With every passing season that affirms Mike Trout’s generational greatness, his performances take on an air that goes beyond baseball excellence in real time.
Trout is both the game’s greatest player and also something of a museum piece come to life, his accomplishments captured in high definition but also, with every swing of his bat, seemingly destined for a grander place in baseball’s history books.
Thursday, Trout burnished his all-time credentials just a bit more in winning his third American League Most Valuable Player award.
Trout claimed 17 of 30 first-place votes to beat out runner-up Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros, who this year took on the role as Trout’s foil atop the AL. Since Trout’s transcendent 2012 debut, that part has been played by Miguel Cabrera – who edged Trout for MVP honors in both ’12 and 2013 – along with Josh Donaldson and Mookie Betts, last year’s winner and a second-place finisher in 2016.
Trout finished with 355 points in the voting, a narrow margin of victory over Bregman's 335. Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien finished third, with D.J. LeMahieu and Xander Bogaerts rounding out the top five.
Trout has finished in the top four in AL MVP voting every year since 2012. (Photo: Richard Mackson, USA TODAY Sports)
It is startling to consider Trout, at 28 with three MVPs and four second-place finishes already to his name, could have equaled Barry Bonds’ record seven MVPs with a few more balls dropping in, a minor injury or two avoided, or a slightly different mentality pervading the electioneers of the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America.
Still, the Los Angeles Angel’s legacy is starting to match his outsize accomplishments.
He’s just the 11th three-time MVP in baseball history , the first since Alex Rodriguez won his third in 2007. Other three-time AL winners figuratively reside in the innermost circles of Cooperstown: Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle.
Trout’s Hall of Fame status is more or less assured, given his top 10 all-time status in on-base percentage (.419) and OPS (1.000). These MVP awards, though, are a peskier get.
Bregman certainly provided sufficiently stiff competition.
While Trout out-homered Bregman 45-41, Bregman produced more extra-base hits (80-74) and drove in 119 runs on the 107-win Astros. It would figure Bregman had the edge in many counting stats, given that Trout’s season ended Sept. 7 due to a neuroma on his right foot that was surgically removed two weeks later.
The pair finished in a virtual dead heat in WAR (Bregman 8.4, Trout 8.3, per Baseball-Reference and Trout 8.6 to 8.5, via FanGraphs), but Trout enjoyed other advantages. His adjusted OPS of 183 trounced Bregman’s 162, and his OPS edge (1.083 to 1.015) was not insignificant.
Yet it was a fifth consecutive Trout campaign that ended without a playoff appearance, as the Angels won 72 games and ultimately fired manager Brad Ausmus. It is a teamwide flaw that handicaps Trout’s MVP chances on an almost annual basis.
Sometimes, however, his dominance cannot be denied.
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