Can Mike Trout ever be the new face of baseball?

Derek Jeter’s All-Star swan song didn’t have to go brilliantly.

He might have gone 0 for 2 with an error or something. But no, instead he went 2 for 2 and pulled a Web Gem on the Classic’s first play. Major League Baseball might have held up the game for a long while to honor Jeter, maybe even gotten Commissioner Bud involved somehow. But no, instead everything was utterly tasteful. The ghost of Bob Sheppard introduced Jeter twice, the fans showed a great deal of respect, and upon Jeter’s exit before the fourth inning, the ghost of Frank Sinatra nearly made it through all of "New York, New York."

Between Jeter this year and Mariano Rivera last year … When I get married, I know where I’m going for my wedding planner. MLB gets this stuff right.

When MLB bothers, that is. Somehow there wasn’t room for any mention of Tony Gwynn. Which seems more than a little strange. Maybe they’re saving the memorials until the World Series? This just doesn’t seem like something a crack wedding planner would whiff on.

Now, a couple of tweets that caught my eye Tuesday night:


I don’t believe Tom Verducci meant that Mike Trout could be just as great as Derek Jeter. Trout is already the world’s greatest baseball player, and Jeter has never been the world’s greatest player. Yes, he’s probably one of the three greatest shortstops who’s ever played, at least career-wise. But that status is due mostly to his brilliant consistency, rather than consistent brilliance.

All of which Verducci must know, since he’s one of the baseball writers who never gave Jeter much support in Most Valuable Player balloting over the years. In Jeter’s long and brilliantly consistent career, his highest MVP finishes have been second place once, and third place twice. After this season, his third full season, Trout will quite likely have a first-place finish and two second-place finishes … and you can argue with some confidence that he’ll have been jobbed by the voters. Twice.

So I don’t believe Verducci was talking about performance. I think he was talking about the face of baseball thing. And I don’t believe that Trout is ready for that job. Sure, Jeter wasn’t much for quotes, either. But Jeter had a certain public grace and he played for a dynastic club in The Greatest City in the World and … well, he grew into it. Jeter is essentially the last icon standing. Nobody really considered Jeter the face of baseball until everyone else either retired or got busted for drugs or just sort of faded away.

Five years ago? I would have gone with Albert Pujols or Joe Mauer, maybe Evan Longoria. Remember how famous they were? All in their 20s, with good looks and brilliant futures?

For various reasons, it just didn’t quite stick. Same for some other younger stars. So we’re left with Jeter for the moment. Which has worked out perfectly well. But you can’t just manufacture a new face of baseball with some chewing gum and broad shoulders and preternatural hand-eye coordination. You need a few other ingredients, and I’m not at all sure that Trout has them. Actually, I’m fairly sure that he does not have them. He might, someday. But he’s a very young man who doesn’t say memorable things, and that’s not a face of baseball combination.

By the way, I don’t believe we need a face of baseball. This isn’t basketball. Baseball does perfectly well without one. But if you’re asking to make a prediction, I’m going to guess Andrew McCutchen, who’s brilliantly talented and ridiculously handsome and says all the right things. Or Yasiel Puig, the world’s most interesting player. Or even Clayton Kershaw, who’s looking more and more like a family-friendly version of Roger Clemens.

My guess? In 25 years, the only things Derek Jeter and Mike Trout will have in common is that both are in the Hall of Fame.