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Baseball Fandom & The 2022 World Series

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

In this week's podcast, Emory Baseball player Henry Pelinski joins Professor Mike Lewis to discuss baseball fandom and the 2022 World Series. Topics of discussion include baseball's dramatic decline in viewership, its simultaneous rise in revenue, and how analytics have changed the game.

Listen to the full conversation here:


Mike Lewis 0:03

Fanalytics with Mike Lewis. Okay, welcome, everyone. Welcome to the Fanalytics Podcast. My name is Mike Lewis, we are brought to you by the Emory marketing analytics center, online home as always as www fandomanalytics. Han. My guest is a young man. And I think he just sort of smiled when I did the www, because we don't need to do that anymore. So I'm joined by Henry Polinsky, who's in Emory undergraduate and college baseball player. How you doing, Henry?

Henry Pelinski 0:35

Doing? Well, thanks for having me on. I'm happy to be here.

Mike Lewis 0:39

Now, this is great. And this is something that, you know, this is something that's a little bit of a different format, right. And so, Henry, I don't know how much you listen to the podcast, but it's the mission here is really to almost do education or executive education, marketing analytics, with offense with the emphasis on fandom is kind of the candy coating to the educational product. And so I love the idea of having somebody smart Emory undergrads come in, and help me with help me with the conversation. Now, Henry is also joining us because it is, well, this is this is Is this the best time of year for baseball, Henry.

Henry Pelinski 1:22

I would say besides what's going to happen next week, which is the actual world series right now, you know, having the NLCS and the ALCS going on, it's everything kind of culminating from an exciting postseason thus far and you know, we've got I think the Phillies in the Padres tonight and getting ready for the World Series. So it's a very exciting time for for fans all across the country.

Mike Lewis 1:45

Okay, so folks, this is our World Series preview. We are taping a little bit of advance so what is it? What is it October 21 today, so right now the what's the status of the playoffs? It's Phillies, padres, one one and Yankees.

Henry Pelinski 2:03

ALCS yanks, Astros two, zero, Houston. And then the NLCS, Philly and San Diego are tied up one one. And right now it's looking like overall, a lot of I looked at some of the sports odds the Houston Astros right now are a lot of the top picks in Vegas, but we'll have to see it's exciting stuff.

Mike Lewis 2:23

Are you? Are you looking at those ads on a day by day basis?

Henry Pelinski 2:27

I checked him probably about a week ago. And you know, just the fact that Houston's up to Oh, and their series is giving them a little more leverage there. Okay,

Mike Lewis 2:36

and so our focus in look, I think Henry and I, we've talked a little bit about this, in some ways, Baseball, baseball fandom is probably the most interesting fandom to me in all of American sports. Because it it's, it's a fandom that definitely seems like it's been in transition over time from you know, baseball being everything to the American culture to perhaps baseball being. Well, well, let me let me switch it to you. Because part of what I want to do here is in some ways, Henry, this is a Gen X guy talking to a Gen Z guy about the historical American pastime. What's the stereotypes about baseball amongst your cohort?

Henry Pelinski 3:23

You know, I think today it kind of has a little bit of a bad rap because people are calling it boring too long. I think the list goes on and on. And you can see that on major league baseball side of it as well, you got you got the commissioner trying to change the rules, to shorten up the games to add more offense more and more excitement for a new generation of fans. And it's been kind of challenging for them to kind of evolve and keep up with with leagues like the NFL.

Mike Lewis 3:54

Yeah, it's, and I'll tell you, Henry, what you're what you're talking about is something that I feel like I've heard almost throughout my whole life, right, that baseball is kind of this old person's game. And it needs to be it doesn't work with the modern attention span. And it has to be you know, we need pitch clocks we need you know, essentially shot clocks in there. We got to keep driving it driving the game forward faster. No one wants to watch them for three hours. You know, and there is always a need for more offense right I mean, that's that's almost like unit universal. We've got to have a well I suppose an offensive baseball. What that really means is we're not talking about you know, sacrifice bonds and moving a guy along right we're talking about we're talking about homeruns

Henry Pelinski 4:42

and I definitely think we've seen a good amount of the long ball this postseason Bregman with with a big shot last night. But another thing you know, initially when I heard that they're changing the rules to outlaw the shift. I was kind of against it because I want the game. I'm a purist. I want the game to be played See how it's supposed to be played and how it's been played. But I feel like especially this postseason, I've seen a lot of hard hit balls get taken away by the shift. And I think that next year when they actually outlaw that there will be a lot more offense along with home runs. So that'd be exciting to see.

Mike Lewis 5:16

Let's come back to let's say, some of these rule changes at the at the at the end of this conversation, because I do think, you know, even where you're going from, as I forget, Henry, what are you 2223 2121? Okay, so even as a, you know, you're talking about being a purist, and not wanting the game to change. I think that's an important. That's an important idea in terms of the future of baseball, of where does, where do they go from here? And how much is, you know, maybe faster is better, but what do you lose when you make changes? Okay, just to set the set the stage, I've looked a little bit into the in TV ratings are tough to they're tough to explain when you're going through the early rounds of something like baseball, because there's just so many series going on the Yankees, the Yankees guardians, which is, you know, one of the last data points we have available, they did pretty well. So that series was bringing in just over 5 million viewers. Okay. And I think some of the numbers, baseball is great, right? Henry baseball is the name, the game of numbers always has been. And there's great numbers on the fan side as well. So that was the highest ratings for one of the early rounds in the baseball playoffs in the last four years. It says something I mean, in a very simple level, I think the obvious thing it says right, if you want to have good TV ratings, what do you got to do?

