How MLB Markets its Game

Spacemans Bong

chapeau rose
SoSH Member
"It Don't Mean a Thing if He Don't Check That Swing"?
You're beginning to see the light. Baseball is a many-splendored thing.

In all seriousness, Tony Bennett is the gold standard for taking something people thought was dead, buried and permanently uncool and completely transforming it without selling out. The guy was a washed-up coke addict in the late 70s who wasn't working outside of Vegas and whose home was going to get repossessed by the IRS for back taxes.

His son took over his financial affairs, he got clean, son booked him into college theatres and onto the David Letterman Show when Dave was the hip thing. He played alternative rock festivals, he marketed his dad to tastemakers (the founder of Spin magazine said he was a Tony Bennett fan, son noticed, boom, cover story). He got him on MTV and an MTV Unplugged album that had freakin' J Mascis on it that went platinum. And Bennett rolled with it and basically subverted the fact he was a grandpa by not acting as if he was too good to share a stage with people a third of his age. He did all of this by basically doing what he always did, turning up on stage in a suit singing the Great American Songbook with the Ralph Sharon Trio.

It's not as easy now, obviously the media landscape is more fractured. But baseball has clearly lost confidence in its own product.

What needs to happen instead of fundamentally changing the game is taking the game to new places, increasing access, marketing baseball's stars better, maybe connecting the ephemera of baseball to the game itself and just being a bit more bolshy about the damn product rather than apologetic.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

has fancy plans, and pants to match
Dope
Apr 12, 2001
20,557
What needs to happen instead of fundamentally changing the game is taking the game to new places, increasing access, marketing baseball's stars better, maybe connecting the ephemera of baseball to the game itself and just being a bit more bolshy about the damn product rather than apologetic.
I agree with this.

But there's another thing that MLB has to do and that's quit marketing stars that are either dead or haven't played in years. Yes, baseball has a wonderful history and it's full of a lot of great things -- it's one of the reasons why many of us are baseball fans. But kids don't give a shit about Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn or Ken Griffey Jr. They care about players like Mike Trout, Gian Carlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts.

Stop comparing these guys to names of the past, they're never going to win. Every time someone claims that Mike Trout is the best player since Willie Mays (or someone similar) someone argues that "Mays was better" or "the game was different, more difficult when Mays played", etc. That completely weakens the product that's currently on the field. It also starts to make kids wonder whether the players that they like and adore are as good as the ones from a previous generation. And if they're not, what's the point of watching them? Buying their jerseys? Following their teams?

The NFL and the NBA's marketing department is concerned about "the now". Every once in awhile someone will compare Brady to Joe Montana or LeBron to Jordan, but that's usually reserved for all-time greats. I mean, how many times have you heard a no-hit, great fielding shortstop compared to Mark Belanger? Belanger has been dead for 20 years. There are a bunch of contemporary no-hit, great fielding shortstops, use them as the benchmark. Elevate today's game. Baseball is so up its own ass about its history that it's doing harm to its current crop of young players. I watch MLB Network a lot and in the graphic packages that run during commercials or to introduce shows, there are players being promoted who haven't swung a bat or thrown a pitch in decades.

Compare that to the NFL Network or the NBA Channel. There is considerable less fetishizing of those sports' pasts.

Baseball has a wonderful history, it really does and it should be celebrated. But MLB has to stop making their history the best thing about the game. Otherwise it's going to eat itself, when there's no more new history to talk about.

Edit: No matter how many slings and arrows it gets, baseball is an awesome game. But MLB needs to realize that it didn't peak in the 1950s or 60s. There are still great players doing great things every day. They need to capitalize on that. Once MLB starts believing this, the rest of the sporting world will too.
 
Last edited:

timlinin8th

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SoSH Member
Jun 6, 2009
1,521
But there's another thing that MLB has to do and that's quit marketing stars that are either dead or haven't played in years. Yes, baseball has a wonderful history and it's full of a lot of great things -- it's one of the reasons why many of us are baseball fans. But kids don't give a shit about Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn or Ken Griffey Jr. They care about players like Mike Trout, Gian Carlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts.

Stop comparing these guys to names of the past, they're never going to win. Every time someone claims that Mike Trout is the best player since Willie Mays (or someone similar) someone argues that "Mays was better" or "the game was different, more difficult when Mays played", etc. That completely weakens the product that's currently on the field. It also starts to make kids wonder whether the players that they like and adore are as good as the ones from a previous generation. And if they're not, what's the point of watching them? Buying their jerseys? Following their teams?

The NFL and the NBA's marketing department is concerned about "the now". Every once in awhile someone will compare Brady to Joe Montana or LeBron to Jordan, but that's usually reserved for all-time greats. I mean, how many times have you heard a no-hit, great fielding shortstop compared to Mark Belanger? Belanger has been dead for 20 years. There are a bunch of contemporary no-hit, great fielding shortstops, use them as the benchmark. Elevate today's game. Baseball is so up its own ass about its history that it's doing harm to its current crop of young players. I watch MLB Network a lot and in the graphic packages that run during commercials or to introduce shows, there are players being promoted who haven't swung a bat or thrown a pitch in decades.

