Baseball is no longer “America’s game.” It seems that we’ve all come to accept that fact. Football has well surpassed baseball’s popularity in America and if it continues, the NFL won’t stop until they’ve taken over the globe. One could argue that baseball is now the #3 sport in America falling short of the NBA. With Jeter retired and players like Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols getting older and becoming less productive, baseball needs to find that next group of marketable stars to take it to the next level. With steroids still a problem and games taking between three and four hours to be played, baseball has real problems on its hands going forward. These glaring issues became even more noticeable in this year’s World Series.
The World Series featured a team with that doesn’t play sexy but knows how to win in the Giants, and a Cinderella story in the Royals. While it was competitive, this World Series had one of the lowest television ratings, if not the lowest television rating (waiting on game 7 results) ever. Heading into game 6, there was an average of 12.1 million viewers per game. Game one was the lowest rated World Series game one of all time, Game 5 lost to Sunday night football, and game 6 was down 29% compared to game 6 last year. Game 7 was up against the NBA’s season opener on ESPN between the Knicks and the Bulls, so don’t expect the ratings to be through the roof. This was bound to happen. In a championship that featured no real stars and a Royals team that hasn’t won anything in almost 30 years, baseball should not expect much of a positive result. To sit through a three hour game and watch players that don’t include any household names is a tough task for the casual fan.
This was Commissioner Bud Selig’s last World Series and that may be the best news for baseball. Over his tenure he hasn’t been innovative (other than introducing replay) and he hasn’t done anything to capture a younger audience. Baseball has been stuck in its old ways and that’s a problem for the sport. The MLB has stars, but does a poor job of marketing them. Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Yasiel Puig, Bryce Harper, and Clayton Kershaw are some names that could potentially have big time marketing appeal, yet baseball hasn’t taken the step to put these marquee guys an the forefront of the sport. Another issue that baseball has is that there are so many foreign players that it is hard for American fans to connect with them. The MLB needs someone to carry it just as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did in the late 90’s, even if the era was tainted by PED use. There needs to be a transition into this new era of sports and that includes the way the games are played and the way they are watched by the fans. Maybe new commissioner Rob Manfred has some ideas up his sleeve, or maybe baseball is destined to be the same old game.
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