Dear Rob Manfred, The Millennials Are Leaving

By Max Kaplan, “The voice of the millennial sports fan”

We millennials are losing interest and it’s not our fault.

We can’t sit through another 4-hour MLB game with 11 pitching changes and 15 walks.

We groan every time a batter steps out of the box to re-adjust his batting gloves for the third time since the last pitch. Or when the pitcher starts pacing around the mound, fondling the rosin bag.

We think “get on with it” when the manager takes a full minute to decide whether to challenge a play and then challenges it – and the fans are gifted another 3-minute stoppage.

It’s not the 10-9 slugfest that’s the problem – it’s the 3-2 game that takes 3.5 hours where nothing happens.

In a game earlier this month, “Make Baseball Fun Again” Bryce Harper faced 27 pitches and didn’t swing at a single one. Great…

The baseball establishment mocks and shames the millennials for not watching the game the “right way.” They patronize our short attention spans and our “addiction” to social media. They say we don’t “respect” the game’s tradition.

I played baseball ‘till high school, have attended over 200 MLB games across 23 different stadiums in my life.

Rob, you need me and my friends – maybe not this year, but we are your future revenue stream – and I’m telling you, it ain’t looking good.

My observed reality: college students would rather watch the English Premier League (or literally any other sport) than an unwatchable baseball game on TV.

We think baseball is getting more boring and guess what? We’re right.

Baseball Boredom Index (BBI)

Everyone knows that MLB games are getting longer and longer. But there is also way less stuff happening.

I created a new statistic, called the “Baseball Boredom Index.” Or BBI for short. It is extremely easy to understand. The BBI is how many minutes you have to wait, on average, until something happens in a baseball game.

Let’s say an “action event” is a ball in play, or a stolen base attempt. This is a low bar for excitement. It includes sacrifice bunts, dribblers to 1B, and pop-outs to SS.

How long do you have to wait between these action events? Over three minutes! That’s a full commercial break between every single moment of ‘action.’

And it has trended up ever since the dawn of the game. The last three seasons have been the slowest in MLB history. As teams incorporate sabermetrics, we are seeing record-level strikeout totals, leaving fewer balls in play and more pitches per game.

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Mr. Manfred, I leave you with a bold challenge. The gauntlet has been thrown. Bring us back to 2.5 BBI. 1985 is not that long ago.

The pace of play changes in 2015 led to slightly shorter games, and a lower Baseball Boredom Index. The pitch clock experiment in the Minor Leagues proves we can cut another 10-15 minutes from time of game. It’s a start, but not enough to keep our attention. Please hurry!

Rob, the writing is on the wall. You will lose the attention of the millennials (and everyone else) unless more progress is made. In fact, I just got three text messages, a snap, six tweets, four fb notifications since you started reading this so this article is now over. Bye.

Max Kaplan, “The voice of the millennial Sports Fan”, is a graduating senior at Princeton University Engineering School majoring in Operations Research and Financial Engineering. Max’s “Curse of the Home Run Derby” article hit the front page of Yahoo.com in 2011. He has appeared on NFL.com and NFL Network. His favorite sport used to be baseball.

4 comments

  1. Michael J Dougherty

    Have you looked at football? College football games approaching 3-1/2 hours in length with 15 minutes of total action for example. And I realize that there is the 45-second clock. But there is far more dead time than people often consider. Meanwhile, in baseball, there must be something done every 20 seconds that potentially could change the outcome of the game.

    • Max Kaplan

      Agree that both baseball and football games in person can both be long with all the commercial breaks. However, football games (pro + college) have more importance per play since there are <20 games per year, and they only play once per week. They are usually played at the same time as other important games, so the tv viewer can switch to another game during commercials and half time. Lack of nationally televised games prevents the same thing for baseball.

      Last season, a baseball had 54 action events per game while NFL football had 128 plays per game (not incl special teams).

  2. Faith thomas

    I’m a african American female millennial (35) & would much and or play football ( my other favorite sports are basketball , boxing , MMA bull riding & hockey ) than baseball because it doesn’t peak interest because it’s too long & does little next to nothing. Who wants to watch a guy scratch himself in between innings , let alone watch 9 innings of tedium ( roughly lasting 4 hours ) when you could watch the NCAA MENS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT or BOXING

  3. Pingback: Baseball slow motion woes: Millennials will have nothing of it - Generational Insights

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