Jon Heyman: Trout's "marketability" underscores MLB's struggle to illumminate stars


The intramural skirmish between the Angels and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred over the popularity (or lack thereof) of superstar Mike Trout was fascinating to see. After Manfred proposed that Trout chooses not to spend the time to market himself, the Angels issued this statement of praise about Trout to rebut it.

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A few thoughts:

1) Yes, there is an issue. Trout should be much more popular than he is. The Washington Post had a story that said his Q rating was equal to Kenneth Faried, a marginal NBA player (I don’t think I am familiar with his work). Trout's Q rating is apparently a 22, meaning 1 in 5 U.S. adults know who Trout is.

2) Trout is a great guy with a wonderful personality and a quirky hobby (he loves the weather; shout-out to my own favorite Jim Cantore), and he isn’t obligated to do a bunch of goofy commercials (like Peyton Manning does, for instance). But there should be something that can be done about it. There’s nothing wrong with just being a nice guy who plays baseball, and someone – whether it be MLB, the Angels or some other group – needs to figure it out. Because he is the new Mickey Mantle.


3) It isn’t just a Mike Trout issue. Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Manny Machado probably should all have higher Q ratings. Baseball has some great stars, especially young ones, and they should probably all be better known. Whether this is the players’ fault or MLB’s fault is a debate for another day, but it’s interesting that none of them has a monster Q rating.

4) It is clear Angels owner Arte Moreno, who didn’t initially support Manfred for commissioner as Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times pointed out, apparently still doesn’t love Manfred. While the Angels’ didn’t mention Manfred in their statement, it is clear what and who they were talking about: Manfred’s comment that Trout prefers not to make time for marketing and commercials.

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Whether this is the last time we see Manfred specifically call out the man recognized as baseball's best current player remains to be seen. The Angels certainly hope it is, even if they may get some ancillary benefit from Manfred's comments; more people probably suddenly want to know about the player MLB's commissioner thinks is trying to stay out of the limelight.

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and FancredSports.com. You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.

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