Mike Trout is going to be the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year, but before anyone jumps the gun, keep in mind that Trout isn’t the first ROY, and won’t be the last. He still has a lot to work on before being mentioned in the same breath as Mickey Mantle or Ken Griffey Jr. 

Don’t get me wrong, Trout is a five-tooler. He runs like the wind (first in the bigs with 36 stolen bases), hits for power (21 homers), hits for average (tops in the A.L. with .345 avg.), wows us with his defensive skills (this explains it all) and has a cannon for an arm (I don’t have a video, but trust me on this one).

But regardless of those numbers, Mike Trout still hasn’t proven himself to be one of the best players ever. That’s not his fault, though. He hasn’t had the opportunity to play a fruitful 15-20 year career, yet.

Is he one of the best rookies of all time? Maybe. But it’s up for debate if he’s THE best rookie. If it were up to me, that honor would go to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in his 1911 rookie campaign.

Jackson had a 9.9 WAR (via fangraphs), batted .408/.468./.590, finishing fourth in MVP voting, behind Hall of Famers Eddie Collins, “Big” Ed Walsh and Ty Cobb. And he did it at a respectable 24 years old. 

But alas, this isn’t a history lesson; just food for thought.

Mike Trout has been compared to the likes of Mickey Mantle, and being mentioned in the same sentence as the legend is remarkable on itself, but let me remind you of one thing: He has yet to complete a full season in the majors. 

In 90 games, Trout has proven to us that he can pad his stats in a very short amount of time, but at the end of the day, having one great season doesn’t mean you’ll have ten more just like it. 

What will really make him a superstar is whether or not he can maintain consistency at the MLB level for years to come. The bar has been set very high for Trout, because no one is thinking about this season anymore, but instead, they’re thinking about the impact he’ll have on baseball in the future. 

There is a possibility that Trout steamrolls opposing pitchers in his rookie season, then falls off the truck and never lives up to it again; he wouldn’t be the first.

In 2008, Geovany Soto was the National League rookie of the year, batting .285/.364/.504 (not Mike Trout numbers, but bear with me). He has yet to come close to those numbers again, ultimately resulting in his trade in 2012.

This is a small example, but all I’m saying is don’t be surprised if pitchers figure out Trout’s tendencies in 2013, forcing him to make adjustments and testing his mental capacity. 

From a physical standpoint, he could be a 10-year all-star if he keeps this up, but in reality there is one major difference between major and minor leaguers. Major league ballplayers are consistent.

Minor leaguers might have the talent, more talent than their major league counterparts, but they can’t make adjustments and stay consistent enough, ultimately forcing them to ride buses for the remainder of their careers. 

A lot of people are asking, “is there anything Mike Trout hasn’t done?”. Well, it’s the one thing he has no control over: have an illustrious career.

There is no way to predict a home run king, or an all-time hits leader, or someone breaking the stolen base record, because although the talent might be there, it’s not all that’s required. To be a legend, you need to have mental grit, you need to stay healthy, you need to be smart and you have to, above all, stay consistent and let your playing do the talking. 

Joe Jackson batted .300 every season following his rookie year except for once (.272), going out with a .382/.444/.589 slash line in his final season of baseball in 1920, after being banned in the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal (where he batted .375 with 12 hits, the best of the series’ and committed no errors).

If Mike Trout can play stellar baseball for years upon years to come, I’ll eat my words. But for now let’s enjoy the Mike Trout show, because just like everything else he does, this may never happen again.

For him, or anyone else. 

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