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FACER 2 FACER: Does baseball need major changes to survive in the digital era?

“This Is The Place Sports” founders Dirk and Austin Facer‚ father and son, provide a weekly opinion-based conversation on a sports topic.

This week, the Facer Boys discuss what baseball needs to do to remain the national pastime and relevant to a younger audience.

DIRK: Ah, baseball. It’s that time of year when America’s past time awakens. It represents a state of normalcy, obviously something that is welcome as the pandemic hopefully strikes out soon. Waxing poetic comes with the territory — at least for us older guys.

That said, let’s talk about the game. All this talk about speeding things up and making it more exciting needs to stop. Leave it alone. When’s the last time — make that the first time — moat folks went to a baseball game and got bunched up about strategy and stuff? The primary concern of most fans, in my opinion, is the continued availability of beer, soda, hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and such. It’s a social event, so to speak,

Thus, why mess with decades of records that adds to the sport’s charm. More home runs and shorter games doesn’t really fix anything. It adds more chaos to complications created by Major League Baseball owners. These guys can’t agree on anything.

The constant, as the great James Earl Jones said in “Field of Dreams” is baseball, Don’t monkey around with rules like moving the pitching mound back and speeding up time between pitches. Just play the game, so fans can chill — visiting with friends, eating drinking, It’s a tradition, after all.

AUSTIN: I think we agree that going to a game is nice and the pace of just chilling out and enjoying a dog and taking it all is very relaxing. Here’s the reality of the situation though; that’s going to be the death of baseball unless they adapt to a younger, more social media driven audience.

Millennials and Gen-Z folks, or whatever they’re called, aren’t going to just assume that baseball is great because the in-person experience is soothing. Major League Baseball, and the game as a whole, is going to have to find ways to appeal this younger audience. The key is going to be pushing the sport’s personalities and highlights in the digital realm and giving both the personalities and highlights a space to exist on the game’s biggest stages.

I want to see Fernando Tatis Jr. throw his bat in the air after hitting a grand slam without fear of repercussion from the opposing team. Baseball’s stupid unwritten rules are going to prevent the game from moving into the modern age and could be the death of the sport. Emotion and scoring sell in the sports world and speed is definitely part of the equation.

Most fans and potential fans are going to experience the game from their phones, and baseball has to optimize the product for that reality or the game is doomed to become a niche sport.

DIRK: Change is hard to handle. Granted, baseball can be maddeningly slow at times. That doesn’t necessarily mean alterations need to be made, though. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. Baseball records are precious, It’s bonded generations and has led to a lot of discussions over the years.

Please don’t mess with it. The game is fine just the way it is. Postseason play is good television, too. The regular season can be a challenge of sorts, but it as always been that way. A solution? I have no idea. The real issue here is television time. Given the rise of live streaming, is it really a problem? If money is a problem then MLB owners need to quit giving such lucrative contracts. The very problem, at its root cause, may be the guys signing the checks. 

If that’s the case, then I really don’t want them to change the game in any way, shape, or form, in order to meet short-term goals. Call it a strikeout, a swing and a miss to even discuss fixing this or fixing that. Baseball is bigger than it all.

AUSTIN: I’m sure this is not going to go over with you well, but I really think big changes are needed. Watching a regular season baseball game on TV is just about one of the last things I would ever do. You and I really like watching Mike Trout at the plate, but I’m not willing to wait 45 minutes to an hour to see one at-bat.

Baseball has to make the game faster and get their star players on screen more often.

My former boss, and big-time baseball dude, David Locke, had an interesting proposal. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I think it was essentially that baseball should allow a pitch hitter from anyone in the lineup at any point in the game, as many times as the manager chooses.

That would be a gigantic change that would require a lot of testing, simulations and thought before implementation, but I kind of like the thought. The more times we see the star players, the better baseball would be, both in-person and on TV.

Forcing fans to watch the 6-7-8-9 hitters struggle to get on base for half of the game is a bad idea. Sorry to say it. Change the game or I’ll change the channel.

This Is The Place Sports