I would never make the mistake of thinking any sports team owner has any shame. The cash comes too easy, they’re far too up their own ass because they’ve convinced themselves the money they have proves what a genius they are, and they’re too far removed from the fans to really fear any public backlash. Because of that, the Los Angeles Angels could, of course, trade Shohei Ohtani before Tuesday’s deadline. There’s a solid argument to be made, a purely baseball one, that they probably should, especially if they have some inclination that he won’t re-sign with them.
But that’s not what they’re doing. Mere hours after there were reports that they’d yanked Ohtani off the trade market, however much he was in the shop window to begin with, they had acquired Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez from the pointless White Sox to bolster their pitching staff. They’re barely hanging onto the rope for a wildcard spot, but they’re going to hang on as long as they can.
The rotation is where the Angels needed the biggest upgrade, ranking 19th in starters ERA and 16th in FIP. They can certainly do better than tossing Tyler Anderson or Griffin Canning out there every fifth day, and Giolito is an upgrade on those. Giolito has been dancing through the raindrops a bit, with his FIP nearly a run higher than his ERA and giving up way more fly balls than he has before. He won’t get much of a break in home park swapping the Southside for Angels stadium, but…well fuck it.
Because if the Angels went the other way, raised the white flag and cashed in on whatever they could get for Ohtani as a rental (not really all that much comparatively), Artie Moreno would have been telling all Angels fans that the team will never matter. That there would really be no point in being an Angels fan for a while, if not forever.
Teams have done something similar before, obviously. The Red Sox traded Mookie Betts, but they at least had the courtesy to win four World Series in the previous 16 years. The Blazers will soon trade Damian Lillard, but that’s after more than a decade of trying and at least a conference final appearance.
If the Angels traded Ohtani, there would be no dignity to it. They would be showing their fans that they’ve been given the most unique player in baseball history, arguably the best player in baseball history, and it wasn’t worth it. They couldn’t make it work. What exactly will the Angels get in the future that would be as exciting for their fans as Ohtani? A deadline deal for him would have been a message that whatever the past few years have been is as good as it’s going to get, and it’ll never be enough, so they have to cut their losses. That Anaheim is a place that isn’t worthy of a generational talent like Shohei. Why would anyone stick around after that?
That doesn’t mean Ohtani is sticking around. The Angels still might fall short of the playoffs, probably likely to. And then likely Ohtani leaves, quite probably up the I-5 just a bit. But it’s different when a player walks in free agency. Should the Dodgers offer him $700 million over 10 years or whatever (and he’d be worth it) the Angels can claim they did their best and it was Ohtani’s choice, however true either might be. Their fans will be hurt, if not devastated, but it’s a reverse that most fans are used to. It doesn’t mark their team out as completely irrelevant, at least not as much as when the team pulls the trigger itself.
Fanbases everywhere dream of having something like Ohtani, and the Angels were lucky enough to provide that for their fans, even if only for a limited time. To then turn around and declare it all a failure would have turned the Angels into the Rockies (if they aren’t already). Just something that happens because no one has figured out how to stop it or had it dawn on them that they could. Maybe it’s only for another two months, but at least the Angels came to the conclusion that there are some depths you cannot drag your fans too.
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