There are several ways to define greatness. No single definition will satisfy everyone’s understanding of the word. One definition of greatness in baseball, and in life, is doing the unthinkable while also doing the basic things extremely well. There are several super star players in baseball at the moment, but Mike Trout rises above the others for his greatness and his ability to do the basic things well.
Greatness in a career, not just a singular moment, requires the ability to continually place yourself among other great players. In his first five full seasons in the Majors, Mike Trout has established himself as a consistent and reliable player for the Angels. There have not been any wild swings, up or down, in his statistics. He has scored more than 100 runs, collected at least 172 hits, hit 27 home runs, and hit 27 doubles in every full season. He has played in at least 157 games every season over the last four seasons. His consistency looks like this:
Mike Trout makes the extraordinary seem commonplace. (Mark J. Terrill/ Associated Press)
This consistency, season after season, has led Trout to never finish lower than second in the American League MVP voting. He has received a vote on 148 MVP ballots in his first five seasons, out of a possible 148. Trout won the MVP Award in 2014 and 2016. He finished second to Miguel Cabrera in both 2012 and 2013, and to Josh Donaldson in 2015. In his rookie season, Trout received all 28 first place votes for the 2012 AL Rookie of Year Award, far outdistancing runner up Yoenis Cespedes.
The Rookie of the Year Award, two AL MVP Awards, and five Silver Slugger Awards are quickly filling up Trout’s awards case. In some ways, the awards mask Trout’s dominance. He has drawn at least 83 walks in each of the last four seasons, twice leading the league with 110 in 2013 and 116 in 2016. This while sharing the Angels lineup with Albert Pujols. Trout’s discipline at the plate has meant a .405 career OBP. Yes, Trout does strikeout more than he probably should (136 times or more in every season), there are two things to remember. First, his walk rate is increasing while his strikeout rate is decreasing, so he is still learning. Second, Mike Trout is 25 years old. He is still a young ball player.
Despite all his ability on the field, Trout does not receive the appropriate fanfare he should. He is one of the most visible players in the sport, yet he could be so much more. There are three things that have dampened his rise to supreme super stardom. Above all baseball is a team sport. No individual can truly carry an entire team for a season like a player can in basketball or football. If Mike Trout were to get hurt, the Angels could replace him and still remain competitive. If LeBron James or Tom Brady were injured their team’s season is probably over. This understood, Trout has played on an Angels team that has not consistently competed in the American League West. In his first five full seasons, the Angels have finished as follows: 2012 89-73 (3rd AL West), 2013 78-84 (3rd AL West), 2014 98-64 (1st AL West, swept in ALDS), 2015 85-77 (3rd AL West), and 2016 74-88 (4th AL West). In baseball, great players need to be on competitive teams if they are to achieve the recognition their talents deserve.
The most common comparison for Mike Trout is to Mickey Mantle, and it is easy to see why. (www.nydailynews.com)
The second issue is that Trout plays on the West Coast. East coast bias is a real thing, and here is one of the main reasons why. Night games in California during the week start too late for people living on the East Coast or in the Midwest to stay up and watch. It is tough to watch a three hour game that starts at 10pm, when you have to be at work by 8am the next morning. Unfortunately, Friday and Saturday nights are really the only time for players like Trout to shine at home before the national audience. Trout and the Angels are also fighting for an audience in Los Angeles. After the eastern half of the country has gone to bed, there are still plenty of baseball fans awake to watch Trout, if they so chose. The Dodgers’ return to competing for a World Series title has meant less attention on the Angels as they seek their own return to consistently competing for the post season. Anaheim will always be the second team in Los Angeles, in part because Angels Stadium is 25 miles from downtown and Dodgers Stadium is two miles from downtown. Anyone who has ever tried to travel 25 miles in Los Angeles traffic can tell you that reaching Anaheim in time for an Angels game often requires divine intervention.
Trout’s greatness is one of a remarkable craftsman. His play makes him a superstar, yet his consistency year after year has him steadily climbing closer to the all time greats. Players like Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter are craftsmen. Aaron hit 25 home runs in all but one season from 1955 to 1973, yet never hit more than 47 home runs in a single season. Jeter averaged 191 hits for 18 of his 20 seasons in the Majors, leading the league in hits twice (1999 and 2012). It is not always easy to see the greatness of these compilers early on in their careers, it is the consistency over an entire career that raises these players from great to legendary. Predicting the future of any player is impossible because the game of baseball is unpredictable. Injuries are the hardest thing to predict. What sort of career would Mickey Mantle have had if he could have stayed healthy? Mantle is already a legendary player, but did he reach his potential? We will never know.
