It makes sense that the best thing for a given sport is to get the best players in the world to play at the highest level, but this isn’t a foolproof concept.
The NFL continues to add games in London to the schedule, and there are talks about a franchise potentially moving across the pond. While one can make the argument this would improve the game over time by exposing the sport to more people, therefore getting the top athletes from other countries to focus on football, baseball is proof that it doesn’t always better the bottom line.
Looking across baseball, it would be hard to imagine the sport without a strong Latin influence, and it cannot be debated whether or not the quality of play has improved since the game added so many players from outside the USA, but it might hurt the game in other ways. MLB‘s RBI Program is doing great work re-igniting the love of baseball in inner cities, but it just may have been baseball itself that killed the interest in the first place.
There has been a lot of press about the decline of African American big league players. While this is clearly concerning, one can also make the case there is a decline in American big league players. This just might come down to the fact there are so many foreign ballplayers.
I love baseball, and I in no way believe the Latin and Asian players have hurt the game, but it may have hurt baseball in lower levels across this country and may have lessened the number of potential future superstars.
Baseball must capitalize on the current young superstars while they can. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado and Matt Harvey must become the face of baseball in order to keep it popular among American youth. These guys are baseball’s lifeline. They are the guys the youth in America can relate to, look up to and envision themselves becoming.
Miguel Cabrera is incredible, Yasiel Puig was must-watch TV and Yu Darvish can absolutely deal, but we don’t know any of them off the field. One reason is the language barrier, another is baseball’s inability to market its best players.
Watching TV, you get bombarded with athletes doing commercials. Tony Gonzalez now has commercials for shampoo, Dwyane Wade does everything from ph0ne to Gatorade commercials and Peyton Manning hasn’t met an ad he wouldn’t do, but who from baseball do you see on a daily basis over the course of watching TV?
The young, homegrown stars need to be pushed into the public eye. Harvey was hilarious on the Jimmy Fallon Show, interviewing New York Mets fans about Harvey, but it was also sad that even Harvey fans couldn’t recognize him. Baseball ratings are slipping in comparison to other sports, and it can be directly contributed to the lack of household names and faces of American players.
Baseball, don’t let another opportunity pass you by. Get Trout a cologne deal, Machado a Samsung commercial, let Harvey take over the Nikon ads and let Harper promote Axe hair care — seriously, make it happen, somebody has to fix that thing on top of his head. Get baseball players in front of everyone when they are watching their Thursday night sitcom, not just when they are watching baseball.