This has been a tumultuous offseason for Major League Baseball. While they’ve owned the major news cycle at times when they would usually be an afterthought, it hasn’t been about free agent signings or general excitement about the 2020 season.
The sign-stealing scandal, the MiLB contraction proposal and this most recent proposal from Rob Manfred have all been met with negativity across the board. Don’t forget that MLB tried to cover those first two up for the most part and is using this playoff proposal to shift the conversation away from those two black eyes.
As the new commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred has been almost universally hated by baseball fans. While he’s made the owners more money, his mismanagement in every other avenue has been evident since day one. In his first year on the job, he confirmed the Marlins’ ownership transaction to a group led by Derek Jeter. In an area that is full of people who love baseball, the Marlins had finished third in their division and had the reigning MVP and multiple other stars on their roster. Despite the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez, guys like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, JT Realmuto and Dee Gordon were ready to take the next step with the Marlins. But with Manfred’s confirmation of the sale, the new ownership group proceeded to eventually trade away all of those young guys for prospects, draft picks and cash, essentially gutting any hope Miami fans had of a winner any time soon. Manfred claimed he didn’t know about that plan, but he didn’t do a good enough job of defending that viewpoint.
From that debacle on, most of the moves that have come from MLB have been widely panned. It seems that while Manfred is trying to bring the game to a new audience, he is doing it in all the wrong ways. Existing fans are threatening to walk away because of his changes, and new fans are still not coming. But there’s one extremely easy change that Manfred can make that would instantly improve his reputation among the baseball community.
Allow game clips to be posted on social media by anyone.
It’s really that simple. Baseball has the most archaic standpoint among the four major sports on sharing clips from their games. Most of the time, if you’re seeing a baseball clip on social media it’s coming from MLB, a team account or their TV partner’s account. While those are nice, that’s only three sources for these clips, meaning that they will not be spread as far. And currently, if someone records their own clip from a baseball broadcast, it’s either taken down or it is claimed by MLB for monetary purposes. They want to own all the rights for their broadcast and don’t want anyone else sharing them. Baseball hardly promoted their previous generation of stars, and they are handicapping their own marketing by not letting everyone who’s watching do their job for them.
The NBA is the most progressive league in terms of sharing their game on social media. They could care less about who shares their broadcast clips. Instead of three sources for clips, anyone across the world can post anything they want from any game. It’s not on those few sources to cultivate all the buzz for basketball. Because the NBA lets fans do part of their marketing work for them, it has been massive for their popularity over the past decade. It also has rendered sports highlight shows useless and has brought more people in to watch regular season games more often. People started watching the Golden State Warriors every night because of how popular their clips were on social media, despite them being a West Coast team. Baseball sorely needs that.
Take Barstool’s Big Cat, for example. During the Cubs’ run of success from 2014-2016, he would post videos of home runs he took from his phone with his own “Yabo” call. The clips were popular for both the homers and the calls. But he later shared that he was one more video away from MLB shutting his account down completely. They didn’t want anyone sharing their clips without getting their full money from it, and it almost took down one of the Cubs’ biggest fans. Baseball tried to actively kill its own popularity for money. Jomboy has been progressive recently in tearing down this wall, but he’s still been met with some pushback from MLB on his use of their properties.
Other than the NFL, pro sports have mostly been regionally-based in their entire existence. While fans knew the stars from other teams, they mostly focused on their own squad. Now, baseball is still a regionally-based sport. Casual fans on Twitter are always discussing NBA trade packages and NHL roster makeups during the summer, where baseball is the only sport happening. But most casual MLB fans don’t care about how good the Dodgers are or how the Yankees’ starting rotation can improve this year. Why do people care about what the Brooklyn Nets are doing in free agency instead of what happened in the Mets’ game from the previous night?
It’s because most casual fans have a relationship with players because they’ve seen those clips of them and gotten to see them play at their highest level all the time. It’s why I’m really worried about the 2020 season now that Mookie Betts is in Los Angeles. No casual fans have really seen Mike Trout play because he’s on the west coast, and most probably hadn’t heard of the second-best player in baseball before his run in the 2018 playoffs even though he was on a big-market team. Will any of those fans be up to watch those two guys play this season without seeing those clips from multiple sources?
It’s really easy, Rob Manfred. Let us showcase your games on social media without punishment. There is nothing else going on during the summer outside of baseball. You can own June-September if you allowed your fans to do some of the marketing for you. This is where MLB is its most old-fashioned, and it can be an easy PR bump for them if they decided to let it happen.
Let us do the work for you, Rob.