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Friday, November 09, 2018

MLB faces offseason challenges

(Reuters) - Major League Baseball heads into the offseason with no shortage of issues to address, most pressingly the drop in stadium attendance and TV ratings, a trend toward longer games and a dearth of star power in its ranks.

Easy answers, however, may prove hard to come by.

Average attendance for regular season games in 2018 fell four percent from the previous year to 28,830 per game, according to MLB, while the total number of fans who showed up at the ballpark fell below 70 million for the first time since 2003.

*checks outside, to see if the sky is, indeed, falling*

QLE Posted: November 09, 2018 at 07:55 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: attendance, doom and gloom, pace of play, ratings, stars

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. DL from MN Posted: November 09, 2018 at 09:51 AM (#5784803)
If they want to boost attendance that is as simple as lowering ticket prices. Star power will be more difficult now that pitchers are all just interchangeable bullpen parts.
   2. weiss-man Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:07 AM (#5784814)
Pitch clock would be a big help. It will shorten games, what's the downside? Less dead time?
   3. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:09 AM (#5784816)
what's the downside? Less dead time?

Less time for FOX to sell ad space between batters.
   4. Bote Man Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:26 AM (#5784869)
Buck Bokai was right. Baseball is dying.
   5. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:37 AM (#5784886)
and a dearth of star power in its ranks.


This can be said as much as someone wants to say it but it’s not going to start being true. There is a tremendous star power in Major League Baseball. The game has its flaws but players like Judge, Betts, Trout, Harper, Kershaw, Verlander, Altuve,...etc...etc...are stars.
   6. catomi01 Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:44 AM (#5784895)
dearth of star power in its ranks


Do a better job of marketing your stars - there is as much young talent in the game right now as any time in recent memory. The "prestige" or being a baseball star might be higher if MLB had spend the last decade+ demonizing some of its best players from the last generation.
   7. Man o' Schwar Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:47 AM (#5784898)
Less time for FOX to sell ad space between batters.

They'll just start doing it during plays. If they took 20% of the screen and just left it up to flash ads through the whole game, it would suck, but eventually we'd just get used to it.
   8. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: November 09, 2018 at 12:00 PM (#5784908)
More capology will surely help. Fans eat that #### up on football and basketball.
   9. BDC Posted: November 09, 2018 at 12:04 PM (#5784911)
Looking back over the decades at moments when per-game attendance dropped noticeably over a brief span, as it has 2016-2018, and the cyclical aftermath:

1913-14, with the Federal League coming on line and interest diluted greatly. Rebounded in 1916 as strong as ever.

1916-18, First World War. Rebounded in 1920 stronger than ever.

1930-33, Great Depression. Back to about 1930 levels by 1940.

1940-43, Second World War. Rebounded enormously in 1946.

1949-52, Television. Rebounded by 1960, helped by some rearrangement of franchises.

1960-61, Expansion. Rebounded most of the way by 1967.

1967-69, Expansion. But this was not a huge drop, and in any case the drop in per-game attendance during an expansion is part of overall growth, as a sport reaches more people absolutely in more places. This time the rebound was fast, by 1971, and growth was steady for a while.

1994-95, Strike & Lost Postseason. Rebounded by 2006.

2008-09, Financial Crash. Never came all the way back but held steady till 2016.

2016-18, ???? But these last two downturns are smaller, percentage-wise, than the big downturns due to war and TV in earlier years.

I wonder if there isn't a permanent downturn related to the Internet. So many people, even those on this site who live in major-league cities, seem rarely to go to games, but follow them very attentively via lots of media. I am pretty much alone in almost never watching a game via TV or streaming video, but even I will sit up at night sometimes "watching" a game on Gameday (I know this is pathetic, but) … and presumably my eyeballs are contributing to some sort of revenue stream, via whatever ads I am unconsciously consuming. It's possible the minor downturn in live attendance 2016-18 has meant very little to MLB's revenue, or actually co-existed with an increase in it. Hard to say, but baseball made an accommodation with TV 60+ years ago, and has been ahead of the curve accommodating to the Internet in the past 10-15 years.

IOW (and lots of people have noted this here before), this may be a kind of phony crisis. Obviously at some point you have to sell enough in-person tickets to cover the cost of holding the game on a major-league field, and the Marlins or Rays may not be doing it. But most franchises seem pretty healthy and the biggest problem the richer ones face is trying not to explode past the luxury-tax threshold.


