Camden Yards hosted a pair of playoff contenders Wednesday night, and I guess the Orioles forgot what a baseball is because the Angels beat them a zillion to one. As part of the Angels' latest winning effort, Mike Trout contributed another four hits, raising his batting average to .344. If Trout was ever going to have any adjustment period in the major leagues, it must have taken place in 2011, because in 2012 he hit the ground running and hasn't slowed down. He's been a borderline unstoppable force.
What people are going to remember from Wednesday's game, though, has nothing to do with Trout's offense and everything to do with Trout's defense. With one out in the bottom of the first inning, J.J. Hardy blasted a deep fly ball to center field. Trout sprinted after it, leaped against the wall, and made a tremendous catch to rob Hardy of a home run. You can watch the video here, and you'll be seeing it plenty of times between now and the end of the season.
It was just a breathtaking, show-stopping catch on Trout's part, and it's worthy of further review. Here, we highlight the best parts and toss out the garbage. There was no actual garbage, but there was relative garbage, which is what actually matters.
One of the best parts of the catch was the catch. I'd be remiss if I didn't include it because then what would I be doing? There are plenty of catches made every season that take away would-be home runs. They're not common, but there are, what, a few of them a week? One of them a week? One robbed home run for every actual Jose Bautista home run? I don't know the math, but when you see a guy take away a dinger, you don't automatically think "wow, that was amazing!"
But Trout's catch was amazing, and here's why: he didn't stop and position himself by the wall. It wasn't a towering fly ball, such that Trout could get in position and just time a jump. He did that all on the run, and more, he leaped and oriented his body in such a way that he didn't crash too hard into the fence and risk injury or jarring the ball loose. Trout took a home run away on the move and made it look graceful. They say the best ones make what's difficult look easy, and Trout made it look like he makes that catch every day. At least, until shortly after he returned to the ground.
I don't know how high I could jump, against that fence. I don't know how high the average major-leaguer could jump, against that fence. I only know how high Mike Trout jumped, this one time, so I can't put it in a real context. But I look at that picture and think, "yeah, most people couldn't do that." If you're having trouble seeing how much air Trout really got, let's enlist the help of a certain Astros middle infielder:
I don't think you can really understand how impressive the real athletes are when they take away home runs until you see a non-athlete in an outfield corner try to take away a home run. Their leaps are awkward and pathetic. Look at Trout just soar, unconcerned about the imminent collision. He got way up there. He had to, and he did it, because he's Mike Trout, and Mike Trout is capable of what he needs to be capable of.
Orioles fans know just a little bit about fan interference on fly balls near the wall. So while this fan wasn't really close to interfering with Trout or the baseball at all, I suppose one can never be too cautious. Unlike Jeffrey Maier, we'll never know this fan's name, and that's just the way this fan likes it.
This is where we observe that Mike Trout doesn't actually make a catch like this every day. If he did, he wouldn't respond with so much vim and vigor. Maybe there would have been some controversy had Trout elected to respond with a pair of somersaults, but instead he just behaved exactly as he was feeling, and he was feeling awesome. Why wouldn't he? He just made one of the best catches he'll make in his entire career. The catch itself wouldn't have been any different had Trout calmly returned the ball to the infield and jogged to his position, but because Trout showed so much enthusiasm, it allowed observers to sustain their enthusiasm as well.
What you're looking at is Mike Trout watching himself make that catch on instant replay on the Camden Yards scoreboard. A line people say about professionals is that professionals should "act like they've been there before," and I can see why it might grow tiresome if a guy kept posing after every home run, but Trout acted like he'd never been there before at all in this instance, and it was great. While everybody else was being wowed by Mike Trout on instant replay, Mike Trout was being wowed by himself. It's fun when players have fun.
Hardy: What is the best thing a hitter can do, JJ
Hardy: The best thing a hitter can do is hit a home run
Hardy: What did you do, JJ
Hardy: I hit a home run
Hardy: But it wasn't a home run
Hardy: Because it wasn't a good enough home run
Hardy: I tried my best and did my best
Hardy: My best was insufficient
Hardy: I am insufficient
Hardy: I am an ant
Hardy: I am worse than an ant
Jered Weaver, obviously, was the guy on the mound for the Angels, and it was Jered Weaver who wanted to throw Hardy a low breaking ball, and who wound up throwing Hardy a hanging breaking ball. The breaking ball got punished, Weaver knew he made a mistake, and Hardy hit a home run. Then at the very last instant, the home run was snatched away, like it had dipped into another universe on a bungee cord. What we see here is Jered Weaver celebrating after he allowed the worst possible thing. Jered Weaver allowed a home run. All Mike Trout did was make sure the home run counted as an out, but Weaver knew the truth, leading to this image of simultaneous gratitude and disappointment.