In an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting commissioner, the Angels issued a statement Wednesday strongly defending their franchise player, Mike Trout, against criticism that he ought to dedicate more time to selling himself and his sport.
“We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion,” the statement read. “That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.”
The statement followed two days of All-Star festivities in which the inability of Major League Baseball to market its best player was a hotly debated topic. On Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the greatest obstacle in marketing Trout was Trout himself.
“Player marketing requires one thing for sure: the player,” Manfred said.
In his own statement, issued by the Angels five hours later, Trout said: “I have received lots of questions about Commissioner Manfred‘s recent statement. I am not a petty guy and would really encourage everyone to just move forward.
“Everything is cool between the Commissioner and myself. End of story. I am ready to just play some baseball!"
Trout prefers to spend his free time privately, not jumping from talk shows to commercial shoots. He has declined to participate in the home run derby or the World Baseball Classic.
Fans have voted him into the starting lineup of the All-Star game for six consecutive years, but early this season he fell out of the top 10 in MLB jersey sales. Aaron Judge, the New York Yankees’ mammoth slugger, ranks first.
Trout might have been pegged to replace Derek Jeter as the face of baseball, but he told The Times he does not hold the league responsible for not transforming him into an icon of popular culture.
“I’m not telling anybody to do that,” he told The Times.
Manfred, already fighting to revitalize a sport with an aging audience, pointed the finger at Trout for his unwillingness to embrace a national profile.
“If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really big,” Manfred said. “But he has to make a decision that he is prepared to engage in that area, and it takes time and effort.”
In defending Trout, the Angels said: “His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate.”
As well, the Angels said: “Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game. Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere.
“Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization, and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools, and countless other charities.”
Angels owner Arte Moreno was involved in drafting Wednesday’s statement. In 2014, when owners selected Manfred to replace the retiring Bud Selig, Moreno initially preferred another candidate: Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.
In a subsequent tweet, Angels publicist Eric Kay said: “Bottom line, Mike Trout doesn't self promote and he gets criticized for it. Everyone else thinks they know what is best for Mike. No one takes more time to engage with fans than Trout. THE GAME IS ABOUT THE FANS. He represents the Angels better than anyone has. EVER.”
[8:15 p.m.: This story has been updated with a statement from Mike Trout.]