Over the years, sports in general have attempted to associate its respected brand to a particular face throughout certain eras. The individual is often viewed as the “spokesperson” of the sport, and while he/she is not formally elected, they are accepted upon the public viewpoint. Some of the finest examples include Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and others.
The MLB has had quite a few familiar faces associated with the brand as well. From Hank Aaron to Derek Jeter, America’s Pastime has recently struggled in terms of maintaining ratings and discovering the new face of the sport over the last handful of years.
Who will emerge as the face of the MLB? Here are five noteworthy candidates:
5. Giancarlo Stanton (OF, Miami Marlins)
The aspect of the MLB that attracts most fans happens to involve an efficient power swing. Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has put on a show for the MLB universe in 2017, as he is the first individual since Ryan Howard in 2006 to hit 57+ home runs within a single season.
Having received NL MVP votes on three occasions in his first seven seasons, could Stanton become a name on the rise?
Stanton is often the name associated with the Miami Marlins brand, but I’m not quite sure the market is large enough for him to be named the face of the MLB anytime soon. Signed through the 2028 season, the 27-year old won’t be forced to hit the free agency market until he reaches 39-years old.
While the Marlins are currently under new ownership, there really is no telling what Stanton and Miami are capable of in the distant future. Giancarlo Stanton will likely emerge within the NL MVP conversation once again in 2017, but a few more steps need to be taken before he is considered the face of the sport.
4. Clayton Kershaw (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Many will refuse to associate a pitcher as the face of the MLB brand, but Kershaw has a great case in many aspects. For one, the Los Angeles brand is one of the most well-known sports markets in the nation, so Kershaw evidently has an edge in that department. Secondly, with three Cy Young awards, as well as an MVP already under his belt in ten seasons, Kershaw is already a proven powerhouse name that a vast majority of MLB fans are aware of.
What holds him back exactly? When you look at the Dodgers recent postseason success, Kershaw, as well as the entirety of the franchise, haven’t been able to accomplish much. With a starting postseason record of 4-7, with a 3.64 ERA, I’d like for 2017 to be a statement year for the 29-year old.
Signed through the 2020 season, Kershaw contains a large amount of value to the MLB, as he could very well emerge as an unlikely candidate to become the face of baseball. With a bit more postseason success in future seasons, this could transpire into reality.
3. Aaron Judge (OF, New York Yankees)
Within arguably the largest stage of sports, New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge has taken the league by storm. The 25-year old is one of the younger stars in the MLB, and may even hold the most potential. Surpassing Mark McGwire’s record of most home runs by a rookie (49), could Judge’s presence remain consistent over the years?
The one issue I hold with Judge involves his strikeout rate, which has allowed him to go down on 200+ occasions in 2017, a rookie record. With a large swing comes a large risk, and the Yankees have obviously held no issue with Judge’s mindset when he approaches the plate so far in his short career.
Considering he is one of the younger candidates, his sample size is minimal as well. Signed through the 2023 season with the Yankees, Judge will likely be viewed as the centerpiece of this franchise in the coming years.
With some adjustments at the plate, Judge has a chance to be unlike any other power hitter in recent years. He is still young, so I would plead to give him a few years in order to witness his development before he is granted the face of the league already.
2. Bryce Harper (OF, Washington Nationals)
Sitting as the youngest MLB stud in this segment at only 24-years old, Bryce Harper is one of the most electric players the league has to offer. Named to the NL All-Star team in five of his first six seasons with the Nationals, Harper even went on to win NL MVP honors in 2015.
While the outfielder may have no ceiling in terms of talent, he has been known to maintain a short temper. On the contrary, fans are often drawn to Harper’s passion for the game, as he arguably contains the largest personality of his aforementioned colleagues.
Could we name Harper the face of the MLB at one point in time? Hitting the free agent market in just a few seasons from now, the larger headline surrounding the hyperactive outfielder involves whether or not he will wear a Nats jersey a few years from now. From there, I believe Harper’s case is just as valuable as anyone else’s.
1. Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
Posted as the fourth outfielder mentioned within the piece, I believe Trout has the best case of being associated with the MLB brand at the time being. With a Rookie of the Year award granted to him in 2012, two MVP awards in both 2014 and 2016, and being named as the runner-up to the MVP in 2012, 2013, and 2015, the list of accomplishments are essentially endless for Trout.
While he has had minor injury history this past season, Trout is undoubtedly the most valuable asset to any MLB franchise on the market. Often comparing himself to the likes of Derek Jeter growing up, Trout always seems to do and say the right things, both on and off the field for Los Angeles.
It seems premature to crown anyone this young the “face” of a sport, but Trout has proven that he is the real deal. With no controversial trouble within his past, full effort on the field, and posting staggering results, the MLB may be saved with Trout in the game for the long haul.