ANAHEIM — All right, Angels fans. Let us hear it, good and loud.
(And yes, I did just channel the late Harry Caray right there. No specific reason. It just seemed appropriate.)
Seriously, your team is approaching a crossroads. They’re hot again, winning four of six since the All-Star break and shaking off what could have been a demoralizing loss to Houston on Sunday by sweeping three against the New York Yankees, punctuating it with a 7-3 victory on Wednesday. We’ll ignore for the moment that right now these aren’t the Yankees, historically the scourge of all they survey, although their fans – many of whom swamped the concourses at Angel Stadium on Wednesday – continue to act the part.
Is it fool’s gold to have swept these Bombers, who have lost nine of their last 11? Or are the Angels, now back over .500 at 49-48 and 4½ games behind the third American League wild-card spot, indeed climbing back into contention for the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2014?
And if they can somehow keep this up over at least the next 11 days, can we get the world beyond Orange County to stop with the “Trade Shohei Ohtani” business?
It is beyond tiresome. The best player in baseball is not only having an MVP-caliber season, he is on a pace to at least threaten the euphemistic “American League Home Run Record” of 62, set by New York’s Aaron Judge last year. (“ALHRR,” of course, being code for most presumably non-chemically-enhanced home runs in a major league season.)
Ohtani entered Wednesday afternoon’s game on a pace for a 59-home run season, and it’s worth noting that he walked four times (one intentional) in five plate appearances. Yankees starter Carlos Rodón got him on strikes in the fourth inning.
But no, the numbers and the history and the production aren’t part of the story the rest of the nation hears. Even pundits and fans from cities whose teams have no chance of raising the $600 million to $700 million it likely will take to sign Ohtani, minimum, are circling like vultures sizing up a carcass.
As for the teams that can put together that kind of scratch, the trade speculation and the jawboning over what kind of package it would take to pry Shohei away from Anaheim seems to be the new national pastime up until the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
This is how insane it’s become. On Sunday night’s ESPN telecast of the Angels-Astros game, field reporter Buster Olney did an in-game interview with Angels manager Phil Nevin and wasted one of his questions by asking Nevin his thoughts about the trade rumors.
I mean, what was the manager supposed to say? Unless and until he hears otherwise Ohtani is an Angel, and the rest is way above his pay grade.
The chatter potentially could be a double-barreled distraction – distracting the nation at large from appreciating a truly memorable individual season, and distracting the Angels themselves from tending to their business. The former? Definitely true. The latter? Not so much, evidently.
And maybe we’re looking at it all wrong, as Taylor Ward – who got the Angels off and winging with his two-run homer in the first Wednesday – noted afterward.
“There’s still a lot of games to be played, but yeah, I think this (sweep) moving forward just really helps where we’re at, and, you know, maybe what we do at the trade deadline,” he said.
That’s as in adding, not subtracting.
Ballplayers usually are pretty good at tuning trade rumors out, otherwise, every clubhouse in baseball would be on the razor’s edge in the weeks leading up to the deadline. Nevin noted before Wednesday’s game that his team has been fairly even-keeled.
“They’re playing with a sense of urgency, but it’s not a panic urgency,” he said. “They understand what’s in front of us. I mean, two and a half weeks ago, we were the second team in the wild card. And just as quick as we’ve gotten to the position we’re in, we can get that back too by playing well.
“We just had a little rut in the middle, but we’ve played well around that.”
Can it continue? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, this is where I want to hear Angel fans’ voices and opinions.
How would you handle the remaining days leading up to the deadline? Beyond that, how would you like this team and this franchise improved for the long haul, be it the roster, the front office, the farm system, the stadium, or whatever? The best suggestions will make it into print.
(And no, “Fire Arte” is not on the table. Like it or not, Arte Moreno is still the owner. Now, if you want to make the case that the improvements necessary to provide the product loyal Angel fans deserve can’t happen until there’s an ownership change, feel free to make your case. He might not read it, but I suspect others in the Angels’ organization will.)
I’ll confess. This survey isn’t my original idea. One of our regular Angel fan correspondents, William Stremel, floated the concept in an email, writing: “I think it would be a great dialogue to all the hopelessly loyal Angel fans out there … myself included.”
Hopelessly loyal … that pretty well sums it up.
Remember, before COVID-19 the Angels drew more than 3 million at home for 17 straight seasons, the last five of those part of the postseason drought that now has reached eight seasons. In 2022, the first season of full attendance after the pandemic, they drew 2.45 million with a team that finished 33 games out of first place and 13 games out of a wild card spot and basically was playing only for pride after July 1.
Through 49 games this season their announced attendance is 1,643,192, including 33,535 Wednesday for a 4 p.m. start. (Augmented by plenty of Yankee fans, of course, for which I’m sure the Moreno family extends its thanks.)
So, Angel fans, send me your emails with suggestions of what this team should do to shape up for the future.
Meanwhile, here’s my suggestion: Regardless of where the Angels are at the trading deadline, here’s a hard no on dealing Ohtani. No package anyone could possibly offer would be anywhere near equal value.
In other words, trading him would be a fool’s errand.