Could basketball replace baseball as America’s favorite pastime?

By GREGORY MELICK | September 6, 2018

The MLB regular season has reached its annual apex, as all the playoff battles are still anyone’s to win (or lose). Meanwhile, today as I scroll through my Instagram feed, the video I see over and over again is a video of LeBron James dancing to “Sicko Mode” on the sideline of a youth basketball game.

The sad truth is, basketball has taken over the American sports scene, and baseball is falling further and further behind. Mike Trout, the consensus best baseball player in the world, is not even relevant in the playoff picture, as the Los Angeles Angels are 66-71.

The idea of LeBron James not making the playoffs is blasphemous. In basketball, one player can carry his team much further, as exemplified by the schmucks LeBron single-handedly dragged all the way to the NBA Finals. No matter how well Trout plays, when he is surrounded by sub-par teammates, there is nothing he can do to contend for a playoff spot.

When the best player in the world is not playing the games that matter most, it takes away from the sport as a whole. 

In addition to the difference in how the game is played, the personalities in the NBA and MLB are completely juxtaposed. While LeBron is sponsored by Beats, KIA, Coca-Cola and has a signature shoe line with Nike, Trout only has sponsorship deals with BodyArmor sports drink, Rawlings, Topps and also Nike, though not nearly to the extent as LeBron.

Even though Trout’s list of sponsors seems lacking, he actually has the most sponsorship money of any baseball player, at 2.5 million dollars. But when you compare that number with LeBron’s 52 million dollars of sponsorship money, Trout’s paycheck looks like chump change.

To be fair, LeBron is entering his 16th NBA season, while Trout is only in his seventh full season in the MLB. Trout still has time to build his personality to the level of LeBron, but it does not seem like he wants to.

According to a recent study done by Q Scores, Trout is recognized by about one in five Americans, which makes him about as recognizable as Kenneth Faried from the NBA, who has also played seven seasons, but has not made a single All-Star team and whose only accolade is making the All-Rookie team for his performance in the 2011-12 season.

Overall, this shows just how much more well known basketball players are than baseball players. Basketball players show their emotions when they play, but when baseball players try to show emotion, they are told they are breaking baseball’s “unwritten rules” and are compelled to stop when they get hit with a 98 mile per hour fastball to the ribs.

One final difference between the players of the two sports is their backgrounds. Most basketball players are from the United States, and can relate to young people who come from a similar background. Meanwhile in baseball, many of the young, new players breaking out in the league are coming to the United States from outside the country, and thus the people who watch are not as captivated by a specific player in baseball.

In addition to the differences between players, the games themselves have also changed. As statistics have gotten more advanced, basketball has gotten more exciting while baseball has gotten longer and more dull.

In basketball, sabermetrics have eliminated the mid-range jump shot. Players are being told to either shoot three-pointers or drive to the rim and shoot a layup or dunk the ball. This has created the Steph Curry style of play, in which no team can shoot too many threes in a game. It also allows players like LeBron to show off just how physically gifted they are when they drive to the rim and dunk over the other team’s seven foot tall center.

On the baseball diamond, on the other hand, the evolution of analyzing the game has slowed everything down. The newest wave of thinking is that pitchers should be pulled earlier in games, to both save their arms and to prevent the opposing team from getting too comfortable with any pitcher. This has led to more pitching changes, which just makes games take even longer, with no increased amount of action time.

While people like myself will continue to watch baseball no matter how long a game takes, and no matter how many “boring” people are in the league, it is scary to think that the sport known as America’s pastime is falling so far behind the other major professional sports leagues in the United States.

There is not much the MLB can do to change this trend either, because they do not have control over the people who make it and they cannot force people to be personalities if it is just not in their nature. Mike Trout is passionate about weather, and there is no way to market that type of personality the same way the NBA can market LeBron James dancing on the bench and giving away his gear to young fans in the crowd.

In the end, I can’t stop LeBron from popping up on my social media feeds, but that’s alright, because I will still love baseball, and with October just around the corner I am ready for the best part of the MLB season. 

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