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USA Today via Reuters

Stephen A. Smith is back in the hot seat, and this time he’s aiming the sensitivity of Los Angeles Angels fans. The perpetually incendiary ESPN commentator, in a signature rant, blasted those upset at his comments about the perennially injured Mike Trout.

Look, the numbers don’t lie. Smith, ever the showman, flashed a chart highlighting Trout’s woes: a staggering 54% of games missed since 2021! The man is owed a cool $35.45 million per season through 2030, and yet, despite Smith’s repeated praise for Trout’s undisputed greatness, frustration is the name of the game. He cleared the accusations further, stating, “What I said was, ‘Damn, I’m tired of seeing him not work! I’m tired of seeing him at games sitting in the stands at a football game.’”

Smith’s question was blunt: “What the hell are you doing to take care of yourself?” He couldn’t wrap his head around repeated injuries in a sport that seems far less grueling than football or basketball. It’s the classic Stephen A. Smith dilemma: he loves the player, but damn, he wants to see them play!

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Of course, this sparked controversy. Smith joked it might be “karma” for Mike Trout to stay with the hapless Angels, whose last postseason appearance feels like a distant memory. The Halos, as a franchise, he insinuated, might be cursed, and it’s rubbing off on their star. Naturally, some accusations flew.

The one that stung Smith the most? Racism. He vehemently denied it, calling the accusations “irresponsible” and coming from folks who “know nothing” about him. He even invoked his own black heritage and its unique relationship with racism as proof of his innocence. So, was Smith out of line?

Was this a fair critique masked in his hyperbolic delivery? Or was this something more sinister bubbling beneath the surface? As always, Stephen A. leaves us with more questions than answers and a firestorm of debate in his wake.

Mike Trout’s Talent vs. His Timetable: Stephen A. Smith questions everything

Stephen A. is nothing if not persistent. He reiterated that he meant no disrespect to Trout’s undeniable talent: “Mike Trout is a sensational player… one of the greatest. He really, really is. And I’m a huge, huge fan.” But that fandom’s wearing thin when Trout’s “lack of availability” leaves him questioning everything.

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The cherry on top was the Angels dig. Beyond calling them mere “afterthoughts” to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Stephen A. painted a bleak picture: No October baseball for nearly a decade! His proposed solution? “Let that man go elsewhere! He’s too great to be at home in September and October watching postseason action with us.” It’s the “tough love” approach, with a healthy dose of stirring the pot.

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This sparked the ire of former MLB pitcher Jonathan ‘Papa Bond’ Papelbon. Calling into a radio show, he labeled Smith “racist” without hesitation. This is what sparked Stephen A.’s most fiery response, where he defended his character and background: “I’m a black man… A lot of times, those experiences [of racism] come courtesy of people who look like you.” And that’s the crux of the matter.

Was Smith’s criticism of Mike Trout rooted in genuine frustration, or is there something deeper? Does Stephen A.’s penchant for bombastic commentary blur the lines between valid critiques and veiled insults? The debate rages on.