CLEVELAND - The question made Houston Astros outfielder George Springer smile. It also left him stumped.
"One thing that Mike Trout does?" Springer said. "I want everything that Mike Trout does."
The best baseball players in the world gathered in Cleveland on Monday for All-Star game media day. The rosters feature participants from three different continents, an assembly of differing philosophies, ideologies and agendas. Among this disparate collection, finding a consensus can be difficult.
Except, of course, when it comes to determining the best player in the sport.
Trout, the 27-year-old, eight-time All-Star outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels, stands alone at the top. Each season offers new contenders for his crown. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve could make a case in 2017. Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich challenged Trout in 2018. Yelich and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger can make claims this season.
The constant in the equation is Trout. He ended the first half in his usual position atop the sport's leaderboards, ranked first in the American League in home runs (28), RBIs (67), on-base percentage (.453), slugging percentage (.646) and wins above replacement according to FanGraphs (6.2).
Trout, in the eyes of his fellow players, plays without a visible weakness. That raises a question, which the Los Angeles Times asked of the other All-Stars on Monday: What one skill of Trout's do you most envy? The answers revealed both the depths of his peers' admiration and the breadth of his skills.
"I really have to choose one, out of everything he has?" asked Tampa Bay Rays utility man Brandon Lowe.
"I'd take his entire game, if I could," Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas said.
"All of it," Astros outfielder Michael Brantley said. "How's that answer? All of it. He's a great player. Both sides of the ball, you name it - he can do it. I want all of it."
The omnibus approach seems reasonable. Trout does not astound solely for his power, or for his speed, or for his eye at the plate. His greatness stems from the overlap of those skills and their constancy.
Trout appears unflappable as a hitter, the players said. Colorado Rockies outfielder David Dahl noted that Trout is never rattled by misfortune.
"No matter what happens, it seems like you can't take him out of his approach, whether it's a bad call, or he has an at-bat where it doesn't go well," Dahl said. "He seems locked in, every at-bat."
Several hitters admired his patience. Trout has led the AL in on-base percentage every year since 2016. Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield suggested Trout can afford to be passive when necessary, because he can cover the overwhelming majority of the plate.
"He just never seems to swing at a pitch out of the zone," Merrifield said. "He's never fooled."
The concept of balance came up often. Trout punishes mistakes. But he can also pulverize pitches he did not expect.
"He cannot know a pitch is coming, and I feel like he still takes a swing where I take a step back on defense, where I'm like 'Oh, man, that is scary,' " Lowe said.
Dodgers infielder Max Muncy struck a similar chord. Say the pitcher throws a well-located slider, down and away from Trout, Muncy explained. Trout can still clobber it.
"No matter what kind of swing he takes, it's like it's coming off a trampoline," Muncy said.
Rays outfielder Austin Meadows raved about Trout's dependability. His power rarely fades, but when it does, he still gets on base. Trout rarely slumps, but when he does, his glove does not. Trout can make a highlight reel for a thunderous blast, or a wall-scraping catch.
"It's truly incredible seeing him do something each and every night," Meadows said.
For some players, Trout possesses the one skill they lack. Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal and Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman both mentioned speed. Trout averaged 25 stolen bases from 2016 to 2018; only nine players swiped more bags during that stretch.
"The way he can influence a game on the basepaths - I can't do that," Freeman said. "When you can affect the game in all different areas, that's what makes him the greatest player in this game right now."
Added Grandal: "I don't think the sky is the limit for him. I think if you say, 'The sky is the limit,' you're playing him short. I feel like he can do pretty much anything he wants."
Betts is one of the few players who can approach Trout's mantle. Betts ranks second in wins above replacement since 2016 - still six wins behind Trout. Betts won a batting title in 2018 and led the AL in total bases in 2016. He owns three Gold Gloves for his play in the outfield; Trout has none. Yet, Betts conceded he could not match Trout's power.
"The other things I think I do well, but that's something that, I just don't have it," Betts said.
Astros infielder Alex Bregman had a similar lament. What part of Trout's game did he wish he could mimic?
"Hit homers to center field, on command, whenever he wants to," Bregman said.
Bregman spoke as if Trout resided on a different celestial plane.
"He swings at whatever pitch he wants to swing at, and he hits it wherever he wants to hit it," Bregman said. "That's a fun superpower to have."
No team sees Trout more than the Astros. Springer admitted he was not thrilled this spring when Trout signed a 12-year, $430 million extension to remain with the Angels and in the AL West. Yet, he acknowledged the privilege of getting to witness the apex of what baseball can offer.
To Springer, Trout performs "like he's playing PlayStation," toying with the opponent. The totality of his genius is breathtaking.
"He's doing video game things, in the best baseball league in the world," Springer said. "He's just on another planet. His power, his speed, his contact ability, who he is as a person, who he is as a teammate. I guess you just have to say, 'Everyone wants to be like Mike.' "
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