A lot of news broke over the All-Star Break. Between the Josh Hader tweet scandal that emerged during the All-Star Game, and the Manny Machado trade to the Dodgers, one story flew under the radar. Fittingly, it concerned Los Angeles Angels OF Mike Trout, the best pro athlete nobody’s heard of. Knowledgeable baseball fans are aware Trout is MLB’s best player of this decade and may be on his way to recording the best season in MLB history, as determined by wins above replacement (WAR). But if you asked an average North American sports fan who Mike Trout was, they wouldn’t be able to answer. According to a survey conducted from November 2016 to February 2017 asking sports fans to name their favorite athletes, the most popular baseball player is retired Yankee INF Derek Jeter, and the most popular active baseball player is Chicago Cubs INF Anthony Rizzo, who rated well behind active NFL and NBA players and even soccer superstars Messi and Ronaldo, despite soccer’s unpopularity in the USA and Canada.
Trout’s lack of fame, which I will refer to as the “Mike Trout Problem”, or “MTP” for short, has been written about and discussed exhaustively. The top reasons avid baseball fans will give to explain the MTP are as follows, in no particular order of significance:
- The MLB is too conservative and unwilling to let players express individuality.
- Trout plays on a mediocre team that no one wants to watch (Los Angeles Angels).
- The Angels are on the West Coast and people located further east are not interested in staying up late to watch the games, especially if the team is bad.
- Trout lacks flair and his play is boringly consistent.
- MLB is bad at marketing players.
However, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was asked about the MTP before Trout’s seventh All-Star Game on Tuesday, Manfred said Trout was to blame for failing to “engage.”
“Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn’t want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we could help him make his brand very big. But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort.”
In my opinion, younger baseball fans believe baseball’s marketing problems and its perceived loss of relevance are due to MLB’s, and Commissioner Manfred’s, failure to adapt to current TV viewing preferences and modern technology, disinterest in listening to what fans want, and baseball’s overall traditionalism and conservatism pressuring players to conform to a stodgy ideal. Manfred’s statement on Trout comes off as tone-deaf to these concerns.
Interestingly, the Angels issued a statement on Wednesday that did not receive significant attention in the baseball world due to the higher-profile Hader and Machado stories.
— Angels (@Angels) July 18, 2018
Trout also issued his own statement in keeping with his team’s characterization of him as a humble, self-effacing person.
Statement from Mike Trout: pic.twitter.com/qM7h2SXoPB
— Angels (@Angels) July 19, 2018
I find it unusual that the Angels are making a public stand against the Commissioner, even though they did not explicitly refer to him or his comments in the statement, so I’m sure there will be a response from Manfred in the near future. Stay tuned.
The Angels open the second half of the 2018 season with a weekend series at home against the defending champion Houston Astros kicking off at 10:07 PM ET on Friday. To support the seven-time All-Star, buy tickets on SeatGeek.
Featured Image: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com