Today, a big league manager went out of his way during a sit down with reporters to mention that a 20-year-old player wasn't quite as good as arguably the best all-around player of all time. The manager probably thought that he was tempering expectations of a player that's been superlative on the field so far.
I'd argue that Ron Washington couldn't have said a nicer thing about the Angels' Mike Trout.
Let me put it this way: Have you ever seen a manager seek out the media to expound on the fact that a player from another team shouldn't be compared to one of the shining beacons of baseball brilliance? Isn't that a pretty obvious reflection that, hey, this guy's pretty special?
To be clear, Washington didn't say that Trout was undeserving of the attention he's gotten. He simply argued that the center fielder shouldn't be looped into with Willie Mays yet: "He's not Willie Mays. He's a pretty good player, but I think the comparisons have to stop. Let the kid play. When he's been here five years, six years, then you can start doing that."
Alright, but let's just consider the implications of this for a moment: Mike Trout has been so ridiculously, fantastically great for the Angels over the past few months that people feel compelled to make sure that he's not compared to Willie freaking Mays.
Is that not the ultimate compliment, to be so good at such a young age that older people around the industry are asking fans not to go too crazy just yet?
Washington is right, at the moment. Mike Trout is very, very far from being Willie Mays. Mays finished his career with 660 homers, 1903 RBI, 338 stolen bases, 2062 runs scored and a stunning WAR figure of 163.2. Mr. Trout currently has 20 homers, 63 RBI, 35 stolen bases, 90 runs scored and 6.6 WAR to his name.
You don't listen to the first track on an album and immediately claim it's the greatest of all time. But if that first track is horrible, you're basically assured that this album, however good the remainder is, can't keep up with the legendary greats.
For Trout, his first track has been a combination of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9," Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," and whatever your favorite Beatles track is. He's been so good, so early, that people are simply sitting here trying to figure out how to put it all into perspective.
So yes, Mr. Washington, you're quite right. Mike Trout isn't Willie Mays. But by simply making that comment, you've added another chapter to the Tale of Mike Trout.
All statistics used in this article are courtesy of FanGraphs.com.