Fans are Fine With Baseball’s Pace as Long as They’re At the Game

Jayson Stark wrote a great piece about baseball’s pace of play issues and it’s the inspiration for this possibly shitty post. Jayson was then canned along with about 100 other ESPN employees, so hopefully he takes his talents elsewhere soon enough to give me more inspiration. But to summarize the very detailed and well-written article, data shows that the majority of complaints that are coming from fans are not fans who are physically at games but those watching at home. No shit.

I’ve long said I’m all for Manfred speeding up the game if he’s not going to tarnish the strategic ways pitchers and hitters try to throw each other out of their rhythm. That’s impossible. But by all accounts, the MLB has half of this thing figured out. People going to games are generally not worried about the contest’s length or the time in between action. The problem is the people on the couch who are complaining are where the real money stems from.

So what do we do to limit this boredom casual fans experience while watching their team? A simple solution would be for the MLB to use their network to have an always-on channel similar to the NFL’s RedZone. When you sit down on Sundays to watch football and dedicate yourself to being totally unproductive, you aren’t complaining about the length of games or commercial breaks even though they’re similar to a baseball game. That’s because you can flip to RedZone and watch your fantasy team get destroyed. Though fantasy baseball doesn’t drive nearly the amount of interest fantasy football does, I would tune-in to a cut-away of Chris Sale versus Mike Trout every day of the week.

I can’t imagine the MLB hasn’t thought of this, so let’s assume they’re not completely stupid and it’s unfeasible for whatever reason. If that’s the case, think about limiting commercials. I know the ad world, and I know I’ve seen commercials run on the same screen as the game in between innings. So on one half of your screen you have an commercial, and on the other half you can see the Cubs warming up to prepare for the bottom of the ninth. Of course, the networks would have to get about a billion partners to agree to this transformation.

There’s no easy solution. Baseball to the average sports consumer is half of a product. From Rob Manfred’s perspective, this isn’t a good thing and it’s why he comes up with new dumb rules that piss me off. People don’t go to Lady Gaga concerts expecting her to be awesome live but then suck on the radio. Her product is universal and can be consumed by her fans in many different forms. Baseball, to the casual fan, is not Lady Gaga. The casual fan loves going to baseball’s concerts, but when they hear baseball sing on the radio or watch baseball’s latest music video, they get bored.

To make myself clear: Baseball needs to be more like Lady Gaga.

I’ll show myself out.
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