Friday, April 7, 2017

Who is the Face of Major League Baseball?

ESPN did a poll on people's top 50 favorite athletes. Within it, it was a mix of current and past players from various sports. Out of a number of unrepresented, baseball was at the bottom. The best one was out of the top 10, and that was Derek Jeter, who hasn't played a game in two and a half years. Out of the rest, only Babe Ruth and Pete Rose made the list. It has caused the big question and the title of this blog. Who exactly is the face of Major League Baseball?

There are a lot of players to consider that are in their prime, young faces that can last a very long time in the league. You can pick a lot of them. One example mentioned on ESPN was Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. He is essentially a five tool player. There's a reason he is a two time MVP. He's got power and speed. There is patience at the plate and averages less than three errors a season since coming into the league in 2011. Unfortunately, one problem persists. Trout is with the Angels. They haven't been putrid during his career, but only one playoff appearance hurts him being one of the premier faces. The American League is a tough one. This year, everybody in the East has a chance. The Cleveland Indians in the Central have a good chance to make it back to the World Series. Detroit might have a chance just to get in the postseason. The West has the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, two teams that could really make an impact on the season if there isn't any big setbacks. Trout seems like the easy choice, no doubt, but on a team that has been mostly average or mediocre, it's hard to know. The article on ESPN did mention he's not looking to be a face to the sport, but it could change at some point in his career.

As far as American League players go, there's not too many I can think of right off the bat. There's a few Detroit Tiger players. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are guys you could possibly think as a face of baseball. The downside is that they may have another four to six years left in their careers before they decide to call it quits. One of the Baby Bombers of the Yankees could be one. Boston has Jackie Bradley Jr and Mookie Betts that could last a long time in the MLB. Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros could be one if he stays consistent in his career and has no off years. There's a few other players on that team like Jose Altuve, George Springer and a couple others that could really show off the new generation of ball players and give sports a reason to show them as the face of baseball.

The National League has it a little easier, but it's still a difficult task. Instantly, two players come to mind. That is the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper and the Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant. Harper has been a very energetic player who can provide enough  pop at the bat. However, he has issues that has lead to ejections. Hopefully, he matures to where he can be a little more disciplined and improve on his average a little bit. Bryant has lit up the MLB in his first two years, and winning the World Series is icing on the cake. He has that offensive power despite the high number of strikeouts. His defense could be a little better, and cutting out the errors would help in the long run. He's got an MVP, and Rookie of the Year. This star will keep shining and so will the Cubs for the next five to six years. Bryant might be the guy who can lead baseball into the new generation.

With the rest of the NL, there are some players that I could see as face of baseball. The West has the pitchers in the LA Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, the San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner, and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Zack Grienke. These guys are tough as nails players that will strike you out looking over and over. Someone on the Mets starting rotation could potentially be one. Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins could be one if he could stay healthy. Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates is one of the veterans that reeks of being the face of baseball. There is quite a bit of young players and seasoned veterans that could really shape the sport and be the one that people can think of when they think Major League Baseball.

This may seem fine and dandy, but one of the problems I see is MLB Advanced Media and the MLB website. Depending on where you live, you are stuck with whichever local team or teams you can get on cable unless you watch ESPN and Fox telecasts or pay for a subscription on MLB's website. My personal thoughts is that baseball does not have a strong presence on social media. When it comes to YouTube, Advanced Media is one of the most strict and almost dictator like companies. They take this stuff extremely seriously. Even when they have tried on their own uploading games or clips, it's a mess. Good luck finding anything that hasn't been uploaded, (and probably never will) or isn't a week or so old. You know how the NFL honored the late Dennis Green? Through fan voting, they put up for free the entire Thanksgiving 1998 game of Green's Vikings against the Dallas Cowboys as an effort to show each team's best three games. Major League Baseball will never do that.

The NHL and NBA put up a better presence of YouTube than MLB. There's a channel that has all sorts of hockey fights and they have been on that site since the early days. You can probably find short clips of some great games like Kobe Bryant and his 81 point performance back in the mid 2000s. With MLB, good luck finding a short clip that isn't someone from the fucking stands recording on their cell phone. You really have to weed through the site to find games, and it's not even if I had to guess, two percent of all the games that have telecast since at least the 1940s. Unfortunately, MLB Advanced Media controls everything. They're not putting up an effort for people to watch baseball clips. Nobody is biting to subscribe on YouTube. As of now, MLB only has over 700 thousand subscribers on their channel. The highest for any individual team is the New York Yankees at 12 thousand. That's embarrassingly sad. The lowest is the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres at one point four thousand. People balk at the sport and don't buy into what they are trying to do. They are trying, but very, very barely.

For the NBA, they have a huge presence with a subscriber base that is ten times more than MLB as of 2017. And that could rise more in the future. The Golden State Warriors YouTube channel has nearly 400 thousand, a few hundred thousand away from what MLB has. The NBA knows how big social media is. They are probably one of the more looser sports leagues and allow people to upload clips of stuff like Tracy McGrady and his 2005 comeback against San Antonio. Seeing some of the great dunks can easily be found. This is a league that knows its audience and wants to keep that and make it grow to high levels. Even the NFL has put up a better effort in two years than MLB has in five, six years. They are a little strict, but they don't hate the Internet.

Moving on to the MLB website, it's a convoluted mess. Odds are you're not going to find anything unless it's less than 24 hours old. Even finding older stuff is next to impossible. The thing is Advanced Media wants you to go to that site. Without anywhere else to go to, you really have no choice. Regarding players being the face of baseball, you don't hear much from them unless you watch SportsCenter highlights of stuff that is older than a day. You don't see commercials of baseball players often unless you're on the local cable channel that covers the specific team. You can easily see NBA players on TV all time promoting the latest footwear or food. There's NFL players with stuff like State Farm Insurance. Even NASCAR has drivers like Kevin Harvick promoting products on channels when a race isn't going on. MLB has none of that. There might be a commercial here and there, but there's nothing major. I've seen pretzels at grocery stores with Mike Trout's face on it and that's it outside of baseball cards and video games.

Unless you follow MLB overall or a specific team and/or player, you're not going to find much on Twitter or other sites unless they did something good or blew a game. If baseball wants to get recognized again, it's going to have to do a lot of things. The front offices need to realize social media is a big deal. They really need to figure this out quick. MLB Advanced needs to really put an effort to show that they care on YouTube, but I doubt they ever will. They got to let people be confident in showing clips of great plays over the years and get used to the idea of people wanting that form of media.  There can't be any laziness, which can easily be seen the last six to seven years.

MLB needs to get out of the early to mid 2000s. Their archaic approach is not a good one, and they really need a new generation of followers considering a lot of the baby boomers are going to pass away in the next year to 20 years. I know it means they have to get out of their comfort zone, but in today's world, it means more than just money and ratings. If they can't do that combined with the overpaid salaries of players and executives, MLB might not exist in another lifetime or generation, depending on how their luck runs. Perhaps they should look at how the NBA does things. It could set up a blueprint for how to be a top sports league on the Internet.

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