25 Degrees: For once, the baseball world revolves around Mike Trout, reluctant superstar

Jeff Passan
MLB columnist

On the continuum of controversies, the one that erupted at the All-Star Game was good for baseball. If the sport is unable to figure out how to market Mike Trout, at least now we know it’s capable of manufacturing a discussion about him. No wonder MLB perpetually bangs its collective head against the wall. Trout has played the sport at an otherworldly level for more than half a decade, and it took the commissioner throwing not really even shade at him for the masses to start talking about the guy.

Fact: Mike Trout is bad at marketing himself. It’s neither in his DNA nor his job description. So this is an entirely immaterial and moot point, and would be best served riding a rocket ship to another realm.

Fact: MLB is bad at marketing Mike Trout, too. Terribly funny people can write terribly funny bits that play to Trout’s personality and rehydrate his dryness. Viral opportunities abound, and MLB’s marketing focus must do a better job at connecting Trout – and others – with the young fans deviating from the game. Like this:

Look at that. It is incredible and genuine and organic and needs to be a commercial yesterday and instead surfaces in a tweet almost three weeks after it happened. Mike Trout should be one of the coolest guys in the sports world because he does the hardest thing in sports better than anyone and he has his own Nike shoe and he brings kids on the field to take BP with him. Kawhi Leonard makes Trout look like Shaq, and he’s still popular anyway. Why, then, does Trout have the same Q Score as Kenneth Faried?

This column started more than a decade ago with the notion that everything in the baseball world, from start to finish, was revolving, at that moment, around Manny Ramirez. In that spirit, it is only right to declare the entire baseball world should view Mike Trout in the very same fashion. And since it doesn’t, it’s worth noting: It’s not his fault. Just because …

Hey, Mike Trout’s lagging popularity isn’t necessarily his fault. (AP)

1. Mike Trout is a reluctant superstar doesn’t prevent the appreciation from burbling around him. If anything, commissioner Rob Manfred pointing out that Trout isn’t into self-promotion allowed Trout to ride the question into the consciousness of some who might not have known him otherwise. And if they happened to Google him, maybe they’d see an unparalleled start-of-career resume. Granted, the fact that …

2. Mookie Betts is exceeding his slash numbers (.359/.448/.691) and about matching him production-wise despite missing a couple of weeks speaks to the overwhelming number of great players adorning MLB rosters today. Bud Selig loved to call his tenure as commissioner baseball’s Golden Era. Maybe this is recency bias, but in terms of young, marketable, fun-to-watch players, today beats any time in Selig’s commissionership. Trout, Betts, the guy who ended the first half with more Wins Above Replacement than both of them. Huh? Yeah. It’s true that …

3. Jose Ramirez wound up on top of FanGraphs’ leaderboard even though Trout, at one point, was on pace to log the most WAR ever. He’s side by side with Trout in Baseball-Reference’s version, too, so this is no fluke. And neither is he. The power is real. The glove is real. The baserunning is real. Ramirez was never a top 100 prospect, never a top 10 guy with Cleveland, and yet one can argue that with his way-under-market long-term contract, he is the single most valuable asset in baseball. Between him and …

4. Trevor Bauer, the pitcher with the highest first-half WAR, according to FanGraphs, no wonder the Indians are seen as every bit the postseason danger as better regular-season teams Houston, New York and Boston. A lineup with Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley. A rotation with Bauer, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and Shane Bieber. And a bullpen with …

5. Brad Hand and Andrew Miller, who could be the filthiest combination of left-handed relievers since Miller teamed with Aroldis Chapman for half a season in 2016 – and perhaps since Randy Myers and Norm Charlton before that. The “New Nasty Boys” should unite soon, as Hand joins Cleveland with right-handed reliever Adam Cimber after the Indians gave up top prospect Francisco Mejia, and Miller returns from a rehab stint. Bullpen help was imperative for Cleveland, even more than the Los Angeles Dodgers needed …

6. Manny Machado to fortify their lineup. In June they were monsters, and in July they’ve been pretty close, and really this was the ultimate flex in that the Dodgers may have overpaid by shipping five prospects to Baltimore, but they’re so deep and so confident their player-development system will create new ones that it’s no bother. They also know the National League is wide open, and that as the Philadelphias, Atlantas and San Diegos of the world ascend, the Dodgers’ ability to parade through October will lessen significantly. It’s why the potential trade of …

