When you speak to folks who choose not to watch baseball regularly, they come back with the same argument: baseball is “slow” and “boring.”
With the 60 game race to the finish that the COVID-shortened has become, baseball has an opportunity to actually show if less is more to bring these fans in. It gives them a chance to bring casual fans, who are playoff only watchers, to put actions from words into place.
Traditional baseball fans enjoy the long grind of the 162-game campaign and the strategy involved in the slow play to success. All arguments for this season is that the champion should come with baseball traditionalists favorite punctuation: an asterisk. However, they will still enjoy champaign baths, get rings, and hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy in the fall – COVID-pending.
While Rob Manfred has taken heat comparable to an overly baked Pizza Roll during the virus stoppage, he still has some ideas that could relate well to the more casual fan base. He has shown that ‘less is more’ is the direction he is leaning. The 2020 season ratings will show if this is the best philosophy. The biggest challenge is how to bring in new blood to grow the game, while not alienating the die hard following that the game has built.
Pace of play has been a hot button issue for the past handful of season. However, at the same time, the average game length in 2019 was three hours and ten minutes, according to Baseball Reference. Yes, game length has gone up since the 1980’s. In 1987, the length of game was two hours and fifty two minutes. Are people really not watching baseball over missing their bedtimes by 20 minutes?
At the same time, the NFL average length of game is also around three hours. The early window starts at 1 p.m., while the late afternoon window is 4:15 p.m. Sure, there are large spurts of action in a football game, but there is equal amount of downtime to show replays and commercials. The play clock runs down nearly all the way down the 40 seconds between action.
At the end of the day, the action on the field in the NFL is not that much different than the action in MLB. The biggest difference is that the NFL plays 16 regular season games and the MLB plays 10 times the amount of games.
While they do not draw a rapid, deep-rooted baseball fan base exclusively as listeners, the Dan Patrick Show had a poll that showed around 60 percent of participants, were in favor or a 100-game season. The main issue is how many fans you would lose, against how many gained if less is truly more.
The Wild Card game faced some pushback in the beginning as well. It was a man-made, win or go home, fight for the death of a season. There have been so many good Wild Card games based on knowing that there is going to be a pair of game seven atmospheres each season, at bare minimum…and they kick off the playoffs with that excitement.
The 2020 campaign has brought some new changes that could turn out to be positive in the long run. It is also a free trial to show how a shortened season will be received. Like it or not, the brass of baseball are looking for ways to make less more. This season give an opportunity to show if it pays off in ratings.