Los Angeles Angels: 5 Ways the Angels Can Still Play Spoiler Down the Stretch
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Spoiler Alert: The 36 games the Los Angeles Angels have left in the 2013 season are not meaningless. There is plenty of opportunity to ruin a seemingly expected good time for fellow MLB teams and fanbases.
Think of it as throwing a "Rally Monkey Wrench" into the opposing team's aspirations.
That's right, the season may be historical after all for the Angels...just not as the heroic leader of the AL West. Instead, the Halo's can be the villain.
They get to be a spoiler.
It's the final point of a dismal season, no question. When the trade deadline has passed, the recuperating are told to get ready for next season and the waiver wire is recoiled for another year. The only thing left to do at 55-71 (18.5 games out of first place) is look to play the spoiler.
That's not a terrible role to play, either.
Though it may not be the championship trophy, or even a shot at the playoffs, spoiling an expected outcome is the last drop of interest in a less-than-interesting season. And the Angels have several scenarios ahead of them that still are worth watching.
Keep in mind, though, I'm not taking about a major shift in the 2013 MLB landscape. Think of it more as "baby steps" towards small victories with what is left this season.
Think if it as...fun.
Here are five spoil-worthy scenarios—that aren't necessarily all about spoiling the MLB postseason picture—the Angels and the Halo faithful can enjoy the last month of the 2013 season.
Note: All stats were provided courtesy of baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
The Unexpected Factor in the AL East
Could Wilson shake up the Rays' lineup like Zack Greinke did?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
That is, pick up the effort against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Though it may not seem like a big deal now, what happens to the Rays in their two series coming up against the Angels may be a game-changer come October—especially the large four-game trip in Anaheim beginning on September 2.
While the Rays remain in a tight race in the AL East, their focus could favor the tougher games looming in August—like the Texas Rangers, Oakland A's and of course the Red Sox and Yankees—and not necessarily on the Halos. Yep, every game counts. I know that. But don't tell me for a second that the Rays are spending enormous amounts of time worrying about a team as down-and-out as the Angels.
The AL East deserves more of the Rays' attention, no question. Whether they admit it or not, that is where their stress lies.
The Angels, however, are virtually stress free. And considering neither team has seen each other this year—other than television—you would think it's the perfect time for the Angels to strike, causing a little grief as an unknown "would've-could've-should've" factor in the AL East race.
And remember this: I would imagine that at least one scout from the Angels organization made the hair-loss inducing, traffic-jammed trip up the 5 Freeway to check out the Rays when they were in town to play the Los Angels Dodgers—a series where the Rays were swept.
Perhaps the Angels too have a LA-based broom wave in mind. Or maybe even another hidden ball trick.
Win the Battle of Overrated Supremacy
Trumbo may hit No. 36 or 37, too.
Jonathan Moore/Getty Images
At some point during the Angels' three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays (August 10-12), someone will make a reference—or reflect—on how disappointing these two teams have been this season.
Count on it.
The Blue Jays were the story of the offseason, landing a mega deal with the Miami Marlins, while also inking New York Mets' All-Star and Cy Young R.A. Dickey. With the powerful Jose Bautista healthy and back in expected form, the team was destined to seriously challenge in the AL East.
After 127 games, however, the Blue Jays are 57-70 (17 games back from first in the AL East). Much like the Angels, this season has really not gone according to plan. Whether it be injuries, pitching woes, hitters not producing in a timely manner or a little of everything, Toronto will want to forget 2013.
But this is not a "if you can't beat 'em join 'em" kind of deal. The only thing worse than being one of the most overrated teams in the MLB is being the most overrated team in the MLB. And that is the headline during the upcoming series between these two enigmas of this season.
(I can hear it now: a Bob Uecker-type charisma announcing the series outlook.)
The Angels hold a 3-1 lead this year over the Blue Jays, but can they hold on for three more games...on the road...in another country!?
