One of the best athletes in his chosen sport is a guy who most sports fans probably can’t name. At just 28 years old, he is already on track for a hall of fame spot. He hasn’t won a single championship title, and might not anytime soon. His name is Mike Trout. He plays for the Los Angeles Angels. He’s the best baseball player on earth. He doesn’t appear to care one way or the other if you know about it.
Want to get to know Mike anyway? Read on.
The first act of Mike Trout’s career
Mike Trout’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is already above most players currently inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, according to Baseball-Reference, he led the American League in WAR for each of his first five seasons. You wouldn’t know it from his attitude.
He’s cordial to the press, but always keeps things short. He doesn’t like to talk about his personal life. He’s always friendly to fans. Yet he recedes into the background in a way few star athletes ever have.
Some fans blame commissioner Rob Manfred for Trout’s invisible man act. Behind the scenes, it turns out that’s not the case. The league is desperate to get Trout out there, to spread the word that a generation athlete is active right now in one of the biggest markets in sports.
There’s also the small issue that baseball is the definitive team sport. Having the best player in the game didn’t save them from a 72-90 record and a fourth-place finish in 2019.
Acquiring the splashy pitcher/power hitter Shohei Ohtani wasn’t enough to get the team on track. The moves made going into 2020 might finally change the narrative, however.
The Angles are finding help
The Angels are ready to put Mike Trout in a position to do more than rack up runs in futile games. As soon as their 2019 season wrapped, things got serious. It started with signing former Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
The 2016 World Series champion has an idiosyncratic style, to be sure. But his pedigree for getting teams to outperform expectations on paper goes back to his time with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Maddon’s protege, Washington Nationals skipper Dave Martinez, is coming off a World Series win himself. It’s a program that clearly works. And one that the Angels’ big free-agent acquisition Anthony Rendon just graduated from.
Trout has no postseason experience. Rendon’s been on the biggest stage, and won it all in the process. Alongside quietly consistent hitters like Tommy LaStella, the new Angels core is built to take full advantage of the edge Trout provides.
Why A-Rod thinks Mike Trout has the potential to be an all-time great
On ESPN’s famously fiery talk show First Take, Alex Rodriguez weighed in on Mike Trout’s reputation. Asked about whether the lack of postseason appearances matters, A-Rod laid it out plain.
“There’s no doubt about it. For the first eight years, [Mike Trout is] best in class,” Rodriguez said, “but baseball is a game of longevity.”
This is, essentially, the first half of Trout’s career. A-Rod compared him to Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr., both players with long runs of individual success on both sides of the ball. Even without a World Series win, Trout’s at least on track to compare to those huge names.
But with at least some postseason appearances, Trout’s player profile suddenly looks a lot different. It would be impossible for him to remain under the radar on a national level as he has so far. His teammates seem poised to finally thrust him into the fall baseball experience he’s missed out on thus far.