Categorized | Sports

In defense of America’s favorite pastime

Jared Berg

Despite the impressive feat of the San Francisco Giants winning their third World Series in the past five years, the end of the baseball season has brought about a difficult period of reflection for baseball’s faithful. Television ratings for the World Series were the second-lowest in history. The five least-watched World Series have occurred in the past six years alone. These statistics seem to point to doom and gloom for our national pastime.

Every March brings rumblings of baseball’s potential demise just as much as it signals the onset of spring training. Despite declining television ratings, average attendance has improved nearly unilaterally throughout the league, demonstrating a strong interest in the experience and investment of attending a MLB game. In 2014, total attendance reached the seventh-highest total in history. More telling yet, these impressive figures were not limited to solely the marquee markets, as franchises located in cities such as Milwaukee, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Pittsburgh drew impressive numbers as well. In fact, league attendance signifies that television ratings themselves cannot attest to the current popularity of MLB. As such, the interest in the experience of attending a baseball game remains very strong across the league.

There are legitimate grievances with the current state of Major League Baseball. Yes, contests are taking longer and longer each year. A schedule that includes 162 games is quite excessive, especially given rising ticket prices across the league. In order to ensure the future success of the league, MLB needs to take concrete steps toward addressing issues such as these in order to make the game accessible for audiences and participants of all backgrounds.

Despite these rational critiques, a great deal of criticism directed at MLB seems to be unfounded, if not simply unfair. For example, NFL games struggle with the length of their games as well, with contests typically lasting well over three hours. And yes, in both baseball and American football, the ball is not directly in play for a majority of the contest. While this comparison isn’t perfect (16 game NFL season vs. 162 game MLB season), the similarities are telling. Another instance of this sort of rhetoric is seen in the criticisms of MLB as “unfair” when compared to the NFL. While the absence of a salary cap does in theory favor baseball’s richest teams, this privileging does not equate to success in the manner most people expect. The NFL employs a salary cap and a revenue-sharing model in order to ensure economic equality, but baseball has seen a greater number of different teams win the championship over the past 48 year period than football (21 to 18). Four out of the 10 teams in this year’s playoff field came from the bottom half of the league in terms of salaried pay roll, with two from the bottom six. The three highest spending teams in the league that also qualified for the playoffs (Dodgers, Angels, Tigers) all lost to teams that spend significantly less (Cardinals, Royals, Orioles). While a salary cap should be carefully considered as a potential component of the future of MLB, branding the league as “unfair” is problematic, if not outright biased.

The onset of football season usually forces the MLB into the shadows. While baseball season crescendos as teams battle in the hunt for October, the start of a NFL season seems to put the drama on standby. In an age of increasing awareness regarding player safety as well as the current outrage at many figures within the NFL, the timing is prime for Major League Baseball to state its desire to streamline the game, as well as the league, in order to appeal to the modern cultural sporting landscape.

This post was written by:

- who has written 181 posts on The Wooster Voice.

Contact the author

Leave a Reply