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Being a baseball coach is hard, under almost all circumstances. Add to that having a player who thinks the game is boring, and a coach’s challenge increases tenfold. It’s a coach’s nightmare if during a team gathering a player blurts out, “Why is baseball so boring?”
Baseball is not boring to everyone, obviously. The game’s top-level Major League Baseball continues to generate plenty of revenue, and often sets attendance records almost every season. Yet, even diehard baseball fans will concede that some people, including players, believe the game lacks enough excitement.
Is there a specific reason (or reasons) that some find baseball unexciting? In this article, I try to offer specific, significant reasons, plus a lot of insight into baseball both in terms of playing, as well as watching.
Below are the details, but here is an overview of our list of reasons why some people think baseball is boring.
- Pace. There is no clock in baseball, for teams and players to race against (game clock), or to force action (play clock in football, 24-second clock in basketball). In baseball, both sides get an equal number of opportunities to bat, and when that is accomplished, the game ends. Whenever that is.
- Action stoppages. Baseball has many gaps in action, even beyond the inaction between every out or successful base hit.
- Game intricacies. Too much knowledge needed about history and fine details that announcers talk about.
- Less violence. Among the major team sports, baseball has less body-to-body contact, which thanks to the television viewers have become accustomed to receiving.
- Unfavorable television portrayal. The baseball field and game are not well-suited for TV. Most action comes from pitcher to batter, so the main view comes from centerfield. Then it jumps from angle to angle, with a lot of stops. The other sports have perfect rectangles nicely good for the tube.
- Over-emphasized home runs. To compete with fast-scoring sports, as well as for television viewers, baseball hitters in recent years have started swinging for the fences, not for contact or average. The impact is a lot of strikeouts and standing around.
- Low scoring. Broadly, scoring in baseball is low, probably behind both soccer and hockey in that realm. Modern audiences like to see scoring often.
- Celebration scarcity. Baseball players and teams just don’t celebrate like those in other major team sports. Maybe it’s just part of the sport’s tradition, maybe it’s an unspoken word among players, but a little more hootin’ and hollerin’ could make fans more excited.
- Lengthy games. Baseball contests are just too long, mainly in terms of time. Pro games have stretched from 2 hours in the 1960s to 3- and even 4-hour affairs today.
- Overly cerebral. Attention spans went from 3 hours with the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1860 to 22 minutes with television, then 7 minutes with the internet, and down to a few seconds with social media and smartphones. Baseball is called a “thinking man’s game,” one not easily understood like other team sports. That might not be a good thing in modern times.
- Seasons too long. Major League Baseball plays twice as many games per season as the next-highest sport, basketball, by a 162-82 margin. Baseball seasons take up half of every year.
Reasons Why Baseball is So Boring to Some People
1. Baseball Has No Clock
The pace of baseball games is unattractive to a good chunk of audiences today. Modern sports fans are accustomed to watching games where coaches and teams speed up what they’re doing, because a specific time allocated for a task will expire.
There’s little sense of urgency for baseball players to speed things up.
This is a big deal, and a reason why golf usually tops baseball as the boringest sport. Officially, baseball games are complete when each team has 9 turns at bat (or more if extra innings required; fewer innings for lower levels of play).
The focus in baseball is on the quality of each turn at bat ~ even if that takes extra time. Maybe coaches spend seconds giving signs, or batters step out of the box to adjust gloves, or managers insert pinch-hitters to try to take advantage of an opportunity. Baseball game play can be stopped for an almost unlimited number of reasons.
Uncertainty exists for how long it takes to complete turns at bat, both on a per-player and per-team basis. And, that overall length of baseball games keeps getting longer, with player delays to adjust gloves or scratch themselves, more player substitutions, and television timeouts.
This has to be the top reason why some consider baseball boring. This is evident by how hard MLB officials are working to speed up and shorten games. When game lengths are in headlines a lot, it’s a big deal. Too many people dislike the slow pace of baseball. (See section below for rule changes made to address this).
2. Stops in Action During Baseball Games
People watch sports for the action. We don’t get much physical action in everyday lives. Plus, everyone today is in hurry-worry mode with work, family, and other obligations. Time is more valuable than ever for Americans (and all sports fans).
All the inning switches, mound visits, pitcher-catcher conference, time outs, time for players to get set, and even the 7th-inning stretch, stop action. Even when the offensive team succeeds, by reaching base safely, action stops. This links to lack of a timer.
3. Baseball Has the Most Intricacies
For the most part, you need more knowledge of the game than you do with other sports to know what’s going on, and why.
The amount of details and information involved with following baseball games (and the sport overall) is perplexing to many. Note what we said about attention spans above ~ way back before television and gadgets, people had plenty of time to follow baseball by reading. Not so today.
