Wassell: Keep baseball weird — MLB is missing the colorful stars it needs

May 18, 2018, 11:13 AM | Updated: 11:22 am
Bartolo Colon, overweight and almost 45, is one of the most famous players in baseball. (AP)...
Bartolo Colon, overweight and almost 45, is one of the most famous players in baseball. (AP)

I’m an old man who enjoys weird things. Bartolo Colon is old and his success is definitely weird. So I guess I’m a Bartolo Colon fan.

Mariners’ Scott Servais: Cano suspension ‘a gut punch’

But is it a good thing when a guy like that is one of baseball’s most well-known stars? Aging, out-of-shape players aren’t generally the ones we look to for great athletic achievements, and yet there we were on Wednesday, watching him dominate a pretty good Mariners lineup.

Here’s random list of baseball’s best, most famous players.

• Shohei Ohtani
• Mike Trout
• Aaron Judge
• Giancarlo Stanton
• Bryce Harper
• Justin Verlander
• Jose Altuve
• Manny Machado
• Corey Kluber
• Max Scherzer
• Clayton Kershaw
• Bartolo Colon

Colon is nowhere close to being considered one of the greats in the game today, and yet as we start to name the guys whose names are most recognizable, you can’t ignore him. A (nearly) 45-year old overweight pitcher who hits home runs on occasion is going to make news. When he comes to your town and holds down nine guys half his age, it’s tough to look away.

Not only does Colon belong on that list above, he’s probably more famous than some of the players that are obviously better. Is this an indictment of baseball’s marketing issues? Clearly, the sport is having a difficult time reaching young fans. When a guy like Colon is one of the game’s most popular players, it means that there just aren’t enough stars.

What does it say about Major League Baseball that one of its biggest attractions is a pitcher that would be lucky finish the season with an ERA under 4.00? Mike Trout and Corey Kluber are two of the best players in the sport and yet if they knocked on my door right now, I’d have to think for a minute about who they were. You can bet everything you own that if Bartolo Colon paid me a visit, I’d not only know who he was, but I’d invite him in immediately!

Still, I can’t decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the positive side, Colon’s quirkiness fits right in with the great lore of baseball’s folk heroes. Names like Turk Wendell, Bill Lee, Julio Franco, Dock Ellis, Jose Lima, the entire 1993 Phillies pennant-winning roster – they all make me smile for their own unique reasons. Do a little research on each and I guarantee you at least a few laughs. Their unconventionality widened baseball’s entertainment value and were the reason that I and many fans (perhaps unconsciously) fell in love with the game. “Weird” works in baseball.

I suppose in a perfect world, I’d prefer baseball to have a little variety – some eccentric players and some amazingly skilled ones. Right now though, there’s a shortage of both. The NBA has so much from each side that actually winning games in that league has become secondary in terms of why people watch. Does anyone actually care who wins the NBA Finals? The buzz is about the players – who they are, what they say, and then maybe how they played.

Think about this for a second: J.R. Smith has a wider national appeal than Manny Machado. Machado is a Top 20 player in his sport and a perennial All-Star. My guess is that the average sports fan knows zero about him. But because of Smith’s proximity to LeBron James and his refusal to keep his shirt on, even President Obama couldn’t help but single him out a few years back.

So what’s the moral of the story here? That we need more below-average, obese guys who pitch into their mid-40s?

Well, yeah.

More from Bob, Groz and Tom

Bob, Groz and Tom

Seahawks RB Chris Carson...
Brent Stecker

Heaps: Bench Chris Carson? Seahawks need him running to make playoffs

Seahawks running back Chris Carson is struggling with fumbles, and it's imperative he corrects the issue, says Jake Heaps. "If this team is going to go to the playoffs, they have to have Chris Carson running the football."
3 years ago
The Groz at T-Mobile Park...
Brent Stecker

Watch: The Groz throws out the 1st pitch before Mariners-Astros game

Dave "The Groz" Grosby was honored by the Mariners on Tuesday night by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Check out video, photos and more from his big night here.
3 years ago
Bob, Groz and Tom... Staff

Highlights from The Groz’s last show on Bob, Groz and Tom

Dave "The Groz" Grosby signed off as a full-time Seattle sports radio host Friday on Bob, Groz and Tom with visits from several notable names from his career.
3 years ago
The Groz... Staff

Watch: Members of the Seattle sports media pay tribute to The Groz

Watch a special tribute to 710 ESPN Seattle's The Groz featuring messages from members of the Seattle sports media to commemorate his 29 years as a daily host in the market.
3 years ago
The Groz...
Brent Stecker

The Groz’s final show on Bob, Groz and Tom airs Friday at noon

Dave "The Groz" Grosby will finish up his 29-year career as a daily Seattle sports radio host on Friday from noon to 3 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle's Bob, Groz and Tom.
3 years ago
Mariners OF Kyle Lewis...
Brent Stecker

What sets Mariners OF Kyle Lewis apart from other prospects?

Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis hit his fifth home run in eight games in the big leagues on Wednesday. ROOT Sports analyst Mike Blowers talked to Bob, Groz and Tom about Lewis and what makes him stand out.
3 years ago
Wassell: Keep baseball weird — MLB is missing the colorful stars it needs