MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it his mission to grow the game and appeal to younger fans. He has introduced new rules to make the pace of play quicker, namely the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers and reduced mound visits.
My question is, why has he spent so much time trying to speed up the game if fans aren’t even able to watch their team play all of their games? Fans cannot engage with a sport if they cannot see it.
Nearly every time I go to turn on a spring training baseball game during the week, I land on MLB.com telling me it’s only available on the radio unless I pay for an MLB.tv subscription.
Spring training is the most exciting time for some baseball fans. It’s the only time when their otherwise mediocre teams have a chance to win baseball games. Spring baseball is when many fans get their first glimpse at the future, as lineups are rife with prospects getting their first hacks at big league pitching.
Most importantly, spring training is where teams begin to come together. A baseball season is jam-packed with storylines — that’s what makes it entertaining. There are young players coming up to put the world on notice — like the Toronto Blue Jays core of young studs on the way — players returning from injury, stars being stars or even failing to live up to their pedigree. There are old veterans, like Hunter Pence, who have a resurgence in their careers, seemingly reviving themselves from baseball death.
Maybe it’s only Spring Training, but you already know how this ends! pic.twitter.com/Kk3CXdTIB3
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) March 2, 2020
Spring training is when all of these things start to unfold. There’s a reason players always come to spring in the “best shape” of their lives. The spring signifies hope, and not just for the fans.
Not only is spring training really intriguing for the story, it’s also a unique time in sports when not much else is going on. The NFL season has already ended and the NBA has hit its lull period before the playoffs. There’s no real competition for viewership, so there’s no reason why MLB shouldn’t be throwing all of their eggs into the spring training basket.
It is asinine that these games aren’t televised. Fans need to see the progress in order to be invested. I understand that there are such things as television broadcast rights and it’s not that simple. MLB can and should mandate in all future contracts, however, that spring training is televised in the future.
If Manfred and co. really cared about inspiring and creating new fans from the younger generation, they would give them every opportunity to stumble upon this great game. I hate to break it to you, Manfred, but no young fan is going to turn on the radio and listen to a game. Not until they are already hooked on the product at least.
It's not "just" spring training.
It's about these moments. 🤎 pic.twitter.com/veBXa05Yfr
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) February 29, 2020
Kids are used to seeing content. If you could go out there and find me a kid under 10 years old that listens to podcasts, power to you, but it may take a little while. Rule changes to the game aren’t going to attract new fans, you have to give them access to it.
Speaking of, even if a fan has an MLB.tv subscription, there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to use it for the games they want. I could not watch a Boston Red Sox game through MLB.tv anyways, because of the blackouts.
Should NESN decide to show something else during the spring, which they routinely do, I’m out of luck. Even during the regular season, a game could be overshadowed by the Boston Bruins.
People cannot become fans of something they can’t see. It’s time for MLB to stop messing around with minute rule changes and fix the real problems that are causing more and more fans to drop it for other sports.
Nearly every time I bring up baseball to someone who isn’t a die-hard fan, I get the “baseball is boring” argument. Maybe it wouldn’t be so boring if fans had access to the whole picture. I might finally have the chance to stop wasting my time answering for the sport I love.
It’s time for MLB to show people why the game of baseball should command their attention, so their fans don’t have to keep doing it for them.
Televise the damn games and lift the blackouts, it’s what’s best for baseball.