By Max Godnick
Major League Baseball has a relevance problem.
Professional baseball practically withers on social media when compared to the other major American sports leagues; MLB has just 8.2 million followers on Twitter, while the NBA and the NFL boast 27.4 million and 24.2 million, respectively. Baseball's brightest stars can't compete with the mega-watt likes of LeBron James and Tom Brady in name recognition or cultural ubiquity.
In July, baseball's best player, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, admitted he's never been invited to appear on a late-night talk show. And the league's biggest moment isn't getting much love either with ratings for 2017's World Series down 18 percent compared to the year before.
But there is a path forward that may resemble the glory days when larger-than-life teams and players helped baseball earn the title of America's pastime.
"If I'm in charge of Major League Baseball's marketing, I am praying that the Yankees go further," James Yoder, the CEO and founder of Chat Sports, said Tuesday in an interview on Cheddar.
In order to do that, the team will have to beat sworn rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
Despite a high-octane lineup of young sluggers with enough firepower to beat any challengers, the Yankees find themselves down two games to one in the American League Division Series and will need to win their next game if they're going to advance to the American League Champion Series against defending champs, the Houston Astros.
One Bronx Bomber stands head and shoulders ー literally ー above the rest.
"[Aaron] Judge is the guy, I think from a marketing perspective, that Major League Baseball has got to be hanging their hat on," Yoder said of the Yankee outfielder.
The 6'7" right fielder is a two-time All-Star and a bonafide phenomenon. Yoder described him as a "throwback" to iconic players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark McGwire.
"He's huge," Yoder said. "He's a giant, for a baseball player."
But despite Judge's impressive stats and a superstar slot on baseball's most storied and popular team, he only has 960,000 followers on Instagram, while far-lesser players in other sports have no problem hitting seven-figures on social media.
As for the Yankees' potential World Series opponent, Yoder thinks the Los Angeles Dodgers present the greatest opportunity for the sport ー and perhaps the league.
"It's got to be Dodgers verses the Yankees-Red Sox winner in the World Series, if this is going to be an all-time postseason from a ratings perspective," he said.
That dream match-up is still very much in play. The Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series after defeating the Atlanta Braves.
They'll face the Milwaukee Brewers in their quest to reach the World Series for the second consecutive year. Last year, the team lost to the Astros in the deciding Game 7.
If MLB wants to return to the top of the sports-media ladder, Judge and the Yankees would do well to eat their Wheaties before they face the Red Sox in a do-or-die fourth game on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
For full interview click here.