Greetings from the Grapefruit League

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LAKELAND, FLORIDA — Hello, folks. How’s the weather? Here’s it’s just dandy. A bit nippy now — only about 50 degrees at 7:30 AM — but I suspect it’ll get much nicer as the day wears on, so don’t worry about me any. I’ll be just fine.

Thus begins my annual trek around spring training. This year, for the first time since 2010, I’m in Florida. I’m a bit ambivalent about that. Arizona is such a much more convenient place for this sort of thing. The parks are closer together and the planning much easier. And, while neither is ideal, if I have to choose one vibe or aesthetic over the other, the Arizona thing beats the Florida thing in my mind. But I suppose people’s mileage varies.

One benefit Florida has is more marquee teams. Yes, east coast bias and all of that, but there is value in going to see the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Braves, Phillies and all of that. They’re popular and fans of those teams have been underserved in our spring training coverage over the past few years, so here we are. I am excited to revisit those teams and those fan bases in the spring.

I’m also excited to see Masahiro Tanaka tomorrow. He goes in Tampa and I suppose I’ll be one of a gabillion reporters there. I am getting a bit of inadvertent Yankees overload, though, as by coincidence they’re here in Lakeland where I am today to play the Tigers. And they’re going to be in Dunedin on Sunday where I planned to go to catch that ballpark as a fan (never been there). I think that’s it, though. On Monday I head toward the gulf and points south and will see some other teams. I’m not making it to the Atlantic coast to see the Cards and Mets and Nats because, well, Florida is hard to do in a week.

Anyway, I’m heading over to the Tigers’ clubhouse to see Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager and talk to some Tigers players.  I’ll be checking in later today here, and I’ll be tweeting photos and observations all day via my Twitter feed.

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.