When Kris Bryant competed in the 2015 Home Run Derby, he was still a fresh-faced kid on a rookie salary. The fresh-faced part may not have changed much since then, but his salary has climbed just a little after arbitration raises. Even so, he can see the value in MLB increasing the Derby’s total prize pool to $2.5 million, $1 million of which goes to the winner.
“Oh my gosh,” Bryant told Patrick Mooney of The Athletic ($). “Man, that’s a lot of money. But I think it’s such a good idea. You’re going to get so much more action. You look at the rookie pay and (someone) like Aaron Judge. He’s worth way more than what he’s getting paid. He could double his salary just by winning the Home Run Derby.”
The plan is obviously to lure some of the game’s biggest stars, particularly the younger guys to whom the prize represents a huge sum relative to their current contract. There’s also something to be said for the bigger stake simply meaning more, even if it represents only 4 percent of what Bryce Harper will earn this year.
So even if the dubious nature of his victory doesn’t spur him to further legitimize his crown, perhaps the allure of the extra money and the bigger names it will attract will bring the defending champ back to the fray.
“That’s going to be the attitude now with some of these guys,” Bryant said. “They’re going to get whoever they want to do it. And I think that will be good for the game.”
Bryant didn’t sound so sure about a return engagement, telling Mooney he’d “think about it long and hard.” He’ll have to find himself a new BP pitcher if he does compete, what with his old man battling a torn rotator cuff. But that might not be a bad thing, since we all saw how it turned out the last time.
Just kidding, it’s pretty obvious Mike Bryant has done a decent job over the years.
MLB, on the other hand, has not done a decent job of either marketing its stars or catering to new fans and the way they consume media. I was struck by this the other day after showing my kids the Cubs’ new YouTube channel, specifically the “Bae vs. Ballplayer” video with Kris and Jess Bryant against Anthony Rizzo.
My son is a big fan of YouTube and loves watching everything from animated series to clips of people playing video games like Fortnite or Plants vs. Zombies. This Cubs channel is something he can relate to and he started watching all the different videos, some of which we enjoyed together. The content is such that fans of all ages can enjoy it, but the medium is particularly suited to a younger generation.
Now if the league as a whole could just figure out that reaching and retaining new fans is not simply a matter of shortening the duration of games, we’ll be getting somewhere. A reduction in commercial breaks is a step in the right direction, as is an attempt to lure more stars to an exhibition like the Home Run Derby. But how about better access to the product by lifting territorial blackouts on MLB.tv?
Sorry, sorry, didn’t mean to go all galaxy brain on you there. Maybe it’s best to limit mound visits and institute pitch clocks and batter minimums. I mean, that’s what the kids really want. Who hasn’t heard a child ask why that man isn’t forced to stay in the game to face additional batters even though his control is off? Wait, no one’s ever heard that.
But judging by the organic search traffic we’ve gotten here from a post about blackouts written in 2015, a helluva lot of people ask why they can’t watch the Cubs when the game is on ESPN. Wow, look at that, I’ve hijacked my own post. Anyway, here’s to hoping the Derby prize makes the even more exciting and that Rob Manfred stops hating baseball.