MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Continuing Efforts To Make Sport Cater To Young Fans
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is "determined to alter the sport in ways that should make it more attractive to the next generation of fans, along with the critically important television audience," according to David Lennon of NEWSDAY. But his "growing frustration" with the MLBPA, which has "filibustered Manfred’s most recent efforts, was evident" at last week's All-Star Game. As other pro sports leagues "continue to tailor their game to the changing times, Manfred finds himself stuck with the status quo" in '17. The evolution of MLB "continues to move at a glacial pace, just like the playing of the sport itself" (NEWSDAY, 7/17). Orioles 3B Manny Machado, who attended the ASG festivities in Miami though was not on the AL roster, said the game was "a little boring to watch." Machado: "I don’t know how people go out there and watch games. Now I know why sometimes people don’t come to games." In DC, Samantha Pell noted Machado is "hardly the first" MLBer to "call out baseball’s lack of intrigue from a fan perspective," as players like Nationals RF Bryce Harper have also done so (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/15).
MIAMI AS A HOST: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan wrote the "good news for baseball is ratings were up" for the ASG, though "only slightly over last year's record low." The "bad news" is the ASG was beaten in the ratings by NBC's "America's Got Talent," meaning "more people were tuned into Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum" than Yankees RF Aaron Judge and Harper. MLB may "consider itself the national pastime, but one of its biggest events was far from Must-See TV." The Home Run Derby is "almost as popular" as the ASG itself, and "inadvertently may have led to the exodus of bored and anxious fans in Tuesday night's game." Meanwhile, some longtime MLB reporters were "in agreement that Miami seemed ill-prepared to host the All-Star Game, from security mixups to long concession lines and right down to the confused operators of the main video board." Sullivan: "The Marlins treated it like it was just another sparsely attended regular-season game" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/15). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Eric Fisher writes "signs of weakness among South Florida fans abounded" at the ASG. Many corporate sponsors and business partners "grumbled about the transportation logistics of getting in and out of Marlins Park, getting to other All-Star events in Miami and South Beach, as well as the ongoing renovations to the Miami Beach Convention Center where FanFest was held." Topps Dir of New Product Development & e-commerce Marketplace Jeff Heckman said, "There were definitely fewer people at FanFest, and sales there for us. All in all, it was a pretty underwhelming experience" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/17 issue). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote it was "amusing and a little sad to watch Fox and MLB do handstands Tuesday night in an effort to make baseball great again." The "tidy, low-scoring All-Star Game sometimes felt like a desperate plea to support the erstwhile national pastime." Shaughnessy: "Everyone seemed to be saying, 'Please like us. Please come back to baseball'" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/14).
BACK AT THE WALL: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler wrote under the header, "Did Baseball's Steroid Era Really Ever End?" MLB "once again is confronted with explaining why a record amount of cowhide is leaving the building, more than that magical summer of ’98 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa reinvigorated the game." MLB "doesn’t want to admit what other leagues have come to privately understand: that testing programs don’t eradicate doping, they merely eradicate the suspicion of doping." If the ticket-buying public "believes players are relatively clean, that’s just as good as players actually being clean" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/16). Also in San Diego, Kirk Kenney noted at the All-Star break, 3,343 home runs had been hit this season in MLB. That would "produce 6,126 homers, which would not just break but obliterate the record 5,693 homers hit in 2000 season during the height of the Steroid Era" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/16).
MLB MUSINGS: The Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE writes it is "difficult to tell" if Judge's "sheer physical size or the impact he has had on the game in just three-plus months" is bigger. He has "captivated the nation’s biggest media market and was the biggest star" at the ASG. Phillies P Pat Neshek said, "He looks like Paul Bunyan. He’s bigger than everybody, he carries that bat on his shoulder like an ax" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/17). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Bob Raissman dubbed Manfred his "Dweeb Of The Week" for his comments on the Dodgers' TV blackout. Manfred’s "unwillingness to dive in and help resolve a four-year rights dispute for Dodgers games" in the L.A. market "strikes us as elitism and a cop out." Raissman: "That is not good for the game, the fans who pay the freight and marketing of the players to a broad audience" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/16).