Whether you think he’s a genius or find him a bit obnoxious, it’s hard to argue with Mark Cuban’s success. Beyond his considerable fortune, the Pittsburgh native found success in professional sports as governor of the Dallas Mavericks. That doesn’t mean he can’t provide insight into baseball, though.
In a recent appearance on The Dan Patrick ShowCuba was asked what it would do if it had the chance to invest in Major League Baseball as a product, ala shark tank. The Mavs governor said he would be interested, provided he could make some changes. As you’d expect, these ideas probably won’t appeal to baseball purists.
Mark Cuban would bring a TikTok-style approach and more bat flips to Major League Baseball
If you have already seen shark tank, you will know that sometimes Cuban will only agree to invest in a product if he can make certain changes to ensure its success. Major League Baseball, it seems, needs these adjustments.
“I would say [that]with a few changes, I would,” Cuban told Dan Patrick when asked if he would hypothetically buy MLB’s overall product.
So what are these changes? The former looks like a hybrid of social media and the NFL’s beloved red zone.
“I think baseball is a good fit for the TikTok generation because it comes in small bites,” the billionaire explained. “And using a TikTok-like, AI-driven approach, you could create an app where, you know, you could live in Dallas and be a Rangers fan, but, if… your favorite player came along, you would have a application where you would drag these plate looks or locations. … There are so many ways baseball could use technology to present the game that they don’t.
While this way of looking at America’s Pastime might seem shocking, it’s not such a foreign idea. Major League Baseball already has MLB Big Inning, which scratches a similar itch, albeit as a streaming product within MLB TV. You could say, however, that reality automatically limits its scope; you’re not going to reach new fans with a subscription service, especially one that typically airs around 9 p.m.
Cuban’s other suggestions, however, will likely raise a few more eyebrows.
“And then I would push to speed up the game, like without throwing a horn. You know, I would stray from certain traditions. I asked players to do bat flips. …Things that might get you tossing the ball around, but you should talk to the players first and say, “Look, you know, if we’re going to change this game and get the kids excited again, we’re going to have to make some changes. . »
Whether you agree with Cuban or not, something has to give
It’s safe to assume that many baseball fans won’t care about Cuba’s ideas; The American pastime, for better or for worse, is built on history and tradition. That being said, however, you can’t take too much trouble with its underlying ideas.
Baseball, for all its positives, is losing the arms race when it comes to popularity. Just consider the numbers presented by The New York Times in a 2019 article titled “How Popular Is Baseball, Really?”. Although the piece presented things with a positive glow, highlighting a strength within local markets, things don’t look great.
When this story was written, “an estimated 68.5 million fans attended major league games during the 2019 regular season, up from a peak of nearly 80 million in 2007.” Juliette Love also noted that “according to YouGov ratings of active sports personalities, 91% of Americans have heard of LeBron James and 88% have heard of Tom Brady, but only 43% have heard of Mike Trout of the Angels. of Los Angeles, the best baseball player. player.” This was theoretically because only 1% of the country could see more than 25% of Trout’s game, as opposed to almost all of the United States being about to watch TB12 or King James.
Those numbers have likely changed since then, but the underlying point is the same: Baseball has niche popularity in pockets across the country, but lacks national, “you’ve got to see this” appeal.
In fairness to baseball, however, this problem is not unique to them. Hockey has also struggled to outgrow its regionality and market stars; it also doesn’t help matters when color commentators are essentially saying the skill isn’t welcome in the modern game.
The catch, however, is modernizing in an authentic and engaging way. Simply adopting bat hops does not solve the root cause of the problem.
Take, for example, Major League Baseball’s infamous Players Weekend jerseys. While this could have been a real opportunity to showcase the athletes and their unique stories, we had a clunky implementation that didn’t do much aside from anger purists. The fact that Aaron Judge wears a jersey that says “All Rise” doesn’t tell me anything about him or help me engage with him as a human being; it looks like a branding exercise. There has to be a balance between the marketing side of things and genuine emotion. Sport, ultimately, is meant to be fun.
All this to say that while Cuba’s answers may not be the perfect solution, baseball needs to do Something to rival the likes of the NBA. Finding that exact answer, however, is the challenge.
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