TIME TO CASH IN?
This season we could be entering a whole new world for Astros, MLB
It seems that everybody is onboard with Major League Baseball making the designated hitter universal – as soon as the upcoming 2022 season. Whenever that happens. This would mean that National League fans no longer will endure pitchers flailing at sinkers bouncing 10 feet in front of home plate, or standing frozen with the bat on their shoulders praying for a walk.
But what do you think about baseball teams renting out advertising space on players’ jerseys and batting helmets? It's reportedly on the table during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Soccer players wear sponsors' patches on their kits. NASCAR drivers’ fire suits have more advertising than Harwin Drive on a summer Sunday. NBA uniforms have corporate patches, the Rockets wear Credit Karma. The NBA is trying to sell advertising on team’s practice jerseys now. Who's going to see that? Tennis players and golfers are human billboards.
So why not baseball players? Teams have lost a lot of money due to the Covid pandemic. It’s only fair to give them a means to boost their bottom line.
Some might argue … just not baseball jerseys. They’re sacrosanct, can’t we have anything nice around here?
Baseball jerseys are special and different. Regular citizens, especially guys who’ve put on a few, shouldn’t wear basketball jerseys in public. There’s too much skin showing. Nobody wants to look at your shoulders. Football jerseys are too bulky and hot. Besides if you're a Texans fan, the only players’ jerseys you’d want to wear don’t play here anymore.
Baseball jerseys are comfortable and Houstonians are proud to show their love for the Astros. If you know the right place to shop online, you can get a really good, authentic-looking Jose Altuve jersey for $25 instead of $100-plus retail at sporting goods stores.
You might remember that the Astros and Cardinals wore patches promoting Ford cars when they played a series in Mexico in 2019. Abner Doubleday did not roll over in his grave that we know of.
The problem with allowing MLB teams to sell space on uniforms may be … where does it stop? The current idea is to limit advertising to a patch on jerseys and a decal on batting helmets. Baseball stadiums already place advertising on the field, over outfield fences, in seating areas, behind home plate and the on-deck circle. Basically anywhere outside of playing territory.
You may have noticed Chick-fil-A banners hanging off the foul (fowl) poles at Minute Maid Park, which is weird because foul poles really are fair poles.
What if Yuli Gurriel wants to wear a patch promoting Cuban sandwiches at Café Piquet on Bissonnet? You don’t have to tell me, they’re delicious!
Will they eventually have players wear microphones and do live spots during games? Let’s say Machete makes a mound visit.
“Hey, Lance, this batter is sitting dead red fastball. Let’s give him nothing but junk. Speaking of junk, is your garage full of crap you don’t need anymore? Call 1-800-JUNK. Come on, let’s get this guy out and we'll head to Jack in the Box for a Spicy Cluck chicken sandwich on the way home.”
Baseball broadcasts have built-in sponsorships. “That ground rule double was brought to you by Dubble Bubble, the official bubblegum of Astros spring training.”
The National Hockey League recently approved sponsors’ decals for player helmets. Trouble is, hockey is a fast game and players are constantly in motion, making helmet decals difficult for fans to read. Basketball has a similar problem. The only time players stand still for advertising patches to make an impression is during free throws.
Baseball jerseys and sponsors' patches are made for each other like eHarmony.com’s 32 dimensions of compatibility. Baseball is a slow, deliberate game. Fans watching on TV will be able to read the “for a limited time only” fine print at the bottom of McDonald’s patches. Consider one at bat on TV:
Hitter strolls leisurely to home plate, steps slowly into the batter’s box, scratches his groin area, tightens and untightens his batting glove 15 times, the catchers puts down one finger for a fastball, closeup of pitcher shaking him off, catcher calls for a curve, batter steps out of the batter’s box, pitcher goes into his stretch and fires ball one, ball two, strike one, yadda yadda yadda, foul ball, foul ball. Eventually the batter works a walk and trots to first base. Meanwhile fans at the stadium are working on their ninth $1 hot dog and unbuckling their belts, while fans watching TV at home are checking to see who’s on Jimmy Kimmel.
Stretch … walk … even the language of baseball is slow. Paying for a patch on a baseball player’s jersey is like buying infomercial time on Channel 57.
Local sponsors will jump at the chance to advertise their products on Astros' uniforms. Mattress Mack will want in. Maybe Hilton Furniture, “and that’s a fact, Jack.” I’d love to see what a patch for Adam & Eve (three locations) would look like.