Baseball is looking at ways to improve the game to increase fan attendance and participation.
Here we go again. Major League Baseball is looking to “tweak” the rules of the game to make it a more fast-paced sport in hopes of attracting more attendance at the games. Every year the league bemoans the pace of the game as the reason for falling attendance and looks at ways to shorten the games, that seem to be getting longer every year.
This year they are looking to eliminate the four soft toss pitches outside of the strike zone and allow teams to just tell the umpire they wish to give the batter a free pass, and let him take his base. Great idea! In 2016, the 30 MLB teams each averaged 31 intentional walks per year, or a total of 930 intentional walks across all of Major League Baseball.
Assuming the four pitches associated with an intentional walk take about one minute to accomplish, that would remove 15.5 hours from the 2,430 games played, or approximately the length of one Yankees-Red Sox matchup in September. That should bring the fans roaring through the gates!
Also, the league wants to shrink the strike zone from the bottom, hoping to make the pitchers have to throw more pitches up to create more offense. OK, the intent here is to create more offense to keep the fans engaged and provide more baserunners, hoping to minimize down time on the field.
That is a little problematic to me, as more offense, leads to more runs being scored, more pitching changes and visits to the mound, more infield conferences, more throws to first, and possibly even an increase in intentional walks, making the games last even more longer than before.
So, we change the intentional walk to shorten the game a tad, and turn around and enhance the offense to lengthen the game a bunch. Another winning combination!
There are a number of factors that can be attributed to the decline in fan interest, with so many other available entertainment dollar competitors, but perhaps the league office should take their families to a game, outside of the luxury boxes, if they really want to see what is going on.
First off, many fans simply cannot afford to take their young families to the games. According to a study from GOBankingRates, the average cost of a family of four attending a MLB game last year was $128.06, which included four tickets, four hot dogs, two beers and parking. Add in drinks for the kiddies, souvenir foam fingers and a baseball, ice cream in the seventh inning, and the cost jumps up near the $200 mark easily.
Couple that with night games during the week that end about 10:00 PM, along with exiting the parking lot to drive home, and the youngsters aren’t getting into bed until after mid-night on a school night. That means many families will limit their attendance to weekend games only, even if some teams raise their prices for “special” games.
Baseball attendance isn’t all about the competition on the field. Baseball games are an experience, more so than any other sport. The down time in baseball allows for restroom breaks, on your schedule and not having to wait until period endings, and food purchases, although in my experience, at least an inning is lost by the time you make your way to the concession stand and back.
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That is why you see fans lined up to be the first in the door to watch batting practice, to wander about the stadium, and to buy dinner before the game starts. And these are the same fans that start to filter out in the seventh inning to “beat the traffic.”
It’s not all about the game, it is the total experience. Baseball is a great game. Make changes to enhance the experience and leave the game alone.