Let’s see. Just about the only thing to watch for Sunday is whether Giancarlo Stanton can meet, greet, and pass even by one the Roger Maris of 1961. Stanton has only to hit three bombs in today’s season-ender against the Braves to do it.
Yes, Yogi, you can observe a lot just by watching. Herewith some of my observations over the early weeks of spring training:
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.
What to take away from the All-Star Game other than the American League’s 6-3 win and thus home field advantage for this year’s World Series? The Mike Trout Show?
* Trout (Angels) became the first player in 38 years to lead off an All-Star Game going deep, hitting Zack Greinke’s (Dodgers) fourth pitch the other way, into the right field seats next to the Great American Ballpark visitors’ bullpen. Add scoring ahead of a powerful throw by Joc Pedersen (Dodgers) on Prince Fielder’s (Rangers) single in the fifth, and Trout—who’d reached base in the first place by beating out what might have been a double play finisher—joined Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Gary Carter as baseball’s only two-time All-Star Game MVPs.
As regards the final All-Star voting—fans, players, etc.—minus the Last Man online vote, a few sobering thoughts:
1) Four Royals turned out to be voted as starters, after all, compared to eight Reds voted but six left remaining in the 1957 ballot box stuffing scandal. (Then-commissioner Ford Frick, we repeat, removed Wally Post and Gus Bell from the starting lineup in favour of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.) Apparently, the Kansas City stuffers just didn’t quite have what it took to set a new record for voting perfidy.
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.”
I didn’t cast my own All-Star vote until this past Thursday, but I’d like to think that I applied a little more intelligence and a lot less up yours to the exercise than seems to have been applied by those determined to stuff the American League’s starting lineup with Kansas City Royals whether or not said Royals (I’ll get to that shortly) actually deserve starting berths.
Boys will be boys, in baseball and elsewhere, and grown men will be boys, too. But some of what the Show Me State’s boys and girls seem to be showing don’t seem to be the kind of thing you’d like showing.
If the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office isn’t facing an investigation into whether people therein hacked into the Houston Astros’ internal data networks, Kansas City fans are gleefully stuffing online All-Star ballot boxes in favour of the Royals regardless of whether the players in question deserve to be in the starting lineup.
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.