What the backs of Mike Trout's baseball cards tell us
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The questions the past few days, in the wake of a $426.5 million extension that will span a dozen seasons, have centered on how long Mike Trout can maintain his level of greatness, whether he can provide the Los Angeles Angels with MVP-caliber performances into his 30s and, in a larger sense, whether he can extend his prime long enough to someday go down as the greatest ever.
Here’s something that hasn’t been considered: Mike Trout continuing to get better.
Take a close look at the back of Trout’s baseball card — or his Baseball-Reference page or his FanGraphs profile or his ESPN section — and you might notice the subtle, year-to-year improvements that define him as the player of his generation.
Trout, now embarking on his age-27 season, identifies an area to refine before reporting to camp every year, then spends his entire spring focused on it. It keeps him sharp and helps him stay motivated under circumstances in which most others would settle into contentment. And in the end, well, he gets better.
We took a look at the improvements Trout made each season and how he went about accomplishing them. We also identified