Gunnar Henderson's dominance of Angels reinforces his status among baseball's elite

The Orioles may have found one of baseball next great players if Gunnar Henderson can keep this up.
Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels
Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

It is easy to get caught up in a player's hot streak -- or even hot single season -- and proclaim them to be a future Hall of Famer. All sports fans are prisoners of the moment and everyone wants to be the first to say, "I knew they were going to be great/terrible." With the Baltimore Orioles' Gunnar Henderson, many were expecting the guy to be a perennial MVP candidate the rest of his career after he ran away with AL Rookie of the Year last season. If you look at past Rookies of the Year, you will know that that isn't how it always turns fact, reality is far from it.

However, Henderson isn't shrinking from the weight of those expectations this season. Instead, he is thriving under them, and his performance in the Orioles' 6-5 win over the Angels merely added to his growing legend.

Orioles star Gunnar Henderson's "immortal game" against the Angels could be a sign of things to come

Henderson's all around game was on full display against the Angels on Wednesday. At the plate, he went 3-3, including his eighth homer of the season, drove in three runs, and also got hit by a pair of pitches to push his 2024 season OPS to 1.022. Among qualified hitters in all of baseball, that OPS ranks fifth just behind Shohei Ohtani, Marcell Ozuna, Mookie Betts, and Elly De La Cruz.

That would normally be more than enough good work for a single game. However, Henderson also decided to flash his stellar defense as well, as he made this insane play deep at short to nail the not-slow Taylor Ward at first base.

Everyone was already well aware of how talented Henderson is, and Orioles fans were already clamoring for Baltimore to extend Henderson before his rampage this season. However, it is one thing for a guy to be talented and show flashes of brilliance and a very different, far more difficult thing to do to sustain it once there is a target on your back.

There are guys like that around the league right now. Ronald Acuña Jr. came into the league with a huge amount of hype, and while he has had some ups and downs, he posted one of the best seasons in baseball history in 2023, despite every opponent game-planning on how to beat him. Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout all have remained among the game's best players when everyone works hard to disallow them from taking over games. They just can't be stopped.

It may be a bit early to declare Henderson in that echelon, but yesterday's performance has him firmly on track to be considered among the game of baseball's best players -- if he isn't there already.

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