7. Jacob deGrom could so swing the power dynamics of the NL. If teams were willing to give up almost as much as the Dodgers did for a rental like Machado, what could the Mets get for deGrom and 2½ seasons of club control? The biggest return since Mark Teixeira went to Atlanta? Bigger? Most contenders would need to empty their farm systems of top prospects to get close to what the Mets can reasonably ask. But if the situation really is binary – if deGrom sticks to wanting a contract extension or a trade, as his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, told reporters over the break – then …

8. J.T. Realmuto might not be the biggest trade candidate out there. That there’s a deep reservoir of contenders with catching issues and good-enough systems to get him – Washington, Milwaukee, Houston – gives the Miami Marlins a nice bit of leverage if they are intent on finishing the gutting of their roster. During spring training, the Nationals were pursuing him and offering …

9. Juan Soto, and the Marlins said, nope, no thanks, we want Victor Robles, another outfield prospect. And now Soto is more than halfway to one of the best offensive seasons ever by a 19-year-old. The closest player to his .301/.411/.517 line is Mel Ott, who in 1924 slashed .322/.397/.524. Among him, Ronald Acuña Jr., Gleyber Torres and …

10. Shohei Ohtani, it’s quite the rookie class, and that it’s dominated by international players is a reminder that baseball would not be what it is today without people from other countries coming to America. Ohtani is unlike anything the game has seen in a century, and the news that his torn ulnar collateral ligament is showing signs of healing is great, even if the optimism deserves to be cautious. For now, he’s just hitting, and that’s all well and good, and if he’s back this season pitching, it might be the best gift fans can receive outside of a …

11. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. debut in the big leagues. Vlad Jr. is back after a leg injury sidelined him for nearly six weeks, and the Toronto Blue Jays owe it to the world to summon him this season. Sure, there’s no good reason at this point for them to start his service clock. It is a purely selfish ask on behalf of, oh, the 10,672 fewer fans per game who are going to Rogers Centre this year – not to mention all those outside Canada who adore Guerrero’s swing, his power, his offensive singularity. He is the best pure hitting prospect in a long, long time, and he’s going to be a star, and watching pitchers like …

12. Max Scherzer try to figure him out is going to be a treat. Scherzer’s second half is going to be awfully interesting, too, not just to see if he and the soon-to-be-back Stephen Strasburg can take the Nationals from .500 over their first 96 games to the playoffs, but whether he can join Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Clayton Kershaw and …

13. Chris Sale in the post-strike 300-strikeout club. Scherzer is on pace to do it, and Sale is primed to be the first AL pitcher with back-to-back 300-strikeout years since Nolan Ryan in 1976 and ’77. And the truth is, Sale is a far better pitcher than Ryan was in either of those years. He is lining himself up for the most interesting pitching free agency in a long while after the 2019 season. Joining him, as of now, will be …

14. Madison Bumgarner, along with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Sonny Gray, Zack Wheeler, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark and others. It’s quite the pitching class, and Sale and Bumgarner signed nearly exactly the same deal: five years, mid-$30 million, two club options, both no-brainer pickups. While Bumgarner’s ERA is strong, his peripherals have slipped this season and he doesn’t quite look like the frontline guy he did over the first seven years of his career. Admittedly, it’s always best to walk into free agency more like …

15. Nolan Arenado is doing. He joins Sale as the best player in the Class of 2019-20, when he looks to be a 28-year-old with the game’s best third-base glove and a bat that only has improved. Yes, the numbers are skewed because of Coors Field, but Arenado will hit anywhere, and to call him the best player in the NL would not be an exaggeration. Just how …

16. Paul Goldschmidt fares that same winter will offer an interesting sense of whether teams continue to devalue players whose ages start with the No. 3. Goldschmidt will hit the market at 32, and provided little changes, he will have spent seven seasons regularly getting on base at least 39 percent of the time and slugging over .500. Tough as it is for first basemen to get into the Hall of Fame, Goldschmidt is making himself a candidate to one day stand alongside …

