There’s an aura surrounding the game of baseball nowadays that suggests the MLB has fallen far behind the NFL and NBA. According to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, that’s not the full truth.
On a national level, numbers are down. But regionally the game is stronger than it’s ever been.
“I think it’s a total misnomer about the game not being that popular, because it’s about being popular in a different way,” said Verducci on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It’s not the national pastime, we all know the NFL just completely rules over everything when it comes to national consciousness and being apart of our culture nationally. Baseball, I don’t think anyone can match it in terms of regional appeal.”
Verducci goes as far as to say that it’s a great business model.
“If you look at the game regionally, you go ‘my goodness, what a successful model,'” said Verducci. “It’s a $10 billion industry, it’s never been more popular it’s never been consumed by more people in more ways in the history of the game. At the same time, people will look at national TV ratings, which is generally down for most everything, and the lack of really true national big name stars.”
The biggest problem is that, as a game more popular regionally than nationally, once fans’ favorite teams are done, that’s the end of their baseball season. This is a complete inverse from the NFL in particular, where people will consume any game, irrespective of if their team is playing or not.
“I don’t know what happened, why that changed but it did. If you’re rooting for your team and they get knocked out in the playoffs or don’t make the playoffs, then that’s the end of your baseball season,” said Verducci. “Whereas in football, and I think to a certain extent in basketball, you keep watching until the last game that’s played, no matter if it’s your team or somebody else’s team.”
On the field, it’s getting more exciting. Fresh, young, powerful talent have been injected into the game, beginning with Bryce Harper and Mike Trout and continuing with the likes of Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa.
“Now we’re seeing guys making an impact in their early 20’s, typically it was about mid 20’s where you’d see someone putting up numbers that we’ve seen from people like Machado, now Kris Bryant, Schwarber, my goodness Carlos Correa looks like a plug and play superstar the minute he hit the field,” said Verducci. “Guys come a lot quicker now.”
Their arrivals have been a long time coming. In the past decade in particular, pitching has dominated.
“I think we’re actually due for an influx of really good bats because it seems like the last decade it’s all been about pitching and increased velocity,” said Verducci.
Could this signal a change in the dynamic between hitters and pitchers again? Maybe. The question has to be asked, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
“Offense really jumped up and started to spike in August and September of last season and that’s really something I’m keeping my eye on here. Nobody is going to make any pronouncements after one week of play, but does this continue now? Is it possible that we’ve turned a little bit of a corner and that the last decade where run prevention and pitchers have just dominated, is about to change?”