Shepard: MLB Has A Huge Problem 

Major League Baseball has a major problem, David Shepard says, and Mike Trout is at the heart of it

CBS Sports Radio Weekend
July 20, 2020 - 8:56 am
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Do you know who has the highest WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of all-time for any position player by their 28th birthday? It isn’t Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. or Alex Rodriguez. It’s Mike Trout. How many people do you know who could decipher Trout’s voice between even two other voices? What is Trout’s number? Believe it or not, a majority of SPORTS fans do not know either. Trout is not just the best player in baseball. He is on pace to be one of the greatest players to ever live. The MLB’s greatest asset is unknown to most sports fans. They know of Trout, but they don’t know Trout.

At the age of 21, Trout led ALL of baseball in stolen bases. He also led the American League in runs that very same season. At the same age, the MLB’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, had 109 less home runs. Trout got on base 43 percent of the time in five different seasons by his 28th birthday. Bonds did it just once by his 28th birthday. Trout has led the league in runs four times by the age of 25; Bonds led the league just once in runs for his entire career, which went well past age 40. In seven different seasons, Trout has played in 75 percent of his teams respective games. In every one of those seven seasons he has finished either FIRST or SECOND in MVP voting. One season he missed 48 games and still finished 4th in MVP Voting. With all that being said, name one signature play that involves Trout?

LeBron has so many signature plays throughout his career. Incredible dunks, the shot against Orlando, “the block” against the Warriors, etc.. The NBA has made so many different highlights and versions for all of these. The NBA and ESPN collaborated in the early 2000s and began marketing LeBron by broadcasting his high school games on television. The NBA makes it very clear what LeBron does for kids in impoverished areas with his I Promise Schools campaign.

We also know LeBron’s hardships. Examples are “The Decision” in terms of off the court. The Mavs upsetting him and the Miami Heat in the 2011 Finals, which was obviously on the court. We know how LeBron crosses over into pop culture. He has been constantly ranked by Forbes as one of the most influential athletes. He was on the cover of Vogue Magazine in his early 20s. He hosted SNL and the ESPYs by his early twenties. He is a constant figure on the late night circuit even to this day. He was going on Ellen and Letterman in his early 20s. LeBron’s 15 year old son, Bronny James, has nearly 4 MILLION more followers on Instagram than Trout does. 

The NBA has superstars that go by one name and the majority of Americans (even the world) have heard of them. LeBron, Kawhi, Giannis, Durant, Steph and Harden just to name a few. The NFL has superstars that go by one name and most people know who they are in this country. Brady, Brees, Rodgers and Mahomes are examples.

Do the majority of people know who Mike Trout is? We know the answer to this. Very few are talking about the MLB coming back, yet it’s coming back before basketball, football and hockey. It’s no accident that is because of the MLB players’ lack of notoriety compared to the NBA. Unlike the NBA and NFL, the MLB doesn’t give their superstars the platform to springboard into larger than life and pop culture figures. The league doesn’t seem to have a plan for that. I don’t blame Trout’s quiet demeanor for this. Most sports fans know who Tim Duncan was. In order for “America’s pastime” to once again have the same interest as the other sports, they have to make their best players matter in the public. The truth of the matter is Trout, by the age of 28, was better than LeBron at 28, but James’ popularity as a teenager was more popular than Trout’s popularity will ever be. And that, folks, is a huge problem for the MLB. 

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.