Even if you’re not a dedicated fan of baseball, chances are you’ve heard the names Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. The pair of outfielders were called up last season roughly around the same time and have had their names linked together on magazine covers ever since. There were compelling arguments that Trout and Harper put together the best Major League seasons at ages 20 and 19, respectively, in the history of baseball.
Less heralded in the 2012 rookie class was Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado, who came up on August 9 and stuck around for the next 51 games — and postseason — batting .262 as a 20-year-old.
In 2013 Machado, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, has been even better than expected, posting a .329/.367/.515 line. His May is even more impressive with an OPS of 1.034 and only six strikeouts in 52 at bats. It’s obviously too soon to say Baltimore’s found its new Brooks Robinson (or late career Cal Ripken), but Machado certainly doesn’t appear to be on his way to becoming the next Ryan Minor, either.
Machado is yet to run face-first into a wall like Harper (.303/.400/.622), or star in Subway ads like Trout (.286/.352/.552) but the natural next question in this “embrace debate” sports culture we all seemingly live in, would be to ask if Machado is better or will be better than either Trout or Harper for this season or their careers?
Isn’t it possible, however, for all three players to have good seasons and good careers, independent of each other? Does there always have to be a debate as to who’s the best at any given thing in sports at any given time? Is it possible for all three young players mentioned in this post to be very good? Can somebody say they prefer Trout to Harper or Harper to Machado and not be labeled a “hater”?
No! We must have kneejerk analysis about who’ll be the best in a year or two or 10, even though nobody will remember this week’s prediction. Can we step back and realize there’s a lot of room out there for lots of players to achieve excellence, especially in careers that could stretch into the 2030s?
That’s just a thought.
Anyways, Machado’s 2013 season is off to a terrific start no matter which way you chose to frame it.