Photo courtesy of Google images.
A short while back there was a major controversy involving MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments about Mike Trout. At the time someone on Twitter joked about Trout being someone who “wouldn’t be recognized in a supermarket”. For some reason that comment stayed with me and I’ve since realized why.
Major League Baseball’s major issue is that there’s no “face of the sport” who people associate with the game regardless of whether they’re fans or not. In the past there were Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle…. Even in recent decades we’ve had Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter… Who do we have now? The bigger problem is that Trout just happens to be an all-time great. In fact he’s so good that he’s currently on pace to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s even been compared to Mickey Mantle. Do you know what’s scary? Trout isn’t even really in his prime yet.
Here’s the question: why is LeBron James more popular than Mike Trout? MLB is still more popular than the NBA. That by itself should make Trout more popular. Right? James is in the conversation for being better than Michael Jordan, (the consensus best basketball player ever), he is also the best basketball player today, but Trout is being compared to greats himself and is the best current player in his own sport. So what is the difference? The difference is that James promotes himself and Trout does not. Based on Manfred’s comments, it appears that it’s Trout who stands in the way and not Major League Baseball.
Why isn’t Trout on talk shows? Why isn’t he in commercials? Why isn’t he on billboards? Is Mike Trout “shy”? Does he not want the attention? At first I thought exactly that, but then it hit me: he plays a sport in front of millions of people every day. He stands on a field where thousands are in the stands and knows that there are millions watching him on TV. He is risking embarrassment and humiliation every time he’s on the field, as unfortunately people can be cruel if a player has a really bad game. Is it really possible that he can do that but not film a commercial? That he can’t approve a billboard with his face on it?
Think about it: he can face a 90+ mph fastball in front of thousands of people in person and millions watching on TV, but he can’t recite some lines in front of a camera in a room of maybe 30 people? He can risk being booed or ripped apart by fans and the media for a bad game but he can’t pose for some pictures? I’m not an expert on psychology and it’s possible that he’s extremely “shy” in some things while not in others, but it just seems odd to me. Look at the benefits that he personally receives from promoting himself:
1. Millions of dollars in personal revenue that he can use for himself, his family and any charitable causes that he’s interested in.
2. Helps make his profession (that I assume he loves), more popular.
3. Helps his profession and kids by inspiring more of them to become pros like him.
With all due respect to other players, 99% are not on the way to the Hall of Fame. They’re not generational stars who can influence the entire landscape of the game. Is Mike Trout really not interested in being the star that he should be? Is he really not interested in making a positive impact that he can? He has a unique opportunity and unless he has a serious mental condition preventing him, his refusal to promote himself is a move of a selfish “villain” not a “hero”.
Trout can inspire millions of kids around the world, he can help MLB become even more popular and he can make millions of dollars for himself, his family and even for charities. It’s an opportunity that is almost villainous to pass up.