By Daniel Taylor, For The Miami Student
Major League Baseball is killing itself. It is doing so voluntarily and it is too blind to see what is coming.
We are told baseball is dying because it is too slow and that pitchers are too dominant.
MLB will likely implement some insane rule changes in the near future.
Those changes will kill the game.
If MLB is serious about wanting fans, the solution is simple: kill the huge, local television deals.
Of course this will never happen.
Not because it is extreme, but because it hurts the immediate bottom line. The owners will make less money in the short term. In the long term this would drive more fans to the sport.
Television ratings have been in free fall mode for quite some time, thus leading people to believe baseball is broken.
It all started with the players' association strike of 1994-95.
The TV ratings for the World Series peaked in 1978. The series averaged a 32.8 with 44.2 million Americans watching, keep in mind, population was around 222 million.
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When the strike hit, ratings took a drop from 20.2 in 1992 down to 17.4.
The falling numbers have continued and, in 2012, they hit their all-time low, 7.6. Only 12.7 million Americans dialed the biggest spectacle in baseball onto their television.
It is a bad sign for Major League Baseball and its brand.
But, the major problem is what MLB believes to be causing the dip in fans.
They are trying to say baseball is too slow and offense is too scarce.
Take, for example, the Premier League. Soccer.
NBC is buying into it and last October set the record for viewers in America.
Over one million television sets tuned into the Manchester United versus Chelsea match.
A match that ended in a 1-1 draw, which sounds like the epitome of what MLB says Americans hate. Not only was it long and low scoring, it ended in a tie.
Oh, the match took place on a Sunday and challenged the NFL in the middle of its season.
Soccer is growing while baseball is declining.
Simple: the TV deal.
NBC sees the growing trend in soccer and they were able to get a deal to put games on TV.
Why do NBC, and other major networks, not have that same deal with MLB?
The local TV deals.
Local stations, like Fox Sports Ohio, have exclusive rights to broadcast games. And you can only get this service through a Dish Network, DirecTV or other major TV provider's subscription.
Another number in decline is the number of television subscriptions.
Since the beginning of 2010 TV providers have lost more than five million subscribers, and that number grows each day.
People can get the main broadcasts, NBC, FOX, CBS and ABC, for free.
The NFL dominates those networks and soccer is encroaching upon the big four as well.
But a major league baseball game is tough to find. A handful each week, and those are usually the same four or five teams.
Last season nobody knew about the American League Champion, Kansas City Royals. Why? Well, they are not a big draw on national TV.
What would cutting the TV deals allow?
Exposing fans to teams like the Royals.
It will not be immediate, but over time people will learn, once again, to watch most baseball games. Just like people will tune into most NFL games, no matter how small or bad the game.
America loves to watch sports and MLB is restricting them from feasting upon its cornucopia of competition.
Cut the TV deals, not the size of the mound or the strike zone.
Do this and MLB will survive, and maybe even thrive once again.
Behind the NFL there is no clear-cut number two. The NBA, MLB and soccer in its various forms are fighting to claim that spot.
MLB is losing the battle.
And the lust of short-term money over long-term success is doing it.
Baseball is not broken.
However, MLB is. And they are blind to it.