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Peterson: Baseball’s messiah is Mike Trout

God looked down upon Major League Baseball one day and saw that it was no longer good. Long gone were the times when the face of the game and former emissary for baseball, Derek Jeter, stood near the top of baseball statistics in any category other than age. Yet again, baseball’s popularity dropped, creating the largest decrease in interest among fans for any sport over the last 30 years. Wreckage from the steroid era still tarnished the league as more superstars became embroiled in scandals, and baseball seemed unable to escape.

God’s favorite sport has always been baseball — other than the times when Tim Tebow played in the NFL, of course. He decided to fix baseball for the good of mankind and the rabid baseball fans that had grown weary of player after player giving in to steroid use. So what happened next?

God sent Mike Trout to save the game of baseball.

You had to know there was a reason Mike Trout was on the Angels of all teams. Did you really think that a player of his caliber — once compared to former middle linebacker Brian Urlacher by a scout but still one of the fastest players in the league — would fall all the way to 25th in the MLB Draft without divine intervention?

Since he’s arrived, Trout has brought a spark back to baseball. Despite being only 22 years old, he’s clearly become the new face of baseball, and for good reason. In his first two full seasons in the league, Trout generated 19.9 wins above replacement (WAR). His counterpart and the man who beat him out in the AL MVP voting the past two years, Miguel Cabrera, took until his sixth full season in order to reach the same number.

It’s easy to sift through Mike Trout’s numbers and compare him to the all-time greats. As a rookie, he was the first player ever to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases and score 125 runs in a season, one in which he only played 139 games. Only 13 position players have ever recorded 10.5 WAR in a season, like Trout did his rookie year, and they are all in the Hall of Fame.

However, even with his transcendent talent, Trout plays the game hard, like it’s meant to be played. You’ll never see Trout fail to run out a ground ball to the bag or lazily chase a pop fly, unlike some other stars throughout the league. Baseball is scattered with stars that sometimes seem to take days or plays off but still get paid $240 million (see: Robinson Cano). Sometimes those players come off as condescending, ruining the perception of the hard-working athletes and detracting from the overall popularity of the game.

Back in the early 1980s, the NBA was in a similar rut as baseball faces now, stuck behind other professional sports in popularity. One man by the name of Michael Jordan changed that and took the NBA to new heights, resulting in the massive attention boost that has it where it is today — the second most popular sport among younger Americans and increasingly beating baseball in television ratings. In the mid-1990s, Tiger Woods did the same for golf, and as demonstrated by the rapid drop of ticket prices for The Masters after Woods bowed out, the sport leans heavily on him.

What Jordan and Woods were to basketball and golf, respectively, Trout is becoming to baseball. I have yet to meet a baseball fan that doesn’t admire Trout. Even non-baseball fans are beginning to pay attention to baseball because of the hysteria surrounding Trout. It’s becoming cool to be a baseball fan again.

Maybe I over-exaggerated baseball’s loss in popularity, but at least among younger Americans, baseball is clearly no longer at the top. Football, basketball and even now soccer are at least as popular as baseball in America among teens, with football and basketball being far more popular, at least according to an ESPN study.

But with Trout, excitement has returned to baseball because he continues to defy baseball logic with his performance. Rarely does a prospect as hyped as Trout (formerly the No. 1 prospect in the minor leagues) live up to the billing. Never has such a hyped prospect blown away all expectations in the manner that Trout has.

Who knows what’s in store for baseball’s best player — multiple MVP awards, four home runs in a game, the all-time runs record or 50 home runs and 50 stolen bases in a season, nothing seems out of the question at this point. And that’s why he continues to spike interest in baseball — it seems like there is nothing he cannot accomplish.

If you needed a reason to get excited about baseball, well you’ve got it. Mike Trout’s here to reinvigorate baseball, one stat at a time.

Michael Peterson is looking for ideas for his third child’s name after “Mike Trout Peterson” and “Trout Mike Peterson.” Email him ideas at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him @mpetes93.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is the football editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.