Compare that to the NFL Network or the NBA Channel. There is considerable less fetishizing of those sports' pasts.

Baseball has a wonderful history, it really does and it should be celebrated. But MLB has to stop making their history the best thing about the game. Otherwise it's going to eat itself, when there's no more new history to talk about.

Edit: No matter how many slings and arrows it gets, baseball is an awesome game. But MLB needs to realize that it didn't peak in the 1950s or 60s. There are still great players doing great things every day. They need to capitalize on that. Once MLB starts believing this, the rest of the sporting world will too.
As the father of a baseball obsessed 8 year old, I agree with all of this. Its weird to watch my son try to enjoy the game that is being played in the present only to have the specters of the past constantly popping in.

Watching him try to embrace the current stars of the game only to have MLB’s own marketing thwart him is kind of sucky. (Caveat: I do think the Red Sox are doing a decent job of marketing their young stars, where the league as a whole is not). His favorite three players are Stanton, Kershaw, and Betts, but because the league still insists on being so local market oriented the only player he gets to really follow is Betts.

I think back to my own childhood in the 80s and while history was definitely important at that time it seemed as if the game was more willing to embrace new stars; I think the steroid era had a lot to do with this. It created this whole space where it is STILL heavily debating past vs present, how do we account for these numbers, etc. The problem is, kids don’t care about ANY of that. My kid wasn’t even ALIVE for the steroid era. The sport needs to find a way to let it go, and sell the product that is on the field today, right now, even if it means undercutting some of th whimsy of the past.

If baseball succeeds in marketing its present, those kids who enjoy it will then make the leap to learn about the sport’s past as a natural progression.
 

hbk72777

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Jul 19, 2005
1,945
The reason I enjoy baseball more than any other sport is the strategy.
I agree with this.

But there's another thing that MLB has to do and that's quit marketing stars that are either dead or haven't played in years. Yes, baseball has a wonderful history and it's full of a lot of great things -- it's one of the reasons why many of us are baseball fans. But kids don't give a shit about Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn or Ken Griffey Jr. They care about players like Mike Trout, Gian Carlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts.

Stop comparing these guys to names of the past, they're never going to win. Every time someone claims that Mike Trout is the best player since Willie Mays (or someone similar) someone argues that "Mays was better" or "the game was different, more difficult when Mays played", etc. That completely weakens the product that's currently on the field. It also starts to make kids wonder whether the players that they like and adore are as good as the ones from a previous generation. And if they're not, what's the point of watching them? Buying their jerseys? Following their teams?

.

Remembering history isn't really shitting on today's stars. They pushed the hell out of Judge so hard last year, that he's now a household name

I used to go down to the library every week, taking out old baseball books. I loved the history. I started watching in the 80s, my father doesn't watch sports , this was all of my own doing. I actually preferred Ruth and Gehrig era over Mantle and Mays

WWE has FINALLY embraced the past, and it's doing gangbusters. The network, the retro shows (their version of old timer's day), the action figures etc. You can acknowledge the past while pushing the present.

To me, ever since they expanded the playoffs, it's reinvigorated dead towns like Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Jim Kaat always said on commentary that he wished he played in front of the huge crowds of today. They didn't draw back then, nearly as well (like wrestling, most will claim 'hanging from the rafters'). Not to mention many more teams now.



And baseball has always been about comparing. Nobody ever cared about football or basketball records, but you say 56 or .406, and you'll get the name to match. Rollins got a ton of pub when he had his hit streak a few years ago.

I think it's in much better shape than it was mid 90s, and I'm not even counting the strike
 

DanoooME

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Mar 16, 2008
16,994
Williamsburg, VA
Edit: No matter how many slings and arrows it gets, baseball is an awesome game. But MLB needs to realize that it didn't peak in the 1950s or 60s. There are still great players doing great things every day. They need to capitalize on that. Once MLB starts believing this, the rest of the sporting world will too.
*sigh*

The baby boomers only care about themselves.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

has fancy plans, and pants to match
Dope
Apr 12, 2001
20,557
Remembering history isn't really shitting on today's stars. They pushed the hell out of Judge so hard last year, that he's now a household name

I used to go down to the library every week, taking out old baseball books. I loved the history. I started watching in the 80s, my father doesn't watch sports , this was all of my own doing. I actually preferred Ruth and Gehrig era over Mantle and Mays

WWE has FINALLY embraced the past, and it's doing gangbusters. The network, the retro shows (their version of old timer's day), the action figures etc. You can acknowledge the past while pushing the present.

To me, ever since they expanded the playoffs, it's reinvigorated dead towns like Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Jim Kaat always said on commentary that he wished he played in front of the huge crowds of today. They didn't draw back then, nearly as well (like wrestling, most will claim 'hanging from the rafters'). Not to mention many more teams now.

