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What the Hell Happened to this Team?


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By Glen McKee, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer - 

Throughout my average day I get asked a lot of questions, some of them quite often.  â€œWho are you looking at through those binoculars?”  â€œAren’t you supposed to be 500 feet away from schools?”  â€œWhy are you so fat?”  Those are some of the most common questions, but amongst those who know me and are casual (or not at all) baseball fans the question lately has been “What the hell happened to your team?”

That’s a very good question indeed.  What the hell happened to this team?  They had a great regular season last year and then folded like origami in the playoffs.  They made a few seemingly good moves in the offseason and played at least decent ball for most of the season, including almost a month when they looked like the Blue Jays look right now.  After that month though, right around after the All Star break, the team has fallen apart.  They went from division leaders to chasing for a wild card berth.  Again, what the hell happened?

Last night I was watching the latest reimagining of “Cinderella,” this one directed by Kenneth Branagh.  Everybody knows the story, even dudes like me, but it offered a few little surprises.  One of the turning points in the story is when Cinderella is working her evil woman magic on the unsuspecting prince (not Prince; that would be an entirely different and great movie) and she suddenly realizes it’s almost midnight and needs to beat feet out of there before she reverts to her true form.  While watching this I realized the parallels with the Angels, who at that moment (I checked my phone) were behind 12-3 to the Blue Jays.  The Angels’ stagecoach was turning into a pumpkin, and in spectacular fashion.  In less than a month the Angels went from a playoff presence to having genuine questions about if they’ll even make the playoffs (spoiler alert: they won’t).  What the hell happened to the Angels?

In a few words, the team expired.  

This was a team that started the season with more question marks than the Riddler’s costume.  How would whomever was playing at 2B do?  How would Freese do at 3B?  Would Richards and Shoemaker be able to duplicate their success from last year?  Would the bullpen be the same without Jepsen, and can you imagine we’re even asking that?  How many more times would we be subject to lame jokes about Scioscia and food on angelswin.com?

In short, to answer each question: mediocre, good until injured, no, no/no, and way too many.  Seriously, people.  Making a joke about Scioscia and pasta is almost like asking somebody where the beef is.  Give it up.

They had a good run, as good a run as could have been expected.  Then reality kicked in.  As a football coach once said, “we are what are record says we are.”  That’s what the Angels are.  A team that isn’t strong enough to make the playoffs as currently constructed.  Consider that this is also during a year in which injuries have not been a major factor.  Yes, losing Freese has really hurt the team, but that’s it.  Texas is still missing their ace pitcher (among many other injuries) and they just blew past us like we were stalled on the side of the road. 

How did this happen?  In short, the offense was completely ignored and we’re now seeing the results.  This team is terrible at executing with RISP and has been for most of the year.  At the start of the season Giavotella was a pleasant surprise but he has, you guessed it, expired.  Conor Gillaspie started fast but expired.  Anybody we’ve had at 3B since Freese has expired.  Pujols had a hot month and then he expired.  Even super stud Mike Trout has expired lately, although he is always a candidate to unexpire. 

On the mound, amazingly enough the team hasn’t found anybody to reliably fill the seventh-inning role.  Imagine for a moment, before the start of last season, thinking that we’d be missing Kevin Jepsen.  It’s true, brother.  The bullpen has been a roller-coaster.  The starters have regressed.  Shoemaker is back in AAA.  Richards is working his way to a 4+ ERA.  Heaney, before Sunday, was the sole bright spot.
  
The team as a whole has regressed and there has been nobody to turn it around.  With a nod to tdawg, the team spent the trading period looking for a clean peanut and the closest they have come is David Murphy.  At first I was frustrated by the lack of trades, especially when seeing what teams like the Blue Jays did, but now I understand it.  Stoneman is many things but he isn’t an idiot and he knew this team wasn’t one bat or one arm away from being solid.  It wasn’t worth blowing up what little value the farm system had to make a push for this year.  Sure, having Cespedes or Gonzales on this team might have netted us another win or two so far, but it’s entirely possible they would have caught whatever it is that has infected Angels’ batters this year.  It just wasn’t worth taking a chance.  Stoneman saw what we’re all now seeing: that this team has expired, and in spectacular fashion.  The Angels are like that Tupperware container with the leftover chicken salad that got shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten about for a month, and now somebody just opened the lid and let the stench out.  It’s nauseating.  

