At some point in the middle of the summer, as Mike Trout dominated the Majors in a manner not indicative of his age, it became basically a foregone conclusion that the Angels' center fielder would eventually win the American League's Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award. Really, the only question -- besides Most Valuable Player honors -- was whether it would be unanimous.
On Monday afternoon, the Baseball Writers' Association of America officially deemed Trout the AL's Rookie of the Year by giving him all 28 first-place votes, ahead of finalists Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish.
2012 AL ROOKIE OF YEAR VOTING
Voting results for AL Rookie of the Year, conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America
"Wow! What an incredible feeling and honor!" Trout wrote via his Twitter account, @Trouty20. "Extremely humbled. Thank you, Angels organization and teammates! And fans!"
At 21 years and 58 days old at the end of the season, Trout is the youngest AL Rookie of the Year ever, but he isn't the youngest winner of the award this year. That distinction belongs to the National League winner, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who is 10 months Trout's junior. Harper was his teammate in the Arizona Fall League last year and is a close, personal friend.
Some have called them baseball's version of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
"Mike Trout is unbelievable," Harper said. "He's one of the best players in baseball right now, if not the best."
"Both of us had the same intentions coming into the league; just do what we were capable of," Trout added. "We both got the opportunity to play, and just pushing each other to be the best is the way to do it."
Trout is the 18th player to win the Rookie of the Year unanimously (eighth in the AL). Tim Salmon (1993) is the only other Angels Rookie of the Year, and he also took all the first-place votes.
"While there might have been a few Angel players in the past that were deserving," Salmon said, "it's nice to see the organization finally add another name to the list."
Trout made an impact on the game with blazing speed, spectacular defense, uncanny two-strike success, surprising power and unmatched energy, giving the Angels a whole new dimension from the leadoff spot and leading them to the third-best record in the AL after he was called up April 28.
It's not just that Trout was clearly the best rookie in baseball this season. It's that he put together what was arguably the greatest rookie season in history, and that he might have been 2012's best overall player.
That won't be revealed until Thursday, when the BBWAA reveals whether Trout beat out Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to be the youngest MVP ever.
"It would just top it off," he said of winning the MVP. "Coming into the year and coming into every year, my goal is to be the best player and to make the most impact as a player on the field. At the end of the year, just to be in talks for the MVP with these big guys, like Cabrera, and just being part of the discussion, is an incredible feeling and it's hard to explain."
So are his eye-popping numbers.
Trout finished second in the AL in batting average (.326), first in steals (49) and runs (129), third in on-base percentage (.399) and third in slugging (.564). He robbed four homers (only three others have done that since 2004) and saved 23 runs altogether (fifth in the Majors). He made the All-Star team, graced the covers of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated and spawned a heated MVP debate and became the first player to win the AL Rookie of the Month Award four straight times.
Then there's the company he kept.
Only Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle have notched a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) higher than Trout's 10.7 at age 25 or younger. Only Ted Williams, Mel Ott and Alex Rodriguez have hit at least .320 with 30 homers in their age-20 season. Only Ty Cobb, way back in 1907, has stolen more than 40 bases at a younger age.
And no player -- any age, any tenure -- has ever combined at least 45 steals with 125 runs and 30 homers in one season, not to mention a .320-plus batting average.
Darvish (16-9, 3.90 ERA) and Cespedes (.292 batting average, 23 homers, 16 steals) each had fantastic seasons, but they picked the wrong year to be rookies.
"Coming into the year, getting the call up and playing every day," Trout said, "I had confidence in myself and I knew what my potential was."
The AL Rookie of the Year is just Trout's latest honor. He was also given the Players Choice Award for AL Outstanding Rookie, named AL Defensive Player of the Year by the equipment company Wilson, deemed Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year by Baseball America, recognized as AL Rookie of the Year by Sporting News and selected as the Angels' Team MVP.
Said Trout: "This is one of the best years of my life so far."
Yeah, but the sample size is still quite small.
Trout wasn't of legal drinking age until this past Aug. 7, and he's still young enough to live in his parent's house in Millville, N.J. -- though he plans to move out next year.
New Jersey isn't known as a breeding ground for baseball talent, which is partly why Trout wasn't taken until the 25th pick of the 2009 Draft. But Trout has put the Garden State, particularly the small town where he grew up, on the map.
For that, he's been getting a lot more attention at home this offseason.
"I definitely get recognized more than I used to," Trout said. "I think they started carrying balls in their cars, because I'd go out to the restaurant and they'd go up to me with a ball and stuff. I think they were just preparing themselves if they do see me."