SECAUCUS, N.J. — At the MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with reporters to discuss a variety of the topics in the game of baseball these days. Here are Manfred’s takes on the issues discussed, including the drop in MLB attendance.,
Manfred on growing the MLB Draft as an event …
Compared to other professional sports leagues, the MLB Draft doesn’t draw as much attention. This is due to a variety of reasons, but mainly the fact that MLB draftees can’t impact a professional team as soon as a NFL or NBA draftee might be able to. To help build the event up, MLB adjusted the game schedule so that there weren’t any games happening during the first round or so of the draft.
“I think people know a lot more about the players that are being selected than they used to, and as a result there’s a lot more interest,” Manfred said. “We do believe clearing the game schedule is important so the focus is on what goes on here tonight. This is, after all, our future of the game, and we will continue to look for ways to make this as big an event as we possibly can.”
Another issue with the lack of attention or hype surrounding the draft is that it takes place in the middle of the college baseball postseason, which means potential draft picks can’t attend the event in-person. At this year’s draft, there were only four players in attendance.
“It’s a product of who is likely to go in the first round, whether they’re high school kids or college kids and what their schedules are,” Manfred said. “It’s going to vary year to year. We do have some ideas about how we might address that and we’ll continue to work at.”
Manfred explained that a possible solution could be adjusting the calendar structure, to better find a fit for the draft in baseball’s schedule.
“A better coordination of the calendars with college baseball I think is a possibility,” Manfred said. “I feel like we have made progress with some of the key college programs and conferences in terms of receptivity to working with us on those sorts of issues.”
On the drop in game attendance …
The league’s overall attendance average continually dropping, falling 1.4 percent for the fourth straight dip this season (per, the Associated Press), Manfred told reporters that this year’s drop is because there are fewer season ticket sales but notes that the single-game ticket sales are currently up.
“We pay a lot of attention to attendance, but overall we watch our fan engagement,” Manfred said. “Our local ratings are up, our streaming numbers are up, our app numbers are up, our single-game ticket sales are up. The drop in attendance is due almost exclusively to softer single-ticket sales.
“When you think about the entertainment alternatives that are out there, that’s something that we’re going to have to work on. Not just in terms of selling season tickets but making sure we’re offering packages of games that our fans and customers want.”
On competitiveness and tanking in baseball …
“When you talk to our owners, everybody’s competing,” Manfred said, when asked about the concerns of teams not competing. “The question is what are they doing to be competitive and at what stage in that process are they. I think at the end of the year, my guess is you’re going to have more parity in terms of the spread of winning percentages than we had last year, and that’s a good thing.
“Obviously the tighter the clubs are grouped, the better it is for us and for our business. I do think that in today’s game, it’s important to realize that as always there’s been a cycle to competitiveness and clubs are going to continue to go through those cycles.”
On the possibility of expanding netting …
Following the incident where aduring the Cubs-Astros game at Minute Maid Park last week, the topic of implementing .
“We have been aggressive in terms of recommending to the clubs additional netting, and the clubs have been fantastic,” Manfred said. “Not only have they all met the recommendations but a lot of them have gone further. Before the start of last season,.
“I think it is an issue that we will continue to revisit. As fans get more and more used to it, we have less resistance to netting. It’s something that we will continue to discuss. The idea that we’re going to run out tomorrow and change where the netting is, given the structural issues involved is just not realistic but it is an issue we will continue to discuss.”