While the promise of spring theoretically touches all 30 MLB franchises, most front offices and fanbases, when appraising their team’s chances realistically, don’t expect a World Series title, let alone a playoff berth.
Still, a team must get local fans excited about the product on the field so that they can walk through the turnstiles at the ballpark and leave, having consumed many a nine-dollar beer, with some memorabilia.
If the team isn’t good enough to build a marketing campaign around winning, then perhaps an exhilarating player or an up-and-coming star can raise interest. Meanwhile, contending teams understandably focus their promotion on the stars most responsible for the success.
In short, each club, through various forms of advertising, creates a “face of the franchise,” a marketable person in the organization who embodies the spirit or direction of the franchise.
Of course, advertising campaigns don’t always work, especially when there is a poor relationship between the fans and ownership. In these cases, the face of the franchise in the eyes of the fans is different than the one advertised by the club.
In this two-part slideshow series, I will do my best to identify the face of each franchise and explain my reasoning.
My criteria will include on-field production, club tenure, salary, marketability and how well a player symbolizes the state of his organization in the eyes of the fans, among other things. The criteria may be weighted differently each time, and it goes without saying that my choices are colored by my biases and subjective perceptions.
I think this exercise, however trivial it may seem, has value in that it can shed some light on broader issues, particularly race relations in American (and Canadian!) society.
So if (when) you disagree with me, please let me know in the comments, and maybe our friendly Internet debate will lead to a real friendship or, in other words, years of alcohol-fueled debates in person.
This week, I tackle the 16 teams in the National League.