That Commissioner Rob Manfred is drawing criticism over his comments about how Mike Trout chooses not to promote himself as the face of baseball is misplaced. Manfred was merely telling the truth. If everyone wants Trout to be the face of baseball, Trout would need to be on board with that and do things to promote it.
That’s why the guy the league should be promoting is Mookie Betts, who would be more willing to do the things required to gain that status.
Manfred made a truthful comment when he said that, “Player marketing requires one thing for sure: the player. He has to make the decision that he’s wanting to engage in that area. Mike’s a great, great player and a really good person. If he wants to engage and be more active I think we could help him make his brand be really big.”
Trout, however, would rather just play baseball, spend time with his family, and not get out there shooting a lot of commercials. It’s just not him. Manfred made his comment and suddenly there were a rash of statements by the Angels and Trout himself having to address Manfred’s comments.
Trout is not LeBron James, who is in an endless number of commercials and NBA shoots. The topic came about as a result of a story by Los Angeles Times baseball columnist Bill Shaikin , who explored the topic of why Trout isn’t more marketable. Manfred referred to the story at his press conference with the BBWA earlier this week at the All-Star Game. Manfred said he liked the story because it was a thorough look at Trout and the reasons he doesn’t want to be the out-front guy for the league.
The Angels felt they had to defend Trout.
“Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game,’’ the Angels statement read. “He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools and countless other charities. One of Mike’s traits that people admire most is his humility. 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.”
Terrific. He’s a charitable guy and gives back to the community. But that has nothing to do with being the face of baseball and being a pitch man for the sport. But that’s OK. Trout can be whomever he wants to be. He doesn’t have to be baseball’s LeBron or the NFL’s Peyton Manning, who in past years was on your TV set every time you turned it on.
Manfred would love it if Trout became that pitchman, but he’s not wringing his hands that he’s not.
Baseball is just not the forum to have a pitchman. It’s an everyday sport. There’s no down time. There’s really not much time for Trout or anyone else to spend a day or two shooting a promotional ad. Even in the offseason, Trout doesn’t want to go spend a week promoting baseball.
Trout is the LeBron of baseball in terms of talent. There’s nobody better on the field. That alone should market him as the face of baseball. Trout has recently received a lot of attention. People have offered reasons why Trout isn’t more well-known such as the fact that he plays in the secondary LA market (not the Dodgers), that he’s three hours away from the Eastern time zone so few people on the East Coast ever see him play, and that he’s a quiet, humble guy and not gregarious.
Well, Steph Curry plays on the West Coast. Magic Johnson played on the West Coast. It’s just not in Trout’s DNA to be that guy. So now just leave him alone and let him be the genuine guy he is. And stop blaming Manfred for telling the truth. And now bring on Betts as the face of baseball.
COMING UP SHORT
Position a key for Machado’s future
It will not be an issue now since Manny Machado will play his desired shortstop for the Dodgers in Corey Seager’s absence. But when Seager returns next season and whether the Dodgers are able to re-sign Machado, the desire to play shortstop would be a major issue. Somebody has to convince Machado that he’s one of the best third basemen of all time and that he’s only an average shortstop and nowhere in the same class as some of the current group of elite shortstops like Andrelton Simmons, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa etc.
“I’ve been playing shortstop since I picked up a glove,” Machado said. “Just going out there and taking that position you feel like you’re in control of the game. You can see what the pitcher is doing and reacting to it. It seems you’re involved in just about every play. It’s nice to be out there and play the game you love and where you want to be. I would love to stay at shortstop. Everybody knows I want to play shortstop.”
Machado’s greatest value is at third base. But he won’t see it that way. In his first year back at shortstop after five years at third base, Machado has often looked a bit out of his league. He does make the routine plays and flashes some range on occasion, but his third-base play might be the best of any defender at any position and that includes Mookie Betts in right field.
