Stomper Versus the Rally Monkey: the Only Proper Way to Appreciate the Return and the Beauty of Baseball
140 days, United States Presidents’ traditionally get evaluated by the United States media in the first 100. days. A baby finishes its first trimester and is 18 days into his/hers second trimester. 20 weeks, that’s how long I’ve been personally affected by the corona virus pandemic; by now, I probably would have attended maybe 10 home games. This pandemic has changed life as we know it. Hopefully we can get back to some semblance of normality soon. However, we must all work together by wearing our masks and keeping proper distance from each other in order to end this soon.
For someone like myself, who loves sports and views them as a healthy barometer of our society it’s been especially hard. I have missed seeing the faces that I usually see when I go to the ballpark, friends, who complain about how the team that we love is not doing as well as the team should be given the talent that they have; friends, no matter how bad the team is doing their faith and their loyalty is unwavering. The same friends that swear every year that the team will find a way to not only make the playoffs, but also win the World Series.
Baseball, it is probably one of the most beautiful words in the English language, where my friends and I can cheer together as one, one voice, one mind, and one goal. The Angels are 1-2, I’m hoping for a series split tomorrow against the Oakland Athletics.
Rather than write an analytical post, today, I rather reflect on the beauty of baseball, and discuss some of my memories that help me appreciate how happy I am that the game I love is back. This 60 game Sprint, as the sports’ media has dubbed it, will have the spotlight as soon as I write my reflections of the first series.
I find it appropriate that the Angels have opened the first series of the abbreviated season against the Athletics in Oakland, as I have mentioned numerous times in previous posts before, the Athletics along with the Dodgers are the two teams that I love to hate, the Athletics as a division rival, and the Dodgers as the natural rival.
The Athletics and the Angels have a history, whose story cannot be told without first explaining what each team means to each other. Since 2002, both teams have mutually beaten each other by a difference of two runs or less 173 times; from 2002 to 2009 the Athletics or the Angels won the American League West championship, and again for a brief period between 2012 and 2014 with neither team claiming and American League West title since then. I myself had the pleasure of watching the Angels clinch a title on Oakland’s home-field both in 2004 and in 2005, Oakland is also where I met current Angels’ owner, Arturo Moreno. (Arte Moreno) I still remember the brief conversation that I had with him fondly. It is one of the highlights of my Angels’ fandom.
What makes Oakland so special? Well, I lived in the bay area for 12 years, and although I was seldom interested in Oakland Athletics baseball as a whole, I did try to make it whenever the Angels came in as the visiting team. The Oakland Coliseum is a part of Major League Baseball history, up until 2019 it was the last shared facility between Major League Baseball and the National Football League, before the Oakland Raiders moved to Las Vegas after the 2019 season.
Who can forget Roy Steele, the Athletics public address announcer since 1968, as a visiting fan I loved to hear his voice, when he would announce the Angels lineup it would be a very somber, matter-of-fact tone, almost as if he had a disdain for announcing any visiting team. In contrast to the deep cheerful voice that he would use in announcing the Athletics. He was one of the great voices of baseball. Roy Steele, was to the Oakland Athletics and the West Coast what Bob Sheppard was to the New York Yankees and the East Coast. Great voices that probably could be imitated but never duplicated. I’ve heard many derogatory terms when referring to the Oakland Coliseum from other people, in reality the Oakland Coliseum is one of the crown jewels of baseball and in my humble opinion, if people can’t see that, then they don’t understand what the Oakland Coliseum and its history means to baseball.
This is what makes the Angels/Athletics rivalry so special therefore this is why it was especially important for Major League Baseball to start the season with such pageantry and tradition between the last remaining founding members of the American League West. This is what makes baseball so beautiful and so important to help us through this pandemic. If only for a moment, this rivalry helps both fan bases appreciate the beauty of the game that we all love.
As an Orange County native, I am privileged to have a baseball team to call my own, when I was a child I remember passing by Angel Stadium and being absolutely awestruck at the engineering marvel that it was, and still is. As a child, one doesn’t see the stadium as an adult. All one sees as a child is a big building where baseball players play baseball. A child doesn’t really understand the connections a team may have to its community, city, or fan base; they don’t really understand the identity that a city may have with a certain team and how that team represents that particular city to the rest of the world.
