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.
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.
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.
SVEUM SONG—I’m not sure who didn’t see this coming, but Dale Sveum—the man with no managerial experience at any professional level (not counting his quick interimship and postseason trip with the Brewers) whom the Cubs chose over Ryne Sandberg two years ago—has been executed. Sveum was going to be judged on development more than performance, but some of the key Cub developments didn’t exactly go as intended, like Starlin Castro staying prone to defensive lapses while his hitting has dipped significantly enough, or Jeff Samardzija pitching like an All-Star one moment and a 1962 Met the next.
* Don’t look now, but the Toronto Blue Jays are turning the American League East into a potential all-out war to the wire. An eleven-game winning streak approaching the All-Star break does that for you. And don’t discount the morale boost when that streak includes thumping the Texas Rangers 24-4 over four games, the Colorado Rockies 15-5 in three, and the Baltimore Orioles, a division rival, 24-13, in three, including that 13-5 fricaseeing Sunday. And to think Sunday’s carnage only began when Edwin Encarnacion scored with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the first after Freddy Garcia plunked Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia on the first pitch. Encarnacion got his payback an inning later, driving one over the left field fence with Jose Bautista aboard—and two out.
Let’s get one argument swept aside right here and now. Either Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout would have been a worthy American League Most Valuable Player winner. In fact, there should be no argument about that.
You wouldn’t have disgraced Cabrera, who did win (and by a larger margin than the debate might have led you to believe), had the award gone to Trout. (As a matter of fact, Cabrera himself—the essence of grace in accepting the award—though Trout might win it.) And it doesn’t disgrace Trout that Cabrera has won the award.
Maybe the one thing absolutely guaranteed about 2012 was that Mike Trout would nail the American League’s Rookie of the Year honours, which was made official with Monday night’s announcement. It wasn’t even close.
Trout landed every last first place vote possible as the unanimous pick. Nobody else in the running—not Yoenis Cespedes, not Yu Darvish, not Wei-Yin Chen, not Jarrod Parker—got any higher than 45 percent of a share of the voting. Bryce Harper landed the National League’s Rookie of the Year honours in a slightly tighter competition, with five more votes than runner-up Wade Miley and 70 percent of a share to Miley’s 66. The remaining National League contenders—Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario, Norichika Aoki, Yonder Alonso (now, that’d be a name, if he had more than a little long ball power), Matt Carpenter, Jordan Pacheco—fell well behind Harper and Miley.
Late surges did the Detroit Tigers all the good in the world and the Los Angeles Angels none of it after Monday’s proceedings were finished. The Tigers stood with the American League Central in their hip pockets and the Angels stood with no place to go the rest of October other than playing out a two-game string with the Seattle Mariners and praying what they managed to do down the stretch this time would mean anything better than what they didn’t do in the season’s first month.
Life During WARtime—If you’re looking for an entry into the wide world of WAR (wins above a replacement-level player), David Schoenfeld of SweetSpot has a pretty good starting point, with a couple of links to a couple of more pretty good starting points. In case you’re wondering before you go in, Mike Trout—the white-hot Los Angeles Angels rookie—leads the American League pack through this writing with a 5.2 WAR, followed by Robinson Cano (New York Yankees) at 4.8 and Josh Reddick’s (Oakland Athletics) 3.9. In the National League, the top three through this writing are David Wright (New York Mets), 5.3; Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), 5.1; and, Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds), 4.5.