Expanding the Game: Part One
On Monday night, SP Gerrit Cole made his highly anticipated Yankees debut at George M. Steinbrenner Field in front of a sold-out crowd along with thousands more watching from home. Who am I kidding? Its Major League Baseball (“MLB”). Naturally, the game was not televised, and one had to scavenge the internet to find highlights from Cole’s first start other than a side view of one of his two strikeouts. Yankees Twitter, a collection of media voices and bloggers that you do not want to upset, was up in arms. How could there not be some sort of way to watch one of the biggest free agent signings in recent memory debut for arguably the most famous sports franchise in the world? If you are the MLB, it’s a question that must be answered.
A week ago, my good friend Ethan Myers proposed this question to me: “You get named commissioner of MLB. You have 3 years to maximize growth. How do you do it?” In an era in which current commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be doing everything possible to ruin the beautiful game of baseball, it was a rather intriguing inquiry. From a business standpoint, how do you in fact grow a multi-billion-dollar entity?
This is the first of a 3-part series in which Mr. Myers and I will try to take on the task of expanding the game of baseball. From the complaints of an overly long season to the objections to the length of the games, there are numerous items that must be addressed to ensure MLB’s success and future growth. With a growing number of parents concerned about the safety of their children playing football, MLB has a golden opportunity to attract thousands of new fans. It all starts with MLB’s presence on social media.
While I won’t go into too much detail in this article, MLB has a marketing problem that was highly evident in their ability to televise Gerrit Cole’s Yankee debut. Last summer, the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) highly marketed Zion Williamson’s Summer League debut with the New Orleans Pelicans. Williamson had yet to play a single minute of professional basketball, yet the way the NBA promoted him it appeared as if Jesus Christ himself was going to come down from the heavens and throw down a windmill slam. Gerrit Cole had just finished 2nd in Cy Young voting, put together a tremendous postseason in which he was practically unhittable, and was then rewarded with a $324 million contract from the New York Yankees, the most valuable team in professional baseball. Cole is as accomplished a pitcher there is in the league and generated a large amount of buzz in the offseason. Yet, one could not even find highlights from his two innings of work. MLB has to have hundreds of cameras out there capturing his every move. Every pitch, every strikeout, heck every step he takes as to be captured and uploaded onto social media. Yankees fans are captivated by his every move and for good reason as the man has as an electric of an arm as anyone in the game. Without even throwing a pitch, Mr. Cole is already New York royalty and is beloved by fans.
You want to grow the game? Start by showing kids on Twitter how baseball treats its stars. Illustrate how baseball players are beloved by their team’s fans and you may just catch the heart of young little leaguers who dream of making it to the pros. Furthermore, showcase the talent level that is found at the big-league level. Gerrit Cole averages a 96.5 MPH fastball and also possesses one of the nastiest sliders in baseball. Market those pitches. Make the videos accessible via Twitter and highlight the difference in pitches by signifying the high level of velocity or the exemplary spin rate. While the duration of the game may make it “boring,” there are still flashes of brilliance that must be emphasized to the novel baseball fan for the game to see consistent growth.
As a devoted Yankees fan, I was highly disappointed that Gerrit Cole’s first Yankees start was not broadcasted. However, it brought to light an important issue that MLB must address as its lack of marketability is concerning.