One National League scout went so far as to say, “Manny Machado is the best third baseman I have ever seen and I watched Adrian Beltre as a young player and I thought he was the best I had ever seen until I saw Manny. He makes plays with that wide wing span of his that defy logic. I’m not sure why he doesn’t get the rush playing there. He’s an outstanding defender, but I think he’s taking away from some of his game playing shortstop because it’s tougher on the body.”
Machado will make a lot of money no matter where he plays. The Dodgers have a great chance to re-sign him if Machado wants to stay there. But the same suspects — Phillies, Yankees, Brewers — will likely make bids to obtain him as a free agent. It’ll be interesting to see how Machado does initially in LA. He’ll have to get used to new ballparks, new backgrounds, new pitchers, and everything that comes with changing leagues. On the flip side he might be more motivated to step on the field every night knowing there’s something to play for. Though when I asked him about how tough it was playing in a non-winning environment in Baltimore, he said, “It wasn’t hard at all. You don’t go into every game thinking you’re going to lose.”
Apropos of nothing
1. Jed Lowrie finds himself in a weird position because since he’s been with the A’s, all he’s heard is that he’s going to be traded. For the first time, he said, he’s hearing from management that they’d like to re-sign him. Lowrie, who has 16 homers in this, his first All-Star season, which ties his career high that he set in 2012 with Houston, says he wants to stay. because he loves the A’s. “The only thing I can see that surprises me is how quickly the younger guys have matured and done the little things to help us win consistently. That’s a maturation process that usually takes longer,” Lowrie said. On his own situation, he said “I can say definitively they [A’s management] didn’t express an interest the last time around and they’ve expressed an interest this time. It was 100 percent I was getting traded last year. Now they want to re-sign me.”
2. Matt Kemp has had an incredible turnaround to his career with the Dodgers this season and could be the National League MVP. He said he’s surprised that former Dodgers’ teammate Hanley Ramirez isn’t playing. “I think everybody is pretty surprised,” Kemp said. “That’s a big bat. A power bat that could help anyone. Older guys can help teams win, too. Older guys might be more expensive but sometimes it’s worth it. Hanley should be playing. Hopefully we’ll see him.”
3. Jon Lester has become a good hitter after spending most of his career as one of the worst hitters in baseball. He’s 0 for 36 in the AL. Lester is now used to laying down sacrifice bunts, and he’s hit a three-run homer. Granted he’s only hitting .125 but he’s driven in seven runs. “I ran into Freddie Freeman and he said, ‘For three years you couldn’t hit and now you’re hitting home runs.’ When I was in the American League my job was pitching and I didn’t want to get hurt doing other stuff. But now I’m in the lineup and I’ve got to be able to do something. At first it was getting bunts down. It’s been fun to learn to hit and see results. I’ve worked hard with Chili [Davis] and other hitting coaches I’ve had. It’s something I’ve worked hard on and happy that I’m contributing,” Lester said.
4. For the first time, the World Baseball/Softball Confederation has granted the United States the right to hold the Women’s Baseball World Cup. Two former USA team players, Donna Mills and Ashley Cook, recently visited Fenway with the World Cup trophy. Helen Nordquist and Barbara Parks Young of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (the film “A League of Their Own” was based on that 1940s league) were also at Fenway. The tournament will be played at USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, Fla., August 22-31.
5. There are a few folks around the Pawtucket Red Sox situation who feel the PawSox will be playing in Worcester in the future. Those folks tell us that the International League would not approve the deal as structured and the city of Pawtucket would be put into financial hardship. Worcester has a solid plan and corporate interest.
6. Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman would not give up either prospect Justus Sheffield or third baseman Miguel Andujar in potential deals for Manny Machado or Indians lefty reliever Brad Hand. Will he for Mets righty Jacob deGrom? Despite his reluctance to part with top prospects, the Yankees were in on Machado until the end offering a package that included third baseman Brandon Drury.
7. The Indians were pretty smart in giving up prospect catcher Francisco Mejia in the Brad Hand deal. While Mejia has upside as a hitter, there’s doubt as to whether he’s a bona fide major league catcher. The Padres will keep him there to see if he can prove himself. The Indians also got emerging sidearm reliever Adam Cimber. Good job by Indians president Chris Antonetti and his staff.
