Angels Must Win To Keep Shohei Ohtani Happy

CARLSBAD, California — As autumn stretches from changing leaves to falling leaves, Perry Minasian, general manager of the Los Angeles Angels, is besieged by questions from his kids. They wanted to know why the kids visit our grandparents Uncle Zack and Uncle Calvin but not us?

The answer was easy. The Minasians are a baseball family. Zack is the professional scouting director for the San Francisco Giants, and the Giants won the National League West and played the Los Angeles Dodgers in a series of episodes. Calvin is director of clubhouse and equipment for the Atlanta Braves, and his 2021 journey went all the way to the World Series title. That’s why the brothers’ parents, Zack and Barbara, spent October and November cheering for two of their four sons across the country. (Another brother, Rudy, 42, has his own law firm in Chicago.)

Perry, the third baseball son, chuckled as he described it as he stood on the back porch of the hotel where MLB’s general manager meetings were held this week. He and his family were removed from Grandpa and Grandma’s itinerary because the Angels were left out of the postseason as usual.

Now, as 40-year-old Minasian plans for the second year of running the Angels’ baseball operations, there are more questions than answers, some pointing much more than others, starting with this: To do the same with Shohei Ohtani?

“I’m concerned about placing the organization in the best place to be successful,” said Minasian. “I wake up thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it. It’s #1. It’s not about Mike Trout. It’s not about Shohei Ohtani. I might be the first to tell you that. It’s about the team. It’s about the collective group and achieving something together. I put my energy into that.”

Ohtani is expected to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award next week. If he did, it would have given the Angels four MVPs over the past eight years, as Trout won in 2014, 2016 and 2019.

In those eight seasons, the Angels won zero playoff games, made just one postseason appearance, and finished a total of 131 games in the other seven years.

Trout turned 30 in August in a frustrating season when a calf tear limited him to a career-low 36 games. Ohtani was finally healthy in 2021 after battling injuries in his first three seasons with the Angels, producing one of the most remarkable seasons in baseball history, playing both as a batsman and pitcher.

But it also seemed to alert the organization, after the Angels finished fourth in the five-team AL West, just as they had in each of their first three seasons. He said through his interpreter after the hosts final: “I really like the team. I love the fans. I like the atmosphere of the team. But more than that, I want to win. This is the biggest thing for me. Then I’ll leave it.”

The comments immediately prompted speculators: Is Ohtani angling for a trade? Is he threatening to leave as free agent when he qualifies after the 2023 season?

Ohtani’s managers Minasian and Nez Balelo emphasized that the answer to the first question in Carlsbad is no, and that Ohtani is happy to play for Anaheim. (“Extremely happy,” Balelo said.) The answer to the second question is not so predictable because there is so much time and so much can happen. And that starts with Minasian trying to fix a team that lost six seasons in a row this winter.

Minasian and Ohtani have spoken many times since Ohtani made these comments.

“We talked about all kinds of things,” said Minasian. “He’s an impressive man on and off the court. One thing he has an eye for is talent. I call him and ask questions about the players. Absolutely. He has a good idea of ​​what’s playing and what isn’t.”

Minasian didn’t reveal what potential free agents or trading targets he might have discussed with Ohtani, but it’s no secret what the Angels need: the shot. Their rotations placed 22nd in the majors with a 4.78 ERA this summer and 29th in each of the previous two seasons (5.52 in 2020’s 60-game season and 5.64 in 2019).

Free agency would probably be an easier route for the Angels than trading, as their hopes don’t seem so deep. Baseball America ranked the Angels’ farm system 25th in their major. 2021 mid-season standings.

This winter’s free agency market features some of the top potential Hall of Famers like Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. There are shooters (Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman) who are living out their potential this year and are being discussed for the Cy Young Awards, and others (Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodon, Jon Gray) who are still working towards it. Ohtani’s Japanese national Yusei Kikuchi is a free agent. For those looking to pitch, the biggest potential trade targets would be Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo (Cincinnati) and Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt (Oakland).

“There’s a certain personality type we’re looking for on the mound to match what we have to set the tone for right now,” Minasian said, noting that one desired quality is aggression.

Ohtani was the Angels’ top starter in 2021 while stealing 26 bases and collecting 46 homers and 100 RBI on plate, scoring a 3.18 ERA and 156 goals to 9-2 with over 130 hits and 23 in a third hit. gone.

“I’m pretty confident I can repeat what I’ve done this year,” Ohtani said as she received the Commissioner’s Historical Achievement Award at the World Series in Houston last month. “I just have to get out there and play every day and drop the points, put in good numbers, and I think I can at least have a season like this year.”

“Amen,” said Minasian, smiling broadly when these comments were passed on. “Let’s see him.”

Balelo said that Ohtani is currently returning to his home in Japan and his off-season training continues. Neither the manager nor the general manager commented on whether they were in talks to extend the contract. Ohtani is scheduled to earn $5.5 million in 2022, the second year of the two-year $8.5 million deal.

Both Minasian and Balelo agree that Ohtani wants to win first and foremost. He has already proven that he is more than just money by choosing to move from Japan to MLB with new posting rules coming into effect in the winter of 2017-18. he left millions on the table By not waiting another two years until you’re 25 to come to the United States.

The angels were not disappointed, especially when Ohtani, 27, was healthy.

“As well as on the field, things off the field really affect me,” said Minasian. “Interaction with teammates, ability to make adjustments. His dedication to his profession.”

Now, the burden of putting Ohtani in a winning position is on Minasian.

“I know a lot has been done about his comments,” Minasian said. “If you ask everyone at the club, I don’t know of a major league player who doesn’t want to win. If you do, show me one and let me talk to him. I’d be surprised. I’m not surprised by what he said.”

Time will tell whether a lost season was a disappointment or a veiled ultimatum. Speaking in Carlsbad, with panoramic views of the resort’s golf course and gently rolling hills in the background, Minasian said he was mocking him that his siblings were the only brothers who didn’t attend the end of the season. A productive barracks can both end this destruction and make Ohtani happy, maybe priorities don’t have to line up.

James Wagner contributing reporting.

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