Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani — baseball’s would-be saviors — need rescuing themselves.
Their Los Angeles Angels are headed toward one other dreadful finish, one other missed postseason. They’ve got an interim manager, a long-shot plan to construct a contender in the future and a 39-53 record.
Heading into the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, Trout and Ohtani are stuck in Major League Baseball purgatory with a company that by some means can’t determine how you can feed off their prowess and win. Call it Dante’s nine innings of baseball hell.
If these two must proceed losing, the Angels should not less than make it fun. It’s time for the outlandish. How about on-field shoulder rubs to work out the tensions because the losses pile up? I’m all in for no bunting and hitters stealing first base.
We will call it Project Troutani. Or Operation Shout. Take your pick. It’s all about making a latest atmosphere.
Consider the anguish these guys undergo, watching their All-Star seasons, ginormous home runs and pitching shutouts go for naught.
For all their pre-eminence, all of the “oh my God, did you see that?” moments they supply to fans, Trout and Ohtani deserve a carefree, joyful baseball life in exchange for the drumbeat of defeats.
We will start with a mandate: Trout and Ohtani must be allowed three timeouts per game to call on a masseuse for pressure-releasing, on-field neck and shoulder rubdowns.
Possibly that might ease the strain. It could also give their fans time to reckon with the truth of this season. The Angels are heading full throttle for a seventh straight season ending under .500 and their eighth straight without making the playoffs.
What a large number. Trout, still in his prime at 30 and already the winner of three American League Most Priceless Player Awards, has been to the playoffs once. He has one postseason hit, albeit a house run.
Ohtani, 28, had a season in 2021 unlike any baseball has seen for the reason that days of Ted (Double Duty) Radcliffe and Babe Ruth. He won the American League M.V.P., led the league in triples and amassed a 9-2 record as a pitcher. Ohtani has been in a playoff before, even won a championship — with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan’s Pacific League.
These two are usually not just stars, they’re supernovas. Yet their careers have gotten meditations on genius unfulfilled.
Sure, these two will find yourself with tens of millions by the bushel. However the fattest of bank accounts can’t buy the happiness that comes with winning. What can we do to make life higher as Trout and Ohtani lose? Possibly we start by helping them stay out of the life-sucking Southern California traffic on game days. Elon Musk has a while on his hands. Hey, Elon, to make up for toying with Twitter, how about you construct a test case to your long-awaited underground tunnels, digging one which links Casa Ohtani and Villa Trout to the Angels’ locker room?
I say it’s time to permit the Angels to have in-game barbecues within the dugout. They deserve their burgers and beer — together with Ohtani’s favorite griddle crepes — for all of the losses endured.
While we’re at it, to avoid wasting on the damage and tear, let’s have each players driven to the sphere each inning in a souped-up golf cart, one with a leather couch shaped like a baseball mitt. (Yeah, I stole that concept from the carts used to ferry pitchers to the mound on the Tokyo Olympics, but why not?)
My apologies to the interim manager, Phil Nevin, but he’s not long for the Angels at this rate. Let Trout be a player and manager, running the team from center field. If he does that, perhaps, just perhaps, he becomes something greater than an unknowable machine of a slugger. Perhaps Trout begins channeling his inner Billy Martin, starting dust-ups with umpires, getting tossed and throwing suits. Baseball fans would finally discover that he does, indeed, have a personality.
In the event that they proceed losing, not less than everyone around Trout and Ohtani could have a good time — the team and fans alike. The Angels should get it. They’re the team that gave us the rally monkey, in spite of everything. And players have taken to crowning teammates who hit home runs with a cowboy hat, a nod to the team’s 2002 World Series victory.
Fun being the mission, we’d as well make probably the most significant change of all. Until they begin winning big, probably around 2030, at this rate, every Angels game must be played under Banana Ball Rules.
Those are the principles created by the Savannah Bananas, a collegiate summer league baseball team taking a torch to baseball tradition within the name of … taking a torch to baseball tradition.
The team with probably the most runs in each inning earns a degree, and the team with probably the most points wins the sport.
No game lasts longer than two hours. There’s no stepping out of the batter’s box.
A hitter can steal first base and rating on a walk (yeah, that last part is a little bit complicated, but what a lark).
If a fan catches a ball within the stadium, it’s an out.
And, oh yeah, bunting is banned. Because the Savannah Banana website explains: “If a batter bunts, they shall be thrown out of the sport.”
No bunts? Now that’s a match made for Trout and Ohtani.
Look, yeah, that is all crazy, cheeky, out-there stuff. But we’ve got to try something. Because with out a change in circumstances, the Angels will find yourself with probably the most boring of baseball outcomes: their stars becoming Recent Yorkers.