2018 L.A. Angels: Trout gets some help

Gino Cimoli

Gino Cimoli scored the last run for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and was their first batter after they moved to Los Angeles, leading off the 1958 opener in his hometown of San Francisco. He ended his career with six plate appearances for the Angels less than a decade after it began. Cimoli didn’t debut in the majors until 1956 when he was 26, and that in Jersey City, N.J. (The Dodgers played seven games there in ’56 in an attempt to convince New York politicians they were serious about their desire for a new stadium. Moving to Los Angeles probably convinced the holdouts). Cimoli’s first season was abbreviated. He played in 73 games, about half as a defensive replacement, batting just 38 times. In 1957 Cimoli became a regular, batting .293, scoring 88 runs and making the All-Star team. The next year he slumped to .242 and was traded to the Cardinals for Wally Moon; he would play for a new team in each of the next four seasons. Traded to the Pirates after the 1959 season, Cimoli was an extra outfielder, batted .267 in 345 plate appearances, started Games 2-6 of the World Series when Bob Skinner hurt his thumb, and singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Game 7 with the Pirates down 7-4. The Pirates scored five, the Yankees two in the ninth, and the Pirates one in the ninth you might have read about. The Pirates traded Cimoli 21 games into 1961 to the Braves, who didn’t protect him in the Rule 5 draft and lost him to the Athletics. KC wasn’t very good, which enabled Cimoli to play a lot. He batted .275 with an AL-best 15 triples in 1962 in 607 plate appearances and 263 in 1963. He batted just 76 times over the next two seasons before being released. He finished 1965 playing for Spokane in AAA, where, according to his bio at sabr.org, his manager was old Dodger teammate Duke Snider. Cimoli died in 2011 at 81. Career numbers: .265 average, .315 on-base percentage, .383 slugging percentage, 808 hits, 44 home runs, 48 triples, 10 seasons, seven teams, 370 runs, 321 RBIs, 85 OPS+, 1.3 WAR (3.0 in 1957).

Next man up: The Angels farm system isn’t good, which was the argument behind trading Mike Trout for prospects. It was still wrong, but if you’re on the debate team, sometimes you have to defend a position you don’t believe. It’s the same when you’re chasing clicks. Besides Shohei Ohtani, Jaime Barrie pitched at three levels last year, compiled a 2.80 ERA and fanned 3.8 batters for every walk. His command is reportedly better than his stuff, which is probably better than the depth in the Angels’ rotation. That should be enough to earn him a promotion sometime this year.

What he said: Angels owner Artie Moreno on a contract extension for Mike Trout: “Let’s put it this way, it’s always in our minds.” What he meant: “We’ll let you know when the GoFundMe page is up.”

Three reasons it will be a good year: 1. Trout didn’t win the MVP last year, but only because he missed 48 games. His on-base percentage (.442), slugging percentage (.629) and OPS (1.071) all led the AL and all were career highs. He also stole 22 bases and, for the first time in his career, walked more than he fanned. He’s getting better. 2. A University of Oklahoma president once told football coach Bud Wilkinson they wanted to build a school the team could be proud of. The Angels might have finally built a lineup this year Trout could be proud of for the first time since 2014. Zack Cozart will be better than Yuniel Escobar at third, a declining Ian Kinsler will still be better than the dreck the Angels have payed at second since Howie Kendrick left and Justin Upton will be better than Ben Revere in left. Who wouldn’t be? 3. Ohtani has been called the Babe Ruth of Japan. If you believe the reports, he throws 100 mph fastballs and hits prodigious home runs. No word on how many hot dogs or adult beverages he can consume in a single setting.

Three reasons it won’t: 1. Trout’s getting better but Albert Pujols is getting worse, and his depreciation outpaces Trouts improvement. Pujols had a .672 OPS and led the AL in one category last season — grounded into double plays. Pujols hit into 26, though a lot of that is Trout’s fault. If he hadn’t been on base so often, Pujols would have hit into fewer. For $26 million, Pujols had career lows in walks (37) and batting average (.241) and a career high in strikeouts (93). Good news is Pujols’ contract only has four years left. 2. Of the top six pitchers in the Angels’ rotation, none pitched more than 85 innings in MLB last year. Garrett Richards has made six starts in each of the last two season, and Andrew Heaney has made six starts total in the last two seasons. By comparison, Tyler Skaggs, who missed all of 2015, seems like a workhorse for the 85 innings he pitched, his high since 2014. The Angels are a rotation in need of a reliable bullpen, and their’s won’t be that good. 3. It’s possible Ohtani is as good as the hype. But as good as professional baseball in Japan is, MLB is more difficult and more competitive. Tuffy Rhodes hit 13 home runs in six major-league seasons, 464 in 13 Japanese seasons. Whatever flaws Ohtani has might have been lost in translation.

Team Song: John Coltrane: Welcome

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