And baseball has always been about comparing. Nobody ever cared about football or basketball records, but you say 56 or .406, and you'll get the name to match. Rollins got a ton of pub when he had his hit streak a few years ago.

I think it's in much better shape than it was mid 90s, and I'm not even counting the strike
I'm not saying that remembering the past is shitting on today's stars, what I'm saying is that by constantly bringing up what players have done in the past; MLB is devaluing what is happening now. And that's a big deal. Aaron Judge deserved to be pushed. So does Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout. It's important for MLB to have household names and faces that kids recognize.

Every kid knows Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Iriving because the NBA pushes stars. They've been doing it since Magic and Bird, and it's worked out for them pretty well. In the NFL, they push teams. The Pats, the Packers, the Cowboys, the Eagles. And that makes sense because with all of the injuries and talking about concussions it's not wise for NFL marketing to focus on actual human beings.

What does MLB push? Nostalgia. And nostalgia is a powerful thing because nothing now is ever going to compare against what happened in the hazy water-colored memories of days gone by. How old are you? Why did you prefer the Ruth and Gehrig era to Mantle and Mays? Even if you're 60, both players had been long dead. And if you were alive during the Mantle and Mays years, you missed out of some awesome baseball by being obsessed with the past.

That's a big problem.

If you keep having people wistful of the past, they're not going to respect the present. You keep talking about players who are long dead or are living in an old age home doesn't show reverence for the game's history, it shows a fear of the game's future. There are a lot of really awesome baseball players playing in the major leagues today. Talk about them. I hate to use this as an example, because it's well known how much I despise his writing, but in yesterday's Boston Globe's national baseball column, Nick Cafardo said that Judge and Giancarlo Stanton could be the next Ruth and Gehrig.

Number one, they won't. That's crazy to set a level of excellence at that height. Two, you know the last time that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were in the same lineup together? 1934. That's 84 years ago. There is no one who is eating solid food today that remembers when Gehrig and Ruth were in the same lineup together. In the 84 years since then, there have been literally hundreds of duos that Cafardo could have used. But he does what every other baseball writer does, goes right to distant past. If you're a kid and you're a new fan of the game and you happen to read this, what are you thinking?

Do NFL writers do this? Do NBA writers do this? How about NHL writers? Even golf writers do fetishize the past as much as MLB and their writers do. And it's a problem. NBA Championship games start at 8:30 or 9:00 and usually end somewhere around 11:30 or midnight on school nights. No one ever complains about them ending late because kids want to watch their heroes. If MLB made a solid effort to dial the history back by 90% and really play up what's great about the game today, they would have a lot healthier sport. Football is teetering, baseball has a great opportunity to jump back in the consciousness of the kids.
 

charlieoscar

Member
Sep 28, 2014
1,339
And if you were alive during the Mantle and Mays years, you missed out of some awesome baseball by being obsessed with the past.
What a ridiculous statement! I was following baseball when Mantle and Mays came up as rookies. What awesome baseball have I missed? What obsession do I have with the past? I was fortunate to have seen them, and others from earlier eras, play against their peers; to see them play against players who were coming to the end of their careers and to see them play against ones just beginning their careers.

Baseball and numbers have been locked together for around 160 years. Should we just forget the stats? There are layers and layers of statistics that provide a way of measuring the history of the game. While what is measured and how the measurements are made had evolved throughout the history of the game.

Maybe what the youth of today need is for the game to be replaced with a computer version in which the players never change, the only difference being the variation of random numbers that determine the outcome of each event. Use random numbers to construct each player, then have a draft for the teams. If weather effects are ignored and there are no park factors, there will be no need for trades, injuries and retirements. Every season there will be a "best" player and in the long run that player will undoubtedly change from year-to-year. And best of all, there won't be any fetishizing about players past.
 

santadevil

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Aug 1, 2006
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What a ridiculous statement! I was following baseball when Mantle and Mays came up as rookies. What awesome baseball have I missed? What obsession do I have with the past? I was fortunate to have seen them, and others from earlier eras, play against their peers; to see them play against players who were coming to the end of their careers and to see them play against ones just beginning their careers.

Baseball and numbers have been locked together for around 160 years. Should we just forget the stats? There are layers and layers of statistics that provide a way of measuring the history of the game. While what is measured and how the measurements are made had evolved throughout the history of the game.

Maybe what the youth of today need is for the game to be replaced with a computer version in which the players never change, the only difference being the variation of random numbers that determine the outcome of each event. Use random numbers to construct each player, then have a draft for the teams. If weather effects are ignored and there are no park factors, there will be no need for trades, injuries and retirements. Every season there will be a "best" player and in the long run that player will undoubtedly change from year-to-year. And best of all, there won't be any fetishizing about players past.
Okay...little touchy?

JMOH may have made one point you didn't like, but for the most part I agree with what's he saying.
Your last part of your argument back is asinine and while you may be trying to be tongue in cheek, it sure doesn't come off that way.

