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Column: MLB has a Celebrity Problem

Beware the Splinters

Beware the Splinters is Salute Magazine’s new weekly sports column, authored by Sports Editor Dustin Brown. The column will be a weekly look at something that has ruffled the feathers of Mr. Brown, or is just a topic he feels he needs to rant about. This week’s column focuses on Major League Baseball (MLB) having a celebrity problem.

Many professional sports in today’s society have one thing in common: celebrity status. One sport that is missing from that list is MLB, and it is costing them. But it is not necessarily their fault, or is it?

The NBA has plenty of athletes in the ranks that have celebrity status off the court. And names such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade lead the list. These athletes are known for their dabbling in fashion and the Lebron-funded Klutch Sports Group among other things. They also are present in the public eye and at big events.

Hell, LaVar Ball even has celebrity status in the NBA, and his son has not even played a minute at that level.

In the NFL, it is player’s like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers that are well-known in the realm outside of sports.

The point being that MLB does not have any players that have this type of status. Sure, there are stars like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, but they do not stick out. The names of MLB players do not even ring true with the occasional baseball fan.

Some blame can be placed on the 1994-95 strike, the decrease in larger-than-life stars and even MLB’s lack of promotional power. But these three things have cost the league an ever-growing fan base.

1994-95 Strike

MLB lost a ton of fans after the ’94-’95 strike, and many did not return. The strike cancelled the rest of the season and took place for 232 days before an agreement was made. Not only did the strike cost them fans, it ended a home run race that made the Sammy SosaMark McGwire one look like a Little League event.

Things like the strike do a disservice to fans, and are generally something that is hard to recover from, ask baseball’s management.

Lack of larger-than-life stars

Baseball still has a plethora of stars they call their own, but none of them carry the title of celebrity. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw do not carry their weight outside of baseball and onto the street. While stars are not the problem, the lack of a celebrity symbol is.

One of the greatest duos in all of baseball is Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. They carried themselves with plenty of swagger and personality, and it spilled out onto the street. Everyone wanted to meet the “Bash Brothers,” even if they were not A’s fans.

These two characters were like superheroes to children at the time. And I had the opportunity to run into them with my family at Disneyland when I was a little kid. Being around them made you feel powerful; like you could tear the cover off of the ball. This is some of what baseball is missing today. Reality television and YouTube have made no-names into stars, but MLB has not been able to use that to their advantage.

Lack of promotional power

Unlike baseball, the NFL and NBA have used their star athletes to promote their leagues. And it is not by accident, either. Whether they bring in hip hop artists for pregame concerts or use them in commercials, both leagues know how to promote.

MLB could not even use a show like Pitch (now cancelled) to its advantage, even though it is based around the game of baseball and a real possibility. If you cannot promote your league or anything closely related, people will lose interest and go elsewhere.

For those of us that remained as fans of the game of baseball through thick and thin, we are being rewarded by a youthful insurgence.

After all, some fans would rather their athletes not be celebrities, instead down to earth individuals.

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