MLB czar Rob Manfred had a pretty short-sighted take to lob at Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Manfred said that Trout—the man who is on pace to beat Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle for the highest all-time WAR total before their age-27 season—had to “make a decision to engage” in order to be more marketable. The Angels felt compelled to defend baseball’s consensus best player from its own commissioner.
Here’s what Manfred said, from USA Today:
“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,” Manfred said in the hours before MLB’s All-Star Game at Nationals Park. “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.”
Today the Angels released a not-very-subtle statement and defended Trout’s honor with an obvious reference to the commish’s comments:
Manfred’s statement was dumb to begin with. Mike Trout might not be one of the top 50 most recognizable athletes, nor is he even remotely a leading figure in pop culture, but that’s a function of the sport that he plays, and the declining cultural cachet it inhabits. Also, the fact that one baseball player can’t lug a team to a championship means that sometimes the sport’s best players are stuck at home during October. Trout is toiling away on a team that has only made the playoffs once during his tenure, because the sport he plays doesn’t allow him to bat every time the game is in its highest-leverage situation. If a recent stretch—or almost any Trout stretch—is any indication, he’d kill if that were allowed.
There are still ways to make Trout captivating, and it’s on Manfred to find out how. He’s the commissioner! This is part of his goddamn job. Mike Trout’s responsibility is to play baseball as well as he can, and he’s accomplishing that. That some study said he’s as recognizable as Kenneth Faried is not his problem. It’s on Manfred and MLB to make more people care about the most accomplished player of the decade.
Update (11:48 p.m. ET): Mike Trout has weighed in, and his opinion is that he just wants to sock dingers and be left out of this, please.