Top 10 Under-Covered Stories of 2016 (Part 1 of 5)

I’m back!

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be putting up at least three posts a week. Life’s been quite busy because it’s college application season.

Now that we have that out of the way, I welcome you to my first multi-article series on this blog: Top 10 Under-Covered Stories of 2016. With the end of a year comes the typical best of, worst of, craziest, etc. stories of 2016. I have never, if my memory serves correctly, seen an article detailing the stories in a single year that were under covered or went without many articles discussing them. Sure, everyone knows about Trevor Story’s ridiculous first week, injuries to the Mets’ pitching staff, and the Cubs breaking their 108-year World Series champion drought (there are also 108 stitches on a baseball…coincidence???), but I hope to bring to light some stories that were not reported on much, if at all, during this calendar year. Before we get going, I just want to make it clear that this list is not ordered in any particular way. Let’s jump right in.

#10 Mike Trout is a Very Good Baseball Player

“But Max, Trout was MVP this year! And he’s always amazing! Isn’t this supposed to be the list of ‘under-covered’ stories? What gives?”

Well, reader, let me indulge you. There are very few people who actually understand how good Mike Trout is. I’m not saying that to sound pompous or better than anyone, it’s just a fact. Yes, everyone knows that Trout is perennially one of the top three players in the big leagues, and everyone also knows that he’s only 25 years old. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Trout is going to retire as the best position player of all-time. Save this, so when Trout is getting inducted to the HOF 20 years from now, you can Tweet the link to this blog post and say “heard it here first!”

On a more serious note, let me explain to you just how good Mr. Trout is, and why it needs to be talked about more. Trout’s triple-slash (through 2997 games) is .306/.405/.557 (AVG/OBP/SLG). This is not a perfect comparison, but Mickey Mantle hit .298, Rickey Henderson got on base at a .401 career clip, and Ken Griffey Jr. had  a .538 SLG. Trout has also hit 163 HR through five seasons (not including 2011, where he only got 135 PA); Griffey only hit 132 long balls in his first five years. (Check out @theaceofspaeder on Twitter for more stats like this).

Here’s a list of players who bested each number in Trout’s triple-slash during their career: Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg, Manny Ramirez. That’s seven players. Ever. If you want to exclude Ramirez because he is a PED user, fine by me; that chops the list down to six players. If you add to this the fact that Trout has only been playing for five full seasons (he got only 135 PA in 2011) and prorate his stats out to a 20-year career (daring, I know) he will be only the second player ever to hit 600+ HR and have 500+ SB. The other? Barry Bonds.

I’ve mentioned WAR on here before and how that, like many other stats, is an imperfect stat, but it gives us a nice tool to use to compare players in a basic way. The average WAR7 (7-year peak of highest WAR during career) of a Hall of Fame CF is 44.5 Trout has 45. He’s only played five seasons. That means that even if he decides to sit out these next two seasons to pursue his dream of being a weatherman (seriously, he’s a good one too) he could still be in the conversation for the Hall of Fame, ignoring the fact that he hasn’t played 10 seasons. He also has the eighth-highest WAR7 of any CF ever. Again, that’s only in five seasons, so assuming he posts his career-average WAR numbers for the next two years, he’ll end up with 66.9 WAR7, which will be good for third all-time, behind Willie Mays and Ty Cobb.

Please keep in mind he has only played five full seasons. Have I said that enough?

What do you do when you have a player with these numbers? You put him in the hall. What do you do when you have a player with these numbers in six total seasons, when that player is only 25 years old? You sit back and watch him masterfully display his talents so that you can tell your grandkids, or great-grandkids, how you were alive to see the greatest player of all-time on the field, in person.

#9 The Texas Rangers Minor League System Did Some Pretty Terrible Things

If you’ve been following the new MLB collective bargaining agreement at all, then you’re probably aware of the presence of a certain clause which indicates that bullying and hazing of certain types are now off-limits. I want to make this crystal clear: I’m not condoning any form of bullying in any way, because when we look the other direction with regards to bullying and hazing in professional sports, we get a situation like that of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. With that said, the policy seemed to come out of left field. Folks have speculated that it was due to the Rangers farm system incident, in which players from the Rangers’ academy  in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, sexually abused an underage teammate.

I don’t really think that a “no hazing allowed” clause in the new CBA is going to be able to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future, but it’s good that both the players and owners of Major League Baseball are acknowledging the incident.

On to the incident itself: it has been reported that some older Rangers prospects, namely 19-year-olds Rougned Odor (no, not Golden Gloves winner Rougned Odor) and Yohel Pozo, forcibly held down younger teammates (16-year-olds) and masturbated them. Additionally, the incident was apparently not isolated, as in this sort of thing had happened before.

I remember getting a banner on my phone about the event, but I do not recall seeing any articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, or any other very reputable newspaper about the incident. In my book, this is front-page news. The fact that newspapers and more major media outlets did not expose this story, to me at least, is a travesty. What the Rangers’ prospects did was terrible, but my gut (in addition to some reports) tells me that academies in the Dominican Republic and other foreign countries are not necessarily policed as heavily as they should be. Obviously trainers, coaches, and the like are overseeing the daily workout of each of the prospects, but I find it hard to believe that the coaches maintain the same stringency off the field as they do on it. In any event, most people I have talked to did not hear about this incident until I brought it up with them in person, and even then I did not know much about the specifics of the abuse without doing some independent research.

Thankfully, this is the only thing on this list of significant magnitude, and I hope that when I whip this list up for 2017 we have a list free of hazing, bullying, and the like. I hope the prospects who perpetrated the abuse are brought to justice (and released by the Rangers, but knowing how the sports business works that’s pretty unlikely to happen if they have any upside) and that those prospects who were targeted are able to move on.

Click here to continue to part 2

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