That’s what Angel Stadium is for Orange County, a world representative of Orange County’s identity, culture, and location. Orange County is not Los Angeles and it is not San Diego, we stand on our own. This is why it was important to Angels’ fans like me that the Angels stay in Anaheim and not move to Los Angeles or Long Beach. Angel Stadium is the heartbeat of the Orange County baseball fan, simply because we are not Los Angeles, and moving the Angels to Los Angeles would have meant living in the Dodgers shadow from that point on.
The Angels agreed to stay in Anaheim through the 2050 season. As part of the agreement, the Angels will buy Angel Stadium for 325,000,000 dollars. It was quite a Christmas gift for Angels’ fans like me. I’m glad they are staying, however I am concerned. Angel Stadium will no longer be city the property, which means that Stadium security will no longer be the responsibility of the Anaheim Police Department and it will be more than likely the responsibility of a private security firm. How is that going to change the fan experience for Angels’ fans and visitors? This will inevitably delay the response of police officers during an emergency since they will no longer be on site as part of stadium security.
These particular questions don’t take away from the excitement that I feel knowing that I will be a senior citizen before the Angels talk about moving again, it is a great feeling to know that my team is staying home; right where it is, and right where it should be.
The Angels have also been very active this off-season, signing third baseman, Anthony Rendon to a seven-year contract, clearly the Angels want to add power to the offensive lineup, I just hope it’s not the cost of pitching which they unequivocally need.
I am ecstatic that the Angels are staying home where they belong, I look forward to becoming an old man and taking my grandchildren, maybe even my great-grandchildren to a ballgame at the same site where that awestruck child filled with wonder looked at the big building where his favorite baseball players played. The Halo is charged, now, it’s time for it to shine.
When one selects a hobby/interest it is because they feel a deep connection to the subject matter that one has selected, this especially holds true when it comes to sports; sometimes fans don’t really pick a team, they inherit it from a grandfather and/or father, and in some cases from a mother and/or grandmother. My father’s philosophy on successful teams is a very simple one, one that I also subscribe to; both fans and players have to “feel the jersey” in other words in order to be successful you have to be completely balanced and dedicated to your team and craft. There have been many instances where a player as good as they may be, really don’t feel the jersey.
Joe Maddon definitely feels the jersey, he has been involved with the Angels’ organization in some capacity or another since 1975 until 2005, even while he was away from the Angels he had a Halo in his heart. Joe Maddon was on the Angels’ managerial staff as a bench coach when the Angels won the World Series in 2002, when he was a manager of the Chicago Cubs, in a touching tribute to his father, he wore the Disney era Angels baseball cap that once belonged to his late father. Who never saw him win the World Series; a touching and proud moment both for Maddon and the Angels’ fan base.
Maddon signed a three-year contract with the Angels, I personally wish it was a four-year contract, given the issues that the Angels currently have, I think an extra year is appropriate especially given that an even number of years would allow the team to better evaluate his performance.
I am very excited that a family member has come back home to the Angels organization, he has a proven pedigree that will help the Halos be successful, however, the Angels must go after a few solid pitchers. Gerrit Cole is the obvious first choice, and we mustn’t forget about Shohei Ohtani who hopefully will be able to pitch full-time and help rebuild the starting rotation.
I love their acquisition of Joe Maddon as the Angels’ manager, I believe he will steer this team in the right direction. The Angels are about to do something very special with the guidance of Halo Joe.
“We’re nasty”, apparently that was Tyler Skaggs’ favorite phrase. The Halos were indeed “nasty” last night by combining for a no-hitter. I mentioned in my previous entry that my brother and I had tickets for last night’s game, together we were able to partake in history something that we will share the rest of our lives.
I find it appropriate that I’m writing this entry on what would’ve been Tyler Skaggs 28th birthday. This may sound cliché, but there was something different about last night. My brother hit traffic on his way home from work and we were not able to leave to the stadium as early as we normally do, so we missed all the pre-game tributes that the Angels’ organization had planned for Skaggs; as such, we were both unaware of everything that was going on at first. The Angels decided to wear the alternate red jersey which Skaggs was fond of, the Angels organization was granted special permission by Major League Baseball to wear Tyler Skaggs’ complete jersey, with both his last name and jersey number. It showed a touching tribute of unity amongst the team. After all, they did lose an individual whom the entire team considered a family member and they certainly acted that way both on and off the field. The first inning finally concluded and the Angels were ahead 7-0 on their way to a complete rout of the Seattle Mariners which ended 13-0, both scores coincidentally reflect his birthday, 7/13 as Mike Trout pointed out in an interview.
