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Jayson Sterk is one of the few widely respected baseball writers on ESPN. His articles (despite not using saber) are usually must read; that includes his most recent article. It does raise an interesting question, and it is something that definitely deserves attention. That being said, it is a premise I completely disagree with.
The premise is that Major League Baseball needs to have a “LeBron James type of player” to help really promote the game…the League. While LeBron has really helped the NBA increase its reach, he has also brought some welcome attention to the NBA as well (The Decision was not that smartest idea ever). The idea that a one-or two-players can help to promote an entire game is a little wonky.
Major League Baseball really hasn’t had a player transcend the game, and completely capture the Nation’s attention since….I wanna say, Babe Ruth. That’s just over eighty years that the MLB hasn’t had anyone really reach a LeBron status with the Nation. During that time frame MLB really has seen a rapid increase of the stadium sizes, TV Contracts, and number of teams in the League.
Since the Babe last played; Washington D.C (twice), Toronto, LAA, San Diego, Seattle (twice), NYM, Tampa Bay, Miami, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas City (the Royals), and Montreal have all been expanded too. The majority of these teams have also recieved new-or heavily renovated-stadiums since they were added to the league…most of them with heavy tax payer involvement.
The continued growth of the MLB, and the fact that Cities are constantly fighting to get and/or keep teams is an indication that the League is doing just fine without one big superstar. That being said, the All Star game has been falling in popularity lately…and less people are paying attention to it. There definitely needs to be something done to help improve the game’s popularity, and I highly doubt one superstar is going to fix that.
The biggest thing that is going to help improve the interest of the All-Star Game is for the teams in the League to do a better job of marketing the game…and their stars. Currently, the team’s end up promoting it in-game and on their social media. For the teams that are legitimately in the playoff hunt before the All-Star Break-therefore actually attracting crowds-it is pretty easy to advertise your players and get them in through the fan vote.
For the teams who aren’t in the playoff hunt (see the Mariners for the majority of the last decade), it is harder to promote your players because of the fact that many people aren’t going to the games/watching them on TV…or paying attention to the team’s social media accounts. It then makes it hard for the teams better players to get any traction going in the fan vote.
It has to take significant improvement from the teams in marketing their players-around the All-Star game-to make the game more interesting for the fans. That way, the fans will actually recognize the names that are going on the teams-especially if they are on their favorite teams-it would definitely increase the popularity of the game for the average fan.
That is going to be the biggest difference going forward for the All-Star game…and the MLB.