While scrolling through the headlines yesterday, I saw an interesting article titled “MLB wants to own everything, and they’re succeeding” on sbnation.com, detailing how the MLB has acquired iconic brand Rawlings and how the league is setting out to control every aspect of the game from the pitch tracking software to what the players wear on the field. It’s a great article that I highly recommend reading if you’re a fan of American’s past-time. But the article really got me thinking about whether all this control is a good or bad thing for one of the oldest games.
First and foremost I think it’s a great idea that the MLB has bought Rawlings because it gives them a bit more control over how their players’ equipment is made so that they can answer questions as why the balls are traveling further than ever before and have first hand knowledge of every single part of the production. It also mentioned in the article that the MLB Advanced Media also brought a pitch tracking software in-house, which is also a good move because it allows them to yet again have control over the technology. Which if you don’t know the MLB Advanced Media is very strict about how MLB assets are used and all the jazz.
And while I support these moves, it also means that the MLB is working on having a hand in every single part of the machine, which is a problem because now the MLB is cracking down players for uniform violations because of their individualized arm sleeves or cleats (if you’re a Cubs fan you’ll remember Ben Zobrist posting a lengthy Instagram post about how he’s disappointed that the league told him to stop wearing his black cleats, which to be honest nobody really noticed anyway).
I could understand if the arm sleeves and cleats were hurting the league’s bottom line to tell players to stop wearing them, but it’s not because I never noticed that Zobrist was wearing different cleats or if a player was wearing an arm band in whatever color (and trust me I watch a lot of baseball games). If wearing that kind of stuff makes them feel comfortable and play better baseball, go for it because that’s all I care about as a fan.
All of this boils down to is that the MLB is trying to control every single piece of the machine, which from the technology standpoint is a great because it allows them more control over the product on the field which translate into growing the fan base and the game. But when it extends to controlling what players wear that’s where you lose me, because that has nothing to do with growing the game. If anything allowing players to individualize their uniform can actually help grow the fan base because they see Willson Contreras wearing a Venezuelan-flag sleeve and they’re possibly from there it could make them fans of his and subsequently the Chicago Cubs. But instead the MLB doesn’t want fans to identify with their players instead just wants to focus on growing the bottom line (which involves getting those fans to buy tickets/gear/etc).