The Los Angeles Angles have gotten off to an abysmal 10-22 start and find themselves 11.5 games out of first place. This all but guarantees another MLB postseason without Mike Trout.
Whether you play fantasy baseball, OOTP Baseball, or MLB The Show, your objective is simple, Win The World Series. Every fan has their own preferred roster building style whether the emphasis is on pitching and defense, lots of offense, or some balanced approach. One thing every baseball fan can agree on is that Mike Trout is the best player in baseball since 2012 and you want that guy on your team.
Pivot to actual baseball, the Los Angeles Angels get to experience the reality of having Trout on their team every day. They made the draft pick of the millennium despite taking Randal Grichuk (!!!) before Trout. Despite having him play for league minimum, a team friendly extension, and a more expensive but still discounted Angel for life contract, the Angels made the playoffs once in his entire tenure back in 2014. Trout got a whole 15 plate appearances before the Royals bounced them out of the playoffs.
After 2014, Billy Eppler took the reigns as general manager coming from the New York Yankees. Optimism abounded in Anaheim, as Eppler was billed a perfect hybrid executive of stats and scouting who would be the perfect fit to surround Trout with talent. Eppler was supposed to rejuvenize the farm system and bring some analytic flair to the traditionally old school Angels. Safe to say it hasn’t worked out for Eppler or the Angels. Eppler’s best season is in the eye of the beholder, whether that is a third place 85-77 finish in 2015 or a second place 80-82 (21.5 games back) in 2017.
An ironic failure of the Angels at the time, and somewhat still today, was that they drafted Mike Trout yet their farm system was mostly in shambles. Consider their prospect list from 2015, Andrew Heaney is currently in their rotation and Sean Newcomb was used to bring in Andrelton Simmons but besides that, there are no standouts.
Now, the Angels have a premier prospect in Jo Adell and even had two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani fall into their lap. This has forced the Angels to go out and trade what little prospect capital they had to make upgrades or to overpay for marginal upgrades in free agency. Think of guys like Zack Cozart and Justin Upton.
Perhaps the worst failure of the Angels has been their inability to assemble a quality MLB pitching staff. Whether you slice it from 2012 or 2015 to present, the Angels are a bottom three team in terms of fWAR. The Angels approach of hoping prospects panned out, throwing huge sums of money at C.J. Wilson, or signing/trading for guys like Matt Harvey, Julio Teheran, Dylan Bundy, and others, its been failure after failure. Trout can only do this but so many times to save a pitching staff
Angels owner Arte Moreno also shoulders part of the blame. While he has been willing to open his wallet to pay for talent, that money wasn’t well spent with massive dollars allocated to Albert Pujols (10 years, $240M) and Josh Hamilton (5 years, $125M) a prime example. Knowing they would eventually have to pay Mike Trout market value, the Pujols contract prevented the Angels from making runs at free agents when Trout was making league minimum.
Moreno also has a history of overstepping and meddling in baseball affairs. Arte also nixed a trade that would have netted the Angels two huge upgrades in Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling for 2020 out of sheer impatience.
Even after signing Anthony Rendon, bringing in Joe Maddon to manage, and Ohtani coming back from Tommy John, the results have been more of the same. Eppler will likely be let go of at season’s end and the Angels will search for another chief executive. Maybe the next captain of the ship will get it right but with the Athletics and Astros firmly atop the division, it seems likely the Angels will still lag behind.
The Los Angeles Angels have failed spectacularly during the Mike Trout era, despite having the franchise cornerstone teams dream about. Trout deserves better and the game of baseball deserves better.