TEMPE, Ariz. — Most organizations start spring with hope and with a clean slate. The Los Angeles Angels are different. It seems that every year, they gather behind the rock that fell on them the previous season and, grunting and tensing, regroup and try to push it back onto the mountain.
But this spring’s Angels is not just another interpretation of “Let’s See If We Can Get Mike Trout in the Playoffs.” Instead, it is a wounded and battered organization that has emerged from a devastating winter.
In February, less than two years after the horrific death of Eric Kay Tyler Skaggs, the team’s former communications director Convicted in Texas court Dispensing a fentanyl-laced opioid to Skaggs, resulting in the death of the pitcher. During the trial, former Angels Matt Harvey, CJ Cron, Mike Morin and Cam Bedrosian testified. they took pain relievers like oxycodone from Kay.
Kay, who has been a friend and colleague of many in the Angels front office for more than 20 years, and a handful of players this year, is scheduled to be convicted in June and face decades in prison.
It’s safe to say that each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams can’t wait to get to spring practice and get through the lockout by the owner of the game that paralyzed most of the winter. But no team needed the annual rebirth more than the Angels.
“Of course it’s just difficult in the sense that you don’t want to see negative publicity on your group,” said Manager Joe Maddon, who ran the Chicago Cubs when Skaggs died. “Also, it was hard to listen to all the people involved, and then of course Skaggs’ death… it was all horrible.
“Having said that, it’s really up to us to try to promote the good side of this organization. We had a tragedy and that is something else. If you want to talk about Nick Adenhart, that’s another. There’s a lot going on here.”
“I was there, I knew Donnie really well,” said Maddon, who during his decades with the organization – who had dispersed through two managerial roles with other clubs – was a minor league coach when Moore died and a minor league catcher when Bostock was killed. . “There’s a lot of stuff and we want to erase that image and move on.”
MLB Lockout Ends
Here at Field 3 across the parking lot of Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Angels were trying to do just that, as Noah Syndergaard, who signed a one-year, $21 million deal to leave the Mets, took 50 pitches. in a minor league game. It was her first start since her Tommy John surgery two years ago.
“I hardly slept last night,” said Syndergaard, whose fastball flew at between 93 and 95 miles per hour, according to a nearby observer’s radar gun, and had thrown his first bolts in the competition since surgery. “My nerves flew away all this morning.”
Syndergaard found comfort early in his new organization, in part due to his longstanding relationship with Angels general manager Perry Minasian. Minasian was a professional scout for Toronto when the Blue Jays drafted Syndergaard in 2010, two years before they traded him to the Mets on an RA Dickey deal.
“That was encouraging,” Sundergaard said of his familiarity with Minasian. “He’s someone who sees my talent and talent from the very beginning. And I knew I could play with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, two of the most exciting players to walk this world. And that’s about it.”
Of course, Sendergaard knew one more thing about Angels. And that’s what played out in the Texas courtroom after she signed, she.
“We’ve heard of this,” he said. “What happened was a huge, traumatic and truly unfortunate thing. I just want to bring awareness, bring light, and raise Tyler’s name as much as I can.”
Entering his second year as general manager, Minasian was assistant general manager at Atlanta when Skaggs died in 2019. The top baseball man in the Angels at the time was the Mets’ new general manager, Billy Epler. So Minasian doesn’t know most of the details. The fact that the second team he collected is now outside and on the field excites him.
“It’s great to be here,” said Minasian. “Seeing some faces on the court, Anthony Rendons, Mike Trouts puts a big smile on my face.”
The Angels have been so poor at pitching over the past few years that the 30-year-old Trout has only played in three playoff games in 11 seasons – none since the Angels swept through the American League league series in 2014. personalities while reshaping this year’s staff, prioritizing aggression over abilities. That’s why he’s focused on Syndergaard, despite only concluding two major league hits in the past two seasons, as he’s had major right-back elbow surgery.
“When he became Noah, he fits the mold of one of the best shooters in the game,” Minasian said.
Noah when? What about Thor? Which is more scary?
“Yeah, Thor, Noah, whatever,” Minasian said with a smile. “I love seeing him on the hill.”
Minasian and Maddon, just as removing the “Ohtani rules” last year They won’t put any restrictions on Syndergaard from the American League’s Most Valuable Player and put off the workload to the shooter.
“You don’t want to get in the way of someone’s greatness,” Maddon said, adding, “We tend to be too restrictive. And now the narrative about the initiation of the shot has really faded. We no longer have marquee matches. That was a big part of drawing fans into certain teams and certain games on certain nights. The beginning shooters are purebreds and we have to make them again.”
The Angels also had three free agent right-handers in Ryan Tepera (was with the White Sox last year), Aaron Loup (Mets) and Archie Bradley (Phillies). As Minasian puts it, “The average number of starts in the major leagues is five and third innings. So the bullpen is a daily player.”
“Over the last few years, the perception of this team has been that they’ve always had a stacked roster, big names,” said Tepera. “They always needed a bit of a shot in the eyes of many guys to take them to the next step.”
Despite all this, Trout, who signed a 12-year, $426.5 million deal in 2019, is smiling and seems extremely patient. After a calf tear limited him to a career-low 36 games last year, he said he’s been working on his flexibility over the winter – he’ll stay in midfield even after Maddon came up with the idea of moving him into the corner – he watched Minasian add a shot, catching several white-tailed deer with his bow and arrow and He enjoyed life with his son.
From afar, he watched with sadness the inevitable.
“It was tough for everyone, the baseball family in general,” Trout told reporters about the Kay case when he arrived at camp. During an interview Wednesday, he politely declined to give details.
Meanwhile, Minasian has one more valuable achievement before the camp. Due to the lockout, the Angels released Ohtani’s long-time translator, Ippei Mizuhara. It was a technical detail: Mizuhara, as a front desk employee, was not allowed to speak to Ohtani during the lockout.
So the Angels let him go – but brought him back when the lockout was over.
“It made sense, it was the most natural way to handle the situation,” Mizuhara said with a smile. “They guaranteed me my place back. I wasn’t too worried.”