Anaheim, Calif. — Every time Reid Detmers opens Twitter, his feed is curated to a single topic. Not by choice, but it’s all he sees. What will his team, the Angels, do with Shuhei Ohtani at the trade deadline?
They are the talk of baseball, and for good reason. Their fortunes over the next two weeks are directly linked to the fate of the sport’s greatest talent. Their impending decision comes with massive ramifications for their team, Ohtani, and baseball itself.
Players have an indirect say in the matter. Their failure to lose 11 of their 13 games saw them knocked out six games out of the playoffs with August 1 fast approaching. It’s no secret that Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to avoid parting ways with his two-way star. Any excuse to keep him would almost certainly be welcome.
Angels players are well aware of these implications. They know the rage their predicament causes across the sport.
“You obviously see it everywhere,” Detmers said. “It’s all in the freakin’ MLB network. Everyone tweets about it. … And people start tagging us. It’s hard not to see it.”
Detmers was also clear that he had a responsibility to try and stop him and his team. Don’t let the conversation upset or affect them. It is a task that is easier demonstrated in an interview than practiced in real life.
Over the next two weeks, the Angels—a 46-48 team, fourth in the AL West—will command the attention of the nation. It is a fact that players accept. And one made by them. The Angels were in the second random slot recently on June 28th. They have spent the time since completely and completely breaking up at the worst possible time of the year.
There was no chance the Angels had even considered trading Ohtani prior to this inopportune slip. GM Perry Minassian noted as much, saying on June 20 that he was “self-explanatory” when asked if he would consider trading Ohtani.
Now, the team is in a state of uncertainty and heading towards insignificance in the context of ranking. Players should provide some clarity.
“We need him here to get us where we want to be,” said Angels outfielder Taylor Ward. “So I just want to do my best. And hopefully everyone will want to do their best to keep him here. I think it will be interesting to see what happens. But hopefully we can win games and keep him here.”
The Angels have had two team meetings over the past few weeks. One of them came after Mike Trout fell with a broken wrist on July 3 in San Diego. The team responded by losing their last four games before the All-Star break.
Next came at a group practice the day before the start of the second half. That was led by veteran Mike Moustakas who had only been with the team for a few weeks.
The message was generally consistent. Whatever they want is still in front of them. The situation the team is experiencing has also been addressed. Players may not do the same cold calculations as the front office. But they have access to the arrangement. They understand what is happening.
“Rumours have been going around the league all year,” said director Carlos Estevez. “You don’t know which is right, and which is wrong. The best thing you can do is come back with the same effort, whatever you hear.”
“If he’s going to be traded, he’s going to be traded. There’s nothing we can control as players, but play hard.”
Estevez was in the All-Star game. He said he heard players from other teams ask Ohtani about his future, and what he wanted to happen at the trade deadline.
Closer Angels said he appreciated Ohtani’s answer. Which, in many ways, wasn’t too different from what he’d said publicly all year.
“It was like, ‘Man, there’s nothing I can do,'” Esteves recalled saying. “And I wouldn’t worry about things that I didn’t know were going to happen or not. But I just want to get to the playoffs. That’s all he was saying.”
The playoffs seem a long way off, despite Otani’s runaway AL MVP campaign. Tungsten Arm O’Doyle is a fictional character rooted in an inescapably nuanced narrative. The idea that Ohtani and/or Mike Trout would do something amazing and unprecedented in losing the Angels.
He doesn’t follow the perfect formula every game. But there is a general line in the past few seasons. Otani hit his 34th Premier League home run of the season on Sunday. Lost angels. The Angels stare at the possibility of losing Ohtani in free agency without having a winning season in Anaheim.
His colleagues hope there will be time to rewrite that story. They want an opportunity to show what they can do.
“Everyone at this club knows that the only control we have is the handling of our business,” said Mickey Moniak, a message echoed by many. He added that Ohtani’s dilemma does not cross his mind. They just focus on winning. Similarly, Patrick Sandoval quipped that he only hears about Otani’s business talk from reporters who ask him about it.
Bowden: The Angels should trade Otani. What teams (and packages) can land him?
Whether they’re thinking about it or not, blocking out the noise is easier said than done. Sunday’s game was broadcast on ESPN. Angels manager Phil Nevin gave an interview midway through the game and tied the score at 1-1 going into the fourth. I’ve been asked two questions. The latter was about the speculation surrounding the possible trade of Otani.
They may want to focus on playing. in the Management. in handling their business. But there is no escape from this engrossing day of questions. Not even in the middle of a game.
“You can’t ignore the talk and what’s going on. You hear it every day,” Nevin said earlier Sunday, in response to a different query from Ohtani. “He asks me about it every day. … Yes, the more matches we win, the better chance we have of Shuhei being our teammate for the rest of the year.”
(Photo of Shuhei Ohtani celebrating with his Angels teammates: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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