What a baseball team is up to when all infielders play up close is not evident to new fans. Or why a catcher will call time to adjust his leg guards when an umpire gets hit by a pitch. Knowing things like that help make watching baseball games more interesting.
4. Baseball Lacks Violence
When 2 moving objects collide, it creates energy. In baseball, most of the colliding occurs between the ball and gloves, or balls against bats. It doesn’t carry the punch of a hard football hit, aggressive basketball foul, killer hockey check, or even wild soccer spill.
Baseball does indeed have violence, as when base runners collide with fielders, fielders collide with fences, fielders collide with each other, fights and riots in the stands, angry tantrums, and brawls. The problem in modern times is these eruptions of violence do not happen enough in baseball to satisfy modern sports fans.
The game will always have a hard time competing with football and other team sports in this respect. In fact, due to the enormous salaries of today’s players, baseball rules in recent years have been expanded to try to avoid collisions at the bases, particularly at home plate. It’s a major reason why the bases will be enlarged for the first time in 2023.
Like it or not, in today’s market, violence sells. Baseball may be able to adapt to overcome some of these reasons why people say baseball is boring; but not in terms of players bashing into each other.
5. Baseball Isn’t Situated Well for Television
Think about most major team sports: they are played on a rectangle, with goals at either end (call it what you may, end zone, goal, basket, they are all goals). All of them, sans baseball.
We cannot emphasize enough the impact of television on the popularity of major sports. For almost 100 years, baseball was the favorite sport of Americans, ultimately attaining the title of “America’s Pastime.”
Baseball may still hold that title, but only because folks don’t quite know what “pastime” means, and anyway it sounds rather relaxing. While football is the most popular sport to watch by Americans now, few would call it a pastime. Not everyone can run out and play a football game. Baseball just needs a bat and ball.
The boom of the National Football League can be traced back to the late 1950s, when televisions became more affordable and therefore more common in households. Every male already knew all about baseball, from playing it, or reading about it.
They soon learned that football has tremendous action, filled with violence, and war-like field battles. On TV the action looked closer to the camera (because it was), everyone knew when the game would end, and the rules were simple. Get the ball to the other end of the field.
Television Impact on Baseball
The thrilling 1958 NFL Championship Game spurred great interest in the sport, and soon after the American Football League (AFL) began to take advantage of booms ~ to the popularity of the sport, as well as population in American big cities).
Unlike most new major sport leagues, the AFL did well, enough so in fact that the NFL merged with it in only a decade. It was during this decade, the 1960s, when the Super Bowl was invented and fans by the millions turned to watching football.
6. Home Runs Overblown
The rise of television, and the preference of most sports fans for high-scoring games, propelled the home run to the highest echelon among baseball plays. Too much so, in fact.
The play ~ when a batter safely touches all 4 bases in a single at-bat ~ has been considered the most exciting single play in baseball since around 1920. Babe Ruth popularized it, and the focus of the media and fans on the homer just grew from there.
However, with everything we’ve noted about attention spans and the changing entertainment patterns for young Americans, Major League Baseball slowly morphed into a home-run derby.
All the glamor given to the HR on television and, especially, in the internet news items and social media, spurred players to aim more for the type of hit. Whereas the original goal of batting was to “protect the plate,” or just to make contact and strike out, the new goal was to hit the long ball regardless of the fact that doing so makes batters swing and miss more often.
This didn’t happen overnight, and a perfect storm of changes in sports and society nudged baseball to this situation. Baseball needs excitement, the players know home runs deliver that.
We could make Too Many Strikeouts an independent part of this list. Strikeouts take a lot of time, due to the number of pitches needed, and are really boring. But we feel that is driven by the overly-hyped and -valued home run.
As an aside, the home run is not as exciting to watch today, because it just happens too often. It used to be a wonderful, rather rare achievement.
Chicks may indeed dig the long ball, but … in the end, baseball won’t dig too many home runs.
7. Baseball Games are Low-Scoring
You don’t see 1-0 games in football ~ something among many reasons why that’s the preferred sport to watch for most Americans.
In 2018, a fan posted results of a study of all MLB games dating back to 1871, showing that the most common score has been 3-2, closely followed by 4-3. Back a bit more was 2-1 and 5-4, followed a bit more back by the common 4-2 final.
Regular-season games ending with a 1-0 score? Try 4,864 times in the MLB. In football, 24-0 is not an uncommon final score. In the MLB, that has happened 3 times.
It’s not just the number of scores, but the frequency. Baseball scoring is usually done in a small amount of innings, like 3 out of the 9. Teams scoring in 5 or more innings is rather rare. So a lot of innings end with 0 runs, which bores fans.
