Off The Rails Opinion White Sox

Off The Rails: Want to Fix Baseball? Focus on Shaving Cost, not Time.

In Major League Baseball's ongoing obsession to shave mere minutes off of baseball games, they once again missed the mark with their latest rule change at the minor league level.

Imagine living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Or Portland, Oregon — or anywhere in the country that doesn’t have a Major League Baseball franchise for that matter — and trying to love the game of baseball.

Your options for watching professional baseball live is embracing a minor league franchise in your area, and your television access to Major League Baseball is as scarce as your attendance in an MLB ballpark.

Now imagine waking up this morning only to find out that Major League Baseball Commissioner, Rob Manfred is making a mockery of the little baseball that keeps you a fan of the game, by instituting rules abandoned at the youth levels of baseball, for the sake of — what exactly?

This morning, Major League Baseball announced that all MiLB levels will now institute a new set of rules modifying the extra inning procedure, placing a runner on second base to begin the inning, a system you’re familiar with if you attend 12-U travel baseball games or beer league softball games.

There’s a bevy of other adjustments as well — including limiting the pitchers time on the mound to 15 seconds (20 seconds with a runner on base), to receive the ball from the catcher and begin the process of their windup, or begin the motion of becoming set when pitching from the stretch — and you can read them all in a release by MiLB this morning, here.

Ultimately, in Rob Manfred’s obsessive efforts to shorten baseball games, he has modified a core portion of the game for all levels of minor league baseball this morning. Ultimately telling the hundreds of thousands of fans in those markets, that Major League Baseball doesn’t care about them beyond the numbers at the turn-styles and concessions.

Pitch Clock? Meh, I’m indifferent even though I believe that a physical clock around the field of play is tacky.

Limiting mound visits? Sure, why not.

Fundamentally altering the way the game is played? Yeah, I’m going to draw the line in the dirt right there, Mr. Manfred.

Aside from altering the way the game of professional baseball is played, and has been played for two centuries, you’re robbing fans of these MiLB franchises of the closest thing they have to a Major League Baseball experience in their hometown, or even their home state for some.

It’s bad enough that expanded roster rules in September allow an MLB club to yank the best players from a minor league club during a potential playoff race, but now you want to turn their live baseball product into a guinea pig for your pace of play experiments that no one wants to see at the major league level anyways…

Rob Manfred has is all wrong to begin with, and that’s the real problem in all of this.

Shaving five, or even 10 minutes from a baseball game is not going to attract new fans to the ballpark or the television set. The fans of the game at all levels that pay and invest in Major League Baseball’s product actually don’t care about that 5-10 minutes that you might shave off of a ballgame.

Let’s do some simple math here, from a guy who lives in a market with an MLB franchise.

Tickets: Roughly $25 bucks person (that’s the low end of the spectrum, really low end), if I want to sit anywhere near the field of play. I’m a husband and a father of two, so count me in for four tickets most days. There’s $100 dollars on the low-end of the spectrum for a reasonable seat.

Parking: There’s another $20-30 dollars.

Concessions: Hot Dog and a soft drink for the kids, and a couple adult pops for Mom and Dad, there’s another $75-$100 bucks.

So with pretty minimalist concessions and attendance to the ballpark for a family of four, we’re looking at roughly $175-$250 bucks, on the low-end of the spectrum. Take note of this in particular Mr. Manfred — because this is what you can’t seem to comprehend — if I want to take my family out to the ballpark, and I’m going to invest a couple hundred dollars of my hard earned money into your product, why the hell would I want you to shorten my fan experience!?

Hell, I want 15 innings, a walk-off and fireworks to put the icing on my expensive cake that I purchased from you. If for some reason I don’t want to be there for the length of the ballgame, I’ll get my ass up and walk out of the stadium knowing it was my decision to shorten my ballpark experience.

You want to draw more bodies to the ballpark? Start figuring out how to shave cost, not time.

You want to draw more eyes and ears for television and radio broadcasts? Stop running five minute commercial breaks between every half inning.

You want to boost your streaming service numbers? How about not blacking out local games!

I will never pay for MLB.TV. Want to know why, Rob? I can’t watch the damn White Sox on it. If I’m on the go — which most people are during the afternoon and evening hours in the spring and summer — I’d gladly pay the outrageous $115 dollars per year for MLB.TV, so that I can catch the television broadcast of my local team. Instead, you want me to give you $115 bucks to watch the Tampa Bay Rays, the Miami Marlins, and every other out-of-market team that I don’t care about?

Cut the bullshit, the goal in all of these pace of play shenanigans isn’t to improve the game for consumers because you care, it’s because you need new fans to pimp your flawed product too.

Pace of play numbers have fluctuated ever so slightly in recent years since Major League Baseball embarked on their ill-advised voyage. What hasn’t fluctuated though, is revenue across the sport.

In 2017, the average MLB game lasted three hours, five minutes, which set a new Major League record for duration. Meaning baseball was actually longer than in any previous year. And yet despite baseball being longer than ever, gross revenues surpassed $10 billion for the first time in league history according to Forbes.

For each of the last 15 years, Major League Baseball has seen revenue grow, particularly in more recent years. In 2014 the league crossed the $9 billion dollar threshold for the first time, and by the end of the 2016 season, revenues had reached $9.5 billion dollars, meaning that the revenue is growing at a considerably rapid rate.

So with all that money to tote, and games being longer than ever — why is major league baseball still forcing these initiatives down the throats of the fans and organizations?

You want to put asses in the seats, Mr. Manfred? The solution is simple — stop taking your loyal fans to the cleaners every opportunity you get. Stop whoring the television and radio broadcasts out to endless commercial breaks. Fix your useless and over-priced streaming service, and for god sake — stop changing the way the damn game is played!


Founder, Managing Editor of The Loop Sports. Formerly of FanSided and Baseball Essential. Work has been previously featured on FOX Sports and Bleacher Report.

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