Mike Trout Sets Sights On Ending Angels MLB Playoffs Drought
As Mike Trout prepares to begin the second decade of his major league career, there is little he hasn’t accomplished. He’s won three MVP awards and is universally regarded as the best player in baseball. He signed the largest contract in Major League Baseball history and, by some measures, has already crossed the threshold for induction into the Hall of Fame before turning 30.
And yet, the one thing missing continues to loom large.
The Angels have only made the playoffs once in Trout’s career. As he enters his 10th full season, the questions about when he will be back in the playoffs are only growing louder.
“I mean, I hear it every year,” Trout said prior to the Angels first full-squad workout in Tempe, Ariz. “I think the only way to change that is just get to the playoffs, no matter how that is.”
The Angels have had five straight losing seasons and have not made the playoffs since 2014, when they were swept by the Royals in the American League Division Series. The most recent disappointment came last year when, despite an expanded postseason field, they went 26-34 and finished fourth in the American League West.
Trout did his part, batting .281/.390/.603 with 17 home runs, tied for third in the American League. But in a familiar refrain, the Angels were undone by a pitching staff that posted a 5.09 ERA.
With the offseason hiring of Perry Minasian, Trout has now played for four different general managers. All have made it a point to try and build a team around Trout capable of reaching the postseason. As team president John Carpino acknowledged after last season, the pressure is on to ensure the Angels don’t waste Trout’s prime.
“It's almost like a mortal sin in the Catholic faith,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You just can't miss out on that kind of an opportunity where you have that kind of generational talent.”
The list of generational talents to never reach a World Series is a long one. Ernie Banks, Ken Griffey Jr. and Rod Carew are among the many Hall of Famers who never reached the Fall Classic. Banks never even played in the postseason, with the Cubs posting a losing record in 13 of his 19 seasons.
In the latest attempt to make sure Trout doesn’t join that list, the Angels added veteran starters Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb, closer Raisel Iglesias, catcher Kurt Suzuki, shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Dexter Fowler in the offseason. Top prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are expected to begin the season in the minors but could join the team later in the year. The Angels 23rd-ranked farm system doesn’t offer much near-team help beyond Adell and Marsh, however, putting the impetus for improvement largely on the players already in the majors.
Trout said he was kept “in the loop” on the team's decision to hire Minasian and helped provide input on what he felt was needed to improve the team.
Every piece of input he gave was centered around one goal.
“I'm trying to get to the playoffs, obviously,” said. “We all are. I think if that’s not the mindset, you shouldn't be here.”
Trout turns 30 in August, a significant mile marker in today’s game. While he shows no signs of slowing down, it is understood he will be on the back half of his career in the 2020s.
There are reasons for optimism the Angels—and by default, his—playoff drought will end soon. The Angels were doomed by a slow start during the shortened 2020 season but finished the year 17-12. They finished in the top 10 in MLB in runs (ninth), home runs (10th) and on-base percentage (ninth) despite limited production from Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton. Albert Pujols’ contract expires at the end of the 2021 season, freeing up $30 million for the club to pursue roster upgrades. If expanded playoffs come in 2022, as MLB has stated it intends to make a priority in upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, that will only enhance the odds Trout gets to play on baseball’s brightest stage.
For now, all Trout can do is keep doing what he has been. He knows the sense of urgency to return to the postseason is growing. Far from feeling pressured by it, he welcomes it.
“We got one goal,” he said. “Get to the playoffs and win a World Series here.
“I'm getting older, for sure, but I'm still young. I still feel great.”