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30 in 30

30 in 30: The 2020 Los Angeles Angels

2019 was a tough one for the Los Angeles Angels.

Angels Stadium by Kevin Zollman is licensed under CC BY 3.0

30 in 30: The 2020 Los Angeles Angels

Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The Los Angeles Angels had a tough 2019. After finishing the first half just one-game under .500, the Angels absolutely cratered in the second half. These fallen Angels then put up a 27-44 record, finishing September with a putrid 7-18 record for the month. That’s a tough pill to swallow for an organization that went through a lot during the season.

There is no human emotion quite like loss, and on July 12th, the Los Angeles Angels returned home to California after the All-Star break to play a baseball game and honor the memory of their teammate Tyler Skaggs, who passed away earlier that week.

Every Angels player and coach felt the memory of Skaggs on their shoulders, but on their backs is where they would carry him. By wearing his number 45, the Angels were honoring their fallen brother who passed away ahead of the all-star break. But no one could foresee just how much Tyler was looking over their shoulders.

Th Angels tapped Taylor Cole and Felix Peña for the start, and they quickly plowed through the Mariners lineup. Just trying to get through the night of emotions this intense would be considered a win. Instead, the Los Angeles Angels threw a combined no-hitter, all of them wearing #45.

But that’s why baseball is the way that it has been for over a century. It’s weird. A game where the impossible can happen with every passing moment, where the improbable lurks around each turn of an inning, and where sometimes the simplest thing is the hardest to complete.

Every night, each team sets out to get 27 outs, and for one final time, Tyler Skaggs got all 27 without giving up a single hit.

There’s no simple easy way to deal with loss. It stays with you, like a shadow. Sometimes the only way out is through. And there’s no way the Angels could have gotten through this game without Tyler Skaggs.

So there’s that lovely heartwarming story, and then the darker one emerges.

Skaggs’ autopsy revealed a combination of Oxycodone, Fetanyl and Alcohol in his system. So where did he get the drugs from? That would be the Angels Director of Communication Eric Kay, who told DEA agents that he had given three pills to Skaggs earlier in the week. At one point on the day Skaggs passed, Kay went to his room, witnessed him snort three lines of crushed up pills, two of which were Oxy, and the third being a substance Kay didn’t recognize.

Kay’s mother told Outside The Lines that her son began abusing opioid a few years after his father’s death in 1998. Over the last two years an arrangement was agreed to where Kay would get Skaggs the pills, and the Angels pitcher would then send him money via Venmo.

This is a big problem for the Angels and it’s likely not the last time we’ll hear about it. The Opioid problem in this country is real, and even professional athletes aren’t immune.

Maddon-ing For A Second Time

The Los Angeles Angels are in the midst of an organizational transition. With longtime manager Mike Scioscia teeing off in retirement, and Brad Ausmus being shown the door after one season, the Angels found their newest skipper in a familiar face. Joe Maddon is exactly the right person for this moment in LA. As a member of the 2002 World Series team, Maddon was one of three coaches on Scioscia’s staff to eventually helm their own teams. As Bud Black left for San Diego and Ron Roenicke left for Milwaukee, Maddon went to Tampa Bay. Six years after winning a ring with the Angels, Maddon was back in the Fall Classic.

Since then, he’s gone on to win another World Series ring with the 2016 Chicago Cubs, ending a 108 year drought at the Friendly Confines. After three more seasons in Chicago, Maddon and the Cubs parted ways, and he instantly became the frontrunner for Scioscia’s job.

When you think of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, what comes to mind? Is it Kris Bryant getting the final out? Is it Rajai Davis hitting a home run? Or is it Anthony Rizzo absolutely losing his mind?

For me, it’s Joe Maddon’s Angels hat.

When I saw him wearing it during an interview, my emotions began with confusion and then settled into that warm, cushy romanticism we all have about baseball.

Between Games 5 and 6, Maddon was asked if he had seen any good omens for the series.

“Omens, I don’t know,” he said. “I did see my dad’s hat in my bag today. I carry my dad’s hat with me.”

“He passed away in 2002, we won the World Series, and I’ve had his old Angel hat in my bag since then. So it goes everywhere. So the one thing I’m relying on today is my dad. I held onto his hat a little bit this morning, and that’s probably the omen in a sense going into this game.”

After Game 7 was over, and his team celebrated on the field, Maddon took his father’s hat out of his back pocket, and wore it.

In 1974, Joe Maddon signed a minor league deal with the Angels. After 5 years in their minor league system, he gave up the glove for a front-office job. Over the next few years, Maddon would be a scout, hitting coach and finally, a minor league manager until 1994. That season lead to Maddon’s call up to the Majors, as the Angels bullpen coach.

So it’s no wonder he wants to come back to an organization that gave him so much. That’s also because the Angels have two things any manager loves: Potential and Mike Trout.

Mike Trout is the greatest baseball player I will ever see play in my lifetime. That’s it. That’s all I need to say about him. So let’s move on…

Who Is David Fletcher? And How Is He Doing This?

There were a lot of surprises last season for the Angels, the biggest being David Fletcher. The sophomore second baseman came into 2019 without any real expectations of greatness. In their yearly preview, Baseball Prospectus predicted a slight uptick from his inaugural season, but then again, that was mainly due to the increased plate appearances.

Across the board, Baseball Prospectus, much like the rest of the rest of the world, compared him to David Eckstein. They’re not wrong. The only person who didn’t like the comparison was Fletcher.

In his first full MLB season, Fletcher put up peak-Eckstein numbers, and then bested them, and besting the majority of his teammates as well. When stacked up against his fellow Angels, David Fletcher was outplayed by one guy: Mike “If Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Joe Dimaggio and Tris Speaker Had a Baby” Trout.

But, aside from his WAR evaluation, Fletcher still out hit Trout by one point on their averages, and out hit Trout, who missed 28 games in 2019. If Fletcher can replicate those numbers again, the Angels infield is incredibly potent at the plate, especially when you add the newly acquired Anthony Rendon to the mix.

I would also like to tip my cap to Hansel Robles. You were sometimes solid for the Mets, and you were also garbage for the Mets. I am so very glad you found success in Los Angeles… unlike another former Queens resident.

So what does the future look like for the Angels? I think we’ll find out more in the coming year. The organization is in the midst of tactile change as well as internal identity struggle. But the shake ups this offseason have at least provided the Angels with the chance to start fresh.

With Maddon as their skipper, the Angels have a new manager for the first time in two decades. With Anthony Rendon signed onto a multi-year mega deal, the hot corner concerns have been solved. Now the only thing left to do is go out and win…

Well, that and get a solid starter or two, but baby steps…

If you’re an Angels fan you should be through the roof about the direction this team is trending. And while a long playoff run might not happen this year, it’s certainly in the cards down the line.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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