The MLB is potentially in the middle of an identity crisis. Derek Jeter is a name synonymous with baseball. Many argue that he is the face of Major League Baseball, being the captain of the most successful franchise in sports, someone who played the game the right way in a sport filled with controversy, and had success doing so (5 World Series wins, over 3,000 hits, 14 All Star Games).
Now that he is retired, does baseball have one face to carry their sport? Do they have a face that people will recognize when they see commercials? And do any of the other leagues have this concern?
To get some insight, I decided to put out a survey to my social networks and relevant LinkedIn groups to gather information. Visitors were asked a specific question: “When you hear [sport name]/[major sport league], who is the first player that comes to mind?”
See the results below:
Some notes I took away from this:
- The most overwhelming “face” in the 4 major sports leagues was Derek Jeter, gaining 51.7% of votes for baseball, compared to LeBron James in basketball (51.3%), Peyton Manning in football (40.7%), and Sidney Crosby in hockey (27.4%).
- The highest number of players picked at one position was quarterback in the NFL at 89.4% of players.
- Hockey has one signature event outside of an All-Star Game every year: the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. Out of the active players who were chosen (80), 87.3% of players have played in that game.
- Basketball had the fewest number of players (9) and highest number of GMs chosen (1 vote for Mark Cuban).
So with Jeter being gone, who is there to carry the torch?
- Madison Bumgarner (1 vote): The notable name that stands out amongst those that received one vote. His heroics in the postseason, and specifically the World Series, will be highlighted galore during the 2015 season, especially if he performs well.
- Andrew McCutchen (3 votes): The catalyst behind the rejuvenation of the Pittsburgh Pirates. McCutchen has already been featured in nationwide ads (T-Mobile) and if more and more Pirates games gain nationwide exposure, this number should grow.
- Alex Rodriguez (5 votes): Once considered the greatest player in all of baseball, his career has shot downhill with his ties to performance-enhancing drugs. He won’t reach the level he once was at.
- Clayton Kershaw (6 votes): Kershaw pitched arguably the best regular season a pitcher has thrown since the turn of the century yet did not match that in the postseason. His career is still young, though, so returns to the postseason are sure to happen.
- David Ortiz (8 votes): The face of one of the biggest sports cities in America. Big Papi’s heroics in the postseason, especially in their World Series win in 2013, make him a great player to represent a large fanbase.
- Mike Trout (11 votes): Young. Talented. Everyday player. MVP. Leads baseball in WAR (wins above replacement). Plays in a large market, despite competing with a strong NL counterpart. He should be a shining face of the game for years to come.
With a new commissioner and with the retiring of the “old guard,” baseball is going through a transition period. It will be interesting to see which players major networks like ESPN and FOX Sports highlight and give national press as the season starts up.