In the middle of the playoffs, a look at the future of baseball |  Open

In the middle of the playoffs, a look at the future of baseball | Open

Major League Baseball’s odyssey to the World Series began with two wild card games – the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

Fortunately for MLB, the two matches included four of baseball’s historic and most venerable teams. The TV rating was high, but the games were a hit, especially for East Coast fans. The American League competition was a boring 3:13 hour, and the National League match was played at a quicksand-like 4:15 hour pace. The Dodgers Cardinals were left 3-1, but most viewers on the East Coast missed the exciting Chris Taylor bottom of the ninth home run that sealed the Dodgers’ victory.

For dinosaur fans who long for fewer and faster playoffs, the prognosis is bleak. In 2022, the MLB owners’ most loving wish will come true when a new collective agreement expands the wildcard from the current one-game, sudden death format to the best-of-three. More than half of baseball’s 30 teams will qualify after the season, and MLB will inevitably expand to 32, thus diluting the talent pool that fans pay a king’s ransom to watch. As a result, the playoffs will endlessly grind on with impossibly long, overlapping seasons.

The post-season qualifying standards have plummeted since 1968, when the Detroit Tigers topped the American League and advanced straight to the World Series and won – no championship series required.

Ten times in history, teams have won 100-plus games and not even qualified for the playoffs. Led by striker Norm Cash and his .361 average, the Tigers won 101 games in 1961, but finished eight games behind the Yankees. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Teams that feel deprived when they do not get past the wild card have a simple solution: win more games during the season. Under the estimated format, however, teams under .500 that qualify for the playoffs will be common.

Unhappy fans might as well throw in the towel. Money overrides all other considerations. As the money results MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said: “Baseball is a growth industry. Finally, we would like to get to 32 teams. “Under the new setup, MLB owners and players will make money. The league currently earns more than $ 10 billion annually. With two new clubs, owners are likely to add $ 2 billion or more in expansion fees and revenue from new media rights.

MLB negotiated new seven-year TV contracts with Fox and Turner Broadcasting – TBS and TNT – which will fetch $ 8.3 billion, a 40 percent increase over previous contracts, mainly for the right to broadcast seasonal games. Expansion, possibly to Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal, Vancouver or Mexico, is certain in the future of baseball, provided 75 percent of owners vote positive. More teams means more playoff games, and will generate much more revenue.

Players are all-in on expansion as well. As part of the new collective agreement, the players also win. More team income will mean higher minimum wages and player-friendly free agency agreements. Today, baseball’s minimum wage is $ 572,000 – averaging $ 4.2 million – and the most notable revenue is Los Angeles Angels ‘Mike Trout, a $ 427 million contract paid out over 12 years, and the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, $ 324 million. in nine years. Trout and Cole’s annual revenues are $ 37.7 million and $ 32.4 million, respectively.

In his restless expectation of infinite income, Manfred overlooks an important variable. Baseball TV audiences are dwindling. The under-18 market does not care about baseball, a sport they consider boring. Young people who were once the most passionate fans of baseball have shifted their allegiance to football, basketball and football. Older fans, another of baseball’s traditional backbones, are unhappy with the constant changes and have lost interest.

Younger and older fans agree that baseball’s most important games, the playoffs and the All-Star Game, start too late; they long for old-fashioned day games. The children go to school; adult jobs. All-Star Game TV rankings have been in free fall for years, and bottomed out in 2021 when only 8.2 million signed up.

Evidence of fans’ indifference: Compared to 2019, the last full 162-player season, the 29 regional sports networks Nielsen Media Research reflected a 12 percent drop in audience.

Baseball is on a collision course with overkill, and many consider it the death. No fan, young or old, is naive enough to believe that Manfred cares about baseball. His self-proclaimed mission is simple: Let’s follow the money.

Joe Guzzardi is a Society for American Baseball Research and Internet Baseball Writers’ Association member. Contact him at

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