8. One of the great guys in baseball, Washington assistant GM Doug Harris, has leukemia and he’s undergoing a costly experimental treatment. His wife Lisa has started a GoFundMe page .
Updates on nine
1. Mike Moustakas, 3B/1B, Royals — Not breaking news but officials in the Royals’ organization expect Moustakas to get dealt whether it be to play third or first somewhere. The Yankees, Braves, Phillies, and Cardinals all seem to be in position to obtain the soon-to-be free agent.
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays — The Jays seem to be anxiously awaiting Donaldson’s return to the active roster for two reasons — they want to make room for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is playing again after a long stint on the disabled list, and they’re hoping to deal Donaldson. It doesn’t appear he’ll go before the non-waiver trading deadline, but there’s a distinct possibility he could be dealt in August if he clears waivers. At least that’s the Blue Jays’ hope.
3. John Gibbons, manager, Blue Jays — Will Gibbons survive the poor season the Blue Jays have had? The people we’ve talked to around the Jays’ situation don’t feel he will. Who team president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins peg as their next manager is anyone’s guess. Some believe the new manager will have an Indians background. Eric Wedge is employed by the Jays as a special assistant and could be a candidate. Shapiro is also very familiar with John Farrell, but Farrell, having already managed in Toronto, may not be received well after he left his contract early to join the Red Sox. A great choice would be bench coach DeMarlo Hale.
4. Sonny Gray, RHP, Yankees — There are a couple of teams sending scouts to watch Gray pitch as the second half opens. Are the Yankees trying to move Gray? That’s the impression some teams are getting. The feeling seems to be he belongs in a smaller market. The Yankees could turn around and flip prospects for a front-line starter.
5. Cole Hamels, LHP, Rangers — Hamels will likely be dealt by July 31st, but interested teams want to see him pitch better before they devote prospects in a deal for him. There’s no doubt that the Phillies, Yankees, Braves, and possibly the Red Sox have interest. Hamels is trying to work out some mechanical issues.
6. Dan Straily, RHP, Marlins — He’s getting some interest from teams looking at a back-end starter. The Marlins feel they can get the Red Sox interested. The Marlins aren’t completely enamored by the choices from the Red Sox farm system. There is some sentiment for Blake Swihart but with Christian Vazquez gone until September sometime, the Red Sox may not be able to swing such a deal.
7. Zach Britton, LHP, Orioles — With Brad Hand off the market, Britton is next. The Red Sox, Dodgers, Astros, Phillies, Yankees, Giants, A’s, and others are interested. The Orioles have had a scout trying to find prospects in Boston’s Double-A Portland team. Third baseman Michael Chavis is the player they’d like to see, but he hasn’t played much lately coming off an 80-game PED suspension.
8. Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers — The consensus among baseball people with whom I’ve discussed the hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic tweets that surfaced from his teenage years think Hader will never be fully free from the tweets that were recovered from seven years ago. Teammate Lorenzo Cain came to his defense, but others around the game won’t be so kind. Yes, people change, but unfortunately as one AL player said, “He’ll always be remembered for saying racist things.”
9. Jeff Banister, manager, Rangers — Texas’s awful season has put Banister in possible firing range. Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels may have an interesting decision to make as he evaluates the team and the way it’s run to see whether a managerial change could create a better team attitude. While the Rangers will look to retool rather than rebuild, they’ll have the money to pursue pitching in the offseason.
From the Bill Chuck files: “Chris Sale has started three straight All-Star Games, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that over the last three “first halves,” Sale leads baseball with 35 wins. However, in his career [since 2010], Sale has totaled just 32 wins after the All-Star break.” Also, “The Dodgers are looking for Manny Machado to provide them with the numbers that Manny Ramirez put up when he joined LA in 2008 from Boston: In 53 games, Manny hit .396 with 17 HRs and 53 RBIs (and a 1.232 WHIP).” . . . Happy birthday Sparky Lyle (74).