MLB needs to market the current stars of today for the youth of today if they want to keep interest in the kids.
When I'm coaching ball, those players are always talking about the current players, not the players of days gone by and I encourage that, because it keeps them interested in the game. It's been mentioned here a lot over the years, but MLB has an aging fan base and if it does take steps to correct that, 20 years from now could be a very scary place.
 

LoweTek

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May 30, 2005
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...baby boomers have ruined sex, drugs, rock n roll and the government
Ok, wait. I understand government but how have baby boomers ruined the other things? Sex is a swipe away. Heroin is dirt cheap. Rock and roll has countless genres and is more diverse than ever. What's ruined? How did BBs ruin these other things, exactly?

More to the topic, I would agree there is probably a little too much nostalgia in baseball. And it is correct to say young people couldn't care less about it (I coach kids and most of them don't know or care who Ted Williams is/was, for example). However, I think most present day adult baseball people were introduced to the game by a parent, grandparent or other adult role model. This would tend to result in the game being shown or explained through the eyes and memories of the adult. Not to mention the HoF inductions create huge buzz every year. Baseball lives and dies by off-season buzz, right? I'm pretty sure RS fans who came of age in the 2000's are going to fondly remember the likes of Pedro, Damon, Ortiz and Ramirez and speak of them wistfully as they (the fans) age.

As far as current player marketing goes, I don't necessarily agree current stars are not marketed. Judge or Stanton and Trout are good examples. Anyone who pays any attention to the game knows who Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout are, regardless of the fan's individual geography or rooting preferences.

It seems to me the problem with baseball marketing and appeal to young people isn't failing to promote the (super) stars. It's expecting people to be drawn to the game by the stars absent any other mentoring and encouragement by a parent or an adult already passionate about the game.

Attention spans are short. Instant gratification is the norm. Compared to the other sports mentioned, baseball is a slower more cerebral game with a key characteristic being what develops over the entire course of the game, series or season. Football, basketball, even ice hockey have a very obvious watchable and arguably exciting surface objective to them which is easily understandable and relateable even if you have no idea what a prevent defense, a pick and roll or a give and go are. The excitement comes in quick bursts, repeatedly in the other sports. Not so in baseball. And limiting mound visits or having a pitch clock is not going to significantly change this.

I think it's up to the adults who already are passionate about the game to pass it on while more consciously avoiding too much reference to the past. A difficult challenge for sure.
 

keninten

lurker
Nov 24, 2005
588
Tennessee
What a ridiculous statement! I was following baseball when Mantle and Mays came up as rookies. What awesome baseball have I missed? What obsession do I have with the past? I was fortunate to have seen them, and others from earlier eras, play against their peers; to see them play against players who were coming to the end of their careers and to see them play against ones just beginning their careers.

Baseball and numbers have been locked together for around 160 years. Should we just forget the stats? There are layers and layers of statistics that provide a way of measuring the history of the game. While what is measured and how the measurements are made had evolved throughout the history of the game.

Maybe what the youth of today need is for the game to be replaced with a computer version in which the players never change, the only difference being the variation of random numbers that determine the outcome of each event. Use random numbers to construct each player, then have a draft for the teams. If weather effects are ignored and there are no park factors, there will be no need for trades, injuries and retirements. Every season there will be a "best" player and in the long run that player will undoubtedly change from year-to-year. And best of all, there won't be any fetishizing about players past.
I`m 60. Do I have to get off your lawn too?
 

Danny_Darwin

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Jul 19, 2005
1,877
I'm not saying that remembering the past is shitting on today's stars, what I'm saying is that by constantly bringing up what players have done in the past; MLB is devaluing what is happening now. And that's a big deal. Aaron Judge deserved to be pushed. So does Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout. It's important for MLB to have household names and faces that kids recognize.

Every kid knows Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Iriving because the NBA pushes stars. They've been doing it since Magic and Bird, and it's worked out for them pretty well. In the NFL, they push teams. The Pats, the Packers, the Cowboys, the Eagles. And that makes sense because with all of the injuries and talking about concussions it's not wise for NFL marketing to focus on actual human beings.

What does MLB push? Nostalgia. And nostalgia is a powerful thing because nothing now is ever going to compare against what happened in the hazy water-colored memories of days gone by. How old are you? Why did you prefer the Ruth and Gehrig era to Mantle and Mays? Even if you're 60, both players had been long dead. And if you were alive during the Mantle and Mays years, you missed out of some awesome baseball by being obsessed with the past.

That's a big problem.

If you keep having people wistful of the past, they're not going to respect the present. You keep talking about players who are long dead or are living in an old age home doesn't show reverence for the game's history, it shows a fear of the game's future. There are a lot of really awesome baseball players playing in the major leagues today. Talk about them. I hate to use this as an example, because it's well known how much I despise his writing, but in yesterday's Boston Globe's national baseball column, Nick Cafardo said that Judge and Giancarlo Stanton could be the next Ruth and Gehrig.

