By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
A version of this article originally ran on the Start Spreading The News blog in Dec. 2021.
I know there are those who say that the lockout came at a good time for baseball. They say that people don’t care about baseball in December and that not much happens this time of year.
They are wrong and wrong again.
I’ve been running my (very popular) Yankees site (Start Spreading the News) for over four years. I see trends and note them over time. I have a very real sense of when baseball fans are interested in the game. I live this on a daily basis.
When the Yankees are playing great baseball, we tend to get a lot of page views.
When the Yankees are exciting, we tend to get tons of page views.
When the Yankees make big trades or big signings, or there is a controversy of some sort, we see a big uptick in page views.
On and on and etc. …
Those are typical and expected fluctuations that a site like this would expect.
What most people wouldn’t expect is that rather than being a month when people don’t care about baseball, at least as far as my site is concerned, December is actually when readers tend to visit the most.
Our best month for page views in 2018 was December.
Our best month for page views in 2019 was December.
Last year, in 2020, December was our second-most-viewed month.
Baseball fans care about baseball year-round. Year-round. That’s just a fact.
But this year, the year of the lockout, our typical page views are down over past Decembers by more than 50%. This drop took place the moment baseball closed its doors. This comes after a very successful November. We just enjoyed one of our best months, and then the lockout hit.
This is what the people running Major League Baseball do not understand. At all. Fans are disappointed. They are angry. And many (a great many) are moving on to other things. The people who run baseball believe they can take the game away from the fans and that the fans will stay loyal and just come back. They are wrong. Very wrong.
What the owners did in shutting down the game was send a very loud and very clear message. They sent this message not to the players, but to the fans. They said, “We do not care about you.” They also said, “We take you for granted.” These statements are both very true. Major League Baseball believes that the fans will come running back to the game when they decide to reopen the doors. They are gravely mistaken.
The larger population cares a lot less about the game of baseball than the caretakers of the game care to acknowledge or admit. And even the ones who care about the game, care a lot less.
A sport like baseball is held in a public trust. We, as fans, support the sport in untold amounts of ways — including financially. By locking us out, the commissioner and the owners told us they don’t care about this trust. They told us that they don’t care about us. They don’t care about you. And they don’t care about me. They feel they have the right to take the game away from us. What they don't understand is that many won't come back when this is all over.
It’s going to be a long time before Major League Baseball is able to rebuild its goodwill and trust. It’s going to be a long time before many fans care again.
If they ever will.
Because many will not. Ever again.
I have warned that baseball is on unsteady ground. The fans won’t rush back to the game. People are moving on. And they already have.
Fans understand what is fair and what is just. They see a sport that’s a mess in so many ways. There have been so many things in recent years, including cheating scandals, a vast uptick in betting, and now the revelation that the sport used two different types of baseballs last year that make casual fans doubt the very integrity of the game.
In addition, last year MLB “reorganized” the Minor Leagues, taking teams away from communities nationwide.
Fans see all of this and wonder about the sport and the decisions the game's caretakers are making. They keep finding ways to take the game away from the fans at the same time that the very legitimacy of the games and the sport itself are being questioned.
It seems that the owners and the commissioner, the people entrusted to grow the sport, only talk about how bad the game of baseball actually is. We’re told the games are too long and too boring. Rules that have been part of the game since the start are tampered with. Many fans don’t even recognize the game from even a few years ago. One of baseball’s greatest features was its ties to its long history. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Thurman Munson wouldn’t understand seven-inning double headers, imaginary runners in extra innings, pitchers having to be used for three batters at a minimum, and more. They would wonder what sport they’re watching.
The people running the sport are ruining the sport.
And now this lockout. This doesn't endear the sport to the fans. At all. This just makes the fans move away and find other ways to occupy their time. And once the fans generate new interests, they don’t always come back. This is a truism of life. Once we move on to other things, we don’t necessarily go back to the activities that used to occupy our time. Baseball will learn this lesson in profound ways when the seats remain empty and the jersey sales plummet to all-time lows.
Thanks baseball owners, for taking such joy from me and from countless others. Your selfishness, in this time especially, is very ugly. Our actions reveal our true character. Our actions demonstrate if we care...
In many, many ways, Major League Baseball does not care about the fans. They demonstrate this often. With the lockout, they made this abundantly clear.
This used to be a great month to be a fan. Not this year.
The caretakers of the game couldn’t care less right now. They think they’re winning. But they’re losing.
And each day this goes on, they lose a little more.
Well done MLB. Thanks … for nothing.
Dr. Paul Semendinger is an elementary school principal in New Jersey. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Start Spreading the News, a baseball site primarily about the Yankees. Even at 53 years old, Paul still plays competitive baseball as a pitcher on two teams. Just this week he started his winter training to get ready for the new season. His arm feels strong and he's ready for a great year. Even though he is frustrated that the sport he loves has shut down, he patiently awaits a call from the Yankees to pitch for the big club this year. You can follow him on Twitter @DrPaulRSem.