The Angels hoped for the best, and this is what they got – Orange County Register

For as much as the Angels talked during spring training about how their expectations were higher than those of the rest of the baseball world, reality has hit them hard in the first quarter of the season.

The Angels are 16-28. It equals the second-worst start in franchise history, better only than their 14-30 record in 1969.

While it has been disappointing for the Angels and their fans, it should not be a surprise to anyone.

The Angels are here because of decisions they made, starting with owner Arte Moreno.

The Angels won 73 games last season and then lost Shohei Ohtani, who was both their best pitcher and best hitter. They did not replace him with either a frontline pitcher or hitter.

That was the result of Moreno’s decision to cut payroll. The Angels’ payroll, as it’s calculated for the luxury tax, was around $233 million in 2023, and it’s around $191 million for 2024, according to FanGraphs.

Moreno said during spring training that his plan was to “set the budget lower. … I’m not going to spend money just to show that we’re going to spend money unless it’s going to substantially change the team.”

Moreno said in that same interview that he was excited by the young players.

“I am in it because I believe we can build a team to win,” he said.

In order to win in 2024, the Angels needed significant development from their young core and improved health from their veterans.

Whether that was a realistic expectation or an overly optimistic fantasy, it’s clear that neither has happened so far.

Injuries have once again decimated the roster. Five of the 13 position players who were on the Opening Day roster are now on the injured list, including the three with the biggest salaries: Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Brandon Drury. (They could get Luis Rengifo and Miguel Sanó back in the next few days.)

The result has been a lineup that regularly includes players who were recently released or designated for assignment by other teams.

The Angels lost starting pitcher Chase Silseth, which resulted in José Soriano moving from the bullpen to the rotation. They lost reliever Robert Stephenson, who was their biggest acquisition of the winter. The top three experienced relievers remaining – Carlos Estévez, Matt Moore and Luis Garcia – have all underperformed.

As for the young players the Angels hoped would improve, outfielder Jo Adell is the only one who has done so. Shortstop Zach Neto, left-hander Reid Detmers and catcher Logan O’Hoppe – arguably the top three young players on the roster – are all essentially who they were last year. First baseman Nolan Schanuel didn’t play enough last season for anyone to really know what he could be this season, and he’s been understandably inconsistent.

Left-hander Patrick Sandoval, right-hander Griffin Canning and outfielder Taylor Ward have all lived up exactly to their career expectations. They have shown flashes of their potential, but with struggles in between.

All of the aforementioned players have clearly demonstrated the talent to be quality major leaguers, pieces of a winning team. Some nights they show it, like in their impressive victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

Many other days have been like Monday (the bullpen meltdown) or Tuesday (the failed squeeze), when they did plenty of things right, but just enough wrong to end up with a list of what-ifs and almosts that lead to a loss.

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