It’s easy to detect through the course of the summer and even more noticeable during the prime months of early autumn, but the casual sports fan truly knows hardly anything about the players in MLB outside of the players featured in Gatorade and Nike commercials. This is a legitimate problem for Major League Baseball if it wants to continue to grow and prosper as well as maintain a position as one of the preeminent sports options in the United States.
Players are the face of the sport and the lifeblood that draws droves of fans to the stadiums and television screens; when those players become bland, faceless and, for lack of a better term, uninteresting then the entire sport suffers. As much as many hardcore baseball fans would like the game to simply be about the otherworldly talent on display, for the sport to thrive it must draw in causal sports fans and the main way to do that is to do a significantly better job of marketing their players to the general public.
The germ that was the genesis of this article starts at that point; one way to market players is to put the best and most accomplished on a pedestal, and there is no greater platform for this than to be more aggressive during the presentation of accolades and awards.
An effective way of circulating the outstanding achievements of the players is to abolish the method in which awards are presented—through the MLB network and other sports media avenues after the completion of the World Series when most sports fans have already moved on to the NFL, NBA, and even NHL regular seasons. Rather, it would be a much better idea to announce and present awards for Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers and Rookie of the Year during the days between the Wildcard round of the playoffs and the Divisional round when more eyes are on the game and casual attention is building to the games. Furthermore, the announcement of the key awards such as Managers of the Year, MVPs, and Cy Young winners ought to be announced between the Championship series’ and the beginning of the World Series to optimize the amount of acclaim and notice that the winners will receive before the sport’s biggest stage.
The awards are only one part of the larger advertising and marketing conundrum of the MLB. Dissemination of the games is also an issue as many games are broadcast on cable outlets such as TBS, FOX Sports 1, the eponymous MLB Network and once a week each on FOX and ESPN. The games are also, aside from the ESPN Sunday night venue, regionally chosen. It is rare for a fan in Philadelphia to see any Colorado Rockies games unless they are playing the Phillies, and this practice perpetuates an almost tribal fandom of teams over the entire sport. The sport has shunned a national approach in favor of a regional one that hurts its overall business. If fans care about only their teams and a few rivalries, how can the sport possibly thrive?
Baseball diehards and purists will always watch the games; they love the beauty of the game, the history and Americana that pervades the sport from the fresh cut grass and Monument Park to the hot dog vendors and the Green Monster, the nostalgia of seeing their favorite players from past eras lauded and celebrated, as well as the driving force behind any sport or contest: the competition. However, the casual sports fan holds no solid allegiance to any particular sport, and therefore so much of what the hardcore baseball fan loves perhaps repels them. Baseball’s most pressing and urgent challenge is in finding a balance to present the game and the players in a fashion that will satisfy both groups and allow the game to flourish both presently as well as in the future.