It appears as though the Los Angeles Angels did not take too kindly to recent comments made by commissioner Rob Manfred about Mike Trout.
Manfred said (per ESPN) that a player being marketed “involves the player being actively engaged.” In an apparent response to those comments, the Angels released a statement, lauding not only Trout’s play, but also his character.
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) July 18, 2018
Manfred’s comments made it known that the league would like to help Trout become better known. But while lauding Trout as a person, the commissioner also noted that Trout hasn’t done a lot to market himself.
“Mike’s a great, great player and a really nice person, but he’s made certain decisions about what he wants to do and what he doesn’t want to do, and how he wants to spend his free time and how he doesn’t want to spend his free time,” Manfred said, per ESPN. “That’s up to him. If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really, really big. But he has to make a decision that he’s prepared to engage in that area. It takes time and effort.”
In truth, there are some problems that are out of Manfred’s control.
While the Angels definitely play second-fiddle to the Dodgers, the Los Angeles/Anaheim is more than big enough for two teams. It’s also big enough for Trout to receive heaps of attention.
One problem is that in baseball, the best known players are generally the ones that thrive in October. Until the playoffs, baseball is largely a regional sport. The Angels have only made the playoffs once in Trout’s career, and that trip resulted in an ALDS sweep. Even one deep October run could do a lot to increase Trout’s marketability.
The other problem is that baseball doesn’t necessarily lend itself to individuals getting to show their skills off on a routine basis. Even in a bad game, LeBron James will always score a handful of points. Even in a bad game, Tom Brady will always complete a handful of passes and probably at least one touchdown pass.
Conversely, even in a good game, Trout will only get to the plate maybe five times. He’s a brilliant defender, as well, but he can only show that off if the ball is hit towards him. Baseball is nine players acting as individuals. Basketball and football are five and 11 individuals acting as one, respectively.
Now, if Trout is chasing a cherished individual record, this will change. Unfortunately, Trout’s skill is that he does everything very well. But for example, we’ve yet to see him hit for the kind of power that would be needed to pursue the single-season home run record.
Manfred isn’t entirely wrong. Trout can do more to market himself. Likewise, the Angels response was predictable and there’s no real problem with it.
Trout would certainly be aided by a better team. But in reality, a lot of this is just circumstance. It’s not new, nor is it really even a problem. It’s just reality.