Rob Manfred’s comments on Mike Trout’s brand are deeper than him marketing his brand but is all about executing Manfred’s own agenda of making the game “hipper” for the younger fans.
By Jared Wolfe
Here is an excerpt from what Rob Manfred said before the All-Star game that made the Angels so disgruntled:
“Mike’s a great, great player and a really nice person, but he’s made certain decisions about 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 continued to force the issue, with these out of touch comments.
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.”
There is not much else to say other than this is an incredibly calculated blow at baseball’s greatest player, and like most people should, I think this is a very low blow by Rob Manfred.
First off, I get what Rob Manfred was trying to say about the style of Mike Trout on the field. He is not flashy like Bryce Harper who was wearing bandana during the Homerun Derby and does not do the flashy hair flips like him after diving into second base.
I do not have a problem with that being implied at all, and if that was all he would have said in that context, I would have been just fine. That is Mike Trout’s choice, and that is just his style.
What I do have a problem with is Manfred taking shots at how Trout carries himself off the field. Trout and the Angels have every right to fire back at Manfred. As the Angels said in their statement yesterday, Trout is a big influencer off the field by doing good for his community at home in New Jersey and in California.
— Angels (@Angels) July 18, 2018
Obviously, Trout does not go out and make all his efforts of good known to the world. If you go check his social media, he posts pictures of his wife and family for the most part. He secludes himself from the world more-so than other athletes, but that does not and should not make him less of a face for baseball.
Check out this latest story of what Mike Trout was doing before a game in Baltimore.
A couple weeks ago at Camden Yards, I watched Trout pull a 6-year old out of the pregame crowd. He spent the next 15 minutes with the kid by his side during BP. Stretched with him, chatted with him. Even gave him his bat. Never seen anything like it. It looked like this. pic.twitter.com/eZhagoXeb4
— Eddie Matz (@ESPNeddiematz) July 18, 2018
He spent time with a six-year-old kid he pulled from the crowd and had him down on the field with him for roughly fifteen minutes during batting practice. Why have we not heard of this until now?
Because Mike Trout does not need to tell the world the kind of human being he is and is not in it for his “brand.” He is a truly genuine person.
Rob Manfred is in this to make money off his star athlete and only sees him as a dollar figure and only shows what is wrong with our society in general. If Mike Trout grows his “brand” in California like LeBron James is attempting to do, or even Bryce Harper on the East Coast, for example, baseball makes money.
I get it, people watched the Homerun Derby for the flashiness of Bryce Harper and Major League Baseball loved it, especially the Commissioner who is hell-bent on creating a game for the younger fan.
Pace of play, eliminating defensive shifts for more action, and now player marketing is what he is wanting — all in an attempt for more interest in the game.
He should be careful what he wishes for though, and Mike Trout is not the guy to go after. For the most part, baseball does not have a character problem like the NFL with their domestic abuse issues among others.
I am not saying baseball is perfect by any means, just look at the story that came out with Josh Hader, but for the most part the game has survived on stability from past players like Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, and the still active and fellow teammate of Trout, Albert Pujols.
None of these players went out specifically to market their brands. Instead, people idolize them for their play on the field and their humbleness off it. Mike Trout epitomizes that.
I have two things to conclude from this outburst from both sides. Rob Manfred was calculated in going after Mike Trout, and it was more than going after him as an individual.
He went after him because Manfred is a Commissioner is on a mission to create a game for the younger fan, which was highlighted by Bryce Harper’s performance in the Homerun Derby and his pace of play rules he has been adamant on implementing into the new CBA.
No matter what though, he was wrong for calling out the game’s best player. He should be having his mouth water at the greatness of Mike Trout, and that he is and will be a stable face for baseball for at least the next decade.
My second thing is that Mike Trout is already one of the faces of baseball. Everybody recognizes him as the greatest player in the game. Part of the problem for him is not being on a winning team. He has only played in three postseason games, and by being on the West Coast, he is not in primetime for the East Coast.
Lucky for me, I stay up late and watch him, but I know I am not the majority. I am not making excuses for him, these are just facts. Look at Aaron Judge. Put Trout on the Yankees and Judge on the Angels and you tell me if Mike Trout’s “brand” would not be more significant than what it is out West and possibly even a more prominent storyline than another great character guy Aaron Judge.
By saying Mike Trout is only one of the faces of the game, I truly mean it in that way. Baseball is in a great place right now. There is so much diversity in the game and multiple faces of baseball for the style of fan out there.
For the East Coast, it may be Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, or Mookie Betts depending on your taste of player. For the West Coast, it may be Mike Trout. For the Japanese fan, it is Shohei Ohtani. And for the Hispanic fan, it depends on the island or country you may be from or have family from.
You get my point though. Mike Trout holds to values that a lot of fans love and connect to across the country and he is the face of the game for that portion of fans. Baseball does not need a one size fits all flashy brand. Let Mike Trout be, and the rest will take care of itself.