Commentary: ‘I’m in my prime’: Mike Trout says Angels’ playoff drought must end now
Mike Trout stood in a hallway at Angel Stadium the other day, an edge in his voice, a fire in his words. He had something to say, not a direct answer to the question he was asked, but a point he felt compelled to volunteer.
“It’s time,” Trout said.
It is go time. It is past time. It is time to add October to the Angels’ schedule.
“I’m in my prime,” he said. “I’ll be 31 in August. We’ve got a great team.
“I think the drought has to come to an end. Everybody is always saying, ‘The Angels have got to get to the playoffs.’ We do. That’s the priority.
“I say it every year. But the feeling I have this year is different.”
Trout was 19 when he made his major league debut. The playoff field has expanded twice since then, but the Angels have yet to win a postseason game during his tenure. The Angels have not even appeared in a postseason game since 2014, a drought exceeded in the major leagues only by the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies.
The absence of the game’s greatest player from the game’s grandest stage has spawned a national sympathy movement. Its mission statement: For the good of the game, and for his own good, Trout must be liberated from the Angels.
Thing is, Trout isn’t asking for your sympathy. You all want the best for him, and Anaheim is the place he decided was best for him, twice.
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He had two chances to try free agency, and each time he signed a long-term extension with the Angels, without even taking bids from other teams.
The last time, he signed a contract that takes him to age 39, then celebrated at a news conference, dwarfed by an enormous red banner that read “LOYALTY,” with a halo over the A.
Arte Moreno, the Angels’ owner, does not do rebuilding. He is not interested in trading Trout, no matter how plentiful the return might be.
The Angels cannot trade Trout without his permission. He is not interested, either.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” he said.
For the benefit of the national liberation movement, I asked him why.
“If I didn’t feel like they were trying to make an improvement, I would say something,” Trout said.
Too many owners do not try. For better or for worse, Moreno does.
For too many years now, the Angels’ season preview has come down to the same seven words: They can hit, but can they pitch?
The Angels played the whole second half last season without the injured Trout and Anthony Rendon, and still they scored more runs than the New York Yankees.
Perry Minasian, the second-year general manager, decided to take his winter starting rotation money and spend it on one high-ceiling veteran hope, Noah Syndergaard, rather than split the same money on two mid-rotation veteran hopes.
Minasian spent $93 million on the bullpen. For the second consecutive season, he cut a veteran slugger — Albert Pujols last year, Justin Upton this year — whose All-Star past was too far in the past.
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The Angels need production from youngsters — Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Reid Detmers in the rotation; Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, and Taylor Ward in the outfield — and they lack depth. It’s not a cinch, but it’s a plan.
“I think the front office did a great job bringing in big guys up front in the rotation and then stocking up that bullpen,” Trout said.
“That’s what a lot of people were saying in the past, that we needed to boost up the bullpen and the pitching staff. I think Perry, every single day, is trying to do that.”
Trout could retire tomorrow, with a reserved spot in Cooperstown. Ernie Banks played 19 years, earned a plaque in the Hall of Fame, and never won a postseason game.
No one holds that against him. In all but the last three years of the career of the player they called “Mr. Cub,” the postseason field consisted of two teams.
Trout’s favorite player was Derek Jeter.
“He was with the Yankees his whole career,” Trout said. “That was the mindset growing up. It’s still the mindset here.”
Jeter played 20 years. The Yankees missed the playoffs three times.
Trout has played 11 years. The Angels have put up six consecutive losing seasons, finishing a combined 128 games out of first place.
On opening night, the Angels trotted out Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon for the ceremonial first pitch, 20 years after they led the team to its lone World Series championship.
As Trout and the 2022 Angels took batting practice, the video boards repeatedly displayed a snazzy logo commemorating the 20th anniversary of that championship.
In 2020, after too many years of Kirk Gibson replays, the Dodgers went out and made a little history of their own.
In 2022, after too many years of Scott Spiezio replays, Trout and the Angels need to go out and make a little history of their own.
Getting to the last week of October would be delightful. Getting to the first week of October would be sufficient, and by now almost necessary.
The Angels never get even that far, and Trout is tired of hearing about it.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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