Mike Trout Must Leave to be the GOAT

As Mike Trout approaches the end of his contract he faces a choice. He can stay in Anaheim, where the weather is warm and be guaranteed a big pay day once a year for the rest of his playing days. Or he could look at the state of the Angels and the state of the AL West. Houston is currently defending their world series title and Oakland might beat out the Yankees for the top wild card spot. And the Angels? They are battling it out with the Rangers to avoid the cellar of their top-heavy division.

Everyone knows Trout is the best player in baseball, so by that logic Trout knows he is the best player in baseball. When you know you are the best player in baseball two things come to mind.

  • I need to stay the best player in baseball for as long as I can.
  • I want to be the greatest player of all time.

Unlike basketball, football or hockey, baseball’s GOAT is up to much debate. Some say it belongs to the Babe, others claim it’s Wille Mays and then there are those who point to Ted Williams, Honus Wagner and the plethora of other players who litter baseball’s hall of fame.

Trout is in a rare position where he can align baseball with the three other major North American sports and allow fans to point to one man as the greatest to ever grace the game. If Trout plays his cards right and continues to build his illustrious career, he could be baseball’s GOAT.

But he must leave the Angels to do so.

Among just pure dominance and greatness, the one thing that Tom Brady, Lebron James and Wayne Gretzky all have in common is winning. For Gretzky it is his four Stanley Cups. For Brady it is his five super bowls and streak of nine straight division titles. For Lebron it is his three rings and promise to the league over the last seven years that he would be playing in the NBA Finals.

If Trout wants to be the best he not only has to play at a great level, he must play at a great level against great competition while succeeding on the biggest stage for an extended period of time. As a Los Angeles Angel, that is not a possibility. Over the past seven years, the Angels have proved their inability to manage and build a successful sports organization. Trout should take note of this and realize there is no reason any of this will change.

Sure, Shohei Ohtani is going to be good, maybe even great. But he and Trout can’t win a championship by themselves. They need a bunch of home-grown talent, and a couple of key free agents to have a shot in this league.

Once Trout has the chance to walk out of that home clubhouse in Angel Stadium for a final time in September (and yes I mean September) of 2020 he should not look back. He should take his time, say his thank you’s and goodbye’s. But he should not reconsider signing with the Angels.

It would be a shame to see a potential GOAT never be mentioned in that conversation because his team could not support him with good, winning seasons. Trout needs to realize this and sign to a team with a future next winter.

His options are spread across the country whether that be in the Northeast with New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Or if he wants to try the south and be a Brave or an Astro. He could go to the heartland and play in Cleveland or Chicago. And he could stay in the west with Colorado or Seattle.

Any hey, if he really likes LA that much, just sign with the Dodgers.

But whatever you do Mike, please, don’t be an Angel.

Jim Johnson’s resurgence is a blessing for the Angels, but not to just help win games

Last winter, Angels General Manager Billy Eppler looked like a hero. He brought in Japanese phenomenon pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani. He signed 2017 All-Star infielder Zach Cozart to play third and traded for 2016 Gold Glove winner and four-time All-Star second baseman Ian KInsler. He also shored up the outfield by re-signing Justin Upton, who hasn’t his less than 26 home runs in a season since 2012. Who would’ve thought that Los Angeles would end up sellers at the trade deadline?

The Halos (54-56) sit 15 games behind the division-leading Houston Astros and they are 10 back in the Wild Card race as of August 3. So far, the Halos have dealt two players who have expiring contracts, Kinsler and 2017 Gold Glove winning catcher Martin Maldonado. August 31 is the final trade deadline, and reliever Jim Johnson getting traded next makes the most sense.

If one looked at the 13-year veteran’s numbers early in the season, nothing about his performance would seem very attractive. He got off to a mediocre start, with a 4.30 ERA through the middle of May. But, Johnson has since turned it around and has even thrived since a rough May 17 outing. He has a 2.37 after that appearance and he has improved his WHIP from a poor 1.48 to a more respectable 1.28.

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A big part of his success has been keeping the ball low and forcing grounders. This is vital to Johnson’s success because he does not strike many batters out. Since the start of June, he has struck out just eight hitters, but he has given up 24 grounders to just 15 fly balls, only one of which left the yard. Before June, he allowed 48 fly balls to 40 grounders, so since many of those hits in the air found outfield gaps, they aided in his rough start to 2018.

