By Bruce Penton
Baseball’s best player will be at home when the playoffs unfold this fall and Americans who only pay attention to baseball in October will once again be oblivious to the talents of Mike Trout, the centrefielder extraordinaire of the Los Angles Angels.
Trout has completed seven full seasons with the Angels and he has played in the post-season only once. And it was a dismal performance for Trout and the Angels, who lost all three games to Kansas City Royals in 2014 with Trout batting .083.
Many observers felt this year might be different for the Angels, who signed the most sought after free agent in the game, Japanese outfielder-slugger-pitcher Shohei Ohtani. Even with Ohtani cracking 20 homers and batting in the high .290s, and posting a 4-2 pitching record before hurting his arm, the Angels couldn’t combine his talents with the immense skill of Trout to make the post-season. The Angels will be lucky to finish at .500 and they were a distant fourth in the American League West most of the year.
Critics might say that not making regular appearances in the post-season reflects on the value of a player, but you can’t argue with Trout’s stats. Year after year, his numbers are among the best in baseball, and he has two Most Valuable Player awards to his credit.
Baseball insiders say the OPS statistical category (on-base plus slugging percentages) shows a player’s true value and if that is so, Trout is the game’s best hitter. His late-September OPS of 1.096 led the majors and he was one of only three players with numbers above 1.000 (Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez of Boston were the others, but well back). Another recently new stat is WAR (wins above replacement; in other words, how many wins a player contributes to his team above what a replacement player would earn). Trout’s WAR of 9.4 (and career WAR of 63.5) are proof of Trout’s value.
Oh, by the way, he’s also one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, and has an arm like a cannon. And he’s a top-20 base stealer, too, with 24 through mid-September.
Add it all up – batting, throwing, chasing down fly balls, stealing bases — and it’s easy to see why the Angels are talking about offering Trout a lifetime contract. It’s just too bad his team can’t make the playoffs so the rest of the world can see what southern California fans have been seeing for the past seven years.
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Packers pivot Aaron Rodgers' new contract totals $180 million with performance incentives. He’ll still play quarterback the same way, only deeper in the pockets.”
• Another one from Currie: “Rest in peace Burt Reynolds, perhaps the most famous moustached star in history. Unless you include those East German women shotputters.”
• Norman Chadof the Washington Post on Twitter: “In the NFL, there is the ‘Tom Brady Rule’: If a defender appears to touch Brady after he releases the ball, it is roughing the passer. In the NBA, there is the ‘James Harden Rule’: If a defender appears to defend Harden as he slithers through the lane, it is a shooting foul.”
• Chad again: “True story: I bumped into Harden the other day at the supermarket, and the security guard removed me from the store.”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: “Former NBA player Matt Barnes says he smoked pot before every game. Which explains why his favourite move was the ‘pick and roll-your-own.’”
• Currie again: “Ex-racecar driver Danica Patrick is dating Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After years with NASCAR, this is the closest she's been to the leader of the Pack.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “The Cleveland Browns won, so Bud Light unlocked beer coolers all over town with 300 bottles of beer in them. They decided this was smarter than their other promotion: Free Whisky and Chainsaws.”
• Kaseberg again: “The Cleveland Browns won their first game in 635 days. To give you an idea how long ago what was, 635 days ago they were the Cleveland Light-Beige.”
• Jimmy Fallonon the Tonight Show: “North and South Korea say they want to host the 2032 Summer Olympics together. The highlight will be when the athletes try pole-vaulting from North Korea into South Korea.”
• Dwight Perryof the Seattle Times with his Fact of the Week: “It took Tigers pitcher Denny McLain just 49 more days to post his 30th victory in 1968 than it took the Orioles to win their 30th this season.”
Raiders coach Jon Gruden, to reporters, on why his team has only two sacks in two games after trading away Khalil Mack: “It’s hard to find a great pass-rusher.” Care to comment? Email firstname.lastname@example.org