On Tuesday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the Los Angeles Angels were closing in on a 12-year contract extension worth $430 million with outfielder Mike Trout. This reported contract would be the largest such deal not just in baseball history, but in the history of professional sports. For the century and a half that professional sports have dominated popular culture as the most constantly exciting and refreshing source of entertainment available, no person has made as much money as the center-fielder for the Angels is about to make. And, to be honest, it’s a bargain. Mike Trout has the potential to end his career as the best baseball player in the history of the sport, even if, at age 27, he has played only three playoff games.
I’ll repeat that. Mike Trout, the owner of the most lucrative contract in sports history has chalked up only a single hit – a one-run home run – in the three playoff games in which he has taken part.
So, why am I publishing this article on a primarily football based website? The answer is simple: I want to know if anyone else knows who the hell Mike Trout is.
From the standpoint of an American fan, it’s somewhat depressing that Mike Trout is still a relative unknown in the world of professional sports. Perhaps if he played center-field for the Yankees and had played more than a handful of postseason games he would be baseball’s poster-child but, for whatever reason, Trout seems unable to hold down the spotlight.
Baseball is America’s pastime. Yes, football dominates the headlines, and Lebron James became the biggest name in American sports playing basketball, but Baseball remains stitched into the fabric of this country. After all, Baseball was born in the civil-war, matured in the turn of the century and dominated the wavelengths throughout two world wars. Today, Baseball remains the sport every child plays at some point in their youth. Whether rec-league t-ball or whiffle ball during family reunions, everyone is familiar with the game. It is simply unavoidable. As kids grow into teenagers, high-schoolers leave home for college, and new-adults enter the workforce, the appeal of baseball falls drastically. Though the sport remains a member of America’s big three, the inability for such dominating figures as Mike Trout to garner any attention or inject the game with appeal to greater audiences seems to foreshadow a dark future for the once beloved pastime.
In European football, such an unusual relationship seems nonexistent. Football is played and loved throughout one’s life, while other sports are considered merely hobbies when compared to the ultimate game, the beautiful one. If a player like Messi, who, by the time he was Trout’s age, had won four Ballon d’Ors and three Champions Leagues, was as unknown in America as the President of Lithuania, questions would be raised.
Around the world, American icons in sports, culture, and politics lead their respective realms. Lebron James, arguably the most famous athlete in the world, plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Marvel Franchise, the most prolific and lucrative film series of the decade, is funded by Disney, the corporate embodiment of American-dream fueled capitalism. Donald Trump, who remains the world’s most controversial figure, sits at the desk of the White House.
So why - why goddammit - does no one know who the hell Mike Trout is? Perhaps the greatest player in the history of America’s most beloved sport remains virtually unknown across the globe and, to be honest, that upsets me.