Millville native Mike Trout is a simple person.
He plays baseball, enjoys Philadelphia sports, spends time with his family, and doesn’t seem all that interested in the spotlight.
If he did, he might be a superstar beyond what he does on the field, which includes two American League MVP awards, seven straight All-Star Game appearances, and a .983 career OPS. But he’s twice turned down invitations to play in the World Baseball Classic and has never participated in the Home Run Derby, telling media last week that he’d “rather just have that night with my family, spend time with them.” He doesn’t say outrageous stuff on social media or talk trash. If LaVar Ball has a polar opposite, it’s probably Mike Trout.
So the topic of Trout’s marketability came up during All Star week, resulting in two key quotes from commissioner Rob Manfred:
“Mike is a great great player, and a really nice person, but he’s made certain decisions with 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. “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.”
And this is the one that apparently angered some people:
“Player marketing requires one thing, for sure: the player. You cannot market a player passively. You can’t market anything passively. You need people to engage with those to whom are trying to market in order to have effective marketing.”
That seems pretty innocuous to me. I mean, Manfred literally says, “that’s up to him” in the first quote above. I don’t see anything that makes it feel like Manfred is pissed off or that he’s tapping his foot waiting for Trout to budge.
I also don’t sense that here, not in the specific words or the tone or body language:
Yeah, maybe he could have chosen his words more carefully. You always can. He could have also hammered home the point that marketing is up to the player himself, but it doesn’t feel like we’re nearing some irate ultimatum coming down from MLB headquarters. It feels as though Manfred is simply saying, “the ball is in your court.”
The Angels seemed a bit perturbed, though, and released a statement Wednesday evening:
— Angels (@Angels) July 18, 2018
Fair and reasonable. He’s a stand up guy, no bullshit, no dumb off-field issues, none of that.
That note from the Angels was followed up with the most Mike Trout statement of all time:
Statement from Mike Trout: pic.twitter.com/qM7h2SXoPB
— Angels (@Angels) July 19, 2018
Yeah, it’s boring, but it’s admirable. Here’s a local guy who loves playing sports and doesn’t want to be bogged down by unimportant crap. He’s more Carson Wentz than Joel Embiid, and there’s nothing wrong with the way that either one of those guys goes about their business. Wentz is a down home kid from North Dakota. Faith and family and football, right? Embiid likes to tangle on social media and drop goofy quotes. So what? The only thing that really matters is that both go out and perform at a high level on the field of play, so the individual behavior and auxiliary decisions are a total wash in the end.
There’s nothing wrong with the way Trout handles himself. If he wants to stay out of the spotlight, he’s well within his right to do that. It ultimately DOES hurt MLB from a marketing standpoint, but they’ve got a bazillion other players to market instead. I bet the average sports fan doesn’t know much about Mookie Betts or Jose Ramirez, so maybe you ask those guys if they want to grow their brand.
Still, nothing Manfred said is incendiary or off-base at all. The whole non-argument is the perfect encapsulation of Trout’s quietly spectacular career.