by Wyatt Bose ’23
The most common complaint for baseball being “unwatchable” is the pace of the game. In comparison to football or basketball, these complaints are not without reason, as unlike football and basketball, something entertaining does not happen on every play (or pitch) in baseball.
In basketball, fans await a miraculous three-point shot or a jaw-dropping dunk, and in football something entertaining occurs on every play so fans are on the edge of their seats for the entirety of the game. In baseball, however, the MLB has yet to embrace its game’s “miraculous aspect” — the home run.
Ironically, before commissioner Rob Manfred decided to ruin the long ball, he succeeded in amplifying it just a few years ago.
In 2019, the “juiced-ball era” was born, and baseballs flew out of ballparks like never before. In 2021, after a floodgate of “juiced-ball” allegations, the MLB seemingly mixed old balls with the juiced ones to slow the offensive rampage. The juiced-ball era is exactly what baseball needed to keep its popularity but without it, baseball is just baseball: a low scoring game with an ever-depleting fan base.
Baseball is not the only “slow-paced” sport though. Let’s compare baseball to a sport like soccer which is also considered to be relatively slow-paced. Why has soccer not lost its viewership? Better yet, why does soccer remain the most popular sport in the world?
Soccer has no commercials. While both soccer and baseball are slow-paced, the only break from “game-time” in soccer is halftime. In baseball, however, there is a commercial every half inning as well as during every pitching change.
For perspective, in a 9-inning game, there are 17 commercial breaks without pitching changes and reviews. On average, a team will use about 4 pitchers in a 9-inning game–a starting pitcher, two relievers, and one closer—that is, assuming the starting pitcher lasts at least 6 innings and each pitcher from the bullpen throws just one inning. If there are 4 pitchers for each team, meaning 3 pitching changes, that would suggest 6 additional commercials to the given 17.
Considering said estimated pitching changes as well the mandatory 17 breaks between innings, the average 9-inning baseball game will consist of 23 commercial breaks. The average commercial break lasts 2 minutes and 25 seconds, so on average, the time consumed by commercial breaks in one MLB game is 52 minutes and 15 seconds.
That is ridiculous. Almost an hour’s worth of commercial time is unacceptable, especially considering that the 52 minute and 15 second average does not account for extra-inning games or breaks for reviews or injuries, which can happen at any time. While the total amount of commercials is very similar to that of an NFL game, the MLB cannot afford to be anywhere near that number as baseball itself is nowhere near football’s level of entertainment.