If you have ever been to a Rays game you know that the fans love them some Rocco Baldelli. One can still see more Baldelli jerseys then any other jersey, although Kazmir is definitely catching up. This got us thinking: why is Rocco Baldelli so popular? It's not like there aren't significantly more productive players on the team (i.e. Carl Crawford) or players that stay relatively healthy (see rest of team). Well here is our take on why Baldelli is so popular:
- He is goofy looking (see above). If there is one thing people like. It's a goofy looking guy. He is not so goofy as to look weird/repulsive, but is more in the "hey, this guy looks like that nice odd kid who lived down the street and ate paint chips" category. Yes, that is a good thing.
- He is white. Most of the people who watch baseball are white and they like to root for a white guy. This is the only way to explain Baldelli's continued popularity over CC, who seems to have much more personality and is a better baseball player than Rocco. I mean, he's a goofy-looking Italian American from Rhode Isalnd who is 6-4, runs a 4.4 40, and has a 40 inch vertical. Could there be a more appealing combination to the average baseball fan?
- He is young. In fact, he was only 22 when he first made it to the show in 2003. Everyone likes to root for the guy who shot up through the minor leagues. It's much more fun than rooting for the guy who spent 8 years in the minors.
- He is oft-injured. After three early seasons where he showed great promise, Rocco has been hurt. This has only caused his popularity to increase. You remember him being good and then daydream of how good he could be if he stayed healthy for a whole season. If he was actually playing everyday you wouldn't like him as much because you would be constantly reminded that he is not an all-star and has yet to put up any numbers that would suggest he will be one.
- He was one of the first signs of hope. The first years of the franchise were marked by managing ineptitude and horrific free agent signings. After the Hit Show disaster, the presence of Baldelli gave fans hope that this thing could get turned around by developing talent through the minor league system. We believe that this year will be the first where that initial hope sparked by Baldelli and others begins to be full filled.