Who is the face of Major League Baseball? You can ask five people and get five different answers. Is that a problem? Maybe, maybe not. But it is pretty obvious that sports with a major star and face of their league does very well. Just ask the NBA about the LeBron effect over the past 15 years, or the NFL with Tom Brady, or how the PGA has been struggling since 2008 when Tiger last won. It is important to have a face of your sport. Baseball has an obvious choice in who it should be, but it hasn’t stuck. Mike Trout is everything you would want in a face of a league. 2 time MVP, 6 time All Star, young, attractive, plays in a big market, already being mentioned in the same breath as your all-timers. There is one thing he isn’t though. He isn’t polarizing. That fact alone is what is keeping him from being the face of the league.
Does he need to be? Absolutely not. The guy missed 8 weeks of the season this year and still might be the MVP. He is a once in a generation talent. Makes highlight plays, has a contagious smile enjoying the game, and just goes about his business. The MLB has latched onto him (and rightfully so) along with Nike, thinking he is the next face of the league. In every aspect he should be. But he won’t be, and that is through no fault of his own. Any GM would trade every prospect in their system for him in a heartbeat. But in order to move the needle in terms of media, ratings, ESPN/Sportscenter coverage, you need to be polarizing. Colin Kaepernick hasn’t said a word in a year and he is the most discussed athlete in sports. Odell Beckham Jr. is polarizing, Cam Newton, LeBron, Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, the list goes on about polarizing stars. So perhaps what the MLB should be asking themselves is “who is our most polarizing star?”
That has a simple answer. Bryce Harper. Bryce Harper should be the next face of the MLB. He plays in a relatively large market (for now until he moves on in free agency) could be a $400 Million Man and has a polarizing attitude. The guy wore a “Make Baseball Fun Again” hat for a while, is trying to bring bat flips and staring down his monster homeruns into style again, and is at the age where they can latch on to him for 8-10 years before he hits a decline barring a major injury (hopefully that knee is getting healthy). Through google trend research, Harper has been dominating Trout in internet traffic over the past five years. He is more polarizing, which leads to what will drive the media to talk about your sport. In his latest injury, the sports media began talking about changing first base. The damn base. The same base that has been in existence forever. That doesn’t happen for someone not as polarizing as Harper who made sure in his press conference to state his disappointment in playing in those rainy conditions and the conditions of the base because it was slick due to the rain. At the end of the day, he might be right. The difference is, Mike Trout wouldn’t have given the media that headline. Harper will.
Comparing the two is easy to do but somewhat silly all in the same sentence. They both hit their 150th homerun at the same age to the day. They both have won MVP awards (Trout more than one). They both are once in a generation talent. Trout is definitely the better of the two though. It isn’t close. Trout has a WAR that nearly doubles Harper’s. In 130 more career games than Harper, Trout has 232 more hits, 54 more homeruns, and 136 more RBI’s. So who should the face of the MLB be? Mike Trout. But who will it be? Bryce Harper.