Decline of Major League Baseball
Is Baseball in Trouble?
I'm kind of a sports fanatic to the extreme. Pretty much I'll watch any sport. I don't care if the game is played overseas and BBC decides to broadcast a Rugby or Soccer (Football) match, or if it's televised in the middle of the night and the only thing playing on the tube is women's volleyball (thank you ESPN 2); I'll watch it. I think the reason I am this way is because I love the competitiveness of sports. I also love how the lines are cast into stone. Sports are the man's man version of reality TV. A team (or single person) either wins or loses. It's that simple. I love it and I need it.
With that being said, there are certain sports that excite me and hold my attention more than others. As far as I am concerned, the NFL and the NBA are the two most exciting sports to watch. Of course, I'm an American and my viewpoint is a little skewed so take it or leave it.
I am also aware that I don't represent all Americans. Many U.S. sports fans love college sports such as NCAA football and basketball. I am not of that variety. I tend to prefer professional sports though I fully understand the draw of the NCAA. Honestly, I can sit here all day discussing the pros and cons of each level. I realize that college kids have more heart (seemingly) than the millionaires who play at the professional level. And I'm fully aware that college rivalries are far more exciting than the rivalries felt in professional sports. On the flip side, there's no question that professional sports play at such a high level that it is mindbogglingly superior to anything else out there including the NCAA. Again, it's a great argument, but it's not the one I'm trying to focus on here.
Major League Baseball America's Pastime
My argument is about major league baseball. As Americans, we all know that baseball is America's pastime. It was the gold standard of the sports world, the king of sting, the count of Monty Frisco, superior to all. In its heyday, MLB was once untouchable, and was represented by names such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Rogers Horsby, and Joe DiMaggio.
In the 1950's and 60's, the mantle was passed down to another group of legends like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, and Roberto Clemente.
In the 70's and 80's there was Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, and Reggie Jackson.
And during the 90's (the steroids era), baseball's biggest stars were Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffy Jr., Frank Thomas, Roger Clemens, and Cal Ripken jr.
Of course, I'm leaving out a lot of great names, but these are the names that stick out the most in my mind. And what do these names all have in common? They are iconic, gravitating, and bigger than life characters. You can hate them or love them, but these heroes made headlines and kept the sports fans glued to their television sets.
Albert Pujols Commercial
Major League Baseball Today
Just as the big names of baseball's past helped boost the sport into a fanatic frenzy, the reverse effect is happening in today's game with the lack of iconic star power. Simply put, most sports fans just don't care anymore. Obviously, I'm not talking about the true die hard baseball fans or the huge fan bases in the northeast (Boston, New York, Philadelphia region) and recently out in the west (primarily California).
So, what's the problem? Is baseball all of a sudden boring with no superstars? First, I think it is important to note that the problem has nothing to do with a lack of talent in the major leagues. In fact, I believe today's big stars would rival Hall of Famers such as Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson.
The problem lies in the presentation. It's as if Major League Baseball is trying to play it safe in an attempt to erase the black cloud of the steroid era. I understand their reasoning. Think about it. They are trying present a clean cut image in hopes to get back to the good ole days when it was pure and fun. The problem is America has changed and MLB has failed to keep up. This stale "clean" image they are presenting is just that, static and bland.
For example, let's look at the top MLB players of today. The first name that comes to mind is Albert Pujols. In nearly 13 seasons, he has close to 500 homeruns, has over 1400 RBIs, and has a lifetime average of over .320. In Lehman's terms, he is off the charts great! But honestly, who really cares? He's not fun or personable. He has a nonchalant personality and doesn't have a rapport with the media. Even ESPN chimed in when they aired a commercial poking fun of Pujols' lackluster personality. The commercial portrayed him as a machine to which he flatly replied, "I am not a machine, I'm just Albert." It's clever and funny but true nonetheless.
Miguel Cabrera is another major league all-star and is widely regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the game, maybe ever. In 2012, he won the triple crown leading the American League in batting average, homeruns, and RBIs. It's been over 40 years since the last tripple crown winner, but I say again, who cares? In the eyes of the sports world, it wasn't a big deal. Why? Because names like Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Prince Fielder, and Stephen Strasburg aren't bigger than life characters. And it is my belief that the problem rests with Major League Baseball.
MLB doesn't know how to promote their players. They need to take a chance and expose their athletes. They must engage and expose their players' persona so that the public cares about them again.
Be it good or bad, baseball needs publicity in order to gain interest. It would get me engaged. I loved 90's baseball. There were players I loved such as Ken Griffey Jr. and John Kruk, and there were players I hated with a passion such Barry Bonds and David Justice. Honestly, some animosity is good for sports which an important aspect that is nonexistent in today's baseball.
Remember earlier in this article, I said I would watch any sport because I'm a sports fanatic. Well, it's pretty bad when I have absolutely no interest in the game. Don't get me wrong, I'll watch baseball but it has become a lower tier sport to me. I'm kind of let down when basketball season is over and all there is to watch is baseball. And in all honesty, I'm just waiting for football season to arrive. MLB needs to step it up.