Way back before we argued Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera, we argued Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper.
It seems crazy now, doesn't it?
It seems crazy now ... or does it?
"The correct answer is, 'Can I have both?'" one veteran scout said Monday.
This isn't about Rookie of the Year, because thanks to the convenient coincidence that they play in separate leagues, both Trout (American League) and Harper (National League) could -- and did -- win that award Monday night.
This isn't about the last eight months, because the obvious truth is that if Trout and Harper had played in the same league, Trout still would have been the unanimous choice for top rookie.
"He's one of the best players in baseball right now, if not the best," a young scout named Bryce Harper said Monday night.
Harper had an outstanding rookie season. Trout had one of the great seasons anyone has had, rookie or not.
But this isn't about who was better this year. This is about who will be better for the next 10 -- or maybe 20 -- years.
"It's not even close," a different scout said. "A player like Trout doesn't come along but once every two or three decades."
But we've said that before about Harper, too.
Last winter, when Baseball America was ranking the game's top prospects, it put Harper on top. The winter before, it was same thing: Harper over Trout.
Has that much changed with one season, one incredible season for Trout and one very good but perhaps not incredible season for Harper?
Maybe it has. The arguments I heard from scouts on Monday were ones I could have made myself:
-- Trout is a true center fielder. The irony here is that Trout may well play left field for the Angels next year (with Peter Bourjos in center), while Harper may continue to play center field for the Nationals (unless they add someone like Michael Bourn). But Harper is still learning center field. Trout should have won a gold glove.
-- Trout is faster, and will steal more bases. It wasn't close this year. Trout led the majors with 49 steals. Harper had 18 (and was thrown out six times, one more than Trout).
-- Trout may end up hitting for as much power as Harper does. Or maybe even more, as one of the scouts predicted. Trout outhomered Harper this season, 30-22.
But here's the counter-argument:
Harper just turned 20 in October. Trout turned 21 in August.
Harper succeeded in the big leagues at age 19. Trout got a look with the Angels when he was 19, but he hit .220 with five home runs in 40 games and returned to the minor leagues.
Trout just finished his 20-year-old season. Harper's 20-year-old season begins next April.
Will Harper be in the National League MVP discussion next November, the way Trout is heavy in the AL discussion now?
I won't be shocked if he is.
So, back to the question: Trout or Harper? Harper or Trout?
I'd take Trout, but it's closer than it seems. I'd take Trout, and I'd be thankful we're all getting to watch two young players this good coming into the big leagues at basically the same time.
"We're going to be arguing this like people argued Mickey Mantle vs. Willie Mays," one of the scouts said.
The arguments can go on. The arguments will go on.
And Harper and Trout will just keep praising each other, while letting others do the arguing.
"We just push each other," Trout said. "We play the game the right way. We're doing everything to help the team win.
"That's what I like about him. He's 100 percent trying to help the team win."
Trout is right, and Harper said the same about him.
"I have a lot of respect for the way he plays, the way he hustles," Harper said. "I hope all the best for him."
You'd take either one, yes you would. Fans who don't know Harper complain about Harper, but teammates and even opponents don't. He won them over with the way he plays, just as Trout wins people over by the way he plays.
That's the best news for baseball fans.
Trout or Harper?
We can have both.