Baseball was, at one time, the most popular sport in America. It is still recognized as America's pastime to this day, and come October baseball parks around the country will be filled with fans. However, in the current social climate, young people do not enjoy baseball as much as football or basketball.
The Harris Poll, polls people who follow at least one sport to find the most popular sport in America, was first taken in 1985 to gauge sports interest. According to the Harris Poll, in 1985 the poll showed that football was only one percentage point ahead of baseball in popularity with 24 percent of people saying that football was their favorite sport, and 23 percent saying baseball.
In 2015, the margin between the two is much larger, with 33 percent of people citing football as their favorite and only 15 percent saying baseball.
According to z2solutions.com, 50 percent of baseball fans are over the age of 55, and 26 percent are between the ages of 33 and 54.
One reason for the decline in popularity can be attributed to the length of games. Baseball games are lasting longer than ever. This can be attributed to several factors such as pitchers and batters lollygagging between pitches, or the increased commercial timeouts that were not present in the past.
"The problem is with the length of the game, they’re trying to solve it in a dishonest way," said Washington Post journalist Marc Fisher. "Intentional walks and visits to the mound aren’t the issue."
Although Major League Baseball has seen a decline in popularity, they are bringing in higher revenue than ever before. Commercial breaks may be the reason behind it, but these breaks are also causing the games to last much longer.
"The real problem is the length of advertisements," said Fisher. "They won’t touch that because of revenue."
Earlier this year, Major League Baseball adopted a new rule to help with the pace of play. According to an official press release from Major League Baseball, "The start of a no-pitch intentional walk, allowing the defensive team’s manager to signal a decision to the home plate umpire to intentionally walk the batter. Following the signal of the manager's intention, the umpire will immediately award first base to the batter."
"The intentional walk rule is a big mistake, they aren’t that frequent," said Fisher. "One of those four pitches could go wild and spice up the game. They should look to cut some dead zones of the game, time between innings and pitches."
Another reason that young people are not as interested in baseball may be due to marketing. Major League Baseball players are not marketed like football or basketball stars are. According to ESPN's annual survey regarding young people's 30 favorite sports figures, there were no MLB players on the list.
"The way baseball players are marketed is very different than other sports," said Fisher. "Football and basketball players are celebrated for their personalities, baseball players are taught from an early age to squash their personality and do not have antics. Its due to the 'unwritten rules' of Major League Baseball."
Players like Jose Bautista and Bryce Harper do not care about these "unwritten rules." They are pushing back against the traditional behavior of baseball players, hoping to bring more excitement to the game.
Baseball players are criticized for doing things such as flipping their bat after a home-run, or showing any sort of emotion on the field. Things like this are completely fine in other countries like Japan. In fact, these antics are commonplace, they are widely accepted and celebrated in foreign countries.
The older generation of baseball fans will always be interested in baseball, they grew up watching it when it was the king of American sports. Younger generations that are coming up now do not have the attention span to watch a full baseball game, and do not relate to the players in the way that they relate to NFL and NBA stars.
Major League Baseball must address the issues with their game, or risk losing an entire generation of fans.