There is only one Mike Trout, a player whose statistics at this stage of his career compare favorably with those of Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays.
The Angels finish a four-game series at Fenway Park on Sunday and countless fans have taken selfies with Trout in the background so they can someday prove they watched him play in person. That’s how good he is.
In Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have their own version of Trout.
Like Trout, Betts was drafted out of high school and took an escalator to the majors before quickly settling in at the top of the lineup. Their career arcs are similar, but what happens over the next 14 months is where they could diverge.
Trout agreed to a record 12-year, $426.5 million contract extension in March, ending what would have been the free agent derby of a lifetime before it ever got started.
Betts has so far resisted such overtures from the Red Sox and, for now, is prepared to become a free agent after next season. But he also understands the Sox plan to make him an offer at some point in the coming months that will be difficult to turn down.
Trout is one of the few players in the game, perhaps the only one, who can fully understand the decision Betts will have to make.
In a conversation Friday, Trout detailed what was important to him — beyond the money — in deciding to commit to the Angels.
“The chance to stay with the same team for my whole career, that was top of my list after sitting back talking to my wife,” Trout said. “It was definitely something I wanted to do. You don’t see it nowadays. You saw it with [Derek] Jeter and obviously I followed him growing up. That definitely had something to do with it.”
Only the Angels could offer that, as will be the case for the Red Sox and Betts.
Loyalty mattered to Trout and Angels general manager Billy Eppler knew he had that card to play.
“It was great that he valued that,” Eppler said. “It’s a testament to Mike’s upbringing. When I got a chance to meet [his parents], he comes from a really strong foundation.
“It wasn’t surprising for me to see Mike go the route of Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, and Chipper Jones and that type of player, to play in one uniform his whole life. It wasn’t surprising, but it sure felt great when he did it.”
When Eppler became GM of the Angels in 2015, he worked to build a relationship with Trout. That helped, too.
“I lean on him for a lot of things,” Eppler said. “A couple of times he’s been on the disabled list during the draft and he looked at players and gave his opinions. He had this investment in the organization and felt things were going in the right direction and this was where he wanted to stay.”
When the Red Sox signed Xander Bogaerts to an extension in April, he cited his close relationship with several team executives and comfort with the Red Sox.
Betts has a more businesslike personality, but the Sox could benefit from the idea that free agency is not necessarily as attractive to players as it once was.
Agreeing to a new deal before the season was something Trout found liberating.
“It definitely helped me,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine what it would have been going through what I went through in spring training with the contract.
“Getting it over with was big for me. I’ve felt great about that.”
It shows on the field. Trout went into the weekend with an 1.106 OPS, the best of his career. He led the American League in home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, and slugging.
In Betts, Trout sees a version of himself. He appreciates how Betts has built a public image around how he plays and passed on self-promotion.
“I see him go out there and play hard and play well and you never see a story where he’s causing trouble,” Trout said. “He’s about baseball.
“A lot of people say to me that I need to do more. But that’s not who I am. I just want to play and he’s like that, too.”
In his long tenure as a Yankees executive and scout, the late Gene Michael used to ask whether a player had the mind-set to be trusted with an enormous contract.
Eppler, who counted Michael as a mentor, pondered that question with Trout. The Red Sox will do the same with Betts.
“I paid a lot of attention to that with Mike,” Eppler said. “But this is a guy I would want to live next door to me and hang out with my 4-year-old son. For us, Mike’s makeup was what we wanted.”
Trout will be paying attention as Betts and the Red Sox go through the process.
“He’s a great player and it’s a tough decision,” Trout said. “I knew what I wanted to do but everybody has to decide what’s important to them.”
ACT OF KINDNESS
Rodriguez helps Venezuelan youth
Eduardo Rodriguez did a good thing you should know about.
When a team of Little League kids (8-10-year-old division) from Maracaibo, Venezuela, qualified for the Latin America championship tournament in Mexico, Rodriguez paid the airfare so the team could attend.
The team had appealed for help from the government and other sources in Venezuela but struck out each time. They even slept on the streets of Caracas while on a fund-raising trip but found no assistance in a country devastated by poverty. It appeared likely at one point that the team wouldn’t get to Mexico.
Rodriguez got word of their plight and arranged for the tickets. The team arrived in Mexico after the opening ceremony, but won the tournament by beating Guatemala, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Mexico twice before swamping Curacao, 13-5, in the championship game.
They arrived back in Maracaibo to a celebration attended by 2,000 people at Edgar Ferrer Stadium.
It was an uplifting moment for the city, a place plagued with power outages, food shortages, and a lack of proper medical care. The 14 players are now known as the “Heroes of San Miguel” for the part of the city they’re from.
As Rodriguez enjoys his finest season on the field, that he helped some kids make their own history only adds to his success.
A few other observations about the Red Sox:
■ Andrew Cashner, who starts Sunday, is 1-4 with a 7.53 earned run average and 1.74 WHIP in five starts since joining the Red Sox. If you use adjusted ERA as a guidepost, he’s been half as good for the Sox as he was for the Orioles.
It was a low-risk, low-cost move for the Sox and Dave Dombrowski when Cashner was obtained July 19. The Sox badly needed a fifth starter and he was pitching well for Baltimore.
But it does make you wonder if sometimes the simplest statistics say the most. Cashner has been in the majors since 2010 and had played for five teams before arriving in Boston. None had a winning record and he was personally 55-82.
■ The annual Players Weekend is Aug. 23-25 and the players will wear uniforms with names on the back of their own choosing.
Around baseball, there were some creative choices. Reds first baseman Joey Votto will wear “Who” — it’ll come to you — and Brewers first baseman Eric Thames went with “Phone Home” for his initials, E.T.
