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Mike Trout Discusses the Angels, and the Fantasy Football Slap

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It’s a thankless job, being the commissioner of a sports league. Sure, it comes with power, but everyone’s a critic. It may not be definitely worth the hassle.

“Am I going to resign?” said Mike Trout, who plays center field for the Los Angeles Angels when he’s not running a suddenly famous fantasy football league. “I haven’t made that call. I don’t know. But every commissioner I do know at all times gets booed.”

Trout spoke to reporters outside the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. The briefing had been scheduled to speak concerning the Angels’ next series, a rare trip to Philadelphia, near Trout’s beloved hometown, Millville, N.J., for interleague motion. He also took a number of questions, wearily, on the oddly fascinating feud from his fantasy football league.

Tommy Pham, a Cincinnati Reds outfielder, slapped the San Francisco Giants’ Joc Pederson across the face before a game last Friday, earning a three-game suspension. Pederson outlined the small print of the dispute — he had insulted Pham’s former team, the San Diego Padres, with a GIF in a gaggle text, and stood accused of stashing a healthy player on injured reserve — and Pham revealed Tuesday that Trout was commissioner of the league, which has a $10,000 entry fee.

“Trout did a terrible job, man,” Pham told The Athletic, which reported that Pham a minimum of hinted at a smile while he spoke. “Trout’s the worst commissioner in fantasy sports.”

Pham, who admitted no person actually desired to be commissioner, said Trout could have solved the issues, but as a substitute allowed them to occur.

“Loosen up, all right? Don’t attempt to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls, it’s more democratic.”

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So, Mr. Commissioner, did Pederson cheat? Trout wasn’t saying.

“I talked to Tommy, I talked to Joc, everybody that was an element of it — just keen about fantasy football,” Trout said, adding later, “Quite a lot of people put their hearts to it. I do, too. I lost that league.”

For all of his trouble controlling unruly owners, Trout’s problems cannot compare to this vexing issue for Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball: getting his sport’s best player back to the playoffs.

Trout, 30, has won the American League Most Helpful Player Award thrice but has played in just one postseason series: a three-game wipeout by the Kansas City Royals in 2014. The Angels have had mostly losing seasons since; even in 2020, with a 16-team playoff field after a daily season shortened to 60 games due to pandemic, they did not qualify for the playoffs.

That sort of drought, in any sport, could be excruciating.

“I went through it rooting for the Eagles, after which they won the Super Bowl,” Trout said, adding later, “Obviously, that’s all I would like to do here is win and get to the playoffs and see what happens. That’s the goal on this clubhouse. We’re going through a bit skid right away, but we’ll get through it.”

The Angels lost their last six games in May, but entered June with a 27-23 record — ok to be on target for a wild-card spot. Baseball expanded the playoffs this season to 6 teams per league, and each team with a winning record through May would qualify.

A contending Angels team can be a godsend for M.L.B. marketers, with Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese star and the very best two-way player since Babe Ruth, coming off his own M.V.P. season for the Angels in 2021. An October showcase for Trout and Ohtani can be a really perfect method to grow the sport.

“Being over here with Mike and Shohei, you get the draw, you get why people say that, because they need to,” Angels reliever Archie Bradley said. “Obviously, Mike and Shohei are the 1-2 face of baseball. It will be good for the game, good for California. I get it, needless to say.”

Trout missed just about all of last season with a calf injury but has quickly reclaimed his status because the sport’s premier player. Through Tuesday he was leading the A.L. in wins above substitute, in accordance with Baseball Reference, batting .302 with 13 homers and a 1.038 on-base plus slugging percentage.

“This is definitely the very best I’ve felt, my body — besides that dive last night; I haven’t dove like that since I used to be a child,” said Trout, who couldn’t snag a drive by the Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo on Tuesday. “I believe the preparation I’ve been doing in the load room, activating my legs as a substitute of just going right into things, that’s been helping me.”

The Angels lost on Tuesday, 9-1, with the Yankees chasing the Angels right-hander Noah Syndergaard within the third inning. Even so, the Angels’ starters entered June with a 3.59 E.R.A., rating tenth in M.L.B. — a serious improvement for a team that finished twenty ninth out of 30 teams in starters’ E.R.A. in 2019 and 2020 and twenty second 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 contract last November. The Angels also signed the right-hander Michael Lorenzen, a longtime reliever, for one 12 months and $7 million and added him to the team’s six-man rotation.

“That actually alleviates the concept of those guys going 190, 200 innings,” General Manager Perry Minasian said. “We haven’t skipped the sixth starter on off-days, and that’s by design, to make sure that guys get proper rest. Because we all know we’ve got a staff that’s different. We’ve got a few younger guys with out a ton of big-league time, we’ve got a starter who was a reliever prior to now, we’ve got a starter who threw two innings during the last two years, we’ve got Shohei — so it’s a distinct style of rotation, from a historical standpoint, and we’re doing all the pieces we are able to to maintain them healthy.”

The Angels haven’t been so lucky with the health of third baseman Anthony Rendon, who’s struggling through one other subpar season. He was placed on the injured list last week with wrist inflammation, one other pressing issue for a team whose bullpen has also stumbled recently.

“We all know we’ve lost six in a row, but — in one of the best ways — it’s probably the most calm, levelheaded, skilled losing streak I’ve been an element of,” Bradley said. “We all know we haven’t pitched well. We all know the back end of the bullpen has let go of some leads. But often you’ll be able to see a sort of energy shift, otherwise you see one side of the room get a bit stir crazy. It’s a fairly mellow group, and that’s what makes me confident.”

More mellow, it could seem, than the rowdy bunch in Trout’s fantasy football league. Whatever happens with the Angels — and along with his post as commissioner — it’s protected to say Trout will a minimum of be competing in something this October.

“Everybody loves fantasy football,” he said, smiling. “Who doesn’t?”

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