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The Marketing of Baseball

For the second year in a row MLB is in the middle of some nonsense regarding why there are no popular big name stars in their sport. Last year Commissioner Rob Manfred blamed Mike Trout for not promoting himself enough saying, "Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn't want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we can help him make his brand big. But he has to decide to engage. It takes time and effort."

This year, much of the same, as representatives for MLB hinted at the same thing regarding Mookie Betts. (Read the story here. The feeling is that Mookie can be the same kind of one name star like Messi or Cher apparently.

Here's the thing. Baseball is not about one guy. Working hard to promote the new face of baseball is missing the whole point of baseball. If there ever was a textbook example of "team" then baseball is that definition.

Baseball has waning popularity, not because there are no stars, but because the young fans today can't stay focused long enough to stay engaged themselves. (See stories about extended netting and fans getting clobbered by baseballs) There are plenty of stars, most teams have at least one. Mike Trout is the best baseball player to come along since Willie Mays and if you have half an ounce of baseball knowledge you can see that for yourself.

Back in the day, one of the things that made baseball so popular was that there were five or six great players on every team. They had fewer teams and each team had more good players.

What baseball marketed back then were the teams themselves. It worked then and works still to this day. The top five teams in baseball based on their value are the New York Yankees at $4.6 billion, the Los Angeles Dodgers at $3.3 billion, the Boston Red Sox $3.2 billion, the Chicago Cubs $3.1 billion, and the San Francisco Giants at $3.0 billion.

Those five teams represent a GNP greater than a collection of some countries. They have been marketing the New York damn Yankees for over 100 years for god's sake. Sure they've had great players but who doesn't recognize this logo?

I'm getting tired of baseball trying to turn itself into the NBA or NASCAR or pick a sport because young people have the attention span of a gnat. If you put a great product out there, and make it consistently excellent, then fans will watch.

Right now baseball isn't doing that. They have some good teams and many more mediocre teams and they are trying to make fans believe that both are the same product. Nobody with eyesight will tell you that the Florida Marlins are playing the same game as the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Look, it's great to have stars, and sports needs stars, but what it really needs is for the product to be excellent. I love baseball, but even I can't watch the Royals play the Mariners for more than half an inning.

The game doesn't need to be faster, we don't need an automatic runner to start the tenth inning, fewer pitching changes aren't going to improve the game, and making one guy be the face of baseball isn't the answer either.

Have the players play better, have the umpires do their job, and please, someone, figure out how to make the Cubs drive in a RISP occasionally.

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