New dad Trout wants return to playoffs

February 22nd, 2021

Angels superstar Mike Trout was all smiles when discussing his first offseason as a father, but he also underscored his desire to make the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Trout, speaking to the media via Zoom on Monday on the first day of full-squad workouts in Tempe, Ariz., said he kept his offseason routine the same as in recent years, outside of an emphasis on improving his defense. And, of course, being a dad changed things for him this winter, including his perspective.

"Winter was great," Trout said. "Little man is getting bigger every day. Lot of work. Learning to become a great father. It's one of those offseasons, where you wake up, feed the baby, put him to sleep and just watch him grow."

Trout, though, admitted the club’s postseason drought is something he thinks about and wants to rectify this season. The 29-year-old has been an All-Star eight times and has won three American League MVP Awards, yet he hasn't won a postseason game with the Angels since his debut in 2011.

"I'm trying to get to playoffs obviously," Trout said. "We all are. I think if that isn't the mindset, you shouldn't be here every year. That's why I come in with that in my mind. We got one goal -- get to the playoffs. It's still the same goal here.

"Obviously, there's a lot of new faces this year. Kind of cleaned house a little bit and looking for a fresh start. I'm getting older, for sure, but I'm still young. I still feel great."

Trout said he’s built a strong relationship with new general manager Perry Minasian, but he gets tired of being asked each year about new additions potentially getting the Angels over the hump and into the postseason. The talk about his lack of postseason success has only intensified since he signed a 12-year extension worth $426.5 million before the 2019 season that will keep him in Anaheim through '30. 

"It's definitely weighed on me. I hear it every year. The only way to change that is get to the playoffs," Trout said. "I'm tired of hearing, 'Hey, Mike, is adding this guy or that guy gonna get you to playoffs?' I gotta work on myself and try to do what’s best for the team.'" 

As Trout noted, one way that he’s trying to get back to the postseason is by getting better himself. Trout is coming off a down year by his lofty standards, batting .281/.390/.603 with 17 homers and 46 RBIs in 53 games in the shortened 2020 season. He finished fifth in the balloting for AL MVP Award, which was the worst finish of his illustrious career since he appeared in just 40 games as a rookie in '11.

Each offseason, Trout picks an area of emphasis to improve and this year it was his defense, after the advanced metrics showed he was among the worst center fielders defensively in 2020. His fixed other holes in his game in recent years, including improving his contact rate on high fastballs and strengthening his throwing arm. And now his goal is to win an honor that's surprisingly eluded him, as he's never won a Gold Glove Award. 

"I'm just going back to the fundamentals that I got away from last year," Trout said. "Given everything going on, I wasn't really staying on top of it, and at the end of the year, it showed. So just going back to the drills I used to -- coming in to the ball, getting better jumps, working on it during BP. We have a great group of outfield coaches here, and I basically told them I'm trying to be the best outfielder and win a Gold Glove. That's the goal." 

 Angels manager Joe Maddon is keenly aware of the Halos’ lack of postseason success over the past decade, despite only being in his second year as the club’s skipper. He pointed out that several top players such as Ernie Banks and Barry Bonds never won a World Series, and Maddon doesn’t want Trout to fall into that category. But the manager noted it’s important for the club’s motivation to be rooted in everyone’s success and not just about getting Trout back to the postseason. 

"I don't know if the word is 'pressure,' but it would almost be like a mortal sin in the Catholic faith,” Maddon said. “You just can't miss out on that kind of an opportunity when you have a generational talent. A lot of great players never played in a World Series, so it goes beyond Michael. But I don’t want it to happen to him. This guy loves to play and he’s a pleasure to be around.”