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Angels

Charles Barkley lightens up Angels’ spring training for manager Joe Maddon

Angels manager Joe Maddon and former NBA star Charles Barkley
Angels manager Joe Maddon and former NBA star Charles Barkley
(Bill Shaikin / Los Angeles Times)

Charles Barkley calls Philadelphia home in the summer. And, like most folks in Philadelphia, he was fully expecting Mike Trout to come home, to sign with the Phillies and play for his home team.

As you might have heard, Trout instead signed what amounts to a lifetime contract with the Angels.

“That was a shocker to our system,” Barkley said. “When Bryce [Harper] came to town, that was all he talked about. I’m glad he’s going to spend his whole career here, though.”

Barkley visited the Angels’ training camp Monday. He is friends with Angels manager Joe Maddon, who loves to lighten up the spring mornings. So Barkley, the NBA Hall of Famer and nationally televised analyst and quipster, hung out with the Angels for their morning meeting, making jokes and telling stories.

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“You’re going through this tedious, grinding schedule of spring training right now,” Maddon said. “Anything you can do to lighten up the day on a morning like this is good.”

Anthony Rendon is optimistic about the Angels’ outlook; Griffin Canning is expected to start the season on the injured list with elbow discomfort.

Barkley said there was a lot to like about Maddon.

“I like his leadership style,” Barkley said. “I like his personality more. And we both hate analytics.”

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Barkley conceded “there’s a place” for analytics in professional sports but said there is no way to measure heart and toughness.

Madison Bumgarner, there is nothing analytical about that man,” Barkley said. “He’s a stud.”

However, Barkley suggested the data craze can lead to too many teams trying to reproduce a successful algorithm without inputting enough talent.

“It’s like in the NBA,” he said. “Everybody is trying to do what the Warriors did, but it actually works when you’ve got Kevin Durant, Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson]. It doesn’t work when you’ve got Manny, Moe and Jack. It’s like I always tell people:

“As great a coach as Phil Jackson was, that triangle worked a lot better with Michael and Scottie, and Kobe and Shaq. It didn’t work too good with other people.”

Barkley was excited to meet Shohei Ohtani, and to see if he could complete a full season as a star hitter and a star pitcher.

Andrew Heaney was Tyler Skaggs’ best friend on the Angels when Skaggs died of an opioid overdose July 1. He says he never saw signs that Skaggs had a drug problem.

“It’s more important for him to be a hitter than a pitcher,” Barkley said. “You can have a bigger impact every day. But, if a guy could actually do that, it would be one of the greatest accomplishments ever.”

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He had warm words, mostly, for third baseman Anthony Rendon.

“He’s made my life miserable the last few years, because I’m a Phillies fan,” Barkley said. “Congratulations to him on winning the World Series. For him to come to a team like this, in his prime, that’s a great pickup by the Angels.”

And he was really looking forward to spending a little time with Trout, since he messed up the only other time the two had met. Barkley said he bumped into Trout at a hotel elevator and did not want to bother him, so Barkley just blurted out something about how he was from Philadelphia too, and it was an honor to meet you.

“I didn’t get the words out that I wanted to say last time,” Barkley said, adding: “I was kind of fan boy on him, a little bit.”


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