If you have watched ESPN for more than 30 seconds in the past year, you’ve likely seen at least two feature segments on Yasiel Puig.
Puig was a bonafide rookie phenom last year who gave the Los Angeles Dodgers the spark they needed to get into the playoffs. His equal parts high level talent and high level charisma made him and instant star and darling of sports fans and networks alike. Puig provided tremendous numbers and intagibles to help his team get over a slump that many speculated would lead the their manager (Don Mattingly) being fired. There was even a strong push for him to be name to the NL All Star Roster despite Puig starting the season in the minor leagues.
If ESPN portrayed Puig as the new face of Major League Baseball, then what is Jose Abreu this year who has better numbers than Puig had last year, this year, or both combined?
Whereas Puig plays for the number one baseball franchise in the second biggest media market in the country, Abreu plays for the number two baseball franchise in the number three media market. Chicago sports teams and their players have been getting the shaft from ESPN for as long as it has existed, Abreu is just the most recent egregious example.
In the pregame coverage for this year’s All Star Game, ESPN did a side by side comparison of Puig and Abreu’s numbers and even admitted that Abreu has proven to be the better player. Yet turn on Sportscenter, Around the Horn, and/or Pardon the Interruption and Abreu seemingly has a segment on something he did right, wrong, or outlandish carved into each show’s format.
Perhaps if Abreu made some more arrogant base running errors or came up with a crazy story of being snuck into the country (like Puig) he could get a little more national play. But I’m sure he and the White Sox will be content with him playing better than Puig consistently and thus paying him more than Puig.
When one ESPN home base is a two-hour drive from Yankee Stadium and the other is literally down the street from Dodger Stadium, I suppose it is hard to expect equal coverage for a player who plays hundreds or thousands of miles from each. Perhaps if ESPN put a home base in Chicago things could change, but that is an expensive endeavor. It’s not like ESPN is owned by a hundred billion dollar company or anything.
Somethings never change. The mindset of Illinois being a fly over state and therefore everything in it apparently is one of them. The Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox are all franchises that make money, have large traveling fan bases, and routinely compete for and win championships (minus the Cubs of course). There is no reason what happens in Chicago sports shouldn’t routinely be the lead story on ESPN programming. One can point to population theory all they want but anything more thorough than a surface level glance at ESPN programming will show that a third tier sports story in New York, Boston, or LA trumps everything short of a Chicago franchise winning a championship. That is wrong and can’t end soon enough, though much like the Cubs chances of winning a World Series is likely more fantasy than reality.