As a closing tribute to Skaggs the entire team left their number 45 jerseys on the pitcher’s mound at the conclusion of the game, much like fans had left their tributes such as posters, baseball caps, flowers, and candles on the pitcher’s mound of the field replica located just in front of the home plate gate at Angel Stadium.
As a fan, the atmosphere was electric, the roar of the crowd, the strength, passion, and dedication that was evident in each of the players’ mannerisms. The fusion of these different factors made it very special; it felt much more electric than a playoff game. For the first time in a long time all these factors were mixed together into one entity, and energy that if I attempt to describe with words, no matter how eloquent, I simply wouldn’t do it justice. Let me suffice to say that I am ecstatic that I was able to share that type of experience with my brother.
While I agree that the 11th no-hitter in the Angels’ franchise history is very special, it was the circumstances surrounding the no-hitter that made the experience unique, and will never be duplicated again. As I mentioned before, I have supported this team for over 30 years, and yesterday’s moment was one of the most bittersweet and memorable moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am only one of the 43,140 Angels’ fans at Angel Stadium that will share this experience together for the rest of our collective lives. Yes, “we’re nasty” and that nastiness was showcased in the Halo no-hitter from heaven. Rest in paradise, Tyler Skaggs 45.
I have supported the Angels as a fan for over 30 years. I had the privilege to grow up in the shadow of Angel Stadium. In that time, I have seen the organization go through its ups and downs both on and off the field. Unfortunately, this has also included tragic events for the organization, including the passing of Nick Adenhart and now, Tyler Skaggs.
His passing yesterday of course was sudden and unexpected. At first, I thought it was a cruel joke. I was poring over statistics on the Angels’ Facebook page and verifying the Angels’ lineup for Sunday in preparation for an unrelated entry when the Angels statement on his passing was posted. Since I thought it was a hack at first, I went to cross-reference the news through other sources. There was nothing on the Angels’ official page, nothing on ESPN, and no other references posted the news. Deep inside, I was holding out hope that it was a hacker. Unfortunately, that possible alternative was dispelled from my mind about 10 minutes later when the news started spreading. I am heartbroken. It’s only a few months later after the 10th anniversary of Nick Adenhart’s passing.
Tyler Skaggs was on his way to being the ace of the rotation. The Angels have not had a solid ace since Jered Weaver was in his prime. Skaggs was drafted by the Angels in 2009, the same year of Adenhart’s passing. He worked his way through the minor leagues, and he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks before Skaggs could make is major league debut with the Angels for Dan Haren. He was traded back to the Angels a few years later as a result of the multiple contract debacles of Josh Hamilton, C. J. Wilson, and Vernon Wells. Skaggs rejoined the Angels when he was exchanged for Mark Trumbo.
My brother and I have tickets for the first game when the Halos come back home to Angel Stadium after this current road trip. As part of the Angels pregame rituals, they show a video of Angels’ history with the song “Calling All the Angels” and introduce their starting lineup with the song “Spirit in the Sky.” For the rest of the season and beyond both songs will have a different meaning for the organization, the players, and the Angels’ fans just like they did 10 years ago.
Tyler Skaggs was a phenomenal athlete, however, sometimes we forget that they are people first. Baseball players are just people playing a children’s game. Today, I want to honor Tyler Skaggs the person rather the athlete. Tyler, rest in paradise.
For those that don’t know, red is my favorite color independent from the Angels, to me it represents the color of passion, dedication, focus, and love. Red is very versatile, it makes its presence known, it can’t be ignored, and can’t be overlooked.
Over the last couple of series, the color red is very meaningful for the Halos. The red of this Saint Louis Cardinals who showed their red particularly to Albert Pujols their love for Albert was evident in three-game series in Saint Louis, as an Angels’ fan, I appreciate passionate fans such as Redbird fans.
The Angels also are metaphorically seeing red as in having to play seven games in two of the last remaining stadiums with artificial turf, Tampa Bay, (St. Petersburg) and Toronto, Ontario Canada home of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays respectively; and last but certainly not least red brooms as in the sweep of both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.
