To borrow from a classic baseball movie title, “it happens every spring.”
For local baseball fans, what’s been happening every spring – in recent years – is that the Dodgers win a lot of games and some championships, and the Angels lose more than they win and sit home in the fall, nursing their many injuries and disappointments.
What will be different this year? The Dodgers can be expected to be a force, their lineup bristling with three one-time MVPs in Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, and now Freddie Freeman.
The pitching is especially impressive with the emergence of Walker Buehler (16-4 last season, 2.47 ERA) and Julio Urias (20-3, 2.96). But this is also a team with a fearsome batting order, including especially Trea Turner, who had a breakout season with a .328 batting average, 28 home runs and 77 RBIs. Five other regulars hit over 20 home runs last season.
It’s hard to imagine – barring an unprecedented wave of injuries – anything that would keep these guys from winning another 100 or so games in 2022.
Injuries have often been at heart of the Angels’ sixth consecutive losing seasons. But every team has health issues and many have fared better than the Halos, who tend to start off fast and fade by July.
Still, the Angels have two of the greatest players in baseball with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. If the former can bounce back from his injury-shortened 2021 campaign – he was hitting .333 when hurt – and the latter can come close to replicating last year, there’s a chance for a finish near .500.
A key will be Anthony Rendon, who had another painfully short campaign. If he can play like he did in 2019 – .319 BA, 34 home runs, 126 RBIs – the offense will be solid.
Always a question in recent years has been the pitching staff. No starter won 10 games, and with the exception of Ohtani (9-3, 2.57 ERA) nobody looked very good. Perhaps newcomer Noah Syndergaard (23-12 in two seasons with the Mets) will make the difference in this new six-pitcher rotation.
That’s not a lot to hang a dream on, but for long-suffering Angels’ fans a mere winning record would be a relief. A trip to the playoffs would be unlikely, but hopes like that arise every spring, don’t they?
The Angels and Dodgers are involved in their traditional Freeway Series to wrap up the spring training “season” with games today (Monday) and Tuesday in Chavez Ravine. After that, the 2022 MLB season begins in earnest.
Angels: After a day off on Wednesday, the Halos start the regular season in Anaheim with a series hosting the Houston Astros Thursday through Sunday.
Dodgers: The Blue Crew will have Wednesday and Thursday off, then start the season in Colorado with a series that runs from Friday through Sunday.
A cold winter for area professionals
If you’re a fan of the Lakers, Clippers or Ducks, it’s been a chilly winter. Only the Kings are having anything that could be called a successful season.
Plagued by rotating injuries and a somewhat half-hearted defense, the Lakers (31-47) have lost six in a row and – as things stand – will likely miss even the “play-in” tournament, sitting as they are in 11th place in the NBA Western Conference after a 129-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
After Sunday’s 119-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Clippers are in somewhat better shape. At 39-40, they’re in eighth place in the conference and have clinched a play-in spot. The return of Paul George – he scored 15 points on Sunday – should help also.
The good news for Ducks fans is that on Friday the team snapped an 11-game winless streak by defeating the Arizona Coyotes 5-0 on the road. The less good news is that they returned to form on Sunday, getting thumped 6-1 at Honda Center. Right now, the waterfowl sit in sixth place in the Pacific Division at 28-31-12 (68 points). With 11 games remaining, it would take a mallard miracle to make up the 14-point difference needed to grab a wild card playoff spot.
That leaves the Kings as the winter team most likely to carry the SoCal banner. The Los Angelenos are 38-23-10 (86) points and in second place in the Pacific. As things stand right now, they would take on Edmonton in Stanley Cup first round action.
Final out: “We put this team together and it looked good on paper.” Anthony Davis’ comment on the Lakers’ dismal season.
“Sport Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica, with wire service reports.