   10. Bote Man Posted: November 09, 2018 at 12:15 PM (#5784917)
What I'm getting out of all that is that we should expect a war, a recession, and an election crisis in Broward County???
   11. base ball chick Posted: November 09, 2018 at 01:28 PM (#5784979)
catomi01 Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:44 AM (#5784895)

dearth of star power in its ranks



Do a better job of marketing your stars - there is as much young talent in the game right now as any time in recent memory. The "prestige" or being a baseball star might be higher if MLB had spend the last decade+ demonizing some of its best players from the last generation.


- YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

the owners have done their very VERY best to try to remove any sort of STAR!!! from the game

even bryce harper, who is the closest thing to a STAR!!! right now, gets the barry lamar bonds treatment. a ridiculous number of people really think he is a cancer to the team based on - on???

and, the 35 person roster, with 9 extra AAAA pitchers and 1 extra AAAA position player makes it tougher to identify STARS!!!!

all yall know that i lack the mathematical skillz to do anything except add and subtract single digits (without a calculator) butwhat the stats say to do is actually making the game more boring. watching 10- 15 Ks and 4 walks per 6-7 innings without much on base action is really B O R I N G

in mah not so umble opinion, a pitch clock is absolutely necessary - no more than 15 seconds between the second the pitcher receives the ball and the time he has to release it - AND no stepping out of batters can be permitted.

you can't stop shifts or limit relievers any more than you can deal with all the BLB too many IBB problems. it has made the game more boring, but is still the game

the owners decided that they wanted Customers in their ballparks, not Fans, they got their wish - not real too many regulars no mo. i remember back in 04 when we had season tix - i almost never missed a game (knew where the free parking was at) and in my section, there were at least a couple dozen regulars who almost never missed games. i talked to someone who went to like 60 games last year (season tix good seats on the 300 level between home and 3rd, who said they almost never saw the same people except a father/kid duo who never missed

and that is a big BIG change.

it is very VERY hard to find free parking any more, and tix are not cheap any more, no discount of any kind of season tix, even when the team was terrible, and serious fans don't/won't make the time to go to games. my mama and her friends didn't miss real too many games all those years they had season tix. not no mo
   12. JL72 Posted: November 09, 2018 at 01:38 PM (#5784982)
the owners have done their very VERY best to try to remove any sort of STAR!!! from the game


Interesting comment in view of the Bill James comments.

Owners have an interest in not selling their players too much. A true start will likely command more money, which they don't want to pay.
   13. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: November 09, 2018 at 02:50 PM (#5785036)
Interesting comment in view of the Bill James comments.

Owners have an interest in not selling their players too much. A true start will likely command more money, which they don't want to pay.


James made a comment like that in one of the early 90's Baseball Books, that he thought the Designated Closer would start to be phased out because "Saves make stars, and stars make money," suggesting that one 30-save closer (back when that was a big number) would make more than two equally good 15-save relievers in addition to the personnel management decisions like if Closer A goes through a slump you just give Closer B more saves while Closer A works through it and it's no big deal whereas when a Designated Closer goes through a slump, it's suddenly a team-wide controversy over if The Closer will be removed from the role and who will become The Closer.
   14. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: November 09, 2018 at 03:01 PM (#5785045)
the owners have done their very VERY best to try to remove any sort of STAR!!! from the game

they've done a helluva lot more than that--they have DEMANDED that the public HATE their players
   15. Tin Angel Posted: November 09, 2018 at 03:15 PM (#5785055)
the owners have done their very VERY best to try to remove any sort of STAR!!! from the game


I'm trying to think of baseball players I've seen in national ads. Harper for Gatorade, Trout for Subway...maybe Stanton for something? I really can't think of any more. That's not the owners. Yes, owners have to pay the stars, but that's who people actually pay to show up to see.
   16. Mark Armour Posted: November 09, 2018 at 03:34 PM (#5785070)
In my experience, baseball fans are much more partisan than ever before, much more passionate about Their Team, and this makes it harder to market stars. If I go to a Mariners game the stands are filled with people wearing Cano or Paxton shirts (or Ichiro, or Griffey), but at a Blazers game I am likely to be surrounded by people wearing Curry, James, or Irving togs. They are still Blazer fans, they are screaming for the local team, but if asked they will say "I love my blazers, but my favorite player is Steph Curry." They root for the best players (or their favorite players) all over the league.

I have been to baseball games all over the country, and I don't know that I have ever seen a Trout shirt being worn by anyone who was not an actual Angels fan visiting from Orange County.

Another thing. I listen to an occasional NBA podcast or TV show and they will spend an hour talking about the Top 20 players, literally making a list. LeBron, Durant, Curry, Anthony Davis, Giannis, etc. Consensus will be reached.

