Ebby (holding out his arm): Ebby Calvin Laloosh.
Annie: You need a nickname, honey.
Ebby: I've been telling everybody that.
-- "Bull Durham"
Michael Trout needs a nickname. I suppose technically he already has one if you want to go with the charmingly old-fashioned "Millville Meteor," but that makes him sound like a kid who left the farm in 1933. And that's not the kind of nickname we're talking about here. Trout needs a daily nickname, one that we use all the time, the way Earvin Johnson became "Magic," the way Eldrick Woods became "Tiger," the way George Herman Ruth became "The Babe."
Mike Trout's name is plain. It's not a bad name, of course, but it just doesn't convey the wonder of the player. It's hard to express wonder with a simple two-syllable name. The best sports names, it seems to me, tend to be four syllables, usually two syllables apiece (Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Larry Czonka, Ozzie Newsome, Elgin Baylor, etc.), though sometimes great ones are one syllable followed by three (John Unitas, Carl Yastrzemski, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Montana). There are plenty of great five-syllable names -- I mean, Jackie Robinson, Darryl Strawberry, come on. And there are a lot of wonderful three-syllable names -- Bobby Orr still seems to me the perfect hockey name.
But when you are "Mike Trout" -- two quick syllables, name ends almost before it begins -- there's a straightforwardness, a simplicity. It's good, but it just doesn't match Mike Trout. Two syllables is fine for Jim Brown, because his whole game and the like was unadorned, candid, unequivocal: "I will run and you will not stop me."
Pete Rose brought some of that same two-syllable heat, headfirst dives, intensity and ferocity, but he was often called "Charlie Hustle."
Trout is too wonderful a player for two syllables. That word: Wonderful.
On Wednesday, Trout homered again -- that was his eighth extra-base hit in nine games this year. He is slugging .735. Trout is great again -- and of course he is.
Trout is just 25 years old, and his career WAR is already nearly 50, which is utterly absurd, almost beyond comprehension. By WAR measurements, he has already put up about as much value as Jim Rice and Koufax and Whitey Ford and Lou Brock and Goose Gossage did for their entire careers.
And even if you do not buy into WAR, do not buy into any single number that tries to capture all that a ballplayer does on the field, you still know that the things Trout does on and around a baseball diamond are mesmerizing and glorious and remind us of the greatest players the game has ever seen -- the Mantles and Mayses and Aarons and Gehrigs.
You still know that Trout hits for average, and he hits for power, and he steals bases, and he scores runs, and he drives in runs, and he runs down fly balls, and he takes away home runs, and he signs all the autographs, and he hires a skywriter to ask his high school sweetheart to marry him … and he drinks milk, and he helps elderly people cross the street, and he hits home runs that cure sick children … and he halts bank robberies, and he blows out forest fires, and he rescues random cats from trees, and he will gladly reverse the rotation of the earth to go back in time and stop an earthquake.
Come to think of it, Clark Kent is another plain two-syllable name. He needed a nickname, too.