Top Menu

Samson: Baseball Must Shed Tradition to Survive

Miami MarlinsIrony is dead: David Samson, who presided over steadily declining Miami Marlins attendance while president of the team, says Major League Baseball must shed tradition if it is to survive.

There’s no doubt MLB — and all of pro and college sports, for the matter — is in a transitional time, with fewer folks attending games but those in actual attendance willing to pay more for an elevated experience. That’s why we’re seeing smaller venues in the works, as well higher prices tag and differentiated offerings on the market. Total attendance may not be the best metric for measuring success these days, and reshaping the fan experience is definitely one way MLB is moving past the traditional way of presenting a game.

Which Samson, the former president of the Marlins, should know. Before the team was sold to an investment group led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter in 2017, the Marlins had suffered through attendance and revenue declines despite a new ballpark and a presence in what’s considered a vibrant market. And while he’s not wrong about changes needed in baseball, his advice isn’t especially earth-shattering:

“No such thing as a permanent trend in professional sports,” Samson told “That said, to turn around attendance, MLB will have to stop being mired in traditions and realize substantive changes must be made.”

The commissioner is aware that some rules, which might help speed up the game, need to be changed, he said. But he has had a difficult time getting 23 votes, which is the number needed out of 30 teams to pass rule changes….

“Tampa, because they have no new ballpark and no real plan in place, is MLB’s greatest concern at the moment. Oakland is second in the concerned line,” Samson said. “Without new ballparks, those teams will have to relocate and MLB does not have four viable relocation markets. They would much prefer to expand by two teams because there would be a huge financial benefit to the current owners. In addition, the expansion allows for realignment which is a priority for MLB.”

How to speed up the game is a hot topic in baseball circles, so it’s not exactly an unknown. The status of the Tampa Bay Rays isn’t exactly an unknown, either. But Samson may be overstating the current attendance issues, with 2019 MLB per-game average down only 393 fans over 2018. Meanwhile, you’ve got plenty of teams working to enhance the gameday experience. With planning underway to address ballpark deficiencies in Tampa, Oakland, Baltimore and Toronto, teams are addressing that particular issue.

, ,