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Friday, June 12, 2020

FiveThirtyEight: Do Baseball’s Labor Fights Drive Fans Away?

The ramifications were more severe for the 1994-95 strike, which pushed back the start of the 1995 season by 23 days. Before the strike, the 1994 season had set an attendance record of 31,256 fans per game. That plummeted by 20 percent in 1995, and though attendance increased by 6 percent in the 1996 season — and grew year-over-year in four of the five subsequent seasons — 1996’s numbers were still 15.2 percent below that 1994 high-water mark, which would not be eclipsed until 2006. But despite that, attendance had rebounded to levels from earlier in the decade, and 1997 — the year before Sosa and McGwire gave baseball their great home run chase1 — saw the third-highest average on record at that time.

And though television ratings for the World Series have been declining for decades, 4 million more people watched the post-strike 1995 World Series, in which the Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians, than the pre-strike 1993 Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 12, 2020 at 02:47 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fivethirtyeight, labor

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   1. KronicFatigue Posted: June 12, 2020 at 05:51 PM (#5957058)
Baseball fandom, more than other sports, feels like it's created at a young age or not at all. It's just not a sport that you look at as an adult and go "yeah, that's something I want to devote my time too". It's passed down from generation and if you don't get hooked early, you never will.

That's all POOMA'd, but IF that's true, then you wouldn't see immediate attendance drops. 23 days is a non-starter, but if MLB misses the entire 2020 season, kids in their formative years will be that much less into baseball they would have otherwise. They'll find something else to be into (NBA is probably going to get a ton of buzz when it comes back) and when those kids get college aged and beyond, attendance might be affected.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: June 12, 2020 at 07:55 PM (#5957071)
The US record for number of live births (number, not fertility rate) remains 1957 4,308,000. By 1973, births had dropped to 3.137 M. Births grew substantially as the late boomers had kids -- up to 3.6 M by 1983 and hitting a post-boom high of nearly 4.2 M in 1991. Those folks are now turning 30. The number of births stayed relatively stable since then (3.9 to 4.1 M) but hasn't topped 4 M since 2010 and dropped in both 2017 and 2018 to under 3.8 M.

If we take 10-year-olds as the key market for new indoctrination, then MLB has been dealing with a constant number of potential recruits since about 1967. The big jump in attendance that occurred over that time can't be explained by a jump in kids. It might be explained by a very successful recruitment of the boomers as kids (a much larger base than the previous generations obviously) and them passing it onto their kids too and now we await that 3rd generation. But the jump was pretty much all about boomers which is fine as long as they're alive and have money to spend.

The US is pretty much at a point where the population distribution is flat from ages 0 to 64. The single largest 5-year age group (in 2018) was 25-29. The market potential for baseball (and everything else except aged care products) has been stagnant for a while and will likely be stagnant for the foreseeable future. If anything the number of births is going down (the birth rate of course is quite low hisorically). Obviously you need to replace the fans who die or stop coming for whatever reasons but it's going to be very difficult for MLB to grow its market.

Another interesting phenomenon is that 25-29 year group is estimated at 23.56 M in 2018; the number of births 1989-93 was just under 20.5 M. That's 3+ M immigrants. Adult immigrants and their children are an important demographic for maintaining/growing the market.

And since so much of baseball's current labor pool comes from outside the US, it's interesting to note that birthrates in Venezuela and the DR (the major sources) have dropped to roughly replacement level as well (and of course Japan has one of the lowest rates in the world). If that's true in V and DR, I assume it's the general trend across the rest of Central America, Carribean. Maybe we can get kids in India and China playing.

Demographically speaking, Japan is mind-boggling. Its population peaked at 128 M in 2008; by 2060-65, it's projected to be down to 88 M. The economic future of NPB is not bright. There could always be a new baby boom but one probably won't get started until the world economy has recovered from this mess.
   3. ramifications of an exciting 57i66135 Posted: June 12, 2020 at 08:03 PM (#5957073)
to state the obvious:

they don't ####### help.
   4. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 13, 2020 at 11:35 AM (#5957123)
The US record for number of live births (number, not fertility rate) remains 1957 with 4,308,000.

Including my older brother.

Source for these numbers? I would've thought the peak was 1946 (including three US presidents!)...
   5. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: June 13, 2020 at 03:40 PM (#5957153)
I, for one, didn't pay any attention to baseball for five years after the last strike.
   6. McCoy Posted: June 13, 2020 at 04:34 PM (#5957162)
1946 was roughly 3.3 million
   7. Ron J Posted: June 13, 2020 at 07:59 PM (#5957189)
#5 I recall that when I looked at the impact of the strike I found that across MLB it resulted in a 20-25% reduction in attendance. The previous upward trend in attendance resumed from the diminished base so that within a few years they were back to where they had been.

No idea how things would play out this time around. Datasets of one aren't that useful for projection purposes.
   8. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: June 13, 2020 at 09:18 PM (#5957200)
Datasets of one aren't that useful for projection purposes.

Neither are attendance records of one, I was just sharing my personal reaction to the last strike. Not trying to project anything.
   9. Ron J Posted: June 13, 2020 at 09:29 PM (#5957202)
#8 In case it wasn't clear I intended the first part of my post as a, "you weren't alone". And the last as, "no way of knowing whether the same thing will happen again".

I expect they will take a measurable hit in 2021. I have no idea whether the fans who left in 2021 will come back and if so how quickly.

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