As I mentioned earlier this week, Bud Selig's created another BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE, this time to figure out how to get more black kids playing baseball. If that sounds familiar, it's because Bud Selig has created such a BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE before. As Jimmy Rollins points out in this interview (via the New York Daily News and Andy Martino). Rollins, as usual, has some interesting things to say. I'm just not sure I'm buying all of them. Especially this thing:
Andy Martino: What could a committee like this accomplish?
Jimmy Rollins: You know what has to be done? It's not the committee, it's the marketing. You have to market the black players. You have to market those aspects of the game -- the glam, things of that nature. Other than that, it is not going to matter. It really is not going to matter.
I mean, for example I won MVP in 2007, and I wasn't on anybody's cover. No one's. I'm not sure if CC was on a cover, and he was Cy Young. But I'll tell you what. Prior and post MVPs or Cy Youngs are always on someone's cover. Or a commercial.
AM: And why do you think that is?
JR: I don't know. But I said it's marketing. There was no marketing with that. See what I'm saying?
AM: You're saying that they had a ready-made African American sports hero who they could have promoted, and they didn't?
JR: There you go. It's marketing. Besides the family matters and the glam, nothing succeeds without marketing. Nothing. We've said that. When we had that meeting, it was about marketing, but that hasn't changed. Not one iota. At all.
They'll tell you marketing is great, and it is great. But it's not going to change that number (of African-Americans in baseball), because you're not marketing the black players. The black players that are good in this game, you don't market. There is none.
With all due respect, Rollins is mostly wrong about this. Just wrong.
For one thing, very few baseball players of any stripe are seriously marketed, for the simple reason that very few baseball players are marketable. Baseball, as we've all come to understand, has largely become a local pursuit. Evan Longoria is a great player, but he's not going to sell Toyotas in California. Even Derek Jeter, or Alex Rodriguez before the scandal, or Greg Maddux or even Barry Bonds, how many national TV commercials were they doing? How many times were they on the cover of Time?
It's just a different world. Baseball players earn HUGE amounts of money, but generally not for doing big-time endorsements.
And second, if Rollins were looking for any contradictory evidence, it's right there on his own team. Ryan Howard has been on magazine covers, I'm sure. Ryan Howard has done national television commercials, many of them, for Subway. Just last week, Ryan Howard enjoyed a nice little turn on The Office.
Now, it's probably somewhat true that you've got a better shot at big endorsements, and maybe magazine covers too, if you look like Derek Jeter or Tiger Woods instead of Jimmy Rollins. But again, there's Ryan Howard on my TV screen, arguing otherwise.
To some degree, this just seems like Jimmy Rollins feels he hasn't gotten the respect he deserves. For all I know, he's absolutely right about that. I'm not walking around in his shoes, so there are a lot of things I don't know.
One thing I do know is that the world's a pretty complicated place, without many easy answers.
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