Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell. Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus.
Well, considering that Trout and Harper don't have much of a rivalry — yet — it's unlikely at the moment. Still, if the first-ever meeting Monday night between the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals in D.C. with Trout and Harper on the respective rosters is just two ships passing in the night — what a couple of boats they are. It's definitely a positive of interleague play. Other than All-Star games, and the odd World Series meeting, they might otherwise never play at the same time against each other.
The two young players have a lot in common, though Trout is 22 years old and Harper is 21. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times takes note:
Both were called up to the big leagues for good on April 28, 2012, and both won rookie-of-the-year awards that season, but Trout is the more accomplished player to this point.
Through Saturday, Trout had a .314 average, .403 on-base percentage and .549 slugging percentage in 353 career games, with 67 home runs, 209 runs batted in, 272 runs and 88 stolen bases. Harper had a .273/.353/.477 slash line in 273 games, with 43 homers, 122 RBIs, 176 runs and 29 stolen bases.
Many project Harper as the better pure power hitter, but Trout out-homered Harper, 30-22, in 2012 and 27-20 in 2013.
Trout also has done a better job of staying out of trouble — relatively speaking. Harper was benched Saturday for not running hard on a grounder back to the mound. He's also been chastised in previous seasons for playing "too hard." Trout, if he were young baseball superstar porridge, has been just right.
They were teammates in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and are, at least, good acquaintances if not friends outright. And Trout let Harper know that he's coming to town.
"I shot him a text message a couple days ago — it's going to be fun to play against him," Trout said. "We both play the game hard. We're both trying to help our team win. It's good for the fans, obviously, but it's not going to change my game or anything."
Coming off an embarrassing moment when Matt Williams benched him, Harper finds himself in an awkward position: Wanting to make everything right again without doing too much. It appears Trout has the jump on him in this part of the game, too.
But again, it's easy to forget: Both players are just starting their careers.
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