Jump to content
  • Welcome to AngelsWin.com

    AngelsWin.com - THE Internet Home for Angels fans! Unraveling Angels Baseball ... One Thread at a Time.

    Register today to comment and join the most interactive online Angels community on the net!

    Once you're a member you'll see less advertisements. If you become a Premium member and you won't see any ads! 



OC Register: Angels face high expectations, pressure to win with Shohei Ohtani

Recommended Posts

As the Angels prepare to open a season that just about everyone around the sport believes is critical for the future of the franchise, the question is whether the Angels themselves feel any added urgency this year.

The answer, of course, is yes.

And also no.

It’s a bit of a trap, the urgency question. Many of those in and around the clubhouse would not step into it.

“There’s always urgency,” infielder David Fletcher said. “I don’t think we’ve ever not had urgency or effort. It’s not like ‘Oh, we’re gonna try harder this year and do it.’ I don’t believe that’s a thing. But high expectations, for sure.”

The high expectations are because the Angels have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, arguably the two best players in the world. During the first five years that those two have played together, the Angels have had exactly zero winning seasons.

Now Ohtani is entering his final season before free agency, and it’s widely assumed that the Angels have no chance to re-sign him unless they win. They need to prove to Ohtani that by signing an extension he wouldn’t be committing himself to more years without the thrill of the postseason, an experience he just sampled in the World Baseball Classic.

If the Angels don’t win this season, they will likely lose the most talented, awe-inspiring, revenue-generating baseball player that anyone alive has ever seen.

So, you ask General Manager Perry Minasian, doesn’t this year carry more pressure to win than any other year?

“From the outside world, yes, I can see somebody saying, ‘Man, this is an important year,’” Minasian said, “but every year is important.”

First baseman Jared Walsh offered a candid, dissenting opinion.

“If anybody says they don’t feel that, they’re lying,” Walsh said last week. “It’s the major leagues. I think every team should have a sense of urgency. I don’t think it’s any secret that you always hear Mike’s had one playoff appearance in his career. Shohei hasn’t had any. We’ve got a great fan base that comes out and supports us. They want to see playoff baseball, so yeah, there’s no doubt we need to have a sense of urgency about getting into the postseason and playing meaningful baseball.”

They last did so in 2014. Since then, their eight-season playoff drought is tied with the Detroit Tigers for the longest ongoing streak in the sport.

They haven’t even had a winning record since 2015, when they were eliminated from postseason contention during the final weekend. The Angels also remained mathematically alive for the playoffs in the final week of both the 2017 season and the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Over the last two seasons, they have been out of the race at the All-Star break, despite Ohtani producing the greatest back-to-back seasons in baseball history.

The juxtaposition of Ohtani’s achievements and the Angels’ mediocrity has made the franchise the butt of jokes. As the baseball world focused on Trout and Ohtani in the WBC, it only intensified the narrative about the Angels’ failure.

Trout, Ohtani and left-hander Patrick Sandoval all returned from the WBC and described their burning desire to experience that atmosphere in the postseason, with the Angels.

Manager Phil Nevin certainly feels that urgency, although he said it’s nothing new.

“Any team that comes into camp with the talent that we have, if you don’t practice and play with a sense of urgency every day, I think you’re doing your teammates, your organization, your fans, an injustice,” Nevin said.

How does that urgency manifest itself as more than a feeling, though?

Nevin conceded that the leash for a struggling player might be shorter this season. At the same time, he was careful to say that he can’t manage from Day 1 as if every game is a must-win, because that could backfire.

“If Mike Trout has played 10 days in a row and we’re going somewhere where it’s AstroTurf and we’ve lost nine out of 10, I still have to give Mike Trout a day,” Nevin said. “It’s not ‘I’ve got to play him today because we have to get out of this.’ I think we fell into that a little bit last year in that series in Seattle.”

Trout played five games in four days in Seattle in mid-June. The Angels won four of five and actually had a better record at that time than the Mariners. Shortly after that series, though, Trout came up with a sore back. He went into an 8-for-48 slump while the Angels lost 10 of 13 games, and then he went on the injured list while the Angels’ season died in July.

Outfielder Taylor Ward and third baseman Anthony Rendon also played through injuries in May and June. Rendon ended up needing surgery and Ward went into a slump for three months.

Circumstances like those led to Minasian building this year’s team the way he did. The addition of players like outfielder Hunter Renfroe and versatile infielders Gio Urshela and Brandon Drury should, in theory, allow the Angels to keep a competent team on the field even when a key player is injured or needs a day off to avoid an injury.

“We have the depth where I can give guys a rest and you’re not sitting there going, ‘How are we going to play today without this person?’” Nevin said.

Nevin said his goal is to make it through the first few months healthy “and in a good position to make a run.”

If they aren’t, the team would suddenly be playing under the cloud of a potential Ohtani trade.

And if they trade Ohtani, they might also trade impending free agents like Renfroe, Urshela and relievers Ryan Tepera, Matt Moore and Aaron Loup.

The Angels might find themselves at the end of the season with so many holes that the only escape is to trade players like Ward and Sandoval, who could yield significant prospect hauls because of their multiple remaining years of control.

And if all that happens, Trout might even accept – or ask for – a trade.

Nevin is on a one-year deal, and Minasian has two years left, so both of them could be gone if the season goes poorly.

All of which adds up to the reality that, if this season doesn’t go well, it could light the fuse to blow up the roster and start over.

Of course, no one is thinking that way now. Opening Day is a time for unbridled optimism, and it’s perfectly reasonable for the Angels to feel that way.

Their rotation had the sixth-best ERA in the majors last season, and they’ve added All-Star Tyler Anderson to that group. The other starters are all under 30. The offense is anchored by Ohtani, Trout, Rendon and Ward, and the lineup is deeper than it’s been in years. The Angels got through spring training without any key players suffering any injuries that would cost them significant time.

Hopes are high as they enter a season that could be their last with both Ohtani and Trout.

“You definitely think about it,” Trout said at the start of spring training. “It’s been nine years now since we’ve been to the playoffs. If there’s any year we need to get the playoffs, it’s this year.”

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...