Angels superstar Mike Trout has reached all kinds of milestones during his illustrious 10-year career, winning the American League MVP Award three times, while also being an eight-time All-Star, a seven-time Silver Slugger and a two-time All-Star Game MVP. But in his 10 years with the Angels, he has made the playoffs just once, coming in 2014, as the club was eliminated from postseason contention with a 9-5 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night.
Trout, 29, will be 30 by the next time the postseason begins next year, meaning he never won a playoff game with the Angels in his 20s. (The club was swept by the Royals in the 2014 AL Division Series.) The Angels had high hopes coming into this season with new manager Joe Maddon and the addition of fellow superstar Anthony Rendon, but they couldn't overcome a slow start and were stuck with their fifth consecutive losing season.
“It seemed like in the offseason we made a lot of great moves,” Trout said. “Obviously, this COVID thing messed it up. Instead of playing a full season to see what we're capable of doing, it obviously got shortened. But every team had to deal with this. The biggest thing is getting the playoffs. You guys see it. I see it. It sucks, being out of it. It's time. We got to get to the playoffs.”
The Angels have a huge offseason ahead, and the first order of business will be whether or not to extend general manager Billy Eppler’s contract or move on to a new GM. Eppler was instrumental in signing Trout to a 12-year deal worth $426.5 million last year and helped improve the farm system, but the club has never had a winning record during his five-year tenure.
"Billy was a big reason I signed back here," Trout said. "Billy and I have built a friendship over the years. He's put a lot of great teams together, and, obviously, it just didn't work out these last these last few years. But the relationship and the friendship I've built with Billy goes beyond baseball now. I don't know what direction they're going to go or what's going to happen. I guess we'll see here in a couple of days."
Trout believes the Angels are heading in the right direction as a franchise. He pointed to the way the club has played over the last month or so. The Angels are 14-8 in September, and Trout thinks that with a longer season they would’ve continued to get better and become a postseason threat.
"We were on a pretty good stretch there," Trout said. "You look at this team that we have right now that we had this year, it could be a different story if we played a full season. We got hot just a little late, and we fell short."
As for Trout’s individual season, he has been mired in a late-season slump that’s expected to cost him a chance at winning a second straight AL MVP Award. He entered Saturday batting .281/.390/.603 with 17 homers, 46 RBIs and 41 runs scored in 53 games.
“You got to stay hot,” Trout said. “It's a short season. You always have that month in a full season where you're grinding or you're trying to figure out how to get back. It seems likes I had a couple good stretches and battled through a few more. It was a grind, for sure. Sixty games doesn't seem a lot, but it was. It was tough for me.”
Soto, 31, made his big league debut Friday as a pinch-runner.
“Elliot's a good baseball player,” Maddon said. “This is no joke. Give him credit for enduring as long as he has. If he does a couple things on the field that really impresses you, don't be surprised.”
“It's just backing off,” Maddon said. “There's really no injuries.”