Hello and welcome back to FanPost Friday. Usually we talk about the Mariners in this space each week, but this week we need to reflect a bit on the AL West division with an emphasis on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Before we get to the Halos, I think we can all agree that the AL West is having a uniquely incredible year in general. This is insane right here:
Just how close the AL West race? This is the first time since the implementation of three divisions in the AL and NL in 1994 that three teams were within one game of first place entering September.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) August 31, 2023
With @kennlandry, @brianmctaggart and @SlangsOnSports...https://t.co/TP5YquWCCu
Three teams are viciously contending, one team is sadly bottoming out completely due to cheap ownership to the point where they might move, and the other, well...the other is the team with the two future Hall of Famers who have been continually squandering both players’ prime years.
(To be fair, I would not fist-pump Anthony Rendon under any circumstances, either.)
As Mariners fans, we know what it’s like to see Hall of Fame talent get squandered. It feels really bad to look back on Mariners teams who rostered 3 Hall of Famers (Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez) and then added early prime Alex Rodriguez (who famously posted 9.2 fWAR in 1996) and they only had 3 division titles, 4 playoff appearances (counting 2000 and 2001), no pennants, and obviously no World Series titles to show for it. (EDIT: Ichiro deserves mention in here in the talent-squandering section, as does Félix Hernández for that matter, even though it was a later era). The mind boggles! Baseball is really hard!
And yet, the Arte Moreno-owned Angels have basically taken the same “stars and scrubs” approach that famously did not work for the Mariners during that era (even with four absolute stars) and applied to their roster construction during the Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani era. Sure, there was old and injured Albert Pujols in the mix and maybe 1.5 seasons collectively of a not-good Anthony Rendon, but other than that it’s been season after season of the Angels banking on two generational talents to drag the rest of roster’s detritus into playoff contention. They’ve made the playoffs once during the Trout era, but before Ohtani, back in 2014 where they were swept by the Royals after winning the AL West.
But anyways, let’s bring it back to present day. With Mike Trout out since July 5 with a wrist injury and somewhat doubtful to return before season end, the entire weight of the Angels organization has been on Ohtani’s shoulders for the rest of his last contract year with the team. While it was fairly unlikely the Angels would admit complete defeat and trade him before the deadline, what they did instead was also very ill-advised. They attempted to buy-in at the trade deadline on August 1, acquiring Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, and Dominic Leone. It was a mixed bag of MLB talent, sure, but MLB talent nonetheless! It seemed clear the team was sending a message that they were all-in on what may be Ohtani’s last stretch of meaningful baseball with the team.
Two days later, a pivotal 4-game series with the Mariners began, the team who stood in the way of any chance the Angels had of staying in the Wild Card race. The Angels needed these wins BADLY and they had bulked up the lineup to do just that. And then in game one, after Ohtani pitched 4 scoreless innings (had to exit with cramps) AND hit a pivotal home run (his 40th!), a fellow named Cade Marlowe took it upon himself to violently crush the hopes and dreams of every Angels fan and player alive.
Cade Marlowe with a Grand Slam to take the lead in the 9th! pic.twitter.com/m1tHefyyup— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) August 4, 2023
The Mariners would go on to sweep the Angels and effectively bury their Wild Card chances six feet deep. It will be forever known here as the “Mickey Mop” series (must credit Kate Preusser). The series was full of back-breaking moments for the Angels, but it’s tough to overstate the effect that a player I’d wager 95% of Angels fans had never heard of doing the funniest, most hurtful thing possible and hit a 9th inning go-ahead grand slam. Like Bart Simpson doing slo-mo on Ralph Wiggum’s heart breaking in real time, you can do the same thing by watching the Angels broadcast of the grand slam (Surgeon General’s Warning: watching this video may result in a nuclear-grade dose of schadenfreude, viewer discretion advised).
How many times have we Mariners fans seen the season more-or-less end at the hands of an unheralded player on the A’s, Angels, or Rangers? We all know this feeling and how badly it hurts and that’s why seeing it happen to the team who has crapped in our cereal (hello Deadgar Weekend, Lolla-blue-za, etc) many times over the last 20+ seasons feels especially satisfying. Not to mention how the constant loop of Ohtani highlights and the (very justified) salivating over his one-of-a-kind talents by the national baseball media since 2018 has created this echo chamber of constantly praising Ohtani while giving the Angels a pass for being fielding an utterly dogshit team around him and Trout.
The chickens have come home to roost. The Angels buy-in did not work and the Mariners themselves made sure of it. Then on August 24, the Angels announced Ohtani sustained a torn UCL and will not pitch the rest of the season. Devastating news for Angels fans and all fans who enjoy watching a dominant pitcher. Five days later, the Angels’ front office made a fairly unprecedented move and released every player they had acquired at the trade deadline and then some. This is the kind of thing you see people do in fantasy sports leagues when they are completely out of contention and want to spitefully cause chaos and ideally hurt their rivals by dropping all their players onto the waiver wire.
BREAKING: The Los Angeles Angels have placed starter Lucas Giolito, relievers Matt Moore and Reynaldo López, and outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk on waivers, sources tell ESPN. Huge potential playoff implications: All can be claimed by teams for free on Thursday.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 29, 2023
For the Angels, this will be a pure salary dump. Because there are no longer any August trades, all they will get from the transactions is salary relief. Teams that claim the players will need only pay their salaries for the rest of the season.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 29, 2023
A deeply unserious move by a literal poverty franchise in a death spiral. I am overcome with schadenfreude.
I wrote about the Angels putting six guys on waivers to save a few bucks, how the whole process works, how I think the best descriptor for this maneuver is "cynical," and why I think it's something the league will want to nip in the bud sooner than later:https://t.co/hW1wYvcowq— The Chorker (@cdgoldstein) August 30, 2023
By the way, no teams in directly competition with the Mariners were able to successfully claim any of the released players.
I do want to put emphasis here that I am being critical of the Angels as an organization and it has nothing to do with the fans. Similar to A’s fans, I feel really bad for y’all! You deserve better and you should continue to be extremely critical of Arte Moreno and GM Perry Minasian. Mariners fans feel your pain! We’ve have pretty much nothing but bad and/or cheap ownership groups over the years. The Mariners have succeeded the last two seasons in spite of the current ownership group’s refusal to go bigger and spend on MLB talent the last two offseasons. The Dipoto-era revamping of the drafting and player development departments has saved the team repeatedly.
Okay, I have ranted long enough and it’s time to turn this autopsy slash requiem into a proper roast. You’re familiar with celebrity roasts, right?
In the comments, give me your best few lines of your roast of the 2023 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Get creative, don’t break any site rules, and dance on some graves.
Have a great weekend and go Mariners.