With the offseason rumor-mill in swing – November through December can often be as busy as June and July – a number of publications have been churning out their sourced, rumor-y information day after day.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, for one example, is one of the more prolific and accurate purveyors of rumors out there.
But recently, mixed in alongside his many rumor-filled pieces, Rosenthal wrote an article that titularly questions, “How big a star would Mike Trout be in a different market?”
It’s a pretty fascinating read (one that I definitely suggest you check out), and even has some down-stream Cubs relevance.
I’m not going to dive too deeply into his overall point though, because he wrote it better than I would, but I can give the overview. In short, Rosenthal suggests that Mike Trout’s celebrity and popularity (to the extent that it could help baseball) is being artificially dampened by playing for an unpopular, unsuccessful, Los Angeles Angels team.
And I don’t think that’s an outlandish assessment or a non-issue, by any means.
Consider that Trout is (almost inarguably) the very best young player in baseball since Mikey Mantle and is certainly already one of the best players of all time, but is barely a household name. The primary reason, according to Rosenthal, is that the Angels are neither a particularly popular team (sharing a market with the Dodgers could do that) or one that has found a great deal of recent success (one postseason appearance in the past six seasons with one of the best players of all time isn’t great).
But could you imagine if Trout were on the Cubs or the Yankees or the Giants or the Red Sox? If he were, he might be one of the biggest names in sports, let alone baseball. But, as we stand, he’s not even the biggest name in his own league (even though he is obviously the best player).
Of course, the Angels could trade Trout, but they never will. There’s almost no way to get an appropriate value in return (at least in terms of an amount that any team would consider giving up), and there’s also the “how do you trade a barely-25-year-old generational talent?“ problem. Nope, Trout will likely remain on the Angels until his contract expires after the 2020 season, and MLB will have to look elsewhere for their current face of baseball ….
… Which brings me to Kris Bryant and the Chicago Cubs!
Among a few other names (Corey Seager in Los Angeles, Carlos Correa in Houston, and Francisco Lindor in Cleveland, to name a few), Bryant might soon be the national, public face of baseball. Fresh off an MVP, World Series Championship season in a big market (and obviously the Cubs have a bit more of a national presence than most teams), Kris Bryant actually makes quite a bit of sense.
In only his second season, Bryant was the second best player in baseball (behind Trout, of course, who took MVP honors in the AL), and recorded the final out of the most elusive championship win in sports history. He’s good, his team is good (and should be for a while), he comes from a big market, and people like him (and his sparkly eyes).
So how would you feel about Bryant and the Cubs forging a new path for MLB?
Do you think he’s worthy of being THE face of baseball? Do you think it’s a good, bad, or non-issue? Are there other things to consider, or should we just let the good times roll?
[Brett: This may sound like a flowery non-issue, filler type thing, but I genuinely believe these considerations are very important to the long-term health of the sport. One thing that other professional sports have done better than baseball is market individual stars as a conduit for fan connection to the game. Social media makes that even more possible now than ever, and, while I think the Cubs have done an excellent job of connecting fans to players in the past two years, I’m still not sure MLB has effectively pulled it off. Bryant, for all the reasons discussed above, is oh-so-perfect as a face of baseball. It’s a real shame that Trout’s team situation makes him a much tougher sell, because the guy is a once-in-a-lifetime player.]
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