ANAHEIM, Calif. — Spirited chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” filled the nice and cozy night air here this week. Pinstriped Yankees fans dominated the gang in appreciation of Aaron Judge and what may be coming for the slugging outfielder. With considerably less gusto, beleaguered Angels fans answered those M.V.P. calls in favor of Shohei Ohtani as a respite from their grim reality.
Mired in a string of disappointing summers, and with the team owner Arte Moreno’s surprise announcement last week that he’s exploring a sale of the club, Ohtani’s Angels future is more uncertain than ever.
Baseball’s only two-way star can grow to be a free agent following the 2023 season, and Angels fans have been nervous since he issued what appeared like an ultimatum after last season’s home finale: He loves the fans and the atmosphere of the team, Ohtani said, but what he most wants is to win.
“That’s the largest thing for me,” he said then. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Eleven months later, even when graded on a curve, the Angels remain unable to pass. Come October, Ohtani will probably be left waiting to see whether he can win a second consecutive Most Precious Player Award while he watches the postseason from a distance.
Moreno’s Angels are headed for a club-record-tying seventh consecutive losing season. Just once before, from 1971 to 1978, has this organization lost this much for therefore long.
What makes the present run so different from those Seventies Angels is that the club has produced 4 American League most dear players previously eight seasons: Mike Trout (2014, 2016, 2019) and Ohtani (2021). And yet the losing continues. The Yankees’ appearance here this week only serves as a reminder that the Angels haven’t won a playoff game since beating the Yankees in Game 5 of the 2009 American League Championship Series — a series eventually won by Recent York.
Since then, Moreno has thrown increasingly good money after bad, signing expensive free agents similar to Albert Pujols (10 years, $240 million), Josh Hamilton (five years, $125 million) and Anthony Rendon (seven years, $245 million). The team has no postseason success to indicate for those hundreds of thousands.
“It’s at all times a matter mark since you don’t know who’s going to are available,” Trout said of the suddenly uncertain direction of the club before Tuesday night’s game. “We’ll see the way it goes. Obviously, I’ve got rather a lot more years on my deal.”
Trout is in it for the long haul. He signed a 12-year, $426.5 million deal before the 2019 season that tethers him to the Angels through 2030.
Meanwhile, Ohtani, the team’s best pitcher, and its best hitter apart from Trout, has one season left after this one before hitting free agency.
Things have come a good distance since Ohtani announced his decision to affix the Angels after the 2017 season. His arrival had been so thrilling that Billy Eppler, the team’s general manager on the time, completely missed his chair and collapsed to the ground while trying to absorb the news. The team has had fairly little joy since, and a terrific deal of turnover.
Moreno fired Eppler after the 2020 season, replacing him with Perry Minasian. Eppler landed on his feet and is now the highest baseball operations executive for the first-place Mets.
The Angels also modified field managers thrice in 4 years because the end of Mike Scioscia’s 19-year run. Brad Ausmus replaced Scioscia for the 2019 season, but Eppler was ordered to fireside him after only one yr because Moreno desired to hire Joe Maddon. Minasian, with Moreno’s permission, fired Maddon in June. Phil Nevin is the team’s interim manager.
“Actually, there are lots of fan bases across the country that wish their owner would herald marquee players, spend the cash that Arte’s spent,” Nevin said in defense of his team’s owner. “So the criticism he gets is totally unjust, in my view. Fans get to come back and watch the 2 best players in the sport, perhaps one of the best baseball player on the earth, play on daily basis.”
It was not at all times this fashion for the Angels. Moreno purchased the club from the Walt Disney Company just after the team won its lone World Series title, in 2002. The Angels proceeded to play in five of the subsequent seven postseasons as Moreno enjoyed a protracted honeymoon with fans, buoyed by one in every of the primary moves he made because the owner: lowering beer prices at Angel Stadium. In those heady, early days, his Angels lured free agents like Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Bobby Abreu. Guerrero won an M.V.P. Award (2004) and Colon won a Cy Young Award (2005).
The Angels have continued to rank among the many top payrolls in the sport under Moreno, including this yr’s $179 million, which ranks tenth within the majors. But since 2009, the Angels have made the playoffs only once, in Trout’s first M.V.P. season, in 2014. They were swept in a division series.
Because the losing intensified lately, so, too, did Moreno’s struggles for a stadium deal. He was attempting to buy Angel Stadium and the encircling land from town of Anaheim when the F.B.I. in May accused Mayor Harry Sidhu of illegally handing insider information concerning the sale to the ball club. The deal collapsed and the mayor resigned.
By selling, Moreno’s years of frustration will end with a windfall. He purchased the club for $183.5 million in 2003. In March, Forbes magazine valued the team at $2.2 billion.
“It has been a terrific honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” Moreno, the primary — and, still, only — Latino majority owner of an M.L.B. club said in last week’s statement. “As a company, we have now worked to offer our fans a reasonable and family-friendly ballpark experience while fielding competitive lineups which included a few of the game’s all-time best players.”
Certainly one of them didn’t see this decision coming.
“I definitely wasn’t pondering it was going to occur,” Trout said. “Looking back, obviously, Arte took a probability on me after I was a child. I appreciate all he’s done. While you hear things like that, being here for therefore long, it definitely was a shock.”
Ohtani was not made available by the team to comment Tuesday. Neither was John Carpino, the club’s president. Moreno has not publicly spoken since issuing last week’s statement.
The uncertainty and the losing have created several questions. Chief amongst them: Will Ohtani even need to stay when free agency beckons next off-season? How much money will a presumably recent ownership group be willing to spend if he does?
Judge, 30, declined the Yankees’ contract offer this spring of seven years and $213.5 million, and can test free agency within the off-season. Juan Soto, who’s 23 and never eligible without cost agency until after the 2024 season, spurned a Washington Nationals offer of 15 years and $440 million, resulting in his trade to San Diego.
Trout’s contract stays the biggest in M.L.B. history by total value, followed by the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts (12 years, $365 million), the Mets’ Francisco Lindor (10 years, $341 million) and the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 years, $340 million). Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez last week agreed to a sophisticated deal that can guarantee him $210 million to $470 million over the subsequent decade-plus.
The assorted contracts have created an expectation that a player like Ohtani, unique in today’s game, can effectively name his price.
“I feel it’s all up within the air,” Trout said Tuesday regarding how a recent owner might affect Ohtani’s future with the Angels. “We don’t know what’s going to occur. If the team does sell and we discover out who the owner is, obviously things can change. You don’t know.”
He said he had not discussed the sale of the team or Ohtani’s future with Ohtani. But Trout hopes Ohtani stays, and he promised that “once the team gets sold, if it does, there will probably be conversations.”
For now, there may be little the Angels can do but plod toward yet one more reset this winter.
“I just know from reading concerning the histories of teams and organizations selling in every sport, really, that it should take time,” Nevin said, adding that he knows Moreno “loves this organization and can put it in good hands.”