Unless you’re Mike Trout, even on a day during which you got iced by Clayton Kershaw sustaining a scoreless inning streak, it must suck to be a Los Angeles Angel these days. Even when you’re in the thick of the American League West races despite being swept by the now-first-place Astros before dropping the first two against the Dodgers.
It doesn’t look good when C.J. Wilson admits to trying to pitch through bone spurs in his left elbow and now faces possible season-ending surgery. He’d shenked the surgery in April in a bid to try pitching through it. Fat lot of good that’s done him or the Angels. Now there’s public speculation that no few of Wilson’s teammates are a little, shall we say, put off by his facing the surgery they think he should have had in April.
If that’s true, this is just about the last thing the already dysfunctional Angels need in a season in which some have accused them of being baseball’s most dysfunctional organisation this season.
MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez said Saturday that Wilson started the season hoping he could pitch all the way before needing surgery. “I knew based on the diagnosis in April that this was an eventuality, that I was going to have to get this done again,” said Wilson, who had to have similar surgery in 2008. “But I’m 100 innings short of where I hoped I would make it.”
Gonzalez added that “several Angels” said “privately” they think Wilson should have pushed on anyway. “”I’ve been pushing through it for a couple months,” Wilson told him. “I’ve thrown 100 innings in this condition, and it’s just consistently getting worse. As it gets worse, the risk of blowing my shoulder out and being completely done with baseball increases, and I’m not willing to take that risk.”
It gets better. Gonzalez noted manager Mike Scioscia’s observation that Wilson had himself checked “on his own” could be taken to mean the Angels’ brass isn’t exactly standing by their man. You wonder if this could be one way of evening up for the brass after Wilson stood by the wrong man earlier this season.
You don’t remember? When the Josh Hamilton imbroglio erupted and ended with Hamilton being run out of town and back to the Rangers on as many rails as the Angels could lay down, Wilson was almost the only or at least the most vocal Angel to stick up for Hamilton. “If Josh was hitting .300 with 35 home runs a year, what’s the situation?” he said in April, referring to Hamilton’s injury-plagued Angels tenue. “If you’re good, you get away with everything. That’s all there is to it.”
Angels owner Arte Moreno was so bent on running Hamilton out after Hamilton confessed to his Super Bowl Sunday relapse and to taking the proper recourses in reporting the relapse that, perhaps, Wilson standing by Hamilton became yet another black mark against Wilson, who’d known Hamilton since they were Rangers teammates.
This is the pitcher who revealed to the Los Angeles Times in early April that the Angels set private detectives on him, right after he signed with the Angels—because the Angels were “mad” that Wilson had a thing for motorcycling. All other things being equal, supposedly, you now begin to wonder whether Wilson’s elbow issues aren’t being used as an excuse to plant seeds to grow into his departure out of town on as many rails as the Angels can lay.
Which speaks even more ill of the organisation than the Hamilton disaster has. What manner of organisational attitude fosters an atmosphere in which a player loath to play while seriously injured, even to the threat of his career ending, never mind his compromised usefulness to his team, should be treated as a pariah, an adversary?
There were those around the mid-1960s Phillies who thought manager Gene Mauch, haunted by the infamous 1964 pennant collapse, became enough of a tyrant in its wake that he even crawled all over injured players for being injured, sometimes accusing them of incurring the injuries during off-field activities. The mid-1960s Yankees callously kept the full extent of Roger Maris’s wrist injury from him because—fading thanks to a parched farm and less than enduring young prospects arriving as Yankees—they needed his box office power and couldn’t have cared less that his once-vaunted power had been sapped completely.
Enough of the 1969 Cubs were loath to speak up if injured because skipper Leo Durocher was likely to berate them as quitters. What a surprise, between that and his overuse of his regulars, that those Cubs collapsed as the Miracle Mets heated up for keeps. And it took Houston decades to recover from the Astros’ dismissing J.R. Richard’s 1980 complaints of shoulder fatigue to malingering and the career-ending stroke the big righthander suffered after the All-Star break. Do today’s Astros, fighting for a postseason trip, remember the foolishness of that regime in dismissing Richard’s original shoulder complaints?
Who’s to say whether encouraging dismissal of Wilson’s injury concerns might not affect his fellow Angels enough that, if God forbid one or more become injured, they’ll force themselves to play through rather than seek proper care, and compromise the Angels’ postseason chances irrevocably?
The Hamilton mess. The mess that forced general manager Jerry Dipoto to resign rather than hang around just long enough for Scioscia to influence his firing. Now the Wilson injury and the apparent distasteful innuendo surrounding it. Again, unless you’re Mike Trout, these days it must suck to be an Angel, even in a pennant race.