The Angels were not meant to ascend to the baseball heavens in 2018. It’s that simple. But, the ball club took many steps in the right direction. Halo fans can dry their tears of disappointment, take heart, and dream of better and brighter days ahead. The deluge of injuries seem to finally be behind us. The farm system appears to be developing after years of neglect. Billy Eppler has shown that he has the ability to acquire critical pieces to fill in gaps in and around the one and only Mike Trout. Lastly, the intangible that emerges from a stable organization that avoids drama and discontent should work the Halo way. No doubt, there are rays of hope along the horizon and they are starting to shine thru.
The 2017 season did not end on the high note that seemed within reach when summer transformed into fall. Three losses in four games to the lowly White Sox demonstrated that there was not enough gas, left in the tank.
Looking forwards, the greatest variable in contemplating 2018 lies in the pitching domain. The Angels, with the possible exception of Garrett Richards, lack the needed ace at the front end of the rotation. Perhaps though an even bigger problem might be the inconsistency amongst the potential starters which include any combination of Richards, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Parker Bridwell, Nick Tropeano, and JC Ramirez. It’s safe to assume that free agent to be, Ricky Nolasco, acquired a year back (along with Alex Meyer) for Hector Santiago will not be brought back. Much has been expected from likely starters and much will be needed from them. The moment for them to achieve the hoped for success can no longer be measured in abstraction but in performance. There are several free agent pitchers that might fill a slot in the starting rotation but they will not come cheaply. Eppler is going to need to be extremely careful both in his financial allocations and his talent evaluation. As the high-priced contracts of Jered Weaver and Josh Hamilton come off the books, there will not be the shortage of cash as there has been in the recent past, but Eppler can ill-afford to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, Tony Reagins, and Jerry DiPoto. It will be a challenging task but opportunities await.
While it was disappointing to finish 80-82, below the .500 mark for the third consecutive year, it was thrilling to be in playoff contention through 150 games.
Highlights? There were many, both team and personal. Mike Scioscia, whose contract expire after next year must be commended for managing a team riddled with injuries. From April to October, nearly all of the starting pitching staff as well as the bullpen occupied slots on the DL . Somehow though, the skipper found a way to work through the unforeseeable losses of each projected starter for extended periods, and the near total absence of his number one and two closers, Huston Street and Andrew Bailey.
Perhaps the low point of the season came when Mike Trout was injured and forced to sit out some seven weeks. Had he remained healthy, he’d almost certainly have put up numbers to contend for a third consecutive MVP. To be able to witness Trout’s talents on a day in/day out basis is both a joy and a treat. Ditto for the ultimate professional, Albert Pujols. As for Andrelton Simmons, he might just be the re-incarnation of Ozzie Smith. Time will tell. A month’s worth of Justin Upton only makes Halo fans yearn for more. Martin Maldonado has much room to improve with the bat but his superb glove-work and quality command of games deserves special commendation.
Billy Eppler’s acquisition of Brandon Phillips cannot be faulted but Phillips’ play does not merit his return. The Angels must fill the hole at second base that came about as a result of DiPoto’s acquisition of Tyler Skaggs for the steady, Howie Kendrick. Likewise, the inconsistent efforts of the oft-injured Yunel Escobar do not merit his re-signing. The Angels are in need of a hard hitting third baseman who can handle the hot corner too. Mike Moustakas is a free agent who will certainly be considered but he will come at a high price. The same is true of Todd Frazier but it is clear that the every day job cannot be put in the hands of veteran Luis Valbuena who has not cashed in on opportunities in many places. Kole Calhoun’s play was a bit up and down, but hopefully, next year will be a breakthrough one for him. He has talent and clearly works hard at his craft. As to whether he can reach a higher level of play, time will tell.
The Angels played only one game into October this year, a win in the season finale against the Mariners. Next season’s schedule has the regular season extending only as far as September. Hopefully, after some needed alterations to the roster this winter, the Angels will once again be playing ball next October. And this time, for higher stakes. Dream until your dreams come true!