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.

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone each scored twice to lead the Ottawa Senators over the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators, who won their fourth straight at Scottrade Center for the first time in team history. Mike Condon made 19 saves.

Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Carter Hutton made 18 saves.

Stone's third goal in four games at the 2:35 mark of the third period was the winner. Exactly a minute after Steen tied it, Stone stole Jaden Schwartz's pass to score his 14th goal of the season, giving the Senators a 4-3 lead.

With the win, Ottawa is currently in possession of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, leapfrogging the Flyers, who are idle this week (see full recap).

Stars hold on for 7-6 win over Rangers
NEW YORK -- The Dallas Stars gave up an early goal for the third straight game. However, this time they quickly bounced back, took two big leads and held on for a win.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves had a goal and two assists each and the Stars got a wild 7-6 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Dallas fell behind just 27 seconds in as Derek Stepan scored on the Rangers' first shot. On Monday, the Stars gave up a goal 19 seconds into a 4-1 loss at Buffalo, and Minnesota scored 1:19 into a 5-4 win at Dallas on Saturday night.

In this one, the Stars rallied and led 4-1 and 7-3 before pulling out their third win in nine games (3-5-1) (see full recap).

Dubinsky scores twice as Jackets beat 'Canes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Brandon Dubinsky hadn't scored a goal since Dec. 9 at Detroit, a 17-game stretch during which he had chances but couldn't find the back of the net. The drought ended Tuesday night, maybe helping Columbus end a team-wide lull in the process.

Dubinsky scored in the second and third periods, Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist and the Blue Jackets beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.

The Blue Jackets got their third win in seven games since ending a 16-game winning streak and pulled even with Washington atop the unforgiving Metropolitan Division.

"We wanted to reset for sure," Dubinsky said. "We haven't played that well, obviously, in the last six or so games. We wanted to get back to the way we play,” (see full recap).

Matthews caps 3-goal burst, Leafs top Sabres
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews, Leo Komarov and Matt Martin each scored in a nine-minute span in the second period and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Tuesday night for their 10th win in 13 games.

Toronto came back after trailing 2-0 through 20 minutes, getting its first victory this season when behind after one period (1-8-1).

It wasn't all rosy for the Leafs, though. Top defenseman Morgan Rielly left after the first period with a lower-body injury.

Frederik Andersen made 24 saves for Toronto, and James van Riemsdyk also scored.

Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane and William Carrier each scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson allowed four goals combined on 32 shots (see full recap).

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores 36 as Raptors down Nets, 119-109

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores 36 as Raptors down Nets, 119-109

NEW YORK -- DeMar DeRozan had 36 points and 11 rebounds, Cory Joseph scored a career-high 33 and the Toronto Raptors beat the free-falling Brooklyn Nets 119-109 on Tuesday night.

Toronto won its fourth straight game and extended Brooklyn's losing streak to 11 in a row. The Nets have not won since Dec. 26.

Terrence Ross added 15 points for the Raptors, who opened the game with an 11-0 run but fell behind after the first quarter.

Brook Lopez had 28 points for the Nets. Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 14 apiece.

Toronto took a 92-85 lead into the fourth quarter and never looked back. DeRozan led the way with 10 points in the third period, equaling LeVert's total in the quarter.

Lopez and Joseph each scored 14 in the second (see full story).

Mavericks edge Bulls, 99-98, for 3rd straight win on late Matthews' 3
CHICAGO -- Wesley Matthews made a go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Chicago Bulls 99-98 on Tuesday night for their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Six players scored in double figures for the Mavericks, including all five starters. Harrison Barnes had 20 points, Seth Curry added 18 and Dirk Nowitzki finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Dallas trailed 98-96 after Jimmy Butler made a long jumper over Matthews with 23 seconds left, but Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle decided against a timeout and Deron Williams drove into the lane before kicking out to Matthews for the 3.

Chicago had one last chance, but Dwyane Wade missed a potential game-winning jumper from the corner on his 35th birthday as time expired (see full story).

Dragic scores 21 and Heat stun Rockets, 109-103, despite Harden's triple-double
MIAMI -- Goran Dragic had 21 points and eight assists, Wayne Ellington scored 18 off the bench and the Miami Heat overcame another triple-double from James Harden to beat the Houston Rockets 109-103 on Tuesday night.

Dion Waiters scored 17, Tyler Johnson had 16 and James Johnson added 15 for the Heat. Hassan Whiteside finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds.

Harden had 40 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Rockets (32-12), his 13th triple-double of the season. He shot 12 for 30 from the field and got his triple-double with an assist to Montrezl Harrell with 12.6 seconds left, an uncontested dunk with the Heat simply waiting for the clock to run out.

Harrell had 13 points for the Rockets, who got 12 from Patrick Beverley.

There were 19 ties and 15 lead changes in a game that was back-and-forth for 42 minutes, before the Heat finally took control (see full story).

Leonard's 34 points rally Spurs past Timberwolves, 122-114
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a strong start by the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 122-114 victory Tuesday night.

Leonard's fourth straight 30-point game helped him become the first San Antonio player to score 950 points in the season's first half since Tim Duncan in 2003.

Coming off a career-high 38 on Saturday against Phoenix in Mexico City, Leonard was 12 for 17 from the field.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting, spoiling Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau's 59th birthday.

San Antonio had difficulty with Minnesota's explosive starting lineup. Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added 21 points and 14 assists. Zach LaVine scored 18, Gorgui Dieng had 17 and Andrew Wiggins 10 (see full story).