If there is anyone better equipped to understand the exhilarating highs and the dramatic challenges that Mike Trout is experiencing this season, it is Fred Lynn.
The 21-year-old Trout, a first round pick of the Los Angeles Angels out of high school in 2009, is a key reason why his team is 74-63 and just three games out in the American League wild card race.
With numbers that include an American League-best 9.3 WAR (wins above replacement player), 44 steals and 108 runs to accompany a .330 average (second in the AL), 154 hits (ninth), a .563 slugging percentage (third), a .957 OPS (second), 25 home runs and 75 RBI, Trout is a sure bet for the American League Rookie of the Year, and he is a leading candidate for the American League Most Valuable Player.
Lynn accomplished the rare feat in 1975, as did Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. As Landon Hall of the Orange County Register pointed out in an article that compared the rookie seasons of Lynn and Trout, it was a different world when Lynn was named AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP in 1975, when he was 23 and was a key member of a Red Sox team that outlasted the Yankees and Orioles in the American League East and topped favored Oakland in the ALCS (there was not wild card or ALDS then) before falling in seven games to the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds in what many baseball historians call the best World Series ever played.
When Lynn was a rookie, there was no Internet, no MLB Extra Innings package, no ESPN and MLB Network and no Twitter. Lynn told Hall that there wasn’t even a press conference announcing his MVP award. Instead, he discovered he received the award by reading a newspaper when he was in Arizona.
Today, there is more pressure on phenoms like Trout because of the massive attention in traditional and social media outlets, Lynn admits.
In 1975, Lynn was part of an exciting and young Red Sox outfield that also featured Hall of Famer Jim Rice and Dwight Evans. The center fielder batted .331 with 21 home runs and 105 RBI as a rookie.
Trout is not a lock to win the MVP. Like many rookies, he has seen his numbers drop in the second half, posting a .284 average in August after batting .392 in July and posting a .372 average in June. Lynn, Hall explained, had 16 home runs and 71 RBI in the first half and five home runs and 34 RBI after the All-Star break.
Trout will rebound this month, Lynn forecasts.
“He’s a big strong kid, so he ain’t gonna wear out like I did, but this is the time,” said Lynn, who played in 17 Major League seasons, including four with the Angels. “Fortunately, the team’s in the hunt, which will keep him going, keep him mentally stimulated, because if you get mentally tired along with physically tired that’s a bad thing. But I don’t think that’s gonna happen to this kid.”
Trout, who is hitting .250 (11-for-44) over his last 10 games, can help his candidacy by staging another hot stretch at the plate and helping the Angels secure a post-season spot.