It has certainly been tough sledding for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. There are a number of reasons on why the team is situated in the nether regions of the American League West as Major League Baseball reaches the home stretch with a dozen games left on the marathon schedule. Dissecting the factors that have lead to the squad’s most fruitless season in thirty-five years could take all of the off-season. Perhaps it’s best to just treat this season as dust that needs to be swept under the carpet after game number 162 and move onward and upward towards 2017 and hope the injury bug hits less hard.
The Angels were the Ultimate Draft Winners in 2009
As Los Angeles centerfielder and superstar Mike Trout wraps up his fifth full season in Anaheim red and white, there is a distinct possibility that the local superstar may be hiding frustrations that this season has been hard on his psyche. It certainly seems Trout and the Angels fans are ready, willing, and able to continue this amazing love affair between a fan-base and their homegrown superstar who, as a professional, has only known one team and had one home.
Trout, drafted in the first round (25th overall) in the 2009 amateur draft by the Halos, has tasted both personal and team success with alarming consistency since joining the parent club during the latter part of the 2011 season. It was a meteoric rise (his nickname is the Millville meteor), almost phoenix like, when the then-just-turned-twenty-year-old went from Single-A Rancho Cucamonga to Double-A Arkansas, then all the way to the majors and a forty game stint with the Angels. It seemed so easy for Trout to adjust to major league pitching while roaming hallowed center fields, from the Big “A” to Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park. It still seems ridiculously simple for the now-25-year-old native of Vineland, New Jersey.
Trout Faces Potential Last Place Finish for First Time
Trout’s numbers in 2016 remain amongst the finest in the game of baseball. His .318 batting average places him in the top-five in the American League, and although he won’t come close to matching his 41 home run total from last season (a career high), it certainly appears that 30 is within his reach as the clock nears midnight on this downer of a season for LA.
To watch Trout take batting practice is a commodity of joy. He not only sprays balls over the fence all the way across the diamond, but he does it with a certain, shall we say, innocence. Mike Trout enjoys baseball and he revels in his interactions with the people who ultimately pay his salary. The loyal fans allow him to make a healthy salary and he knows it. Whether at home or on the road, rooters of all teams, be it the Halos or the opponent, take pleasure in watching the 6’2″, 235 pound specimen signing Angels apparel, joking and chatting with the families and youngsters that show up two hours early to a ball game so they can put a face to the name of the player they idolize.
Trout is that guy. In Anaheim, he needs to continue to be the cornerstone of the franchise. He seems happy with his situation, but as we all know, losing changes things, and moves are made. Players sometimes get itchy to move on to chase a championship and who can blame them.
Keep Mike Trout Happy and Build a Winner
As the Halos barely creep toward 70 wins, crowds at Angel Stadium continue to dwindle. The buzz that began in 2002 with a world championship trophy, continued for a lengthy spell and only now does that honeymoon appear to be wearing off. Injuries aside, there is still a certain staleness to the ball club in 2016. People come to watch Trout and they also buy tickets to see future hall-of-famer, and illustrious teammate, Albert Pujols. There are some pieces that fit nicely beside these two legends, but this needs to be built upon across the board.
Improvements are dearly needed on offense, defense, and, most importantly, on the pitching mound. Angels brass realize the prize they won seven years ago when the man with the fish name was selected after twenty four other players were called to the podium before him. It is paramount to make sure that the genuine Trout smile, as well as the reverence he shows for all club employees and for the fan base, remain solidified between player and team for the long haul. Mike Trout is the Derek Jeter of this franchise. Legends like that need to be kept at all costs. It would be an absolute shame for it not to turn out that way.