Many predicted this Angels' season would finish the way it had a decade ago. No one could have guessed it would start out the same way.
In 2002, the Anaheim Angels began their run to a World Series title by going 6-14 in their first 20 games. Now, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are threatening to match that same miserable start, already 6-12 and showing no signs of improvement.
The difference is that nothing was expected of that ’02 squad. And why would there be?
Before capturing the AL Wild Card that year, the Angels hadn’t been to the playoffs since the Boston Red Sox dealt them a heart-wrenching knock-out blow in 1986 (Beantown would share a similar pain later that postseason).
The AL West had been the domain of powerhouses like the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners. The Angels, meanwhile, were a rag-tag group of role-players with no discernible superstar, just a bunch of grinders who didn’t know the meaning of the word quit.
This 2012 iteration, on the other hand, is as star-studded as a Hollywood red carpet affair and just as mentally unstable. Perhaps that instability is a symptom of the attention such celebrity brings.
Signing the two biggest free agents in baseball cemented the Angels’ offseason as one for the ages. Now it looks like December 10, 2011 may be a date that will live in infamy.
That morning, new general manager Jerry Dipoto officially introduced his offseason prizes: Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
Pujols, the game’s most feared slugger, would provide the power the Angels had been lacking since Vladimir Guerrero’s departure. Adding left-hander Wilson to the mix would serve the dual purpose of strengthening the rotation and stealing away the rival Texas Rangers’ ace.
Along with Rookie of the Year runner-up Mark Trumbo, Cy Young runner-up Jered Weaver, and a returning MVP candidate in Kendrys Morales, the Halos would have all they needed to repeat that magical ’02 season.
So what happened? The names are all there, the stars are out, but none are shining. This team was predicted, expected even, to be one of the best all-around teams in the American League. At this rate they’ll be lucky to finish ahead of the Kansas City Royals.
So-called “dream teams” with big names and bigger contracts often invite big expectations. But precious few have ever lived up to the hype. Recent history suggests it may not be any different for the Angels.
Their perennial East Coast rivals, the Boston Red Sox, assembled a dream team in 2011. They signed a fantastic five-tool player in Carl Crawford, picked up slugger Adrian Gonzalez in a laughable trade with the San Diego Padres, and quickly became everyone’s favorite pick to dominate the AL and win the World Series.
What happened was a historic collapse down the stretch, the likes of which the sport has never seen.
This phenomenon is not unique to baseball, either. The Philadelphia Eagles were the clear uncontested winners of the NFL’s offseason a year ago. But all of the bravado their players showed in the press never translated to the field, and the presumptive Super Bowl winners ended their season in December instead of February.
The Miami Heat came the closest to achieving their dreams after signing Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Eastern Conference champs wound up making it all the way to the NBA Finals but failed to bring home any of the seven rings their new stars promised.
Is this to be the fate of the Angels? Are “teams of destiny” inherently destined to fail?
Only time can tell. Baseball, as they say, is a long season, and no team’s fate was ever decided in April.
History may indeed repeat itself. The Angels had just better hope it’s not recent history.