But the Red Sox mailed it in. Major League Baseball provided 27 names the Sox chose and 16 of them are some derivation of their first or last names or their initials.
The only ones remotely interesting are “The Conductor” for Chris Sale and even that requires an explanation. It’s because Sale gets a lot of strikeouts, which are often called punchouts, and train conductors punch tickets.
That Sam Travis went with “Dr. Chill” is pretty good because it’s a play on how intense he is. Sandy Leon (“Noah”) will pay tribute to his son. “Nitro” is solid for hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi.
But beyond that, it was another half-hearted effort for the Sox.
■ Manny Ramirez, who was all but chased out of Boston in 2008, is working his way back into the organization’s good graces.
Ramirez took part in the trophy ceremony on Opening Day, joining a group of players representing the 2004, ’07, and ’13 championship teams.
Then last Saturday he made an appearance on behalf of the Red Sox Foundation at the annual Picnic in the Park fund-raiser at Fenway.
Ramirez is 47 now and retired after a career that included a stint with a Japanese independent league team in 2017.
■ Remember Austin Maddox? The righthander pitched well for the Sox in September of 2017 and made the playoff roster. He got in two games against the Astros but has not pitched in the majors since because of a rotator cuff injury that required surgery last Sept. 20.
Now 28, Maddox pitched off a mound for the first time since the surgery Wednesday. He won’t get back in games this season but hopes to by spring training.
■ The Red Sox released Eduardo Nunez on July 20 and three weeks later he remains a free agent. All he would cost is the prorated minimum.
Nunez is only 32, but had a .277 OBP after the Red Sox signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal.
Singing anthem has its challenges
As a baseball writer, I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed approximately 150 times a season counting spring training. From soloists to high school bands, barbershop quartets, choirs, guitarists, and even a tuba player once, I’ve heard what seems like every version available.
Having always wondered what it must be like, I asked somebody who has done it.
Nancia Pierre is a 25-year-old professional R&B singer from Cambridge who has performed the anthem twice at Fenway Park, the last time before the July 25 game against the Yankees.
“It’s a huge difference from singing in a club or on a stage,” Pierre said. “The reverb is intense when you’re in a big stadium like Fenway and it’s challenging.”
Pierre wore earplugs so she wouldn’t be distracted by the sound of her own voice coming back at her from the speakers at Fenway.
“It’s like driving in the pouring rain, it feels like that,” she said. “You have to be slow and careful, but still get to your destination. I relied on my cadence and what I was hearing in my chest and head. It’s nerve-racking.”
The Red Sox want the anthem finished in 90 seconds or less and the performers are timed in rehearsals before the game. That can be another challenge.
“There’s a big crowd and you can’t rely on music to save you,” Pierre said. “You have to be on time and everybody is watching. But it’s a dream as a vocalist to sing the national anthem for a major sports team. It was on my bucket list for sure.”
Pierre first did the anthem for Triple A Pawtucket and since performed it twice at Fenway and once for the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. Like a player getting ready for a game, she reviewed videos of singers she admired — particularly the late Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV in 1991 — for inspiration.
“You have to be passionate but show respect because so many people love the song,” said Pierre, who hopes to do the anthem before a Celtics or Patriots game in the future. “Whitney set the standard and I tried to live up to that.”
Pierre has performed at the Summer Jam concerts in Boston and opened for artists such as Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Her fourth album, “Heir To The Throne” will be released Aug. 24 at The Middle East in Cambridge.
You can find Pierre at nanciamusic.com.
Indians righthander Aaron Civale, a 24-year-old rookie from Northeastern, went six innings in his first two major league starts and allowed one or fewer runs with at least six strikeouts both times. The last Cleveland rookie to do that was Luis Tiant in 1964. El Tiante was even better. He fired a four-hit shutout of the Yankees in his debut, beating Whitey Ford, then allowed one run over nine innings against the Red Sox. Tiant played with the late Tito Francona that season, His son, of course, now manages Civale . . . Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi will manage the USA Baseball team in the Premier 12 tournament that takes place in Mexico and Japan in November. It will be Team USA’s first chance to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The 28-man team will be made up of professional players not on a 40-man roster with the roster likely to be announced in September or October. The Red Sox have not been contacted about any of their players participating. Team USA would have to finish in the top two of its group in Mexico to advance to Japan. From there, the team from the Americas region with the best record qualifies for the Olympics . . . As somebody who generally supports the idea of baseball trying new things, the “Field of Dreams” game in Iowa next season between the Yankees and White Sox seems like a stretch. MLB will build an 8,000-seat stadium at the site of the cornfield where the movie was filmed. The setting will surely be nice, but playing a game to honor a movie more than 31 years after it first came out is not exactly marketing the game to a new audience. Go the distance and try something a little more current . . . Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. went into the weekend with 30 home runs and 26 stolen bases. He should join Trout as the only players with a 30-30 season before the age of 22. Trout had 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases in 2012 . . . The Yankees hit 43 home runs and were 10-0 in games at Camden Yards this season. They had a 1.123 OPS while scoring 95 runs. The Orioles scored 44 runs . . . The Mets are the anti-Red Sox in that they were active at the trade deadline then went 8-1 in the next nine games to get back in the wild-card race . . . Albert Pujols has hit sixth 14 times this season for the Angels. He has not hit sixth since his rookie season in 2001 . . . Happy birthday to Michael Chavis, who is 24. The Red Sox infielder leads American League rookies in RBIs and is among the leaders in home runs and runs. Chavis did not get called up with the fanfare of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Eloy Jimenez, but could well win Rookie of the Year if he finishes strong . . . It’s also Pablo Sandoval’s birthday. But you’re probably not wishing him a happy anything at this point.