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Mike Trout Is Still Doing Mike Trout Stuff

Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run against the Miami Marlins during the fourth inning of the game at loanDepot park on April 01, 2024 in Miami, Florida.
Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Things are seemingly back to normal in Anaheim. After a six-season aside in which the Los Angeles Angels employed the coolest baseball player of all time, Shohei Ohtani moved on to the better and more storied Dodgers, which left Mike Trout in the role he has had for most of his career: the sole beautiful flower growing in a garden otherwise strewn with smoldering trash and discarded energy drink cans. The Angels aren't very good, although no one is expecting them to be any good this year and perhaps not for a while after that; Trout still has six more years on his contract after this season. This means that barring a trade—it could happen, although it's dispiriting just to think about—the Angels will always provide fans with one compelling reason to tune in.

So far, in the team's first Shohei-less season since 2017, Trout has delivered: he's gone 4-for-15 (that's a .286 average, a fine number, but one below his career .301), but three of those hits have been home runs. Trout started his season in fine form, crushing the third pitch he saw on Opening Day to deep left-center field, giving the Angels an early 1-0 lead.

(They would go on to lose that game, very badly. Like, 11-3 levels of badly. The Angels aren't very good!)

On Monday, the Angels opened their second series of the season, having shot down I-95 from Baltimore to Miami for a three-game set with the Marlins. Things did not start out well for the visitors, with Miami—one of baseball's remaining winless teams entering Monday after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Pirates and their ridiculous bullpen heater—jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom half of the first inning, thanks to a walk, a catcher's interference call, two singles, and then a Nick Gordon double that brought in two runs:

The Angels clawed back a run in the top half of the second, thanks to a Taylor Ward double that eventually turned into a run on an Aaron Hicks groundout. Then, in the top of the fourth, it was Mike Trout Time. On a 3-2 count, Trout latched on to a changeup, left in the inside-middle of the zone by Marlins pitcher Max Meyer, and blasted it 412 feet to left field, inching the Angels back to just a two-run deficit:

That was just the appetizer, though, and the portion size on the main course was appropriately much larger. Two innings later, in the top of the sixth, Trout stepped up to face George Soriano, just one batter after Nolan Schanuel barely cleared the wall in right field for a homer of his own, making it 4-3 Marlins. Trout took two strikes looking, laid off a changeup low and outside, and then dispatched a low slider into a part of the Marlins' stadium that I'm not sure I've seen anyone, save maybe Giancarlo Stanton, reach before:

As that MLB tweet so helpfully states, that was 473 feet, and it came on a low slider. That isn't quite superhuman, although it's a conversation you could have if you'd like. But Trout has never been superhuman. If anything, he has just been the very best version of a very human baseball player from his first moment in the league. It's hard to say that anything Trout does, taken in isolation, seems impossible; it's the combination of doing everything so well and so consistently, at least when he is healthy enough to do it, that makes him one of the foremost statistical anomalies in baseball history.

When Trout was dominating the American League individual accolades last decade, it was almost boring. Some of this was the Angels, and some of it was Trout. One could check out his stats and see that, yes, this was the best player in baseball, but he never captured the general imagination—again, because he was on such a misbegotten franchise, but also because of how well all his uncanny numbers lined up with each other. He never hit a lot of home runs—well, 45 is a lot for a career-high, but 12 active players have hit more in a season than that—or chased .400, or had an Acuñaesque stolen base blowout in even one season. Trout was simply excellent at all of those things, every single year, with little deviation from his mean.

There's also the fact that he was overshadowed by Ohtani over the last half-decade. This is not a knock on him; everyone else was, too. In comparison to his two-way omega-star teammate, someone who would make news happen by virtue of doing things not seen in decades, Mike Trout just showed up to work, hit consistently around the very high level that he always has, and generally racked up value everywhere and anywhere he could. It's fitting that the most notable moment in recent Trout history came against Ohtani, and that Ohtani got the best of him.

It's nice, then, now that he is back to being the sole luminary in Anaheim, to be reminded that Mike Trout is also so fucking cool. I don't buy into the idea that the Angels will somehow make the playoffs in Ohtani's absence, but I am fully on board for a Trout renaissance year, even when it comes partly at the expense of my hometown team giving up two home runs to the man. To see him swing the bat and somehow park a ball past that bar in center field is to appreciate that Mike Trout isn't anyone's sidekick.

There's a reason that Trout has three MVPs, and it wouldn't shock me if he won another if he can reclaim his (mostly) injury-free prime even on this wasteland of a team. Despite being the model of hitting excellence for so long, Trout is only 32, and when he's healthy he hasn't shown any signs of decline at all. The Marlins saw on Monday what he can still bring to the table, and past the center field bar. The Angels are still the Angels—as bleak as ever, a misshaped roster full of players whose sum has never been greater than the parts. They can win some ballgames through the equation of Trout + A Little Bit From Everyone Else, though, as they did on Monday by a score of 7-4. It would be a lot more fun to see Trout doing what he does on a winning team, rather than on whatever the Angels have been for his whole career. But the Mike Trout show is still worth checking in on whenever and wherever it airs.

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