A Baseball-less Future?

If sitting through the monotony of a four-hour playoff game doesn’t convince you that baseball is a dying sport, take a minute to think about all the recent innovations the four major sports have implemented in order to compete for American attention.

The NBA cracked down on handchecking, allowed zone defenses, and sped up the game by trimming the time needed for a backcourt violation and resetting the shot clock to 14 seconds instead of 24 seconds after a foul. The result is a game with more speed and more space for players.

The NHL cracked down on obstruction penalties, forbade the goalie from handling the puck in corners, allowed two line passes, and changed the offside rules to allow “tagging up.” The result is a game with more speed,  more space for players, and 90% fewer arbitrary play stoppages.

The NFL cracked down on the physical play of defensive backs. The result is game with more speed and more offense. (The NFL has actually made few changes, but they don’t really need to because NFL popularity continues to grow.)

Meanwhile, professional baseball has done nothing.  Batters step out of the box after after pitch. If by some miracle they don’t, you can count on the pitcher to take a walk around the rubber.  There is now more time between a pitch in a baseball game then there is between plays in an NFL game. That’s astounding.  A baseball game is too slow to watch on a DVR.  And I won’t even get into MLB’s indefensible decision to avoid instituting a rational instant replay policy (what’s wrong with the NFL’s two challenge system?) until there’s some disastrous poststeason event that allows a backlash-free implementation.

How can anybody associated with pro baseball think it can compete for increasingly short attention spans?  Once baby boomers start dying, the fans (and the pile of moolah everybody has beenn swimming in) will be gone.

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