There was a worry that the MLB wouldn’t take advantage of the vacuum of sports and expand draft coverage. Thankfully, they hit it out of the park.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the majority of the past three days have been spent reading, watching, listening, and breaking down the picks that the St. Louis Cardinals have made in the 2020 MLB Draft.
Over as quickly as it started, the Cardinals swept in and had a draft that nobody can be angry about. Even though the draft was just two days and five rounds long, the MLB did a great job of capitalizing on the chance they had to grow the sport with draft coverage.
Earlier this year, we saw the NFL hit a grand slam with their draft, destroying their previous record with a wild 8.4M viewers. The NFL’s draft will always be more popular because of the popularity of college football vs college baseball as well as the immediate impact of the top picks.
Spencer Torkelson may be a Hall of Famer, but he won’t play a single game in the MLB this year. For the Bengals, Joe Burrow will be under center at the first snap of the first game of the season.
However, the MLB did get a good gameplan for how to maximize the exposure for the draft from the NFL. The NFL Draft was all online and for one of the first times ever, we got to see inside the at-home war rooms of NFL GM’s and coaches as well as see the players and their families.
The production quality was great and there were some fun moments. Roger Goodell is much more in the public eye and criticism than Rob Manfred, so the MLB draft lacked some in that drama department, but outside of that, the MLB saw what worked.
In the vacuum of this sportless world, the MLB was very smart to follow the NFL’s lead and do the same thing with their coverage. Having the draft on both MLB Network and ESPN helps, but the MLB reaped the same benefits the NFL did.
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On Wednesday, the first round of the draft brought in 611,000 viewers. If that seems small, it is when you consider how well the NFL did, but compared to past years, this was a great improvement.
In 2019, the draft was viewed by 304,000 people. A 101% increase in viewership in 2020 is a great win. The exposure that the sport gained in the last few days can’t be anything but a positive. Educating more fans on the minor leagues will only make affiliate teams more popular, and should theoretically make for smarter overall baseball fans.
I know that for myself, as soon as I started trying to educate myself about the entire universe that is minor league baseball, I found a lot more love for the MLB game because you understand the path these players have taken to reach the MLB. Outside of the world of minor league baseball, the draft is a whole different monster. You have to start somewhere though.
Sadly, it seems that the MLB is going to end up being incapable of capitalizing on the lack of sports as a whole when it comes to them getting back on the field. It’s great to double the draft’s viewership, but I’d rather have spring training starting again around today after a happy and swift deal made weeks ago. We should have a plan to return in the next week.
The league’s failure to make a deal will definitely hurt fan perception of any 2020 season that there is. Even if a deal is made today, plenty of damage has already been done.
The Cardinals did a great job on this year’s draft as did the MLB as a whole. This had to have won back some fans who have been disgruntled, but now the focus will come right back to the on-field issues the MLB is having.