But his stature as the game’s best player — and Sporting News’ MLB Athlete of the Decade — does not come from individual instances in which he amazes spectators. His greatness instead arrives in a steady flow, always there.
“I wouldn’t say there’s just one (standout) moment,” Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney told Sporting News. “But that’s what makes him great. He doesn’t have moments. He just does it every single day.”
Over the past eight seasons, Trout has hit above .300 five times, finished with an on-base percentage of at least .430 five times and launched at least 35 home runs on four occasions. He has won three MVPs and made an All-Star team in every full season of his career.
At 28, he has already established himself as his franchise’s all-time greatest player, though the Angels have not yet built a deserving contender around him.
Trout is the subject of immense appreciation and respect from those in the Angels clubhouse, including first baseman Albert Pujols, who was perhaps MLB’s best performer of the previous decade.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to play and wear the same uniform with him,” Pujols told SN. “Knowing that he’s going to pretty much do every night something special. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity.”
Because Trout enjoys privacy and does not desire a public presence when he’s not playing, he’s viewed by many as a quiet superstar. In fact, his introverted outlook at times has led to criticism — commissioner Robert Manfred last year cited it as part of the reason behind MLB’s inconsistent marketing success.
Within his own ranks, though, the perspective is entirely positive.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons became visibly frustrated thinking about any outsiders who might needle at Trout’s personality. Simmons (and Heaney) brought up Trout’s passion for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, and how he uses his love for football as a way to rib teammates and get to know them better. They also mentioned the outfielder’s vocal affinity for hunting and said they have appreciated the lack of arrogance in his day-to-day interactions among teammates.
“The people that know him, they know who he is,” Simmons told SN. “They know how funny he can be, how despite how great of a player he is, how approachable he is to everybody.”
It’s a testament to Trout’s production that he has become baseball’s golden standard despite reaching the postseason only once and preferring to remain relatively anonymous. He owned a decade of baseball on his own terms.
Not close to the conclusion of his career, his accomplishments are historic.
“If he literally stopped playing baseball tomorrow he would still be a Hall of Famer,” Heaney said. “You’re just kind of in awe.”
By the numbers
Mike Trout MLB ranks since 2010:
|.305 (5th)||1.000 (1st)||285 (5th)||15 (15th)||200 (15th)||172 (1st)||73.4 (1st)|
The difference in wins above replacement this decade between Trout and MLB’s next-highest position player finisher, Buster Posey, is 20.1 WAR, equivalent to the entire career of two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna.
What they’re saying:
“He knows that he’s the best player in the game, but I think the most (impressive) thing about Trout is that he wants to get better every year and doesn’t take anything for granted.” —Angels first baseman Albert Pujols
“People see the highlights, see the home runs, but they sometimes don’t see the little things he does every day. How fast he is, how he covers ground in the outfield and the way he plays defense, the good at-bats he has and the walks he takes. Everything that Mike does, it’s incredible. I’ve never seen a guy with (that) depth of talent.” — Former Angels manager Mike Scioscia
The next decade belongs to: Mike Trout
The greatest players of all time in every major U.S. sport produced much of their best work after turning 28. Tom Brady has won three Super Bowls, earned three MVPs and thrown 412 touchdown passes since reaching that age. Michael Jordan won four NBA championships and earned two MVPs over that span (and LeBron James has amassed similar achievements). Wayne Gretsky registered 1,020 points. Barry Bonds hit 540 home runs. Hank Aaron hit 457.
Trout, then, is well-positioned to remain atop baseball for most of the 2020s and potentially make his case as the top player ever. He excels in every aspect of the game, and while some skills may erode with age, the totality of his talents should make it difficult for anyone to eclipse him.