It's the ultimate battle of the overhyped and overrated, with three games in a town probably more interested in a Milos Raonic run in the U.S. Open than another lousy finish to a Blue Jays' season.
Show the Seattle Mariners Who Third-Best Really Is
Vargas will need to continue success against his old team.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
At one point in the offseason, I remember writing an outlook on the AL West. Of course, I had the Angels battling it out with the Rangers and the A’s, while giving little attention to the Mariners or Houston Astros.
There wasn't any argument towards my opinion about the Astros but, surprisingly enough, there were some who felt I might be overlooking the Mariners. However, I didn’t buy the merits of Felix Hernandez or the reunion of Raul Ibanez. I didn’t think it mattered.
Other than Jason Vargas coming over to the Halos for Kendrys Morales, I didn’t think the two teams would be in the same sentence or scenarios once the season got underway.
Man…was I wrong.
As it currently stands, the Mariners are in third place in the AL West with a 7-6 record this year against the Angels. Yes, the team I had written off has found ways to exploit Mike Scioscia's bunch, figuring out a way to win the head-to-head series while getting outscored by 10 runs (58 runs to 48)
True, they aren’t the only team to accomplish this feat against the Angels this year.
However, the six games left in the series—three at Anaheim and three at Seattle—hold more meaning than what the average viewer may understand.
More than just simple pride of third place as opposed to fourth place in the AL West, this is a historical point for manager Mike Scioscia—one that may hold foresight to his job status in the offseason.
Under his command, the Angels have never finished worse than third.
Remind the Houston Astros They Are the Houston Astros
Blanton actually had one of the better ERAs against the Astros.
Jonathan Moore/Getty Images
Though the Astros (41-85) are one of the worst franchises this year in the MLB—not just the AL—the memo must have never arrived in Anaheim. I don't know; perhaps it was mixed up with the Detroit Tigers report—the Angels are 6-0 against them.
Against the Astros, however, the Angels have a losing record at 7-9. They are the only team in the AL West to carry that unwanted distinction.
It’s incredible the Angels are in that dubious fraternity.
And, unlike the Mariners' scenario against the Angels, the Astros’ meager offense has managed to outscore the once-predicted juggernaut of an offense that is the Halo's lineup—which puts this whole scenario into the category of mind-boggling.
Now, the Angels have only three games left with the Astros, and they must win all of them in order to right the ship and just break the head-to-head .500 mark.
And what a spoil that would be, unfortunately.
Yes, it's a shame they got here in the first place. I agree. But the sour taste of finishing under .500 against the last-place team in the Division is just as bad (if not worse).
Make It Difficult for Both the Texas Rangers and the Oakland A's
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The torment this current Angels squad could cause towards both the Rangers and the A's is the closest thing to actually playing the commonly accepted version of a "spoiler."
With the way the remaining schedule is set up, there is a possibility for impacting the path of at least one of the teams: AL West Division contention, Wild Card contention, or both.
The A's are the front-runner for this spoiled scenario out of the two, no question. Battling injury issues and playing with a 23-man roster, the team is struggling to hold leads. Like the Rangers of 2012, they are slowly losing ground in a crowded race.
Time, as they say, is running out.
That means the six games left with the Angels could be a deciding factor—especially when considering the A's will be coming off their final three games against the Rangers. It's the perfect opportunity for the Angels to steal a series. Based on the A's current slide, it could happen.
The A's would be left hoping the Angels continue their run and take the Rangers in the final series.
Sounds like must-see TV, doesn't it?
To that, the Angels could also take a good portion of their remaining seven games against the Rangers, leaving them as the odd team out, again.
The scenario may be a little more difficult—the Rangers are 10-2 against the Angels—but it may be just enough to motivate the team to the level most people thought they would play at all season.
Imagine it: Josh Hamilton finishing strong, while destroying the hopes of his ex-team.
For more of the daily this and that, follow Rick Suter on Twitter@ rick_suter.