Aside from scoring, there’s just so much failure to watch. Remember that getting a hit 3 out of every 10 at bats is considered good hitting. Well, even those batters get out at least twice a game. Baseball batters can make outs consecutively quite often ~ sometimes for the entirety of a game.
That’s like a football game with no first downs. Repetition of sameness is not exciting.
8. Not Enough Player Celebrations in Baseball
It used to be that baseball players would show emotion in the form of exuberance, usually from an unexpected or wonderful result, like a last-strike home run to end a game.
Baseball players never quite got into the multi-staged, often choreographed celebrations of other sports. In baseball, a bunch of players gathering at home plate to do a synchronized dance in celebration would cause a brawl.
A lot of this has to do with how hard it is to hit a baseball, and the fact that batters never want to upset a pitcher to the point he throws harder or better. Jumping up and down too much after a home run could make it very hard to hit off that pitcher in the future. Savvy baseball players understand this.
Baseball tradition says to not “show up” the opposition by overly celebrating.
Probably only hockey has fewer, or less enthusiastic, celebrations than baseball. Maybe it’s the skates, or all the pads. And at least hockey has a lot more fighting.
With artificial intelligence (AI) computer images developing, the day will come when an entire baseball game can be created to watch completely by a computer program. However, what fun is it to watch robots?
Emotion is a huge draw for sports ~ fans dig big celebrations.
9. Baseball Games Last Too Long
One would think all baseball games last the same amount of time, because they all last 9 innings, except when they go to extra innings to determine a winner.
It’s not true, by a long shot. Some baseball games move along swiftly, usually when there is good pitching and defense involved so outs come quickly. However, today that is the exception. Most baseball games drag on, and it’s worsened by more home runs because that drives more pitching changes that eat time.
This will be an ongoing conundrum for baseball: how to increase scoring while also shortening games.
10. Too Much Thinking for Baseball
In other words, the game is too cerebral. Think about that transformation from the Lincoln-Douglas debates to our current smartphone society.
Baseball is called a “thinking man’s game,” one not easily understood like other team sports. Basically, the time fans have to learn an adequate amount about the game is a lot less today.
Few new or young fans will tolerate time wasting. Baseball competes with a lot of other things in daily life for our attention. Having to do research or homework is not sexy.
11. Length of Baseball Seasons is Tedious
Baseball seasons seem to last forever. Even to the most ardent fans, a typical MLB regular season could feel like this:
March: Spring Training! Hope, everyone is equal, anticipation to see who will rise to stardom.
April: Some teams start off really hot, or really cold. True baseball fans know this often fades. Still, in this month in America it’s baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
May: Certain players begin to stand out in statistical categories; the weather warms and so do the bats.
June: Top minor league players begin to get called up; division races start to settle and teams jockey to “end the first half” (e.g. before All-Star Game break) as high up in the standings as possible. Basketball and hockey end, leaving baseball alone to attract the nation’s eyes.
July: First, retrospection. What went right, or wrong, with your team. Then, through the end of the month, anticipation of roster moves as a Trade Deadline looms. July is a big month for the sport.
August: It gets really hot, some teams drop way, way out of contention, teams start to play the same teams again as the schedule turns over, and it’s still a long way from the playoffs. This is baseball’s Horse Latitudes.
September: Labor Day Weekend used to be the traditional final push for the pennant. However, nowadays with so many wild card entrants into the playoffs, often many teams have clinched by the beginning of the month. Teams that secured huge leads in their divisions start to rest key players for the playoffs; teams out of contention play a lot of inferior minor leaguers. Sometimes this month seems like it lasts 90 days.
November: End of World Series (sometimes).
Plus, remember, the day after the World Series ends is the start of free agency; the winter owners meetings in December; and flaming Hot Stove in December and January, and MLB fans pretty much need to pay attention year-round.
Some people with sports knowledge have claimed in recent years that baseball’s level of fan engagement has declined, to a point where it is now lower than that of football.
With those thoughts, of course, came the pundits and know-it-alls on television and in written columns guessing all the possible reasons.
For Major League Baseball, it’s probably not necessarily a matter of fan disengagement, as it is what I term societal adaptability. This is not the same as social adaptation discussed these days by academicians and pointy-heads.
My variation means the ability of an organization to adapt to the changes in the environment, both social and physical.
Societies and cultures in the United States, and many other nations for that matter, are ever-changing. Especially in recent years, with the thrust of technology and impact of the internet speeding things up.
Major League Baseball was actually the 1st major sport to embrace the internet and create a website that is informative, revenue-generating, and supportive of teams and fans.
