The field is newly painted, the grass freshly clipped and the uniforms crisply pressed.
It’s the end of spring training and the beginning of a brand new season.
For Anaheim Angels fans (I don’t mess around with this Los Angeles of Anaheim thing), April signals the beginning of hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.
The Angels have been in a serious slump since 2010. The high from the glorious year of 2002 is now just a distant memory for Angels’ fans. Those three consecutive AL West Titles between 2007-2009 are now merely a fond remembrance so that fans can say, “We were good for a few years there.” The Angels have been in the playoffs one time since 2009. Just once. And they lost in the first round division series.
The front office has been one step removed from a joke for the past several years, with snafu after snafu and bad deal after bad deal. Need we say more than, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton? Pujols’ whopping $240 million 10-year contract (signed on the back-half of his powerhouse career) was deemed by ESPN as the “worst contract in baseball.” Congrats Angels, you really showed up the St. Louis Cardinals!
Today, the Angels should not even be considered a team. One may as well rename them “Mike Trout and Co.” since that’s all the franchise seems to truly care about.
The Angels have had misguided management for several years. Arte Moreno seems more concerned with showing the public that he has a ton of money to spend on big names, rather than with taking the time to put together a team that will mesh well and oh I don’t know…WIN.
The end result- “Mike Trout and Co.”
The irony is that Mike Trout happens to currently be the best player in baseball and the fact that he’s an Angel is a pure coincidence. I’m willing to bet the Angels didn’t know his true potential when they signed him to their rookie minor league team. He wasn’t a big name with a low-burning career, so there’s no reason the Angels would have thrown their recruitment team at him. But this time the Angels had their own guardian angel looking over them.
To be clear. I love Mike Trout. He’s a great player, and I am a big fan of the Trout hat (of course I have one).
But one player does not make a team.
If this were not obvious, just look at the Angels’ track record with Mike Trout. As I said above, the Angels have made the playoffs once in the five years Trout has been on the team. Trout is a 5x All Star. He’s the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year. He’s the 2014 and 2016 AL MVP. He’s what is keeping the Angels in business.
And they know it.
The Angels have been capitalizing on Trout since he showed his potential in his rookie season in 2012, and the Angels’ front office started realizing that the “big names” they had signed weren’t magically making them win either. Walk into the Angels team store and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find merchandise for anyone other than Mike Trout. Follow the Angels on social media? It’s hard to find content on their page that is anything other than Trout. I challenge anyone who is not already an Angels fan to name three players on the team who are not Mike Mike Trout (and I already gave you the freebie of Albert Pujols).
At the new year, the Angels’ official Instagram account posted a collage remembering 2016. The collage featured nine images. One was a picture of the team standing for the national anthem with their backs turned (with Trout centered), one was an image of a box score of the Angels 21-2 victory over the Red Sox, one was a picture of Jose Fernandez (the Marlins pitcher who tragically died), and the remaining six- that’s TWO/THIRDS- of the images were of Trout exclusively. I know the Angels as usual had a rough season last year, but surely the marketing team can come up with a little more variety.
Even Trout seems over himself at this point.
Mike Trout is the rare type of player who comes around every few decades. He has been compared to the greats like Micky Mantle. Trout has the fame, the endorsements, the dedicated fan base, the kids who want to grow up and be just like him.
What he doesn’t have is a team. A team that wins.
This is not his fault. It’s not the players’ faults either. This is a branding and marketing faux pas that the Angels have been committing over and over again. Yes, you have the greatest player in baseball, but as I said before, one player is not a team.
How about the Angels start marketing Trout as part of a team and give some face time to the rest of the team. Then maybe they will finally be able to play like a team and, maybe, one day, they’ll even start winning again (2002 wasn’t that long ago). If you bill one player as being than all the rest (even if he is), then that becomes a turnoff for the rest of the team. The Angels have already experimented with paying a lot of money for a bunch of high-profile names that don’t play well with others. The Angels front office needs to go back to the drawing board and start crafting a team that will play for each other.
One day I’d like the “year in review” page to show pictures of a whole team…preferably winning.