It's gone on for decades now -- the idea that baseball is slowly dying and will soon be buried.
I blame the sport itself for not doing a very good job of bragging about itself. And there is plenty to brag about.
In Forbes, Maury Brown did his yearly survey of local television ratings of major-league teams and found what he seems to find every year:
When looking at cable alone, 24 RSNs that host MLB teams rank No. 1 in their market in prime time. Major League Baseball ranks No. 1 in cable prime time in every U.S. MLB market except Miami.
And yes, you could make the claim that the game at the big-league level has become more regional. Ratings on major networks have remained flat or a little down recently -- mostly because the game has made itself so accessible via Internet, cable and satellite television that the national games just aren't that important these days. And of course, that could mean a drop in the enormous haul the clubs make off national TV contracts. But with the money they're raking in today on regional networks, so what?
And when talking about the overall popularity of the game itself, all you hear about is how slow the game is, the pace problems, etc. I think that's much more of a problem for TV viewers than those in the ballpark. And I believe more people watch professional baseball in person than any other sport. By far. Yes, because of lousy weather and the fact that several MLB teams have suddenly fallen victim to the NBA disease of tanking, MLB attendance has dropped some this season.
But when talking about the popularity of the game, nobody ever seems to mention baseball's thriving minor leagues. A lot of money is being made by owners of teams at all levels of the minors and -- in case you didn't know -- it's the only pro sport that's been capable of selling a minor league to the public. The NBA has needed a minor league for years but has been reluctant because it hasn't yet figured a way to make any real money from it. Football developmental leagues have continually failed.
Baseball's minor leagues are still spinning turnstiles. You wonder why people aren't watching MLB network games as often? They're probably at places like Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro watching teams like the Hops. Teams in the short-season Class A Northwest League, where the Hops play, averaged 3,594 fans per game in 2017. Pacific Coast League teams -- and there were 16 of them -- averaged 6,548 per game.
All over the country -- from big cities to tiny hamlets -- fans are standing in line to buy tickets to watch baseball.
And spare me the talk about young people not being interested in baseball. Go to a game and see for yourself. Count the Little Leaguers in Hillsboro or venture out to left field during a Mariners game and check out the college kids chatting up the opposite sex. The fact is, baseball is one of the few games that young people can afford to attend.
Make no mistake, baseball is alive and well. And I can't wait until the MLB product comes to town.