Major League Baseball (MLB) is facing a crisis. The sport that once captivated millions of fans across America is now struggling to attract and retain viewers, especially among younger generations.
The average age of MLB fans is 57, compared to 37 for the NBA and 50 for the NFL. The games are too long, too slow, and too boring for many modern consumers who crave excitement and variety.
But there is hope. There is one person who might just have the vision, the skills, and the passion to save baseball from its decline. His name is Theo Epstein, and he is a sports whiz who has already achieved legendary status in the baseball world.
Epstein is best known for being the youngest general manager in MLB history when he took over the Boston Red Sox in 2002 at the age of 28. He led the team to break the infamous “Curse of the Bambino” and win their first World Series title in 86 years in 2004, followed by another one in 2007.
He then moved to the Chicago Cubs in 2011 and repeated the feat, ending their 108-year drought and delivering their first championship since 1908 in 2016.
Epstein is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential executives in baseball history. He pioneered the use of advanced analytics, data-driven decision making, and player development to build winning teams.
He also fostered a culture of collaboration, creativity, and accountability among his staff and players. He has been named Executive of the Year three times by Sporting News and was ranked No. 1 on Fortune’s list of World’s Greatest Leaders in 2017.
But Epstein is not content with resting on his laurels. He has a bigger mission in mind: to save baseball itself. In November 2020, he stepped down from his role as president of baseball operations for the Cubs, saying he wanted to take a break from the grind and spend more time with his family. But he also hinted at his desire to make a positive impact on the game as a whole.
“I do plan on having a third chapter leading a baseball organization someday,” he said at his farewell press conference. “But I think for me I need something in between to recharge my batteries.”
That something in between turned out to be a consulting role with MLB itself. In January 2021, Epstein joined MLB as a consultant for on-field matters, working closely with Commissioner Rob Manfred and other officials to address some of the most pressing issues facing the sport.
According to MLB’s press release, Epstein’s role will focus on “the effects that proposed rule changes may have on the game; analyzing future trends within the sport; evaluating potential modifications to the game’s format; and providing insight regarding on-field matters.”
In other words, Epstein will be tasked with finding ways to make baseball more appealing, more entertaining, and more accessible to a wider audience.
He will be involved in experimenting with new rules, such as banning defensive shifts, limiting pitching changes, introducing a pitch clock, expanding the designated hitter rule, and adding more playoff teams. He will also be exploring new formats, such as shorter seasons, shorter games, or even shorter innings.
Epstein has already expressed his views on some of these topics in various interviews and podcasts. He has admitted that he is partly responsible for creating some of the problems that plague baseball today, such as the increase in strikeouts, walks, home runs, and pitching changes that have reduced action and increased game length.
“I think there are some real threats to the aesthetic value and entertainment value of our game,” he said on The Athletic’s The Lead podcast in February 2021. “And I think we need to be very proactive about addressing them.”
Epstein has also advocated for more diversity and inclusion in baseball, both on and off the field. He has acknowledged that he has benefited from being a white male in a sport that is dominated by white males at the leadership level.
He has pledged to use his platform and influence to promote more opportunities for women and people of color in baseball.
“I think we need to do everything we can as an industry to make sure that our game reflects our society,” he said on The Ringer’s Baseball BBQ podcast in March 2021.
“And that means having more women involved at every level of our game; having more people of color involved at every level of our game; having more international representation at every level of our game.”
Epstein has also expressed his love and appreciation for baseball as a cultural institution that connects generations and communities. He has shared stories of how baseball has shaped his life and career, from growing up as a Red Sox fan in Boston to working with legendary figures
Final Thoughts: Can Theo Epstein Save Major League Baseball?
The decline of Major League Baseball has been a cause of concern for many years, and it seems that the sport is facing a crisis that needs urgent attention. But there is hope in the form of Theo Epstein, a legendary figure in the baseball world who has a proven track record of success.
Epstein’s innovative and data-driven approach to building winning teams has made him one of the most influential executives in baseball history. His willingness to experiment with new ideas and embrace change has set him apart from his peers, and it is this mindset that gives him the best chance of saving baseball from its decline.
As a consultant for MLB, Epstein will have a unique opportunity to shape the future of the sport by exploring new rules, formats, and ideas that can make baseball more appealing and accessible to a wider audience.
He has already expressed his views on some of the most pressing issues facing the sport, such as the increase in game length and the lack of diversity and inclusion.
Epstein’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in baseball is particularly noteworthy, given the sport’s history of exclusion and discrimination.
His willingness to use his platform and influence to create more opportunities for women and people of color is a step in the right direction and shows that he is not only interested in saving baseball but also in making it a better and more inclusive sport.
In conclusion, while there is no guarantee that Theo Epstein can save Major League Baseball, his track record of success, innovative thinking, and commitment to diversity and inclusion make him the best hope for a sport that desperately needs to adapt and evolve.
The future of baseball may be uncertain, but with Epstein’s guidance, there is a real chance that it can once again captivate millions of fans across America and beyond.