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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Every Mike Trout season ends like this


Not again…
Illustration: Getty Images

It’s becoming part of the MLB schedule at this point. Pink bats on Mother’s Day, and purple on Father’s Day. All-Star Game in July. Trade deadline at the end of July. And then a discussion of whether Mike Trout, who hasn’t played since May 17 due to a right calf strain, will be shut down for the season somewhere in the middle of August or beginning of September.

We’re doing it again. GM Perry Minisian says there are no plans, which is usually what’s said before those plans get drawn up. It sounds a little silly to be discussing this about a 30-year-old. This isn’t a pitcher building endurance on his pitching arm. This isn’t a prospect. It’s not a quarterback for a team missing the playoffs who will be needed for the more important battles ahead. It’s Mike Trout. What is there to preserve him for?

Well, next year. But preserving Trout for what lies ahead has become tiresome and futile. The Angels appear to be a little more on the upward trajectory than before, as Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are up now. Reid Detmers is in the rotation. Shohei Ohtani has shown everyone what is possible on a baseball field that we didn’t conceive of before, and is the first teammate of Trout’s that can actually claim to at least be near the orbit that Trout has called home. Maybe there’s hope now, and the Angels would look world-class stupid if they turned his calf injury into something that lingers into next year.

This discussion of saving Trout for another day is always followed by what a waste it’s all been and what a shame it’s taken place in some parking lot in Orange County off a couple freeways and nothing else. That’s how things get judged now, and I’ve done it. If Trout’s glorious career wasn’t in service of something greater, then it was all pointless. That’s how this LeBron vs. MJ debate got so goddamn tedious, pivoting on what really is a nearly infinitesimal amount of games considering how many each have played. Sometimes it isn’t just whether you won or lost.

Barry Sanders is rarely discussed as having wasted his career. And he played for the fucking Lions. Maybe the Lions wasted him, but that’s how it’s always framed. If Trout were to finish the rest of his career like this, we’d probably see him the same way. Yeah, it sucks he never played in a World Series, but we’re blessed to have seen him at all, is what we’ll say if that’s how it goes. Those are the hushed tones in which we speak of Sanders. The Lions’ lack of success hasn’t stopped Sanders from entering in the discussion of “greatest of all time.”

It would be nice though, just once, for Trout to return from the IL with the Angels saying, “We need him back” to be the difference between winning the AL West or not. To not hold him off for some day that we can’t guarantee will actually arrive. He can’t keep being preserved before it all goes off the boil.

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