Earning the distinction of cover athlete for your sport’s premier video game franchise is a unique honor. You didn’t necessarily win any awards, championships, or playoff games, but you played well enough for people to consider you the most marketable face they could put on the cover of their product — a product that has displayed former MVPs, Cy Young winners, and World Series champions. It has to feel good, right?
Yesterday, PlayStation revealed its cover athlete for their 2023 installment of the popular video game franchise “MLB: The Show” — Miami Marlins’ second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Why was Jazz Chisholm chosen?
Why? What did Chisholm do to deserve this honor? He played 60 games last year. He’s played 205 games in his career, played in only one playoff game his entire career, and never played more than 125 games in a season. Sure, he earned an All-Star bid last year, but he didn’t play in the game. Chisholm has never shined in the national spotlight (guess that’s what happens when you play for the Marlins). Most people don’t even know what position he plays. Oh, middle infield, you say? EHHHH! WRONG! After the Marlins traded for 2022 AL batting champion Luis Arraez on Jan. 20, Marlins’ GM Kim Ng stated that the plan was to move Chisholm to center field this next season.
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There’s no denying that Chisholm is an exciting player to watch, but most of the time, that dazzling play style needs to amount to something before that person earns cover athlete distinction. If we were just giving that title to anyone with a flashy glove and solid stats at the plate, then Andrelton Simmons should’ve been the 2014 cover athlete. In fact, 2014 Simmons was arguably more deserving considering he’d actually earned MVP consideration the year prior. He’d also won a Gold Glove and was considered the best defensive shortstop in baseball already. Oh, he’d also been to the playoffs twice already as well, and had played in five games. Chisholm has none of that. Simmons didn’t have an All-Star selection. I’ll give Chisholm that, but you see my point right?
Is Chisholm that exciting to warrant the cover despite not putting up worthy numbers? Maybe. Is his swagger so intoxicating that we can’t take our eyes off him whenever he’s on our screen? Not really — he’s definitely no old-school Robinson Canó or Dustin Pedroia in that category.
Frankly, there’s never been an MLB cover athlete with such little to his name before, and I don’t like it. When it comes to “The Show,” the only other cover athlete that comes even close to Chisholm in terms of how little he had to his name at the Major League level was 2015’s Yasiel Puig. But even Puig had already earned MVP votes…twice. He’d also already been an All-Star and had even won a playoff series while slashing .471/.500/.529. That’s something.
Other unfit selections for video game covers
Even if we look at MLB video games as a whole, freeing us from the bonds of looking at “The Show” cover athletes only, Chisholm still stands out for his short resumé. Here are some people that MIGHT have had a worse case for baseball cover athlete than 2023 Jazz Chisholm:
That’s everyone, and as I said, most of these are questionable. Rizzo had just finished 10th in MVP voting in 2014 and slugged 32 home runs, but it was his first good season. Berman is a broadcaster. Jordan had just finished eighth in MVP voting, and Erstad was an All-Star and finished 14th in MVP voting. Maybe I could’ve thrown 2021 Fernando Tatís Jr. on there, but he’d just finished up his second season at the time, and he’d come third in Rookie of the Year voting and fourth in MVP voting in his two years prior. He’d also won a Silver Slugger. Tim Anderson was the cover athlete for R.B.I. Baseball 21, but he’d just finished seventh in MVP voting in 2020 (I know it was a shortened season, but still). He also won a Silver Slugger and had a batting title to his name back in 2019. Both of those guys clear Chisholm in accolades.
I understand that the cover athlete moniker has fallen off in years, but as a baseball fan, and fan of “MLB: The Show,” Chisholm wasn’t the right choice. Could he have a great year? Sure! But that would make him all the better for the 2024 cover. At this point, you might as well have thrown James Outman on the cover.
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