Henry Pelinski 6:45

You got to market it.

Mike Lewis 6:46

Yeah. Well, it for you guys are watching on YouTube, you can see Henry giving me that look at that classic. Look, when the professor asked a question that's kind of poorly formulated. Right? It was really, you know, you got to have New York playing right. There you go. And so in this round in this baseball World Series, and the Yankees are down 02. And the Dodgers are already gone. Right? I mean, as you think about what the World Series could have been, you know, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, that would have been phenomenal. What's our worst case scenario? Now? Do you think Houston versus San Diego potentially? Potentially,

Henry Pelinski 7:29

I mean, obviously, on the National League side, that's a lot, you know, smaller, of a of a cohort of two teams there compared to Houston and New York, especially with Houston being so good lately. And just, you know, a little not to go off on a tangent. But what you're saying about New York and potentially could have been LA, that would drive up the numbers. And when we look at kind of what's happened with other sporting events to the biggest NBA Finals has been when Steph and LeBron are playing and before that it was MJ. So just having that star power or being able to market it with these big teams is huge. So

Mike Lewis 8:06

okay, and so that brings us to and again, so if you're if you take a look at what we're doing on YouTube with the podcast, you can see we've got a couple of charts exhibits. To go along with this with this episode ends the first chart I've thrown up there. Because, like I said, what part of the reason why baseball is such a fascinating sport to me, is that the economics are, there's almost a there's a puzzle going on in some ways. And so the chart I've pulled up is something that Henry grabbed from this is this is all on Wikipedia. And this is a chart of TV ratings and viewership for the World Series from 1970. Is that 1970, the the early early early Saturdays, to to just last year. So Henry, when you look at this chart, you know paint a picture what's happening to baseball, the World Series viewership?

Henry Pelinski 9:02

You know, I think a lot of it has to do with the rise of, you know, America's love for the NFL. But people are people are losing interest. And I think what a lot of it used to be was, you know, people would sit down for 162 games a year, say we're gonna watch the Braves or we're gonna watch the Yankees or the Cubs or whoever. And now with the pace of life kind of changing and generation Z's interests shifting into other sports, especially faster paced ones. People kind of I feel like gravitate, especially in the fall during the postseason with the World Series towards the NFL. And they crave you know, every Sunday, Sunday night football, compared to possibly watching the World Series. That's just one hunch I have. I don't know if you want to kind of piggyback off that.

Mike Lewis 9:48

Well, I think there's definitely some truth to that right. I mean, it's in part of why why I liked this idea, this intergenerational conversations, you know, when I was a kid Henry in the The 1970s and the 80s. October was World Series time, right? October was the baseball had, you know, it was the highlight of the sports universe? I don't think we can even say that at the moment, right? I mean, when you're looking at, you know, the Yankees drawing 5 million viewers. That's, that's probably right in line with what Thursday night football is drawing. So it's not, you know, baseball does not have the spotlight. But you know, just to sort of flesh this out what the graph is show them for those of you that are not, you know, in the visual medium, if you go back to the mid 70s, you had 40 45 million viewers of the World Series. And it's steadily I mean, there's a lot of noise, there's a lot of bumps, and it's probably bumps from when the Mets are playing or the Yankees are playing or the Dodgers or the World Series, or the Cubs, it's ticked, it's just sort of steadily, you know, dropped over time. I mean, Henry, you're a business school graduate, that almost looks like the kind of data professor would give you to estimate a linear regression, isn't it?

Henry Pelinski 11:08

It is pretty, pretty steep and downhill. And, you know, it really peaked back in the 70s and 80s. And it hit its low point, surprisingly enough and 2020 when the Dodgers were actually playing, but a lot of people you know, who I've talked to a lot of my friends, you know, like to make fun of our of our buddies from LA, who are Dodgers fans and kind of say that, you know, there's an asterix next to the Dodgers and 2020, just because it was a shortened season.

Mike Lewis 11:34

Yeah. And in luck, I mean, COVID was, you know, for whatever reason, COVID decimated just about every, every TV championship series, right? You know, the, the NBA was down, I think 30%, the NHL down 40%, Major League Baseball, I think, again, in the range of 30%. You know, the NFL, sort of the king of American sports was down about 10%. But, you know, you look at this figure, and, well, we go from the 1970s, at, let's say, 40 45 million folks watching to the last couple of years of, you know, 12 to 15 million people watching. That's a, that's a dramatic, dramatic decline. Now, the reason why I say baseball is very much a puzzle, and then we're going to switch to switch to the next exhibit. And this one is, excuse me, this one is Major League Baseball, totally revenue from 2001 to 2021. Okay, so Henry, if the if the viewership was dropping by like a set percentage every year, what's happening with revenue over the last 20 years? And there is a you know, you can also talk about the last two years as well.

Henry Pelinski 12:52

You know, yeah, starting off in 2020, with with the absolute, the absolute low, pretty self explanatory, you didn't have fans filling up the stadiums. But I will say that the ticket prices have been increasing as well. And I think that that teams are finding ways to kind of work around, perhaps lack of viewership on the TV side of things. And especially trying to market big players. These days, you know, Shohei Otani, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, you know, possibly on his way to his first World Series. So it is it is interesting that you bring that bring up this point, I'd love to get kind of your perspective on how the numbers of revenue are going up, but the viewership is going down.

