Baseball rivalries between players is older than radio. Sosa vs McGuire, Williams vs DiMaggio, Mays vs Mantle, heck, even Babe Ruth had Rogers Hornsby give him a run for his money in the 1920’s.
Mike Trout though, doesn’t appear to have a real rival. His MVP battles have been with different players. No one else besides him has put up back-to-back Trout like seasons. Every year it seems to be someone different. Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger: none have been consistent enough this past decade to really give Trout a true rival.
Perhaps that fits him. After all, Trout is a quiet, private guy who is only well known and appreciated because of his stats, not his presence. He doesn’t have an attitude, nor does he come off as a sore loser. Trout still keeps true to his humble roots and in signing his mega-deal, renounced the rewarding headache of free agency.
But that is not a real answer. Truly Trout must have a rival, someone that pushes him to be his best. Even if that has to be his own teammate. Right?
What is a rival anyway?
A comparable player striving for the same goal while competing against each other. That dictionary definition is vague, but it will have to do.
Out of all the players to play in the MLB the last decade, the only non-Trout player to have two great seasons is Mookie Betts. In fact, over the past 5 seasons, Betts is the clear silver medal to Trout in FWAR.
Sure, gaining a whole season on your rival is a bit comical over just 5 seasons but it is what it is. In a traditional sense, this is what the answer would be. That the closest thing to a rival Mike Trout has is Mookie Betts. Betts even wants the same amount of money.
But there is a slight problem. Betts’ best season was 2018. A season that is under extreme investigation for cheating that is still on going. What Betts truly is, is thus a mystery for now.
Maybe just focus on CF. What CF would be the best rival for Trout? Cody Bellinger is the next best, according to MLB Network.
This would make it a Southern California market rivalry with more of a goal to gain fan support than raw performance, akin to those Trout/Kershaw billboards when they both won MVP. Bellinger is young and perhaps he will be a great rival for Trout that he has lacked in the past.
A problem with Bellinger as a rival is that besides the Freeway series, they do not actually compete head-to-head much at all. Sure, rivalries do not have to stay in one league. However, some may not see this as a true rivalry.
Therefore, a good rival in the AL for Trout may end up being Alex Bregman. As best player on the Astros they face each other a ton and were neck and neck in MVP voting.
(Un)fortunately the Astros will be heavily scrutinized in the future for cheating in the past so there is no telling if Bregman is actually any good. Without much of a track record, it is even more uncertain.
As I stated earlier, using stats for a rival for Trout will not work, at least for now. He is so far ahead of everyone it is laughable to call anyone a rival. And the most deserving players there are lack Trout’s longevity to date. This is beyond stats.
Rivalries in sports are not just statistics, it is personality. How much the players clash for TV drama. Now Mike Trout isn’t one for TV drama. As he doesn’t put himself out there or show much negative emotion at all. He is just a humble kid who just so happens to be the best player in baseball. He is a real hero.
And what does a hero need more than a villain? With the Astros constantly being criticized and scrutinized after their cheating and insincere apologies for cheating, they have overtaken all the other teams as the most hated franchise in baseball for many fans. No individual team has gathered evoked this much hatred in a long time.
Who happens to be the face of the Astros? Jose Altuve. He is, in a way Mike Trout’s foil. A rather short player by MLB’s standards who has overcome adversity about his physical limitations to become a compelling player of size matters not. Even more when he had a power surge despite being at a disadvantage. A playoff hero with fame and glory.
That all disappeared in an instant. His legacy quickly turning to ash as the evidence came out, his accomplishments tainted as he became the head of the snake on the most hated team in baseball. Altuve’s true colors showed, and baseball’s villainous player was revealed.
Altuve has shown no integrity, making up excuse after excuse for what has happened. New suspicions about even more cheating (buzzers) make his words untrustworthy. The best player on the Astros that was there when wins were scarce, is now the heel.
Mike Trout’s rival in Altuve would be one for Baseball’s soul. The clean hero best player in Baseball who is as amazing as he is boring; up against the most despised player in baseball who people could not and will not stop talking about.
I think that is my answer. For the moment, for 2020, Mike Trout’s rival is Jose Altuve. They will face each other a lot and comparisons of the right way vs the wrong way will flood the internet all season. It is fitting, as they say, Superman needs his Lex Luthor.
Mookie Betts is the closest thing to trout. He played for the hated Boston redsox and is now with cross town rivals LA Dodgers. Although no one is a better all around talent than Trout, Betts MVP season in 2018 and a WS ring makes him a viable rival to Mike trout .
I think that Trout’s biggest rivals are all the ghosts that he’s passing up and chasing. His rival is history.
