Mike Trout on another Angels season without making the playoffs: ‘It sucks’
Mike Trout wishes this major league season would have lasted longer than two months.
Not just for himself, so he could have had a better chance to follow up his third American League MVP season with more consistency at the plate.
But also for his team, which had gone 14-8 in September before Saturday night’s 7-6 loss to the Dodgers. Only a night earlier, Trout finally cracked Clayton Kershaw’s curveball and slugged his first homer off the perennial Cy Young Award contender in a loss.
The 9-5 defeat Friday eliminated the Angels from playoff contention and ensured that Trout, one of the game’s brightest stars, would watch the postseason in occasional glimpses from his couch in his native New Jersey for a sixth consecutive October.
In a videoconference before the Angels’ penultimate game of the year, Trout couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if his team had more time.
The Angels received a break when the Astros lost earlier Friday, but they couldn’t hold the Dodgers in check and lost 9-5, ending their playoff hopes.
“You look at this team that we have right now, that we had this year, it could be a different story if we played a full season,” he said. “We got hot just a little late, and we fell short.”
Outsiders often measure Trout’s career by his presence in the postseason, and he has only played in October once. Including this season, he has been close four times. The Angels also were eliminated during the final weekend of the season in 2012, 2015 and 2017.
Despite the team’s underachievement, Trout signed a $426.5-million contract in March 2019 to remain in an Angels uniform at least through 2030. He said at the time he believed the team was headed in the right direction. He approved of the job general manager Billy Eppler had done to improve the farm system, which ranked 30th as recently as 2017 and was 12th in Baseball America’s preseason rankings in 2019. He liked that owner Arte Moreno green-lighted a trade for Andrelton Simmons and spent on the likes of Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani.
The front office’s attempts signaled to Trout a commitment to winning — not just in the short term but for the long haul.
He doubled down on that assessment Saturday. But he also expressed frustration.
“The biggest thing is getting to the playoffs,” said Trout, who will head into the season finale with a .281 average, 17 homers and .993 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. “You guys see it. I see it. It sucks being out of it. It’s time. We got to get to the playoffs.”
If the Angels leave Anaheim, it could include a $100-million to $300-million penalty, according to a new proposal.
The death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs threw a wrench into the Angels’ 2019 plans. The Angels regrouped by bringing in new manager Joe Maddon and overhauling the coaching staff.
After Trout earned his third MVP award, the Angels also upgraded their lineup with the addition of Anthony Rendon. They revamped the rotation by inserting Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran. They counted on Ohtani, back in the fold as a pitcher for the first time since 2018, to reclaim his title of ace.
Trout was excited to see what the Angels could accomplish over the course of 162 games. The Angels’ playoff hopes seemed significantly brighter than they had been in 2019.
But the regular Major League Baseball timeline was dashed in March, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic knocking the Angels off course.
Teheran, who missed most of the team’s July training camp because of a bout with COVID-19, never put together a decent stretch. Ohtani made only two starts and threw 1 2/3 innings before a forearm injury put his two-way experiment on pause again. He also struggled at the plate and spent most of the last two weeks riding the bench.
Rendon and Trout have been the Angels’ most prolific hitters since Aug. 10. But both have endured slumps. Rendon started four for 39. Before he took Kershaw deep Friday night, Trout had been held without a homer for 59 consecutive plate appearances. He also encountered a power outage in mid-August.
Perhaps the only occurrence to salvage this season for Trout was the July 30 birth of his first child. Trout has gladly indulged questions about Beckham, who recently learned to roll over. He is looking forward to spending uninterrupted time with his “little man” and his wife, Jessica.
“I come back from a road trip, and he’s growing and doing different things over that short period of time,” he said. “Everybody says kids grow up fast, and I’m trying to cherish every moment of it.”
But the promise of being with his family doesn’t lessen the sting of disappointment.
Now Trout and the Angels have to grapple with the extreme likelihood that Eppler’s expiring contract will not be renewed at season’s end and a new general manager will be tasked with vaulting Trout onto the playoff stage.
The transition would be bittersweet for Trout, who said “the relationship and friendship I’ve built with Billy goes beyond baseball now. I’ve had a couple GMs here. I never had the GM relationship that I had with him with anybody else.”
But watching the Angels’ streak of losing seasons stretch to six and their playoff drought extend to seven years possibly would be even harder for Trout to swallow.
“I don’t like losing,” Trout said. “I want to get to the playoffs. I think that every time we come into spring, our main goal is to get to the playoffs and bring a championship back to Anaheim. That’s just the mind-set. You come up short and you’re that close, it sucks.”
Infielder Luis Rengifo will end the season on the injured list for a second consecutive season. He sustained a right hamstring strain Friday night and was replaced on the roster Saturday by Jahmai Jones. ... Bundy had a “little” cut on his finger and did not start Saturday as scheduled. Maddon said Bundy would have started if the Angels had still been in the playoff hunt. Teheran started in Bundy’s place. ... Griffin Canning will not start Sunday. Maddon wasn’t sure before Saturday’s game who would pitch the Angels’ final game. “There’s no reason to throw [Canning] out there” and risk injury, Maddon said.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.