17. Clayton Kershaw and his contemporaries. It’s easy to forget, as Kershaw’s fastball velocity dips and we wonder whether this is the beginning of a re-entry into this earth’s orbit or simply a detour on the way to a Verlander-like blast back to otherworldliness, that he is still an easy, no-doubt, first-ballot Hall of Famer no matter what the rest of his career looks like. That’s how good Kershaw was from 2009-17. It is impossible to wreck his Hall case. He is in. And if he can do in October what he’s done during those regular seasons, what …

18. Yu Darvish couldn’t do, then his case is even stronger. Darvish, meanwhile, has had an even rougher year than Kershaw, with whom he worked out this winter. Only 40 innings pitched. An elbow injury keeping him out. Questions about whether he’s Jason Heyward 2.0 for the Cubs. It’s not good. Especially since a healthy Darvish really would fortify Chicago’s rotation and take some pressure off a lineup with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras and Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora and Ian Happ and – holy hell that’s a lot of firepower – that feels enough already. In Philadelphia …

19. Aaron Nola gets it. While his run support isn’t as bad as teammate Jake Arrieta’s, Nola plays for a Phillies team that has far outplayed its run differential and yet leaves the break in first place. Philadelphia wanted Manny Machado. It lost out. So many others available don’t fit. Nick Castellanos needs to play first or DH. Josh Donaldson remains injured. Scooter Gennett almost certainly isn’t going anywhere. Shin-Soo Choo is a liability in the outfield. Maikel Franco has nearly identical numbers to Mike Moustakas. The Phillies would love to have even one bat similar to …

20. Alex Bregman’s thunderstick. In his second full season, Bregman has added another star-level player to a team that already features Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer. His 20 home runs lead Houston, as do his 64 RBIs. He seems to walk off a game a week, and he is walking, sans off, more than he’s striking out. The MVP of the All-Star Game does not lack for confidence, and he oughtn’t, even when …

21. Edwin Diaz is staring him down from the mound. Diaz was undeniably great in the first half. He also pitched in 48 of Seattle’s 97 games, leaving him just 18 appearances shy of his career high and putting him on pace to become the first closer to pitch in 80 games since Brad Lidge in 2004 and only the fourth in the last quarter century. The Mariners only hope Diaz, 24, holds up better than the other two, Billy Koch and Rod Beck, whose careers never were the same. The value in an elite reliever is immense, as Milwaukee will attest after …

22. Josh Hader’s first half. And yet it’s not his strikeouts or ERA right now that make Hader among the most interesting players of the second half. The revelation of Hader’s awful tweets from seven years ago offered an ugly side of him. The Brewers and teammates came to his defense, and the hope is that eases him back into his role as relief pitcher extraordinaire who is to pitchers what …

23. Aaron Judge is to hitters: someone chasing a strikeout record. Hader could break Chapman’s strikeouts-per-nine mark. And Judge is on pace to best – relatively speaking – Mark Reynolds’ 223 strikeouts. And for the second straight year, he’s proving that’s OK. Because with a walk rate near the top of the league and exit velocities that prove he hits the ball as hard as anyone, Judge is able to work around his bat-to-ball difficulties. Players with warts can be great still. The first half of …

24. Bryce Harper’s season featured a cheek-sized wart. His .214 batting average is unsightly even in an era where unsightly batting averages are the norm. It dragged down his on-base percentage. His slugging percentage cratered as well. A great second half certainly would go a long way in re-establishing some of the money lost by Harper’s first-half performance. Machado’s was 130 OPS points higher, and as they head into free agency looking for groundbreaking deals, it’s pretty much setting the stage for …

25. Mike Trout to cash in on the biggest deal in sports history. And, yes, he’s in line to do that, either now if the Angels want to ensure he stays in their uniform for the next however long or following the 2020 season if he chooses to enter free agency. Either way, whether Trout is as well-known as LeBron James or not by then, the demand for him will remain enormous. Perhaps the world won’t appreciate him until he’s actually on the downside of his career, though at least his numbers always will be there, glistening, telling the story of Trout in a way nothing else has. They’re what make him great, not the commercials or marketing or any of the stuff that gets in the way. It’s almost all baseball, all the time, exactly how Mike Trout likes it.

More from Yahoo Sports:
Why trade to San Antonio stings DeMar DeRozan so much
Titans DT plans to protest anthem: ‘I’m going to take my fine’
WWE’s ‘New Day’ releases powerful response to Hulk Hogan’s reinstatement
Larry Nassar survivors receive Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPYs