Michael Schur (aka Ken Tremendous) has a wonderful piece on Slate today about relative obscurity of Mike Trout
Trout, who’s the best player in baseball probably won’t win the MVP. In his first four full years in the majors, Trout has never finished worse than second place in AL MVP voting. He probably could have won four consecutive MVPs in that time, but he only won in 2013. He’s having another MVP-caliber season this year but probably won’t win. Schur writes:
Based on the unprecedentedly incredible things he has already done, by age 25, in the game purporting to be America’s national pastime, he should be far more famous.
Schur lays out interesting ideas as to why Trout isn’t a bigger star — he plays on the West Coast in a sport that is very Eastern based; He’s kind of boring off the field; he plays baseball at a time when the sport isn’t as widely popular as it previously was.
I’ll suggest another won: He’s not a winner. He just doesn’t win.
Let’s be clear: I think this is a terrible argument (you should read the previous paragraph in an exaggerated Skip Bayless voice).
Judging a player’s individual value by how well his team does is incredibly flawed. This is especially true in baseball, where the impact one player can have is incredibly small compared to other sports.
But you still hear it. Trout’s only been in the playoffs once (in 2014) and he played all of three games. The Angels have been a bit of a dumpster fire since he’s been there.
And this is where The Sport Ethic comes in. One of the four core norms that Jay Coakely and Robert Hughes found that elite athletes subscribe to is the importance of winning:
Athletes strive for distinction by relentlessly seeking to improve and achieve perfection; winning becomes important as a marker of achievement and one’s willingness to push limits
One of my core hypotheses in my research is that sports journalism, through its reliance on players and coaches as official sources, perpetuates The Sport Ethic and transmits it to fans. And this could explain why Trout isn’t a bigger star. This can explain why there are so many tortured arguments over the meaning of the word “valuable” in MVP, to give it to the best player on a winning team rather than the best player overall.
If The Sport Ethic holds that winning is everything, and Trout hasn’t won, he can’t be celebrated.
It’s a terrible argument. But it may help explain why the best player in baseball isn’t a bigger star.