Jake Elmslie –Sports Editor
Opening day for Major League Baseball is slated for Thursday and as it’s been the case over the last decade, it will come with a whimper.
Unlike two of its biggest competitors, the NFL and the NBA, the MLB routinely fails to generate intrigue once the season ends each October with the conclusion of the World Series. This is in stark contrast to the NFL, which has crafted a year long calendar to keep professional football in the news cycle and in the minds of fans long after the season wraps up in February. March 11th, the opening of the legal tampering period in which NFL free agents can begin to negotiate contracts was followed by an immediate flurry of personal moves, with a variety of high profile players changing teams within a few days. Similarly, the NBA also features a very fast paced free agency period that regularly sees multiple star players change locale in a short period of time.
These high tempo free agency periods when paired alongside other offseason activities such as the NFL combine, the NBA draft lottery, the opening of training camps and the draft, which has become a major television event in both the NFL and the NBA, keep both leagues at the forefront of sports news regardless of whether any games are being played.
Meanwhile the MLB offseason can be generously characterized as a slow burn. For the second offseason in a row, marquee free agents such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado lingered without contracts for months, both signing at seemingly random times less than a month before opening day. Meanwhile, across the rest of the league, players sign with next to no regularity leaving MLB free agency a disjointed meandering beast of a thing to keep up with. The lack of any specific free agency period to look forward to robs hardcore baseball fans of an exciting way to experience personal moves while also giving the more casual sports fan little reason to even think about the MLB during its five month long offseason. While the NFL and NBA have mastered their offseasons and turned them into critical parts of the fan experience the MLB offseason resembles little more than a wasteland before spring training rolls in.
While there is not a single clear solution for the MLB’s issues, in a time where professional baseball is seeing little to no growth in its audience, it can not afford to continue the practices that render it barely an afterthought for nearly half of the year.