MLB and baseball as a whole are going through an identity crisis at the moment. It is a sport taking a big hit right now. It’s not dead, but it’s on life support. Even with an enthralling 2016 postseason and home run numbers sky-rocketing, baseball needs a change. The solution isn’t changing the game, but rather grasping what they already have. Take a page out of Hollywood’s book, MLB, and embrace the star system.
Baseball purists have never had to promote their stars to get people to watch. The sports world has changed. I’m not a huge fan of the NBA, but you have to recognize how massive that league has become worldwide. They’ve got major fan bases in China and Spain and Brazil. Their league spans the continents. The MLB does not.
It really is that simple for the NBA. They just promote their stars more than their teams. A game of Oklahoma City vs. Houston is not billed as “Thunder vs. Rockets.” Instead, it’s “Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.” That can really make all the difference. Within the NBA, there are legions of fans who support players, not teams. While that would probably never catch on in a city like Boston, it has made the popularity of the NBA soar. That kind of exposure of players creates an entire universe of heroes and villains, bringing infinitely more passion and hatred and a rooting interest for the league.
You don’t need me to tell you the MLB has nothing close to that. This past weekend should’ve been hyped up like a heavyweight fight, a 15-round title match between Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge. Saturday’s game was a match-up between two All-Star pitchers. One of them was Chris Sale, the best pitcher in the league. That game was on Fox Sports 1. FREAKING FOX SPORTS 1. Women’s Golf was deemed the better product to watch on Fox. Women’s golf over Red Sox-Yankees with Chris Sale on the mound.
There is really no reason why the MLB can’t be a better league than the NBA. Baseball has always been a worldly sport. Basketball has just started to be in that discussion the last decade. There are no super teams in the MLB. Aaron Judge just went 0 for the series against the Red Sox. He isn’t coming to Boston next year. David Price did not ask to go to Cleveland after they handed him his lunch in last year’s playoffs. My point is, this is not the NBA. If you take the positives from what they have done, you will far surpass the NBA.
The Star System Doesn’t Even Need Personality
The stars don’t even need personality, they just need to be promoted like stars. James Harden, Steph Curry, even Kevin Durant, these guys are dry. They’re boring. They aren’t polarizing. Yet, people would think they are because their names are EVERYWHERE. So don’t tell me Mookie Betts can’t be marketed because he isn’t as funny as David Ortiz. It’s on the league, not the players, to make this sport more popular.
So I’m calling out Major League Baseball. I don’t want more Yankees and Angels fans, I want more Aaron Judge and Mike Trout fans. I want people to know what number Kris Bryant is. Give me people who know what team Bryce Harper plays for. I don’t want a World Series of Astros vs. Dodgers. I want a World Series of Carlos Correa vs. Cody Bellinger. Give me a reason to watch the game. The sport is dying, unfortunately, but the players are still the same. Give the game to the players, not the purists.