Photo Credit: New York Post
The MLB has been thinking about implementing a clock between pitches for a while as the average game time has slowed. Last year, MLB attendance dipped below 70 million fans for the first time since 2003 and commissioner Rob Manfred is concerned that pace of play is the main reason for fans staying at home. Manfred is right to be concerned that fans are staying home, but I do not see a reason that implementing a pitch clock will increase attendance. The factors that decrease attendance go far beyond the length of the game and solutions should be more focused off the field.
For starters, last year’s attendance drop was an anomaly. The MLB’s 54 postponements were the most since 1989 and 26 were on weekends. Since weekend games are better-attended, having nearly half of a season’s postponements on weekends hurts attendance even more. Furthermore, 102 games were played in under 50-degree weather, which does not appeal to a baseball crowd.
Ticket prices are another factor to consider for the MLB’s attendance’s decline. In 2006, the average price of an MLB ticket was roughly $22. In 2018, the average ticket price was around $32.50. If a family of four wanted to go to a game today, they would spend $130 for tickets on average. With food, parking, and gas to get to the ballpark considered, that family of four is probably spending over $200 for a game. If souvenirs are bought, that is an additional cost to visiting the ballpark. MLB games are becoming more and more expensive and many fans with lower incomes are coming to fewer games because of affordability.
Another reason the MLB has decreased in attendance is its failure to appeal to a younger audience. According to the Huffington Post, the average MLB fan is 16% more likely to be aged 56-60 than an NFL fan. On Twitter, the NFL has 24.2 million followers and the NBA has 27.2 million followers. The MLB has only 8.2 million followers. Much of the content on social media that appeals to younger fans revolves around players, especially for the NBA. The marketing of their favorite players makes young fans want to see them more, especially in person. The MLB’s overall social media content lacks in being player-driven, and younger fans are not showing up to games. The league needs to find a better marketing strategy for a younger audience.
With many factors to consider off the field, the players on the field clearly do not want a pitch clock as well. Many players have already voiced their displeasure from across the league. Nationals’ shortstop Brian Dozier, then a member of the Minnesota Twins, was headlined in the Star Tribune saying MLB players will be united against the pitch clock before last season. Max Scherzer has an even stronger opinion, and I have to agree with him.
Messing with the very nature of baseball – the game without a clock is a poor idea for the MLB. Players’ opinions have clearly been a factor for Manfred, as the pitch clock is being delayed at least until labor negotiations in 2022. With the multitude of factors contributing to the MLB’s attendance decline, I do not expect a pitch clock to solve this problem.