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Making Baseball Relevant Again

By Shea Bessette

Integrated Marketing Communications Student

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Baseball, once known as America’s Pastime, has suddenly become a thing of the past. 

Overall viewership of the sport is down a staggering amount, while other sports haven’t lost a step. Fortunately for Major League Baseball, 2023 is a new year, and the league has implemented new rules that are set to create a more exciting brand of the sport that once dominated the sports landscape. 

Baseball needs something to save itself from full irrelevance. However, some baseball fans will argue the league is fine and dips in viewership are normal. Or, they say, the rule changes make the game worse and hurt the product. 

First, let’s take a look at some statistics; according to a Forbes article, attendance in 2022 was down 6% percent from pre-COVID 2019. While attendance was down, it is nothing compared to the TV viewership, which was even worse. Front Office Sports reported that the 2022 World Series between Houston and Philadelphia was the second-least-watched series ever. In case you missed that, second lowest EVER, only above the 2020 COVID World Series.

If you read those quick facts and think “No, baseball is fine,” then I’m not sure what to tell you. How can the players on the field be some of the best ever, yet no one cares? 

I’ll give you a hint: It is how the game is being played. It has been slow and lacking in offense. THIS year, MLB has implemented a pitch clock, which forces a pitcher to throw the ball within a 15-second window with bases empty, and a 20-second window with runners on base. 

Disliking the pitch clock is a confusing stance. Let’s imagine a world where a quarterback in the NFL has unlimited time between plays. He’s walking around doing nothing, just standing there taking deep breaths, then getting ready to say “hike,” just to then back off and start all over again. 

That was the MLB without a pitch clock. The pitchers will now be forced to adapt, along with the hitters. However, this is for the better. It does not change much about the game besides the lulls in play that turned fans away over the last couple of years. 

Alongside the pitch clock are the restrictions put on the shift. Infielders must all be touching the dirt by the time the pitch is thrown, with two fielders on each side of second base. This restricts teams from putting up to four players on one side of the infield. 

The shift, while strategic, was taking base hits away from the hitters when, if the defense was playing conventionally, they would have had a hit. So, the MLB restricted the shift. This will bring the hits up and effectively make the game more exciting. 

There is also a rule that does not allow a pitcher to pick off more than two times per batter. This, combined with the increased base size, will increase the steals attempted across the league. This speeds up the game because fewer pick-offs lead to more focused at-bats, while also adding a strategic element that can create exciting plays. 

There are a lot of changes to the game, but all have a purpose. Change can often be scary for people, and that is why they don’t like the new rules and restrictions. They may feel like the game they love is being tampered with. 

However, these changes are strategic, and the casual fan will love the new style of product. While it is too early to see the ratings of the season, it was a crucial time for the MLB to win back fans. These rules can save the game and prove baseball hasn’t lost its fastball. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2022/10/06/mlb-attendance-for-2022-down-nearly-5-from-2019 -last-year-before-the-pandemic/?sh=52cc4ee75109.

https://frontofficesports.com/how-rule-changes-could-save-major-league-baseballs-tv-future/ https://www.statista.com/statistics/235678/world-series-tv-viewership-in-the-united-states/.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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