Mike Lewis 13:39

Yeah, like, it's, I think we just kind of accepted it's like, Well, Major League Baseball has in you almost had this they found ways, right? If you look at the amount of in particular, I think, sponsorship that has gone into professional sports over the last, you know, that's really grown dramatically every decade. You know, you go to a major league baseball park now, and, like, you're gonna see signage for the local airline, you're gonna see signage for Chick fil A for McDonald's, for Coca Cola, you know, they found a way to continually increase the revenues. I think even there's also sort of something strange that goes into all this that where, even though viewership has dropped for a lot of sports properties, viewership has dropped even more for other things on TV. And so leagues have been able to always negotiate higher higher TV deals. But it is a strange business. When you think about it, where let's say viewership for the core fan has dropped by a half or, or if well by more than a half over 30 years, but the revenues keep going up. Right. And so if you're Major League Baseball, it's a strange deal, right? You're making more More money, fewer people are watching you. You've alluded a little bit to, you know, how it's perceived in the culture. And then Henry, this is why, frankly, this is why I love Major League Baseball and like love talking about fans, because in some ways, I don't quite get it. You know, I mean, it's a mystery where this is all gonna go. You know, I

Henry Pelinski 15:21

think you made two good points that not only are, you know, major league ratings for TV viewing and other leagues as well going down, but people aren't watching TV in general. And so I think it could kind of just be a ripple effect that's kind of going over sports, people are consuming sports in a much different way. These days. You know, people are are streaming them on illegal websites, people are getting it from social media. And the other thing is, I think kind of the way that they entertain fans has changed from just fans and seats watching the game itself to a more family friendly, more holistic kind of experience at the ballpark you go to truest where the Braves are playing. They have, you know, not only the Chick fil A and the Delta ad, but they have a Chick fil A and they're they have, you know, a zip line behind the field for the kids like it's a lot of activities and an entire experience that sort of just happens to revolve around baseball. So they are finding ways to kind of, you know, keep pushing the boundary on how they can give fans new and exciting experiences.

Mike Lewis 16:20

Oh, when you were a kid. I know you you grew up in the north side of Chicago, right? Yes. Okay, so Cubs fan? Yeah, Go Cubs. Okay, and sort of, was it automatic? Almost like that was the default. You're growing up in Chicago? Cubs are on WGN. It was a Sox fan. Say it again? Did you ever consider being a Sox fan?

Henry Pelinski 16:45

It was, you know, as far from the White Sox as possible. You know, when we first moved to the Chicago area. I was very young. We lived about two minutes from Wrigley we're in Wrigleyville. So it was just like automatic.

Mike Lewis 16:58

Okay, and your parents, your data baseball fan as well.

Henry Pelinski 17:03

Yeah, he is he so he's actually from the New England area and back northeast. So you know, him and his brother and his dad are our Red Sox fans. But, you know, having spent some of my formative years in Wrigleyville I definitely have a special spot in my heart for the Chicago Cubs. Okay,

Mike Lewis 17:20

so, and that's, I'm always interested in that. So do you have a dual loyalty to the Red Sox and the Cubs? Are you straight?

Henry Pelinski 17:29

You could say you could say that. You know, I think you know, it's fair to have an AFL and NFL team. So those would be each of my teams from each league.

Mike Lewis 17:39

And they're, they're two easy teams to root for, especially lately, I think. Okay. Okay. So Henry, this last season. It strikes me that this was kind of a special baseball season. You know, we had some, you know, so baseball finds itself at this kind of Crossroads or inflection point, a lot of concern about are they going to attract Generation Z. A lot of competition with the NFL, maybe some competition with the NBA, which probably sounds crazy to older generations of Americans that they're kind of fighting it out for market share. But this baseball season was truly spectacular. You had a team that won 111 games, right. The LA Dodgers? Yeah. I mean, that's, that's like a performance for the ages. I mean, what else? What else kind of stuck with you this this past year?

Henry Pelinski 18:34

You know, clearly, what Aaron judge did was was very special. You know, he setting you know, breaking Roger Maris is American League home run record. You know, the home run kind of epitomizes the game of baseball itself, you know, it's one of the most, one of the most dominant acts and sports is hitting the home run to see that kind of dominant show that Judge put on, and in so many more offensive categories than just the long ball too. You know, he really had a special season. Unfortunately, the Red Sox and the Cubs did not do too well. But if I had to give you you know, one answer, I would say it was Aaron. Judge.

Mike Lewis 19:14

Well, and let me let me give you, let me ask you about that. So, again, you're sort of living on the ground with the population that needs to become the next group of sports fans. amongst your and this is a little bit unfair, maybe Yeah, I mean, you live in a bias world. You're on the baseball team, from your non baseball friends. Did they know who Aaron judge was? Did they follow the chase?

Henry Pelinski 19:41

You know, I think they definitely are exposed to it because I'd say nine out of 10 of my friends, you know, have sports center alerts turned on on their phone or they follow ESPN on Instagram. But I think maybe the root of the question you're getting at is are these guys more preoccupied with Thursday night football, and I'd probably say the answer is yes. as well,

Mike Lewis 20:01

I'm also asking, you know, is your sense that you're kind of living in a in an unusual sample of 21 year olds, the fact that you still got the ESPN alerts turned on onto your phones? Is that Is that common for Emory students? Like when I was at the University of Illinois in the 1980s? You know, like it felt it felt like every guy on that campus was watching ESPN Sports Center. Is that this? Is sports playing the same role for this college age. Bunch of kids, I would

Henry Pelinski 20:35

say with, with people I interact with, yes, you know, you walk in to the clubhouse at the field, and they've got, you know, TV turned on in the locker room with sports playing. But I'm not sure about the rest of Emory, you know, being a being the type of school that it is, I guess that would kind of be a little more up in the air. But regarding student athletes at Emory, I'd say they have a good love for following sports.

