I was sitting at my desk today when an ESPN ticker came across my phone screen, something about MLB and baseball being a “faceless game”. Typically I ignore those tickers, especially the ones that are tied to an article, but not this one. This one made me grab my phone and get ready to read. As I scrolled through the article I started to shake my head and, well decided I had a lot I disagreed with this article about. Naturally I decided to write it all down, ya know, for your enjoyment ;)
The first sentence of Jayson Stark’s article is “Can a game with no face really call itself the national pastime?” Well hello Mr. Stark and thank you for immediately making me angry.
My first problem is with this survey and that it took place November through February.. the entire off season of baseball. I’m a huge baseball fan, but if you ask me in the middle of the NFL season what sports star comes to mind first, it’s probably going to be a football player..
My second problem is that Derek Jeter was the highest ranked current/former baseball player listed and he uses this as proof that there is no current “face of baseball”. Derek Jeter is an icon, an icon that hasn’t been long removed from the game and that people of almost all ages can still remember watching play. I’m not surprised or concerned that he was the first baseball player listed. Michael Jordan was higher than LeBron so can we all agree that sports icons get a free pass here?
My third problem is with his “Could any baseball player be LeBron” section.. ugh.. Alright I have nothing against LeBron, but I could use a LeBron break that’s for sure. “Nearly one in four people who consider themselves ‘avid’ NBA fans say LeBron James is their favorite player,” Stark states. - First of all the NBA has power teams and, even if you’re a Phoenix Suns fan, you’re probably going to pay attention to what the big guys (Cavs, Golden State, etc.) are doing. Even if you don’t want to, we all know that ESPN will make sure you see some kind of highlight from these big guys when you flip to SportsCenter.. In my opinion baseball doesn’t have the two, three, or four All-Star like teams that are the main source of highlights for the sport. Yes there are larger payrolls, which means bigger names, but you have smaller market teams that compete and the farm systems mean that there are guys always coming up that could make your team a contender. - Rich Luker states in the article that the even distribution of favorite players is a mixed blessing because it means the popularity is spread out among teams, but no one athlete is big enough to draw national attention. Some may view this as a negative, but I don’t. I think it helps the organizations and spreads fans, money, and loyalty throughout the teams instead of a select few.
There are plenty of other points this article makes, but I think the whole "face of baseball" question is silly. I think having multiple, popular players in baseball is a unique aspect of the sport.
Maybe, to go back to Stark's first question, baseball is America's pastime because there is no single face or no one player that is 90% of the country's favorite. Maybe it's America's pastime because there is no dominate team (right now) that everyone immediately thinks of. - I'd love for the Cardinals to win the World Series every year, but since that isn't realistic, I think it is awesome that the World Series champ rarely repeats. Dynasties are cool, and what teams like the New England Patriots have done is incredibly impressive, but when the championship is passed around, is won by large and small market teams, and can have an unexpected series MVP, it gives all fans hope. Isn't that what we'd rather see in sports? Large, loyal fan bases of numerous teams and their players versus bandwagon fans of the most successful team and player at the moment?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on "the face of baseball" and if you think there should or shouldn't be one! Leave your comments below!