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Major League Baseball is coming off another year of a decline in attendance and could use some help. It’s clear the 2020 season will make it six years in a row attendance has dropped since no fans will be able to attend the games because of the pandemic. Add to the attendance problem, a rule change that’s causing some players to voice their displeasure and players kneeling during the national anthem that’s causing an uproar among fans. How long can baseball survive?

MLB is back but how much do people care?

According to The Baseball Cube, Major League Attendance dropped for the fifth straight season in 2019. The total attendance last year was 68,494,845 which was the second straight year it has been below 70 million. The 2019 numbers were the lowest since the 2003 season’s total of 67,630,052.

While certain teams, like the Los Angeles Dodgers, continue to bring in the fans, many continue to see ther numbers drop. The Dodgers led the league in attendance for the seventh straight year, bringing in 3,974,309 fans last season. LA’s numbers have increased since 2016. On the flip side, the Miami Marlins failed to bring in 820,000 people for the second straight season. Last year, the Marlins were at the bottom at 811,302 and were at 811,104 in 2018.

According to USA Today, things got so bad in Tampa last year, the Rays sold 5,000 tickets to five June home games for $5. The Rays even considered playing half their home games in Montreal since attendance was so bad. In July of 2019, the Rays held a $2 flash sale for a three-game July series against the lowly Baltimore Orioles.

MLB will have a different look

Not only will Major League Baseball be played with artificial crowd noise, there will be a couple of significant rules changes, one of which isn’t going overly well with some players. The first change is that both leagues will be using the esignated hitter in 2020. The second, and more controversial change, is that when the game heads to extra innings, each team will begin with a runner on second base.

That second rule change isn’t stilling well with some players, especially relief pitchers. “It’s not real baseball,” New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino said to Sports Illustrated. “We’ll get used to it, but I don’t particularly like having a runner out there that hasn’t earned to be out there. So it’s not my favorite rule to be honest.”

Ottavino’s teammate and fellow reliever, Chad Green, had a similar reaction to Ottavino. “I’m personally not a fan of it just because I don’t know who wants to pitch with a runner on second and nobody out in an extra-inning game,” Green said. “It’s not something that you necessarily look forward to when you’re about to run out there.”

National anthem kneeling is also making waves

On Monday, the San Francisco Giants took on the Oakland Athletics in an exhibition game. Most of the talk, however, wasn’t regarding the play on the field. It had a lot to do with what went on before the game. Several Giants players, including new manager Gabe Kapler, were kneeling during the national anthem.

The anthem-kneeling talk dominated the baseball-game talk and set the social media world on fire. Some praised the Giants for taking the knee, while others, including President Trump, blasted the team and Major League Baseball.

Major League Baseball can’t afford to lose any more fans. Whether one is for kneeling during the anthem or completely against it, it’s a topic that will clearly divide fans. Many have threatened to boycott the league if players and/or coaches kneel for the anthem and baseball isn’t in a position to have fans walk away. The logical step would be to not play the anthem. In fact, why is it even being played in an empty stadium? Of the four major sports, MLB is the first to jump back into action to give fans starving for sports their fix. It would be a shame if it’s the kneeling that dominates the baseball talk.