Soccer and Baseball, Compared

A review of a book that compares the economic histories of soccer and baseball.  A lot of great stuff in the review, and I may just have to buy this book.  The book was written in 2005, and the authors identify problems for both soccer and baseball.  The soccer problems are largely short-term, but the authors feel that the sport needs to become more commercial and professional in the financial area in order to to combat the fact that a lot of teams are really badly run and lose a ton of money.  This is indeed already occurring, though I personally don’t have a problem with clubs going bankrupt.

Baseball’s problems are longer-term:

The problem in baseball, which the authors acknowledge, is twofold.  First, baseball’s
antitrust exemption has somewhat insulated team owners from focusing on the long term.
Second, its governing body is comprised of a collection of league owners with substantial
investments in their team, a collection which changes over time, and a commissioner who
is an employee of the owners.  Consequently, there has been little incentive to focus on
the long term and little of the strength and adhesiveness in league leadership necessary to
develop and implement long-term initiatives.

Simply put, the owners of baseball teams currently look to maximize their own revenue, but they have little incentive to grow the sport.  As a result, baseball is likely going to shrink as other sports move in and take over market share.

I personally would go further and argue that baseball more than any sport suffers from a high barrier to entry, if that’s the right word, for the new fan.  There are so many rules to learn and subtleties to the sport that when you combine them with the slow pace, it is very hard to win over new fans who already have other sport affinities.

I grew up with baseball and so the appeal for me was innate, but I thin the sport needs to change in some key areas to modernize itself.  Perhaps the main thing it has to do is speed up the rate of play.  Cut down on the time between pitches, the time between innings, eliminate visits to the mound from managers and coaches, and that would be a great start.

I would also recommend going to a soccer-style substitution system in which a manager has a full bench of subs but can only use a certain amount of them, say five.  That would eliminate the constant pitching changes and pinch hitters.




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