Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Far from it, in fact, according to teammate David Price.
Price ripped Betts’ lack of exposure while speaking to Christopher Smith of MassLive.com on Friday, adding that it hurts the growth of the sport within the African American community:
“OK, that’s a joke, I saw the Brewers first baseman [Jesus Aguilar] has a commercial on MLB Network. Great player. Great player. I love watching him play. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him from Travis Shaw and all those guys. But he’s not Mookie Betts.
“We’re trying to grow this game in the African American community. Put that guy [Betts] on commercials. That’s how this game grows. MLB is probably the worst at marketing their players. They need to do a better job of that. We’ve talked about that to the union and [MLB commissioner] Mr. [Rob] Manfred many times.
“Market the African American stars in baseball better. And the other players. Everybody. Market us better. Mookie Betts doesn’t have a single commercial. He’s one of the most marketable people in all of baseball. He plays for the Red Sox and he’s African American. Zero commercials. A very likable person. He could be the face of baseball. And zero commercials. He just won MVP. MLB just needs to step up.”
According to an April 2018 study from USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale, African Americans represented 7.8 percent of MLB’s total number on Opening Day last year. That marked a 0.7 percent increase from the prior season, the league’s biggest jump since 2007 to 2008.
MLB executive vice president Tony Reagins said MLB’s goal is to get that figure to 19 or 20 percent but noted there is “a lot of work to be done.”
Price, meanwhile, believes it’s on commissioner Rob Manfred and Co. to figure out how to better market the game’s biggest stars.
Last year, Betts hit .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs, 47 doubles, five triples and 80 RBI, adding 30 stolen bases and a third consecutive Gold Glove. He led one of baseball’s iconic franchises to a club-record 108 regular-season victories and a World Series championship.
In four full seasons, the five-tool star now has three All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and an MVP award. And he’s just 26.
As impressive as Betts, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper may be on the field, no one has been able to fill Derek Jeter’s shoes as the face of baseball since he retired after the 2014 season.
Manfred said on The Dan Patrick Show last July that it’s difficult for the league to market its stars without the player’s cooperation:
“Player marketing requires one thing for sure: the player. You cannot market a player passively. You can’t market anything passively. You need people to engage with those to whom you are trying to market in order to have effective marketing. We are very interested in having our players more engaged and having higher-profile players and helping our players develop their individual brand. But that involves the player being actively engaged.
“Mike [Trout]’s a great, great player and a really nice person, but he’s made certain decisions about what he wants to do and what he doesn’t want to do, and how he wants to spend his free time and how he doesn’t want to spend his free time. That’s up to him. If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really, really big. But he has to make a decision that he’s prepared to engage in that area. It takes time and effort.”
Perhaps Manfred will hear Price’s message and do something to help promote one of the league’s biggest stars.