It was the first home game of what was supposed to be the Angels’ first meaningful September in six years. It was a beautiful Labor Day evening, 74 degrees at game time, with the home team facing the team with the best record in the American League.
The Angels, they could have been a contender. They could have been somebody. Their place could have been sold out.
Alas, the Angels are done, a full month before the season is done.
In September, the Angels’ promotions include two player items: a Trout bobblehead and a Trout hockey jersey. The injured Trout has played one game in the past two months. It is uncertain whether Ohtani, scratched from Monday’s lineup because of what the Angels said was tightness in an oblique muscle, might play again this season.
The Angels recently invited fans to renew their season tickets. What would you do?
No major league team has gone longer without a postseason appearance than the Angels. This year marks nine consecutive Octobers without the Angels, including six while the team has been blessed with Ohtani and Trout, perhaps baseball’s two best players. The reckoning is upon us.
Owner Arte Moreno put the team up for sale last summer and then decided not to sell. Three people who have spoken with Moreno told me they have heard no indication Moreno plans to put the team back on the market this fall. Angels president John Carpino declined to discuss that.
Beyond that, no one is saying. Ohtani can leave as a free agent. Trout, who has three MVP awards and 11 All-Star appearances but no postseason victories during his time in Anaheim, could ask for a trade. Moreno could replace general manager Perry Minasian or manager Phil Nevin or both.
The outcry over the Angels’ waiver frenzy last week was ridiculous. Teams have long put players on waivers to try and dump salaries, and fans have long gotten excited about heralded prospects arriving for a major league trial in September.
The problem for the Angels was this: Of the six minor leaguers promoted for September, five already had been here, then were sent back down. The Angels desperately need good young talent, and lots of it, and they were not exactly calling up a wave of Baseball America all-stars.
They have a meaningless month during which they finally could let perennial outfield prospect Jo Adell play every day, but Adell has not played since July 8 because of an oblique injury.
The Baltimore Orioles, the Angels’ opponent on Monday, did what Moreno has declined to do in Anaheim. The Orioles tanked and now they are bound for the playoffs.
The Angels, playing to win for two decades and mired in mediocrity for the last one, last had top-five picks in 1995 and 1997: Darin Erstad and Troy Glaus, anchors on the Angels’ one and only championship team in 2002.
Nevin pointed to the progress that includes the Angels’ last two first-round picks, shortstop Zach Neto and first baseman Nolan Schanuel, as well as catcher Logan O’Hoppe, outfielder Mickey Moniak and an assortment of raw arms.
“I don’t think you have to look any further than the young talent that has come up here and played well for us,” Nevin said.
“These players are exciting for our future, all players that were acquired under Perry’s watch. There’s a big difference in our organization in a year, without a doubt. … This is certainly a difficult time right now. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s hard. It stinks. But there’s a lot of good coming out of this year.”
Trout and Anthony Rendon have played 100 games together during the past three seasons, combined.
Breezy Nowlan, an Angels fan for two decades, earned a moment of fame on social media last month when she was caught on video saying, “Please, for the love of God” when closer Carlos Estévez loaded the bases with none out.
Estévez then gave up a game-losing grand slam, and Nowlan flirted with the concept of a line of “Please, for the love of God” apparel for long-suffering Angels fans.
Nowlan would not object if the Angels forged a path without Trout and Rendon, even though the team would have to pay off a large chunk of their contracts.
“I just feel we’re past all of that at this point,” she said Monday. “Let’s just move on to the next phase. I think that would get more people renewing.”
On the evening of Aug. 23, the Angels announced Ohtani had injured his elbow and would not pitch again this season, and Trout would return to the injured list.
On the morning of Aug. 24, the Angels sent Nowlan an email encouraging her to renew her season tickets.
“Lol,” she wrote online. “Terrible timing for this email.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.