Mike Trout's monster 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Angels this week simultaneously broke Bryce Harper's barely three-week-old record contract of $330 million and broke the hearts of everyone in the tri-state area. While I count myself among the Philly fans who were bummed when the Trout news broke given how much of a formality it seemed that he would come here as a free agent in two years, I cannot blame Trout for his decision.
Every East Coast-born person fantasizes about moving to California at some point. I once convinced a Los Angeles-based company to pay for me to fly out there for several days for a job interview (I also saw the Eagles play at the Coliseum, the game where Carson Wentz tore his ACL, and didn't get the job. It was a bad week!), so I get it. While I was walking around University City in college on 35-degree winter days bundled up like Ralphie's brother in A Christmas Story, I kicked myself for not going to a school like UCLA.
I too have wished it was 70-something degrees and sunny every single day while suffering through Philadelphia's two seasons: freezing rain and brutal humidity. I would also be lying if I said offering me $430 million to do the one thing I might be better at than anyone who's ever lived wasn't awesome. Trout's on his way to truly being the greatest baseball player of all time. He may be mired in irrelevance because the Angels seem so incompetent, but is that really the worst thing in the world for him?
Sure, I know Trout is craving a World Series ring. Racking up MVPs, making hundreds of millions of dollars and cruising through SoCal in semi-anonymity because he's not a Hollywood star or a guy in 100 commercials has its obvious perks though. He can do all that while having his Octobers free because he plays for a bad franchise, leaving him able to attend six Eagles home games every season. It sounds like the most chill life possible.
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Yes, Trout is an Eagles superfan, but just look at what he does when he's at the Linc. He'll be on the field before the game shooting the bull with Carson Wentz and then sits in a private little end zone box so Zach Ertz can flip him footballs after he scores touchdowns. He's not sitting in Section 219 next to a dozen dudes from Grays Ferry and cheersing cans of Miller Lite with them after their umpteetnth "E-A-G-L-E-S" chant. I wouldn't want to hang out with me either!
Whenever a star player, regardless of sport, inches towards free agency, fans and the media alike are quick to speculate that the athlete may go play for his hometown team, but that rarely seems to happen. The idea of growing up in the Philly area and becoming a superstar centerfielder for the Phillies sounds amazing, but if I was absurdly rich, I probably wouldn't want to spend my entire life in the same place.
Trout would be a messiah figure if he had come to Philly in 2021. He also wouldn't be able to walk down the street and grab a half-gallon of Wawa Peach Iced Tea without being mobbed by a hundred rabid Philly fans ready to bow down and kiss his feet. He would potentially have more pressure on him than any athlete in Philly history given how unbelievable his career has been so far, where he was born and who his favorite football team is. He could either be in an environment with unparalleled stress or he could face almost zero pressure while surrounded by palm trees in Los Angeles. Just to reiterate: it's 70-something degrees there everyday.
Who knows, the DH could come to the National League by 2032 and a 40-year-old Trout built like Jeremiah Trotter could become a playoff hero in the vein of Matt Stairs while clobbering 25 homers in the regular season despite barely being able to jog around the bases. We can always dream even if the ideal situation for Trout in red pinstripes is gone.
Maybe Mike Trout isn't really about this life and maybe that's the best thing for him.
Millville's not even that close to Philly anyway, right?