Baseball is dying. A sport whose fanbase is predominantly middle-aged is slowly ceding ground to action-packed sports like basketball and football, which continue to attract America’s youth in spades. The glory days of America’s pastime are long gone, and the sport is struggling to deal with it.
Much of the problem with baseball today is its appeal to the legions of young, impressionable fans who have grown up in an age of instant gratification – iPhones and social media. The hours of standing around in between pitches; of countless shuffling in and out of reliever after reliever; of the endless strikeouts that seem to so define the game; none of these aspects of baseball are enjoyable anymore.
Add this to the lack of marketable stars – partly a result of the “gentleman’s game” mentality that seems to be pervasive even today – and you’ve got yourself a recipe for failure. Nobody knows who Mike Trout is; everybody knows who Lebron James and Tom Brady are.
Because of this, the sport is going through a revitalization. MLB (Major League Baseball) commissioner Rob Manfred, in an attempt to shorten the pace of play, has continued to put out a series of rule changes in the past few years: few mound visits per game; shortened inning breaks; even a requirement for relievers to face a minimum of three batters. For the non-baseball savvy, these changes may seem like a confusing mess of jargon, but they do go a long way towards shifting baseball towards a new future.
These changes have been met by opposition from its existing fans, who claim that these new rules are destroying the game they used to know. Certainly, there is a danger in too much change, which may end up negatively affecting the sport simply for the sake of ratings.
Take a particularly disputed proposed rule, for example, which would put a runner on second base for each inning past the ninth. While this would certainly speed up extra-inning games, which have a tendency to go on well into the night – take last World Series’ seven-hour Game 3, for example – it breaks a fundamental tenet of baseball by essentially doing the batters’ jobs for them, i.e. score runs. But this is only one rule change, and in the end, it is these fans who will have to acquiesce to at least some of these changes if they want to ensure the survival of their sport.
Even this mess of changes, however, pales in comparison to the amount of work that still needs to be done for baseball to reach the popularity of sports like basketball and football. There’s no getting around it: baseball finds itself today in a society focused on the maximum amount of action possible, and those two things are rarely found in the baseball compared to other sports. So if baseball wants to reclaim its title as America’s pastime, then it must be willing to change. More excitement. More marketability. This is what baseball must become.
Brandon Kim, Grade 10
Culver City High School