The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been one of the most consistent teams in the recent history of baseball, having played October baseball in 5 of the last 6 years. After going into 2010 with high hopes and expected to make a playoff run, they’re 64-68, needing a late push just to finish at or above .500.
The reason for the Angels’ struggles dates back to May 29th. Kendry Morales, the Halos’ first baseman who had placed 5th in AL MVP voting in 2009, hit a game-winning walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning of a 5-1 win against the Mariners. Morales jogged the bases and jumped on home plate, into the waiting arms of his jubilant teammates.
But instead of a moment for celebration, this became the beginning of the end in the Angels’ quest for a world championship in 2010. Morales’ ankle buckled as he hit the plate awkwardly, fracturing his left lower leg and costing him the season in one of the weirder freak injuries most sports fans have seen.
The Angels didn’t just lose a good hitter. They lost a team leader and by far the franchise’s best hitter. At the time of the injury, Morales led the team in average (.290), home runs (11) and RBIs (39). Morales was the single most valuable run producer in the Angels’ lineup, and losing him was a blow Los Angeles simply couldn’t come back from.
The Angels have scored 579 runs in 2010, good for 18th in MLB. At that pace, they’ll end up with 711 runs scored by the end of the season. In 2009, they scored 883 runs, second only to the Yankees. Morales’ absence has everything to do with this discrepancy.
In getting Morales back, the Angels will likely return to being one of the top run producing teams in baseball. So wait til next year, Angels fans, and expect to see a lot more Halos players crossing the plate. But you knew that already.
Check back tomorrow, when we’ll be looking at the New York Mets, another big-budget team whose results haven’t been in line with expectations.