Angel Stadium feels a little like the waiting room at a doctor’s office.
The décor is a bit outdated but it’s not an unpleasant experience. Maybe you’ll get some good news, too. That’s distinctly possible when you have All-Star players such as Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on the field.
But there’s also an existential feeling of dread.
Ohtani can become a free agent at the end of the season and has made it clear his biggest goal is to win the World Series, something the Angels haven’t come close to in his time there.
When the Angels played at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium in April, Ohtani said how much he enjoyed playing at both parks.
“It’s one of my favorite parks, so I always look forward to pitching here,” Ohtani said at Fenway in response to my question.
He received a similar question in the Bronx a few days later.
“It’s a beautiful field, passionate fans. I always look forward to playing here. It’s really fun playing here,” Ohtani said.
Ohtani understands the impact of his words. He’s essentially saying he’s willing to play anywhere, not just the West Coast.
The Angels are a much-improved team under general manager Perry Minasian after finishing 33 games out of first place last season. But they aren’t close to being World Series contenders with their rotation. Meanwhile, the farm system is tapped out, ranked 26th by Baseball America.
If the Angels aren’t contenders come the trade deadline, do they package Ohtani or gamble on being able to sign him after the season? The Angels routinely have a high payroll, but Ohtani’s next deal could be worth $400 million, if not more.
Then there’s Trout, the baseball equivalent of a Rembrandt hanging in a backyard shed.
He had not appeared in a playoff game since 2014 when he was 23. Trout has since gone to post the eighth-highest OPS in major league history.
Trout is a modern-day Ted Williams in the sense that he’s a spectacular player with a glaring hole in his résumé. But at least Williams played in the 1946 World Series. Trout has never come close to a pennant.
Trout is signed through 2030 at $37.1 million a season. Will he remain content to ride out that contract or request a trade while he’s still playing at a high level and take his own run at a title?
Angels owner Arte Moreno put the team up for sale last August then pulled it off the market in January. Depending on whom you ask, he either had a change of heart or didn’t get the price he wanted and he is waiting for better conditions for a sale.
The ballpark is an issue, too. Angel Stadium is the fourth-oldest stadium in the majors but has none of the charm of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Dodger Stadium. Moreno had a deal for a new ballpark in Anaheim that fell apart in 2022 because of an FBI investigation into allegedly corrupt city officials.
Ten years ago, a study suggested Angel Stadium needed $100 million-$150 million in upgrades. Little has been done since and now the price will be higher.
The Angels also cut corners financially beyond their payroll. Their staffing in baseball operations is below industry standards and they don’t send their radio broadcasters on the road.
Moreno will be 77 in August. The Angels haven’t won a playoff series since 2009 and everybody is impatient.
Who is going to stick around to see how it ends?
Red Sox are out of rotation help
Alex Cora had some interesting comments on “The Jim Rome Show” this past week.
“Last year we were short,” he said. “It was a good lesson for the organization. Basically we weren’t deep enough. We pitched with kids last year. But that experience made us better now.”
The Sox are deeper, having used eight starters this season. That Corey Kluber and Nick Pivetta were sent to the bullpen offers further proof of that. At the moment, the Sox have Chris Sale, Brayan Bello, James Paxton, Tanner Houck, and Garrett Whitlock in the rotation. Kutter Crawford and Josh Winckowski are potential depth choices. Kluber and Pivetta would presumably be, too.
But the well is dry as Triple A Worcester is out of viable starter candidates.
Lefthander Shane Drohan, who had a 1.32 ERA in six starts for Double A Portland, has a chance. But he allowed 10 earned runs, 10 hits, and 6 walks over 7⅔ innings in his first two starts at Triple A. Four of the hits were home runs.
Drohan could emerge, but for now the Sox will have to get by with who they have.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ At times lately, Rafael Devers has looked like a player trying too hard to justify his contract.
He tried to bunt for a hit during the Angels series in Anaheim, something totally out of character. He’s also shown frustration by jogging to first base on ground balls.
After hitting .292 with an .884 OPS from 2019-22, Devers went into the weekend hitting .249 with an .803 OPS. From a bWAR standpoint, he’s actually been less valuable than Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jarren Duran.