However, in other areas of change, baseball’s grip on its history and traditions have slowed progress, and impacted its ability to engage and hold the attention of fans, compared with other major sports.
A notable example of this is with social media. While other sports have adeptly incorporated social media channels into their communications and marketing programs, baseball was slow to do so.
Over many years, while other sports added and adjusted clocks and timers, baseball has for the most part rejected it (until 2023 with a group of new rules, including time allocations for pitches to be thrown, and batters to be set inside the batter’s box).
Introduction of the 24-second shot clock in 1954 is said to have popularized pro basketball. The NFL, keen to the impact of television, added its play clock in 1976.
(The National Hockey League switched from 30-minute halves, to 3 20-minute periods in the early 1900s to ensure quality of the ice. They added another break for what today is the Zamboni machine smoothing the playing surface).
In this sense, baseball is way, way behind the competition in terms of ensuring continuous action. The game basically just thumbed its nose to detractors on this subject, and now pays for it with decreasing fan interest.
Baseball officials are finally acknowledging that the attention spans of sports fans has been severely shortened by the internet. This of course also affects other sports ~ but they already long ago instituted changes to keep action flowing.
So what remained for years because of baseball tradition ~ no time limits whatsoever for play to begin ~ was amplified by changes in the lives of the people the game hopes to attract.
Time will tell if the rule changes in 2023, and years immediately after, will help baseball keep pace. For the time being, it has to play 2nd-fiddle to football.
New fans to baseball might not know this, but more so than any major sport, baseball keeps outdated or even weird rules and operational details because, well, that’s how it’s always been.
Long-time baseball fans love the game’s history, and harken back to the glory days of Yankees dynasties, 56-game hitting streaks, and high batting averages. Many of these folks are called “baseball traditionalists.”
A great example of this is the use of the designated hitter. The American League instituted the designated hitter in 1973, and thereafter every level of baseball also introduced the DH.
Except the National League, the GOL (Grand Ol’ League) of baseball. There, baseball “purists” strongly opposed changing how the game is played. So much so, in fact, that they held out for almost half a century in joining all other baseball levels (from tee ball through AAA minor league ball) in having a batter hit in the pitcher’s spot in the lineup.
Fans don’t like watching pitchers hit, because they don’t get the hitting practice and instruction of their non-pitcher teammates because they must focus on the very hard task of pitching. So for many years, pitchers sucked at hitting; basically they struck out or bunted a lot.
American League fans enjoyed the extra offensive boost and quite the growth spurt in popularity. The N.L. finally allowed the DH for the 2022 season.
All sports must evolve with time and circumstances. Echoing what was said about our shrinking time for “extracurriculars,” or “non-essential” stuff, baseball officials are finally getting around to addressing the matter.
An area of focus for the MLB is rule changes. To speed up the game, in the past decade MLB has:
- Allowed automatic granting of a base on balls (by the manager of the team on defense), to skip the 4 pitches and let the batter have 1st base.
- Forced relief pitchers entering games to finish that inning. This stopped the old practice of changing a pitcher for every batter. Now, only injury gets a reliever out of that inning.
- Limited the time for pitchers to deliver each pitch (called the pitch clock, coming in 2023)
- Limited the time for batters to be set in the batter’s box (coming in 2023)
- Shortened time allowed for mound visits (where coaches and/or the catcher meets with the pitcher to stop play)
- Limited the number of mound visits allowed per game (now, 6 allowed in 9 innings)
Many fans don’t understand the challenges of a baseball coach to teach and instruct in a number of areas, whether it’s fundamentals, physical skills, or the mental side of the game. (Baseball is a very mental game, a key reason for this article).
Coaches must teach the game while at the same time making it enjoyable to practice and play, to maintain interest by young people who have a lot of other interests competing for their attention.
In the meeting with all parents at the start of each season, I would say that my primary goal with the team was not winning a plastic trophy to put on a shelf; it was to ensure the kids play the next season.
I had a pretty good success rate, and watched a few players go on to eventually play college ball. However, the doubts about the boringness of baseball made my job even harder. I had to constantly set up practices and drills that they would enjoy, plus add twists during games to keep them engaged.
All this actually made coaching more enjoyable, because it reminded me of just how fun it is to be around a team of ballplayers.
Question: If it’s so boring, why is baseball so popular?
Answer: The game is embedded into American society; and it’s easy to play for kids, who then carry the game’s traditions with them as they grow. There are many nuances to this answer, but the main element is, because it has been for a long time.
Q.: What is the most boring sport?
A.: There are over 8,000 sports on the planet so this question is subjective to the person. But among the major sports, the ones televised most, we have to say golf is the most boring sport. Perhaps followed by long-distance running. If chess is considered a sport, then it has to be high on the boring list.