Matter Chatter

Baseball needs a PR shake up

With baseball’s Opening Week upon us it’s a good time to take a deeper look into America’s pastime. Without some change, Baseball is in jeopardy of becoming a game of America’s past. The sport is extremely successful from a monetary stand point. Television contracts and players’ salaries have never been higher. However money doesn’t cure everything, and if the MLB doesn’t make some changes their place in American culture is going to be much different in 25 years.

The problem is America’s youth is just not as interested in the game as they once were. In 2014 there is a lot competing for the attention of a 15 year-old. The Internet has changed everything and almost every industry has changed right with it. However baseball doesn’t seem too eager to change.  The MLB was the last of the major sport to adopt instant replay, and the use of social media.

Baseball is a family game that is often passed on from parent to child. If the MLB can’t hook young people, what will the viewership look like by the time the current high school students of America are parents, or even grandparents? I know this is a long way down the road, but I think the current MLB executives are too busy counting the money from their TV contracts to see a big problem in front of them.

What the MLB needs to regain the younger market is the execution of a strong PR Plan.

Step 1- Shorten the games: The current state of technology allows for action packed video games right from your phone. You would be hard pressed to find 10 minutes of out the day when a high school student doesn’t have their face glued to a phone or computer. Yet an MLB game can run four hours long with slow gaps of boredom in between. Little things like a pitcher “shot clock,” and not allowing batters to step out of the batter’s box would make a huge difference.

Step 2-Shorten the season: Do we need 162 games to determine who should make the playoffs? The answer is obviously no. Even the most hardcore of baseball fans still run into the dog days of August thinking “when are the playoffs, coming?” The season should be cut down by 20 or 30 games, and the playoffs and World Series should be moved up. This would also solve the problem of playing World Series games in 34 degree weather in the likes of Boston and New York.

Step 3- Figure out the Internet: I will admit the MLB is getting a lot better in this regard. Not too long ago the MLB had a laughable presence on the web. It was easier finding video of George Washington than it was to find the clip of Carlton Fisk’s 1975 game 6 home run. This was especially frustrating when you could type in “Jordan shot on Elho,” and find MJ ending the Cavs 1989 season in less than :30 seconds. The MLB is definitely getting better in this regard, and more and more content is available every day, but they have a lot of catching up to do from their dark start on the web. America’s youth watches TV, shops, plays video games, and reads all on the internet. The MLB needs to perfect their model (Like the NBA has) to ensure their reaching the younger demographic.

Step 4- Complacency is a bad thing: As mentioned the money associated with the game in 2014 in astronomical, but this can’t cover up for the bigger issues at hand. Contracts run out, and there is no guarantee that the next television contract will be bigger. The owners and executives can’t just assume the money and popularity will always be there, because it won’t. Their massive television contract doesn’t change the fact that the MLB had zero games in the top 50 viewed sporting events of 2013. The brain trust at the MLB can’t be complacent with recent success; they need to stay ahead of the game and reach the younger generation.

Step 5- Fix the All-Star Game: This is a quick one, although I appreciate the effort of trying to spice things up making the All-Star Game “matter,” its terrible idea. Go back to the old days of a meaningless exhibition. If we’re going to have 162 games, could we let those decided home field in the World Series, not a glorified scrimmage.

MLB Executives and owners may be printing money in 2014, but if they don’t keep their eyes on the prize by 2034 they may be in serious trouble.

  • joe halpern

    Interesting ideas, Tim, on building interesting in baseball with younger audiences.

    Here are some of my thoughts:

    1) Since money drives so much of professional sports, it would be a tough sell to those in charge to shorten the games, let alone shortening the season. Fewer games adds up to less revenue.

    2) There is a ton of information on the Internet about baseball — mainly statistical but now a lot of video highlights. If I read you right, you are talking about incorporating more strategies to engage younger fans. I’m interested in hearing some of your ideas on this, with fewer and fewer younger people playing baseball now (particularly in urban areas), because of all the other choices out there for them.

    3) Once again, the All Star game is very much driven by money. Unless we can figure out another way to keep fans and sponsors/advertisers interested in what essentially amounts to gimmick event, once again it will be a tough sell to the powers that be.

    Joe Halpern

    Andover, MA