Happy 24th birthday to Mike Trout, the best player in baseball for four years … – For The Win
The best player in baseball turned 24 on Friday. Mike Trout has been in a bit of a slump since injuring his wrist last Sunday, but no matter: Trout leads the Majors in home runs and ranks second in WAR, third in total bases and fourth in OPS. Perhaps you’ve heard: He’s good.
Here’s a sampling of the eye-opening Mike Trout facts presented on the Internet in honor of his 24th birthday:
Trout finished his age-20 season as the best player ever, by WAR, through his age-20 season. He finished his age-21 season as the best player ever through his age-21 season. He finished his age-22 season as the best player ever through his age-22 season. And unless something goes awry, he’ll finish his age-23 season as the best player ever through his age-23 season.
See what I’m getting at here?
Two years ago Friday, in the first annual For the Win Mike Trout birthday post, I wrote this:
It’s crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy. Plenty can still happen to prevent Trout from becoming the best player of all time, and since he’s so young and so far away the odds are obviously against him. But he’s got all the requisite tools: He’s patient, he’s powerful, he makes consistent contact, he’s fast, and he’s a great defender.
This is something awesome to behold, and there’s no harm in dreaming on the possibilities until we know otherwise.
Last year’s version included the following:
Mike Trout’s first three-season stretch has been about as good as Willie Mays’ best three-season stretch. You’re not looking at a guy who’s just good for his age. You’re looking at a guy who’s historically great for any age.
Heck, just look at the names I’m throwing around here: Ty Cobb! Willie Mays! Ted Williams! Lou Gehrig!
In writing about baseball, it’s almost always smart to hedge. And it would be wise, here, to note that the odds are still against Trout establishing himself as the best player ever — even if he’s clearly the safest bet of anyone actively playing the sport at any level. Maybe, somehow, pitchers will figure him out. Maybe he’ll get hurt. By even considering Trout in these terms, we’re putting a whole lot on a very young dude.
All that still holds. There’ll be at least another 10 Mike Trout birthday posts before anyone can reasonably brand him the best ballplayer of all time. And, again, since only one person gets to be known by that distinction (it’s Babe Ruth, by the way), the deck is still stacked against Trout and everyone else. Baseball’s really hard.
But that he remains on that trajectory now, in his fourth season as a full-time Major Leaguer, is phenomenal. And that it’s fair to hold him up against guys like Ty Cobb and Ted Williams and Hank Aaron and conclude that Trout has been as good or better in the early part of his career should say everything you need to know.
Back in 2013, we could dream on the possibility of Trout emerging as the greatest player ever. Two years later, he has done nothing to show he isn’t that. Watch Mike Trout play baseball — or keep watching Mike Trout play baseball — because there’s a real good chance that someday you’re going to want to tell your grandkids about watching Mike Trout playing baseball.
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