A common trope on Twitter has been “Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani do something amazing as Angles lose 5-3.” Once again the “stars and scrubs” approach to building a roster has failed the Angels’ hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The disappointment fans felt this year was similar to taking a fastball to the ribs. The Angels came out of the gate with a strong promising start that seemed to be a sure sign that this was a playoff team. Those dreams ended when the team lost 14 games in a row and manager Joe Maddon was fired. “How could this happen again?” is the question that surrounds fans of Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels.
The 2022 season started with two controversies. The first was a player lockout by the owners as the players’ collective bargaining agreement had expired. A question of whether or not the season would be played at all hung over the sport as the lock out extended past opening day. The union and the league were eventually able to come to an agreement and found a way to play a full 162 game season. Mike Trout found himself involved in negotiations as the season became threatened. Though Jared Walsh, rather than Trout was the Angels’ team representative, he felt his stature in the sport required some responsibility in making sure a deal was reached.
As Spring Training was underway and players geared up for the season Joe Maddon shocked Trout and the baseball world by suggesting that this would be the year that Trout moved off of his Center Field position and made way for younger talent. Brandon Marsh seemed to be the heir apparent to CF. When asked about it, Maddon said that Trout would be making more starts in Right Field. This was the first of many managerial stumbles for Maddon as he had not first talked about it with Mike Trout at all. When Maddon and Trout were able to discuss the situation they came to an agreement that Trout would be playing in Center and “that was that”(Maddon’s most notorious blunder was a decision to walk Corey Seager with two outs and the bases loaded that still resulted in three runs scored).
After an early season ending calf injury in 2021 everyone was excited to see Trout back on the field at full strength. The Angels came out of the chute red hot for the first 6 weeks of the year. Trout decided to swing for more power at the cost of a greater strikeout rate than normal. The results were outstanding, his OPS+ was 194 (league average is 100) and he led the league in most of the batting statistics.
At the end of May Trout fell into a batting slump and then a bizzarre controvery erupted with Trout inexplicably in the center of the storm. A fight broke out between Tommy Pham and Joc Pederson. The brough-ha-ha was a spill over from a high stakes fantasy football league. Pham later put the blame on Trout’s lack of responsibility as league commissioner. Trout faced the controversy head on, but let everyone know he would no longer be serving as commissioner in the league.
And then things fell apart. From May 24th through June 10th the Angels failed to win a game. They ended up losing 14 games in a row. In the midst of the streak, manager Joe Maddon was fired from his job and replaced by Phil Nevin. The firing of Maddon might have had more to do with philosophical differences with GM Perry Minasian about how extensively analytics should be used in game decisions. But the losing streak provided justification. The Angels as a team never recovered.
This moment where Trout pointed out from center field that his pitcher was tipping his pitches seemed to encapsulate frustration that another season of Mike Trout’s career was being wasted on a sub-standard team.
Shortly before the All Star game Mike was pulled from a game due to a back injury. What seemed at first to be a precautionary absence turned into a 40 game DL stint. The word was eventually released that Trout was suffering from a rare injury for baseball players, a strained rib cage was more specifically a “costovertebral dysfunction at T5. Many feared this might be the beginning of the end of Trout’s career. He eventually returned and assured everyone that the condition required extra attention but would not be limiting his ability to play moving forward. Trout’s performance on the field proved his words to be true. Most notably Trout had a 7 game home run streak in September. He ended the streak just one game shy of tying the league record.
Despite missing 40 games Mike was able to finish the season with 40 home runs and 6.3 WAR (just missing the top 10 for the entire league). Competing in his 11th full season Trout surpassed a number of career milestones. He pass 900 walks, 1,000 runs, 1,500 hits, 50 triples, and on his final at bat of the season reached 350 home runs. This final home run turned out to measure 490 feet, the longest on Trout’s career and the longest by any player this year. So, yeah, his back is fine.
He finished the season with 82.4 WAR, surpassing Joe DiMaggio, Pete Rose, Rod Carew, and Nolan Ryan on the career WAR list.
At the end of August, team owner Arte Moreno announced that he would be selling the team. The Angels continue to face a lawsuit from the overdose death of Tyler Skaggs, and an attempt to purchase the stadium from the city of Anaheim failed due to a corruption probe involving Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu. Moreno had frustrated fans due to his high involvement in payroll decisions that typically focused on players with big names, but failed to develop a strong minor league system, neglected to sign international free agents for a number of years, and refused to extend payroll past the luxury tax threshold. Moreno purchased the team for $183 million and will likely sell it for $2.5 billion. Questions about how long the sale will take and if new ownership will be willing to invest in additional payroll in time to make the Angels significantly better before the 2023 hover over the team and the hope of seeing Mike Trout in the playoffs once more.