MLB care more about a fictional show
Pitch is a show about the first female MLB pitcher. It's got all the glitz and glamour - and hype - that you'd expect from a prime time show. Meanwhile, women's softball is moving along quietly in the background, rarely if ever acknowledged by the MLB. This raises an interesting question - does the MLB care more about a fictional show than it does about its real-life sister league? And if so, what does that mean for the future of both sports?
Pitch as Promotion
Pitch is not high art. Whatever you think about the show, you have to admit that it's riding hard on a bundle of cliches and a ton of marketing glitz. There's a reason for that, of course - the MLB has given the show an unprecedented amount of access, and is absolutely helping to position the show as a "soon to be true" story. Pitch isn't just a television show - it's an attempt at bringing life to an increasingly stale MLB brand.
While there's behind the scenes controversy and plenty of scenes that paint baseball as a boy's club, the show is more of an "Any Given Sunday" than a "Concussion". The MLB is painted as progressive and, perhaps most importantly, vitally interesting. The show plays an important role in bumping up the image of a sport that's steadily losing ground to football, basketball, and even soccer in attendance and ratings. Pitch is a concerted effort by the MLB to make baseball look important. Pitch is, to put it bluntly, a simple promotional tool put into play exactly when baseball needs it the most.
The Softball Divide
Women's professional softball, however, does relatively little for pro baseball. In a country where baseball and softball are sharply divided by gender lines[/url], softball has become an afterthought for the MLB. The few well-known women's softball players played in college or, at best, in the Olympics. There's no team out there that's pulling in numbers like a minor league baseball team, and there's little reason for the MLB to align itself with a relatively obscure professional sport.
Does this mean that softball is unimportant? Of course not. If there is ever to actually be a woman pitching in the majors, she's probably going to come from that background. Unfortunately, though, the MLB doesn't seem to be in the practice of preparing for reality - especially not when fantasy can be more profitable.
Where's the Money?
Perhaps it all comes down to the money for the MLB. Protected status and patriotic fervor aside, the MLB is a business, and it's going to follow the money every time. As much as women's softball does - and should - matter, the MLB won't go down a path that won't allow it to profit. In an increasingly cut-throat world of sports, that's going to mean promoting its brand over any other. While softball and baseball can and should coexist, that's not something that will always translate easily to the balance sheets. As long as Pitch brings people to the stadiums and betting sites, Pitch will be more of a priority than women's softball.
Does the MLB want Pitch to succeed more than it wants women's professional softball to succeed? The answer's an unqualified yes. While the MLB might have a stake in how well softball is doing and some in the league may even see it as a future feeder towards the majors, the truth is that the MLB always has to look out for itself. As baseball fades from national prominence, it's going to hang on to any hope that it may have. For now, that's a prime time series that features the league in a relatively positive light. Once Pitch fades away, there's every chance that relations will warm with softball - but until word of cancellation comes down, softball will continue to be on the bench.