One of the more complicated and controversial debates among baseball fans is questioning who the true face of baseball is. Many feel the need for MLB to feature a prominent figure who embodies the game, and is recognizable by name and face to even the most casual sports fans.
The NFL boasts the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and more recently Patrick Mahomes. The NBA possesses arguably the most marketable names in all of sports, from LeBron James to Stephen Curry. Even the NHL has Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, and Patrick Kane.
When one dives deeper into who the face of baseball really is, the question becomes more difficult. The easy answer is likely the Angels’ Mike Trout, although there are many issues with making an argument for the three-time MVP. For one thing, the superstar center fielder has only ever appeared in a single playoff series, when the Angels were handled by the Royals in the 2014 ALDS. Of course, this is not Trout’s fault – by any means – it is simply the truth of the situation. Another flaw in the argument for Trout is the fact that he resides on the West Coast, often playing in 10:00 EST games that the casual fan will usually miss.
However, the most important of Trout’s qualities that prevent his claim as the Face of Baseball is his personality. Once again, this is obviously not Trout’s fault. He is one of the few truly mellow and down-to-Earth superstars that the sports world has ever seen. Trout mostly keeps to himself, and never seeks to make headlines or hog the spotlight. A common saying is that “any publicity is good publicity,” and that often rings true with popular sports personalities. As one of the great baseball players of his generation, Trout does not receive nearly enough attention – yet, he is perfectly content with this reality.
Another name that usually pops up in discussions regarding the face of baseball is the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. Playing for one of the famed franchises in the history of sports certainly helps, as does his recognizable face and larger-than-life height. Judge’s case was strongest after the 2017 season, in which he finished second in AL MVP voting as a rookie, mashing 52 homers. However, he has since been hampered with injuries, and has failed to replicate the magic of his first season. Further, Judge – like Trout – is not one to seek the spotlight. His limited time in the Majors and lack of a championship pedigree (which is key in the Bronx) leads to the conclusion that Judge is not suited to be crowned the face of baseball.
A player that can claim a World Series title on his résumé is José Altuve. His lovable and outgoing personality is also a plus; Altuve is one of the most universally well-liked figures in sports. However, the stain of the Astros’ cheating scandal has cast a dark cloud over the entire organization, and many baseball fans are extremely wary of anything related to the club. While the same may be true for the NFL’s Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the Altuve situation is much different, because he lacks to fame and longevity of Brady – one of football’s all-time greats.
When stepping back to view the game of baseball as a whole, there may not actually be one or two players than can serve as the face of the league. And while it may benefit MLB to have these type of figures, it’s not a major issue that they don’t. Baseball’s true stars are the teams themselves. The huge fan bases of the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs are second-to-none among those from any sport in terms of loyalty, passion, and commitment to their club.
Baseball does not have a “Face of the Game” – but that’s alright. It doesn’t need one.