The game referred to as America’s pastime may end up being just that – in the past. Baseball is in dire need of revitalizing. The old guard of fans is in stark opposition with the younger fans, which leaves the MLB with a decision.
A couple of years after Derek Jeter retired, the MLB was without the face of the league. The league’s best player, Mike Trout, has only been to the playoffs once where his Angels were swept. However, MLB now has some exciting young stars, like Aaron Judge, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts and Fernando Tatis.
Tatis is the most exciting name on this list, as he consistently pits the old generation of baseball fans against the younger generation. The old guard wants the game to be played as it always has been – guided by both written and unwritten rules. The younger generation of fans wants to see exciting plays – home runs, bat flips and stolen bases, just to name a few. This year, Tatis hit a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch with his team up seven. This sparked outrage, with both the opposing manager and Tatis’ own manager calling him out for breaking the unwritten rules.
How does baseball expect to stay relevant when it criticizes a budding superstar for playing the game?
Relevant is the keyword in that question. For years now, the MLB and its commissioner, Rob Manfred, have found ways to keep baseball out of the headlines. Most recently, they held their award show on Nov. 3 — otherwise known as Election night.
Despite releasing a “Let the Kids Play” statement a few years ago, the league has done just the opposite. Players have been ridiculed by older fans, managers and other players for merely enjoying the game.
Younger fans want to see more action. They do not want to sit in a ballpark for three hours to watch a slow-moving game. While the MLB has tried to increase the pace of play by installing new features, such as pitch clocks, the game still flows like molasses.
The MLB has changed some rules around for their shortened 2020 season, and some things might just stick. They tested out seven-inning games that were, to most, more exciting than nine-inning games and provided some great entertainment. A shortened season was also viewed favorably among fans.
Baseball is in a critical moment in its life. The MLB needs to figure out how to incorporate the game’s tradition while allowing kids to play. The league does not necessarily have to decide between supporting the older or younger generation, but it will take compromise from each side.
Is baseball dying? Yes – but slowly, and there is still time to save it. Some might argue the business is doing well. While that may be true in terms of revenue, attendance is in a continuous 12-year slide that shows no signs of stopping.
The Astros cheating scandal was well-documented. But what most fans may not know is that their assistant general manager was flaunting their new players, Jose Osuna, to a group of female reporters. Osuna had just served a 75-game suspension for domestic violence. The league said nothing until reporters refused to take the subject off the table at the World Series.
Speaking of the World Series, it drew a record low number of viewers this postseason.
Then there is the issue of race. April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day, which celebrates when Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. But this year, less than eight percent of players were African American. Ice Cube even blamed the Dodgers’ postseason failures on the team’s lack of African American players.
America’s pastime is in a delicate position and may well stop being a major sport in America without major change.