Shohei Ohtani could have clinched the AL MVP award on Sunday, dominating seven innings against a visiting Seattle Mariners team still fighting for a postseason spot.
But his Los Angeles Angels finally lost for the 82nd time in 2021, solidifying something else: a sixth straight losing season in Anaheim, California.
Four of them have come with Ohtani on the team, the last of which happened while he was navigating arguably the most impressive season in baseball history. After Sunday’s 5-1 loss, Ohtani, ineligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, was asked if he wanted to stay with the Angels long-term.
“I really like the team,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, adding that he has not spoken with the organization about a possible extension. “I love the fans, I love the atmosphere of the team, but more than that, I want to win. That’s the most important thing to me. I’ll leave it at that.”
Ohtani’s comments came a day after Mike Trout, who has not played since May due to a calf injury, expressed urgency with his desire to strengthen the roster, saying in part: “This offseason is going to be Great. We have a lot of money to spend. ” Earlier in the week, Angels manager Joe Maddon expressed similar and sharper frustration.
“This cannot continue,” Maddon told reporters before Wednesday’s game. “We can’t be in this position annually. This organization is better than that. We deserve better than that. We have to go out there and win it.”
The Angels got minimal production from pricey Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton in 2021, not to mention Albert Pujols, who was released before the end of May, but a lack of quality pitching remains a major problem.
Ohtani, at least, made significant contributions on both sides. He pitched seven career innings against the Mariners, struck out 10 batters and walked no one to lower his ERA to 3.18 and raise his strikeout total to 156. Offensively, Ohtani – with two 3s on Saturday and 11 walks in the previous three games – he’s hitting .258 / .371 / .595 with 45 homers and 24 stolen bases. His 7.9 FanGraphs above replacement lead the majors.
And yet, despite unprecedented contributions, the Angels rank 17th in runs per game and 22nd in ERA.
“If nothing changes in the team,” Ohtani said, “I think it will be very difficult to be in contention for the playoffs.”
The Angels will take Pujols’ contract off the books this offseason, but will pay Trout, Rendon and Upton a combined $ 99.45 million in 2022 (Upton will be in the final year of his contract by then). The Angels need shortstop, but more importantly, as people across the sport have said, they need to revamp their bullpen and add two front-line starting pitchers if they really want to compete.
Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Robbie Ray and Noah Syndergaard are among the soon-to-be-available free agent starting pitchers. The Angels could also use Jo Adell or Brandon Marsh for pitching help, but the two young outfielders have struggled in the majors.
The Angels were one of the most successful franchises in baseball in the 2000s, but have only made the playoffs once in the past 12 years, despite having Trout, arguably the best player in the game, for the vast majority. of that time.
“It’s very frustrating, very disappointing,” Ohtani said of missing the postseason. “I always hope to be in the playoff race at the end and try to talk about the playoffs with my teammates. I always think about that, so yeah, it’s been disappointing.”