It’s not every season, never mind every day, when you open the bottom of the ninth in an apparent blowout, your designated hitter leads off by pulling to within eight of 600 career launches, he returns later in the inning to tie it up with a single, and the next man up hits one to the back of the yard to win it.
Normally, annually, I give a run down on the Hall of Fame ballot newcomers and holdovers separately, but it isn’t every year Vladimir Guerrero makes his debut on the ballot. But it isn’t every year that a newcomer looks like an obvious, no-questions-asked Hall of Famer in spite of his flaws. And, despite the likelihood that he may not make it first ballot because what’s with or ahead of him looks just that good.
In early August, it looked as though Mike Trout, once again, would produce an off-chart season for a team whose chart indicated the need for a visit to the ICU post haste. And I observed the Angels were far better at promoting the living daylights out of Trout than building him a team that knows as much as he does about how to play the game to win.
You’re almost tempted to send Mike Trout sympathy cards and wreaths. While his Angels—through no fault of his—are spending another season in the tank, Trout is making history almost too quietly.
The Angels are 13.5 games out of the American League West hunt and unlikely to hit the kind of streaks needed to flip that around, not with the team as it is now, but Trout is twice that many games ahead of the rest of the game and maybe even beyond.
The Braves and the Red Sox got fleeced in broad daylight last week. The Angels and the Padres made out like bandits by comparison.
That’ll teach the Braves. They thought they could swap Andrelton Simmons, maybe the best defensive shortstop in the National League, to the Mets, who could use an upgrade in the middle infield, for either Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom.
They barely have the streets swept clean following the Kansas City Royals’ World Series parade, and the off-season intrigues have begun in earnest. OK, a couple began when it barely began sinking in that the New York Mets had blown a Series they actually could have won, or when Don Mattingly left the Los Angeles Dodgers and became the Miami Marlins’ new manager. But let’s start looking:
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.
In his 1970s days with the Milwaukee Brewers, George Scott, the big colourful first baseman who’d been a Red Sox favourite, had a chat with the team’s then co-owner Edmund Fitzgerald, about whose team Gordon Lightfoot did not write “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” “If we’re gonna win,” Scott told Fitzgerald, “the players gotta play better, the coaches gotta coach better, the manager’s gotta manage better, and the owners gotta own better.”
No, silly, the son of the Hall of Fame outfielder did not shoot across the field with nothing on but the stadium public address system. But Earl Averill, Jr.—an outfielder-catcher who died 13 May at 83 in Tacoma, Washington—accomplished something in 1962 that neither his father nor any Hall of Famer managed to do.
When Josh Hamilton joined the Angels, discovering his new home park was a pitcher’s park for the most part, and finding pitchers otherwise began exploiting his willingness to chase out of the strike zone, life became difficult enough on the field. It became impossible, though, when the Angels’ management decided his reward for copping to an off-season substance relapse, on Super Bowl Sunday, without being compelled to do so by a drug test or an arrest or another factor beyond his own conscience, should be his head on a plate.