For Mike Trout Anaheim Is Home After All
By Mark Wilkens
As we all know by now, Mike Trout has agreed to a 10 year extension to his existing deal, bringing the commitment between Trout and the Angels to 12 years, $430 million.
When ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke the news yesterday morning, it came as more than a surprise, since talks between the LA Angels and their superstar center fielder did not appear to be gaining momentum, or even happening at all in spring training.
The timing itself is sweet medicine for Angels fans, who had heard the noise from Philadelphia reaching a deafening roar, as their new prize Bryce Harper publicly acknowledged he would be recruiting Trout to team up on Trout’s hometown Phillies.
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The idea that Trout, a free agent in 2021, would join the Phillies, who seemed to be perfectly timing a rebuild to bring him aboard, has been en Vogue ever since Trout signed his first extension, a six-year pact in 2014 .
The idea was two-fold: One, Trout has never won a playoff game as an Angel, playing for a franchise that has not properly built around the best player in the game. Two, Trout, MLB’s humble, almost reluctant superstar, maintains strong ties to his hometown of Millville, New Jersey, famously bleeds Eagles’ green, and has definitely not been shy about his love for home.
But as Trout has allowed his public persona to be a quiet one, the fans and media willfully fill in the gaps. When Trout would politely refuse to speculate on a future in Southern California, the fans saw a reluctance to stay. When Trout would speak enthusiastically of Philadelphia fans and his hometown, the media would begin the speculative drumbeat of Trout in red pinstripes.
If we’ve learned anything this off-season, we can’t guess what’s going on in a player’s head when it comes to where they will ply their trade. We spent all winter and even some of the spring with the firm believe Bryce Harper preferred being near his Las Vegas home, and Manny Machado was firmly committed to playing on the East Coast again. As we count down to Opening Day less than two weeks away, Bryce Harper is in Clearwater Florida, wearing red pinstripes of a Phillie, and Machado is in Arizona, a San Diego Padre.
Perhaps all along, Mike Trout knew where he wanted to be. His relationship with Billy Eppler and Arte Moreno is something we are not privy to, but it’s becoming clear it must be a positive one. The Angels’ rise to the seventh ranked farm system also cannot be overlooked.
For the 27-year old superstar, the money obviously matters, but a player who surpassed every other player’s cumulative WAR through their age 26 season could dictate the terms of his free agency in a way we didn’t even see Harper or Machado do. Trout would get paid regardless. If his quest was a Harper-esque quest for dollars, then we would’ve absolutely seen a Trout free agency in 2021.
Home can mean a lot of things, it’s what we often use to refer to where we grew up. The place we’re from, the place that raised us and made us who we are today in such a profound way. In our obsession with Mike Trout and the idea of home, we end up instead with something even more rare than the star who comes home, the surefire Hall of Famer who ends their career in the same jersey they wore in their first game.
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On April 4th, the Angels will host the Rangers. On a crisp Southern California night, the Halos will take the field as they have thousands of times before, in the same stadium they’ve called home since 1966.
But under the watchful glow of the Big A, among the throngs of cheering fans, it will not be business as usual. Though the center fielder will be the familiar number 27, he of the boyish grin and legendary ability, it will be the first game of a new era, one in which we know Mike Trout is home.