Number one, they won't. That's crazy to set a level of excellence at that height. Two, you know the last time that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were in the same lineup together? 1934. That's 84 years ago. There is no one who is eating solid food today that remembers when Gehrig and Ruth were in the same lineup together. In the 84 years since then, there have been literally hundreds of duos that Cafardo could have used. But he does what every other baseball writer does, goes right to distant past. If you're a kid and you're a new fan of the game and you happen to read this, what are you thinking?

Do NFL writers do this? Do NBA writers do this? How about NHL writers? Even golf writers do fetishize the past as much as MLB and their writers do. And it's a problem. NBA Championship games start at 8:30 or 9:00 and usually end somewhere around 11:30 or midnight on school nights. No one ever complains about them ending late because kids want to watch their heroes. If MLB made a solid effort to dial the history back by 90% and really play up what's great about the game today, they would have a lot healthier sport. Football is teetering, baseball has a great opportunity to jump back in the consciousness of the kids.
I get what you're saying, and I agree in a sense that it does seem like a lot of the conversation around baseball is based on this idea that baseball was better "before." That said, I think MLB itself is trying to market its young stars. Go to MLB.com and you'll see Ohtani, Syndergaard, Francisco Lindor on the cover of a video game, etc. etc. etc. It's all the various local/national columnists (like Cafardo) and TV talking heads who keep perpetuating the stuck-in-the-past idea, perhaps because they are catering to a certain vocal subset of the overall baseball fanbase. Yeah, fine, some of those types of media personalities are employed by MLB.com or the MLB Network, but they can't dictate what Bert Blyleven says on Fox Sports broadcasts of Twins games.
 

Spacemans Bong

chapeau rose
SoSH Member
I agree with this.

But there's another thing that MLB has to do and that's quit marketing stars that are either dead or haven't played in years. Yes, baseball has a wonderful history and it's full of a lot of great things -- it's one of the reasons why many of us are baseball fans. But kids don't give a shit about Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn or Ken Griffey Jr. They care about players like Mike Trout, Gian Carlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts.

Stop comparing these guys to names of the past, they're never going to win. Every time someone claims that Mike Trout is the best player since Willie Mays (or someone similar) someone argues that "Mays was better" or "the game was different, more difficult when Mays played", etc. That completely weakens the product that's currently on the field. It also starts to make kids wonder whether the players that they like and adore are as good as the ones from a previous generation. And if they're not, what's the point of watching them? Buying their jerseys? Following their teams?

The NFL and the NBA's marketing department is concerned about "the now". Every once in awhile someone will compare Brady to Joe Montana or LeBron to Jordan, but that's usually reserved for all-time greats. I mean, how many times have you heard a no-hit, great fielding shortstop compared to Mark Belanger? Belanger has been dead for 20 years. There are a bunch of contemporary no-hit, great fielding shortstops, use them as the benchmark. Elevate today's game. Baseball is so up its own ass about its history that it's doing harm to its current crop of young players. I watch MLB Network a lot and in the graphic packages that run during commercials or to introduce shows, there are players being promoted who haven't swung a bat or thrown a pitch in decades.

Compare that to the NFL Network or the NBA Channel. There is considerable less fetishizing of those sports' pasts.

Baseball has a wonderful history, it really does and it should be celebrated. But MLB has to stop making their history the best thing about the game. Otherwise it's going to eat itself, when there's no more new history to talk about.

Edit: No matter how many slings and arrows it gets, baseball is an awesome game. But MLB needs to realize that it didn't peak in the 1950s or 60s. There are still great players doing great things every day. They need to capitalize on that. Once MLB starts believing this, the rest of the sporting world will too.
I disagree with this somewhat, I think this actually misses the point I was trying to make. Use baseball's history to promote the current product. One of the best commercials I've ever seen, and I can't find it on YouTube, was the NFL showing a snarling, eyes-bugging-out Mike Singletary* and slowly transforming it into Patrick Willis, who he was coaching at the time. It was chills down your spine stuff.

I've seen the NBA and NFL use its history, but it does it with the current product in mind. Baseball either doesn't do it at all, or does it really ham-fistedly. Here's a commercial idea, get Willie Mays talking about how great Mike Trout is. Get Johnny Bench talking about Buster Posey. Get Ozzie Smith talking about Andrelton Simmons. Hell, get Randy Johnson - a legend who isn't eligible for Social Security yet - talking about Clayton Kershaw or something.

Also, half the baseball history problem is the canon is unbelievably narrow. Baseball is not using its history in interesting ways. The canon is very much what Boomers from the Tri-State area like: 50s/60s, Brooklyn Dodgers, Yankees, Mays/Mantle, Ted Williams, maybe Roberto Clemente. What actually inspired my original post is an email from Lids talking about their new range of retro caps, which instead of mining the Brooklyn Dodger well again is taking inspiration from the 90s. These are hats some millennials (I still am one, for a little bit longer) actually remember, and are more relevant than the good ol' days of all-white teams and rickety Ebbets Field. I don't know if teens are excited about the original Tampa Bay Rays hat, but they're certainly not looking at the neon green and yellow and being offended by it like Boomer purists were in the late 90s.

