Mike Trout hit .326 last season with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases. (Getty Images)
Far be it from me to take up for The Man here, but it's not Arte Moreno's job to make Mike Trout feel appreciated, and it's not Mike Scioscia's job to run his baseball team around Mike Trout.
And nobody gets that better than Mike Trout, probably.
Personally, I'd probably have flipped Trout another hundred grand or so, you know, a little something for the effort.
Moreno felt otherwise. His general manager, Jerry Dipoto, said something about managing economics. Presumably the Los Angeles Angels are protecting themselves against the next 20-year-old to wander in and post one of the greatest seasons ever. The lowest-rated farm system in the game would seemingly protect them against this becoming a habit. But, you never know.
The Los Angeles Angels have their policies, so Trout gets his 6.25 percent raise to $510,000.
As for moving Trout to left field, it's not an unreasonable decision by Scioscia. If Peter Bourjos can hit and get on base and cut down on his strikeouts, it'll work. If not, Trout will not have forgotten how to play center field in the meantime. Not so long ago, Trout's mentor, Torii Hunter (granted, a much older Torii Hunter), moved to a corner for Bourjos – and for the benefit of the team – so surely Trout can, too.
And Trout, good kid he is, seemed OK with all of this, by the way.
Can he play center field? With the best.
Is he worth more money? Lots.
Should the Angels have found somewhere else to save a few dollars? Absolutely.
That's not what happened. Trout had his contract "renewed," a not-so-fancy way of saying his agent, Craig Landis, and the ballclub didn't exactly fall into each other's arms at the end of contract discussions. I was tempted to say "negotiations" there, but that's not how the process works for pre-arbitration players. The club decides what it will pay the player and then the next morning the player shows up for work.
One day, Trout will decide how much he'll make and from whom he'll make it. Chances are, it won't be long before the Angels come to him to buy up some arbitration years, maybe some free-agent years, and he'll get his hundred grand back. Today, the day the Angels tightened the financial belts on their stretchy pants, will be as forgotten as it was unnecessary. You know, if stretchy pants had belts.
So, the issue?
We learned that Trout is unhappy with his contract. OK, that happens. We also learned – from his agent – Trout is disappointed in the position change, as ordered by his manager and carried out by a teammate.
"In my opinion," Landis said in his statement, "this contract falls well short of a 'fair' contract and I have voiced this to the Angels throughout the process."
He added, "As when he learned he would not be the team's primary center fielder for the upcoming season, Mike will put the disappointment behind him and focus on helping the Angels reach their goal of winning the 2013 World Series."
There is nothing not to like about Mike Trout. He is the best athlete on the field, no matter the game, no matter the night, no matter the field. What he accomplished in his rookie season was remarkable, even historic, and he spent the first month of it in Triple-A. He is polite and deferential to veteran players, same as he is to clubbies. Show me a man who respects the guy cleaning his sanitary socks and I'll show you a good man. If he took a play off, I didn't see it. He is where the game belongs, in the heart of a young man who plays for the joy of it.
So, in the hours after his contract was renewed, his agent – and therefore Trout himself – believed it necessary to reveal the truth, that Trout isn't happy about left field and that he'll soldier on.
Fine. I'm for the truth. Maybe I just don't always want to hear it. The Trout story was perfect enough as it was, the Jersey kid passed up in the draft by a couple dozen teams. Give him a chance, give him a glove, let him play and stay out of the way. By the time he's done he could be the best thing to ever happen to the Angels.
I guess I don't understand what the contract and the position change had to do with each other, why they belonged in the same statement, unless to suggest Trout was due extra compensation for going along with it.
I asked Landis for an explanation.
"No further comment," he emailed.
Asked by reporters Sunday in Arizona, Trout said he considered himself a center fielder. Asked again about left field, Trout revealed what he'd revealed all along.
"I'm just happy to be in the lineup," he said.
The Angels could have done better by Trout, for sure. There are policies to abide by, and there are exceptions to policies, and Trout is 30 homers and 49 steals worth of exception. They chose policy. It's too bad, but they did.
That's on the Angels. It doesn't have to be on Trout.
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