Red Sox

MLB Notebook: Baseball losing ground as player movement grounds to halt

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(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Of all people, Celtics coach Brad Stevens may have, indirectly, crystallized a big problem facing Major League Baseball.

“The NBA,'' said Stevens during a week when speculation about the future of New Orleans forward Anthony Davis ran rampant, "is what it is because of the scuttlebutt … it captivates everybody’s attention for 12 months out of the year.''

What Stevens was saying was a variation on the old maxim: "There's no such thing as bad publicity.'' Getting media -- and by extension, fans of the game -- talking about potential player movement, possible trades and projecting where stars are going to play in the future helps drive interest in the game.

Such talk amounts to free advertising for the NBA. If fans are talking about the game, it reflects mainstream interest. They're invested in the rumors because they care.

(Some may suggest that this has been taken too far in the current NBA, with the game's highest-profile players plotting "super teams,'' like some schoolyard pickup games, but that's a discussion for another day).

The bottom line: the NBA benefits from such -- as Stevens labeled it -- "scuttlebutt.'' When the paying customers are interested enough to discuss who's going where, that's beneficial to the bottom line and the overall popularity of the industry.

Contrast that interest to what's happened in baseball this winter, which is to say: virtually nothing. And it's hard for fans to be talking about player movement that hasn't happened.

February has now arrived and two 26-year-old superstars are, so far, without teams for 2019. So, too, is the best closer in the game over the last half-dozen or so years, and a perfectly healthy 31-year-old starter who won a Cy Young Award just four years ago.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, virtually everything.