Angels outfielder Mike Trout

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Bernstein: Trout In LA Remains A Challenge For MLB

Mike Trout is largely out of sight and out of mind on the West Coast.

Dan Bernstein
March 19, 2019 - 3:20 pm
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(670 The Score) That Mike Trout may be the best baseball player ever and can still stroll down most public streets unnoticed isn't good for the sport, and the people in charge of MLB had better know it.

Part of it is pure provincialism endemic to the way we consume the game, some is the Angels' lack of playoff appearances and a whole bunch is the fact that we get tired. Trout is finalizing a 12-year, $430-million contract that will keep him in Los Angeles, which is too often out of sight and mind for a sport played mostly at night.

West Coast baseball games start late for most of the rest of us, take as long as games take to unspool these days and end way too close to the time the coffee maker is set to start brewing. I would love to have live cut-ins to highlights of the next cool thing Trout is doing in whatever game I'm watching, but that would mean something occurring in just the first three innings or so, and that's even assuming lasting to the bitter end for the local nine and not committing to catching up on the end before the next day of work.

Related: Mike Trout's mega-deal could impact futures of Cubs players

Ask the NBA about the massive negative effect of LeBron James' move to Los Angeles, the impetus for an across-the-board national ratings decline year over year. You can bet that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was paying close attention to Bryce Harper's not-even-veiled efforts to already woo Trout to join him in Philadelphia -- and more out of concern for his business interests than policing skulduggery. It would've been a boon to have the modern Mickey Mantle on display in the same time zone that featured the actual one, but alas.

To mitigate the geographical headwind, baseball needs to get creative in making sure the average fan is able to enjoy and better appreciate a living god of the game in the prime of the prime of his career. The kids know how good Trout is, seeing that he's a 99 in MLB The Show, the younger generations don't cleave as exclusively to local teams as older fans and they're far more adept at consuming the game in fractional and time-shifted ways from the device in hand.

Their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles not so much though, and they're the ones with the money for now. So short of reversing the direction of the planet's spin to suit their television schedule, MLB might have to get creative in taking Trout out to the crowd instead of the other way around.

Loosening some of their self-imposed social media restrictions on highlights would be a start, taking a page from the liberalized policy the NBA uses to keep their brand of athletic greatness in front of eyes in close to real time. MLB could consider a more dynamic way to decide which games are blacked out for certain markets, making sure to avoid cannibalizing its own content while incentivizing a little more spending for more entertainment, particularly as legal gambling opens up a market for newly invested sets of eyes.  

The idea of Trout meeting baseball halfway as a self-promoter was a controversial topic last July, when Manfred made the point that the player could put himself out there a little more, even tossing a dig his way for not being "actively engaged" in marketing. The Angels rose to his defense hastily, however, commending Trout for having his larger priorities straight.

It's not an easy puzzle to solve here, with one of the best athletes in the history of major professional sports at the peak of his powers after eight seasons and still too few knowing enough to care. He is more great than he has been compelling and will spend the rest of his career working mostly while millions of fans are sleeping.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​

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