Angels slugger stacks up impressively against game's all-time greats
By Terence Moore
OK, we already know Mike Trout is peerless these days as the ultimate baseball player, with only Bryce Harper visible in his rear-view mirror. So let's discuss his future as somebody racing toward the city limits of Cooperstown to rank among the all-time greats.
Mike Trout, Mike Trout, Mike Trout.
Is this Angels center fielder who prospers at the plate, in the field and on the bases closer to Ken Griffey Jr. or Mickey Mantle? I can see a bit of Al Kaline, and goodness knows, when you analyze his stats, he resembles Ted Williams at times, along with Mel Ott, Frank Robinson and even Hank Aaron, who joins Willie Mays as the most complete players in baseball history.
Let's get the qualifiers out of the way. Trout will spend the rest of his Major League career morphing into some or most of the Baseball Hall of Famers I just named, but only if he avoids a slew of injuries, and only if he . . . Well, that health thing is about the only thing that could alter Trout's destiny. In fact, here is something frightening for opposing teams to consider regarding this high-energy player who keeps shifting to higher gears: He is as durable as they come after missing just an average of eight games a year through his five full seasons in the Major Leagues.
Trout can play, too. He learned he won his second American League Most Valuable Player Award in three years on Thursday night. The only other folks ever to have that many MVP honors at 25 years old or under were Johnny Bench, Stan Musial, Jimmie Foxx and Mantle.
So we've just added a few more Hall of Famers to the growing list of Trout lookalikes.
"To win [the league's MVP Award] one time, it's hard to do," Trout told reporters during a conference call after he received the news. "Twice? You saw my emotions tonight. It was something special. All the hard work, you just put your mind to it, and you want to be the best, and hopefully, at the end of the season, you're in the conversation."
Now Trout is in a bigger conversation: What percentage of the vote will he receive someday from Baseball Hall of Fame voters like me? Too early for such talk, you say? I agree, but it's difficult to keep from envisioning Trout in Cooperstown when you start comparing the guy to the Who's Who from baseball's past. For instance: Barry Bonds. Despite his overwhelming numbers of greatness, he isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame, because of the ongoing debate about his worthiness for Cooperstown due to controversies involving the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Still, Bonds owns the Major League record for MVP Awards with seven, including a record four in a row from 2001-04. In case you're wondering, Trout has his two MVP Awards and counting at the same age that Bonds won his first.
Here's another reason for this Bonds-Trout comparison: At 25, they both finished with five full seasons in the Major Leagues, and they both ended Year 5 as league MVP Award winners with similar numbers. While Bonds hit .301 in 1990, Trout hit . 315 this season and scored 123 runs to Bonds' 104. Bonds showed slightly more power (33 homers to 29), posted more RBIs (114 to 100) and stole more bases (52 to 30) than Trout, and Bonds also grabbed the first of his eight Gold Glove Awards in left field that season compared to none for Trout. Even so, Trout continues to play so brilliantly on defense that he'll receive that fielding honor sooner rather than later.
Which brings us to the most striking thing of all involving Bonds vs. Trout. That is, Trout surpasses Bonds overall during Years 1-5 as a full-time player. You can make the final call for yourself after you study the numbers on baseball-reference.com, but I'll save you some time. Trout was better during that stretch at hitting for average and for power and at scoring runs. They were even as baserunners, and despite no Gold Glove Awards adorning Trout's mantle, they were tied on defense.
If you go by all of that, Trout has a shot at surpassing Bonds' seven MVP Awards.
Make that a splendid shot.
That's true whether fate keeps Trout in the AL or moves him to the NL. After all, when we just consider position players -- since pitchers mostly are involved with the Cy Young Award -- think about Trout's competition in coming years, starting with Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts, Manny Machado and Harper. They all are 24. While Bryant won NL MVP honors this year, Betts finished second to Trout in the AL MVP race. Machado remains a rising star with three trips to the All-Star Game and a couple of Gold Glove Awards at third, not to mention two top-five finishes for the AL MVP Award. Then there's Harper, once considered Trout's equal, especially after he took home the NL MVP Award last year.
There also are others stars of youth and of promise, ranging from Giancarlo Stanton to Dansby Swanson, but there is only one Trout. He spent each of his first five seasons in the Major Leagues finishing first or second in AL MVP voting.
None of those Baseball Hall of Famers I mentioned earlier did that. Neither did Bonds nor anybody else in the game's history.
So I'm guessing it's not too early to talk Trout and Cooperstown.
Terence Moore is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.