciting (and it isn’t). The only reason for the declining attendances is the prohibitive costs of attending or viewing a game. From the outrageous price of tickets to the even more outlandish cost of parking, concessions and merchandise to the constant rising costs of tv subscriptions,… Read more »

evo34
Member
evo34

“NBA as a model of how to reach younger fans: playing more hip-hop, pop, and other contemporary music — including music that is popular with the nationalities that are largely represented in baseball. ” No. Have you been to an NBA game lately? They’re cranking random music louder than any cheering could get, and it’s *during* each possession, a la some crappy indoor soccer game in the ’80s. So aggravating. No one suddenly cranks up his stereo when watching at home for each possession, do they? The NBA has many advantages over baseball in terms of entertainment value, but blowing… Read more »

Barney Coolio
Member
Barney Coolio

Most of my live game watching has been in: San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington DC, with a smattering of games elsewhere. Definitely not: Dallas, Cincinnati, Atlanta, or other sweltering, muggy hotspots.

But I think that “every stadium should be domed” is a bad idea. Expensive, and takes too much charm from the game.

ryanredsox
Member
ryanredsox

As a teenager, and admittedly already diehard baseball fan, the suggestions for the in stadium experience sounds like a baseball experience from hell. I don’t need a light show to be entertained. I just need the damn prices to be lower. I live 40 minutes from a Major League team, for two people to get to the stadium, park, eat, and attend the game is easily a $100 day. That’s is the number one reason I have yet to go to a Major League game this year. Watching the game from home for free or attending a MiLB game for… Read more »

stonepie
Member
stonepie

with pirated streams, AC, and advancements in TV technology (at a digestible price), why even leave home?

ohioscott
Member
ohioscott

Many of the things in this article if implemented may very well bring younger fans to the ballpark, but would probably drive away many of the 40+ year old fans that are coming now. And less face it those are the fans who can afford most of the gouged resale ticket and crazy concession prices to begin with. Baseballs problem with younger fans is three-fold… 1) Inner-city kids are not playing baseball because they do not have the space or the money for equipment to do so. That is why basketball is king in the inner-cities across America. 2) Even… Read more »

Morland
Member
Morland

Suggestions to improve the game
1. Don’t let batters step out of the batter’s box
2. Make pitchers throw the ball within ten seconds of receiving it.
3. Don’t let announcers bitch about the changes in the game
4. Don’t let announcers claim the players aren’t as good as they used to be. I recall one all-star game where Bob Costas and Joe Morgan were bitching that no one was as good as Willie Mays. Well duh!
5. If the announcers don’t like it they can find another job.

Spahn_and_Sain
Member
Spahn_and_Sain

4. Obligatory Mike Trout comp:

Mays ’51-’52, ’54-’60 / Trout 11-’19 (as of 04 Aug):
g: 1218 avg: .317 hr: 279 ops: .975 bwar: 68.3 dwar: 8.2 sb: 204
g: 1169 avg: .306 hr: 276 ops: 1.00 bwar: 71.3 dwar: 3.5 sb: 197

Spa City
Member
Member
Spa City

What is this “hip hop”? Never heard of it.

v2micca
Member
Member
v2micca

I have loved the incorporation of the statcast data into the broadcast presentation and really wish they would go further with it. Yes they already show us the exit velocity on homeruns and sharply hit line drives. But why not use it also to show effectiveness by the pitcher. When a Dallas Keuchel type is retiring batter after batter with ground balls and soft contact, use it to show how he is keeping the exit velocity way below average. When a team has been using good defensive alignment, use it to show on average how little the defenders have had… Read more »

Marc Schneider
Member
Marc Schneider

This is a pretty ridiculous article. The idea that the only thing wrong with baseball is “production values” flies in the face of common sense. I have been a baseball fan all my life and I’m not one of these “get off my lawn types” but anyone that watches a game can see that there is an egregious lack of action and an incredible amount of down time. This has nothing to do with announcers (who admittedly are often old school) or lack of pop culture at the games. There just isn’t enough happening. The author talks about strikeout being… Read more »

evo34
Member
evo34

Do owners particularly care about incremental attendance? Obviously, there is a tipping point, but it seems like they are much more focused on TV ratings. The general strategy for filling a stadium is to jack the prices on those who really want to attend and then give away enough tickets (quietly, as last second promos distributed by employees) to make sure the stadium is not awkwardly empty. By no means is baseball the only sport doing this, by the way.