Getting snubbed by MLB coaches and managers for the Gold Glove award probably garnered Mike Trout more headlines than if he’d won the award. Despite the attention and his historic season, it’s his team’s failure to make the postseason — not his lack of a Gold Glove — that hurts Trout's marketability.
“As important as fielding may be, it’s just not as sexy as hitting, pitching and winning,” said Bob Dorfman, executive vice president and executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising.
Trout, 21, is widely considered a top contender for both the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP awards. He’s the first player to ever win Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year and Major League Player of the Year awards in the same season. According to MLB, he’s also the first player ever to finish a season with at least 45 steals, 125 runs and 30 home runs.
And that’s just on offense.
On defense, Trout was best-known for climbing the wall to rob opponents of home runs. According to MLB, he effectively stole four home runs and saved 23 runs overall. His 10.7 wins above replacement (WAR) -- a baseball statistic that measures how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a bench player at that position -- came in only behind WARs notched by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle for players 25 or younger.
Trout was a human highlight reel this season in center field for the Los Angeles Angels. The problem is that not enough people saw those great plays.
“A guy like Mike Trout, who arguably could be the most exciting player in baseball in the last 25 years, is someone who is relatively unknown or off the radar for most of the country,” said Doug Shabelman, president of Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing Inc. “He plays on the West Coast and on the Angels, a team destined to have a big year and didn’t.”
Noting how regionalized baseball has become, Shabelman said: “At the end of the day, it’s your team winning and being in the playoffs and being on that national stage that is the big difference for baseball players.”
Dorfman agrees: “You’re extremely popular in your local area, and it’s hard for that to translate on a national level unless you’re someone like [Derek] Jeter playing on a national stage and consistently in the postseason.”
Jeter, of course, has the benefit of playing in New York. Shabelman and Dorfman both agree that playing in Anaheim might hurt Trout.
“If you look at people on the East Coast, unless they’re die-hard baseball fans, how many could have named more than one or two players on the [San Francisco] Giants before the World Series?” Shabelman said.
Trout, who made $480,000 this year, has at least one national endorsement deal, beverage brand BODYARMOR SuperDrink. He might be able to improve his stock in the marketplace by winning the Rookie of the Year or MVP awards.
“It does build credentials — MVP more than Rookie of the Year,” Dorfman said. “It does make you more valuable in the eyes of marketers and more visible in the eyes of consumers and the eyes of the casual fan.”