* One of the NFL's significant advantages in this is every NFL player for the last 50 years has been captured in 35mm glory by NFL Films, while baseball did nothing like this.
 

Dehere

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Apr 25, 2010
3,143
Some great points are being raised in this thread. I think what MLB mostly markets is localism, and it's working. MLB is very often compared unfavorably to the NBA in terms of marketing its stars nationally, but MLB is a bigger business than the NBA and local viewership of MLB absolutely dwarfs that of the NBA and yet very rarely do you read anyone asking why the NBA fails to market locally as well as baseball does. The comparisons are unfair in both directions but only baseball's perception seems to suffer from them. The models are just different based on volume of games and the nature of the sports themselves.

To the extent that baseball sells nostalgia I think the issue is how far back into the past baseball tends to look compared to other sports. The NBA and NFL look back a lot too, but when the NBA looks back it's mostly to the Jordan/Barkley era, less so to Magic/Bird, and much less to anything before that. If you look at NFL Network, their most important show other than live games and the draft is probably the excellent Football Life documentaries, and those tend to be about guys who played/coached in the last 25 years. Baseball too often is reaching back to players and events that aren't in the living memory of the 18-49 demographic. That seems like a big mistake.
 

steveluck7

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May 10, 2007
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To the extent that baseball sells nostalgia I think the issue is how far back into the past baseball tends to look compared to other sports. The NBA and NFL look back a lot too, but when the NBA looks back it's mostly to the Jordan/Barkley era, less so to Magic/Bird, and much less to anything before that. If you look at NFL Network, their most important show other than live games and the draft is probably the excellent Football Life documentaries, and those tend to be about guys who played/coached in the last 25 years. Baseball too often is reaching back to players and events that aren't in the living memory of the 18-49 demographic. That seems like a big mistake.
I started to create a response that hit on this point. I actually wonder what impact "the steroid era" has on this. Even guys everyone assumes were clean, like Griffey Jr, aren't really talked about, it always looks beyond the 90's and early 2000's to guys like Hank Aaron.
 

BoSox Rule

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Jul 15, 2005
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Speaking of Ken Griffey Jr. he was on the cover of the Show last year, which plenty of adults that watch 3 hour baseball games buy, but obviously kids play it a ton. I don’t know how big of a difference it would make but they should be marketing players like Jose Altuve or Mike Trout at a time when they’re saying out loud they want to reach the younger demographics.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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I disagree with this somewhat, I think this actually misses the point I was trying to make. Use baseball's history to promote the current product. One of the best commercials I've ever seen, and I can't find it on YouTube, was the NFL showing a snarling, eyes-bugging-out Mike Singletary* and slowly transforming it into Patrick Willis, who he was coaching at the time. It was chills down your spine stuff.

I've seen the NBA and NFL use its history, but it does it with the current product in mind. Baseball either doesn't do it at all, or does it really ham-fistedly. Here's a commercial idea, get Willie Mays talking about how great Mike Trout is. Get Johnny Bench talking about Buster Posey. Get Ozzie Smith talking about Andrelton Simmons. Hell, get Randy Johnson - a legend who isn't eligible for Social Security yet - talking about Clayton Kershaw or something.
I'm not saying that baseball forget about its past, I'm really not. One of the coolest things about baseball is that people legitimately give a shit about the past. Every once in awhile an NBA or NFL writer will write something about how LeBron James would do in the 1960s or 70s (he'd destroy everyone in his path) or how Tom Brady would fare against teams from that time period (depending on his line, probably the same as LeBron), but baseball is able to transcend time because it's not the exact same game as it was 125 years ago, but its pretty damn close.

Thinking about this a little more, baseball has a problem with perception. Younger people perceive it as a slow game (honestly, it's about as slow as football) or as a game that's past its prime*. MLB needs to hammer home that there is a lot of action in baseball and that its stars are relevant. I think one of the ways of showing the latter is by really focusing in on the stars of today and ignoring (maybe way too strong of a word) but at least downplaying the past.

BSR said that Ken Griffey Jr. was on the cover of The Show last year and that's just dumb. KGR was a rookie in 1989, almost 30 years ago. That would be like putting Mickey Mantle in RBI Baseball when I was a kid. Did I know who Mickey Mantle was? Of course I did, but I knew him because he had the highest rookie card worth in Beckett Baseball. I wouldn't buy a Nintendo cartridge with Mickey Mantle in the game though. I didn't see him play, I wouldn't have given a shit. I wanted to play as Mark McGwire or Roger Clemens or Dwight Gooden. Just like today's kids want to be Aaron Judge or Jose Altuve or Clayton Kershaw.

* I understand that baseball's attendance is booming and that local TV ratings are good for most teams, but my point is that if baseball wants to grow, it needs new blood and a new generation of kids getting into the sport. If you keep telling them that their current heroes aren't up to par with the past (even subliminally) then they aren't going to forge a connection with the sport. And baseball will end up being a niche game played by those who have the means (though MLB seems to be doing a good job with their RBI program) or watched by weirdo kids with history fetishes.
 