“He has a lot to deal with,” said Xander Bogaerts, who communicates with Devers daily. “He’s the guy in that lineup the other team is focused on. It’s different when you get that attention.”
Getting Adam Duvall and eventually Trevor Story back in the lineup will help Devers. In the meantime, patience and better contact is needed.
▪ It was a mystery when the Red Sox obtained Eric Hosmer last August, believing he would somehow help spur a run to the playoffs.
Hosmer played 14 games, didn’t hit much, and signed with the Cubs in the offseason. He didn’t hit much again and was released this past week.
The Padres are paying Hosmer through 2025 so any team can pick him up for the prorated minimum. The Royals have already passed on a reunion. But if only for his glove, Hosmer could get another chance.
▪ Double A righthander CJ Liu was a two-way player in college in Taiwan and not surprisingly idolized Shohei Ohtani. He eventually focused on pitching, signed with the Sox in 2019, and has a 2.85 ERA in six starts for Portland.
When the Sox were in Anaheim, Sea Dogs manager Chad Epperson texted Cora to ask if the Sox could get Ohtani to sign a ball for Liu.
Cora handled the chore himself, approaching Ohtani on the field before the game on Tuesday. Ohtani happily agreed and the ball is now on its way to Liu.
The Japanese media was quite curious about the conversation and approached Cora on Wednesday to ask why he wanted to talk to Ohtani.
“No tampering!” Cora said, drawing laughs.
▪ Daisuke Matsuzaka made an appearance in Anaheim for the Red Sox-Angels series. He is now a television commentator for TV Asahi in Japan and still has a home in the Boston area.
▪ The Red Sox were well represented in the Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown on Saturday. The rosters included former Sox players Rajai Davis, Bryan Holaday, Ryan Lavarnway, James Loney, Josh Reddick, Pokey Reese, Matt Thornton, Alex Wilson, and Chris Young.
Never too early for awards season
Memorial Day Weekend is a good time to assess where things stand with the awards races.
MVP: No American League player is standing out at this point. The Yankees’ Aaron Judge, a runaway winner last season, had a modest — for him — 14 homers and 33 RBIs going into the weekend.
The Rays’ Wander Franco and the Rangers’ Marcus Semien are off to fast starts. Maybe Bo Bichette will be in the mix if the Blue Jays get their act together. Obviously, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani has to be considered.
Ronald Acuña Jr. has paced the Braves with power and speed and is the clear National League favorite. The Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman could make a run at it.
Braves catcher Sean Murphy has been outstanding defensively and hit well. What a smart pickup he was by Alex Anthopoulos.
Cy Young: Gerrit Cole (Yankees), Nate Eovaldi (Rangers), Sonny Gray (Twins), Shane McClanahan (Rays), and Joe Ryan (Twins) are making good cases in the AL. Cole has finished second twice in his career.
In the NL, Arizona’s Zac Gallen and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw have six wins and good credentials. Atlanta’s Bryce Elder had a 2.01 ERA in his first 10 starts.
Rookie of the Year: Righthanded reliever Yennier Cano has been beyond dominant for the Orioles, allowing two runs on 11 hits and one walk over his first 26⅔ innings, while striking out 29. It might be tough for a 29-year-old setup man to win a major award.
Bryce Miller, Seattle’s 24-year-old rotation savior, made his debut May 2 and started 3-1 with a 1.15 ERA in five starts. He is the AL favorite.
Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, Astros righthander Hunter Brown, and Athletics outfielder Esteury Ruiz are good candidates.
Two shortstops — Anthony Volpe (Yankees) and Zach Neto (Angels) — have a shot if they come on.
Arizona outfielder Corbin Carroll is the NL favorite, positing an .889 OPS in his first 47 games. Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez and Dodgers outfielder James Outman are chasing Carroll.
Manager of the Year: Brandon Hyde has the Orioles staying close to the Rays. He was second in the voting last season. Bruce Bochy, as you would expect, has turned the Rangers around.
Arizona’s Torey Lovullo and Pittsburgh’s Derek Shelton have their teams in second after finishing well out of contention last season. But if the Mets have a revival, Buck Showalter will jump into the race.
