Opinion: Major League Baseball Is On The Verge Of An Epidemic

The annual Midsummer Classic saw its lowest rating ever Tuesday night as the American League defeated the National League 4-2 at Petco Park in San Diego, Calif. The victory sealed home-field advantage for the AL representative in October’s World Series.

The MLB All Star game landed itself a 5.4 rating and viewed in roughly 8.7 million households. This is down from last year’s 6.6 with 9.127 million households and 2014’s 7.0 rating and 10.124 million households. On top of that, the median age of viewers was 54 and only about 300,000 kids aged 12-17 watched (numbers per Lansing State Journal and 730 AM East Lansing The Game).

Now compared to other professional All-Star games, the MLB’s is actually doing ok. The NBA All-Star game saw only a 4.3 rating and what may be the worst of all All-Star games, the Pro Bowl, saw a 4.5 rating. Baseball may see a higher rating though, as it’s a game that still counts for something.

But it is still no secret baseball’s publicity has been waning over the years. Which worries those like myself who want to work in the game one day, but also the dedicated lovers of America’s past time.

Bryce Harper leads the way in trying to bring more interest to the sport with his “Make Baseball Fun Again” campaign and I personally have said allow more fights for excitement, don’t deter them. But the MLB needs some kind of league overhaul to increase its viewership and younger fans.

The Game 730 AM posed a great question though, is baseball truly dying or is it a sport that you begin to appreciate more as you get older?

What seems to be happening, is that baseball is joining hockey in that it is becoming a very niche sport. With its advanced analytics that the average fan, or even above average fan don’t understand, and Twitter accounts from @CespedesBBQ, @ComericaEric, and @Lana that have humor geared mainly towards fans that are constantly up to date with the grueling 162 game season, baseball has a become an exclusive and almost pretentious sport. There is an inner circle of super fans that live for it, but isn’t leaving a lot of room for the casual fan. Frankly, the casual fan may find baseball too boring and is unable to appreciate its finer qualities that make the super fan swoon. Will baseball level out and have a low, but very consistent, fan base just like the NHL? That’s where the question if whether or not appreciation for it grows as you age comes in.

But even if it seems baseball has lost fans, it is still a sport that brought in nine billion dollars in 2014. Also in 2014, 17 teams ranked in the top three in prime-time slots for their local broadcasts. Everyone is freaking out over the size of the contracts NBA free agents are receiving this offseason, but have you seen what baseball players make? Financially the sport is doing just fine.

Baseball is becoming a young man’s game. That was put on display at the 2016 all star game when 27 of the all stars from both teams were ages 26 or younger. Including the entire AL infield plus catcher. This leaves so much room to attract a younger audience if the league allows players to have more flare in their equipment, celebrations, and off field presence. Anything to get little kids fired up about playing and watching baseball. The MLB has done a great job with its “Play Ball” initiative (a program geared towards inspiring youth to get involved with baseball) but the pros have to give those kids something to be excited about. A new and flashy product like what the NBA has done with Steph Curry and the NFL has done with Cam Newton. Anything to potentially save the sport by getting the next generation fired up about it.

And God forbid there is a quarrel on the field because someone breaks one of the notorious “unwritten rules.” More bat flips, more yelling, more diving, and more fights. That is the simple solution to this very complex issue.