Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
31 July 2017
Who watches the MLB anymore? You?
Believe it or not, I was watching SportsCenter this morning. The main topic concerned Adrian Beltre, becoming the first Dominican Republic native to reach 3,000 hits in a career. Watching the accolades roar in, I wondered, who is Adrian Beltre? And what has happened to the MLB?
For many years, I was a baseball fan. I loved the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. Couldn’t get enough of Earl Weaver’s tirades. I rooted for Willie Stargell, David Parker and the Pittsburgh Pirates when they won the World Series in 1979. That’s a lifetime ago, but I thought I was always in touch with what’s going on in baseball.
I guess not. Commentators say Beltre is among the top-five third basemen of all time. I don’t doubt that, but I bet I’m not alone in wondering how I’ve lost touch.
Simply put, baseball has simply fallen behind other major sports, when it once ruled. The NFL is king. The NBA’s popularity surges, and extreme sports and mixed-martial arts capture the imagination of youth.
“Baseball simply has a brand problem. It once identified itself with the summers of youth. Now, it identifies itself with old men. Although, not all old man. Case in point. Me.”
Basically, the MLB has lost its hold on young athletes in comparison to other sports. Only 8.5% of all MLB players are African-American. That’s a huge drop from the 27% of the mid-70s.
How the MLB can get back on track
What’s the problem? More competition for eyeballs, to be sure. Games go on too long. (Something the MLB is addressing.) And I still don’t know why World Series games start so late.
Baseball simply has a brand problem. It once identified itself with the summers of youth. Now, it identifies itself with old men. (Although, not all old man. Case in point. Me.)
The league tries a variety of tactics. Google, and YouTube which it owns, is launching a VR series that takes you inside what young ballplayers see. Such as batting practice, taking the field, and so on.
That’s all fine well and good. But baseball isn’t cool anymore. The NBA owns cool. The NFL owns gambling (with fantasy football) and strategy. (We know more about the ins and outs of playcalling and roster building than we ever have before.)
What does the MLB own? Maybe if the league figures that out, we’ll all truly respect the accomplishments of someone like Adrian Beltre. Right now, I’m in the dark.
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