In baseball, there seems to be a lot of interest in who the MVP is, arguing about the season ongoing or recently completed, using the stats of choice. But people seem less interested in discussing who the best players actually are. (This is different than MVP debates. Most people believe Mookie Betts was the MVP, but that Trout is, in a larger sense, the best player at this moment.) How many baseball fans could hold a discussion (without internet access) of the top 20 players in the world at this very moment. NBA fans do this all the time.

The explanation for this, I think, is that fans are just uber-focused on their own team.

Of course, this could be a chicken-egg dilemma.
   17. phredbird Posted: November 09, 2018 at 04:44 PM (#5785112)

i've been slapped down for this before, but moving back the fences about 10 feet everywhere would alter the calculus measurably.

the knee jerk reaction has been that short homers become outs, how does that help?

that's because everyone is thinking linearly. expanding outfields increases the amount of ground a fielder has to cover exponentially. it's more ground in EVERY direction. do the math for god's sake. adding ten feet to an outfield all around will almost double the square footage. they didn't call center field in old yankee stadium death valley for nothing.

if fielders play back, hits fall in front. if they play up, hits roll around in the alleys. IPHRs are the most exciting play in baseball. how many have you seen? they used to happen a lot, i wonder why.

fielding the positions becomes a premium, meaning faster guys filling out the rosters. is it not true that, in the main, speedy players are not mashers? if they are, they are superstars. that is, rare. changing the advantages in the speed/power ratio will alter TTO numbers imho.

you don't think hitters will adjust? gimme a break. we're talking MAJOR LEAGUERS. they can't shorten their swing and hit for location? seriously?

don't worry, i know it won't happen.

what are they gonna do, tear out half the crawford boxes? take over the street behind fenway? actually, there are always solutions. i don't know about the dimensions of all the parks, but designers fix these kinds of problems all the time.

no, it won't happen because real change is beyond the mindset of the stewards of the game.

PS i am not a crackpot

   18. catomi01 Posted: November 09, 2018 at 05:58 PM (#5785178)
what are they gonna do, tear out half the crawford boxes? take over the street behind fenway? actually, there are always solutions. i don't know about the dimensions of all the parks, but designers fix these kinds of problems all the time.


Mandate a minimum average distance - boston can retain the monster, but compensate by by pushing the right and center field walls back further. Would bring back some of the uniqueness in field layout that was lost with the rise of cookie cutter parks.
   19. KronicFatigue Posted: November 09, 2018 at 06:00 PM (#5785182)
i've been slapped down for this before, but moving back the fences about 10 feet everywhere would alter the calculus measurably.


People are against this? Keep the ball in play as much as possible. Big spacious outfields, high walls, lower the mound, expand the strikezone. Anything to lower TTO
   20. phredbird Posted: November 09, 2018 at 06:11 PM (#5785193)

i was met with universal derision on another thread concerned with more or less the same topic.

i don't like solutions like pitch clocks and limiting mound visits etc.

one of the other ideas was deadening the ball.

these kinds of things offend my sense of order about the game. (i'm also against the DH because of that)

but just changing dimensions seems like less of a draconian solution, since they've always been elastic anyway. most of the ball parks back in the dead ball days had huge outfields, i believe.

the only other thing i'll say is that all the hand wringing over the state of the game as it is now is, frankly, overdone. we're in a high offense era with a strange profile, not much that can be done about it until some GM guy learns to exploit something, everyone follows and some new feature of how baseball is played precipitates new pronouncements about how baseball is dying.

personally, i believe pushing back the fences and making ballplayers show more sock would fix everything.

so yeah, i guess i am a crackpot.
   21. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: November 09, 2018 at 07:42 PM (#5785236)
Co-sign #17. At least 10 feet.
   22. Bote Man Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:14 PM (#5785283)
While you're advocating for pushing back the fences, didn't the Mets just a few short years ago move *IN* the fences at Citi Field? And one or two other ballparks did similar, IIRC.

As long as people subscribe to MLB.tv and pay the exorbitant ticket, parking, and concession prices, team owners are not gonna worry that baseball is dying; they'll just laugh all the way to the bank while we wonder how the game should be changed to adhere to our particular notion of how it should be played. The windmills keep a-spinnin.
   23. BillWallace Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:24 PM (#5785286)
i was met with universal derision on another thread concerned with more or less the same topic.


