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Mike Trout turns 28 years old today

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout is celebrating his 28th birthday today. It’s poignant because he has already put together a Hall of Fame career and is well on his way to his third American League Most Valuable Player Award. Just about everyone acknowledges Trout as the best player, by far, in the game today, but let’s take the occasion of his birthday to find out just how good he has actually been.

Baseball Reference kicked things off this afternoon, listing players with the most seasons of 7 or more WAR before their 28th birthday, dating back to 1900. Trout leads the way with seven such seasons, followed by Álex Rodríguez, Jimmie Foxx, and Walter Johnson with six.

Between 2011 — the year Trout debuted in the majors — and right now, Trout has accrued 72.5 WAR according to FanGraphs. No one else is remotely close. Buster Posey is second at 49.0 followed by Andrew McCutchen at 43.0. If you throw in pitchers, Clayton Kershaw has 54.8 and Max Scherzer is at 49.6, but FanGraphs’ pitcher WAR is based on FIP as opposed to strictly on-field results, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Regardless, Trout blows everyone out of the water.

Trout has 71.7 WAR per Baseball Reference. If he were to retire today and compared to current Hall of Famers, he would have the 50th-most WAR. He has been in the league for nine years, so that’s an average of about 8 WAR per season. If Trout plays just three more years and racks up 8 WAR in each of those years, he would have about 96 WAR, which would place him just outside of the top-20 in WAR among Hall of Famers.

Let’s go back to the MVP Award. He deservedly won in 2014 and ’16, and will likely win it this year. He was a runner-up in ’12, ’13, ’15, and ’18. There are arguments to be made that Trout deserved it in all of those years as well. In 2012, the first time he finished second to Miguel Cabrera, Trout had a 10.5 to 7.1 WAR lead, per Baseball Reference. Cabrera, however, was the first player to win the Triple Crown — lead in batting average, home runs, and RBI in the same season — since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. In 2013, the gap was a bit closer but Trout still led in WAR 9.0 to 7.3. In 2015, Josh Donaldson won the AL MVP Award mostly because he knocked in 123 runs. Trout not only had the WAR lead at 9.4 to 8.5, but tied Donaldson in homers with 41 while leading him in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Last year was the only year in which Trout was a true runner-up as Mookie Betts led him in WAR, 10.9 to 10.2.

Trout is a five-tool player in every sense of the term. Going back to 1871, there are only seven players who have a career batting average of .300 or better, hit at least 250 home runs and stole at least 175 bases. Those players are Trout, Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero, Larry Walker, George Brett, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. Trout’s career, hopefully, is not even halfway over.

Lastly, it’s worth highlighting just how much better than his teammates Trout has been because it’s often pointed out, as a knock on Trout, that the Angels have been to the playoffs exactly once during his career. The Angels were unceremoniously swept out of the ALDS by the Royals in 2014. But it’s really not Trout’s fault; his teammates just haven’t been anywhere near good enough over the years. Since 2011, when Trout debuted, his 72.5 WAR is almost five times better than the next-best Angels player in that span of time, Kole Calhoun at 15.1 WAR, per FanGraphs. Only three other players got into double-digit WAR: Andrelton Simmons (14.7), Howie Kendrick (14.5), and Erick Aybar (13.6). On the pitching side, only Jered Weaver (13.0) and Garrett Richards (11.2) got into double-digit WAR. I just want to stress this again: in order to replicate Trout’s production, the Angels would have had to clone their second-best player five times. Five times!

We are watching not just a generational talent, but one of the very best players of all time. When all is said and done, it is reasonable to think Trout might retire as one of the five best players of all time. It is even possible for him to eventually be considered the greatest player of all time.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: