It's August 23rd and the Mariners are just as bad as last year and a lot of people have already checked out and playoff baseball is phrase in another language and it kind of sucks.
But you know what makes all that seem paltry in comparison? The Los Angeles Angels.The Angels are terrible. We are all familiar with the Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols payroll nightmares Angels' owner Arte Moreno will take a decade to wake up from. It's common knowledge throughout the league that the Angels' farm system more closely resembles a literal farm than a baseball organization. Just this morning, news "broke" that either Mike Scioscia or GM Jerry Dipoto would lose their jobs before the first pitch of 2014.
I know a few Angels fans. I am familiar with the place from where their baseball-related sorrow emerges, because I follow the Seattle Mariners. But even in this team's darkest moments, there was at least a suggestion of hope--from the minors, from office moves, from looking to a plan, even if it felt like said plan was drawn on the back of a cereal box with a Burnt Sienna crayon. The Angels? Bleak prospects. Absurdly back-loaded contracts with aging power hitters on the books for a long, long time. The best young player in all of baseball that will soon be looking for--and deserving--more money he might not get in Orange County. Rotation moves. Bullpen meltdowns. An inexplicably terrible year from one of their best pitchers. An early end to Pujols' season because he's 33 and starting to wear down.
All which brings us to today. Last year around this time, I was watching Mariners games and trying to ask myself what I wanted out of the rest of the season. The Mariners at one point had baseball's best post-All Star Break schedule, but when things started to even out, I remember telling myself that I at least hoped they would finish the year ahead of the Angels. It didn't happen. But it's probably going to happen this year, and this weekend's three-game series is going to help that cause.
Today Felix faces Angels' righty Garrett Richards. Richards flirted with starting back in April, but has spent the rest of the year coming out of the bullpen to work on his stuff. But with the decision to send Joe Blanton down to the pen, Richards has gotten a second crack at starting, and has been alright considering the circumstances. Since making his first start in the rotation on July 27th, Richards has amassed a K/9 of 6.744 and an xFIP of 2.93, and has only given up two home runs in five appearances. But since converting he's also holding a record of 1-1 with three no decisions. Not that it matters, but you know ownership isn't looking to a good xFIP for pitcher evaluation--they want wins and they want to start seeing them now. So if this trend continues, Blanton will soon be knocking on Dipoto's, shouting I TOLD YOU SO.
This is the unfortunate story of the 2013 Los Angeles Angels. Everything was supposed to work. The big free agent splashes. The best player in the game coming off a record-breaking rookie season. Pitching with good sabermetric numbers. Instead, the free agents wear down, the star finds himself left on base too often, and the pitching utterly implodes behind the 24th worst defense in all of baseball. I would tell my Angels friends it will get better, but I don't even know what to think.
It's Felix day for the rest of us, so sing along and hope the King can put up his best side against a Pujols-less Angels lineup. As messy as their year has been, this team is still fielding great hitters like Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. Don't forget what happened to Felix in Anaheim earlier this year. You can bet Felix won't.
Franklin sits again after tearing his knee open on a slide in Oakland, and Michael Saunders has moved into the 2-hole, trying to extend some of his recent success over the past four games. Endy Chavez gets the start in right field, and Ackley still sits toward the bottom of the order, this time taking over at second base for Franklin.