By Jeff Miller, The Orange County Register
The Angels will not, contrary to the consensus, finish third in their division this season.
They will not, as suggested by The Sporting News, finish fourth, ahead of only Houston, a team that lost 111 times in 2013.
And they will not, as Sports Illustrated’s website just forecast, finish with the same record — 78-84 — they had last year.
No, the 2014 Angels will…
Win the World Series!!!
Remember, you read it here first, where the Orange County Register has learned, according to sources familiar with the way the baseball gods are thinking, that Mike Scioscia will guide this team to the second title in franchise history.
Hey, everyone else reports the news this way today, without attribution of the facts, so why can’t we?
And who even needs proof or evidence or anything more concrete than belief when it comes to predicting the order of finish for a 162-game season that hasn’t started yet? Not even this sport can quantify hope, and baseball gathers stats on everything but the spitting.
A year ago, we based our preseason thinking on a pile of facts, all of which pointed to Boston finishing last in the American League East. So that’s what we forecast. Well, that turned out to be a pile all right, a pile of something other than facts.
The Red Sox instead won the World Series. So maybe Angels fans shouldn’t get too excited about what they’ve read here to this point.
But, as wrong as we were last spring about Boston, why can’t everyone else be equally wrong right now about the Angels? If this game was meant to make sense, a ball that hits the foul line wouldn’t be fair, right?
The Red Sox won last season despite having only one pitcher with more than 12 victories, only one hitter with more than 25 home runs and no one among the top 12 in WAR. They won a year after going 69-93.
Jeez, the 2013 Angels finished nine games better than that. You don’t have to be the Rally Monkey — or an Angels’ broadcaster — to find belief in that statistic. Still…
“I like the Angels to be better,” one expert said. “But I’m afraid Mike Scioscia doesn’t have enough in his rotation to get this team back into the postseason.”
That expert was Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who clearly is looking at this from the perspective of someone bogged down in reality.
Maybe Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, and Tyler Skaggs aren’t exactly well known right now. But we knew plenty about Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton, and Tommy Hanson a year ago, and look at how well that turned out.
“I’m not nervous at all,” Jerry Dipoto said of his team’s young pitchers. “I’m very excited for those players.”
As the Angels’ general manager, Dipoto obviously doesn’t have to concern himself with reality, which explains why Blanton’s still around. Even the Angels owner, Arte Moreno, likes to fantasize. That’s a topic we’ll be sure to ask him about, after he moves the team, as some have suggested, to Hawaii.
At least we’re taking a positive approach to this coming season, something that isn’t easy to do when writing about a team as generally joyless and staid as the Angels have been the past few years.
Then again, when you’re supposed to win, when you’re paid like a team that should win, and you keep missing the playoffs, perhaps being only joyless and staid actually is an accomplishment.
In other words, things could have been worse around here, and how frightening is that possibility to fans who have been suffering since the Angels’ most recent postseason appearance, back in 2009?
We still think there’s a decent chance this is all the fault of Gary Matthews Jr., who, somewhat incredibly, remains the last Angel to bat in the playoffs. If that seems hard to believe, recall that he did so as a pinch-hitter, batting for Mike Napoli.
If that, too, seems hard to believe, take comfort in knowing that Matthews did something in that final at-bat that is staggeringly plausible. He struck out.
Anyway, Matthews’ time with the Angels was not terribly positive and was, more to the point, an embarrassment. The only memorable thing he produced here were suspicions of HGH use. The team still might be paying for Matthews’ sins.
But that all ends now, with a season that will feature the return of Albert Pujols, the continuation of Mike Trout, and even the resurfacing of Josh Hamilton. The young pitching will emerge and the bullpen finally will be solidified.
Why? Sorry, that’s not the question right now.
The question is why not? If the 2013 Red Sox could do it, why not the 2014 Angels, another team expected to do nothing?
That’s what the Register is reporting today, regardless of whatever Sports Illustrated says. We like to fantasize, too, you see, and we don’t have a swimsuit issue to do it.
AFP Photo/ Jamie Squire