Although I am, primarily, a Chicago Cubs fan, I am also just a huge baseball fan. I love watching the game. I love reading the stories. And I love seeing the best of the best doing their thing, and feeling like I was getting to see something special.
That’s how it has been with Mike Trout for a decade: feeling like I was getting to watch one of the best players ever, just consistently doing his thing in his prime.
The last few years, though, the injuries have started to pile up. Trout, now 30, also figures to be just a little more susceptible to the impact of those injuries, and the length of time it takes to recover. That’s just normal aging.
Still, I wasn’t quite prepared to read this today:
(Angels head athletic trainer Mike) Frostad was asked why the significant optimism earlier this month of a quick return has now led to a condition – costovertebral dysfunction at T5 – where there’s more concern.
“This is a pretty rare condition that he has right now in his back,” Frostad said. “The doctor (Robert Watkins), who is one of the most well-known spine surgeons in the country, if not the world, doesn’t see a lot of these.
“And for it to happen in a baseball player, we just have to take into consideration what he puts himself through with hitting, swinging on a daily basis, just getting prepared. And then also playing in the outfield. … There’s so many things that can aggravate it. But this doctor hasn’t seen a lot of it.”
What exactly am I reading? Mike Trout has an exceedingly rare back condition that he will have to manage for the rest of his career and that could be easily aggravated by doing simple baseball things? Is this going to be a serious problem? Is this a career-altering diagnosis? Is the part about managing it for the rest of his career not really as scary as it sounds?
I really don’t know the answers to these questions, because this news seems to be taking everyone off-guard. It’s possible Trout doesn’t even return this season.
I imagine there will be MUCH to update on this front, but it raises so many other longer-term questions. With Trout so critical to the Angels’ success in the future, how will his performance change in his 30s now? And how will the roster be constructed around him, when the team is already dreadfully underperforming and expensive? Does this make the Angels fractionally more willing to shop Shohei Ohtani now, rather than lose him in a year and a half for nothing, when the team might be in even more dire straights?
Ugh. This is all just awful to think about, and I hope it’s not as serious or worrisome as it sounds. He’s Mike Trout. I just want him to be healthy and good.
UPDATE: Man, I hope he’s right: