Baseball stars lack in popularity compared to NBA, NFL stars

Why are stars of Major League Baseball not quite as popular as those of other sports? This was an interesting question discussed in a New York Times story published yesterday with the headline “How Popular is Baseball, Really?”

While this article (subscription may be required) points out that baseball blows away the National Football League and National Basketball Association in ticket sales, of course baseball has so many more games in which to sell tickets. The article also notes how well baseball does in local TV ratings. Financially, the sport seems strong and healthy.

But there was this except: “According to YouGov’s ratings of active sports personalities, 91 percent of Americans have heard of LeBron James and 88 percent have heard of Tom Brady, but only 43 percent have heard of Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, baseball’s best player.

“You don’t have to look any further than the national reach of each league’s television broadcasts to see why this may be the case.”

The Times did an analysis of television broadcasts by county throughout the country and it produced this stat, which for me was pretty eye-opening: 100 percent of counties air at least a quarter of Brady’s games and 98 percent of counties air at least a quarter of James’ games. But only 1 percent of counties air at least a quarter of Trout’s games.

The Times reports that only six of Trout’s 162 games in 2018 were aired in Chicago. By contrast, 42 percent of James’ 82 games and 56 percent of Brady’s 16 games were aired there.

I will take this a step further. There are national telecasts of all the playoff games in each of the major sports leagues, but the Angels have made the postseason just once in Trout’s career. This has kept him from having a bigger profile on a national stage. James has played in 239 playoff games, Brady 40 and Trout just three, in the 2014 playoffs.

The postseason is when stars are really made, and I’m not sure how anyone in MLB can figure out a way to market Trout in the playoffs when his team doesn’t get there. Think of Houston’s Jose Altuve, already a popular player, and how his popularity went to another level when he hit a walk-off homer to end the American League Championship Series last week.

We hear criticism often about how MLB needs to better market its stars. But how can the sport accomplish that? James and Brady got the natural boost from all those playoff games. Trout did not.

How can baseball overcome this?

Oriole-Park-at-Camden-Yards-TOR-BAL-2019-Sidebar.jpgComing up this weekend: One of our longtime and well known readers here, Erin, is organizing a get-together for anyone who wants to come by, meet me and talk some baseball this Friday night. It’s at 7:30 p.m. at Looney’s Pub in Bel Air. Come by if you can. If you don’t live around Baltimore, we understand you can’t make it. I don’t think we will exactly be packing the place, but feel free to make our small gathering a bit bigger.

It should be fun. You can buy me a beer, and I just may buy you one. I’ll be the cute guy with glasses and a lot of gray hair.

This Saturday, I will be part of an Orioles fan forum at the Babe Ruth Museum from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Come by and talk some baseball then too. The program is free with admission to the museum, which is $10/adults, $8/seniors, $5/kids. You can get more info at 410-727-1539 X3033 (speak to Katie), or

Remembering ‘66: With all the talk about the good starting pitching in this World Series, I wanted a refresher about how good the Orioles’ pitchers were in their four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 Fall Classic.

They were spectacular.

In the series, O’s starters allowed two runs in 29 1/3 innings for an 0.61 ERA. Orioles pitching allowed just two runs in the entire series, and none in the last 33 innings. The last three O’s starters pitched three complete-game shutouts, and the team used just four pitchers total in four games. Mo Drabowsky relieved Dave McNally in Game 1. And then Baltimore got complete games by Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker and McNally. So yeah, that’s some great pitching.

Nats take Game 1: The Washington Nationals got homers from an old guy (Ryan Zimmerman) and a young guy (Juan Soto), and beat a great guy (Gerrit Cole) to top Houston 5-4 in the World Series opener. The Nats are for real. This series could turn out very differently than many (including me) thought. So what were those longshot odds from yesterday on the Nats?

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