Saturday, May 16, 2015


It's a question that borders on blasphemy. But that's what we do here, when we're not shamelessly plugging our sponsor Fright Quotes R Us (it's the acronym that made us sell our soul, truth be told)--we  blaspheme (highest blaspheme-to-phoneme ratio north of the Mason-Dixon line, in fact).

Is this where Mike Trout copped his crewcut??
So, let's dig a deep trench with our apostasy, shall we? The whole world knows (except for the apparent vast majority of folks who've allegedly never heard of him) that Mike Trout is the greatest thing since sliced bread--or a freakin' latte on every single street-corner in these United Franchised States of America. (We left the ™ off because it doesn't scan, see...) It's amazing how much East Coast shoulder-chippiness is invested in this purported anonymity, particularly given how much coverage Trout has been getting since he first burned into our (apparently lapsed) consciousness in 2012.

For the neo-post-neos typing in their posts from their embedded battle stations at Starbucks, it seems to be all about the numerical mega-achievements that Mike has made at a tender age. They want him to be  deified the way that Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were, back when New York dominated baseball in the fifties (a New York-based team in fourteen of twenty possible World Series slots).

Well, that's not going to happen (neither the deification nor the concentration of Big Apple teams). It's the franchising. It's that oozy schmeer of spectral meta-media. It's all wired. Our TV heroes are flawed in an over-determined manner. Our pennant races/playoff schemes are similarly rigged to reward randomness.

And we're still smarting from the moralizing assault on the game that lingers in the air like a fetid epithet, a foul spray of slurs. (You know, PEDs.) That bickering backlash has fed into an offensive slow-down, and the raw numbers don't scratch that part of the itch anymore.

So a guy like Mike Trout is stuck as a darling of the so-called intelligentsia, who can rationalize some (if not all) of the lurking flaws in his game by shaping him into some kind of underdog. (Those two MVPs lost to Miguel Cabrera, for example.) There's nothing more overdetermined than this form of "underdog elitism," a faux populism for the mordant youths to drape themselves in an effort to be elegant and scruffy at the same time.

Further down the East Coast, dangerously down at the place where the cavalier and the redneck spawn side-by-side, there is a massively flawed ballplayer whose potential for truly stupendous offensive seasons (and we mean stupendous in the sense of hitting peaks such as those reached by Mantle and Mays, something that Mike Trout, great as he's been, has yet to do) is just beginning to surface.

He's a year younger than Trout, and he remains much more raw (in all senses). But a recent hot streak has pushed him into the lead in six NL offensive categories (runs, HRs, OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+) and it serves as a reminder that for every Scylla, there's a Charibdis; for every Apollo, there's a Dionysus; for every Democratic presidential candidate, there are six bazillion Republicans.

That guy--who is that guy, the one I'm giving all the down-in-the-heels comps to, in a deal more raw than the ones he gets at Forman et fils? Hell, you know who it is...we've got his name in the title of this post, for Chrissakes. It's Bryce Harper, who just followed a three-homer game with a two-homer game and is showing the potential to put up the type of power numbers that make people (even the folks on the East Coast...) remember your name.

Blasphemy? You bet. A great chance to be completely off-base? Sure. Bryce is still a hothead. He's got the dark tights on, while Mike is draped in bright red. He's that nice reassuring moon up in the sky, who always shows you the same face. Bryce is the dark side of that moon. He's a meteor who might be a comet, or maybe a whole solar system. Maybe.

It's OK to like 'em both (and, as suggests, make up "fright quotes" about). Just so that you recognize that these are talents residing on the same astral continuum. The biggest story of the 2015 season might be occurring right under our noses, because nowhere outside of the DC metro area is anyone making this type of pitch for Bryce. But if there's anyone who's gonna hit 50+ homers a bunch of times in the next ten years, our money is on him, and not Trout.