Joe Guzzardi: Baseball’s Future Includes Expansion, More Games, More Money | Sports


Major League Baseball’s odyssey to the World Series began with two wild cards; the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers against the St. Louis Cardinals. Fortunately for the MLB, both games featured four of baseball’s historic and most revered teams.

The TV rating was high, but the games were a chore, especially for fans on the East Coast. The American League contest lasted a grueling 3:13, and the National League game was played at a quicksand-like pace of 4:15. The Dodgers-Cardinals showdown was a close 3-1, but most of the EDT’s views missed the bottom of Chris Taylor’s ninth home run that gave the Dodgers a win on the ground.

For dinosaur fans who yearn for fewer and faster playoff games, the predictions are grim. In 2022, MLB owners’ dearest wish will come true when a new collective agreement extends the wild card from its current one-game and sudden death format to the best of three.

More than half of the 30 baseball teams will be eligible for the playoffs, and inevitably the MLB will drop to 32, further diluting the talent pool that fans pay a royal ransom to watch.

MLB will surpass NCAA and NBA football and basketball as ever-changing sports with incredibly long, overlapping seasons.

The qualifying criteria for the playoffs have fallen since 1968, when the Detroit Tigers were the last team to win a World Series by winning the American League crown and then directly qualifying for the World Series.

Ten times in history, teams have won over 100 games and failed to even advance to the playoffs. Led by batting champion Norm Cash and his .361 GPA, the 1961 Tigers won 101 games but finished eight games behind the Yankees.

It is as it should be. Teams that feel helpless when they don’t go over the wild card have a simple solution: win more games during the season. In the projected format, however, teams under .500 that advance to the playoffs will be commonplace.

Disgruntled fans might as well throw in the towel. Money trumps all other considerations. As money-hungry MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said, “Baseball is a growing industry. Ultimately, we would like to reach 32 teams.

Under the new setup, MLB owners and players will cash out. MLB currently makes over $ 10 billion a year. With two new clubs, owners would likely add $ 2 billion or more in expansion fees and new media rights revenue.

MLB has negotiated a new seven-year television contract with Fox and Turner Broadcasting – TBS and TNT – which will bring in $ 8.3 billion, a 40% increase over previous contracts, mostly for the right to broadcast television. playoff games.

Expansion, possibly to Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal, Vancouver or Mexico City, is definitely in the future of baseball, assuming 75% of owners vote in favor. More teams means more playoff games and will generate a lot more income.

The players are also all-in on the expansion. Under the new collective agreement, they also win. More team income will mean higher minimum wages and player-friendly free agency agreements.

Today, baseball’s minimum wage is $ 572,000; the average is $ 4.2 million; and the most impressive incomes are Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, whose $ 427 million contract is paid over 12 years, and Garrett Cole of the New York Yankees, $ 324 million over nine years. Trout and Cole’s annual revenues are $ 37.7 million and $ 32.4 million, respectively.

In his giddy anticipation of endless income, Manfred overlooks an important variable. Baseball’s television viewing audience is shrinking.

The under-18 market doesn’t care about baseball, a sport they think is too boring. Once baseball’s most avid fans, young people turned to soccer, basketball and football. Older fans, another traditional mainstay of baseball, are not happy with the constant changes and have lost interest.

Fans younger and older agree that baseball’s most important games, the playoffs and the All-Star Game, start too late; they yearn for old-fashioned daytime games. The children go to school, the adults work.

All-Star Game TV ratings have been plummeting for years and hit a low in 2021 when just 8.2 million viewers tuned in. Proof of fan indifference: Compared to 2019, the last full season of 162 games, the 29 regional sports networks that Nielsen Media Research measured reflected a 12% drop in viewership.

Baseball is on an exaggerated collision course, and many consider his death late. No fan, young or old, is naive enough to think that Manfred cares about baseball. Its avowed mission is simple: follow the money.

– Joe Guzzardi is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be contacted at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @ joeguzzardi19. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.


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