Dewey'sCannon

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Jul 18, 2005
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One thing that would make it easier to market the game, and its players, is if teams could actually retain their star players for their entire careers, a practice which has now become a rare exception. Of course, the reserve clause is dead and buried, with good reason, and players certainly deserve the right to become free agents and shop their services on the open market. But in looking at some of the issues that have been debated this offseason with the market (or lack thereof) for free agents, and the number of teams rebuilding/purposefully noncompetitive, part of the long-range solution should be to try to find a way that EVERY team at least has an opportunity to retain their star players. They may not decide to keep them, or they may decide to go elsewhere, but the economic structure of the game should be such that every team can at least afford to keep their own players. Sure, rooting for the laundry is fun, but it's a lot better when you gain an affinity for a player (especially one you latch onto when they first come up) and can keep rooting for that player on YOUR team for their whole career, or at least the greater part of it. Kids are especially susceptible to this - it really sucks for them when their favorite player is traded, or leaves as a free agent. We're really lucky to be rooting for a team that has money to spend - I can't imagine trying to be a fan of a team like the Rays or A's where you know that the roster will be churning every year, that your favorite players were destined to leave, and that you could only compete in narrow "windows." Fixing the competitive balance issues and providing greater roster continuity would make the game more marketable.

Football is different in a number of respects. Their economic structure provides more competitive balance, and teams are generally more able to retain their core stars/marketable assets. There's still a lot of roster churning, but it tends to be more on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th tier players who fans are really invested in. (And a lot of football fandom and viewership these days is driven by fantasy football and gambling). Baseball has smaller rosters, fewer players, and they don't wear masks, so it's a lot easier to see the player, their reactions and expressions, and like or hate a guy based on what you see as well as on how they play - and it's even easier now with all the games on high-def TV. I think baseball has lost some of that over the years. It's never going to be like it was back before free agency, but addressing the competitive balance and free agency issues in the next CBA could help improve teams' ability to retain their players without negatively impacting players' free agent rights.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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One thing that would make it easier to market the game, and its players, is if teams could actually retain their star players for their entire careers, a practice which has now become a rare exception.
But that rarely happens, even in the past. Babe Ruth finished with the Braves, Willie Mays with the Mets, Hank Aaron on the Brewers. Ty Cobb played with the A's. As did Tris Speaker. Jimmie Foxx played for the Phillies and Cubs before retiring. For every Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn there's a Dave Winfield who bounced around or Rickey Henderson or Mike Piazza or Pedro Martinez or Ken Griffey Jr.

The idea that one player stays with one team for his entire career is more of an anomaly than anything. Even back in the old days when it was much worse. After a player wasn't useful, they were cast off and another team picked them up so they could get a quick bounce at the gate.

But your point about the Rays and A's stands. It sucks to have these guys shipped out and their positions replenished with nobodies, but again, that's how baseball has been working for 140+ years.
 

charlieoscar

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Sep 28, 2014
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The idea that one player stays with one team for his entire career is more of an anomaly than anything. Even back in the old days when it was much worse. After a player wasn't useful, they were cast off and another team picked them up so they could get a quick bounce at the gate.
Number of Players Who Played for Just One Franchise (note that is not team)
ARI--56
ATL--426
BAL--379
BOS--345
CHC--362
CHW--383
CIN--372
CLE--355
COL--79
DET--351
HOU--141
KCR--130
LAA--151
LAD--332
MIA--72
MIL--147
MIN--456
NYM--143
NYY--262
OAK--517
PHI--484
PIT--390
SDP--137
SEA--111
SFG--370
STL--434
TBD--49
TEX--153
TOR--95
WSN--126
(from bb-ref)
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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Number of Players Who Played for Just One Franchise (note that is not team)
ARI--56
ATL--426
BAL--379
BOS--345
CHC--362
CHW--383
CIN--372
CLE--355
COL--79
DET--351
HOU--141
KCR--130
LAA--151
LAD--332
MIA--72
MIL--147
MIN--456
NYM--143
NYY--262
OAK--517
PHI--484
PIT--390
SDP--137
SEA--111
SFG--370
STL--434
TBD--49
TEX--153
TOR--95
WSN--126
(from bb-ref)
How many of these are one season or less? Like Steve Lomasney played his entire career for the Red Sox just like Ted Williams.
 

charlieoscar

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How many of these are one season or less? Like Steve Lomasney played his entire career for the Red Sox just like Ted Williams.
.
I just found out that I made a mistake with the above number as bb-ref listed pitchers separately (I didn't scroll down far enough to catch that because at the top they listed nnn players played for this franchise exclusively and the fact that it said Batters didn't ring a bell). I'll have to redo it and since year(s) played is included your question can be answered but it will take some time.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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Apr 12, 2001
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.
I just found out that I made a mistake with the above number as bb-ref listed pitchers separately (I didn't scroll down far enough to catch that because at the top they listed nnn players played for this franchise exclusively and the fact that it said Batters didn't ring a bell). I'll have to redo it and since year(s) played is included your question can be answered but it will take some time.
Don’t bother and save yourself some time.

