Rookie of the Year? As far as Torii Hunter is concerned, they should close the polls for the American League honor. No more votes, please. We have a winner — Angels outfielder Mike Trout.
“No question,’’ Hunter said. “It’s a no-brainer. Why even bring it up? Just give it to him right now. Call him “Roy.’ ’’
That’s Roy as in R.O.Y, an abbreviation for Rookie of the Year.
“We should just have a ROY party right now,’’ Hunter said.
What about Most Valuable Player? Hunter believes Trout has compiled an impressive enough résumé in the first 99 games of his career to garner more than a few first-place votes for that award, too.
“If we win and get into the playoffs, then definitely, no doubt about it,’’ Hunter said. “The numbers that he has are pretty impressive.’’
As he prepared to play the 100th game of his career Tuesday night, batting leadoff for the Angels and playing center field, the 21-year-old Trout led AL rookies in every statistical category imaginable: batting average (.343, which led the entire league); runs (96); doubles (22); triples (6); home runs (24); RBIs (70, most in baseball by a leadoff hitter); on-base percentage (.405); slugging percentage (.608); and stolen bases (39, most in the majors).
“MVP, for me, is the most valuable player who’s helping that team win,’’ said Hunter.
“Before he got here, we were losing. When he got here, we started winning. I got to thank Trout for that.’’
“I don’t think it’s a small sample, I just think he’s played tremendous baseball,’’ said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “I just think he’s a young kid who’s very talented and playing to his potential.’’
Tuesday night, Trout got his first glimpse of Fenway Park. Although he struck out in his first at-bat, he scored the game’s first run in the third ining when he singled to center, went to second on a throwing error by Aaron Cook, and came home on Albert Pujols’s single.
It gave Trout 97 runs, the second most by a rookie after 100 games since Joe DiMaggio had 100 in 1936.
Trout wound up going 2 for 4 with a walk in a 5-3 victory. His 99 hits after 100 games is the fifth most by a rookie since DiMaggio had 153.
“Growing up as a kid, watching it on TV, the history here and playing with the Green Monster in left, it’s pretty neat,’’ said Trout, whose list of heady experiences as a rookie include a highlight-reel catch in Camden Yards that robbed J.J. Hardy of a home run (“probably the best catch I’ve ever made in my life”), making the All-Star team, and lunching with boyhood hero Derek Jeter.
“You’ve just got to tell yourself that it’s just another ballpark,’’ Trout said. “But this is definitely one that’s at the top of my list.’’
When he hit his 20th homer Aug. 2, Trout became the youngest player in MLB history to record 20 homers and 30 stolen bases and joined a select group of players who homered on their 21st birthday, including Ted Williams (1939), Frank Robinson (1956), Alex Rodriguez (1996), and Jason Heyward (2010).
“Very rarely do you see that from a guy who gets his first shot at the major leagues at age 20 and just takes off and plays with potential,’’ Scioscia said. “He’s just a talented guy who’s playing well.’’
Trout is just the second player, after Ichiro Suzuki (April to June 2001), to win three consecutive AL Rookie of the Month awards.
“This kid is special,’’ Hunter marveled. “He’s a five-tool player. He plays the game the right way. He plays hard. He would do anything to sacrifice for this team to help us win. That’s what I like about him.
“Most 20-, 21-year-olds, they come in trying to make a name for themselves. He’s actually trying to help us win.’’
Said Trout, “We’re just trying to make the playoffs. All the individual stats and all the other stuff doesn’t matter unless you make the playoffs. I just wanted to come up here and not try to do too much, just be myself. But getting a chance to play every day, to lead off every day, it’s been pretty good.
“As a kid growing up, you’ve always wanted to do this, and now that I’m here, it’s pretty surreal. But it’s been pretty neat for me so far this year.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org