- Ingvard Ashby
Although baseball is still referred to as “America’s pastime,” the metrics surrounding the game’s star power are reaching crisis levels. Last year, ESPN released its ranking of the 100 most popular athletes in the world, and it did not include a single baseball player. (Russell Westbrook checked in at No. 34.)
The proverbial “hot stove” of offseason transactions has slowed to a thaw as generational talents like outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado are still unsigned as pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than a month.
While the sports world has a only a passing interest in the fact that Harper and Machado are still unsigned, it is University of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray that is generating the most baseball discussion nationally. Of course, Murray was drafted by Oakland Athletics No. 9 overall in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft and given a $4.8 million signing bonus while being allowed to return to Norman to become the starting quarterback for the Sooners, where he set records and became the university’s second consecutive Heisman Trophy winner.
The Oakland A’s knew the risk of taking Murray, but the franchise was desperate for a star because it took Murray higher than he was projected to go in the draft, perhaps thinking it could woo him with some quick cash. It turns out that riding the bus in the minor leagues isn’t quite as appealing as becoming a National Football League star quarterback.
Before Murray declared for the NFL draft last week, Major League Baseball sent marketing personnel with A’s executives to meet with Murray because he would instantly become one of the most popular baseball players in the league, even while working his way to the majors.
There’s nothing preventing Murray from playing both sports, but that hasn’t been attempted since Deion Sanders two decades ago. Although baseball has the ability to offer bigger contracts than the NFL, it would take Murray six to eight years to earn the kind of money he’d make as a rookie first-round NFL draft pick. It should be concerning for Major League Baseball that even with all of the controversy surrounding football and brain injuries that Murray wants to stay on the gridiron, which still remains the country’s true pastime.