What better way to kick off the baseball playoffs than by bringing up the sport’s ongoing identity crisis?

Ahead of Tuesday night’s National League wild-card game, Major League Baseball unveiled its annual postseason ad. And for the second year in a row, the spot takes aim at the delicate dynamic between baseball’s past and its future.

Titled “We play loud,” the 45-second commercial features clips of young stars such as Aaron Judge and Ronald Acuña Jr. slapping fives and flipping bats superimposed into black-and-white footage of the sport’s long-gone era.

“They say baseball isn’t like it used to be. They’re right,” the narrator says. “It’s faster. Younger. Harder.”

It’s the type of “edgy” advertisement that could ruffle some feathers among baseball traditionalists, which seems to be the point.

And it wouldn’t be the first time. For those who don’t keep up with the online anger of baseball fans, last year’s postseason commercial caused a minor stir.

“Let the kids play” took an even more direct aim at the game’s old-school tendencies. It ran through a list of the game’s “unwritten rules” before ending with a dramatic shot of Ken Griffey Jr.

“No more talk,” the Hall of Famer says in the spot. “Let the kids play.”

The language of youthful rebellion remains in this year’s version.

“The kids are here,” the narrator says. “And We. Play. Loud.”

The ads represent the dilemma faced by those running the sport, especially during the postseason. It is in MLB’s best interest to reach as wide of an audience as possible with its biggest games in an attempt to cultivate the next generation of baseball fans. To do that, marketers want to highlight how the sport has progressed. But MLB simultaneously risks annoying or even alienating its traditionalist fans.

There is ample evidence of this tug of war. Perhaps the most notable 2019 incident came in April, when MLB’s official Twitter account noted its support of outspoken White Sox infielder Tim Anderson after his bat flip led to a benches-clearing scuffle between the Royals and White Sox.

“Keep doing your thing,” read the tweet, which was directed at Anderson and his “no rules” mantra. The account even made a call back to last year’s ad, using #LetTheKidsPlay.

Two days later, the league suspended Anderson one game for language he used during the incident. Not their thing, it seems.

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