Bringing Baseball Back

Michael Jordan brought basketball back into prime time.

Dale Earnhardt did it for NASCAR.

Tiger Woods for Golf.

What does a player need to have to get baseball back into the mainstream of sports?

After Cal Ripken in 1996, McGwire and Sammy in 1998 and a Red Sox World Series win last year, baseball is back.

I remember when the players went on strike and the sudden down turn that put to baseball, and those players definitely brought it back, but I just feel like it’s still suffering. Maybe I’m just off.

There’s not a whole lot a single player can do, because unlike the other sports you mention, it is not a solo sport (or, as in basketball, one where individual achievement can carry a team). Justin_Bailey gives some good examples of events that have helped draw fans back to baseball, but those examples illustrate that it is events, rather than particular players, that bring fans back. With the '98 home run race, the excitement would have been similar if it had been 2 other players competing rather than Sosa and McGwire (though the fact that they’re both considered “nice guys” certainly helped). It is simply not possible to dominate in baseball the way it is in other sports. Right now, Bonds is possibly the most dominant hitter the game has ever produced, but few would argue that he has done much to help the game move back into the public eye (though the steroids issue and the fact he’s kind of a jackass don’t help).

Did baseball ever really leave?

I was judging from the attendance at stadium games and tv ratings. Atlanta has been in a steady decline in stadium attendance since 2000 (cite) and sure other teams show some growth, on the whole it seems to be a downward trend.

Just to explain that that’s where I’m coming from.

Baseball has a higher total attendance than ever before. More teams are drawing more than they ever have before. Sure, some are in a bit of a decline, but others are doing much better. 9 teams drew over 3 million fans last year, compared to only 6 in 2002. I believe baseball’s television ratings are still better than basketball or hockey - and it has to go against football during its playoffs.

Baseball’s doing just fine.

Good point. I guess I was just offbase all around.

The Red Sox have been sold out at Fenway for the past two seasons, and they’re probably sold out completely for the upcoming season. Baseball is doing fine in Boston.


Well, baseball is probably doing pretty well in a business sense, but I really think the soul of baseball has been in a tailspin for several years now.

The steroid scandals, the fact that an owner has basically proclaimed himself commissioner, and the mind-numbing increase in the length of games are all problems that need serious fixing. What baseball needs right now is not a megastar player, but a real commissioner who will look out for the fans; not the teams nor the players.

I’d say that the best run sports leagues around right now are the NFL and NASCAR, even though I don’t care for NASCAR. I just hate professional basketball, so there’s no way I can “objectively” judge the NBA’s health right now.

I agree with you about the steroid scandal and about the problem with playoff games that drag on into the middle of the night, but I think the soul of baseball is just fine. Part of baseball’s problem is that it get held to a higher standard than the other pro leagues, especially the NFL. Leaving Janet Jackson aside, if baseball had had Paul McCartney perform a miniconcert at the World Series there would be a great uproar. I can hear the scribes now "Baseball, which is so desperate for attention that it tried to sell its bases to Spiderman, was forced to turn to an aging Beetle to try to get some traction with younger viewers, and by younger we mean aged less than 60 " etc.

I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but he didn’t proclaim himself anything. He was officially elected to the job in '98 after six years as acting commissioner.

Baseball never really went away. It suffered a lot due to the strike but baseball continues to be one of America’s most popular sports.

Go over to’s baseball site and look in the archives of Stark, Neyer, Gammons, all three of them have written in the past about the popularity of baseball. Also if you can find the Spring Training 2004 special section they had up last year there are like 5 articles about baseball and it’s popularity.

A few general trends:

-Baseball (and variants) is the most played team sport in America (pickup basketball games don’t count)

There are many corporate and church teams for adults, tons of little league teams et cetera. Little league actually lost some popularity but softball and baseball are still pretty widespread among adults (and little league is still huge just less than before.)

-Baseball is very well attended, franchises aren’t in danger of going bankrupt typically, except for the 1-2 bottom of the barrel teams.

Baseball has lost out to football in television ratings for a long time, and the reason is pretty simple. Football has a 16 game season, typically “almost all” of the games “really matter.” With baseball you can genuinely skip the first 3/4 of the season if you want to, no reason to even follow it.

Unless you’re like me and just love the sport and don’t have to be watching a pennant race or a playoff game to enjoy it.

And plus baseball games are long. I love baseball but even I don’t get to attend as many games or watch as many games as I would like because it’s quite an affair to go out to a ballgame.

