This past Friday Kris Bryant made his major league debut. It was a big deal. MLB Network had live look-ins to all of his at bats. It reminded me of when Barry Bonds or Manny Ramirez were chasing historic home run marks. For a while there it felt like there was always a player about to hit his 500th home run and then hitting 500 home runs became less impressive. All those guys were fading stars. No one hits 500 home runs when they're young. Baseball is in a different place. It is no longer about celebrating historic offensive stars but it is about finding the new star and because of that live look ins for home run records has changed to live look ins for major league debuts.
Kris Bryant has a chance to be a really good baseball player but I wonder why baseball doesn't market Mike Trout. Mike Trout is the best baseball player on the planet right now and he's really fun to watch but baseball doesn't have him on the Fox game of the week or ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. It feels like the Angels star is hidden away and a secret kept for only baseball fans. Baseball should do more to let casual sports fans see Mike Trout. He plays an exciting brand of baseball but for some reason it's really hard to watch Mike Trout play.
On the opposite side of Mike Trout is the player that everyone is tired of, Bryce Harper. Many experts evaluated Bryce Harper as a better prospect than Mike Trout, but Trout has one MVP award and could have two others while Bryce Harper has yet to even be an MVP candidate, and yet Bryce Harper is mister Under Armour, on Geico and Gatorade commercials, and mentioned by sports writers and talking heads what feels like daily. A lot of this has to do with the debate about Bryce Harper being overrated and not living up to the hype. Bryce Harper also has a more marketable look than Mike Trout. Trout is a plain looking guy while Harper has a look that makes him stand out. The best thing for baseball might not be for Kris Bryant to take the world by storm but for Bryce Harper to be the NL MVP or at least in the discussion.
I've so far avoided looking at stats and they aren't very useful at this point in the season, and while Harper does have a .967 OPs the most telling thing is how he's being treated by opposing managers. If there is a base open then Bryce Harper is getting walked and if it's the late innings the top lefty is summoned from the bullpen. Opposing managers would rather face Ryan Zimmerman (a very good hitter in his own right) than give Bryce Harper a chance to hit with a runner in scoring position, and late in the game they want to have a perceived match-up advantage. Opposing managers are treating Bryce Harper like he is a feared hitter and not the most overrated player in baseball and that tells you more than any stat can as to how Bryce Harper has done in this young season.