When C.C. Sabathia suggested that the declining number of African-Americans in baseball had become a crisis, he said that he was going connect with prominent players like Jimmy Rollins about how to raise baseball’s profile in the black community.
Nothing like leading by example.
Sabathia became the first African-American pitcher to win a Cy Young Award since Dwight Gooden did it 22 years ago and Rollins took home the National League MVP after becoming the first player in Major League history to have 30 homeruns, 30 doubles, 30 steals and 20 triples in one season.
Unfortunately, the honors came within the same seven day span as Barry Bonds federal grand jury indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice, stemming from his testimonial during the BALCO trial four years ago.
Bonds is by far the most well-known African-American in the sport and unless baseball’s marketing department can step it up, the incessant coverage of his alleged steroid use is sure to overshadow all that Sabathia and Rollins accomplished this season.
This is why Bud Selig needs to take a lesson from both the Roger Goodell and David Stern and not let a scandal become the focal point of the entire game. Unfortunately, for a sport that is as profitable as ever, Major League Baseball’s struggle to promote individuals is as vast as ever.
It seems like while football and basketball aim to present fresh faces to the public every single year (see Reggie Bush and Kevin Durant); baseball has been stuck with the same two storylines forever: Yankees/Red Sox and steroids.
The success of Sabathia and Rollins gives baseball the opportunity to promote two new, positive faces; not only to the black community, but to the entire world.
Until it does, there will be no sneaker deals and no new commercials. Just a regional rivalry and a major controversy.
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