I'm with you brother!
   24. phredbird Posted: November 10, 2018 at 01:21 AM (#5785307)

I'm with you brother!


crackpots unite!
   25. toratoratora Posted: November 10, 2018 at 09:19 AM (#5785335)
Pitch clock, lower ticket prices, make kids tix super cheap (Like have $1 nights) to build the next generation of fans, and move the fences back.
   26. McCoy Posted: November 10, 2018 at 11:14 AM (#5785358)
I think most kids find the game of baseball extremely boring to watch.
   27. Nasty Nate Posted: November 10, 2018 at 11:42 AM (#5785361)
the knee jerk reaction has been that short homers become outs, how does that help?

that's because everyone is thinking linearly. expanding outfields increases the amount of ground a fielder has to cover exponentially. it's more ground in EVERY direction. do the math for god's sake. adding ten feet to an outfield all around will almost double the square footage. they didn't call center field in old yankee stadium death valley for nothing.
They called it that because it was death to the flyballs, not to the fielders, right?
   28. bfan Posted: November 10, 2018 at 01:36 PM (#5785391)
Larger outfields with further fences means less runs, more fly ball outs and more crappy hitting outfielders who happen to be fast. Oh boy, that will help things. Still too many 98 mph fastballs from 60 feet 6 inches that lead to too many strikeouts.
   29. phredbird Posted: November 10, 2018 at 03:07 PM (#5785435)

Larger outfields with further fences means less runs, more fly ball outs and more crappy hitting outfielders who happen to be fast.


i'm too lazy to do the numbers crunching, but i'm not sure why this would be. was run scoring in the dead ball era really that much lower? what you had was much more contact and less strikeouts, right? what's wrong with a low scoring game that's decided by fielded balls instead of TTO?

look, the critics of today's game hate all the homers and the walks and strikeouts.

with bigger outfields, there's more places to hit the ball without having to muscle it out of the park. i honestly think the adjustment by hitters will be to make contact, not swing for the fences.


as for #27, yes, you are right and it seems counterintuitive for me to have mentioned that. i'm maybe using some fuzzy thinking here, i'm just a bear of little brain.

yankee stadium was built when the live ball era was already established, so the big guys were trying to hit home runs by then. ruth was parking it in the right field porch. but every right handed hitter who could hit it out of, say, baker field or fenway was trying to do the same in yankee stadium and so meusel or whoever just played back and caught everything. so a lot of balls got hit into death valley and caught. so what? everybody — even ruth — was still shortening their swings with two strikes in those days, so i imagine a fair number of balls also fell in the gaps and rattled around for a while, because there was a big ol' pasture out there.

a homer is a homer. it's an absolute. fly balls go all over the place, and even the best fielders can't get to every one, especially if they have to cover more ground for 162 games a year. then you get xb hits, people running all over the place, throws, plays etc. ... even if the fly balls are caught there are tagups and plays.

i still love to watch baseball, but last season i got sick of watching jedd gyorko work the count with, say, jose martinez on third, then whiffing or hitting a high popup because he got under a pitch he couldn't catch up to because he was tired from trying to hit homers all year.

i'm happy to be talked out of this, but right now i'm not convinced i'm so wrong.
   30. bobm Posted: November 10, 2018 at 07:49 PM (#5785553)
https://www.fangraphs.com/community/complete-outfield-dimensions/

I’ve calculated the areas of the outfields of all the different MLB parks, as well as the respective sizes of left, center, and right field. The results are shown in Table 1 (sortable by clicking any of the header items). As an arbitrary start point, I assumed the outfield started 150 feet away from home plate and that each field spans 30°. Many of these results match our intuition (Yankee Stadium RF is tiny, Comerica Park CF is huge), but we now have numbers assigned to that intuition that can be analyzed.


Anon
I copied the table into a spreadsheet and did some calulations. (all percentages are based on MLB average)

The AL East has the smallest total OF (97.37%), RF (95.03%), and LF (96.93%). The NL Central has the smallest CF (97.18%).
The NL West has the largest OF (102.94%), LF (103.5%), and RF (103.67%). The AL Central has the largest CF (102.18%). (If Colorado is excluded, NL West still has the largest OF (102.05%), LF (102.36%), and RF (103.65%).)

The Royals (108.25%) and Rockies (107.59%) are the only OF at least 6% larger than MLB average.
The Red Sox (92.33%) and Indians (94.65%) are the only OF at least 5% smaller than MLB average.

Red Sox LF (23.59% smaller), Astros LF (15.98% smaller), and Yankees RF (12.28% smaller) are the only fields more than 8% smaller than MLB average (LF compared to MLB LF, RF to MLB RF, etc.).

Tigers CF (13.25% larger), Astros CF (10.12% larger), Royals LF (10.09% larger), Royals RF (10.56% larger), and Rockies LF (9.37% larger) are the only fields more than 9% larger than MLB average (LF compared to MLB LF, RF to MLB RF, etc.).

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