It’s a thankless job, being a commissioner of a sports league. Of course, it comes with power, but everyone is critical. It might not be worth it.
“Am I going to quit? said Mike Trout, who plays center field for the Los Angeles Angels when he’s not leading a suddenly famous fantasy football league. “I didn’t make that decision. I do not know. But all the commissioners I know are always booed.
On Wednesday, Trout spoke to reporters outside the visitors’ pavilion at Yankee Stadium. The briefing had been scheduled to talk about the Angels’ next series, a rare trip to Philadelphia, near Trout’s beloved hometown of Millville, NJ, for some interleague action. He also wearily answered a few questions about the oddly gripping feud in his fantasy football league.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Tommy Pham slapped San Francisco Giants Joc Pederson in the face before a game last Friday, earning a three-game suspension. Pederson described the details of the dispute — he insulted Pham’s former team, the San Diego Padres, with a GIF in a group text, and was accused of hiding a healthy player from an injured reserve — and Pham revealed on Tuesday that Trout was commissioner for the league, which has a $10,000 entry fee.
“Trout did a terrible job, man,” Pham told The Athletic, which reported that Pham at least hinted at a smile as he spoke. “Trout is the worst commissioner in fantasy sports.”
Pham, who admitted no one really wants to be commissioner, said Trout could have solved the problems, but instead let them happen.
The 2022 MLB season
“Relax, okay? Don’t try to hit everyone. Withdrawals are boring! Besides that, they are fascists. Throw balls on the ground, it’s more democratic.
- Look good, feel good, play good. Smell good?: For many players, a heavy dose of cologne or women’s perfume is the most unlikely of performance enhancers.
- Third Baseman Gambit: Manny Machado is the best hitter in baseball, and he’s coming for your queen.
- The loneliest team in baseball: The Oakland Athletics gutted their roster and flirted with Las Vegas. Now, their fans seem in full revolt.
- Throwing King: Tom House has spent his life helping superstars become even better. With a new app, he wants to fix young pitchers before they develop bad habits.
So, Commissioner, did Pederson cheat? Trout said nothing.
“I spoke to Tommy, I spoke to Joc, everyone who was in it – just passionate about fantasy football,” Trout said, later adding, “A lot of people put their hearts into it. So am I. I lost this league.
For all his struggles controlling unruly owners, Trout’s troubles can’t compare to that thorny problem for Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s commissioner: getting his sport’s best player back to the playoffs.
Trout, 30, has won the American League Most Valuable Player award three times but has only played in one postseason series: a three-game tie against the Kansas City Royals in 2014. Since then, the Angels have mostly lost seasons; even in 2020, with a field of 16 playoff teams after a regular season shortened to 60 games because of the pandemic, they failed to qualify for the playoffs.
This kind of drought, in any sport, can be excruciating.
“I went through it cheering for the Eagles and then they won the Super Bowl,” Trout said, later adding, “Obviously that’s all I want to do here is win and make the playoffs. playoffs and see what happens. That’s what this clubhouse is all about. We’re going through a little slip-up right now, but we’ll get through it.”
The Angels lost their last six games in May, but entered June with a 27-23 record – good enough to be on track for a wildcard spot. Baseball expanded the playoffs this season to six teams per league, and every team with a winning record through May would qualify.
A rival Angels team would be a boon for MLB marketers, with Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese star and the best two-way player since Babe Ruth, who just finished his own MVP season for the Angels in 2021. October showcase for Trout and Ohtani would be an ideal way to expand the game.
“Being here with Mike and Shohei, you get the draw, you understand why people say that, because they deserve it,” Angels reliever Archie Bradley said. “Obviously Mike and Shohei are the 1-2 face of baseball. It would be good for the sport, good for California. I get it, for sure.
Trout missed most of last season with a calf injury but quickly regained his status as the sport’s premier player. Through Tuesday, he led the AL in wins over substitution, according to Baseball Reference, batting .302 with 13 home runs and 1.038 on-base plus slugging percentage.
“It’s actually the best I’ve felt, my body – other than that dip last night; I haven’t dived like this since I was a kid,” said Trout, who couldn’t land a drive from Anthony Rizzo of the Yankees on Tuesday. “I think the preparation I did in the weight room, activating my legs instead of going straight into things, helped me.”
The Angels lost Tuesday, 9-1, with the Yankees chasing Angels right-hander Noah Syndergaard in the third inning. Even so, the Angels’ starters entered June with a 3.59 ERA, ranking 10th in MLB — a major improvement for a team that finished 29th out of 30 teams in starters’ ERA in 2019 and 2020 and 22nd the last season.
Syndergaard — who had Tommy John surgery with the Mets in 2020 and pitched two innings last season — signed a one-year, $21 million deal last November. The Angels also signed longtime reliever right-hander Michael Lorenzen for one year and $7 million and added him to the team’s six-man rotation.
“It really dampens the idea of these guys going 190, 200 innings,” general manager Perry Minasian said. “We didn’t skip the sixth starter on rest days, and that’s by design, to make sure the guys are resting properly. Because we know we have a different staff. We have a few younger guys without a ton of time in the major league, we’ve got a starter who was a reliever in the past, we’ve got a starter who’s pitched two innings in the last two years, we’ve got Shohei – so that’s a guy rotation, historically, and we’re doing everything we can to keep them healthy.
The Angels weren’t so lucky with the health of third baseman Anthony Rendon, who is having another mediocre season. He was placed on the injured reserve list last week with wrist inflammation, another pressing issue for a team whose bullpen has also stumbled lately.
“We know we’ve lost six in a row, but – at the best of times – this is the calmest, most level-headed, most professional losing streak I’ve been on,” Bradley said. “We know we didn’t pitch well. We know the back end of the bullpen dropped a few leads. But usually you can see some sort of energy shift, or you see one side of the room going a little crazy. It’s a pretty soft group, and that’s what makes me confident.
Sweeter, it seems, than Trout’s rowdy fantasy football league band. Whatever happens with the Angels — and with his job as commissioner — it’s safe to say that Trout will at least be involved in something come October.
“Everybody loves fantasy football,” he said with a smile. “Who doesn’t?”