Be like Mike: MVP cements Trout's status among elite

Halos outfielder drives in pair to become second youngest to win All-Star award

July 16th, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS -- No advanced statistical arguments needed to be made.

Nobody had to drop a reference to WAR or discuss the intricacies of baserunning or defense or disparage the modern-day value of the Triple Crown.

All you had to do was watch the 85th All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Target Field, and the high points of the American League's 5-3 victory over the Senior Circuit were argument enough. Because while this night was clearly a celebration of Derek Jeter in his All-Star adieu, it doubled as a showcase for the 22-year-old kid who has quickly established himself as the game's top all-around talent.

Yes, finally, Mike Trout has an MVP Award.

It's the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet, not the AL MVP Award presented by the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- the award so many thought Trout deserved in 2012 and '13, when Miguel Cabrera dominated the vote. The All-Star honor is, however, an important milepost in the career of "The Millville Meteor," because it attaches tangible hardware to his status as a star among stars.

"Chills, goosebumps, you name it," Trout said after a 2-for-3 night in which he notched a double, triple, two RBIs and a run scored. "Everything was running through my body."

Maybe some assumed this MVP Award, in the event of an AL victory, was Jeter's to lose, provided he didn't strike out six times or interrupt Idina Menzel's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" or punch out T.C. Bear.

And really, a Jeter MVP would have been as much statistical as sentimental.

It was, after all, Jeter's leadoff double -- a classic inside-out swing on Adam Wainwright's 1-0 pitch -- in the bottom of the first that got the AL going, and he added a single in the third before departing with the fifth-highest career All-Star average (.481) among players with at least 10 at-bats.

But Trout, in his third Midsummer Classic, was the one who drove Jeter in after that double with a triple off the right-field wall. The ball rocketed off the wall and away from Yasiel Puig, who was overly aggressive in his pursuit, and Trout slid into third and let out a primal howl of approval.

In a sport that loves a good narrative, that triple provided an obvious one -- the so-called new face of the game driving in the departing face of the game. And Trout cemented his MVP allure when he put the AL up for good, 4-3, with an RBI double off Pat Neshek to score Derek Norris in the fifth.

So Trout was a sensible choice for the award. And at 22 years, 342 days old, he became the second-youngest player to win it, behind Ken Griffey Jr. in 1992.

"I think anybody who's a fan of the game will certainly pick this game to play close attention to," AL manager John Farrell said. "When you see two guys, I don't want to say at the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their career, but two extremely talented guys -- one a sure-fire Hall of Famer and one who has a darn good start on a career that is hopefully long and productive in Trout's case."
This would be seemingly a good time to drop in the phrase "passing of the torch."

It's a phrase -- you might have noticed -- being used quite often in reference to Trout and Jeter right now.

But the truth is that as much respect as Jeter has commanded, as much success as he has enjoyed, as many memorable moments as he has provided, he never separated himself in all facets of the game quite the way Trout has done in his first three full seasons. Jeter won the All-Star Game MVP Award in 2000, but he's never won an AL MVP Award, and, here in 2014, Trout is putting up yet another strong statistical argument for that achievement.

So, no, Trout does not need to be the new Jeter, as Jeter himself would tell you.

"Let Mike be Mike," Jeter said. "I don't think people have to necessarily appoint someone to a particular position. You know, if he continues to do the things that he's done, he has his head on right, he plays the game the right way, he plays hard, the challenge for him is going to be like the challenge for most people, to be consistent, year in, year out.

"But Mike's going to be in a lot of All-Star Games," Jeter continued. "He already has the respect from players around the league, but he's got a bright future ahead of him. I don't know how much better he can get, but if he consistently does what he's doing, then he will be here for a long time."

When Trout came out of the game after five innings, Jeter kidded with him in the dugout.

"He said he wanted me to play nine," Trout said with a laugh. "He said I'm 22 years old and coming out of the game, it's the sixth inning, I should be playing nine."

But for an AL team that captured home-field advantage in the World Series for the second straight year, five innings of Trout in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" was plenty.

The MVP had made his statement.