Johnson’s trade stock is at its highest right now. Over his last eight outings, he has given up just one run in nine innings and he has dropped his ERA by nearly a whole run since May to 3.40. Plus, he has an expiring deal, so teams won’t need to commit to a 35-year-old for multiple seasons.

There is certainly a market for a pitcher like Johnson, as many teams are looking to find stability in their bullpens for the postseason push. Perhaps Boston, who has the best record in baseball without having a stable set-up man, could find use for a veteran with late inning experience. Or possibly San Francisco, who at five games back of the division are fighting to stay in the race, could use Johnson’s services. The Giants have blown the most saves in the majors, having done it a staggering 23 times.

 

 

Sho-Time: Ohtani becoming must-see TV

Yes, we’re only 10 games into the season. So far, though, Los Angeles Angels’ star two-way player Shohei Ohtani is living up to the hype.

Many were skeptical of his abilities after a spring training performance that left much to be desired. He started two games, and lasted just 2.2 total innings. He gave up nine runs, eight of them earned, on nine hits and three home runs. He also walked two hitters and hit one. On the other side of the ball, he earned just four hits in 32 at-bats, good for a .125 batting average. He walked three times and drove in one run.

Ohtani’s slow start fed fans’ worries about his ability to successfully make the transition from Japan to the United States. Some even thought he should start the season in Triple A Salt Lake.

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Enter the regular season.

Ohtani made the Angels’ Opening Day roster despite his underwhelming spring, and has since performed like a completely different player. Most recently, he dazzled in his first home start Sunday afternoon against the Oakland Athletics. He pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk, and struck out 12 hitters. Not to mention the fact that he retired the first 19 hitters he faced. Through the first 10 games of the season, Ohtani made two starts. He gave up three earned runs on four hits in 13 innings, against 18 strikeouts. He trails only Cole Hamels, Gerrit Cole, Patrick Corbin, and Clayton Kershaw for the league lead in punchouts.

He has a nasty splitter to thank for his early success.

He’s keeping hitters off-balance with exceptional command of his offspeed pitches after getting ahead in the count with his borderline-100 mph fastball.

Don’t forget, Ohtani can hit too.

He earned 7 hits in his first 18 regular season at-bats, including three home runs and seven RBIs. Through 10 games, he’s slashing .389/.421/.889 with a 1.310 OPS.

Yes, it’s early. But so far, Ohtani is proving the critics wrong. He’s playing as well as anyone in baseball right now, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

 

The Best Pitches from Ohtani’s Impressive Debut

Shohei Ohtani made his major league pitching debut Sunday afternoon, and it was nothing short of magical. Aside from a three run home run given up in the second inning, Ohtani was essentially mistake free against the Oakland A’s in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-4 victory. He displayed a variety of different pitches, all with impressive movement and velocity, and notched the first of likely many wins this season. His final stat line read six innings pitched, three earned runs on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts. He also became the first Angels pitcher since 1965 to record six innings and collect more strikeouts than baserunners. Here’s how he did it.

Ohtani has three above average pitches at his disposal, a fastball, slider and splitter. His fastball usually lives in the mid to upper nineties, but has the ability to reach triple digits if need be. On Sunday, Ohtani’s average fastball velocity was 97.8 mph, hitting 100 mph three times and 99 mph nine. Here is his best at bat of the day, a three pitch gem to A’s first baseman Matt Olson.

Olson, the A’s number three hitter, completely whiffs at two straight 99 mph fastballs on the inside half of the plate, then looks helpless as he half swings on a 90 mph splitter in the dirt.

Oakland players swinging at balls in the dirt was a common them of the game on Sunday, as Ohtani consistently used his splitter to produce swings and misses. Here is Ohtani’s first strikeout of the game, courtesy of A’s shortstop Marcus Semien.

Later in the third inning, Ohtani once again used the splitter low and away to get the strikeout and end the inning against Oakland’s third baseman Matt Chapman.

Even when he missed with his location, Ohtani’s stuff was too electric to hit. Early in the second, Ohtani made A’s slugger Khris Davis look absolutely silly with this slider.

While patience is a virtue, it’s hard not to overreact to what we saw this Easter from Ohtani. He kept hitters guessing with a good diversity of pitches, got great movement from both his splitter and his slider, and consistently placed his high nineties fastball wherever he wanted. He played like a number-one starter Sunday, and could be the difference maker for an Angels team with World Series aspirations.