The point is more along the lines of stars staying with one team for their careers in the “olden days”. And that’s not completely accurate. The biggest star the sport has ever seen, played for three teams. The all time leader in wins and homers weren’t on their original teams. The leader in strikeouts and the runner up in Ks were members of four different teams.

It doesn’t matter what era a star plays in, the one who stays with his team for his full career is pretty special.
 

Orel Miraculous

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The critique about baseball’s failure to market its stars overlooks something critical: the fundamental nature of the game makes it incredibly difficult to market any one player.
In basketball, the best players have a major impact on the outcome every game they play in. This is not the case in baseball, where in any one game Mike Trout is more likely to go 1-4 with a walk and no runs scored than 3-4 with a HR. In basketball, the stars drive everything—they are the story of every game and ultimately every season. The nature of baseball just doesn’t allow that.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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Apr 12, 2001
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The critique about baseball’s failure to market its stars overlooks something critical: the fundamental nature of the game makes it incredibly difficult to market any one player.
In basketball, the best players have a major impact on the outcome every game they play in. This is not the case in baseball, where in any one game Mike Trout is more likely to go 1-4 with a walk and no runs scored than 3-4 with a HR. In basketball, the stars drive everything—they are the story of every game and ultimately every season. The nature of baseball just doesn’t allow that.
That's not true at all. There's the whole defensive side to (most) hitters. Adam Jones makes as many game-saving grabs as he does game-winning hits. Same with Jackie Bradley Jr. or Kevin Keirmaier or Kevin Pillar. Mike Trout too, for that matter. And those are just American League centerfielders.

What about pitchers? They have a major impact on the outcome of every game that they pitch.

As far as game-to-game situations, in January when the Cavs were in town, LeBron had a shitty (for him) game -- he didn't play the entire fourth quarter. Yet, he's still a star of the NBA. Tom Brady had a so-so December, yet he's still front and center in the NFL. My point is that in the midst of a season, players are going to ebb and flow -- even superstars. Saying that the MLB can't promote a player because he has a game where he goes 1-4 with a walk is incredibly short-sighted. You don't market a player based on one good game, otherwise Tuffy Rhodes would have been all you saw in 1994.
 

Danny_Darwin

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Jul 19, 2005
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That's not true at all. There's the whole defensive side to (most) hitters. Adam Jones makes as many game-saving grabs as he does game-winning hits. Same with Jackie Bradley Jr. or Kevin Keirmaier or Kevin Pillar. Mike Trout too, for that matter. And those are just American League centerfielders.

What about pitchers? They have a major impact on the outcome of every game that they pitch.

As far as game-to-game situations, in January when the Cavs were in town, LeBron had a shitty (for him) game -- he didn't play the entire fourth quarter. Yet, he's still a star of the NBA. Tom Brady had a so-so December, yet he's still front and center in the NFL. My point is that in the midst of a season, players are going to ebb and flow -- even superstars. Saying that the MLB can't promote a player because he has a game where he goes 1-4 with a walk is incredibly short-sighted. You don't market a player based on one good game, otherwise Tuffy Rhodes would have been all you saw in 1994.
I'm not sure that's what O.M. is saying - I think the point is more that other sports enable teams to plan around/lean on/feature a star in a way that baseball can't necessarily (on offense, at least). Like, the Rockets can keep feeding James Harden the ball and play him for 40 minutes. But in an average game, Bryce Harper is only going to get to bat 4-5 times; the Nationals can't keep reconfiguring their lineup to get him to bat every inning. Even defensively, Mike Trout might get the chance to make a spectacular catch, but he's just as likely to handle a few routine fly balls and that's it.
 

charlieoscar

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Sep 28, 2014
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Don’t bother and save yourself some time.
I did it anyway because I was curious.

After I realized that bb-ref's Play Index tool for finding players who played for a single franchise listed pitchers separately I decided to copy the batter and pitcher tables for each team to a spreadsheet so I could combine them. I then discovered that there were players who were counted twice (pitchers who pitched and batted for one team) and pitchers who did not bat for a team. After eliminating the double-counted players I discovered that there were a few players who played for several teams but only pitched for one and thus were included (Billy Sunday pitched in a game for the 1890 Pirates and Vic Davalillo pitched one game for 1969 Cardinals but both played other positions for several other teams). There may be others but I figure the number is too small to worry about.

Anyway, going back to 1871 and skipping the 2017 season (for single-season players--268), I found 7,840 players who played for one team, of which 4,438 played only one season (~56.6%).
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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Okay. How does that compare in eras (which you have to define)? How many of those players were "superstars" (also you have to define)? How do those two compare (superstars staying with one team in different eras)?

Going back to the original argument, I don't think anyone is getting misty water-colored memories of Dave Stapleton, who was a lifelong member of the Red Sox for seven seasons. But I think that someone like Ted Williams would elicit a larger emotional response and is at the core of what we were talking about.