By Mac Engel
The next time someone says “Baseball is dying,” make sure you get the definition of death.
Something that is dying typically does not include billions of dollars in revenue, and being popular in countries all over the world.
Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but being “on life support” is not among them.
Boxing has been “dying” for years. The same for horse racing.
Neither is true.
As the respective leadership of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association continue to fight over millions of dollars in this latest lockout, a lot of people who love the game are concerned over its future.
The games are far too long. Not enough happens during the game. Attendance is down. Ratings ain’t great.
Also, baseball is not dying.
As far as The Players versus The Owners, Volume XXIV, is concerned, I’ve given up caring about the specifics. Just tell me when spring training starts, and when it’s time to play ball.
The owners are owners because their priority in life is money, and nothing else. They trot out MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to appease their collective demands.
I don’t blame Manfred; he’s just another lawyer stooge who is paid a lot of money because he takes directives from the owners.
Having covered my share of pro sports labor disputes, I never side with the owners.
You may not be able to hit a ball like Mike Trout, but, like Trout, you are likely an employee and as such have far more in common with a Shohei Ohtani than you do Texas Rangers owner Ray Davis or Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno.
Baseball just became hockey: a regional, niche sport that is flush with cash but “struggles” when compared with the Godzilla that is the National Football League.
What we are witnessing with the downsizing of MLB was inevitable, and will eventually happen to the NFL. Eventually.
It’s the same thing that happened to McDonalds. It’s the same thing that happens with most businesses, and brands.
Pro baseball in the United States started in 1871, and for 100 years it had the pro sports market in this country to itself.
Boxing and horse racing were competitors, along with college football.
Major League Baseball was the biggest.
Then came TV.
Then came the NFL.
Then came the NBA.
Then came the NHL.
Then came NASCAR.
Then came the MLS.
Then came the Internet.
Somewhere in this timeline MLB lost its monopoly over the sports market in this country.
No different from McDonald’s losing its vice grip on the fast-food industry.
The first McDonald’s opened in 1953, and it changed not only the food industry but also America.
Then came Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack in the Box, In-N-Out Burger, Whataburger, Taco Bell, Taco Casa, Hardee’s, Steak ‘n’ Shake, Burger King, Wendy’s, and on and on.
McDonald’s is still open.
MLB still has the advantage that it has a good chunk of the calendar to itself against its competitors, and no sport can sell a family picnic like a baseball game.
It’s an over-priced family picnic, but a picnic nonetheless.
Overall youth participation in baseball took a hit over the last year or so because of COVID, and there are conflicting reports out there on how many kids are playing baseball in America anymore.
Kids today have far too many options to play other sports, and baseball will never enjoy the type of participation numbers it once had.
Baseball, as a whole, will never be what it once was, and it’s not that bad.
MLB’s decision to reduce the number of minor-league teams is a cold business decision, and more of indictment on an outdated, bloated player-development system than the state of the game.
No pro sport has as many levels of minor leagues as baseball, and MLB doesn’t need that many teams in this era.
A big-time pro sports league needs one or two minor-league levels, at most. That doesn’t include college baseball.
If baseball is dying, why is MLB targeting a round of expansion?
(Because there are city leaders still dumb enough to blow taxpayer money on stadiums for a big-league ball team.)
If baseball is dying, why are players making more than $1 million to play a game that is on life support?
If baseball is dying, how did the Rangers give Corey Seager a 10-year, $325 million contract a few months ago?
If baseball is dying, why are media companies lined up to pay these clubs hundreds of millions of dollars for broadcast rights?
If baseball is dying, why are pro baseball teams hiring dozens of employees to handle just the role of analytics within their organizations?
MLB, and baseball, do have real problems. But death is not one of them.
This article was written by Mac Engel from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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