"We applaud [Trout] for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion," the Angels said near the end of their statement. "That is rare in today's society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent."
Speaking ahead of the 2018 All-Star Game, Manfred was blunt about his belief Trout could do more to help MLB market him to those who don't follow baseball regularly, per ESPN.com:
"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 you are trying to market in order to have effective marketing. We are very interested in having our players more engaged and having higher-profile players and helping our players develop their individual brand. But that involves the player being actively engaged."
Manfred went on to say Trout "made certain decisions" about how to utilize his time outside of baseball and that the two-time American League Most Valuable Player isn't concerned with building his brand.
There might be something to Manfred's assessment. Trout's profile on the field is almost the direct inverse of his profile off it. Ask fans to name a distinguishable characteristic of Trout's beyond his Hall of Fame-level production, and they'll likely struggle to come up with anything. He's really passionate about weather.
Having said that, Trout isn't under any obligation to help build MLB's marketing campaigns.
"If Mike really wanted to, if he got a marketing team and everything, he would be the face of baseball," former MLB outfielder Torii Hunter said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin. "He doesn't. He wants to be with his wife and keep it simple. It's his choice. It's not anybody else's choice."
The Orange County Register's Jeff Fletcher hit on the difficulty to truly build any sort of marketing campaign around one player:
Jeff Fletcher @JeffFletcherOCR
Baseball isn’t like basketball or football because the nature of the sport limits the impact it’s stars can have on any given game. Turn on a random Angels game and he may do nothing (or get BB’d). HOFers fail 7 of 10 times. Also, he can have a great game and the Angels can lose.
Hunter posited Trout would become more popular if he had the opportunity to perform in the playoffs. The Angels have made one playoff appearance, which ended in the American League Division Series, since Trout arrived in 2011.
That may prove true, but ultimately those who criticize MLB's marketing of Trout may be looking for solutions to a problem that doesn't really exist.
Trout is content to be great at baseball without becoming a crossover star, while creating a focus around one player may not have a huge impact for MLB. Giving Trout a bigger spotlight might not elevate his teammates to a noticeable extent.
The bigger debate may center on what MLB can do to better market the game as a whole.