The Angels screwed Mike Trout for the most ridiculous reason there is: because they could. That's why they renewed his contract for $510,000, a fortune to most of us, but a joke for the best all-around player in baseball.
That's absolutely who Mike Trout is: the best all-around player in baseball.
And that's absolutely what the Angels did: screwed him. Because they could.
Again, it was within the Angels' rights. Do me a favor and spare me the lecture on the economics of baseball, and how the rules allow teams to control a player's salary for his first three years. The Angels renewed Trout at $510,000, just $20,000 above the Major League minimum salary. That was their right, but it doesn't make them right.
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Nor will it absolve them if the Angels soon negotiate a multi-year deal with Trout, as the Padres did with franchise cornerstone Adrian Gonzalez in 2007 after insulting him by offering $391,500 for one year. Gonzalez refused that offer, so the Padres simply renewed his contract -- for $380,500. After low-balling Gonzalez they went even lower, screwing him because they could. The two sides agreed to a four-year, $9.5-million deal a few weeks later, but Gonzalez remembered. How could he not?
Now it's the Angels sticking it to their franchise cornerstone. It would be more understandable if the Angels were simply cheap, but they're not. They've used their $3 billion TV deal to pursue top-dollar talent, and their 2013 payroll will be in the $150 million range, among baseball's five highest. Last year the Angels gave Albert Pujols $240 million for 10 years. This year they gave Josh Hamilton $125 million for five years. They're paying washed-up Vernon Wells $24.6 million this season, or 48 times what they just gave Mike Trout as a reward for the best season in franchise history.
The Angels stiffed Trout like he was a waiter -- a great waiter. The best waiter they've ever had. A five-tool waiter who carried the restaurant to the brink of the postseason despite the fact that its $240 million chef was stinking it up for most of the meal.
That was Mike Trout in 2012 for the Angels.
And the Angels just tipped him 6 percent.
They stuck it to him because they could. Spare me the lecture that most teams stick it to players in their first three years, including the infamously low-rent Marlins sticking it to Giancarlo Stanton for $537,000 this season, unless you're going to find me examples of players who were screwed after a season in which they posted a WAR of 10.7, as the Angels are doing to Mike Trout. Given that only five other players have posted a WAR of 10.7 or better in the last half-century, and given that four of them are in the Hall of Fame (Carl Yastrzemski, Cal Ripken, Willie Mays, Joe Morgan) and the fifth would be if he weren't such a cheater (Barry Bonds), you can't find even one example of a player this good being screwed this bad.
So don't tell me that the Brewers renewed Prince Fielder in 2007 for $415,000 after he hit 28 home runs, or that the Marlins renewed reigning Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez that year for $402,000, or (your team here) once renewed (your favorite player) for (a low sum of money), because neither Fielder nor Ramirez nor (your favorite player) had a rookie year anywhere near the rookie year of Mike Trout in 2012.
Nobody has had a rookie year as good as Mike Trout's, and please -- for the third time -- spare me the lecture about Trout's rookie season being no better than the rookie season of Pujols in 2001 or Fred Lynn in 1975 or Richie Allen in 1964 or whoever, whenever. That argument was so last year, and your side lost. Based on something as complicated as WAR or something as simple as common sense, Trout had the greatest rookie season in MLB history, and he did it despite spending most of the first month in Triple A.
Trout hit .326 with 30 home runs, 49 steals, 129 runs, a .564 slugging average, .399 on-base percentage and .963 OPS. He didn't win a Gold Glove but he should have. His defensive WAR of 2.1 was second among American League outfielders, and he reached above the fence to take away a home run four times -- which only three players have done since 2004.
Other than Miguel Cabrera -- who won the 2012 Triple Crown to deny Trout the MVP some say he should have won anyway -- Trout was the best hitter in baseball. He was the best base runner in baseball. He was among the best defensive outfielders in baseball.
The Angels gave him a 6.25-percent raise on his $480,000 rookie salary. Because they could.
So now we do what we can, which is flay the Angels for being so selectively cheap -- and for selecting to be so cheap with Mike Trout, for God's sake. This is a franchise that overpaid for Pujols and Hamilton, gambling $365 million over 15 years on one player whose numbers were in decline one year into his 10-year deal, and another whose career is a ticking time bomb.
The Angels wanted those guys, so fine. Go get those guys. But don't be that pompous jerk who strolls into the fancy restaurant and orders the biggest steak and finest bottle of wine and then stiffs the waiter because he can.