A lot of people follow their baseball teams without actually watching most of the games. They read the newspaper and take a look at the current standings, they’ll watch the more action packed series (Yanks-Red Sox is big no matter what time of year, for example.)

Think of a baseball season like you would a Presidential election. Most of us dopers are pretty interested in politics but not many of us read campaign news every single day for both candidates for six months. Or watched every speech broadcast or listened to every soundbyte.

When you’re looking at something as big and as vast as that you tend to look for overviews and then check out some of the more interesting stuff in depth.

As far as TV viewing I believe baseball beats all other sports except football and possibly NASCAR, I know it easily has beat out NBA, NHL, et cetera in TV ratings for awhile now.

Also Atlanta isn’t a good example as far as baseball teams go. It’s sort of an oddball in that the Braves have been very good for about 14 years now. Good enough to always make the playoffs, but rarely good enough to win the series or advance far into the playoffs.

For most teams in baseball (even the Yankees prior to 1996) making the playoffs was big. It’s a big deal to make the baseball playoffs because you’ve got a long hard road that you have to survive to make it, and only 8 teams get in.

When the Cubs made the playoffs every Cubfan in the world was watching them.

For an Atlanta Braves fan making the playoffs is just accepted as something that is “going to happen.” They don’t get excited about it, they don’t even sell out their division playoff games. The WS or the NLCS would get the Braves fans excited since Atlanta has had hard luck actually winning the whole thing over their 13 division championships.

I understand the time zone thing, but there is no reason (other than $$) that a game can’t start at 7PM on the east coast. Especially during the playoffs when games don’t start until well after 8PM, the fans that baseball should be catering to are only able to catch the first three innings, maybe, because of school the next day.

Baseball also needs more day games and more double-headers on the weekends. The season shouldn’t have to drag on until November.

That seems like a perfectly good reason to me. At 7 Eastern, adults on Pacific Time wouldn’t be done with work when the game starts, and adults on Mountain Time wouldn’t be home yet.

I’m actually more bothered by baseball being played in March, or when it’s too cold to play it outside.

As Marley23 pointed out, an owner did not proclaim himself commissioner. Once he took the role of commissioner he “gave up” his role as managing partner. (I believe his daughter took over, but I think it is a bit suspicious that Milwaukee got a new stadium and an All-Star game in short order after the stadium was built.) It doesn’t matter much now anyway. The Brewers were sold to another group. I can’t remember the new owner’s name, but there was an article in The New York Times because he worked on the trading desk at Drexel under Michael Milken.

In addition to the length of the season, football is higher in popularity because of gambling. Never mind Pete Rose, or that the NFL tries to distance itself from Vegas, gambling has played a major role in the NFL’s surge in popularity. Football games are a weekly even, rather than a game almost every night like baseball.

If I recall, in 2003, the LCS got higher ratings than the WS. Red Sox vs. Yankees and Cubs vs. Marlins beat out the series no one wanted to see between Marlins-Yankees. I remember thinking about TV execs salivating at the possibility of a Cubs vs. Red Sox series. This year, the Red Sox story brought a lot of attention to the playoffs, though I still think Game 7 of the ALCS still had better ratings (not sure, but it was close). I guess people are easily fooled into thinking the Red Sox were some type of underdog, when in reality, they just have an inferiority complex and do a poor job of impersonating the Yankees.

MNF starts at 6 on the west coast. That seems to not be a problem. Sunday NFL games start at 10 AM on the west coast. Again, no real problems, right?

The East Coast has to wait until 10:35PM to see a Yankees @ A’s tilt. How is this much different?

OK, maybe all the games on the east coast don’t have to start at 7, but games with much more regional interest (Phillies-Pirates, for example) can get under way earlier than they do now. The West Coast probably isn’t tuning into these matchups anyway, unless you have a dish, in which case, I’ll assume you have Tivo (or at least a VCR).

Won’t somebody think of the children?

More week-end day games at least. Last year a good many of the Diamondbacks week-end home games were night games, not just the week-day games. I don’t know if this is a trend throughout both leagues, or they just figured no one wants to be out in Phoenix during August – even on the weekend.

Doubleheaders, OTOH are not scheduled per se; they’re make-up games to cover rain-outs.


You know, talk like that that just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. :wink:

Not only is MLB doing pretty well, AAA and AA teams are doing amazingly well. There are three or four teams close to Boston (Pawtucket, Lowell, Nashua, and Portland) that draw very well on a regular basis.