Gotta do it: Mike Trout steps on the ‘big stage’ at the World Baseball Classic

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PHOENIX – This is better, or maybe more fun, because Vance Worley was pitching and, you see, his name is inherently silly and he’s the kind of guy you might remember from the early 2010 Philadelphia Phillies. when he was known as “The Vanimal”. ,

That guy – with his rick and a uniform that looks like a costume designer’s if it were worn by the opposition in a teen sports movie – Mike Trout (Mike Trout!!!) swing On a 90 mph sinker that caught a lot of boxes in the very center of the digitally rendered strike zone grid on MLB GameDay.

It’s hard to kill.

To the players, World Baseball Classic doesn’t feel like a playoff game. It’s not a knock on him, necessarily, “but it’s completely different,” as shortstop Trey Turner, whose Phillies went to the World Series last year, said before the first game.

No, but in all seriousness: Trout’s presence on Team USA’s roster is conspicuous, even among All-Stars and MVPs. The understated outfielder has reigned so eloquently as baseball’s optimized production paradigm that it has shaped our modern understanding of excellence in the game and for so long has the interesting conversation shifted from who is the best player in the game to It is done Will happen The next best player in the game. His participation in the tournament – ​​which Major League Baseball is eager to promote – was, And yet, Trout’s appearance is at least as remarkable for what the WBC can do for him as for what it can do for the WBC. Which is to say: Put him on a platform that isn’t as high as October, at least above a regular-season contest in Anaheim.

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Trout has committed his entire career to playing on the Angels, who seem committed to undermining that advantage by refusing to build effectively around him. If money was the issue (it isn’t) getting Mike Trout in for the postseason would be a very lucrative GoFundMe.

So instead of post-season, Angelenos can now watch Trout in the triennial tournament. Amidst the delightfully diverse sea of ​​different jerseys, the prevalence of “trouts” varied. At least one Angels fan went as far as to make a beeline for true Trout Heads with a jersey featuring one of his one-time players’ weekend nicknames, “KIIIIIID”. He had reason to think it would be a satisfactory game.

Team enters with high expectations for obvious reasons and especially in the early rounds when they face, for example, Team Great Britain, appearing in their first WBC.

That’s where we found Trout facing Worley in the bottom of the first inning and Team already in for the top of the first home run by Trace Thompson (both Los Angeles born and current baseball employer; qualifies). The guidelines are so lax that a team made up of cricketers doesn’t result). It was Trout’s first time playing in a game higher than the regular season stakes since 2014.

Mike Trout (27) high fives teammates catcher JT Realmuto (10) and pitcher David Bednar (53) after defeating Team Great Britain 6-2 at Chase Field. (Chris Coduto- TODAY Sports)

Since then, he’s seen his name written into the lineup 914 times, walked 3,964 times at the plate, accumulated 971 hits for a -302 batting average to pair with his 52.9 fWAR. Leaning on a baseball cliché that couldn’t be more appropriate: It means that future Hall of Famers fail seven out of 10 times.

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Against Worley, who last threw a pitch in the major leagues in 2017, he made a full count before ineffectively hacking a ball down the middle.

On Saturday, in his first World Baseball Classic appearance, Trout was 0-for-4. He also walked, stole a base, and scored. His futility did nothing to hinder his chances at Cooperstown or hinder Team USA’s relatively uninterrupted steamroll to a 6-2 victory (it turns out Kyle Schwarber could have won it on a single swing). Elsewhere, half a world away, the most exciting man in baseball – someone who might actually change the trajectory of the game’s global popularity – ,

There is a cynical explanation for this run-of-the-mill isolated mediocrity: Baseball does not lend itself to do-or-die style tournaments. It’s a problem with the version played at the Olympics – and then scrapped and then reinstated on a very limited basis – and it’s a problem with the WBC. (Some would say it’s also a problem with MLB’s own postseason.)

But as a conclusion, there is, of course, a clear upside to the game which elicits such palpable enthusiasm from fans and players alike.

A recurring joke whenever the Olympics go on is that in the more obscure sports an average person should try to pole vault or slalom so that spectators can appreciate how difficult the effort is. Baseball doesn’t let you forget. It’s totally hard-won. Long regular seasons both exhaust and exacerbate it. By October everyone has experienced so much failure and is ready to face an even greater challenge, still they can succeed. The fans have also been left disappointed at times and are ready to get injured again if they get a chance to see their partner.

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WBC doesn’t have that backstory. but to love baseball is to know that every time you watch mike trout too Do what you expect it to do, it’s like lightning in a bottle.