Mike Lewis 21:00

Okay, so you're not hanging out with the theater kids much?

Henry Pelinski 21:04

No, not too much.

Mike Lewis 21:06

Okay, so you know, but I again, you know, I think baseball in in really, almost all a sports are kind of in this, this interesting world of where's it gonna go from here? I'll give you I'll give you sort of my view on history. And look, I mean, it's interesting, because I think some of the things that have really got baseball to where they're at, happen before you were born. But I'll give you sort of what I think of as the kind of the key moments and you you chime in and let me know if there's, if any of this resonates with you, or you think I'm a little bit off. So I tend to think one of the one of the key elements in all this was the 1994 strike. Okay, so the 1994 strike. And back in Chicago, that was kind of a big deal, because the White Sox were were pretty good that year. And this was an era when Chicago baseball, seldom participated in the postseason, right, sort of the Dark Ages. The White Sox, you know, might have had a shot at the World Series. So baseball actually lost a championship. That almost strikes me as unimaginable. Looking back, right. Can you imagine the the NFL not playing the Super Bowl one year. So following that, we had this era where and I think that's kind of relevant in that, you know, a lot of upset fans and a lot of disillusion fans of you know, the World Series disappeared. Part of the response to that, or, you know, part of what felt like the response to that was the P, the steroid era of you know, the McGwire and bonds and Sosa and the massive homerun numbers, again, what you're saying offense to bring people back into the seats. The other thing that occurred with this is the economics of the game changed. And we have something called the Blue Ribbon report, which the Blue Ribbon Panel, which was in response to this era, when the Yankees won the World Series for I think, you know, five, five years in a row or something, he won multiple championships. And that was, you know, really focused on things like revenue sharing, etc. But I tend to think that those were the, you know, those were kind of the key events to terms of how we got to where we're at in baseball, this disillusionment or this harm to the brand equity from the last strike, the steroid era, almost had a rebound effect, right. I mean, like it was before your time, that was an amazing summer Sosa versus McGuire in particular. But then it ended really bad with balco and bonds and all this kind of, you know, it was any of this stuff real to these guys make the Hall of Fame Hall of Fame, and it almost feels like those stars didn't happen, in a way. And then on the other side of it, you know, we had this economic change that baseball kind of, I'll say this kind of resisted, right. So in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers can spend as much money as the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers can win Super Bowls. In baseball, you know, baseball sort of fought that idea of revenue sharing. There's a little bit of it. But there's, you know, fairly significant imbalances. I mean, this this last, you know, in some ways this playoffs were unique, right, and that the Yankees were playing the Cleveland, you know, cannery, I can't stop, I can't help it. The Cleveland Indians now guardians, right? at a much lower payroll, but I tend to think it's like this rebound from strike steroids. And then the economics that drives a lot of what we see in baseball.

Henry Pelinski 24:42

You know, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear hearing all that is Moneyball and the reason you know why that was such popular movies. I don't think that that movie could happen in any other sport, right? Just the way that baseball is with payrolls and the, you know, the culture, both on The business and the fan side and the athletic side of the game with the statistics that baseball has, and the revenues and payrolls just really reminds me of of Moneyball. And the reason why fans kind of are drawn to that movie. So I think it's interesting to see, you know, team like, San Diego, or are the guardians making it this far in the playoffs? And how they kind of match up against the team like the Yankees?

Mike Lewis 25:26

Yeah, I mean, and I don't know. I mean, is that part of the story in the popular kind of the popular culture? The fact that it was these? I almost feel like we've gone away from that David versus Goliath part of part of baseball, but, you know, I bet you the Yankees payroll was three or four times that of the Guardians. But I don't think anyone's even going, Oh, the poor guardians anymore. So it's like, no, we, we just need the Yankees to roll through this to get Aaron judge in the World Series.

Henry Pelinski 25:54

You know, I think you have a point there. I think it was honestly, more so the thing and 2020 when you had the Dodgers who have a ginormous parallel going up going up against Tampa Bay, very small market team down in Florida. But yeah, I don't know. I think the fans probably want to see New York in the World Series, especially after the whole Houston scandal a few years back.

Mike Lewis 26:18

Okay, well, let's sort of, let's take a little segue here for a second. Is Houston forgiven? Or is the baseball world still rooting against you? So

Henry Pelinski 26:29

I know I'm rooting against Houston. And it's funny, because the more guys I talk to, especially guys on my team here at Emory, guys that are pretty, you know, involved with following and playing baseball. They'll tell you, if you ask them. They'll say everyone's cheating in Houston was just the one out of out of 30 of the teams that got caught, you know, people have theories, whoever you ask people have theories about pretty much every major league ballclub having different little strategies, to cheat steal signs. And so Houston was kind of got the short end of the stick there. But are they forgiven? I don't like to root for them or think that they are.

Mike Lewis 27:07

You know, one of the things that's kind of fascinating about the whole thing is that, you know, Houston captured, what were they they're using video cameras to capture the signs.

Henry Pelinski 27:16

And then they were taking the signs that they captured and relaying it to the hitter, by being in a trash can a set amount of times in the dugout.

