For as long as most of us can remember, baseball has owned the trademark of “America’s Pastime”. Baseball is integral to America’s culture, and because of that, there are many generations of baseball fans in our country. Some of those fans prefer their beloved sport to be devoid of change, while many, typically younger fans, embrace it. With that in mind, there’s no surprise that this new pitch clock rule has angered some.
Major League Baseball Is Slowly Dying
Baseball is a unique sport, and it’s always been able to carve out its own niche. Football and basketball have been dominant sports over the last half-century, mainly because of their consistently exciting product. Baseball is unique in the way that it manages to maintain a sizeable audience, one comparable to the top action-packed sports, with a product that involves far more strategy, and less athleticism. It’s always been a game that might not seem attractive to the casual viewer.
Unfortunately, the other major sports in America are slowly chipping away at baseball’s fanbase. The MLB has seen a decline in its attendance, as well as television viewership. Last season’s total attendance of 64.5 million people sure seems like a large number. It is, but it also represents a 5.9% drop in attendance since before COVID existed. Excluding the 2020 season, the MLB has seen a drop in attendance for twelve consecutive seasons.
Now if you were to ask the common, casual sports fan why they don’t like baseball, they’ll typically give you the same answer: It’s boring.
Can you blame them? The young kids who have grown up watching Lebron James and Tom Brady take their breath away simply don’t have the attention span necessary to watch a pitcher shake off the catchers’ sign three times before the batter steps out of the box anyway.
The fan who has watched baseball for multiple decades might not like this move. And that’s okay. That fan will watch the sport no matter the rule change. What the MLB desperately needs is to get the casual fan more invested in baseball as a whole, and the pitch clock rule is a good first step.
Why the Pitch Clock Rule Will Work
Many fans might not know this, but the pitch clocks have actually been in effect in the minor leagues for quite some time now. In 2015, the MLB announced that it was going to experiment with a 20-second pitch clock in the AA and AAA levels.
This resulted in a 12-minute decrease in average game time. That doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a large difference when it comes to watching the game.
There will be some headaches, and it will take time to get used to. At some point during this season there likely will be a close game or two that ends up being influenced by this rule. When that happens, people are going to complain about it, and some might even claim it’s “ruining baseball”.
It makes sense that they would. People who love something the way it is don’t want it to change. Major League Baseball knows that, and they know this decision will irk some long-time fans; yet they also know those fans aren’t going anywhere.
If the MLB can rope in some casual, on-the-fence fans, then it will all be worth it. At the end of the day, baseball needs to grow as a sport. To do that, maintaining a higher level of viewership is a must. By implementing this pitch clock rule, the MLB is finally showing they understand.