Finding the Angel Way
By David Peng
The Angels used to have a Way, and the Angel Way was distinctive and winning. Remember the Angel Way? Put the ball in play, take the extra base, play great defense. It was this simple formula that won the Angels their lone World Series in 2002.
It’s time to find the Angel Way again.
Billy Hunter, who was the third base coach for the powerhouse Earl Weaver Orioles in the 60s and 70s, described the Oriole Way to the Washington Post in 1978, “The idea was to established a system, so there was no difference in fundamentals from one level to the next. From the rookie league to the big league, the Orioles had the same pickoff plays, the same cutoff plays, how to defense the double steal, how to defense the bunt.”
In the same vein as the Oriole Way, or the famed Dodgers and Cardinals Ways of Branch Rickey’s heydays, creating the Angel Way isn’t necessarily about a specific style of play. Rather, it’s about creating an cohesive organizational philosophy built on a number of important factors, instilled into the franchise’s players from the farm system on up. Chief among those factors are talent and development, organizational consistency, and the willingness and guts to be patient.
All of these factors seem self-evident, and we see evidence of that in successful teams throughout baseball. The Astros and Cubs are perhaps the most obvious successes: Both organizations patiently suffered through extended downturns, eschewing free agent quick-fixes while trading for high-value prospects, focusing on young cost-controlled hitters who controlled the strike zone and hit for power. Does that all sound familiar?
Not to the Angels.
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Over the past decade, the impatience of owner Arte Moreno has pushed the Angels into a perpetual win-now attitude that hasn’t resulted in much winning at all. Rather than try and develop young players that the organization can build on affordably, the Angels have traded away a series of useful young players over the past decade: Darren O’Day, Mike Napoli, Randal Grichuk, Jordan Walden, Patrick Corbin, and Jean Segura were all former Angels, and all but Grichuk have been All-Stars.
Instead of showing patience, the Angels traded all of those young players for expensive busts (Vernon Wells) or damaged goods (Tommy Hanson) or terrific rentals that didn’t net the Angels a postseason (Zack Greinke, Mark Teixeira). When not trading for expensive busts, Moreno was signing them — players like Garry Matthews, Jr., Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton came to define the failure of the Angels over the past decade. Year after year of this type of mismanagement have made the Angels old, slow, expensive, and uncompetitive.
As a disappointing 2018 season rolls slowly towards a playoff-less October, the Angels are, surprisingly, in a position to change everything. Already in the majors now are three of the organization’s brightest prospects, Jaime Barria, David Fletcher and Taylor Ward. Four other farm prospects, Jo Adell, Jahmai Jones, Brandon Marsh, and Griffin Canning, have advanced rapidly through the system. Meanwhile, at the big league level, the Angels still have the Best Player In Baseball, along with the spectacular Andrelton Simmons still in his prime, Shohei Ohtani’s bat and (hopefully) arm, and a finally healthy Andrew Heaney. The team has been an unhappy mediocrity, but cupboard is hardly empty.
This is where patience has to be forced upon Arte Moreno, both by General Manager Billy Eppler, and by whomever Eppler tabs to be Manager Mike Scioscia’s successor in the dugout.