Now that Big Papi has retired his big bats, who will be the future face of béisbol? Here are four charismatic young stars that we like. Do you agree? That was the question we posed to you recently.
The votes are in. Our audience on Facebook and Twitter has spoken. Despite Elvis Andrus’ engaging smile and love for arepas, Yoenis Céspedes’ booming bat and Manny Machado’s all-around excellence, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor from Puerto Rico was the clear favorite. Among these four new faces of Major League Baseball, he garnered 45 percent of the vote.
- Lindor 45%
- Machado 26%
- Céspedes 24%
- Andrus 05%
What’s not to like?
What’s not to like? Lindor’s effervescent personality, smooth glove work, potent bat — not to mention maturity way beyond his 23 years — have propelled him in the span of two seasons and 12 games to the forefront of the new generation, a rising star whose potential and future seem unlimited.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark asked recently “Where have all the MLB superstars gone?” The premise, based on an ESPN poll that asked fans to name their favorite pro athletes, is that MLB lacks a “face” or star with the same recognition and fame as Michael Jordan, Lebron James and Tom Brady, the top three names on the list.
On a national level, the argument makes sense. Only three baseball players made the top 50, all retired: Derek Jeter (13th), Babe Ruth (30th) and Pete Rose (50th). The first active player was Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (51st).
But we wonder: If we asked the question to specific segments of the market — for example, Latino fans — would the answers change? And we would wager that it would. During the World Baseball Classic final between #LosNuestros and the United States, 70 percent of the televisions in Puerto Rico were tuned to the game, following Lindor as well as Carlos Correa and Javy Báez, to name two other popular young talents. That, from an island with a population of nearly 3.6 million.
A star on the rise
As our poll reflected, there is no denying that inside the baseball universe, Lindor is the favorite of many. Dare we say, candidate to be the next face of the game? In the past month, he has been profiled by all sorts of national media.
Bleacher Report’s Joon Lee penned an ode titled, “Francisco Lindor is Trying to Save Baseball From Itself.”
And Cleveland.com called him “the oldest 23-year-old.”
Metrics in Cleveland don’t lie. Lindor’s name sells the most player-related merchandise at Progressive Field, grabbing 30 percent last year and 42 percent so far in the first month of this season, according to ESPN.
Stats don’t lie either. Lindor concluded the second week of the season on a 10-game hitting streak. After 12 games, he was averaging .362/.436/.702 with four home runs and eight RBI. Against the Texas Rangers, he made up for an error that cost his team the lead by hitting a solitary home run to keep the Indians in the game, then blasting a walk-off grand slam in the ninth to complete the comeback.
How popular is Lindor right now? When Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis couldn’t get new white Easton shin guards because the company had discontinued the model he had used since college, by offering memorabilia autographed by Lindor on social media, he managed to get not one, but two new shin guards.
Granted, it’s early in the season, and early in Lindor’s career. But our fans know a good thing when they see one.
Featured image: Brad Mangin / Getty Images Sport