by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
With the midsummer classic upon us, it stands to reason for most that you take a moment to look back at the half-season of Major League Baseball that was, and recognize the accomplishments of those who received an invite … and those who didn’t that deserved one.
Instead, kinda more interested in looking at the big picture.
The one that offers a view of the best in the game – right now and in the foreseeable future.
Sorry, pitchers and designated hitters, even a personal all-time fave in David Ortiz, need not apply.
Anyway, after morphing some serious review and projection, two unmistakable truths were borne out:
Not for nothing, but your prototype for greatness, or near greatness, anymore is some pumped-up dude carrying about 210 to 230 pounds on a 6-foot to 6-3 frame.
Jimmie Foxx, eat your heart out …
Age? Yo, that window is a decade, going from a couple, 23-year-old kids in Bryce Harper and Xander Bogaerts to hard-to-believe-he-is-that-old Robinson Cano, who, at the ripe old age of 33, is playing arguably the best ball of his potential Hall of Fame career.
Still shaking my head at the Yankees letting him walk three years ago all in the name of “honoring” Derek Jeter. Always will be odd to me how that franchise failed to grasp its new “face” was staring right at it because it was to consumed with holding onto to the one that had long since bid adieu to its prime.
But, that’s a debate for another day …
Frankly, we got a lotta candidates to legitimately consider for “best in the game” anymore … and some of these guys ain’t ever talked about.
Hello, Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, who may lead the National League in homers and RBIs for a second straight season.
Or fellow hot corner stud, Josh Donaldson of Toronto. He merely led the American League in homers, RBIs and runs scored last year, earned the MVP and is posting comparable numbers this season … and, umm, anyone chatting him up?
Well, he is 30 … which makes him a year younger than this season’s “breakout” talent: Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy. Apparently, the Mets’ organization is blessed with the same foresight as its crosstown, interleague rival. Dude serves the club well for seven years, good, productive player, then goes all Babe Ruth in the playoffs … and the Mets decide he ain’t worth any further investment.
Murphy merely is the leader in the clubhouse for 2016 NL MVP.
Especially with the terrific, mid-20s tandem of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo likely splitting any vote for either member of the Cubs … and other possible votes fading into oblivion with the team’s record start now a distant memory.
Beltway neighbor Manny Machado is a challenger in the AL for MVP at this point.
Push comes to shove, though, the best player in the game right now and in the foreseeable future is … back to being Mike Trout.
Just a year removed from legitimately losing that mantle to Harper, due to the Nationals outfielder waking up some Cooperstown echoes with a Bonds-esque effort not questioned for “cleanliness” and Trout’s own disappearing act in the second half, the Angels center fielder is proving to be MLB’s top all-around force again.
His team might stink, but he’s worth the price of admission … for everything he does, or may do.
The most positive change in his game has been a return to utilizing that top-end speed. Ever since taking the sport by storm in 2012, when he stole an AL-best 49 bags, Trout seemed to be focused solely on power, basically taking away a major component of his arsenal.
Now, it’s back … at least to some threatening degree. With 15 steals in 16 attempts this season, he may not be a 40-40 threat anymore, but 30-30 seems a good bet.
Plus, he’s back to batting above .300 … and he’s remained a quality defensive player throughout his career.
In short, he is the standard again. Anyone hoping to be the best in MLB, look no further.
Trout is your target.
AN ELITE EIGHT
When it comes to best in the game, we are talking all-around everyday talents. No pitchers, no designated hitters, no one- or even two-trick ponies in regards to talent. These guys, right now, seem to have the best sets of tools in the game (and their numbers listed are entering Sunday):
Angels center fielder
Just 24, the 2014 AL MVP faded a bit down the stretch last season, but has firmly re-established his place atop the sport as an all-around this season with a .323 batting average, 18 homers, 57 RBIs, 68 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
Nationals second baseman
The steal of the off-season, the 31-year-old has Mets fans everywhere wondering what if ... Apparently, his breakout effort in the 2015 playoffs was no aberration as his first-half numbers in 2016 (.349, 16, 64 and 52) are NL MVP-worthy.
Blue Jays third baseman
The reigning AL MVP will make Trout earn his second trophy. He's on pace for 40 homers, 120 RBIs and 150 runs scored ... while hitting .301. Oh yeah, he is spectacular on defense, too.
Red Sox shortstop
Trout has replaced Bryce Harper as the best player in the game. Has Bogaerts replaced Harper as the best 23-year-old in the game, too? Looks like it ... for now, with the Boston youngster starring in the field and putting up great numbers: .331 batting average, 10 homers, 55 RBIs and 65 runs scored.
Seattle second baseman
The Yankees let this guy go why? Dumb, dumb, dumb. Yeah, he is 33, but right now is hitting .312 with 20 bombs, 56 RBIs and 62 runs scored.
Rockies third baseman
The 25-year-old led the NL in homers and RBIs last season and is poised to make a run at the same crowns this season.
Orioles third baseman/shortstop
Basically the AL version of Arenado.
Cubs third baseman/left fielder
Until Harper straightens himself out, he is not cracking this list ahead of a guy with 25 homers, 64 RBIs and 72 runs scored now.