Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani — baseball’s would-be saviors — need rescuing themselves.
Their Los Angeles Angels are headed toward another dreadful finish, another missed postseason. They’ve got an interim manager, a long-shot plan to build a contender one day and a 39-53 record.
Heading into the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, Trout and Ohtani are stuck in Major League Baseball purgatory with an organization that somehow can’t figure out how to feed off their prowess and win. Call it Dante’s nine innings of baseball hell.
If these two must continue losing, the Angels should at least make it fun. It’s time for the outlandish. How about on-field shoulder rubs to work out the tensions as the losses pile up? I’m all in for no bunting and hitters stealing first base.
We can call it Project Troutani. Or Operation Shout. Take your pick. It’s all about creating a new atmosphere.
Think of the anguish these guys go through, watching their All-Star seasons, ginormous home runs and pitching shutouts go for naught.
For all their pre-eminence, all the “oh my God, did you see that?” moments they provide to fans, Trout and Ohtani deserve a carefree, joyful baseball life in exchange for the drumbeat of defeats.
We can start with a mandate: Trout and Ohtani should be allowed three timeouts per game to call on a masseuse for pressure-releasing, on-field neck and shoulder rubdowns.
Maybe that would ease the strain. It could also give their fans time to reckon with the reality of this season. The Angels are heading full throttle for a seventh straight season finishing under .500 and their eighth straight without making the playoffs.
What a mess. Trout, still in his prime at 30 and already the winner of three American League Most Valuable Player Awards, has been to the playoffs once. He has one postseason hit, albeit a home run.
Ohtani, 28, had a season in 2021 unlike any baseball has seen since the days of Ted (Double Duty) Radcliffe and Babe Ruth. He won the American League M.V.P., led the league in triples and amassed a 9-2 record as a pitcher. Ohtani has been in a playoff before, even won a championship — with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan’s Pacific League.
These two are not just stars, they are supernovas. Yet their careers are becoming meditations on genius unfulfilled.
Sure, these two will end up with millions by the bushel. But the fattest of bank accounts can’t buy the happiness that comes with winning. What can we do to make life better as Trout and Ohtani lose? Maybe we start by helping them stay out of the life-sucking Southern California traffic on game days. Elon Musk has some time on his hands. Hey, Elon, to make up for toying with Twitter, how about you build a test case for your long-awaited underground tunnels, digging one that links Casa Ohtani and Villa Trout to the Angels’ locker room?
I say it’s time to allow the Angels to have in-game barbecues in the dugout. They deserve their burgers and beer — along with Ohtani’s favorite griddle crepes — for all the losses endured.
While we’re at it, to save on the wear and tear, let’s have both players driven to the field each and every inning in a souped-up golf cart, one with a leather couch shaped like a baseball mitt. (Yeah, I stole that idea from the carts used to ferry pitchers to the mound at the Tokyo Olympics, but why not?)
My apologies to the interim manager, Phil Nevin, but he’s not long for the Angels at this rate. Let Trout be a player and manager, running the team from center field. If he does that, maybe, just maybe, he becomes something more than an unknowable machine of a slugger. Perhaps Trout begins channeling his inner Billy Martin, starting dust-ups with umpires, getting tossed and throwing fits. Baseball fans would finally find out that he does, indeed, have a personality.
If they continue losing, at least everyone around Trout and Ohtani could have fun — the team and fans alike. The Angels should get it. They’re the team that gave us the rally monkey, after all. And players have taken to crowning teammates who hit home runs with a cowboy hat, a nod to the team’s 2002 World Series victory.
Funbeing the mission, we might as well make the most significant change of all. Until they start winning big, probably around 2030, at this rate, every Angels game should be played under Banana Ball Rules.
Those are the rules created by the Savannah Bananas, a collegiate summer league baseball team taking a torch to baseball tradition in the name of … taking a torch to baseball tradition.
The team with the most runs in each inning earns a point, and the team with the most points wins the game.
No game lasts longer than two hours. There’s no stepping out of the batter’s box.
A hitter can steal first base and score on a walk (yeah, that last part is a little complicated, but what a lark).
If a fan catches a ball in the stadium, it’s an out.
And, oh yeah, bunting is banned. As the Savannah Banana website explains: “If a batter bunts, they will be thrown out of the game.”
No bunts? Now that’s a match made for Trout and Ohtani.
Look, yeah, this is all crazy, cheeky, out-there stuff. But we’ve got to try something. Because without a change in circumstances, the Angels will end up with the most boring of baseball outcomes: their stars becoming New Yorkers.