Trout lets his stats do the talking

Angels outfielder has taken quiet route to superstardom

March 19th, 2017

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The line you keep hearing, the hot take the internet keeps generating, is that Major League Baseball has not done enough to promote . The fact that Trout does not have the Q Score of the LeBron James of the NBA's Cavaliers, Tom Brady of the NFL's Patriots or even Mets "prospect" Tim Tebow is seen as some kind of institutional failure, as if the league has engaged in a cryptic campaign to shield casual or would-be fans from the two-time/oughta-be-five-time American League MVP Award winner.

Even the world's most popular search engine is involved in this conspiracy. When you Google "Trout," you get six links about some sort of fish species before you even find mention of Mike.

But if, by now, you're a sports fan who doesn't know about the greatness of Trout, that's what's really fishy. It's your own darn fault.

At 25 years old, Trout is entering what is, essentially, his sixth full season in the big leagues, which is kind of hard to believe.

"It's gone by fast," he said. "And it's been fun."

Uh, yeah. Thanks to Trout, we have had, at our daily disposal, a player whose Hall of Fame trajectory is so crystal clear that it doesn't require nuanced number-fudging or overdue optimism. We have a young man who has always put club before self, who has, as a matter of routine, gone out of his way to brighten the days of his young fans, and who has generated headlines only for awesomeness and not awkwardness.

Trout makes young fan's day

"As far as what he does on a day-to-day basis, nothing's changed from the first day we saw him coming over for spring games when he was such a youngster," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He doesn't take anything for granted."

Though there used to be this silly narrative that one needed nerdy numbers like Wins Above Replacement to appreciate Trout's greatness, all you really need is one working eye and you'll figure it out. He runs, he hits, he's great at catching flying projectiles and he doesn't do things to embarrass himself or his team.

Geez, he even has a career Spring Training OPS of 1.146, which means Trout is great even when he doesn't need to be.

So if the gossip and the chatter attached to the sports world's curiosities, self-promoters or controversial figures has limited recognition of Trout, that's a societal issue, not a baseball one. Trout is what we want our athletes to be.

"I've always looked at guys that are superstars in every sport, and they don't have to be good people because of what they've done on the field," said Trout's new teammate and locker neighbor, Danny Espinosa. "They can be cocky because they have the accolades that allow them to do that. But he's the complete opposite. Everybody knows what he can do on the field. To me, it's more impressive the person that he is."


Of course, the numbers don't hurt our understanding of Trout's value in the historical context. For the record, he has already accumulated 48.5 career Wins Above Replacement and has a shot this season to vault into the top 100 all-time in terms of position-player WAR.

Again, he's 25.

But Trout is also quiet. Or at least when there are cameras or microphones in his face. And while quiet confidence is generally seen as a good thing in real life, it falls short as click bait.

"I just go out there and play," he said.

Trout has had some fun opportunities come his way in light of his elevated stature in this sport. Just the other day, for instance, he got to take NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney's wheels for a spin around the Tempe Diablo Stadium parking lot.

But the kid from Millville, N.J., is marrying his high school sweetheart, is still deferring the "leader" label a few lockers down, to , and is still getting through each day with his dignity and his ability intact.

"I think that's just the way the East Coast and West Coast is covered," Espinosa said. "On the East Coast, you have 30 reporters every day in your clubhouse. And on the West Coast, you have five. That's just how it is. It's not anything he's done wrong. He puts up all the numbers, and he does it with a smile on his face. He's done everything he can to be the biggest star in baseball."

Espinosa touched on one of the limiting factors attached to Trout that obviously impacts his popularity in the sporting world at large. Baseball's very nature is another. Trout has averaged 4.4 trips to the plate per game in his career. He simply is not the source of the action and the eyeballs as frequently as a power forward or quarterback, who more routinely have the ball in hand.

And the Angels, as a whole, haven't helped matters by advancing to just one postseason series in Trout's time.

It should come as no surprise that here in Angels camp, they're far more focused on improving that October outlook than they are on how Trout is viewed in, say, Missoula, Mont. It says here that the Halos might be a sneaky good club this year with improved pitching depth, an ample offense and a defensive profile that the long-tenured Scioscia feels might be the best of any club he's had.

But if there's any reason to be optimistic about the Angels, it's Trout himself, obviously. Halos fans know this. Baseball fans know this. And those who don't know need to scroll past the fish links and find out.