If you’re a diehard baseball fan, you can probably name just about everybody in that National League All Star dugout.
If you’re a casual baseball fan, you should at least be able to name Jose Fernandez, Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rizzo. Hell, you can even throw Daniel Murphy in there just because he played his balls off in the postseason last year. But if you’re not a baseball fan at all, is there one player in that photo who you’d be able to name? I honestly don’t think there is.
I couldn’t give less of a fuck about soccer, have never watched a professional game in my life, but I could point out David Beckham. I think I watched three basketball games this past season, but I’d know if I walked by LeBron James or Steph Curry on the street. Would someone who has never watched a single game of baseball know it if they walked by Mike Trout on the street? I honestly don’t think they would, and he’s the game’s best player.
This year’s MLB All Star Game drew a record low audience, and it was a huge drop in viewers from last year’s All Star Game. I listen to all the talk shows throughout the day as part of the gig, and I’ve heard theories ranging from nobody caring about how the game determines home field advantage for the World Series, or that today’s players aren’t as talented as the players in the past, etc. Here’s my theory. Pokemon Go had something to do with it. No, but like really. How many more viewers would the All Star Game have had if Pokemon Go never came out? Think about it.
But honestly, while the home field advantage rule absolutely sucks and never should’ve been a thing in the first place, it has been a stipulation since 2003, and a rule that has existed for 13 years can not be the sole reason why over 2 million people chose not to watch the All Star Game from one year to the next. I think the “problem” is actually a good problem, if you can imagine.
At this year’s All Star Game, according to Elias, that was the fist time in All Star Game history that the American League’s starting lineup consisted of players who were all age 27 or younger. Out of all of the players who were selected as an All Star this year, 26 of them were 25 or younger. That’s GREAT news for baseball fans, because it means that a majority of the game’s top players are going to be around for a long, long time. But could it also explain why the ratings were down?
You have to think about this from a business perspective. If you’re a diehard baseball fan, of course you know who all the young stars are. But the league doesn’t cater to people like you and me. We’re diehards. We’re going to be here whether the product sucks, or if it’s great. The league caters to the casual fans, because that’s where all the money is. To the point that I made earlier about somebody who has never watched a baseball game before not being able to recognize Mike Trout, that wasn’t always true. I think we all know why, but there was a time when baseball’s top stars were as recognizable as somebody like LeBron James or David Beckham. In the summer of 1998, Mark McGwire was as recognizable as any Hollywood movie star you could name during that time.
Easy solution: bring back steroids. I wish. In a way, you could make a case that PEDs hurt this year’s All Star Game ratings, too. A player with the resume and personality of David Ortiz experiencing his final All Star Game should’ve been a big draw, but it wasn’t, because nobody outside of Boston cared. Sure, he got his standing ovation from the fans in attendance, but I don’t think any non-Red Sox fan tuned in specifically for that moment. It’s pretty obvious that it’s because of his connection to PED use, because the numbers suggest that he’s one of the greatest sluggers in the game’s history. Fans outside of Boston probably didn’t feel like they were waving goodbye to one of the best hitters of this generation. And that’s fine; I get it.
But if you want the bigger problem than the total number of viewers for the All Star Game, you can take it one step further and look at who, among those 8.7 million viewers, were actually watching.
The median age of those who were tuned in on Tuesday night was 55 fucking years old. Thaaaaat’s not good. But here’s something we need to keep in mind. The All Star Game is not a reflection of how the league is doing, or how the sport in general is doing. In 2015, MLB saw a record amount of revenue, and an increase in paid attendance. I know that the All Star Game “counts”, but it’s still an exhibition game that not a whole lot of people care about, and it should not be treated as some sort of measuring stick for what the interest in the sport is. At the end of the day, the casual baseball fan doesn’t give a shit about players on other teams. They care about their own team, and the games that actually matter — and those numbers seem to be doing just fine.