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The Angels distilled themselves to their essence last night

Mariners’ Sam Haggerty runs by Angels ‘catcher Max Stassi and heads for home plate in the ninth inning against the Angels.

Mariners’ Sam Haggerty runs by Angels ‘catcher Max Stassi and heads for home plate in the ninth inning against the Angels.
Image: Getty Images

In 10 or 20 years, baseball fans will look back in wonder at what the Angels have accomplished. Or to put it more accurately, all they’ve squandered. There has been no bigger sinkhole than the Angels, considering the resources on hand. They have best player of his generation and literally the most unique player in baseball history, and they couldn’t even whiff a playoff spot. And in a time when MLB passes around playoff spots like a joint if you’re in the least bit interested.

And the Angels have been interested! It’s not like they haven’t tried. They aren’t the Cubs, Pirates, or Marlins. They’ve wanted to be good. And yet they’ve found every way to not be good. This is baseball’s (and possibly’s American sports’) collapse of Rome. Except Rome had accomplishments and dominance to look over before Nero picked up the stringed instruments with the Visigoths rapping on the door. The Angels were given everything and were only able to construct Rockford.

It’s been so bad that most of the discussion around the Angles is whether they can, or should, hold on to the two greatest gifts in baseball: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Trout, with his injury problems and salary, might be immovable if they were so inclined. Ohtani, on the other hand, seems a dead cert to be in a different uniform at some point in the next two years. Ohtani has recognized the bilge around him far quicker than Trout did, and will be the latest star to realize his team isn’t worthy of him.

And if he didn’t realize it before, last night’s ninth inning left no doubt. Ohtani wasn’t his usual fireworks factory last night, but he did throw six innings giving up only two runs. And the Angels got to the ninth tied at two with the Mariners. And with one out, it went full Angels, reducing the last 10 years of Angels baseball into one half-inning.

After a one-out walk to Sam Haggerty (who has been somewhere between Ty Cobb and Ares of late), Max Stassi began to see ghosts behind the plate and turned a barely wild pitch (untamed pitch?) into a stolen base for Haggerty.

Haggerty then immediately stole third with Stassi and the Angels still in a daze, then Carlos Santana walked, and that’s when the daze went into a full-out fugue state:

First baseman Jared Walsh was certainly asleep on the trigger here, though no more than pitcher Aaron Loup, either of whom should have covered home. But that’s the minutiae. This is all just the malaise that is being the Angels. You can’t fight this mist, only become it. We have a decade of evidence of that.

The Mariners would get two more runs without the ball leaving the infield, as the next hitter Ty France grounded to shortstop Andrew Velasquez, who attempted to cut down pinch runner Dylan Moore at home. But Stassi was already lost to the Angels (and society really), vacuumed up by whatever force cloud of silliness has enveloped him and all his teammates and the entire organization.

The M’s would get yet another run on a grounder after that, and then JP Crawford would single in the sixth. That’s three runs for Seattle without the ball ever leaving in the infield. Or at least never leaving the infield off a bat. It left the infield a couple of times out of Angels’ hands, perhaps a symbol of how they’ve tried to grab success and watched it spill into a faraway land.

There is no clearer illustration of the Angels’ plight than losing to the Ms, a team that spent its fair share of time in the wilderness of stupid before finally stumbling on a cohesive plan they’ve stuck to, and are in the thick of the playoff race now. And then there’s the Angels, doing whatever it is they do late at night when the true creatures roam, but not in a dangerous way, just drifting in the dark and in the alleys merely hoping the next corner will take them somewhere.

Or maybe there is no greater illustration than this:

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