Oh no. Baseball is dying again, you guys.

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You may think you’re enjoying tonight’s game-163 between the Rays and Rangers. And it may seem exciting and everyone you know may be talking about it and the playoffs. But you’re just deluding yourself, everyone. Because the New York Times tells us that, once again, baseball is dying:

… baseball seems simply to have fallen out of the national conversation (unless the conversation happens to be about steroids, that is). The last time baseball felt front and center, culturally speaking, was the 1998 home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. And we all know how that turned out.

What happened — is happening — to our national pastime?

As usual, TV ratings are cited. Without reference to the fact that baseball’s TV life is an inherently locally fragmented life and that, locally speaking, it does well. And that the game is financially flush and attendance remains near historic highs. It’s just another lazy “baseball doesn’t hold people’s attention like it did back in the 50s” kind of worrying, ignoring the fact that it wasn’t until the 50s or, really, the 60s, that baseball had serious competition from other sports on a national scale. Of course baseball isn’t going to dominate now like it did then. Heck, the U.S. had 60% of the world’s GDP after World War II ended. It doesn’t now. Not because the United States is dying, but because the world is a different place.

Even in the context of TV alone you never see anything treated as myopically as baseball gets treated. I watched the “Breaking Bad” finale last night. So did a lot of other people. It consumed all manner of oxygen in pop culture circles. But its ratings, historically speaking, were low compared to even the most pedestrian TV events. Seriously: the “Alf” series finale in 1990 got better ratings than “Breaking Bad.” Yet does anyone claim TV is dying? Of course not. Indeed, many claim that we are in a golden age of television. They say this acknowledging that TV is very different now than it was in 1990. It’s more fragmented, and the numbers tell us less.

Why can’t this level of intelligence be applied to baseball? Why must baseball’s current popularity always be compared to its old, completely unsustainable and unrivaled popularity in the first half of the 20th century? Why does a publication as smart as the New York Times approach this issue in such a dumb way?

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.