On Tuesday night, the inevitable became official. The Los Angeles Angels are missing the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, and will not have a chance to win their first playoff game since 2009. Joe Maddon — only in his second year with the team — is as upset about it as anyone.
He was brought in with the hopes of lifting the franchise out of perpetual mediocrity. A manager of his caliber has been around so many winning teams, and the Angels felt he was the perfect person to bring this team back to the playoffs.
Injuries, uneven play, and bad pitching plagued the Angels in 2021, but Maddon wasn’t making any excuses when he discussed the direction of the team on Wednesday night, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“This can’t continue to go on,” Maddon said. “We can’t annually be in this position. This organization is better than that. We deserve better than that. We have to go out and earn it.”
This directly led to a conversation about the team’s mindset when it comes to free agents and improving the roster’s core.
“What’s your agenda next year? Is it to participate in the American League West and hopefully, possibly make it to the end and play a game in October?” Maddon said. “That should never be the situation. My point is, we have to get guys that we think are ready to win right now, in that rotation, in order to get to where you want to be. Otherwise, you’re going to keep perpetuating this.”
In terms of free agent starting pitchers, pickings are slim. Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman, Robbie Ray, and Zack Greinke are the best options, while Corey Kluber and Justin Verlander remain riskier picks due to their age and injury history.
From this strong statement by Maddon, it feels extremely unlikely that players like Reid Detmers, Packy Naughton, Janson Junk, and even Jaime Barria are with the Angels next season. As it has been for a while, only Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, and Jose Suarez have made strong enough cases to be in next year’s rotation.
While hearing this type of passion from Maddon is excellent, he’s not the first Angels representative to promise better results and a more aggressive free agent strategy in the year following a disappointment. It’s up to him — and general manager Perry Minasian — to actually change the outlook of the team, rather than just say they will.
Maddon endorses Shohei Ohtani as clear MVP
Maddon quickly shut that down on Tuesday, saying that Ohtani is without a doubt the MVP this season, with all due respect to Guerrero.