In case you have not been paying attention, baseball is not very popular with the younger demographic. This is because they have no one to relate to. There is no true face of the game and it has put the league decades behind other sporting leagues.
Baseball has been starving for a true mega-star face that will get people talking about the sport. The NBA has LeBron James, the NFL has Patrick Mahomes, but baseball has had really nobody in a long time. Sure, you can argue that Mike Trout is the face of baseball because he is the best player in the game and has been for almost a decade. However, he isn’t, how should I say, electric.
To be fair, very few baseball players market themselves as much as other athletes. That doesn’t mean that baseball players don’t have big-time endorsement deals. Trout appears in Bodyarmor ads and Francisco Lindor has his own shoe line with New Balance. In baseball, we see these athletes develop their personal brands more. Take someone like Trevor Bauer for example. Every move he makes is under his own discretion. He doesn’t tweet out or appear in any advertisements, he works on his own brand.
This isn’t saying that you must be active in the world of advertising to be known as the face of a league. This is more saying that baseball plays by its own rules. That is what makes the game so unique. They are not trying to force-feed you their signature shoe or persuade you to buy a specific pair of headphones, they just play baseball. It is almost like baseball is its own little secret club. They have their audience and they aren’t actively trying to gain more members. If they join, they join.
So who is the face of baseball?
What are the criteria? Well, again that is tricky because we are practically grading on a different scale here. Well, for one you have to be among the best players in the game. You can have all the marketability of Stephen Curry but if you are a role player, there’s not a shot. Secondly, you have to have some personality and swag behind you. Look at Fernando Tatis, his style, his enthusiasm, and his skill set for someone who is very young makes him an excellent candidate.
Tatis has been labeled the face of the game before his career has even really started. He plays in a big market (debate a wall on that topic,) he graces the cover of the video game MLB The Show 21, he appears in most MLB advertisements, and he signed a 14-year, $340 million contract. This is all before he has played a full season’s worth of games in his career. That is where the discussion ramps up.
Is it fair to other players that Tatis is the favorite son of baseball before he really even accomplished anything? What about Mookie Betts? He is 28-years-old and has two World Series championships and an MVP award. Juan Soto? the super young mega-star that won a World Series in Washington. And certainly, Ronald Acuna Jr. is in the mix, especially with the red-hot start he is off to in 2021. Not to mention that he plays with that rare combination of speed and power.
I’m not saying that Tatis isn’t a fine representative of the game, but there are definitely some more qualified players in this league. Tatis will one day officially become the face, I have no doubts about that. This is going to make me sound old, but Tatis hasn’t really earned it. He has been in the bigs for a cup of coffee while players like Soto, Betts, Lindor, Acuna; hell, even Bryce Harper have made more of an impact on the game of baseball.
So who is the face of the game? Well, it is Tatis. Me personally, Acuna has the same flair and personality that Tatis has. I would like to see baseball try and pit these players against one another, but not in a serious way. Like they did with Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich in the “Yeli vs Beli” advertisements. Subliminally create the debate and watch the engagements and discussion start to roll in.