This Is Why MLB Is Failing

Kevin Hageland
July 19, 2018 - 9:33 am
Mike Trout

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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In case you missed it … and honestly, if you watched it live, I question your decision-making ability … but this week, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred held his annual All-Star Game news conference.

And he made what I deem to be a preposterous statement in regards to Mike Trout.

“Player marketing requires one thing, for sure: the player,” Manfred said. “You can not market a player passively. You can’t market anything passively. You need people to engage with those to whom are trying to market in order to have effective marketing.”

Absurd!

Look, I’ll concede that marketing Trout would be easier if the center fielder wanted to participate – but to say it is required makes no sense.

Don’t believe me? OK fine, here’s my marketing campaign for Trout, all of which I put together without the help of the Angels player.

Mike Trout … The 26-year-old who has played six full seasons in MLB, finished in the top 4 of the MVP voting every single one of those seasons, won a Rookie of the Year Award, won two MVPs, collected five Silver Slugger awards and now a seven-time all-star at the age of 26. Come see the modern-day Mickey Mantle at a ballpark near you.

Work for you? Need more??

Mike Trout … At the age of 26, he is on pace for a season-long WAR that would be the second best in the history of baseball – behind only Babe Ruth in 1923. Come see a season that has only been approached by Ruth, Carl Yastrzemski, Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig at a ballpark near you.

You don’t think those commercials (matched up with any number of his amazing offensive and defensive plays) would get some butts in seats?

Of course, they would! And by the way – no hyperbole in those ads either – all of that is true!

Moreover, the fact MLB can’t capitalize on this generational … probably multi-generational … player is a shame. Look, I know it has been a while since baseball stood at the top of the American sports heap. The NFL surpassed it in the late 1970s, but America’s Pastime was still firmly entrenched at No. 2 for the longest time. But look at the falling TV ratings and take note of the fact Fortune Magazine pointed out MLB average attendance is at its lowest level in 15 years. MLB has been surpassed by the NBA and college football, putting it (AT BEST) as the No. 4 sport in our country’s hierarchy.

At the same time, let’s not pretend there isn’t still a passionate fan base out there to build on!

Within the last two months, a 1993 SP Derek Jeter rookie card set the modern baseball card record for highest sale at $99,100. A 1952 Topps Mantle rookie card sold this year for $2.8 million and there was a PSA gem mint 10 (one of only three in existence) on display at the All-Star Game this week which could be worth as much as $12 million and was brought to Washington DC in an armored truck.

People still care about baseball, the stats and the collectibles, yet the Washington Post reported this week that the unquestioned best player in the sport carries the same Q Score (which measures consumer appeal of personalities) as Kenneth Faried!

KENNETH FARIED!

Not trying to hate on Faried, but this is an NBA player that has made the All-Star Game all of zero times and never averaged more than 13.7 points per game in a season.

Yet, America has Faried and Trout slotted about the same. Why? Because of comments and mindsets like Manfred, especially since I’m sure he’s not alone in the MLB offices when it comes to that line of thinking.

Would it be easier to market Trout if he wanted to be in more ads or carried himself and talked like Bryce Harper? Sure and I get that – but the idea that MLB can’t market a player, Trout or otherwise, passively is flat out wrong. And emblematic of why the popularity of baseball has waned over the decades.

Sure, many factors make up that problem, but sports figures love to say, “Control what you can control.”

Well, this is something MLB can control and if they want to avoid falling below mixed martial arts, eSports or any of the other sports primed to overtake a stuck-in-the-past mindset, the MLB needs to do something.

And do it now! It starts with Trout.