Baseball took a hit on Sunday. Mike Trout, the best player in MLB and possibly the best we’ve ever seen, slid headfirst into second base. He came up holding his hand and the baseball world collectively held their breath, preparing for the worse. Well, good thing we prepared because baseball will be without its greatest star for six to eight weeks.
Trout tore the UCL in his left thumb and will undergo surgery to repair the torn ligament. It’s the 25-year-old’s first time hitting the DL in his unbelievable career. Trout’s injury came at a time where he looked to be playing at an even higher level than we’ve seen from him in the past. I know what you’re saying, how could the best player in the game be getting even better? I couldn’t tell you, but it’s been amazing to watch.
If you’re not in tears yet, let’s take a look at what the reigning MVP has been up to the past two months. Trout leads the league in on-base percentage, slugging, walks, OPS and OPS+. He is second in the league in homers and total bases. He’s knocked in 36 runs and is 10-11 on stolen base attempts. Long story short, Trout was well on his way to a third career MVP award and was on pace for the best single season in his career. Maybe one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen.
Injuries happen all the time in baseball, and this year it seemed like someone new is hurt every single day. So, why does Trout’s injury seem so much more devastating than all the others? It’s because of what he means to the sport as a whole. Of course, the Los Angeles Angels take the biggest hit, losing their superstar for an extended period of time. However at 26-28, and a roster littered with question marks, the Angels weren’t expected to be competitors this season anyway.
Unlike most injuries, Trout’s absence stretches past the question of how his team will be affected. Him going down sets forth a chain of events that affects nearly every part of the game. First and foremost, how will this injury affect Trout’s legacy? Trout was the first, and the only player to finish first or second in the MVP voting in his first five seasons. Winning a third would make him the only player with three before the age of 30. We’ll have to wonder whether Trout was just playing out of his mind for two months, or if he really was on pace for something great.
With Trout’s timetable loosely set at six to eight weeks, he’ll have to miss the All-Star Game. Trout has dominated the midsummer classic since 2012, batting .462 with three RBI. He won the All-Star Game MVP award in 2014 and 2015, becoming the first player ever to win it in consecutive years. The face of baseball has fittingly been the face of the All-Star Game, and his absence will certainly be felt when the gates at Marlins Park open on July 11th.
Trout’s injury greatly affects the awards race in the American League as well. Aaron Judge is the first guy who comes to mind when looking for a new favorite. The rookie is batting .319, has knocked in 35 runs, and leads the Majors with 17 homers. It’s still been just two months, but it’s always fun to keep the award races in the back of your mind. Could Trout come back in July and pick up right where he left off? Sure he can. If there’s anyone that could win the MVP award while missing a significant amount of time, my guess would be Mike Trout.
It’s still too soon to get ahead of ourselves. All we can do now is wait for baseball’s best player to get back on the field so we can watch him do things that we still can’t comprehend. There will always be the “what if” factor to Trout’s 2017 campaign. However, instead of worrying about this season, we have to hope that he can come back from this stronger than ever. I’m confident he will. After all, baseball is better with Mike Trout.