The Angels should be ashamed of themselves.

The 2010 Angels team was under .500 after consistently being the lead dog in the AL West throughout the 2000’s, so in 2011, they called up a guy named Mike Trout, who it turns out, might be the best all-around baseball athlete who has ever played the game. He won the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year, setting the league ablaze with homers, stolen bases, hit-robberies in the outfield, and getting on base in every way possible. This set the table for the Angels front office to realize he was something for the team to build around, so they went out and signed World Series MVP Albert Pujols to a massive 10-year deal, All-Star pitcher CJ Wilson, and then 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton- on paper, they were deemed a free agency superteam at the time.

Trout has obviously outperformed what we even thought he would be following that rookie campaign for the last decade with 3 MVP awards in the bag, but here we are today and Albert Pujols never had a .300 season in LA and was released this year. Josh Hamilton and his 5-year, $125 million contract played 2 seasons, hit only 31 home runs, and was traded for pennies back to Texas when the Angels just wanted him out of the locker room. CJ Wilson had one all-star season, a solid season, a terrible season in which he led the majors in walks and had a 4.51 ERA, and then had his career ended with a shoulder injury.

The dominant force in the AL West that looked like it could be a dynasty due to their veteran superstardom around Trout’s generational talent in his youth made the playoffs once in 2014 and won a total of 0 playoff games. They’ve only finished above .500 since.

The team was the epitome of being top heavy and putting all of its eggs into the one basket: the stars, and left little room for depth and a complete team. When the majority of your salary is going to underperforming superstars and two starters rather than investing in a lineup with depth and help in the bullpen, you end up with a team of average ballplayers surrounding Mike Trout to form a losing franchise. Their franchise is like having a Bugatti with the 4 flat tires and a broken engine.

Now fast forward to 2019- the Angels have signed Trout with a 12-year, $426 million contract

Photo: Robert Beck / MLB Photos via Getty Images

they still have Albert Pujols on the books, they signed the prize offensive piece of 2019 free agency, Anthony Rendon, to a 7-year, $245 million deal, and the year prior they landed Shohei Ohtani from Japan, the physical wonder specimen who can both throw 100 mph as a pitcher and hit the ball over the weird mountain formation in the Angels’ outfield over 500 feet; he is defying what the body can do in the game of baseball by doing what literally no one has ever done before.

And the Angels still stink.

Ohtani and Trout may be the two most athletic human beings to grace the diamond when it’s all said and done and they were tied for the 7th-worst record in baseball in 2020 and finished in the bottom 10 in generally every pitching statistic. Rendon only had 21 extra base hits and has continued to struggle this year. 

The money that was being spent on Rendon or Pujols could have easily been spent on top-tier pitching- Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, and Trevor Bauer were all available during the last two offseasons. Both Bauer and Cole grew up in the area and went to UCLA and could have easily been perfect fits, but Cole went to the Yankees and Bauer the Dodgers, and Bauer reportedly had a strained relationship with their pitching coach, Mickey Callaway. Instead, they took a band-aid of Jose Quintana, Dylan Bundy, and Alex Cobb to try and cover up that bullet wound of a pitching staff. Rendon is surely capable of turning it around in Anaheim, but it’s another irresponsible, star-driven mindset by the front office to sign Rendon and get fans in the seats buying tickets to compete with the big-brother Dodgers rather than self-evaluating and building a proper team around Trout and Ohtani where they’re a laughing stock for failing to field a winning product around arguably the best duo of this generation.

The Angels are failing Trout. They’re falling Ohtani. They’re failing the Angels fans (yes, there are passionate Angels fans that deserve better). They’re failing the game of baseball.

When Trout signed that 12-year deal, we all assumed that meant they would commit to fielding a team more competent around him to get him to the postseason in a position to get some rings. Despite being the best player in the world, he’s soft-spoken and has been criticized for never going above and beyond to market himself; non-baseball fans wouldn’t be able to tell you what Mike Trout looks like. But we can’t blame that all on Trout when he’s only gotten to play on the big stage for a total of three games in which he has one hit. Yes, the Angels are the smaller market team in their city that plays on the west coast when everyone on the east is already asleep, but are the San Diego Padres not must-watch television due to them fielding a winning product with dynamic personalities? When Ohtani is pitching, doing something no one has ever done, EVERYONE should want to tune in and see him dominate the other team. Having a losing ball club does not put you on national television or in position to be in the playoffs for more people to witness his greatness, thus growing the game and expanding the fan base. If the Angels really want to make money and get fans in the stands, build a winning team.

One of the tragic characteristics of Trout’s nature of being soft-spoken is that while he did probably sign the 12-year deal in good faith that the front office would make smarter decisions is that he hasn’t ever been critical of their shortcomings and asserted his frustration of their inability to get to the postseason. He’s not going to request a trade. He’s not going to send out a cryptic Tweet. He’s going to continue with the standard, generic, athlete-speak about how he needs to get better, because he’s a sincere guy.

 But he deserves to be selfish.

As it sits right now, the Angels are 27-32, fourth in the AL West, and Trout is out for 6-8 weeks with a calf strain. They have a relatively easy schedule this month until a stretch against the Giants, the Rays, the Yankees, and later the Red Sox before the All-Star Break. If they can survive that gauntlet while he’s gone, hope for the postseason this year might not be completely out of the picture, but it would have to be a miraculous-looking turnaround the second half of the year for them to break the drought. 

The Angels are NOT a cash-ridden, poor franchise incapable of getting players that would help their team- the Moreno’s are the 12th-richest ownership group in the league. Only 5 players on the Angels are making more than $10 million this year, and only 3 will be next year. Is it a general management issue where they’re incapable of self-evaluating even though the entire baseball lexicon knew that they needed a pitching staff when they signed Rendon instead?  Is it a developmental issue? They have the 25th-ranked farm system in the league, and outside of Trout and Fletcher, all of their pieces have been acquired via trade or free agency.

Trout and Ohtani can’t afford to be wasted. These are the prime years of once-in-a-generation level talents and they’re on the same team. What can the Angels do to fix it?

They need to regroup as an organization- that means investing in better scouting and coaching so that they have better talent that has been evaluated coming up through the team; they have 2017 10th overall pick Jo Adell in the minors, who they called up last season, but he struggled and only hit .161. The Angels need more youth to create depth.

They fired their GM after 5 losing seasons, so we’re just now entering the Perry Minasian era, but he needs to prove that he can spend the team’s resources in a responsible manner. If that means talking to Trout and seeing what he thinks is needed on the team, so be it.

There is so much potential for the Angels to have a popular, successful team if they would simply behave intelligently. They’re in a beautiful city near Disneyland and the Honda Center, they’ve been able to attract the “big fish” free agents in the past, and you have Trout through 2030 and Rendon through 2027. They could be an international fan-favorite for a decade if they extend Shohei Ohtani and keep him with the team.

The Angels need to repent for their organizational sins throughout the 2010’s. We ALL deserve better.

 

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