By Bruce Penton
For long-suffering Los Angeles Angels’ fans, this might be the year. If baseball is ever played, that is.
Major League Baseball may or may not survive the political battles between owners and players, or the Covid-19 pandemic, but it appears as if an abbreviated schedule comprising 60 or 70 games might eventually be agreed upon, with games played in empty stadiums. But watching on TV will be just as fun for Angels’ fans, who have many reasons for optimism. In fact, this might be the year that the Angels make it back to the World Series for the first time since 2002, finally giving Fall Classic exposure to Mike Trout, the best player in the game today.
Trout is 29 years old; baseball historians point to decades worth of statistics to indicate that a player’s prime generally occurs during his 29th year. Already a lock for the Hall of Fame, Trout is not only in the prime of his career, but the Angels’ much improved batting order seems destined to give Trout more opportunity than ever for a sensational offensive season.
After finishing 35 games out of first place in the American League West in 2019 with a 72-90 record, the Angels made a huge acquisition in the off-season, signing free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon from the World Series champion Washington Nationals. Rendon, who finished third in MVP voting in the National League, batted .319 last year, with 34 homers and an OPS figure (on-base percentage plus slugging average) of 1.010.
Put Rendon in the lineup behind Trout, and opposing pitchers, fearing Rendon’s explosive bat, will suddenly start offering Trout more hittable pitches. Two men don’t make a team, though, and that’s where dual threat Shohei Ohtani comes in. The slugging and pitching Japanese star, the A.L. rookie of the year in 2018, missed more than one-third of last season due to injuries, but he’s healthy again, ready to lead the pitching staff and join Trout, Rendon, Justin Upton and aging veteran Albert Pujols in one of the most potentially explosive lineups in the game.
Trout is generally acknowledged as today’s best player. He is a two-time American League MVP, has bashed 285 home runs in nine seasons and carries a career slash of .305/.419/.581, with 903 runs-batted-in. But missing from his resumé is a World Series title. While that omission won’t keep him out of Cooperstown, it would be a shame if Trout doesn’t at least once get to show the world his skills in October. This could be the year.
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg on Twitter: “Dallas Cowboy Ezekiel Elliott has contracted the coronavirus. Which is surprising because Elliott usually holds out on contracts.”
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• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Three teams — the Astros, Red Sox and Mets — fired their managers in the aftermath of Houston’s sign-stealing trash-bangers. Or, more precisely, they canned them.”
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