Harden picks odd spot to rebuild his value

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As our own Craig Calcaterra reported earlier, Rich Harden is joining the Rangers on a one-year, $7.5 million deal with an $11.5 million option for 2010.
The price seems about right, but the destination is still rather surprising. It’s hard to imagine that there weren’t going to be teams willing to present similar, if not superior, offers. And if Harden’s goal is to land a big multiyear deal at some point, it would have been easier to accomplish had he been pitching in Safeco or just about any National League park. Or pitching for the Red Sox or Yankees would have gained him more exposure and perhaps have allowed him to showcase himself in the postseason.
Pitching in Texas is famously difficult, of course. The ballpark is as hitter friendly as any in the American League, and the heat is well known for wearing players down over the course of a 162-game season. In the last dozen years, the Rangers have had three pitchers qualify for the ERA title and finish under 4.00:
Kevin Millwood – 3.67 ERA in 2009
Kenny Rogers – 3.46 ERA in 2005
Kenny Rogers – 3.84 ERA in 2002
That’s not to say teams won’t necessarily recognize that Harden has had a successful season if he comes in at 4.20 in 2010. But given that there was a significant market for his services, he may well have been better off heading elsewhere.

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 Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.