Stein: There’s nothing wrong with baseball — except the production values

From Andrew Stein at The Hardball Times on August 1, 2019:

The prevailing opinion among baseball stalwarts is that the recent aesthetic changes in the game — namely, the increase of home runs, strikeouts and defensive shifts, and the decrease of hits and small-ball strategies such as the hit-and-run— have been bad. This reaction is to be expected. In nearly every era of baseball, players and commentators from previous eras have expressed displeasure with the changes they saw in the game. The current era’s baseball conservatives, though — those who would prefer the game to be played like it was for most of the 20th century — are pinning to these changes the fact that attendance is down and that baseball is attracting fewer and fewer young fans. Major League Baseball’s experimentation with banning the shift and moving back the pitcher’s mound would seem to suggest that even MLB believes that there is some validity to this connection.

Few seem to believe that the problem attracting younger fans may have nothing to do with the game at all. Home runs are fun, and there are more of them. Strikeouts are fun, and there are more of them, too. It seems at least likely that the problem baseball has with attracting new young fans is its production values.

The primary assumption from baseball conservatives is that prospective younger fans are noticing (and not liking) a historic spike in home runs and reduction of hits. For example, in a Bleacher Report article about “Why MLB Greats Think Baseball’s In Trouble,” after listing the number of ways the game has recently changed, author Scott Miller notes that “perhaps not coincidentally, per-game attendance…has dropped to its lowest point in 15 years.”

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Originally published: August 2, 2019. Last Updated: August 2, 2019.