The tragedy of the Los Angeles Angels being an incompetent, losing, playoff-missing franchise despite having Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout rolls on. The sky is also blue.
Unfortunately, it only got worse last week when Mike Trout returned back to the IL two days after being on it for 7 weeks; then Shohei Ohtani tore his UCL and will no longer be able to pitch this year, pondering surgery and his future.
With the Angels continued losing, one can only think of the now iconic Tungsten Arm O’Doyle Tweet any time these mega-athletes have done some incredible only for it to amount to nothing in a loss:
On a lesser scale, that can apply to many stars doing wondrous things on the baseball field in a gross, losing effort.
Their individual performances and highlights would be front-page news if they were on a winning team in a large market, but tragically, at this point in the year, there’s no reason to watch the dirt nap teams that have their eyes on 2024 at best.
We DO want those players to be accounted for, though, meaningful to the win column or not, so without further ado, these are the 2023 Tungsten Arm O’Doyle Awards to the players that are athletic specimens only for their team to somehow still be in a coffin.
Bobby Witt Jr. // Kansas City Royals Shortstop
“Bobby Witt Jr. makes an INCREDIBLE speeding triple into the gap, displaying his magical piece of hitting and wondrous agility on the basepaths as the Kansas City Royals lose 8-4 to the Cleveland Guardians.”
You may be hearing a lot of that going forward, folks. Bobby Witt Jr., their 2nd overall draft pick in 2019, has finally started to light it up at just 23 years old. While initially struggling with a high strikeout %, batting just .254 in his debut season, he’s turned those whiffs into hard-hit balls that have come through the long-ball as he’s been more disciplined at the plate.
While starting off the year with a .277 average, he’s batting .307 since May 25; he leads the league in triples, he’s top 5 in stolen bases, and he’s top ten in total hits. His speed, now that he can hit the ball, is what’s bringing it all together now that he’s putting the ball in play, highlighted by an inside-the-park homer last month. The new rules are helping cheetah players like him, and Corbin Carroll revolutionize the game.
And it might not even matter for the foreseeable future. The Royals have been an absolute dumpster fire in the worst division in baseball, and they have the 28th-ranked farm system in baseball going forward. We’ll be seeing a lot of triples from Bobby with nothing to show for it in Kansas City, unfortunately.
Luis Robert Jr. // Chicago White Sox Center Fielder
Luis Robert Jr. was in the “if Shohei Ohtani wasn’t in the American League, who would be the MVP?” conversation in July despite being on a franchise that’s one of the biggest embarrassments in the four major American sports leagues.
On a nightly basis, you’ll see a highlight of this adonis of a human send a ball to the moon as he silences the crowd, 34 of those this year and ranking 2nd in the American League, only for the White Sox to have a loss to the team the likes of the Oakland Athletics and/or a media moment having to do with the dysfunction and lack of discipline from the top-down. The White Sox keep trying to undergo a mutiny on this ship, but the mates roll over because they’re too indifferent to complain to the captain.
Those Robert homers certainly do fly off the bat like a laser, though!
Mitch Keller // Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher
“We’ll always have May.” -Pittsburgh Pirates fans
The Pittsburgh Pirates got off to one of the hottest starts in baseball, only for it to be a flash in the pan. The bats got cold, O’Neill Cruz got hurt, and the rest of the division from the bottom down (aside from the Cardinals) began to resurge. Pittsburgh went from being the #1 seed in the NL after winning a series against the Dodgers in showtime fashion to now being 14 games under .500 and one of the bottom feeders of the league. They had to shift their sights to 2024 and beyond by calling up prospects and hoping that Paul Skenes, their #1 overall pick, ends up being the future and major league-ready.
However, the random rock and foundation of this team that’s been the random win every now and then for Pittsburgh to avoid getting swept has been the Mitch Keller starts. Through July, he was 9-3 with an ERA below 4 and was an All-Star this year. Adding a sinker to his pitch mix has made all the difference since last year, and it looks as if he could be a reliable arm in their rotation going forward with so much invested in their youth movement.
Keller did have a rough go in the month of July, going 0-4 against a loaded collection of teams like the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, an Angels lineup with Ohtani, and the Phillies, but has settled back in and found it once again this month.
No, you won’t exactly make Mitch Keller appointment-viewing television because of his association with this Pirates team, but if there’s an outing where he goes out and strikes out twelve through 6, he’ll always have his Tungsten Arm O’Doyle Award for it.
Ha-Seong Kim // San Diego Padres Infielder
If the San Diego Padres weren’t statistically the most unlucky team in years and in playoff position, the story would not be Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Manny Machado, or Xander Bogaerts; it would be 5’9 utility man and Korean superstar Ha-Seong Kim. Signed from the KBO in 2020, there’s something about how beloved he is to the fan base, with essentially a unanimous approval rating when he legs out a single into a double or makes a fantastic defensive play in the infield with how manic the San Diegans in unison chant “HA-SEONG KIM!” together going absolutely berzerk. It’s so incredibly wholesome to see him rise, given his proximity to other superstar talent on the team.
He’s set career highs this year in many major categories, adding power to his repertoire this year, and has led the team in average the majority of the season at .276.
Imagine how successful the Padres could have been with Kim taking a step forward if the rest of the superstars could have all put it together at once. It feels as if every weekend, you see a clip of Petco having a magical “baseball is romantic” moment celebrating a Kim clutch hit only to check the box score later to see they lost 5-4 in extra innings.
We at least still have those Kim chants and the Korean flags waving in the sea of brown and yellow fans.