This morning, shortly before first pitch, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim announced they were changing up their starting pitchers:
UPDATE: RHP Andrew Wantz will be the Angels' opener today for José Suarez— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) June 26, 2022
Now, such a move has become relatively common in baseball of late. Teams will open the game with a reliever who generally throws from the opposite side as the planned starting pitcher, allowing the reliever to get favorable matchups against the opposing team’s best hitters. Perhaps the Angels simply thought Andrew Wantz — he of 43 big league innings and a 4.51 career FIP — was well-suited to face the Mariners’ top of the order.
Of course, that logic only follows if you assume Anaheim employed professional strategy. Instead, it seems that they elected to act like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum:
Warnings have been issued to both teams after the Angels' Andrew Wantz threw a 92.9 mph fastball behind Julio Rodríguez on the first pitch of his at-bat here in the 1st inning.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) June 26, 2022
The Angels were not happy about an up-and-in 95 mph heater from Erik Swanson to Mike Trout last night. pic.twitter.com/txGHhbLsJm
Yes, you read that right. Anaheim ignored J.P. Crawford and specifically targeted the Seattle Mariners’ best player — wünderkind Julio Rodríguez — all because they got their feelings hurt by a pitcher throwing inside the day before.
Mike Trout specifically called out the Mariners for what he thought was throwing at him in the ninth inning:
“I get that you are trying to throw up and in, but not at the head,” Trout said. “If you can’t pitch inside, don’t pitch inside. If you’re gonna hit me, hit me in the ribs, don’t hit me in the head. I don’t know if that was the intent, but anything at the head, you don’t do that.”
(This might be the time to mention that coming into today, only four teams have hit fewer batters with pitches than the Mariners. The M’s have also been hit by pitches more than all but two teams in baseball.)
A team with real adults in the dugout might have reacted differently. Such a team might have seen cooler heads prevail, ones that thought “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t willfully invite injury upon our fellow ballplayers.” Maybe they would have simply tried to hit Julio in the ribs, not throw a beanball up by his head.
But by the second inning, Anaheim proved that the prison is, in fact, run by the inmates:
This piece was already under construction before Wantz, surely abetted by manager Phil Nevin, decided he should try to injure yet another Mariners player. But that second hit-by-pitch is the cherry on top, the pièce de résistance proving that the Anaheim organization is rotten to the core.
There are dozens and dozens of examples of MLB players being injured by pitchers throwing 90+ MPH projectiles at their bodies. The feckless thugs overseeing the Angels organization seem not to care about this precedent.
Phil Nevin may be an interim manager, but he’s no stranger to the game of baseball. He knows the “unwritten rules” and he knows the danger inherent in those rules. He knows that, strategically, he’s doing himself a disservice by intentionally putting players on base. Yet he’s such a coward that he doesn’t seem to give a shit. Anthony Rendon — injured and out for the season — came out of the dugout during the brawl to punch Jesse Winker, knowing full well that his suspension wouldn’t hurt his ballclub, but maybe he could injure an actual baseball player who was actually playing in the game against his team. Andrew Wantz didn’t care if he was ejected for hitting Winker; after all, he was nearing the end of his outing regardless.
All of this comes after Mariners outfielder Justin Upton, an Anaheim Angel as recently as this April, was actually beaned in the head by his former team during the teams’ last series. (Interesting: The Mariners didn’t respond by trying to injure Shohei Ohtani!)
As I’ve kept writing, I find myself not sure how to end this piece. I don’t need to call for Nevin, Wantz, Rendon, and Raisel Iglesias to be suspended for multiple games; MLB will surely take care of that, though Nevin’s particular hooliganism should get him suspended for weeks longer than the ~7 games he’ll actually get. I don’t need to bemoan how unfair it is that the Mariners have to finish this game without three of their best players (Rodríguez, Crawford, and Winker) because they were targeted by the Angels, defended themselves, and were thusly ejected; that injustice speaks for itself. I don’t need to talk about Scott Servais, who will possibly be suspended for....righteous anger expressed in a relatively healthy way?
Rather, I’ll end with this: The Anaheim Angels have wasted the primes of the two most generational talents in decades. They lost an epic 14 games in a row earlier this season. They’ve chosen to channel their frustrations into inventing perceived slights and attempting to injure other professionals. If their club was a ship, the organizational rot present in Anaheim would have condemned the vessel long ago. They are cowards, plain and simple, and there is no place for such cowardice in Major League Baseball.