What we're watching: Beckett goes for 12th win

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– Sinkerballer Sergio Mitre, who underwent Tommy John surgery last
year, will make his Yankees debut against the Orioles after going 3-1
with a 2.40 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He
was 10-23 with a 5.36 ERA in 52 starts and 26 relief appearances for
the Cubs and Marlins from 2003-07. If he succeeds in his first couple
of starts, it will relieve any pressure on the Yankees to out Phil
Hughes back into the rotation.

– Josh Beckett will aim for fifth straight win while pitching on
eight days’ rest against the Rangers. The Red Sox opted to give both he
and Tim Wakefield additional time off even though neither ended up
working in the All-Star Game. Beckett, who could become the AL’s first
12-game winner, will be opposed by Tommy Hunter, who is 1-1 with a 1.53
ERA in three starts since being recalled at the end of last month.

Game of the Night

Chicago Cubs vs. Philadelphia – It’ll be up to Rich Harden to halt
the Phillies’ nine-game winning streak. He’s coming off one of his best
starts, having allowed just one unearned run and three hits over six
innings against the Nationals last time out. While his season ERA
stands at 5.06, he’s 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA outside of Wrigley Field. The
Phillies, though, have been far better at home lately after getting off
to a surprisingly awful start at Citizens Bank Park. They’re 10-1 in
Philadelphia this month. Joe Blanton will start for the Phillies.

Report: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Bryce Harper and Mookie Betts, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.