How did the Angels manage to waste six years of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani? At least part of the answer is Arte Moreno’s inability to see the forest for the trees on supporting his investment.
It depends on the team, but spring training is sometimes divided into two groups who use different facilities entirely: the major leaguers and the minor leaguers. For the last three springs, Angels major leaguers have trained at the facility intended for minor-league use, because of planned renovations on the Tempe, Ariz.-based big-league facility. (As of this spring, those renovations still had not begun.)
“It’s the oldest and worst facility in Arizona,” said a former Angels official, echoing current Angels officials. “I would imagine it’s probably the worst in all of spring training.”
Major-league and minor-league camps are usually in the same complex or general vicinity. Not with the Angels. Hosting MLB camp on the minor-league side created a trickle-down effect: minor leaguers have been training at an old San Francisco Giants venue in Scottsdale, which is also not a high-quality venue and is located miles from the Tempe complex.
That might sound bad, but Wilson maintains that in some ways, life at Angels spring training actually used to be worse. In August, Wilson tweeted that the team didn’t provide breakfast for players one year during the first week of spring training. There was also no standard indoor weight-room facility available at the time, a combined situation he called “f—— crazy.” Instead, three sources recalled how, for years during the 2010s, the spring weight room was “in a makeshift tent in the parking lot.”
There’s plenty more. It’s obviously tempting to connect the problems that Trout has had remaining healthy and that Albert Pujols had in achieving late-career productivity to training and facility issues, although we should approach such claims with caution. But the fact that the Angels were consistently behind the industry standard in training, fitness, and kinematics offers at least a clue as to why the franchise failed despite having two of the greatest players in history peaking at the same time.
See also on Ohtani:
This year was his best yet, perhaps the most remarkable season by an individual in baseball history. It started when he played for Japan in the World Baseball Classic in March, where he recorded the hardest-hit ball of the tournament and tied for the fastest pitch. The first five times he pitched for the Angels, he allowed a total of eight hits, the fewest by a starter to open a season in modern history. After that, he seemed to do something every week that hadn’t been seen in years, or ever. Some feats were the obscure sort baseball likes to keep track of, like becoming the first player since 1964 to steal a base and homer in a game that he started on the mound; or his accumulation of especially long home runs. Others were more historic. He was only the second player ever to lead his league in both homers and triples at the All-Star Break, for example. On July 27, he reached an apotheosis of sorts by throwing a one-hit shutout against the Detroit Tigers in the first game of a doubleheader, then hitting two home runs in the second game, another combination without precedent. “In our lifetime, we’ve never seen anything like it,” says Manny Machado, the San Diego Padres’ All-Star third baseman. “I didn’t believe it when he first came over here, that it would be possible. But he’s proven me and a lot of other people wrong.”