But, within the context of any given season, it seems that his rival is whoever is having their career season to come on par to Mike Trout’s statistical mean.
So over/under passing Nolan Ryan in bWAR by the end of the year?
Projecting a 8.7-win season is tough, even with that being pretty close to standard for Mike. If he’s healthy, he gets there though. A 150-game season for Trout pretty much always ends up around 9, so that’s the bar.
I don’t think he has a contemporary rival. Maybe his rivals are all HOFers – like Mickey Mantle (can Mike put up a 11 WAR season?, Mantle has two). That is the challenge from here on out.
Trying to match Betts to Trout is a joke. It’s not even close. Throw out Mookie’s cheating-assisted 2018 stats into the trash can and he becomes just another Manny Machado; aided by a heavy home bias split .
It will be interesting to see how Mookie does a whole season away from Fenway. If he has much success in 2020, I’m sure Borass and company will pursue a lifetime contract for Betts that rivals Trouts. For Betts to match Trouts career earnings after 2020, He will have to sign a multiyear contract for 12 years/$464,000,000. Scott better get busy.
Mike’s rivals is the MLB. While the MLB wants him to be the face of the franchise and be more well known, Trout just wants to be Trout. Surprisingly, Arte supports this, but I bet the ulterior motive is that Trout stays in Anaheim to permit Arte to sabotage his career by not letting baseball people make baseball decisions.
Mike has no rival as rivals come from either cross town rivals (i.e. Dodgers) or closer in the standing than the Angels have been to any other of the teams since 2014. Now Mantle had Mays as they were same age and played in New York City at the same position. Williams had DiMaggio at about the same time frame against Boston’s biggest rival since the Yankees stole Ruth. But player rivalry is rare unless it’s for a Batting Crown or Home Run race.Now with Bellinger and Betts across town together there maybe a rivalry starting there, but l do not see anyone that could push Trout to anp and ramp up his game unless it is maybe someone on the Astros that Trout felt that cheated. Harper a few years ago might have created some fun rivalry, but Harper was a one and done rival as he could not keep up with a true Super Star. But having the two cross town outfielders could provide some fun this season yet.
Watch out for all these great young players coming up too. Acuna, Soto, Tatis, Alvarez, Guerrero, Alonso. So many great young players coming up right now. I think Acuna, Soto and Tatis are really special players. But right now – he’s on an island all by himself.
Trout has been Completely Alone,
hunting on the frontier for a few years now….
Ohtani at full strength might be the league MVP, Sub 3.25 ERA 15+ wins as a Starter Plus 280/350/520 25+ homers, 90+ rbis, in less than 550 PA, Thats MVP because it’s 2 Allstars in 1.
Pujols is a broken Super Hero
Simba is the Super Hero of Defense
Rendon might be Mr. Clutch and make stats irrelevant.
Mmm I’ll say Bellinger or Betts
Mike Trout has no peers. To find fair competition for him, you have to go back in time. And while I like your choice of Altuve as a potential arch-enemy, I don’t think Trout will play along. He’s just too nice of a guy.
Ruth is the all-time WAR leader. If looking for a rival, I’d start there.
No point ever mentioning altuve in any article about Trout. altuve is a cheater, Trout is not.
They are morally rivals. Trout as the Golden boy and Altuve as the Villain.
Trout’s rival is the owner that sabotages deals that would make Mike Trout’s team be better. Trout’s rival is Arte’s ego.
On a pure talent level, he has no rival. He’s been doing this for almost a decade now. No one else comes close to that.
Trusted Member! Trout must beat ALL 30 Owners, indeed. Rendon might be everything Pujols wasn’t for the Angels, Redemption is closer than we might think. After Arte stepped on perhaps Eppler’s opus of the offseason, we know Arte has to eat the tab and sign off on a chunk of top of the rotation salary dump from a non contender, Arte must eat that shit sandwich.
I wonder if he will order that sandwich “Mike’s Way?” (à la Jersey Mike’s)
Maybe if Jo Adell turns out to be the real deal over the next few seasons, we really might have something. Rendon would really have to step up his game to approach Trout, but right now he is the closest we have in-house for a good competitor.
In-House Competitor? I remember it being said on that other site, so I’ll repeat it here.
Shohei Ohtani is going to turn heads.
Trout has no equal, and rivals are left trying to see how close (but never reaching) they can get to Trout. Most of the nonsense that circulates about Trout is the result of east coast sportswriters fever dreams who wish Trout played on the east coast so they wouldn’t have to stay awake to watch the greatest baseball talent in a generation.