Some highly-accomplished MLBbro’s are expressing their distaste for certain aspects of the current state of baseball.
Former MLB shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who played in an era when Black players were a bit more plentiful, is the last Black shortstop to win an MVP. When J-Roll entered the league at the turn of the millennium, 12.8 percent of the players were Black and Brown. By the time he finished his illustrious career in 2016, the number had dwindled to a 60-year-low of 6.7 percent.
Despite some signs of life, Rollins is very disappointed in the current percentage (7.6 %) of African-American players in MLB. He thinks the number is too low. As Jackie Robinson Day came and went, Rollins, who should be Cooperstown bound, just couldn’t hold his tongue anymore.
“It’s more than just one thing,” the four-time Gold Glover from Oaktown told The Associated Press. “Marketing. The NBA and the NFL, those guys’ faces are plastered all over the screen. Baseball, there isn’t really a great deal of marketing. Obviously, everyone knows about Mike Trout and rightfully so, but there are some young Black players that deserve some light, too.”
Rollins listed Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds as popular players who freaked the marketing game and captivated him when he was a kid with MLB dreams.
“But when you start going outside of that select few, the sport itself isn’t marketing anyone else in a major way where kids from the inner cities are attracted to it,” said Rollins, who along with his teammate Ryan Howard won consecutive NL Most Valuable Player awards with the Phillies in 2006 and 2007.
Black Knights Ryan Howard & Jimmy Rollins led Phillies to the 2008 World Series
Rollins was the multi-skilled leadoff hitter and a crazy clutch 20-20 guy with a golden web. Howard was the big bopper who batted cleanup, flexing 50-homer potential for a team that won five straight NL East titles, two NL pennants and the 2008 World Series.
But How come these Black Knights didn’t flip their MVPs and World Series success into some major endorsements?
“I remember we…a lot of Black players, had a phone call with Spike Lee years ago,” Rollins said. “We flew out to Chicago. We were with MLB and the union and Spike Lee. We talked about doing commercials. Nothing ever came of that. It was like a one-time thing. Not to knock MLB, but they’re going to do things that, at face value, look great. But the impact is minimal because there’s generally never any true follow-through. That’s not just baseball. A lot of organizations do that.”
Let’s face it. As far as visibility and marketability, kids see the NBA player as the fastest route to celebrity superstardom. We haven’t had a transcending Black or Brown superstar in baseball since Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. We have some contenders, but no player has captured the masses and the casual fan like The Kid — who’s Dad was a damn good major leaguer who introduced him to the game.
Speaking of Dads, Rollins also attributed the decline of Black players in baseball to socioeconomic factors.
“You need space to play baseball,” he said. “You don’t have that in a lot of places. In the country, you can find a field. In the city, kids aren’t playing stickball. A basketball, you could pick up and dribble. It’s easier to find a court. You don’t have to field nine guys to play basketball. You can play one-on-one. The expense, you need the tools, you’ve got to pay for travel teams. In other sports, we know it’s been well documented. They get sponsored and those things don’t happen in baseball.
Also, you look at how baseball’s traditionally passed down from the dad to son. If your father isn’t around, the chances of you being exposed to baseball because it’s more of a team sport, it’s probably less likely to happen.”
Gary Sheffield Can’t Stand To Watch
While Rollins is critical of the limited access to quality baseball and all of the internal and external factors that keep participation numbers down for African-American athletes, former MLB player Gary Sheffield is not even interested in watching the game anymore.
“I don’t watch baseball at all,” he told CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney show.
Sheffield, a nine-time All-Star and 1997 World Series champion, was working as a TBS studio analyst during the 2020 postseason, but he doesn’t even do that anymore.
The game has gone stale for the former shortstop turned All-Star outfielder, who says it’s almost unrecognizable.
“I was kind of forced to watch baseball because I was working with TBS,” he said. “And so I had to remember, really find out who these players were. I’ll tell you the secret now: I never watched the games during the season. I would get educated on it when I got there. … It’s not something that I could watch, based on what I’m seeing, because I’ll be a complainer. … This is the first time I’ve ever said that out loud, but I’m just truly disappointed with what I watch.”
Sheffield ranks 26th all-time with 509 home runs. And get this kids…he swung hard enough to pull his own shoulder out of the socket, but he never struck out more than 83 times in any of his 22 seasons.
“(It was exciting) when I was playing. They implemented all these rules now and they’ve changed the game so much, they’re making it more hitter-friendly — even without having success. These guys can go out there and strike out 180, 190 times, and it’s OK. And then all of a sudden they show a home run. Now, a home run is less appealing, when a home run was a big deal and more appealing (when I played) because it wasn’t happening as often as it is now…
“When I see a pop-up player that everybody gravitates to — he’s the face of the team, the face of the city — and he has 100 strikeouts in April. When I see stuff like that, I’m not one of those older players that scoffs at the game and then talks about the game in a negative light. I just speak on facts. But what I do is meet these kids where they are at. That’s the way the game is played today, that doesn’t mean I have to watch it.”