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.
Merely six games have passed in the new season but there are questions as to whether the Los Angeles Angels’ 2015 might be dying before it really begins to take shape. And whether their own owner and front office hasn’t detonated a poison gas bomb that will take months to clear.
God knows (as does His servant Casey Stengel) that I had better things to write about on the day after Opening Days. Things like Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond calling second baseman Dan Uggla (yes, Virginia, that Dan Uggla) off a by-the-book popup, dropping the ball, allowing the Mets first and second, leading to Lucas Duda busting up Max Scherzer’s no-hit bid with the two run single that made the difference in the Mets’ win.
When the American League champion Royals let Billy Butler walk as a free agent following the postseason, the question became who might step into the designated hitter slot. Butler fell out of favour with manager Ned Yost when he produced too little bang for his .271 bucks. Butler got the number one job for the Royals’ staggering postseason run simply because he was there.
Forget the payrolls, as Kansas City outfielder Jarrod Dyson rightly points out. They don’t matter when you hit the field or step into the batter’s box. The wealthiest teams in baseball have been known to collapse like insolvent counties.
The Los Angeles Angels joined their ranks ignominiously Sunday thanks to a Royals team that seems to know nothing of the meaning of rolling over and playing dead. And these Angels, who’d run roughshod after the All-Star break and turned into a threshing machine while all around what remained of the American League West deflated, looked and played like zombies in a division series game they had to win just to stay alive.
Adam Jones got a few Camden Yards fans a little pie-eyed—cream pied, that is. Bryce Harper plopped a personalised Washington, D.C. Fire Department helmet on his head and took selfies with teammates. Neither man had to be told otherwise that a possible Beltway World Series loomed ahead, depending upon how the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals handle themselves when the postseason launches.
When the Oakland Athletics dealt for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, there were those ready to hand the World Series rings to them on a platinum platter. And there were those others, myself included, who cautioned not to do it just yet. Not that it stopped them, especially after the A’s landed Jon Lester out of Boston.