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USA Today via Reuters

Is there anything left to say about Mike Trout? He’s perhaps one of the greatest ballplayers of all time. More importantly, his peak in the 2010s was unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time. In all honesty, that alone warrants a hall-of-fame induction for the Los Angeles Angels star. However, things haven’t been easy for him since the turn of the 2020s. Constant injuries and a loss of momentum have turned the superstar into a shadow of his former self. But what’s even more scary is just how similar Trout’s career is becoming to that of Ken Griffey Jr. 

As everyone knows, the Seattle Mariners’ star was one of the biggest stars in the 1990s. His homers and impressive defensive feats turned him not only into the face of the Mariners but also the MLB for some time. Season after season, Griffey’s aura grew and his standard grew, but all of it came to a sudden halt right after he turned 30. Suddenly, injuries plagued the star, and his career slowly went downhill. Is Trout in a similar position? 

Mike Trout and Ken Griffey Jr.’s ridiculous peaks and falls 

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It’s interesting just how close the trajectory of Mike Trout’s career matches Griffey’s. Both of them exploded onto the scene in a way no one expected them to. In the case of Trout, he had a 10.5 WAR, breaking the record for the highest WAR for a rookie. They both had iconic moments, from Griffey’s mad dash in 1995 ALDS Game 5 to Trout’s numerous impressive catches. They both are centerfielders that neutrals loved to root for, and both have zero World Series appearances.

Trout might have seen higher highs than Griffey, but till their age-30 season, Trout’s WAR stood at 82.3 to Griffey’s 76.2. Even now, the Millville Meteor is already much ahead of Griffey. However, the real story begins at the age of 31. Suddenly, injuries began to pile up for the Mariners’ star. From 2001 to 2009, Ken Griffey Jr. averaged only 106 games for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and Mariners (via baseball reference). And by the time he returned to the Mariners, not much was left of him. 

Trout didn’t have to wait until 31 to feel that decline. The star’s injury struggles firmly began in 2021 (age 29). Though he hasn’t played over 135 games since 2018, serious cracks in his longevity were visible in 2021. With constant injuries and a loss of momentum, Trout’s average number of games from 2021 to 2023 was 79. And now Trout has undergone knee surgery after playing just 29 games. The similarities are eerie. But that means even more trouble for the Angels.

Constant injuries could make even a trade an issue. 

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No one can question Mike Trout’s loyalty. Despite struggles and the Halos failing to create a winning team around him, the star has stayed in the organization. While that is a mark of a great man, it has frustrated some of his fans. However, with his constant injuries, is the window of opportunity closing on him?

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wondered the same in his report. Trout currently has around $212.7 million left in his contract. That’s more than most players get during their free agency! The fact that teams would be getting a broken-down Trout at that high cost makes even a trade a risky bet. Though one can argue that Trout’s just too big of a star for any team to outright reject him, it is true that, at age 33, longevity isn’t something that he can offer.

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Now that raises the chief worry for the Los Angeles Angels. As of April 4, they’re fourth in the AL West with a 12-20 record. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them fall to the last position soon (the Houston Astros are recovering quickly). How can one imagine this team giving Mike Trout some playoff time? Now that even trading him might become a costly affair (could the teams ask the Halos to shoulder some of Trout’s salary?) the Halos’ troubles are only increasing. 

In the end, it’s a tragedy. Will Mike Trout be a Hall-of-Famer? Perhaps he will be. Maybe he’ll even go to Cooperstown in his very first year of eligibility, like Ken Griffey Jr. But somewhere along the line, there will be a tinge of regret for fans. A question about “what if?” What if he stayed fit? What if the Los Angeles Angels supported the star with a well-constructed squad?