by Glen McKee, AngelsWin.com Columnist
I remember way back when I was a teenager and my older brother went out on a date. When I saw him the next morning I asked him “hey, did you get lucky?” He replied “nope, I didn’t find any money under her bed.” I gave him a confused look, and then he explained his answer (edited for family consumption). “Seducing a woman is a matter of skill. Getting lucky is when you find $100 under her bed.” That stuck with me, and the general message – luck is the domain of those without skill – certainly applies to other areas of life. Particularly baseball, and not just on the field.
Yesterday, it was made official – Mike Trout is staying with the Angels through at least 2020. He signed a contract that is beneficial for both him and the Angels, and Angels fans around the globe (myself included) rejoiced. For the last month or so there had been talk of the Angels working to get an extension done with Trout, and yesterday it happened.
So, of course in the media there is now a lot of talk about how the Angels “got lucky” with Mike Trout. They got lucky he fell down to them in the draft, they got lucky he wanted to stay with the Angels for a few more years, they got lucky he signed such a friendly contract with them. Did I miss any of the Angels luck?
What a load of hogwash, garbage, and sour grapes. From the moment Mike Trout made his big league debut in 2012, fans of the Red Sox and Yankees had been salivating about the prospect of Trout heading back east to his origins and setting the baseball world right by having the best player in the game on one of their “marquee” teams. There was no way the Angels would keep Trout, or even that he would want to stay with them beyond his arbitration years. There was no way the Angels would get “lucky" with Trout. Fortunately for Angels fans, and baseball in general, Arte Moreno and the Angels relied more on business skill than on getting lucky. Fans in Boston and New York will have to spend the next six years looking under beds to see if they can find a Benjamin.
Nothing about Trout playing for the Angels for the next six years has anything to do with luck. Well, maybe you can say that the Angels had a bit of luck drafting him. Trout was the #25 pick in the first round, which means that other teams passed on him 24 times, for whatever reason, but the Angels scooped him up. They may have been lucky that Trout was still available but they also could have passed on him. They didn’t. That’s not luck. That’s just smart.
The Angels recognized that they had an amazing talent and they promoted him to the big leagues in 2012. That wasn’t luck. I don’t recall anybody saying that the Nationals were lucky that they promoted Strassburg or Harper so rapidly, and saw them perform so well. But once again, the Angels got lucky with Trout.
In 2013 the Angels started the season with a curious move: shifting Trout to left field to allow Peter Bourjos, arguably a better defender, to play centerfield. Mike Trout is a natural centerfielder but agreed to move to left field for the apparent betterment of the team. Once again, we heard about how the Angels would never be lucky enough to keep Trout, after displacing him from his preferred position. The experiment didn’t last long due to injuries to Bourjos, and soon Trout was back in centerfield for the rest of the season.
During the offseason after 2013, there were rumblings that the Angels wanted to extend Trout beyond his arbitration years. Once again, the Angels would have to get lucky to do that. Trout wanted to go back to the east coast, or he wanted to play for winner, or he wanted to play in a bigger media market, or a half-dozen other reasons the extension would not happen. There was no way the Angels would keep him unless they blew him out of the water with an offer. There was no way the Angels would get lucky.
And here we are, the day after Mike Trout signed a mutually-beneficial contract extension with the Angels. It’s a contract that will reward him handsomely during his arbitration years and will also make him the (currently) highest-paid player in baseball at the end of it. And yet, neither the Angels nor Mike Trout got lucky. Yes, Trout found millions and millions of dollars under his bed, and Arte Moreno (and Angels fans, by surrogate) are smoking a post-coital cigar. Because it wasn’t luck that kept Mike Trout with the Angels. It was skill.