For many of us, the beginning of March is usually a joyous affair because it means spring is right around the corner. But if you’re a baseball fan like myself, this year feels a little gloomier to say the least.
Rather than reassuring the fans that they are working their very hardest to save this season, should Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association begin to fear that it is already too late.
As opposed to big “hot stove” acquisitions and spring training excitement which typically characterizes a normal baseball offseason, this year the only news around the sport has been a major dispute between the Player’s Association (MLBPA) and the team owners over a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This labor disagreement has kept the two sides gridlocked for nearly 100 days, resulting in a league lockout that already has delayed opening day and has the rest of the season in limbo. This lockout and cancellation of opening day (as well as more games likely to follow) is a very bad thing for a sport already declining in ratings. While both sides continuously use their platforms to share their own sides of the story, there is one group of key stakeholders who aren’t getting nearly enough attention. That of course being the fans; how has this lockout saga impacted those who are the most influential towards growing the game and keeping the momentum around “America’s pastime” alive?
To find out, Savanta interviewed 1,040 Major League Baseball fans around the United States to take a deeper dive into how the lockout has affected their attitudes, likelihood to consume Major League Baseball in the future and ultimately determine who is to blame for this nightmare of a winter.
This data suggests that Major League Baseball should be more concerned about the damage this lockout is doing to their fans and the long-term impact this could have on their brand. Many of the fans are already losing faith in the player’s and owner’s abilities to come to a fair agreement with only two thirds (68%) believing there will be a season at all this year. Four out of ten (43%) fans say that their view of Major League Baseball is now worse than what it was a year ago, 82% of those cite the lockout as the reason for this negative shift in opinion. What is even more alarming is that 46% of fans say the lockout will cause them to lose interest in watching games on television, 48% say they will be less interested in attending games in-person because of the lockout this season if there is one. Excluding tickets to games, fans were also asked if the lockout will have any impact on how they chose to spend on MLB products (e.g, merchandise, collectibles, etc.) this season compared to previous ones. 52% say they do in fact plan to spend less in 2022. Rather than reassuring the fans that they are working their very hardest to save this season, should Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association begin to fear that it is already too late.
As is for who is actually to blame for this situation, the fans tend to be pretty split. 53% say the owners are more responsible, while 34% put more blame on the players. 60% of fans agree that Rob Manfred has not done a very good job at handling this dispute as Commissioner of the league. While Major League Baseball has not disclosed any consideration for replacement players, fans are actually fairly open to the idea of replacement players, with 42% agreeing this is something the league should enact to get the season started on-time.