A Change in Baseball: Could Lack of Clowns Be Causing Lack of Interest?
What's wrong with baseball today?
In 2010, our best hitter, Albert Pujols, is a hardworking, wholesome Christian. The best pitcher? Some say it's the soft-speaking Rockie who lives with his parents, Ubaldo Jimenez. Others say it's the humble, consistent Philly, Roy Halladay.
Rewind the clock ten years, back to 2000.
The best hitter? A juiced-up, muscle-bound, record-breaking freak who punished teammates or reporters who got too close. The best pitcher? A jheri-curled 12-year old trapped in a 28-year old's body, putting up one of the greatest pitching seasons ever.
The colorful hues of our national pastime are quickly fading into the background of America's football obsession.
Some people might ask if this is really a problem, or just a change in the dynamic of baseball.
For the last three seasons, attendance in Major League Baseball has been down. Many have blamed the economy, but economics are not the only factor lowering interest in baseball.
Poor teams, such as the Royals and Padres, have been unable to draw crowds, even with newly renovated parks.
Back in the 1980's, crowds would turn out in droves to see competitive Royals and Blue Jays teams, who had characters like George Brett and George Bell. That decade, Kansas City was fifth in overall attendance. Toronto placed seventh, despite only making the playoffs twice.
When you've got players who charge the field over an overturned home run or MVPs who tell the media that fans can "kiss their purple butt," people are going to come out to the stadium to see your team.
But nowadays, teams like Kansas City and Toronto have fallen on hard times. Only three teams had larger drops in attendance since last year.
For the Royals, whose best players are a socially anxious Cy Young winner and a quiet slugger who's one of only five players to ever hit at least 20 HR and 50 doubles in a season by age 24, it hasn't been for lack of talent.
Attendance around baseball is down across the board. Almost two-thirds of teams experienced attendance drops. Can you name some current characters similar to the likes of Bonds or Martinez or Canseco or Wendell? Ozzie Guillen? Milton Bradley? An aging Manny Ramirez? Sure, but there's not nearly the comical menagerie of clowns that we saw from the 1980's and 90's and even into the early part of last decade.
At the end of the season, we may have to say goodbye to a few of baseball's great characters in fiery managers Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox. Even free agent Pedro Martinez could have thrown his last pitch in the major leagues. Once Manny Ramirez is gone, well have little reason to laugh at a baseball game.
So is baseball becoming less entertaining?
Some might say so. Baseball has been called "boring" and "dull" by those who prefer the quick pace and loud-mouthed players of football or basketball. And it's my biggest fear that if baseball doesn't get some personality back into the game, ther interest of the casual fan will fizzle out.
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