Major League Baseball has a significant problem on its hands. No it's not the declining attendance numbers, long games or lack of offense. Nope, it's none of those. Baseball's biggest problem right now is that everybody quits caring as soon as the NFL season starts up.
This has been a problem that has been growing with each passing year and won't go away. It's time for Bud Selig and the MLB to acknowledge it and make changes. The steroid era is out the door along with the awe of the home-run ball.
Fans no longer are amused by seeing a home run like they used to be. Nor are they amused by going to the ballpark and seeing a game that is now dominated by pitching. Baseball is failing in a month when it used to be so exciting: September.
The time when pennant races are around and when fans finally get to see the payoff of a 162-game schedule. The only problem is that it doesn't appear fans are sticking around to see the payoffs anymore.
When a Tedy Bruschi-Chad Ochocinco feud is getting more attention than a pennant race, you know that the NFL is the king. The NFL has been the king for awhile, but it always seemed to allow baseball to come in and get its glory every fall. That isn't happening anymore.
Sports radio is littered with NFL talk, because that's what people want to hear. National columnists are focusing on the NFL, because that's what people want to read about. ESPN might as well be called the NFL Network 2.0.
It's not as if ESPN ignores baseball; they don't. It's that the majority of the discourse that goes on in its shows revolves around the NFL.
Will baseball ever be able to escape the NFL's ever growing shadow?
No. Not unless Commissioner Selig is willing to make some significant changes to make the game more enjoyable. We live in a world where we want everything fast, faster and fastest.
Baseball is slow, methodical and boring at times. This is why Selig and Co. need to revamp some of the rules to speed up the game. No more trips to the mound for the manager unless it is injury related. If a pitcher is getting shelled, take him out.
When a quarterback is having a rough day in the NFL, you don't see the head coach come out to the huddle and give him a pep talk. Baseball is becoming too slow for up-and-coming generations that are used to things being fast.
It takes patience to sit and watch a nine-inning baseball game, which runs similar in length to a football game. Despite the similarity in length, you would be hard pressed to find somebody willing to watch back-to-back baseball games, but when it comes to football, there are individuals who watch the noon games, afternoon games and then the nightcap.
Even despite growing drama in the race for the wild card between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, the national attention is largely devoted to college football and the NFL.
Baseball has been pushed up against the ropes and hasn't fought back.
Instead, baseball has ignored ways to make the game more entertaining for fans. Take the example of instant replay. Almost every sport employs it, but for some reason baseball has continuously fought against it.
And what about that ridiculously long 162-game schedule that is followed by an incredibly short postseason? That makes absolutely no sense. If I'm going to invest in following a team and have to endure the marathon that the season is, I don't want to see my team get knocked out in a five-game series, where a team could get hot for a few days and advance.
MLB is more about protecting the traditions of the game than advancing the enjoyment of the game for the fans. How else could you explain that there is only one wild card winner in each league? There are 30 teams in MLB, yet only eight make the playoffs.
That seems like a fair number if you don't take into consideration that the wild card "race" is rarely a race. The past five seasons, the wild card has been decided by five or more games.
Increasing interest in September has to be baseball's top priority going forward, because as of now, the NFL is all that matters in the minds of the majority of sports fans. Nobody's talking about the Rays-Red Sox race right now outside of the fanbases involved.
Instead, they're focused on their fantasy team and the status of Arian Foster's hamstring.
Baseball has a problem on its hand. There's nothing worse than being irrelevant as a sports league and that's the direction that America's pastime is headed if changes aren't made.
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