“Angels-So Much Hope–Gone to Hell”
That is about the only way I can describe Angels baseball, on the field, off the field and in between.
Joe Maddon, a popular hire just 3-years ago; after a successful track record as an Angels coach, then as manager of the Rays, and with his Cubs World Series ring, is out, without a winning season, a playoff berth, and no chance to earn a contract extension.
Everything around the Halos seems cursed.
Free agent failures.
A pitches death due to drugs.
The tragedy of a drunk driving death.
The drug dealing lawsuits
The FBI corruption probe of a land purchase to build a new stadium.
For every step forward, something happened that appeared to be two steps back.
Mike Scoscia guided the Halos to a World Series title, with a stern taskmaster approach of old school baseball. Caught in the vortex of a changing game, old school-vs-sabermetrics, Scoscia never adjusted and was fired. He’s hever been rehired.
Enter Joe Maddon, who had a long run with the organization as a minor league manager, and Scoscia’s bench coach, came on board after post Scoscia hires did not work out. He used his Angels experience well, landing the Tampa Bay Rays job, where he succeeded using young players, small budgets and creative game planning.
That took him to Wrigley Field, with big tradition, big budgets got a World Series ring, as ownership gave him a combination of gritty veterans, young high draft picks, quality trades, and a series of Cuban and Latin American free agents, who could play.
He was let go when losing set in.
Enter the job at Angels Stadium, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Billy Eppler was axed as GM, Brad Ausmus dumped after just a year. Ownership needed a credibility name and this guy fit the bill.
Maddon, a free thinker, loosened the tight reins of the way past manager’s ran the team. The new GM worked to find patchwork pitching. The owner went and spent money for another big name.
Ownership gave him quality players, led by the spectacular sales pitch signing of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani. Then came the big money signing of Anthony Rendon, and the multi year deal to keep Mike Trout from leaving.
But building takes time and developing pitching takes even more time.
A new GM Perry Manasian entered, talking about expectations and new philosophies.
But Maddon could not circumvent the bad history of Angels baseball.
Free agent busts like Josh Hamilton and Justin Upton.
The horrors of the drunk driving accident that killed Nick Adenhardt.
The tragedy of Tyler Skaggs drug overdose death.
The front office scandal of drug dealing in the clubhouse by a PR director
And then the injuries upon injuries.
Ohtani’s elbow surgery. Trout’s season long calf malady. Two years worth of physical woes to Rendon.
The front office tried to buy Maddon time by renting free agent pitchers, but if guys like Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney were let go in Baltimore, what made you think pitching in the Big A would make them different.
Force feeding top picks like Reid Detmers and Griff Canning came too soon. Yes a no-hitter in there but bad injuries too. There’s a host of young arms in and out of the rotation, but there is no consistency from any of those starters.
Beyond Ohtani and the one year rental of Noah Syndegaard, it is as if the Halos hang help wanted signs outfront of the stadium looking for volunteers to pitch.
In Maddon’s 3-years, the Halos used 25-pitchers in the 2020 pandemic season, 37-pitchers last year, and so far 24 in this 2022-slide of a season. Think about that, 86-pitchers in 2 and a half years.
The Halos even set a record, drafting 21-pitchers in 21-rounds a year ago trying to fix all that is wrong, hoping down road will be better than the pot hole pitching road they have travelled..
They have not been to the playoffs since 2014, have not won a postseason game since 2012. And that World Series ring seems a lifetime ago.
Fan support is still very strong in Orange County, compared to perennial losers like Oakland-Pittsburgh-Detroit. But in Southern Calfornia, keeping up with the guy in the next area code (Dodgers) is necessary.
Was Maddon tough enough as a leader? Was he a player’s manager? Did they need someone different than Scoscia’s style? Can Manasian find enough pitching rentals till more young arms arrive?
Will Phil Nevin have a chance to restructure his sales pitch, or will he be done in by the things swirling around past managers who have failed to get it done?
For everything that owner Arte Moreno has tried to do, so much has blown up in his face, even when he hires people with track records.
Maddon did not agree with the ouster, referencing he would have hoped the front office would have the pulse of the clubhouse, saying they did not. He kept preaching patience his team would get healthy, would start to hit, hoped the pitching would improve.
He has always been blunt honest, a free thinker, and glib, but when he insisted there were alot of important things happening in the world (Ukraine-Uvalde-Gas Prices-Congress) it was as if solving the Angels problems was not very important to him.
The Halos decided they would let someone else try to fix it and find its importance.
Curse the injuries, the pitching failures, the wated free agent signings and all the bad luck
It’s a franchise that seems cursed.