Feb 14, 2020 - Sports

The MLB's problems extend far beyond Houston's cheating scandal

José Altuve during a press conference

The Astros' second baseman José Altuve during a press conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Astros had three months to craft a thoughtful apology for the team's sign-stealing scandal. Instead, José Altuve and Alex Bregman spoke for a combined 90 seconds — and owner Jim Crane questioned whether sign-stealing even helped his team win games.

The big picture: While baseball grapples with the fallout, don't lose sight of the many other problems Major League Baseball faces as commissioner Rob Manfred enters his sixth season at the helm.

  • Juiced balls: The "juiced" and then "un-juiced" baseball was a central storyline of the 2019 campaign, raising transparency concerns.
  • Angry players: Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer called Manfred "a joke" on Twitter and followed that up with a seven-minute rant about the state of baseball.
  • Unpopular rule changes: In an effort to speed up the game, pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters starting this season — a rule change that the MLB Players Association did not support.
  • Minor League cuts: Politicians like Bernie Sanders have been railing against MLB's proposal to slash minor league teams, which will cast a dark shadow over the upcoming season.
  • Labor unrest: Tension between the owners and the MLBPA has been brewing for years and could result in a lockout when the current CBA expires after the 2021 season.
  • Marketing problems: In 2018, only 22% of the American public knew who Mike Trout was. That's not a Mike Trout problem, that's an MLB problem.
  • Drop in attendance: Roughly 68.5 million fans attended MLB games in 2019, which continues a downward trend and represents a whopping 15% decline from a high of 79.5 million in 2007.

The bottom line: This is going to be a pivotal decade for baseball, and it's hard to imagine the 2020s getting off to a worse start.

Go deeper: The Astros' apology tour

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