Mike Lewis 27:25

I mean, in some ways, it's, you know, we're brought, we're sponsored by the marketing analytics center, right. And all we do in business schools now is we talk about analytics. And essentially, analytics boils down to collecting more information and using it better. In some ways, kind of what's great about baseball in this cheating scandal is they use technology to get more information now than the fact that they're bagging Trash Trash cans to convey the the result is kind of is kind of great as well. But it kind of captures what I think is one of the themes that's going on with baseball, right? Where it's like, this use of the numbers, this use of information to get advantages. And does that fundamentally change and wreck the game? Right? So when you go from, you know, Henry's a, you know, right handed hitter, he's facing a left hander who's thrown, you know, 64 pitches, you know, we just pull in more and more information and come up with all these tendencies and make better and better decisions. And does that actually harm the game for some of the purists out there? Now we're talking about Houston, the Tampa Bay Rays are very much known for almost damaging the game by having better analytics. And so I feel like I've gone down a path where I'm now apologizing for Houston as a bunch of cheaters, perhaps. But I definitely, you know, maybe it's the analytical background. I think there's almost this continuum of when is like using information, kind of a fair advantage, and when does it kind of wreck things?

Henry Pelinski 29:12

You know, I think at the end of the day when you have if you were to look on Twitter after the Houston Astros kind of got caught. You had a lot of guys, professional baseball players coming out and defending their bodies who had gotten cut, because the Astros had cheated against them and done so well that the ball clubs playing against Houston release these guys whose signs had been stolen. So I think it's this is kind of tough to navigate on the microphone. And just because when you go and look at the whole premise of Moneyball and what you said, it's all about, here's a bunch of data. Here's the situation. Go have your stack guys. Write up code, you know, Python or R or whatever it is. Have them write up advanced stats and use that to help kind of guide your game plan. And especially when you consider if it's if it's true, which I think it is that everyone's cheating. You know, you got millions of dollars and fans and the World Series on the line, you have to you have to as well or you're going to be left behind. So I think it's kind of tough to navigate this one here. But at the end of the day, you know, a couple years out, people haven't forgotten about Houston.

Mike Lewis 30:19

Now and, you know, for whatever reason, Houston cheating has, it's definitely something that resonated with fans, and there was universal distaste for what Houston has done. And again, I'm old enough to know that almost cheating in baseball almost. It's a funny thing, like cheating in baseball almost has a certain charm to it. Because it Henry, I mean, you, you know, pitchers with foreign substances on their mitts. Right. I mean, you know, it's always been kind of almost kind of quirky, amusing thing, but something about what Houston did was too far. And no one's rooting for Houston. Right?

Henry Pelinski 31:00

Unless you're from Texas, okay.

Mike Lewis 31:03

And so, you know, we looked at those, we looked at the graph, right, and we saw and we talked a little about the Yankees, the Yankees Cleveland series has drawn about twice as many viewers as some of the other baseball, some of the other early round playoff series. If we've got New York versus Philadelphia, in the World Series, we might be looking at 20 million viewers per game. If we go to San Diego, maybe that drops you know, big chunk out of it. The Philadelphia markets about 6 million people. San Diego markets about 2 million people. Nice weather cities tend to have less viewership. If Houston's playing our baseball fans mad enough that they will in fact not even watch or they are going to watch to hopefully see Houston lose.

Henry Pelinski 31:58

You know, I definitely think you know, people at the end of the day it's almost is the situation here that you kind of hinted at earlier where a player is going to transcend the organization and so you know, people I feel like are almost ruined to see Bryce Harper square off against Aaron judge. And, you know, people want to see the Yankees whether they hate them or love them more than the Astros

Mike Lewis 32:22

Henry, I think might be worth like an incremental 10 million viewers. I think it's that

Henry Pelinski 32:27

kind of Sir. I think I think I think you hit the nail right on the head. And I think, you know, at the end of the day to answer your question, I think a World Series with New York, I would imagine withdraw withdraw hire crowd for sure.

Mike Lewis 32:42

Yeah. Okay, let me let me switch to another exhibit and this is from I can find it always dangerous.

Okay, so I'm switching to something from the the Emory marketing analytics Center's annual fandom survey annual, and we're on the second year of it. And there's a ton of information available on this survey on the website and But you know, what I want to talk to you next Henry is sort of about where we're baseball is at in terms of the popular culture. So you know, going beyond the realm of sports, and how baseball fits into. I mean, at the end of the day, some people might argue, I would argue differently, actually. But some people might argue that sports are just another form of entertainment. There's lots of entertainment choices, I can watch a movie on Netflix, I can go to a club, I can, you know, I can go watch a baseball game on TV. If sports is, you know, just part of the culture, then, you know, where does baseball? Where does baseball exist in all this? Right? And that's, I think that's a tough question. To answer, right? Because, you know, the culture is everything. So I'm asking you, where does baseball fit into everything? And it's almost too fuzzy of of a question, but the exhibit I put up there is fandom in sports. And this is fandom by sport in 2022. And the graph has essentially two bars for each of the major sports, the percentage of folks that are fans of the sport, and the percentage of folks that are apathetic. Okay, so, here we're defining this is a 2000 person survey, national nationwide survey, that if someone says I'm a, you know, on a scale of one to seven, if they say I'm a six or a seven, we list them as a fan of the sport. If they say they're a one or two, we list them as an apathetic, okay? So they're either our fan with all the passion and commitment that that entails. or frankly, they don't even care. And the sports listed here are football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, eSports Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics. Okay, so rather than read off all these numbers, just first glance anything on here so it looks surprising to you, Henry.

Henry Pelinski 35:23

Not too too surprising. I will. You know, say it's worth noting that football is the only sport that has a higher rating of fans than apathetic X. Which is got to be worth something.

Mike Lewis 35:34

Just so football, the fandom rate is 40%, the apathy rate is 28%. In contrast for baseball 24% fandom versus 39% apathy. Yeah, it means something. I actually think it means a lot. I tend to think that, that you know, having more fans and apathetic actually explains why football is maybe the one and I look and Henry was in my sports marketing class. Henry, I talked about this kind of stuff a lot, because we teach in the spring semester, how many people watch the Superbowl every year?

