Mike Trout's Philadelphia visit, and the most frustrating thing about being a baseball fan

Mike Trout's Philadelphia visit, and the most frustrating thing about being a baseball fan

In two games for the Los Angeles Angels in his first visit to Philadelphia, Mike Trout went a combined 2-9 with a triple, no runs and no RBIs. He walked twice, struck out three times, and stole a base. He wasn't one of the primary reasons the Angels won both games, though he contributed in each of the two.

This is what drives me absolutely nuts about baseball.

First off, it feels ridiculous to me that Mike Trout is only now making his first appearance against the Phillies. Trout's been in baseball since 2011, but if you're a baseball fan that mostly just watches the Phillies and the playoffs (in which, through no fault of his own, Trout has yet to participate), this could very well be the first you're ever seeing of the guy who's been roundly deemed the best player in the game for years already, like if you could've somehow made it until now as a basketball fan without seeing Blake Griffin. I can only imagine how annoying this must have been for fans in the pre-interleague era.

But really, this is frustrating to me because across the two games, Mike Trout has not been all that much more productive for the Angels than any of their other regulars. If you didn't know about his reputation--and you ignored the personal cheering section at CBP he had imported from Millville--you might not know he was all that much better than Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar or even Grant Green.

Yeah, there were flashes. Trout's speed was certainly on display, and it was impressive watching him careen around the bases on that triple, or flag down that Dom Brown fly to deep center. He worked those two walks well, and got into deep pitch counts on other at bats. His steal was authoritative enough that it basically made Chooch's toss to second a moot point. Dude seems like he's probably a pretty good player.

But is he the best player in the game? If you say so. Fact is, in baseball, unless you're dealing with a player whose supremacy is as obvious and all-consuming as turn-of-the-century Barry Bonds or Pedro Martinez, two games just isn't enough--nor is three, or four, or even ten or maybe 20--to tell who the really, really good players are. The numbers say Trout's the best player in the game not because he hits 60 homers or steals 100 bases or bats .400--there's no one single number you can point to (besides advanced stats like WAR or Win-Loss %) as an indicator of Trout's obvious supremacy--the numbers say he's best because, over the course of the season, he contributes a whole lot of everything.

It's pretty tough to get a sense of that over two games. If you're an inferior squad going up against Peyton Manning or Kevin Durant in a single game, chances are you're going to get lit up for a pretty self-evident stat line, but if you're the Phillies going against Mike Trout, it'd probably take several series' worth of data for you to feel the brunt of his excellence. Maybe he'd be on a tear for one or two of those series, but very possibly, the super-hot Angels hitter would be Kendrick or Aybar or Colin Cowgill (who, going into today, had a higher OPS than Trout through 38 games), and you'd think that guy would be the perennial MVP candidate, if you didn't know better.

In a sense, this is the cool thing about baseball. It gives you an intimate bond with players like Chase Utley when you've seen enough of him to know when he's going to surreptitiously lean into an inside pitch to get on base, or try to sneak around third and score when an inattentive first-baseman is still distracted by a close play at the bag. You might not get a true sense of a player like Chase's greatness until you see them play hundreds of times, but then you feel like you understand them in a way that Yankees or Tigers fans never could, endearing them to you forever.

But in another sense, this is what sucks about baseball, and it's also why the sport has such a difficult time developing new stars when they're not chasing statistical benchmarks or making headlines off the diamond. Manning or Durant can let their play speak for themselves, with the potential to win new fans with each mind-blowing performance, but if you're a casual fan who only gets to see a couple Angels games a season, and Trout goes 1-4 with a walk and a steal, chances are you're not gonna go out and buy a Trout #27 jersey immediately after. You know he's great because the overall stats tell you he is, but to your eyes and to your heart-rate, he might seem like just another player.

I don't doubt for a second that Trout is as great as everyone says. But if for some tragic reason, this was Trout's last season in the majors, and someday my future robot grandkids hear about Trout's fleeting greatness and ask about what it was like to watch him play, my answer will be something like "Well, I only saw him play a couple games, and he had a couple hits and a steal and made a nice catch once. He seemed OK." They might not ask me any more sports-related questions after that.

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

NEW YORK -- LeBron James scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also surpassed 20, and the Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the New York Knicks 126-94 on Wednesday night.

James had nothing to say Wednesday morning about Knicks President Phil Jackson and not much more about his decision to not stay with the team in a Donald Trump-branded hotel, but he and the Cavs made a loud statement at Madison Square Garden.

It was their second straight win after a three-game skid, and they did it easily in handing the Knicks their worst loss of the season. Irving led Cleveland with 28 points and Love scored 21, 16 in the first quarter.

Brandon Jennings scored 16 points for the Knicks, who had their four-game winning streak snapped and lost for the just the third time in 10 games. He started for Derrick Rose, who missed his first game of the season with lower back pain.

Tristan Thompson grabbed 20 rebounds for the Cavs. They played without guard J.R. Smith, who returned to Cleveland for additional testing after hyperextending his left knee Monday in Toronto (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo drops triple-double in Bucks’ win
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo got his second triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107 on Wednesday night.

Antetokounmpo had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his seventh career triple-double -- second-most in franchise history -- and is the only NBA player averaging at least 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals this season.

Jabari Parker added 27 points for Milwaukee, which rebounded from a one-point home loss to San Antonio on Monday to win for the fifth time in six games.

The Bucks entered holding opponents to a NBA-best .311 shooting percentage from 3-point range, but Portland drill a season-high 17 of them.

Damian Lillard made five of them and scored a team-high 30 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists.

C.J. McCollum added 23 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Blazers continued a nine-game stretch of playing eight times on the road (see full recap).

Streaking Rockets roll over Lakers
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon made a career-high eight 3-points and scored 26 points to help the Houston Rockets cruise to a 134-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

James Harden added 25 points in three quarters for the Rockets. They scored a season high and extended their winning streak to a season-best four games.

The Rockets were up by 12 in the third quarter, then had a 22-6 run to make it 96-68 and put the game out of reach with about 3 minutes left in the quarter. Houston made four 3-pointers and got a nifty one-handed dunk from Clint Capela in that run to pad the lead.

Gordon already had four 3-pointers seven minutes into the first quarter after making each of his first four attempts. It was his seventh straight game with at least four 3-pointers, which is a franchise record.

Houston's winning streak is its longest since taking five straight in January.

Lou Williams led the Lakers with 24 points. They have lost four in a row, their longest skid of the season (see full recap).