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At least you tried: Phillies vs. Angels series preview

The Angels have tried - and failed - to build a winner

Los Angeles Angels v New York Mets
Building a winner around Shohei Ohtani shouldn’t be this difficult
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Facing a last place team, the Phillies did what they needed to do: Kick the crap out of them. That was the most dominant series the Phillies have played against the Cardinals in quite some time. It’s telling that the finale was a three-run win that featured a gem of a starting pitching performance, and it was viewed as somewhat of a disappointment.

This week, another bad team comes to town in the form of the Angels. The Angels are a weird franchise, in that they’ve had perhaps the two best players of the last 20 years on their roster, and still can’t sniff a playoff spot. But to their (mild) credit, it isn’t for a lack of trying.

Los Angeles Angels

Record: 63-68, Fourth place in American League West (11.5 games back)

The manager

Last season, the Phillies fired their manager in early June. Immediately after the firing, they played a series against the Angels and had their way with them. The Angels must have been inspired by the move, because shortly after, they fired their manager, Joe Maddon, and replaced him with Phil Nevin.

The technique was not nearly as successful for the Angels. Their record in 2022 was even worse after the firing, and despite having perhaps the best player in baseball history, the Angels are likely going to miss the playoffs once again.

It seems like maybe it isn’t the manager’s fault.

The last time they met

Heading into last June’s series, with the Angels, the Phillies had lost their previous 12(!) games against them.

But the morning the series began, the Phillies replaced Joe Girardi with Rob Thomson. That night, with me in attendance, the Phillies’ players showed how much they liked the firing by demolishing the Angels 10-0. (One of my favorite memories of the game was my mother commenting on the Angels player with the long beard, saying “He looks dirty.”)

The Phillies followed that up with a 7-2 win the next day and finished out the series with clutch home runs by Bryce Harper and Bryson Stott in one of the best games of the season.

What’s the deal with the Angels?

They’ve tried, they really have. Despite Phillies fans hoping to wish him into red pinstripes, they made a long-term commitment to Mike Trout. They signed Shohei Ohtani. They theoretically bolstered the roster with players like Anthony Rendon and Hunter Renfroe. Even with the playoffs seemingly a longshot, they made some moves at the trade deadline.

It just hasn’t worked.

A historical look at the Angels

Founded in 1961, the Angels have forever been known as Los Angeles’ second team. They have only made it to the World Series once, and according to Baseball Reference, prior to the arrival of Trout, the best player in franchise history was Chuck Finley. Those of you who remember the 1980’s probably remember Finley as the guy who got beaten up by the girl from the Whitesnake video. That incident provoked this amazing story:

I knew the Angels won the World Series in 2002, and though I’m far from a historian, I was surprised I couldn’t name a single player on that team without looking it up. The only thing I remember about that team was the monkey. (I was today years old when I learned that the monkey was the same one from Friends.)

As it turns out, the 2002 roster was loaded with guys I know, I just associate them all with other eras, other teams, or I’d just kind of forgotten about them.

Aside from that World Series, and their inability to build a winner around some of the greatest players in history, the Angels franchise is most famous for this scene:

That led to me to ponder an important question:

Fallen stars

Mike Trout is on the Ken Griffey Jr. career path. After an amazing start to his career that put him in the “Top 10 player ever” conversation, over the past few seasons, he’s faded from that kind of talk, and is now “merely” a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Injuries have taken their toll on Trout, and after a brief return, he is back on the Injured List and may remain there for the rest of the season.

The good news for the Angels is that Ohtani will still be able to DH for them, and he’s been one of the best offensive players in baseball. The bad news is that he was also their best pitcher, and due to an injury, he won’t be able to do that anymore.

Who’s left to pitch?

Ohtani won’t be pitching, but here are the starters the Phillies will be facing:

Lucas Giolito

Like I said, I’ll give the Angels credit for trying. Last month, they traded for a former All-Star having a good season. Naturally, in his five post-trade starts, he’s 1-4 with a 6.67 ERA.

Tyler Anderson

After an All-Star season in 2022, the Angels thought he’d be a nice addition to their rotation. He has a 5.35 ERA on the season and has gotten roughed up in his last few appearances.

Reid Detmers

After a solid rookie season in 2022, the Angels thought they might have had something, but based on his ERA of 5.03, it seems like all they may have is another bad starting pitcher. To be fair, he was having a good season before getting demolished in a couple of starts earlier this month.

His name also basically sums up the Philadelphia Eagles around the turn of the century.

Oh Mickey, you’re so fine?

Former Phillies #1 overall pick Mickey Moniak got off to a fast start upon his call up in May, prompting a few “should of kept” takes.

That ignores that the Phillies kind of traded him (remember, they made two separate trades on the same day) for a better player who is actually younger than Moniak in Brandon Marsh.

After that fast starts, Moniak’s numbers have gotten progressively worse as the season went on, including a dismal showing in August.

I’ll be honest: I know it was a bad draft to have the top overall pick, but I never liked the selection, and his 13 home runs this season are more than I ever thought he’d hit. But good for him for at least showing he can be a viable major leaguer. Hopefully it works out for him, but considering what team he’s on, it probably won’t.

Other former Phillies!

In addition to Moniak (as well as catcher Logan O’Hoppe who was part of those dual trades), the Angels have two former Phillies in their bullpen.

After their tenure with the Phillies ended, I didn’t think Matt Moore nor Aaron Loup would even still be in the league in 2023. But not only are they still in the league, but they’re the primary lefthanders in the Angels’ bullpen.

Loup has been shaky, but Moore has been mostly excellent, and makes me wonder why the Phillies didn’t give him a legit chance as a reliever in 2021.

Non-Phillies thought

I watched the first episode of Ahsoka, and quickly realized it might not be for me. I knew that the character is from the cartoons, and having not watched most of them, I understood that I’d be missing some backstory. But this is pretty much a direct sequel to Star Wars Rebels, and since I didn’t watch that, I was a little lost. Still, the lightsaber action was cool.

Closing thought

The Cardinals series was fun, and I’d like to see the Phillies do the same thing against the Angels. For the fans who want to see Ohtani do something special, I’m all for him hitting a couple home runs as long as the Phillies can win comfortably.

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