Salk: MLB, NBA heading in opposite directions in pursuit to catch NFL

Feb 20, 2019, 12:43 PM
As long as players are getting deals like Manny Machado's, the MLB isn't in bad shape. (AP)...
As long as players are getting deals like Manny Machado's, the MLB isn't in bad shape. (AP)

Please stop this narrative that MLB is dying while the NBA is coming for the NFL. None of it is true and comparing the two (or three) leagues is apples to oranges.

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We have gone through this before but let’s do it again.

Baseball is succeeding at the local level even as it declines nationally. Ratings are strong. The money is there (just ask the new $300M man, Manny Machado). The health of MLB’s teams is strong. Sure, the World Series, All-Star Game – even the postseason and national games – aren’t what they used to be. That is bad news. But it isn’t debilitating because the game has strong attendance and a great fan base in most markets.

Most fans believe their baseball team has a good shot to win every few years and there are a few super teams, though they don’t always win. There are issues with who gets paid, how the game is played, what the next collective bargaining agreement will look like and how to secure the next generation of fans. But the league is wise to the problems and making small but incremental changes.

The NBA gets huge headlines, kills on social media, and generally does well with its playoffs and especially its championship. But now local ratings are off in 28 cities, TNT ratings are down, and the league will need to find a way to create the next big moment to capture eyeballs. The NBA isn’t lacking for a talent pool, but it has its own problems with development. The AAU and college games are messy and it is creating a generation of entitled players who are increasingly hard to coach – like baseball with its swing coaches, for example. It is harder and harder for organizations in both sports to be in control.

The sports are going in two different directions in an attempt to deal with the monster that is the NFL. They can’t beat it – not even close. And so they are forced to appeal to different niches in order to succeed. Granted, they are big niches. But neither sport can hope to combine local and national interest the way the NFL does.

I think that is one of the reasons we see the fans and media of each sport take pot shots at each other. Both are desperate for attention, but even more, the two sports are appealing to completely different types of fans. And whereas it used to be easy to just go from one season to the next, the 24-hour (and 12-month) news cycle means there is never a down time.

So fans are in a bind, and then they lash out. I know because this is me.

To be honest, I think neither the NBA nor the MLB is in huge trouble. It just looks that way to the fans of the opposite league.

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Salk: MLB, NBA heading in opposite directions in pursuit to catch NFL