One of the most common criticisms of Major League Baseball pertains to Mike Trout's popularity -- or, more specifically, the lack thereof.
Trout, the genius Los Angeles Angels outfielder, is arguably both: The best player of our time, and not a household name. The belief is that he's hurt by nary being featured in national ad campaigns, unlike, say, LeBron James and other top stars in the NBA and NFL.
Often, all the blame is laid at the feet of MLB and its unwillingness or inability to properly market Trout. But commissioner Rob Manfred offered a different explanation to ESPN during the All-Star Game festivities. Manfred began by noting that player marketing requires a willing player, then outlined why a worldwide brand doesn't appeal to Trout like it does to others:
"Mike's a great, great player and a really nice person, but he's made certain decisions about what he wants to do and what he doesn't want to do, and how he wants to spend his free time and how he doesn't want to spend his free time," Manfred said. "That's up to him. If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really, really big. But he has to make a decision that he's prepared to engage in that area. It takes time and effort."
Trout, for his part, doesn't seem the least bit interested in changing. When asked about Manfred's comments and his thoughts on becoming omnipresent he said, "I keep telling you guys, I do as much as I can. But it's a long baseball season. I got to pick and choose when I want to do things and go from there."
How does a league market a player -- its best player -- when said player doesn't want to go along for the ride? That's what Manfred and MLB must figure out in the coming years.