Baseball is in Trouble! What is the Solution? Richard J. Garfunkel October 22, 2018

Last year, on May 25, 2017, Major League Baseball was down over 206,000 in attendance. It looked like a trend was going to continue. As it turned out the shrinkage in attendance abated a bit and by October 2, at the end of the regular season, I wrote the following:

The regular Major League Baseball season was finished yesterday and the won and lost records have been published in the newspapers. The Division winners and the Wild Card teams will begin the post season tomorrow. But, how is baseball doing at the turnstiles? This season ML Baseball drew 72,670,423 fans, 489,251 less than 2016.

Other than four teams: Atlanta, Cleveland, Colorado. Milwaukee which drew over 1,535,413, the rest of the other 26 teams lost over 2 million fans. Basically 17 out of 30 teams had lower attendance. The Yankees drew 83,561 more fans and grew last year’s attendance to 3,146,966. Their cross-town rivals, the Mets attendance lost 329,000. The Pirates and the Royals, showed drops of 329,000 and 337,000 fans. Last year, the difference between the Yanks and the Mets narrowed to 274,000 fans, the narrowest margin in years. But, with the strong run by the Yanks and the collapse of the Mets, the difference between them grew to 686,344.

Baseball attendance has actually been dropping for years, and this year’s attendance, after 672 games, or 27% of the season is down an alarming 7% or 1,437,971 fans. At this time, last year the attendance was 19.5 million and yesterday it was 18.1 million. If this trend continues, baseball could lose over 5 million fans in 2018. In actuality, 11 teams are up in game attendance and 19 are down. Those 11 teams account for an increase of 653, 000 and the other 19 have lost over 2 million.

The all-time major league record for attendance was 76 million in 2006, which was 5% higher than 2017. If the early season 2018 trend continues, MLB will draw 65.5 million or 11 million less than 2006, a significant drop of 15%. But, as the season moved into better weather, that trend reversed and baseball was only off 3 million or 4%. But, four teams: Astros, the Yankees, Phillies and the Brewers raised their attendance over 1,380,736. Therefore, the other 26 teams lost 4.3 million in attendance, or not good news. Of the 30 ML baseball teams, 17 lost attendance and of the 13 which gained fans, two only gained by tiny amounts.

What are the reasons? Well, this season has been plagued by horrible weather and as the season goes by, with make-ups, double-headers, or day-night games, attendance will drop for teams who are struggling. Ticket prices remain high because of very high payrolls, reflective of moronic, long-term contracts, which are guaranteed.  Baseball is investing billions into contracts that are indefensible. Games are way too long, but that innately is not the problem. The rise in strike outs, the multiple pitcher changes and the infield shift is ruining the game.

For the 12th consecutive season, Major League Baseball is going to set a record for strikeouts. The new marks are not simply incremental, either. In 2008, hitters struck out 32,884 times. In 2018 the strikeout pace continued and at the end of 2018 the total was 41,207 times, which again broke the record of 40,104 set last year. This is a game careening toward a reckoning borne of inaction, and when nearly 23 percent of plate appearances end with a third strike, the culprit is clear.

It is no surprise, with MLB’s laissez-faire approach to strikeouts that the MLB batting average has cratered to .248. The only two worse seasons in the game’s history were 1908, in the heart of the Dead Ball Era, and 1968, a year so disquieting it prompted the league to lower the mound from 15 inches to 10. Certainly this could be mildly anomalous, a function of the horrid weather, but over the last decade, the most a batting average has risen from April over the rest of the year was 8 points and the most a strikeout rate has dipped was .40 percent. April is no perfect indicator, but it does forecast trends quite well. This year was no different. Throughout the first two months the average was an anemic 241, and it did bounce back a bit.

Because, of multiple relief pitchers, throwing harder and faster than ever, hitting for average as continued to drop as players are thus swinging for the fences. This season is no different, strikeouts and walks are on a record pace, but homeruns, which set a major league record of 6105, are actually down significantly, to 5585 from a very aggressive pace for the first few weeks of the season. Part of the hitting decline is the infield shift, based on computer statistics, relating to each players proclivity to hit to a specific field. In 2011 there were 2357 shifts and last year it had grown to 26,705. In fact, it works. There was a slight decline in shifts from 2016, but that could be attributed to less ground balls.

Baseball is also facing another existential threat. In all of major league sports, corporations and partnerships pay own 60% of the season tickets, or weekend packages of games. As long as all these tickets are used by someone, baseball is happy. The reams would rather have a fan, who is given a “free” set of seats (compt) than have a regular customer. The fan, in a seat he has not paid for, is much more willing to buy food, programs, yearbooks and souvenirs. But, as these corporate seats decline, because they are unable to give them away to their customers or their clients, there are less “free” tickets available. Why should any corporation spend money on expensive tickets to have to have them go unused or to give them to the workers in their office or the maintenance people? Aside from that, many people are now buying 55-70+ inch televisions and watching their local team or buying the Major League Baseball package and staying at home. Why pay $200 to see a game with your family, along with; $25-50 to park, and expensive hot dogs and beer?

Therefore, what can baseball do? Here are some possible solutions; limit the amount of pitchers to ten on the staff from 13 or 14, shrink the strike zone and lower the mound like MLB did after 1968, and limit the shift to 5 times per game. There too many pitching changes per game, there are too many questionable strikes and limit the shift. Those changes can help to amend some of the imbalances on the field and at bat. As for free agency, arbitration and a very powerful baseball union, they are probably here to stay. MLB should make the salary “cap” on team payroll lower, make the penalties for exceeding the cap higher, and not offer contracts longer than five years. This will limit team losses on terrible contracts! With guaranteed, almost life-time contracts, what incentive is therefore for a player to really produce? There should be more “affordable” day games to attract younger fans and families. There are other reasons, especially the proliferation of foreign ballplayers, who many fans do not relate to. That is a very thorny issue, which can raise issues of racism of nativism. But, with all the tens of millions of American-bred players, MLB has a record of 27% foreign born athletes. All these are factors in the decline of a sport, which is very expensive to attend, even though there are 81 home games to attend, and almost every “home” team can be viewed on local or cable television!

May 20, 2018 Baseball attendance after   672 games down     1,437,971-   2,140 per game


October 2, 2018                                     2,430                          3,007,525    1,235

Major League Baseball attendance dropped 4 percent this year, continuing a steady decline for “America’s Pastime.” It’s the lowest league-wide attendance since 2003 and the largest single-season drop in a decade.

What does that mean for a team’s bottom line? Bloomberg News crunched some numbers to get a better understanding. While some clubs saw a jump in attendance, 17 of the 30 franchises sold fewer tickets than they did last year. Using average ticket prices from Team Marketing Report  that comes to about $93.7 million in lost ticket revenue in 2018.

The Yankees led the AL in attendance with 3,482,805 and the Dodgers, the NL with 3,857,500. As for the Yankee attendance, it went up 327,817, while the Met attendance slumped by 235,627. In 2016 after lagging the Yankee attendance by over 1 million in 2013, the gap in 2016 narrowed to 273,803, the closest in many years. But this year the gap widened again to 1,257,860.


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A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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