Baseball isn’t dying. We know this is true because every year when the articles and tweets announcing baseball’s supposed continual slide into impending doom hit, a counter swell of information blows back with actual facts and data stating that things are actually fine, just fine. It’s a painfully silly cycle that is good for reminding us that the 30 baseball tribes can unite fairly readily to combat the other major sports.
But that’s not to say there aren’t still numerous things MLB could stand to improve on to help make baseball more popular and more watched. The easiest would be to get rid of the ridiculous and archaic blackout policies preventing games from being streamed online in certain markets. They’re making slow progress towards fixing this bafflingly foolish error, but still have a long way to go. The other strange and seemingly-easily correctable mistake MLB continues to make is its complete inability to effectively market its star players. And baseball has a fairly unique advantage over the NFL and NHL in that the players’ faces are never obscured by helmets. You know exactly what the player looks like at all times, meaning the faces of superstars should be almost instantly recognizable.
But instead, you get stuff like this. For those that didn’t click on the link, it’s a podcast featuring a discussion between Buster Olney and Keith Law about if David Ross could become the face of baseball. David. Ross. Recently retired back-up catcher David Ross, he of the career 10.1 bWAR spread out over 15 seasons. And that’s just stupid.
Ross has gone full on Homer Simpson after bowling his perfect game and is everywhere since the Cubs won the World Series last fall. He’s been on SNL. He’s currently on Dancing with the Stars. They’re planning on making a movie about his 2016 season. And good for him. Make hay while the sun shines and all that. But come on now, MLB. A retired mediocrity should not be the face of your sport. Hell, he shouldn’t even be the face of the Cubs. Kris Bryant is a marketing dream. He’s preternaturally handsome, insanely charismatic, and one of the ten best players in the game today. His face should be everywhere.
For whatever reason, MLB teams seem to have a half-reluctance, half-incompetence when it comes to marketing players. There are some exceptions, sure (the Mariners fantastic TV spots over the past decade come to mind) but this generalized weak spot seems to hold steady when it should be very easy to overcome. The White Sox blew a golden opportunity last season by not finishing their deal with Chance the Rapper, a deal which would have resulted in a Sox hat being worn prominently on the cover of one of the biggest albums of the year. Mike Trout might be the best all-around baseball player anyone under 40 has ever seen. Clayton Kershaw pitches like the world will end if he doesn’t brutally decimate opposing lineups and succeeds while doing that very thing. Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor are the head of a wave of dominant young shortstop talent that hasn’t been seen in 20 years. These are all incredibly good choices to make the face(s) of the sport and MLB needs to stop looking backwards and embrace the present and the future.
Lead Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports