More runs not the answer to baseball’s problem
I almost think new commissioner Rob Manfred said he’d consider eliminating defensive shifts just to rile people up. He’ll get a day or two of people talking heatedly, writing, and snark tweeting about baseball during Super Bowl week. Not too bad.
He also said "pace of game" is important and more of a priority, and I’d agree. I’ve already addressed where a clock could be used in baseball that would be beneficial without disturbing any of the game’s traditions.
But my question today is this: Would younger generations be more interested in baseball if scoring goes up?
I don’t think so.
I mean how much scoring would it really take to get this generation of kid’s attention? Six runs a game? Seven? In 2014, an average MLB game produced 4.07 runs per game — the lowest total since 1981 when that number was an even 4.00.
I loved baseball in 1981, when I was 8 years old. Why? Because from the moment I picked up a glove and played catch with my dad, I was hooked. Then he took me to Yankee Stadium to watch a game and I became infatuated. The greenest grass I had ever seen and a mammoth ballpark filled with fans and big-league ballplayers that I had only seen on TV. The smell of mustard and hot dogs and even stale beer still evokes memories of falling in love with Major League Baseball as a kid.
You don’t get kids hooked on baseball by scoring more runs, you get them hooked by letting them experience the game. The game will never be for everyone no matter how many runs are scored, and the idea of banning defensive shifts is not the answer baseball is looking for.
I love Manfred’s proactive approach to keeping future generations interested in baseball, but baseball is not competing with higher-scoring sports. It’s competing with Clash of Clans, busier parents, endless television options and a generation of kids that can get just about anything On Demand. Trying to combat this battle with more runs is futile. Marketing is key, and getting families to love the game again, both playing it and watching it, is what it’s going to take.