Did you also know that Major League attendance is down three percent this season, and taking a double digit dip in such major markets as New York and Los Angeles? Or, that the Miami Marlins attract so few fans that the team has actually roped off the upper deck?
Talk about Sounds of Silence.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has appointed a commission to determine why the sport's percentage of black players is fading faster than the legendary Satchel Paige's curve ball. I have my hunches, but will wait for the official report before weighing in.
As for the attendance decline, I think it's been prompted by a combination of factors:
- Horrific Spring weather
- Obscene ticket prices
- The aftermath of the steroid scandal (a.k.a. 'A-Rod fatigue’)
- Outrageous player salaries
- The dearth of black role models
Then, too, there's the very real fact that baseball is, at times, an agonizingly slow sport. In a society's that constantly racing along at a 24×7 clip, it's becoming increasingly tough to wait for a pitcher to shake off a catcher's sign, wind-up and toss a ball that's then fouled off in the fourth inning of a meaningless game between two losing teams in mid-June.
I witnessed baseball's precipitous decline a few weeks back when I attended a Subway Series game at Yankees Stadium. The stands were only half-full. Sure, the Bombers fielded a team of no-names but c'mon, this was the Subway Series! I can remember scalpers fetching $500 per ticket when the cross-town series debuted in the mid-1990s. Now, you can't give away tickets.
This June also happens to mark the 125th anniversary of baseball's seminal poem, 'Casey at the Bat', by Ernest L. Thayer.
Written at a time when the national pastime was first flexing its muscles and becoming THE sport of THE up-and-coming nation, Casey has been told in countless formats and paintings, including books, theatre, movies, and yes, Virginia, even an opera!
I'm not sure the analogy holds true with the poem's Mudville Nine, but it seems to me that Major League Baseball is waiting for its Casey to step up to the plate and save the day.
Alas, there is no single solution to fan apathy, high ticket prices, overpaid and pampered players and a game that's slower than the pour on a Heinz's ketchup bottle.
As a long-suffering Mets fan who's yet to watch one game of the hapless franchise's season so far, I'm pulling for MLB to rally in the bottom of the ninth and fix what's broken. But, Bud Selig's certainly no Mighty Casey, and even the latter struck out when the chips were down.