I postulated in my previous entry that the Angels have time to turn things around and that it had to start with a statement to the best team in baseball record wise, the Los Angeles Dodgers; indeed they did. The Halos went on to win their next seven of nine games, they went on the three-game losing streak and then swept the Cincinnati Reds. As of right now, officially halfway through the season through 81 games the Angels sit 41-40, although the situation is not ideal, considering all the injuries they continue to deal with this year they are still well within striking distance of the American League wildcard.
They start a four-game series today with their chief American League rival, the Oakland Athletics, the Angels must unequivocally improve their record within the division to make this season is successful one. They must become metaphorically speaking red-hot, in order to tinge the playoffs with Angels’ red.
Red, an unequivocally beautiful color, representing passion, focus, and love. The Angels must have the passion and focus to improve this season, and love for the game to be successful.
One of the most majestic images in baseball is the baseball field itself, the luscious green grass making its presence known to all that take their time to breathe in its beauty; the intoxicating spell that casts upon its observers enchanting them and leaving them wanting more. The grass whose edges tease the infield dirt as if the grass was a forbidden lover that the dirt was not allowed to touch in public for fear of not exposing their torrid love affair. The seats surrounding the two lovers, gather in a convention as if they were gods waiting decree their verdict upon the lovers, this is what goes on in every baseball stadium, when the stadium is empty and it’s in its most natural state, this is baseball nature.
This is all about to change however, as a blue wave invades the peaceful serenity of Angel Stadium, the levers hide in horror as their natural state dissipates for nine innings, perhaps more and is replaced by a ruckus blue invasion force that threatens their most sacred inner peace. Luckily they have red defenders that seek to quell the assault on their way of life.
This is the essence of the Freeway Series, this is what makes the Angels Dodgers rivalry unique and beautiful. A little more than 30 miles separate the two cities and a little more than 28 miles separate the two stadiums. Proximity makes all the difference because it adds certain elements to the rivalry that the Dodgers and Giants rivalry will never have.
The Dodgers have the best record in all of baseball at the moment, while the Angels are 30-34; various injuries to Justin Upton, and Andrelton Simmons as well as injuries to various members of the pitching staff have slowed their progress.
The Angels are 14-21 against the American League West, they at 13.5 games back out of first place, in four games out of the second wildcard spot. There is still plenty of time to turn things around, however it must start tonight.
I believe that beating the best team in baseball would give them a much-needed boost of morale, not only because it Dodgers currently hold the best record in baseball, but because of the rivalry, a small contribution of giving the Dodgers two losses would give the Angels the energy to turn things around.
When Angel fans fill the seats tonight, they must do their best to defend home-field advantage, they must protect the two star crossed lovers so they can continue their forbidden love affair uninterrupted; by doing so, they add to the beauty and the legend that is baseball as it has been for the last 150 years.
Tradition, this is what comes to mind when one thinks about the 150th anniversary of Major League Baseball. 150 years, of America’s pastime; the oldest sport in existence in the United States. A sport that has made history, with names like Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Sandy Koufax, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and in time, Mike Trout. These names is what makes a sport standalone as part of the American fabric, it is the only sport in my opinion that one can be of average height and weight and with just pure talent still make an impact.
It is this anniversary that makes the season feel special for all the teams and fans of Major League Baseball. This is especially true for the Cincinnati Reds who celebrate their 150th anniversary as a franchise; as they were the first team founded during the creation of Major League Baseball.
Just as the season is a milestone for professional baseball, it also is a congruent milestone for the Halos since shortly before the start of the season the Angels signed Mike Trout to a long term contract, essentially, making him an Angel for life. Trout, has decided to follow the path of Tim Salmon and Lou Gehrig, remaining one uniform for his entire career.
Mike Trout has begun another stellar season by making a considerable contribution to the team once again. The team however, has been on a roller coaster ride since the beginning of the season starting the season one and six, then going seven and one in the span of eight games, and most recently they were swept by the Texas Rangers in this last series. The Halos are currently 8-10.
The Angels have fallen victim to more than their fair share of injuries, and this year is no exception. Injuries include Shohei Ohtani who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Justin Upton, Tyler Skaggs, and Andrew Heaney, or among the notable injuries thus far, this is not included Mike Trout, who was out for a few days with strained groin.
