Heading into the final weekend of the MLB regular season, one thing has become apparent: The 2013 MLB postseason is going to be devoid of many of baseball’s most popular stars. No Yankees. No Strasburg. No Harper. No Trout. Thankfully, the Dodgers went on midseason tear to become the World Series favorites, because they’re a team littered with stars.
In July, MLB released its Top 20 list of the top selling jerseys in baseball. Only two players listed in the Top 10 – Yadier Molina of the Cardinals (3rd) and Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers (10th) will be playing in October.
Thursday, MLB released its list of the Top 20 selling jerseys for the second half of the season, and it seems making the playoffs mattered a lot – Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers cracked the Top 10, as did Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates (17 in July, now 8th) and Yoenis Cespedes of the A’s (not listed in July, now 9th). Still, it’s a significant change from last year, when nine players in the Top 10 for jersey sales were playing in the postseason.
Obviously jersey sales are not a complete proxy of popularity. Market size has to be taken into account, and even social media aspects (twitter and facebook numbers!). You can’t even make a parallel to “popularity” in the NBA or NFL for a variety of reasons, among them roster size and the significant money difference (per this Forbes list, only one MLB player is among the Top 33 highest paid athletes).
Not having the Angels in October removes Trout (9th in jersey sales in July, 10th now), who one could argue is the new face of baseball (with his 8.1 WAR, he’ll probably be the AL MVP). Baltimore missing out means no Chris Davis, who arguably was the most written-about player at the All-Star break, when the slugger was chasing home run records (37 at the break; he led MLB with 52).
The Red Sox have been so overhauled in the last couple years, little Dustin Pedroia is the team’s most popular player based on jersey sales (13th in July, 11th now). The Moneyball A’s, who have embarrassing plumbing problems and were 23rd in home attendance, are a mostly faceless bunch who receive little national pub – Fox’s top announcing team finally made it out to Oakland over the summer. When I think A’s, first I think Rickey Henderson, then the Bash Brothers, then the terrific movie Moneyball, and then pitcher Brandon McCarthy tweeting to his wife about a threesome.
Tampa Bay, which probably will get
the final a Wild Card spot over Cleveland, was dead last in attendance this year. [Ed. Tampa and Cleveland will get the wild card spots over Texas, probably.]
The Pirates, probably the best story in baseball, are led by the dynamic McCutchen, but all you’ll hear in the run-up to their first postseason in two decades is Sid Bream’s iconic slide to prevent Pittsburgh from getting to the World Series nearly a generation ago.
The guess here is that MLB is rooting for a Dodgers vs. Tigers/Red Sox World Series. Nationally, fans are familiar with Detroit’s stars – Miguel Cabrera (12th in jersey sales in July, 14th now) and Justin Verlander (20th in July, no longer on the list) who lost in the World Series last year and are making their fourth postseason appearance in eight years. Cabrera has chased two triple crowns in a row, and despite a down year, Verlander is one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Red Sox play in the 7th largest TV market and despite a two-year hiatus from the postseason, remain one of the most popular franchises in the sport.