The best companies don't worry about purists. Facebook has changed its format more than a dozen times since it was founded as Facemash.com in 2003, and each time users swore they'd ditch the platform unless it went back to its old look. Now, Facebook has over 2.6 billion monthly users, which is roughly a third of the world's population.
Baseball remains petrified by purists. It acts like a dingy Irish bar, refusing a remodel for the risk of losing Connor, Kevin and Catherine - locals who sit at the end of the bar, convinced that the place would lose its character without the mildewy smell and poor lighting. Good businesspeople don't fear losing regulars in hopes of bringing in casuals, because they understand the importance of growth.
The NFL learned not to be petrified by purists years ago. They make massive changes routinely. Last season, it was Sean Peyton's pass interference rule, this season it'll be added playoff teams, and soon it will be an extra regular season game. The league has also parlayed its declining physicality - due to safety-enhancing rule changes - into dynamic offensive performances. Purists, including some players, decried the game as getting soft, but the NFL never winced. Ratings and revenue have both gone up, despite the naysayers.
Baseball can say the same for revenue, but not ratings, nor attendance. Its games are getting longer, its fans are becoming older and more regional, and its stars are less relevant than ever.
In a Don Lemon, Tucker Carlson world, the MLB is Walter Cronkite. Boring, and long-winded.
"I was getting ready to say, you know, with a young player doing all that stuff, and all that jewelry, and all the stuff," quipped a Pirates announcer last season after Ronald Acuña Jr. was beaned in the elbow, "Back in the day, I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but, uhh..."
The announcer trailed off, but not before personifying baseball's problem. Everything about the sport is old, and tired, except for its players. Acuña is just 22, and won the silver slugger award to finish that season.
Now, baseball's getting botox. They may have gotten drunk, scheduled an appointment thinking they were ordering that new fancy "boba" drink, and stumbled into the plastic surgeon's office accidentally, but they're now strapped down to the table, being injected with sex appeal.
60 games? Sign me up! Universal DH? Finally! Runner on second to start extra inning? My prayers have been answered.
Welcome to America, 2020.
We are inundated with stimulation. Our hobbies include going to malls, only to find items cheaper on our smartphones, finished off with a trip to the food court to eat pizza - with cheese stuffed into the crust. The smartest Americans no longer work for NASA, the CIA or the FBI. They work for social media companies, creating algorithms that keep us even more addicted to our screens. Baseball is competing with technocrats, the Roger Ailes empire and Tik Tok teens, and it's about time it acts like it.
There's nothing shameful about accidental innovation. Facebook started as Facemash, which was a way for Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard buddies to play "hot or not?" with the faces of campus women. Now, Zuckerberg is worth $90 billion.
The MLB stumbled upon urgency. So what? Did you expect a bunch of rich, sixty-year-old billionaires to embrace change? There's a reason for the saying, "If you're not a liberal under the age of 30, you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative after 30, you have no head."
I just hope they can spot a good thing when they stumble upon it.