Henry Pelinski 36:12

Right, a lot more than more than any other television show. Okay, so

Mike Lewis 36:16

the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl has usually about 100 million viewers. So football is the last sport that really commands that that mass media audience so 100 million people watching the Super Bowl, versus 12 million people watching the World Series last year. Football is the is football the only universal sport in America.

Henry Pelinski 36:44

I mean, I'd have to say that it is because football is easy to watch, even if you're not a fan, which is kind of the reason why I think we're seeing only 28% apathy here, you know, especially the Superbowl it's kind of it's an event within itself. You have you know, family, friends, and next door neighbors coming over to the house bring in, you know, food and the Superbowl is more than just a game. It's an entire event with a halftime show. And I think that this kind of premise of entertainment is true for all NFL games regular season or Super Bowl. Sort of the reason why NFL is king here.

Mike Lewis 37:21

That's, I love that that term event. And I think that's what the NFL does best. Everyone knows when the Superbowl is right? They they let you know. And everyone, almost everyone knows who the the halftime show is going to be. Does baseball do event well enough? Does it ever feel like an event anymore?

Henry Pelinski 37:41

No, I think I think it's a good point. No, I think frankly, nights like you look at even the playoffs, which is where it's only you know, right now four teams left, you're like, Oh, what are the Yankees playing, they're playing that, you know, you have to look it up. And it's like 7:37pm or like you got the Padres West Coast game at three o'clock in the afternoon. So it's hard to kind of rally you and your bodies around watching a game. Especially when now you know, the ALCS and LCS and World Series are seven game series. So you've got seven games, and that's hard to lock into. Whereas the Super Bowl is one and done right? So people get excited about that. It's almost like a built in game seven factor, just because it's one and done with the Super Bowl. And I think that plays a big part in that as well.

Mike Lewis 38:24

Do you think? You know, and we I was thinking we get to this at the end. But I'll ask this question now. Do you think baseball needs to be shorter, fewer games than the regular season. Fewer games in the bay baseball since expanded the playoffs but even shorter series within the playoffs more. And Henry Remember, we're now in an era where there are folks literally complaining that the Dodgers have been robbed. Because the series was toasts was too short. Right? That there's too much randomness within a baseball game that maybe like there may be even as much randomness in a football game or as basketball game. But it doesn't feel like it right. Baseball feels like I don't know, baseball feels like he got to play a lot of games.

Henry Pelinski 39:11

I definitely think you do. I think you know, obviously, the more something happens, the more two teams play. Eventually the better team is going to win more and more and there'll be less flukes. So I don't think you could go shorter than a seven game set, especially in the World Series where we're all the marvels are kind of on the line. And the other thing you know, when you look at football,

Mike Lewis 39:32

well, let me say something to this to just, man even when as you were saying that the idea of changing it from seven games almost feels like that hurts my sports. All right. The World Series is seven games, right? It almost has to be can't be five. Can't be nine. It has to be seven. But can the world book in the regular season can that go to? Could you play 100 were regular season games and everyone be happy

Henry Pelinski 40:00

You know, I think you'd cut especially with the fact that they're adding in more wildcard spots this year, so that teams who, you know, maybe if they had had a 162 game season would have been able to make a push at the end to win the division. If you shortened it to 100 games with, you know, maybe add one more wildcard team, would people be too upset? I don't know, maybe not. But you know, at the end of the day, too, I think the thing with baseball is, it's a game of longevity. And it's, it's a war of attrition. Whereas you know, NFL, if you got the same, you know, the same quarterback, every single time, whereas in baseball, you've got, you know, 20 pitchers on the team, right. And part of the beauty of the game is balancing and strategizing your bullpen and your starting rotation. And that kind of hits its its apex in the postseason, with guys thrown on short rest and guys battling injury, when it matters. So I think that's kind of another reason why you couldn't shorten it up just because of how pitching works.

Mike Lewis 40:54

Okay. And, you know, I like where your head's at, because I do think you're, you know, glad I brought you in for this because I like having a guy that lives in baseball for this discussion. Because, you know, a lot of the proposals, I think out there. Yeah, they almost feel like they're separate from baseball, but they're not really, they're not coming from within the game, they're almost coming from the it almost feels like they're coming from the TV producers, rather than from the people that are the heroes in the sport. But last thing before we get this, so I've thrown up another chart here, and this is sports specific fandom by generation. And so this is the fandom rate, across Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, baby boomers, so there's about a 500 person nationwide sample in each of these groups. And we've asked them the essentially are you fans of football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, eSports Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics. Okay, and so it's, it's an interesting looking chart. In that there's, there's a, you know, to paint a picture, you know, for example, in basketball, Generation Z has the highest fandom, rate it at 32%, then, et cetera, to trends downward to millennials, just less than 30%. Generation X at, let's say about 28%. And Baby Boomers at a very low number for the for basketball. But essentially the NBA at about 21%. Football, it reverses Generation Z has the actually has the lowest fandom rate. So even though football might be the universal sport. Generation Z seems to be checking out of certain sports, which again, is kind of a fascinating thing. From some of the conversation we've had Henry, you know, if football is an event, and it's an event built around a TV and cable television on Sunday afternoons, kind of makes sense. The generations either doesn't live in those worlds of, you know, being around a, you know, a giant screen TV on Sunday with the family. Make sense? Baseball, our topic for today. The graph looks again, almost like one of these linear regressions, right? The baseball fandom rate for Generation Z is 21%. Looks to be 24%. For Millennials 26% For Generation X, and 27% for baby boomers. Okay, so that was a lot of words, Henry, a lot of numbers. Your major league baseball, you're concerned with youth baseball participation, just sort of the big picture in baseball. What do you think about those numbers for baseball fandom across the generations?