The starting rotation this year is far from stable, adding to the ups and downs of this metaphorical roller coaster. The Halos must stabilize their trajectory and travel on an even plain. How do they do that? There is one transaction that the Angels can make right now to improve the pitching staff, they can do so by signing Dallas Keuchel. Reports have surfaced that he is willing to sign a one-year deal. This perspective transaction has a potential of shifting the balance of power in the American League West. Dallas Keuchel is a former Houston Astro, as such, he is familiar Astros’ organization; such a contract signing, would help the Angels stabilize their rotation. In turn, allowing them to have more success on the field. What do they have to lose? The Angels must find a way to get off this roller coaster.
The 150th anniversary of Major League Baseball is a special milestone for the sport. It would be wonderful if the Angels could mark this milestone with a congruent milestone of their own, a World Series championship.
The smoke has cleared, and the dust has settled. The apprehension of Mike Trout leaving the Angels in two years is no more. The biggest transaction of the off-season has been completed before even having the chance to become a free agent. I wanted to wait until the deal was official before I wrote this entry. It’s now official, Mike Trout has signed a 12-year, $426.5 million contract, for the sake of simplicity I’m going to round the number of to 430 million since that’s what the major media outlets have been reporting. The press conference will be on Sunday, March 24 at 3 PM. Pacific daylight Time.
I am ecstatic, the Angels have secured Mike Trout in Angels’ uniform for the rest of his career. The contract, is the largest contract ever signed in the history of North American sports. No one deserves this type of contract more than Trout. He plays the game the right way, and much like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he speaks softly and carries a big stick.
Some sports pendants are questioning the contract, they argue that no matter what he does Trout can never live up to the contract; and still others, question the contract arguing that he is not marketable because he is not outspoken like other players, that’s not Mike Trout style, and I doubt it will ever be. As I mentioned in my previous entry, Mike Trout is a throwback to a classic baseball player. He doesn’t call much attention to himself and he quietly plays the game the right way, and I applaud the Angels for securing both his future and the future of the team. He is the best player of his generation, and if he can continue playing at the level that he’s currently playing that is, if he doesn’t get better which is a very scary proposition within itself for the rest of Major League Baseball, he may go down in history as the best player to ever play the game of baseball.
In addition to questioning the contract, detractors have questioned Mike Trout’s desire to stay with the Halos, arguing that the Angels are “generic” that it was going to stay in California the Dodgers, the Giants,and arguably the biggest brand in baseball, the Yankees would be better choices for his career. I would argue against the Angels being “a generic franchise”; yes, the Angels may not be a marquee franchise like those mentioned above, but this is where Trout wanted to be, and the team of course, wanted to keep them. Mike Trout is a highly intelligent person and player, it is my belief, he would have tested the free-agent market if you didn’t see something in the Angels franchise that pointed to his future ability to be successful with the team.
As a fan, I would like to thank Mike Trout for loving this team is much as a fan base does. I personally look forward to many wonderful and successful years to come, congratulations Mike Trout!
When I was formulating this entry I knew from the beginning that it would be very personal for me to write, I debated for an entire week whether two separate the two issues that I wanted to talk about into two separate entries or write about them together. I quickly realized that the answer was obvious, the two issues that I want to discuss our intertwined and I can’t really talk about one issue without talking about the other; so writing about Angel Stadium and Mike Trout separately didn’t make much sense to me.
Sports’ have a way of uniting communities for the better with a singular identity between the franchise and the city in which the franchise resides in, it’s a special interdependency that gives both the team and the community and intertwined identity. Some examples of this are the San Francisco 49ers helping the city of San Francisco heal after the assassinations of its mayor and a supervisor in the 1970’s or the Boston Red Sox helping the city heal after the Boston Marathon bombing; sometimes the identity between a city and its franchise become so intertwined that it’s tough to differentiate or even imagine two separate entities.
An example of the latter is the case of the Angels and the city of Anaheim. The Angels moved to Anaheim in 1966. Creating a singular identity for Anaheim and the rest of Orange County separate from the Los Angeles Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles. I was born and raised in Orange County, and grew up about three and half miles away from Angel Stadium. Yes, I absolutely love my Lakers but it is nice to have a team closer to home that we as a community don’t have to share with another city much less another County, I have similar feelings of allegiance towards the Anaheim Ducks.
Until recently the Angels had a lease with Angel Stadium until 2029 with a opt-out clause that was exercised by the franchise this past off-season. The Angels franchise and the city of Anaheim recently agreed to a short-term extension until the end of the 2020 season, in order to give the two sides time to discuss a possible extension that would be more amicable to both sides. During these talks between the two parties, The city of Long Beach has reached out to the Angels franchise about the possibility of moving the team and building a stadium in Long Beach.
