First there was Tim Salmon, a key force behind the 2002 Angels’ only World Series championship, and now there’s Mike Trout, who with Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old outfield sensation for the Washington Nationals, are the most talked about baseball players this season.
That each is young and gifted has brought to mind Hall of Fame icons Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. For Trout, a first-time All-Star and leadoff hitter, there has to be some pressure and expectations.
So far, this fish story has gone swimmingly, but it took Bobby Abreu’s April funk in which he batted .208 to set in motion the just-turned 21-year-old Trout’s arrival on April 28.
Trout’s numbers are eye-popping, as he leads the American League in batting (.340), stolen bases (36), runs (88), is second in slugging percentage (.592), third in on-base percentage (.402), fifth in triples (five), and ninth in total bases (221).
It’s possible Trout could be named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, and that would be note worthy.
Before Trout was called up, the Angels were 6-13 and couldn’t get out of their own way.
They had problems scoring runs even after signing all-time great slugger Albert Pujols to a massive free agent contract, and already had Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales, Vernon Wells and Howie Kendrick in the lineup.
The Angels also added former Texas Rangers’ pitching ace C.J. Wilson to back Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.
A strong bet to win the World Series, the Angels were in big trouble. That is until Trout, named by BaseballAmericaas its second best prospect in July 2010, and ESPN Keith Law’s top prospect prior to the 2011 season, showed up inOrangeCounty.
Since then, the Angels have gone 54-42, which may not seem too impressive, but it was clear the club was going in reverse.
The Angels are third in the AL West, eight games behind the two-time pennant winning Rangers, and one and a half games behind the Oakland Athletics.
For whatever reason, the Angels dropped two of three games to the lowly Seattle Mariners this past weekend.
In Sunday’s 4-1 loss, Trout went hitless in four at-bats, in Saturday’s 7-4 drubbing, managed a single in four at-bats, but in Friday’s 6-5 thriller, mashed a three-run homer, and added an unusual sacrifice fly that scored two runners.
“This whole clubhouse hates losing,” said Trout, aNew Jerseynative drafted by the Angels 25th overall in the first round. “This was a nice team win, and it’s real big to start a homestand like this.”
After the fact, teams were asked why they passed on Trout, a center fielder who has hit 21 homers and driven in 65 runs. Their answer was East Coast high school kids don’t play as many games as those on the West Coast and South.
More than anything, Trout has injected a sense of youth and vitality, which can be missing on a veteran squad.
Trout is one of the fastest runners. Whether it’s out of the batter’s box, making his way into second base on a steal, or snagging balls in the outfield, Trout can control the game’s tempo, which is something the Angels will need down the stretch.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.