Mike Trout’s talent should help him rise to the top in baseball and in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill/ Associated Press)
The greatness of Mike Trout cannot be ignored but it is only occasionally celebrated. He is a superstar, yet few people understand the company Trout is in through his first five full seasons in the Majors. Comparing Trout by age has meant comparisons at age 20 to Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson at age 21, and Mickey Mantle from age 22 through 24. The top ten similar batters through their age 24 season are Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Mel Ott, Miguel Cabrera, Orlando Cepeda, Vada Pinson, Al Kaline, and Jimmie Foxx. Every comparison except for Vada Pinson is a Hall of Fame player, without question. Mickey Mantle is the most common comparison, and the longer these comparisons continue the higher Trout rises in baseball’s pantheon.
Mike Trout’s greatness is known throughout baseball, yet he remains undervalued. A talent like Trout may only appear on the diamond once in a generation. Barring injury or some other unforeseen issue we have many more seasons to enjoy Trout and his greatness. Make sure you take time to watch Trout play, even if it means staying up late or fighting through Los Angeles traffic. Greatness should be appreciated, and looking back you will not remember how tired you were the next morning or sitting in traffic forever but that you were able to watch one of the legends of the game in action.
Pitchers and catchers will begin to report to Spring Training this week. The long winter is finally coming to an end. It is time to get ready for the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Plenty of people want to talk about player stats and which teams will win their divisions and the World Series, admittedly I am among those people.
However, it is always an excellent idea to slow down from the modern-day of baseball and look back at how the sport has developed and become what it is today. I personally have a love for the players who may not be the Ruth‘s, Gehrig‘s, Dimaggio‘s, Foxx‘s, or Aaron‘s of the baseball world. I love learning about players like Johnny Burnett, who holds the record for most hits in a game with 9. He is the type of player that Major League Baseball has built itself upon.
So do you know why each team has their nickname? Why are the Atlanta Braves called the Braves? Why not something else? Follow the link here. It is a wealth of information. I found a great deal of it fascinating and I hope you do as well.
As the first major Jewish sports star in the United States, Hank Greenberg led the charge for social acceptance for future Jewish players. Like many on the list of the eight greatest Jewish baseball players of all time, Greenberg‘s accomplishments are not confined to the baseball diamond. His contributions to the game of baseball and to the United States will continue to be felt for generations to come.
Hank Greenberg played 13 seasons in Major League Baseball. The first 12 were spent with the Detroit Tigers before finishing his career with a single season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his 13 seasons, Greenberg batter .313, with 1,051 Runs Scored, 1,628 Hits, 379 Doubles, 331 Home Runs, 1276 RBI, 852 Walks against 844 Strikeouts, with a .412 On Base Percentage, while Slugging .605, and having an OPS of 1.017. Additionally had had a career .990 Field Percentage.
In 1934, Greenberg refused to play games schedule for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Ultimately he would play on Rosh Hashanah, after much discussion with his Rabbi, but not on Yom Kippur. He was criticized for his decision, as many fans felt he should have played on both holidays. Regardless if you are Jewish or not, one cannot argue against the courage it took for Greenberg to take such a stand for his faith, including the fact that both holidays occurred during the Tigers pennant chase. Greenberg’s actions were taken long before the idea of activist athletes was even considered, much less a reality.
A five time All Star, Greenberg twice won the Most Valuable Player Award (1935 and 1940). He also led the American League in several offensive categories, including: Runs (1938), Doubles (1935, 1940), Home Runs (1935, 1938, 1940, 1946), RBI (1935, 1937, 1940, 1946), Walks (1938, 1947), Strikeouts (1939). His OPS stayed above 1.000 in every season from 1934 through 1940.
The career statistics for Greenberg are impressive, and are staggering when you consider he only player in 19 games total from 1941 through 1944 when he was in his early thirties and his prime. In 1940, Greenberg was the first American League player to be drafted during World War II. He would be discharged shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then volunteer to return to duty. When he was discharged for good in June 1945. He service time in the military during World War II was the longest of any Major League player.
Following his retirement from playing, Greenberg worked with the Cleveland Indians beginning in 1948, eventually becoming the General Manager, as well as part owner, and leading the team through a successful period in the 1950’s. He resigned following the 1957 season. He would also work with the Chicago White Sox as their General Manager from 1959 through 1961.
Hank Greenberg’s career numbers and individual season achievement saw him elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956. He is among the greatest baseball players of all time. His achievements and service both on and off the field rightly give him the distinction as being the second greatest Jewish baseball player of all time.