How relieved must the Giants and Mets be that their respective deals with Carlos Correa fell through? Correa went into the weekend hitting .213 with a .699 OPS. Team doctors red-flagged Correa’s right ankle, which has a metal plate from an old fracture. Now he has plantar fasciitis in his left heel. Correa lost a 13-year, $350 million deal with the Giants and a 12-year, $315 million agreement with the Mets before going back to the Twins for six years and $200 million . . . Eovaldi has two complete games in 10 starts with the Rangers, matching how many he had in 84 starts for the Red Sox. Eovaldi beat Rich Hill and the Pirates on Tuesday to improve to 6-2, 2.60. Eovaldi had a 4.30 ERA through his age-29 season. It’s 3.58 since, over four seasons . . . The Dodgers have Walker Buehler, Dustin May, and Julio Urías on the injured list. But they have a deep farm system and took two road games from the Braves with 24-year-old rookies Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller making starts. Stone allowed four runs in the first inning Monday but was pulled in the fifth with a 6-4 lead. The Dodgers held on for an 8-6 victory. Miller starred Tuesday and gave up one run over five innings in his major league debut. “We’ve got some runway now,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s exciting for the organization.” May could miss the rest of the season with a flexor tendon issue in his elbow. Buehler, who had Tommy John surgery, hopes to return in September. Urías has a hamstring strain that will cost him at least a few weeks . . . Last week, this space included an update on Drew Pomeranz, who last appeared in a game Aug. 10, 2021, and was hoping to return this season from a shoulder injury. So much for that. He had what was described as “cleanup surgery” in his elbow Tuesday. Padres manager Bob Melvin said there was hope Pomeranz could return this season but a balky shoulder and elbow would seem to make that a long shot . . . The Athletics are averaging 8,695 fans at home and are on pace to lose 130 games. On the plus side, they’re allowing people to bring their dogs to all Tuesday home games. Or is that animal cruelty? . . . Retired Giants great Buster Posey said the quiet part out loud when asked by the San Francisco Chronicle about the team’s ability to attract free agents. “To the question of, ‘Is San Francisco a desirable place to play?’ I can understand the frustration,” he said. “I came to love that part of the country dearly. So, most definitely, my perspective is that I don’t want to hear that it’s not a desirable place. At the same time, I think it would be ignorant to say the city is not in a different place than it was 15 years ago when we started that run, whether that’s from COVID, or the lack of filled office space, or some of the crime and danger that is some of the reality now.” . . . Hard to believe the Padres have averaged only 0.4 more runs per game than the Royals. Or maybe not. Based on spending five days around the Padres this month, they give off the vibe of an All-Star team that showed up to the game because they had to and are hoping to get back home as quickly as possible. Juan Soto lives in the trainer’s room, Nelson Cruz looks like he stayed around a year too long, and Blake Snell is having the worst season of his life, with Joe Musgrove in the same boat. So, who gets blamed for a lack of urgency? Hard to pin that on Melvin given his career success . . . “Bad karma, killing me by degrees,” sang the late, great Warren Zevon. And so it has for Trevor Bauer, who was demoted to the Japanese minor leagues after allowing 14 earned runs in his first 15 innings for the Yokohama BayStars. The Dodgers released Bauer in January after he was given a two-year suspension by Major League Baseball for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy. The punishment was trimmed to 194 games by an arbiter, making Bauer eligible to play in the majors this season. Every major league team passed and Bauer signed in Japan . . . Here’s an unbelievable statistic: When the Triple A Louisville Bats beat the Syracuse Chiefs, 5-3, on Thursday, they went over .500 (24-23) for the first time since July 27, 2016. Louisville is a Reds affiliate . . . Rick Hummel, who covered baseball for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch more than five decades, died last Saturday at 77. “Commish” won what is now known as the BBWAA’s Career Excellence Award in 2007. Hummel often teased Cardinals manager Oli Marmol for wearing a hoodie over his jersey, saying it shouldn’t be covered up. As a tribute to Hummel, Marmol wore his jersey — no hoodie — on Monday . . . Happy birthday to Craig Kimbrel, who is 35. He had a 2.44 ERA and 108 saves in 119 chances for the Red Sox from 2016-18 and appeared in 13 postseason games. Kimbrel has played for the Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, and Phillies in the five seasons since leaving the Sox and has a 3.94 ERA with 66 saves.