On Thursday night the Los Angeles Dodgers booked its ticket into the divisional series as it continues its pursuit to claim the Commissioner’s Trophy. However, the same journey does not await its crosstown foe, the Los Angeles Angels.
Life for the Halos has been consistently brutal since the day it finished with baseball’s best record in 2014.
That year, the Angels were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Kansas City Royals, and since then they haven’t sniffed the October air.
It’s frustrating to watch Mike Trout’s limitless potential go to waste year after year. How can arguably one of the best players to ever step foot on the diamond have only 15 plate appearances in the playoffs in 10 seasons?
At times I wish Trout never signed his extension to stay in Anaheim. Not because I don’t love watching him day in and day out, but because he deserves better.
As every new season begins there always seems to be this glimmer of hope that this year will be different for the Angels – that this will be the season they are contenders – but it never comes to fruition.
How can a team be treated as a contender when it goes 12-24 through the first month and a half of a season. Watching how Joe Maddon handled his team this year left so much to be desired.
Understanding why the Angels were so bad isn’t necessarily hard, because it was no different than last year – the team struggles to pitch. Among the other 15 American League teams, the Angels had the third worst team ERA, allowed the second most runs and gave up the fourth most home runs.
Assembling a major league caliber pitching staff isn’t meant to be easy, but when teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics – two teams in the bottom six for MLB payrolls – rank in the top five in every key pitching stat in the American League, there seems to be a problem.
The mismanagement of money in Anaheim is a key area of concern. Fans called for Gerrit Cole to be signed this offseason, but instead we got Anthony Rendon. That’s not a knock on Rendon but the Angels offense isn’t woeful like its pitching staff. It's arguably a top five offense in the American League.
Why are the Angels taking on resurrection projects every year when it comes to pitching? Players like Tim Lincecum, Julio Teheran, Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill have been given the responsibility of turning around their careers in Anaheim and they all failed.
Dylan Bundy was an example of a successful resurrection project this season, but how long will he end up being here in Anaheim with his rights only being controlled through 2021.
A secure pitching staff is the only thing that can turn around the Angels’ future. There are some serviceable pieces already falling into place with Griffin Canning, and Jaime Barria is beginning to show more promise, but the team needs a legitimate ace.
Before this season it wasn’t uncommon to pencil Shohei Ohtani’s name into that spot, but his future is a lot more murky than it was just three months ago. Whether he’ll be the same pitcher he was in 2018 again is hard to say. Injuries and extended layoffs have severely halted his growth.
A lot will need to change in Anaheim in order to discover the team's true potential, and firing Billy Eppler was a step in the right direction.
Epler isn’t at fault for everything, but when your time in charge consists of five seasons without a winning record your management has to be partially blamed.
Next season a lot will need to be addressed, and even Joe Maddon – who was seen as a savior when he replaced Brad Ausmus – will need to improve.
If the final half of the season was any indication of what's to come then the improvement has already begun. Yes, the Angels failed to make the playoffs in the easiest format the MLB has ever seen, but there was progress toward the end.
The emergence of American League Rookie of the Month Jared Walsh fills the hole the Angels have had at first base as Albert Pujols regresses. The same can be said for a new key piece in the bullpen with Mike Mayers claiming the honor of being the American League’s Reliever of the Month.
For the time being, all the Angels can do is sit by and watch another October go by without postseason baseball in Anaheim.