It’s late October 2020. The Chicago Cubs have just won the World Series and announced that Steve Bartman and the team’s general manager, Moises Alou, will ride together in a convertible on the Magnificent Mile parade route.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Phillies general manager Chase Utley is trying to figure out a way to add the pieces needed to end the franchise’s nine-year playoff drought. Maikel Franco is playing well at first base and J.P. Crawford has emerged as one of the best shortstops in baseball, but the Phillies need one more hitter in the middle of their lineup.
The timing could not be better. After spending parts of 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and earning nearly $150 million, Mike Trout is finally a free agent. He’s still only 29, he’s closing in on 300 career home runs, and he has won three American League MVP awards. The Angels want to keep him, and Yankees GM Derek Jeter wants him badly, too.
Let the recruiting begin.
Trout wasn’t just saying that because it was the right thing to say. He’s not some kid who went to Hollywood and didn’t care whether he ever returned to his roots. He loves it here, and that just might be the Phillies’ biggest advantage over the Angels, Yankees, and any other team that wants the 21st century’s version of Mickey Mantle in 2021.
No matter how much time Trout spends in Southern California, you get the impression he’s always coming home to South Jersey at the end of every season. You also get the impression that he’d love the opportunity to never leave. He spoke affectionately about the Eagles and the local weather.
First off, let me reiterate my man crush on Trout and my disappointment over his long-term extension with the Angels. It would’ve been, and would be, great to see him in a Phillies uniform, A) because he’s a superstar, and B) because he’s a local kid. Again: I think Mike Trout is awesome and I have a man crush on him despite being eight years his senior.
But can we please stop with this Trout is destined to be a Phillie one day nonsense? He’s an Angel, and he’s going to be an Angel for years to come. Let’s enjoy and celebrate him from afar. In Philly, we have this weird obsession with people who are from here. We expect that, one day, they’ll return to their Greater Philadelphia roots because, obviously, this is the best place on Earth and living here is much better than being in your twenties and a hundred-millionaire in Southern California. Jim’s Burgers… or sex with a pop star on Laguna Beach atop comically large piles of cash?* Hmm. For some reason, and maybe it’s because so many of our families are indigenous to the tri-state area (mine is), we expect that “our celebrities” – Bradley Cooper, Will Smith, Rob McElhenney, Trout, Questlove, David Boreanaz… and, um, Tina Fey? – hold this kinship for Philly that is somehow different than what other celebrities feel for their hometowns. By our logic, every time the Phillies play the Dodgers in LA, it should be considered the tryout for when Chase Utley inevitably decides to take his waning talents to SoCal after this pesky little money-grab in Philly. You see how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s exactly how we view Trout. When Utley talks about going to Dodgers games as a kid, or when Jimmy Rollins talks about going to A’s games, or when Cole Hamels, who once signed a lifetime contract with the Padres, talks about going to games in San Diego, the sports world doesn’t automatically assume that those guys are pining to return to their roots.
We, rightfully, embrace famous locals (the ovation for Trout last night was outstanding), but we take it a step too far and place these totally ridiculous expectations on those folks and pretend that they are different than other stars and celebs because, you know, Philly. It’s so small-town of us. Do people in New York, Chicago and LA do that? I can’t imagine that they do. I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon, either: Trout’s awesome, and it moved when I heard him say that he still has Eagles season tickets. But let’s stop pretending that he is destined to be a Phillie simply because he grew up in Millville, New Jersey. Maybe he will, at 29, sign a $500 million contract with the Phillies. Maybe he won’t. Who knows? But let’s stop acting like it’s an inevitability, because this… this is embarrassing, Mr. Brookover:
Perhaps it was a little too early to ask Trout about coming to Philadelphia, but I decided to give it a shot anyway.
“When the time comes,” he said, “we’ll see.”
You go sow your wild baseball oats, Mr. Trout. If we’re both still single six years from now, then let’s grab coffee or something.
*I’m not implying that Trout has sex with pop stars on Laguna Beach atop comically large piles of cash. But it’s certainly doable if he so chooses.
UPDATE: Oh, and apropos of nothing, here’s a video of Jamie Moyer waving a rally towel at a Seahawks game and a picture of Boreanaz going nuts for the LA Kings: