Let’s go back for the future.
The Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers finished the 2020 season at nearly opposite ends of the big league baseball spectrum.
The boys of late summer from Hollywood won the World Series – their first since 1988 – and their eighth consecutive NL West division title. The boys from Disneyland finished eight games under .500, fourth in the five-team AL West. It was their fifth straight losing season.
So what’s the answer?
Baseball is a sport steeped in tradition and superstition. Don’t step on the foul lines when taking your position. Don’t talk to a teammate who is pitching a no-hitter. Don’t shave on game day. If you are on a hitting streak, wear the same socks and/or underwear as long as it lasts.
As a lapsed Catholic, I used to make a little “sign of the cross” in the dirt with my bat, every time I stepped into the batter’s box for a baseball or softball game.
Sure, such traditions are a bit … let’s say, “unsupported by science” … but if you believe it works, maybe it will.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the 2021 prospect for the Halos. In the off-season, the team didn’t land any big-name free agents. That’s not necessarily bad. The franchise has had a bad run with those big contracts with big egos on the downside of their careers.
Some new talent has been added in the form of shortstop Jose Quintana and closer Raisel Iglesias, but outside of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon there’s not much here to get excited about. Sure, Albert Pujols will continue to burnish his Hall of Fame credentials but he has spent a lot of his time in Angels’ uniform hitting .257 and stroking a lot of one-run home runs, well-worth $25 million a year, don’t you think? Shohei Ohtani has tons of potential, both on the mound and at bat, but so far he’s been more potential than performance.
No, with the talent available, the Angels seem to be no better than down-to-earth OK in 2021. So they will need some supernatural help.
Bear in mind, for example, the fact it’s only during two periods of their history that the team has posted a winning record. That’s in 1997-2004 when they were called the Anaheim Angels, and in 2005-2015, when the official team name was the Los Angels of Anaheim.
The boys from State College Boulevard made the playoffs seven times in those years, compared to three times in all the rest of their history. So the first step is to bring the city name back into play. Maybe that’s just a matter of luck. A crazy idea, but it might just work.
Second step is to bring back Mike Scioscia. He’s available and he’s the only living person ever to manage the team to a winning record. As field general, his Angels won 53.6 percent of their games, the best in team history.
I’m not saying show Joe Maddon the door right away. 2020 was a weird, shortened season and – considering that he was twice named AL Manager of the Year and once top NL manager – he deserves another shot at righting the ship.
But, if that doesn’t work out we can look forward to Big Mike bringing his pasta bowl back to the dugout for the 2022 Los Angeles-Anaheim Angels. My advice is cheap, but it certainly didn’t cost the team 25 million bucks.
Pete Zarustica writes “Sports Monday” on, well, Mondays. The Major League Baseball season starts on April 1. No fooling.