The good news is that with a few moves and a little luck, they can start next year with a clean Tupperware container.  I hope they do, because right now the only thing this team is inspiring is apathy.  I’ve had that for too many years as an Angels fan.  I don’t want it again next year.  Heck, I can’t even write anything funny about the team, which might say more about my failings as a writer than the failings of this team.  It’s not much fun to joke about something you love that is down in the dumps.  They need to get better so I can make fun of them again.
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One of the problems is, that while the food is going bad in the tupperware.  We might ignore that the tupperware is still being cooled by a 16 year old fridge.  

Wait a second, the fridge ran great for the first 10 years. That means it still is, and always will be until the end of time, a great fridge.

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Good article Glen. However, I somewhat disagree. This team didn't expire, it became "I"nspired. It never gelled as a team. It never formed a team identity. It lacked a true leader, and all of that led to I dividend play, not team play. Instead of getting g them on, getting them over, and getting them in, more times than not, people were swinging for the fences. How many solo shots have we hit and how many guys have we stranded on the basepaths? Guys who really shouldn't ever be trying to hit dangers are trying to do so. Why? This has led to far fewer runs. Yes, in a short series, dangers can make a difference. But, in the long run, team style offenses do better. Given the lack of run support so long, is there any wonder why the rotation and bullpen is falling apart? Both have been over taxed as they've been forced to work with smaller and smaller amounts of running support. And the defense has not helped either.

So, when opposing teams play us, they know that all they have to do is not let Trout or Pujols beat them. If runners are on, pitch around them because no one is there to protect them in the lineup, and whoever is there, will most likely swing for the fences and miss rather than work the field. Players like Joyce, who refuse to bunt when facing an extreme shift, are prime examples of the "I"-Team mentality. It's very selfish to continually let the other team get you out with their defensive shift.

There's no doubt that parts of this offense is broken. Losing a bat behind Pujols (Hamilton was supposed to provide that) hurt. Not having a true leadoff hitter hurt (I've been wanting a true leadoff guy for 3 years). The holes at 3B and LF hurt. But, if we had a leader and an identity, some of these problems could have been solved I ternary. If the offense were better, my bet is that the pitching would be better too (as it wouldn't be so overtaxed).

This team, like all teams, needed a leader and an identity. It never got one, and it shows.

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Stoneman is many things but he isn’t an idiot and he knew this team wasn’t one bat or one arm away from being solid.  It wasn’t worth blowing up what little value the farm system had to make a push for this year. 

 

Very interesting perspective Glen.

 

Agree Stoneman isn't an idiot, but many of the Angels issues this year are the consequences of Stoneman (and later Reagins) not understanding what the Angels had, and did not have, in the farm system a few years ago. I understand that no one could have predicted that Kotchman, McPherson, Wood, Mathis, and the rest of the "future superstars" that made up the Angels farm system would not pan out. But a decent GM should have had some idea what the real ceiling of these players were and found a way to maximize their perceived value. Stoneman stubbornly held on to these player and in the end the Angels received next to nothing for any of them. Because of his track record, I have no confidence that Stoneman is able to accurately evaluate the true level of talent in the farm system and maybe it was a mistake holding on to prospects and not trading them. 

Edited by Coachbulldog
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Talent evaluation takes a whole bunch of opinions and stats and progress reports and coaching...

That the Halo's have had so many highly regarded prospects struggle and fail, says that a lot of attention needs to be focused on improving that department.

 

Theo/Hoyer did a complete overhaul of that system when they went over to the Cubbies org..

It has paid off.

The Angels obviously need to do the same.

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