BRENT STECKER

While MLB is wishing Mike Trout was more popular, it missed chance to make Jean Segura a star

Jul 18, 2018, 3:48 PM | Updated: Jul 19, 2018, 12:48 am
Jean Segura didn't win the All-Star Game MVP despite going 2 for 2 with a three-run homer. (AP)...
Jean Segura didn't win the All-Star Game MVP despite going 2 for 2 with a three-run homer. (AP)
(AP)

There’s no question who the best player in baseball is. It’s Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout.

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He’s a seven-time All-Star, two-time MVP, hits 450-foot home runs, steals bases and plays center field like a right-handed Ken Griffey Jr.

But there’s a problem: Mike Trout doesn’t want to be a pop culture superstar.

It’s been a big topic of discussion for years, but especially this week. With the All-Star Game comes the hot takes from the national media – such as how Trout is only as recognizable as NBA reserve forward Kenneth Faried – and apparently the MLB commissioner himself, Rob Manfred, who expressed that Trout’s lack of popularity is a result of him not being “actively engaged” in developing his “individual brand.”

No doubt, baseball is desperate for a star like the NBA has in LeBron James, the NFL has in Tom Brady, and the MLB of yesteryear had in Griffey. But for all the complaints about its best players not embracing their ‘individual brands,’ baseball put on display its biggest problem with marketability in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night: they’re asking some players to be something they are not and ignoring others with star potential.

Case in point: Mariners shortstop Jean Segura. He rode a wave of momentum into the Midsummer Classic, winning the Final Vote to join the American League team behind a hashtag of #SendSegura and a tremendously fun campaign put together by the Mariners’ marketing department, arguably the best in the MLB (and certainly a group of people the league could stand to learn from).

In the All-Star Game, Segura seized his moment off the bench, drilling a three-run home run that broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning. There was no containing his excitement, as he leapt to high-five third-base coach Gary Pettis and had the biggest smile in the world on his face when he returned to the dugout.

Then, when he got another chance to hit in the 10th inning, he hit a clean single to right, took an extra base by sliding head-first on Mitch Moreland’s single and scored on a sac fly.

Segura was likable. He was exciting. He was practically begging to be a star. In fact, in that nationally televised game he absolutely was one.

And then the game ended, Houston third baseman Alex Bregman won the All-Star Game MVP award for hitting a solo home run in the 10th inning that broke a 5-5 tie but wasn’t ultimately the winning run in the 8-6 AL win, and gave a perfectly generic postgame interview on the FOX TV broadcast.

Now, Bregman had a nice story. His family has ties to the Washington, D.C. area, where the All-Star Game was played, but you might not know that his grandfather was general counsel of the old Washington Senators and his dad “grew up on the lap of Ted Williams” if you didn’t hear his postgame interview on the ESPN Radio broadcast.

The point isn’t that Alex Bregman isn’t exciting. He doesn’t need to be, just like Trout doesn’t need to self-promote more if he doesn’t want to. But Bregman wasn’t the right choice to win the MVP award and speak on TV after the game, both when it comes to who had the best case to win the award for his play and who would have given the MLB its most memorable moment afterward.

The right answer, on both accounts, was Jean Segura.

Am I saying Jean Segura could be the answer to baseball’s lack of superstars? Not in the least bit. But when a league whose commissioner is saying publicly that a player who doesn’t want superstar attention on himself isn’t doing enough to be a star picks over a charismatic figure like Segura for a simple award, it really hammers home that the issue is with the league and not its players.

I hope players like Trout, Bregman and Aaron Judge become huge stars for baseball. The league needs them. But the league also needs players like Segura getting a fair shake at opportunities, especially when they put themselves out there like he did on Tuesday.

No one was talking about Alex Bregman on Wednesday. Give that award to Segura on Tuesday night and let him talk on TV about not making the initial cut of the AL team, only to win the Final Vote and take MVP honors, and I guarantee you the national media would have had something to say the next day.

On Tuesday night, Jean Segura handed baseball a gift. Just imagine if baseball had been paying attention.

Watch: Segura’s All-Star Game homer – and Cruz’s priceless reaction

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While MLB is wishing Mike Trout was more popular, it missed chance to make Jean Segura a star