It was announced on Monday that Mike Trout won the first AL Player-of-the-Week award for the 2019 season. This is Trout’s first Player-of-the-Week award since 2015, and the fourth of his career. It is at this point I am legally obligated to remind you that the same Mike Trout has two MVP awards in that same time frame. Nothing sums up the quiet, somehow overlooked excellence of Mike Trout quite like the fact that he has half as many MVPs as he does Player-of-the-Week awards.
Player-of-the-Week awards obviously aren’t the standard by which greatness is measured; it’s simply a rudimentary prize given to whoever has the best week in each respective league. No one is using Player-of-the-Week awards earned in an argument about who belongs in the Hall of Fame and who doesn’t. But the fact that Trout, a yearly contender for the best player in all of baseball since, oh, 2014, only has four in his six years is indicative of the larger narrative of Trout’s career thus far.
Ask a diehard baseball fan, analyst, or player who the best player in baseball is, and Trout’s name will come up often. Ask a casual fan, and they’re likely to name Mookie Betts or Bryce Harper, guys who have been in the public purview of late. Recency bias always plays a part in debates like these, but Trout’s case seems different. I’m not saying Trout is a complete unknown because of course he isn’t. Millions of baseball fans across the country know and appreciate Trout for the player he is. But it seems astounding to me that a player can be as good as Trout, for as long as Trout has been, and still be less than a household name among sports fans.
Sure, not getting into the playoffs regularly has something to do with it, and baseball’s marketing of their biggest stars is abysmal. But it’s 2019 and one of baseball’s three best players has the brand recognition of Philip Rivers — casual fans know the name and the fact that it’s attached to a good player, but not much past that. Maybe it’s a smaller part of a larger problem in terms of baseball’s place in the current sports landscape. Maybe it’s something else entirely. But all I know is Mike Trout will go down as one of the best players of his generation and may end up with as many MVPs as Player-of-the-Week awards, and that is crazy.