Mike Trout is playing like Mickey Mantle and much of America may be missing it
Mike Trout is still only 25 and he seems to be getting better
So Trout is now hitting .341/.451/.742 (228 OPS+) with 10 doubles, two triples, 13 homers, 30 RBI, 28 runs and eight stolen bases this season. He leads the AL in OBP, slugging, OPS, OPS+, intentional walks and, yep, WAR. He missed six games due to injury, but he's still eighth in hits, fourth in triples, second in home runs, third in RBI and leading in total bases.
The Angels are 20-17 when he's in the starting lineup and 2-4 when he's not.
It's a bit of scary thought for opponents of the two-time MVP (who could easily have five), but Mike Trout appears to actually be getting better.
It's also a scary thought for the legions of fans who, for years, have been complaining about Trout's coverage. In all honesty, for as good as he is, he probably doesn't get enough coverage.
The juxtaposition became a bit more clear after Sunday. You know, when there was a ceremony broadcast on live TV for Derek Jeter in Yankee Stadium. By no means am I a Jeter hater. In fact, I'm a Jeter fan. It's just that he was clearly the "face of baseball" for a generation and now we can't go more than a few weeks on the Internet without seeing someone litigate the "face of baseball" argument.
We have one. It's easy. It's Mike Trout.
And yet, he doesn't seem to get enough face time while many people kick and scream about how he gets too much.
For Trout's first three seasons, I used to reply to the people saying "I'm so sick of hearing about Trout" that they were about to have a long decade-plus of being baseball fans.
The next advancement in the complaints is something along the lines of "can we stop treating him like he's Mickey Mantle?"
My reply? Can we stop treating him like he's definitely not Mickey Mantle (without the off-field issues)?
Here's a look at the duo through their age-25 seasons (bear in mind Trout still has roughly 4 1/2 months left to add to his counting stats):
Through age 25
To reiterate, Trout's Angels have 119 games remaining this season. The RBI are out of reach -- thanks to Trout's past teammates, mind you -- as are the runs, but the home runs are in play, especially at this rate.
Invariably, the postseason comes up as if everything is totally an apples to apples comparison here. Instead of going through the chore of naming all Mantle's Hall of Fame teammates during that time period compared to the lack of talent surrounding Trout, let's simply and honestly discuss a hypothetical:
Are you willing to say -- again, being honest with yourself -- that if we had the technology to plug in this Trout on those Yankees teams that they win zero titles and putting Mantle on Trout's Angels teams in his place the Angels would have won four in the last six years?
First off, how freaking cool would it be if we had that technology? Sure, we'd probably need to use it for more meaningful endeavors, but let's just go with it for the purpose of this discussion.
Anyone who honestly believes that Trout's 1950s Yankees win zero titles while Mantle's 2010s Angels win four needs his or her head examined. We don't even need to "prove" this. Just quit being stubborn and realize there's not much difference in the two on the field to this point -- oh, other than that Trout faces higher velocity, tougher breaking stuff, pitches Mantle never saw and defensive shifts.
So why isn't Trout the national face of baseball to the extent that, say, Jeter was?
First off, it's probably geography. Trout's Angels play on the west coast, meaning a lot of their games take place when many baseball fans are already asleep. I don't go to bed until after all the west coast games are over, but I have a job that allows me to stay up until 2 a.m. my time (save the New York stuff, by the way, I live in Indiana).
There's also not nearly as much Angels exposure in national broadcasts to, say, the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Nationals (think Bryce Harper here) et al. Part of that is that the Angels haven't been very good for the most part with Trout on the team.
And then, as an extension of the latter point, we have the postseason. Casual fans will tune in for the playoffs, increasingly by round. Trout's Angels have been to the playoffs once and they were swept in the ALDS round. He didn't have a chance to endear himself to the masses like Kris Bryant's Cubs did last year or the Madison Bumgarner/Buster Posey duo has a few times.
Again, some of the naysayers will try to blame this on Trout himself, which is just lunacy. This isn't basketball where he can dominate the ball on offense and stick in the vicinity of the ball on every play defensively.
I'm tired of having to explain how stupid it is to penalize a baseball player for his teammates being bad. Everyone who claims to be a baseball fan should know this by now and anyone who claims otherwise just doesn't know the sport. It's not worth the time.
You know what is worth the time?
Discussing Mike Trout's greatness. We're watching an all-time great and he's only 25 years old. If you come across someone who gets angry hearing about it, maybe just tell that person he doesn't love baseball as much as he claims.
Mike Trout is a baseball player to be enjoyed. He's our face of baseball.