Henry Pelinski 43:50

I mean, you kind of explained it as it's not looking good. With the youngest generations kind of coming in with at the lowest mark here. And it's interesting that it's inverted, kind of inverted with soccer and eSports with with Gen Z kind of having the highest and then, you know,

Mike Lewis 44:07

basketball, right? I mean, it looks like baseball has the opposite pattern of basketball, soccer and eSports.

Henry Pelinski 44:14

Right. And so if you're Major League Baseball, you gotta you gotta really kind of gauge what's going on. And I think at the end of the day, my friends who don't follow baseball as much and who aren't, you know, huge baseball fans, what kind of grabs their attention is flashy backflips with homeruns, you know, as you call it, pimping a homerun

Mike Lewis 44:38

and stay there for a second fancy backflips. There's a whole genre of

Henry Pelinski 44:45

not, these are not these are like,

Mike Lewis 44:46

endzone dances at this point.

Henry Pelinski 44:49

I mean, there are definitely some nuances to it and definitely, you know, different different kinds of flavors to backflips. But that So what's gonna be on SportsCenter? Right? That's what everyone's gonna see. Right? That's kind of what drives excitement I feel like with with the younger fans, and so if you're a baseball you're like how do we channel that? How do we again speed up the game and you see this with the rule changes that they're doing right they're trying to make the game revolve around more offense and more offense is more backflips. More More flashed, right, you've got, you know, Fernando tatties and guys, like, you know, trout and harbor being on the cover of, you know, the latest iterations of the MLB The Show the video game, because these are the flashy guys that are the the select few that grab the attention. So if you Major League Baseball, I guess to answer your question, how do we kind of grab Gen Z before it's too late, it's somehow need to rally around these guys in the way that they play the game with some new flair.

Mike Lewis 45:45

Okay, so let's, you know, I think there's two things. So there's the issue for Gen Z, and the next generation of fandom I think boils down to two kind of directions. So one, a communication strategy. And second, something related to the nature of the game. Okay, so the communication strategy, Henry, I'm gonna say you're, it's almost like you're a little bit of an old soul, I suspect, because you mentioned that you're gonna see the bat flip on Sports Center. I don't think your generations watching Sports Center. I think your generation might be seeing males bat flips on Instagram, or Tiktok, or some type of social platform. The Video Game side of it. Yeah, dude, that's gotta be huge. But But let me ask you this. You're a baseball guy. You rather play Madden? Are you going to play the baseball game?

Henry Pelinski 46:43

I'll tell you what, I don't play on the actual TV console too much. But on my phone, I have one sports game that I play more on. And it is the Madden mobile. So I guess that answers your question. And I guess just to clarify my last point, because you are correct that it's not you know, watching SportsCenter on the TV, but, you know, Instagram, Tik Tok, social media clips of the bat flip. And a lot of times those are, you know, posted by sports centers, Instagram account and stuff like that.

Mike Lewis 47:14

But this is kind of interesting to me, because it's almost like, is there a chicken and an egg argument here, right? So people follow. You know, so baseball is communication strategy. In some ways, it's easy to say, Oh, they gotta get more active on social media. They gotta have more dramatic and fun highlights. But you got to get people to there's got to be part of an acquisition strategy here too, right? I mean, you know, LeBron James already has 100 plus million Instagram followers, right? So it's kind of, it's kind of built in, what's gonna get, you know, the baseball, you know, what's gonna get Gen Z to actually, you know, follow their local team, and then you know, and then the team's got to do their share, and come up with the, the nice video clips and the big home runs, etc, etc.

Henry Pelinski 48:04

You know, I think that's funny because I'm looking at, you know, the list of, of, you know, some of the most social socially prevalent athletes that you sent, and you know, it's Ronaldo, LeBron Serena Williams, Simone Biles, right, but you don't see a single major league baseball player on there. But I think again, it just comes back around to the question of,

Mike Lewis 48:24

oh, let me ask you, Henry, who's your favorite follow on major league baseball of a major league baseball player.

Henry Pelinski 48:33

Say probably, probably trout, I just, you know, he's a good guy. But there's, there's nothing, you know, I guess, too exciting about the stuff he's putting out. Whereas with LeBron, there is and even transcends basketball, you know, LeBrons, kind of got his stamp, you know, as a pop culture icon, and then a political activist, whereas you don't really have that guy in Major League Baseball, right? You've got you know, Mike Trout, you know, I like following him on Instagram, but his accounts, very vanilla compared to these other these other athletes.

Mike Lewis 49:02

And Hollywood's not putting him in a movie anytime soon, are they? They're not he's not playing cartoon baseball, I suspect. Right. And he's not getting into an argument with Joe Biden on Twitter, right. I mean, it's, but I look, I think that's a big part of the story. I mean, we can laugh about it. And it's kind of funny, but they don't have those kinds of cultural icons at the moment. Like, they don't even have a guy like Tom Brady, who is all over, you know, the sports media that this morning on the 21st because he's talking about how he's essentially, with the marital problems and just the illusion of his marriage, that he's never going to retire. Right. They don't have that kind of media figure.

Henry Pelinski 49:50

Right. And I think a lot of that kind of, has been influenced by the culture of society that we live in today. If you go back, you know. 56 The years and so on back to the old the old days of baseball, you could say all of those guys, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, you know, Jackie Robinson, the list goes on and on, you've got 39 Guys, if I counted correctly, in my research, who are in the Hall of Fame and served in World War Two, right, so back in the day you had these guys were they were larger than life. Ted Williams was every young kids, you know, hero, and now it's switched to athletes having a different kind of presence in society's culture.

