Says Einhorn, "There's no question we should have a joint marketing effort. But it's hard to sit down and do it, because there are so many other issues we have to get together on. It goes back to the adversarial relationship between owners and players. That's where the NBA has it right. If you go to the NBA All-Star Game, the commissioner and the head of the players' union are sitting side by side."
•Many players aren't interested. Puckett has all the ingredients to become an ambassador of the game: He's a perennial All-Star, he has played in two World Series, he has a magnetic personality, he devotes time to children's charities and, at 5'9", 220 pounds, he is an endearing physical oddity. (His girth is maintained by his affinity for cheeseburgers, which he sometimes scarfs for breakfast.) But when one food company asked Puckett to film a national commercial for its potato chips during spring training, he refused because it would have meant missing one exhibition game plus time with his family.
"I cherish my free time," Puckett says. "I won't do a six-hour shoot. But if you can break it up over two days or work it around my schedule, I'd do it. It's got to be a product I believe in, that I use. Really, not much has come my way. I eat a billion cheeseburgers, man. I'd do that. But what am I going to do if nobody asks?"
Both Mattingly and Dwight Gooden, who until recently were the two biggest stars in the biggest market, New York, say they don't want to work at building a national image for themselves. "I wouldn't want to be like Larry Bird or someone like that," Mattingly says. Gooden, who did make a soft-drink commercial in 1985, says, "It's a lot of work. The light has to be right. The weather has to be perfect. That's not me. I want to play baseball."
"I shouldn't say this because it's inciting," says Einhorn, momentarily breaking the moratorium on player bashing, "but the players don't want to sell the game, and they don't have to play to get the money. They don't have a stake in the selling of the game. And then there's the whole card-show thing. [White Sox first baseman] Frank Thomas charging $35 for an autograph. That's no good. It's a terrible thing. It's not just a matter of marketing. Mickey Mantle didn't need marketing."
The average player salary is $1,116,353, according to the owners' Player Relations Committee. Who needs a potato-chip deal with that sort of money? "Players have to want to do it," says Ryan. "It comes down to exposure in the electronic media. That's where the money is. That's where people will see you. I wasn't forced into doing it. I chose to do it."
•Tainted stars. Many of the best players in the game have tarnished reputations. Darryl Strawberry? Once a regional spokesman for milk, he checked into a rehab center for abusing more potent potables in 1990. Strawberry dried out, but the endorsements dried up. Bonds? Too ornery. Roger Clemens? A lighted fuse. Ken Griffey Jr.? As one American League veteran says, "You can't be a role model if you don't run out ground balls."
The best case study of the tainted star is Jose Canseco, a young, dashing, home run hitter who should be the Reggie of his era; but instead, he says in wonderment, "I don't have any endorsements. Nothing. I'd like to, sure." Canseco was once a spokesman for the California Egg Commission, but that deal, along with the possibility of any others, was fried after his several brushes with the law. Nobody wants a bad egg.
"Listen, I like Jose," Mattingly says. "But if a national company is looking for somebody to put on TV spots, they're not going to take somebody who's smashing cars and racing his car at 130 miles an hour and carrying a gun in his car. Jose had a great opportunity the year  he did 40-40. His behavior didn't help his situation. The players have to hold up their end of the deal, too."
•The rise of basketball and other forms of entertainment. Basketball and football players begin to emerge as stars while playing in the big-time world of college sports. For the biggest basketball stars, the publicity accelerates because of the huge public-relations machinery of the sneaker companies. Baseball has no equivalent of the early exposure that college basketball and football stars get or of the sneaker phenomenon. As Gooden says, "I don't see any kids walking to school in spikes."