Angels Defend Mike Trout After Rob Manfred's Comments on Marketing Stars

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17:  Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the third inning against the National League during the 89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels offered a response to comments from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in which Manfred seemed to criticize Mike Trout's willingness—or lack thereof—to market himself.

"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."

Angels @Angels

Today, the #Angels released the following statement on OF Mike Trout: https://t.co/xFLURtZ4bT

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.

Jeff Fletcher @JeffFletcherOCR

If you want people to invest their time and money in the sport or a team, they’ve got to like the sport, not just think Mike Trout is cool. There’s not enough Mike Trout in a 3-hour game to tune in or buy a ticket just because of him.

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.