As an Angels’ fan for over 30 years, I can see the appeal of moving to Long Beach, however, from a pragmatic, financial, and business standpoint it doesn’t make much sense to me, let’s assume the Angels do move to Long Beach. They would be in close proximity to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Angels would be in more direct competition with the Los Angeles Dodgers, I find it hard to believe that the Angels would be very successful in prying away fans from a well-established franchise such as a Dodgers. The relationship between the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles is too entrenched for the Angels to have any measure of success.
It is for this same reason that I believe the Angels would be more successful staying in Anaheim. The Angels identity is Anaheim no matter how many name changes the Angels franchise decides to go through. Anaheim is far enough away from Los Angeles for the team to have its own distinct relationship with the city, additionally the location in Anaheim is situated such that the Stadium sits next to a Metrolink and Amtrak train station that very easily brings people from all over Southern California without causing Stadium goers to think twice about traffic, while at the same time saving the fans that use the train Stadium parking fees. The Angels would be better off in my opinion taking advantage of the public transportation options surrounding the Stadium, including the Orange County bus system that facilitates the ability of fans to attend games. If the franchise goal is to draw more fans in, moving to Long Beach seems counterintuitive. I sincerely hope that the Angels franchise realizes how intertwined they are in the Orange County community, I highly doubt they can duplicate the loyal fan base if they move to the Los Angeles area. While I realize Angels’ ownership is always wanted to be in direct competition for the Los Angeles fan base, it’s important not to forget about the Orange County fan base; as the old adage goes, “if you stand too close to the fire, you’re going to get burned.” In my opinion, if the Angels do decide to move from Angel Stadium, this is going to monumentally backfire on the organization. I love the organization too much to not at the very least express my very personal opinion, I do not want to see Angel Stadium lose its Halo.
Perpetually intertwined with Angel Stadium and the Angels franchise is the future of Mike Trout, how will the Angel Stadium negotiations or a potential move affect Mike Trout’s desire to stay? There is no question that the Angels need to put better pieces around Mike Trout especially pitching both in the bullpen and in the starting rotation. In order for them to do this, they must be able to successfully put fans in the seats, something that is extremely difficult to do given that they would have to draw from the same local fan base that the Dodgers do, which would hamper the Angels ability to successfully draw fans, from a dwindling fan pool; in turn, this scenario brings us back to the Stadium situation, if this happens, Mike Trout is as good as gone. Trout, is a throwback to an old time baseball player, he is a baseball purist, and although money is important to him it is not as important as being successful at winning championships. The Angels must find a way to contend, not just compete in order to convince Trout to stay. It’s going to take much more than just beating Bryce Harper’s 13 year, over a quarter of $1 billion contract to convince Trout that he belongs in an Angels’ uniform for the rest of his career. The team must show its willingness and ability to contend and be close to winning every year that he is involved with the team.
I highly doubt the Mike Trout cares about is state-of-the-art Stadium or how many fans the Angels can possibly pry away from the Dodgers, however these two items are intertwined and it won’t mean much if he Stays or goes if the Angels don’t figure out a way to contend and win. It won’t matter if the Stadium is state-of-the-art if no one’s around to watch Mike Trout and the rest of the team play.
The Angels are definitely in a conundrum and face the very real possibility that both Angel Stadium and Mike Trout will lose their Halos. It is my very sincere and deep love for this team that makes me hope neither of these two situations happen.
The holiday season invokes different emotional reactions from different people, some people think about spending time with loved ones, others think about the family gatherings, the food, the games; while still others think of the lights the holiday decorations and the overall spirit of the season.
Baseball fans however, have an added bonus during the holiday season, the Major League Baseball winter meetings. The winter meetings can only be described one way, opening a holiday gift early. This is the time a year select front office personnel from all 30 teams get together in one place and discuss anything pertaining to the upcoming season; primarily free-agent signings and trades. Some teams going to these meanings with the intent of making a splash, while others stay relatively quiet.
This is the case of the Angels this year, unlike years past, they haven’t made an eye-opening transaction during this year’s winter meetings, on the contrary, I believe this year has much more uncertainty than years past. The Halos lost Garrett Richards to free agency. Richards signed a contract with the San Diego Padres, Shohei Ohtani is recovering from off-season Tommy John surgery and is unable to pitch this upcoming year, although he will be in the batters’ box this upcoming season. Parker Bridwell, a once promising Angels’ pitcher is no longer available because he was claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees. Injuries combined with these transactions make the Angels’ starting rotation questionable at best.