Mike Lewis 50:32

And it's, and again, I think this is in you, and I, we're not going to solve this problem. But I think that maybe fundamentally what baseball needs to do is have their players transcend baseball and become part of the culture. Part of me wonders if it wasn't almost a strategy from baseball, you know, post Barry Bonds and the, you know, the the P D era to actually get away from anything controversial. But, you know, it's social media kind of exploded, like, it's a funny thing in this in this era. And I don't know if you've ever done it, look at the social media followings of your favorite teams. And then of your favorite athletes. Very often, it's almost a like a 10 to one ratio, or a five to one ratio, in terms of how much more popular the athletes are than the clubs they play on. And I don't you know, again, I'd like to know, Is there is there a controversial bad boy, is there a Conor McGregor? Joe burrow? You know, Dr. David Green, you know, is there that kind of guy in baseball, that, you know, just kind of gets people going gets people talking?

Henry Pelinski 51:46

You know, I would say, you know, you said McGregor Joe burrow. And we already kind of touched on this earlier, but I when I hear you say that I think there's definitely there might not be a McGregor but there's definitely a bill and beer. Beer baseball, I love that. And again, it's for different reasons than than just being a bully with with pure physicality on the hardwood. But you know, and maybe I'm wrong, maybe maybe people would disagree, but I think that a couple of the

Mike Lewis 52:17

know who Bill Laimbeer is, what's up? How do you even know who Bill Gambhir is, uh, your age?

Henry Pelinski 52:23

The 30 for 30 the bad boys 30 for 30?

Mike Lewis 52:28

Yeah, actually, that's a good point. It's like, even even the last dance lambier probably had some choice moments that

Henry Pelinski 52:34

they go. But some of the core stars on the Astros just kind of have that like that, you know, just that certain kind of vibe to them at that I feel like he had in some of these 3430s I've seen.

Mike Lewis 52:50

Yeah. And maybe that's part of the question just is baseball going to embrace that? Right? Is baseball going to put it out there? Or they're going to kind of, are they going to kind of hide it? Okay, Henry, last thing. And again, sort of coming full circle, the purity of the game. I've never been a tremendous baseball fan as I grow older. I appreciate the game more. I think the game is, you know, I think it's the prettiest game. I think it's the most beautiful game. I think it's at a pace that is actually fairly unique. I think there's some, I think it's probably the most family oriented game. So baseball, I think has some elements that make it unique among American sports is is not in an indoor arena. It has a specialness. A lot of what's being proposed and you went through some of the pitch clocks outlawing the shift. I don't know what else they're talking about. You want to make a prediction on how that stuff? How effective that's going to be? Is there going to be blowback from changing the game? And are they going to wreck things? What do you think?

Henry Pelinski 54:00

You know, I've kind of started coming around to it a little bit. You know, I obviously, was very kind of against it. At first, I guess you could say I'm kind of a purist with the game, but if it's gonna make the game more exciting and more flashy at the end of the day, that's why everyone loves baseball, right? At the end of the day. There's a lot of there's a lot of nuances and strategies that may change because of these rule shifts. But if you're if you're basing your answer to this question off of growing the game and kind of making it revolve around that flashy player, that big backflip, that big homerun, then I think these rule changes are going to be good and people who maybe don't watch baseball as much will probably come around to it slightly more than they would have.

Mike Lewis 54:43

Okay, so there is you guys have heard it here. There is hope. Baseball can modernize, get a little bit more media savvy. The Bat flip becomes the I don't know the bat flip is the equivalent to the slam dunk perhaps. Yep, and And the one handed the what the, you know, the NFL and their one handed touchdown catches at this point. Like I said, I mean, to me, it's an absolutely fascinating sport. You know what we're we're, you know is the American is the American sport, right? I mean, we've done some research and preparation. We didn't talk a lot about it. But if you think about the American sports for the last 100 years, this is a baseball country. Right, Henry? I mean, I don't think there's any doubt about that. It's, you know, you talk about, you know, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, right. I mean, historically, that's what we were.

Henry Pelinski 55:38

I mean, not only, you know, to the point I made earlier about all these, these guys in the Hall of Fame, you know, leaving the game to serve their country. But when you think about Super American moments in sports, the first you know, five that come into my mind automatically, are all baseball. And maybe I'm just biased. But you think about George Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium after 911. You think about Sammy Sosa running around the bases after hitting a home run with a little American flag. You think about Rick Monday, saving the flag from the hippies, that were trying to burn it on fire. It's, you know, the list goes on and on. And so I think you definitely want to, you know, a point of when people talk about America, it's baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet, right.

Mike Lewis 56:17

And so it's, this will be a really kind of interesting thing to watch, is, you know, how will baseball and baseball fandom evolve going forward right, from being essentially the almost this kind of core element of American culture to something that is now sort of fighting it out with basketball for the number two position? It's, you know, we're in a world where technology's changes really has changed really rapid has changed rapidly. We've got demographic changes that you know, also alter baseball's prospects. It's, it's a beautiful game, and it'll be really kind of fun to watch how this all plays out over the next couple of years. Okay, with that, I want to thank you a ton for coming on and doing this, Henry. Absolutely. Appreciate it. You got any last words?

Henry Pelinski 57:09

You know, it was great being on Thank you for having me. And, you know, it was a lot of fun. So hopefully the fans enjoyed it as much as I did. Okay, Go Eagles.



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