The Halos number one priority should be starting pitching, and/or pitching in general. This position is there Achilles’ heel as of late. They’ve had more of their fair share of pitching woes and it doesn’t seem that this year will get any better.
If that wasn’t enough, the Angels need help in the infield, they had Ian Kinsler’s veteran presence in the infield. I believe they gave up on Kinsler too early, alternatively, keeping Kinsler would have helped the Angels at the very least determine whether he deserved a longer-term contract to shore up the infield. His absence now not only leaves question marks in the infield for next season but it also creates a huge hole that the Angels need to fill; combined with the team’s pitching needs, I don’t see how they can possibly fill all these holes and expect to not only compete, but contend. Something they must do if they want to keep Mike Trout happy and in an Angels’ uniform in the long-term, especially for a team that does not want to go over Major League Baseball’s luxury tax.
It seems that the Halos are trying to do too much at the same time, this is a combination of bad contracts over the years with several players that have put them in this bind. How does one find the pieces they need to contend well still have enough money to sign the greatest player of this generation in Trout, long-term? This is a conundrum that the Angels face, a conundrum that won’t be easy to solve. I believe that in order to keep Trout and be contenders at the same time they must go over the luxury tax. The Halos are already asking a lot of the Angels’ fan base when it comes to paying to spend time at the ballpark, the least they can do is begin to show us that our investment of time and money is bearing fruit. The organization has two choices, create a winter wonderland or prepare for the brunt of bitter old man winter.
One of the wonderful things about being a diehard Angels’ fan for more than 30 years is that one learns to appreciate the good times and the bad; from winning the World Series in 2002 to finish a magical season that started 6-14, two finishing 41 1/2 games out the first place in the American League West in 2001. One win away their American League championship in 1986 after reading the series 3 games to 1, who can forget the infamous one-game tiebreaker game for the American League West championship in 1995 after the Angels had an 11 game division lead on August 3 with one month to go.
All these highs and lows has helped me appreciate when the Angels are doing well, I often mention to my fellow baseball fans that I don’t understand why the modern fan base (those who became fans because of the 2002 World Series championship) are so hard on this team; is it because they never experienced the dark times? Or is it simply easier to follow a team when it’s on top? From 2002 until the end of the 2009 season the Angels have experienced success relative to their history of being such lovable losers.
Now it seems that since 2009 the Angels have been plagued with bites from the injury bug in the past, players such as Tyler Skaggs, Garrett Richards, and Matt Shoemaker, don’t seem to be all healthy at the same time, which has really hindered the potential of this team. All three starting pitchers have dealt with long-term injuries at one point or another. This team is very talented on paper but the injury bug has not allowed them to flourish as a team.
The Halos at one point in the season had a Major League Baseball leading 24 players on the disabled list at the same time, no team, regardless of how much talent they may have can recover from that very easily. Although the Angels have gotten some players back slowly others replace them on the list such as Albert Pujols will likely miss the rest of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. It seems like the injury bug loves take a bite out of the halo.
Shohei Ohtani, the young phenom two-way player was originally supposed to be shut down on the pitching side for the rest of the season to allow his grade 2 elbow sprain to heal, the Angels 18 games back of the division leading Houston Astros. There is no reason to risk aggravating his injury any further since the Angels have really nothing to play for being this far back this late in the season. The wildcard at this point seems out of the question as well. The Angels organization, should be taking this time to develop young players that they brought up during the September call ups, and setting the foundation for a better season next year. Shohei Ohtani clearly lost his velocity towards the end of his outing last night. It perplexes me why the Angels would risk making a bad injury situation even worse; granted, Shohei Ohtani may have wanted his opportunity at history since after he is outing this night he is the first major-league baseball player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to pitch 50 innings and hit 15 home runs. “Showtime” has marked his patient history there is no reason to risk his future and that of the organization’s any further.
As a diehard Angels’ fan for over 30 years I have seen my fair share of peaks and valleys with this team, I am a strong believer that the Angels should take the time to regroup and heal, this is not the time for rest decisions, is not the time to allow the injury bug to take one more bite out of the halo.