So, as someone was pointing out the other day, I used to do these "the Angels have been playing .600 baseball for X00 games!" posts, the last of which came on July 30, 2009 (perhaps tellingly, my last day as a 40-year-old), at which point the team had been winning 3 out of 5 for an astonishing 541 games, from May 17, 2006-onward. The exact starting point would differ according to the iron laws of mathematics, but the basic vibe was that either since May of that year, when Mike Napoli emerged as the starting catcher after the failed (ha!) Jeff Mathis experiment; or since July of that year, when Jered Weaver was finally ensconsed in the rotation for good, the Angels in 2006 stopped playing like ass, and started unleashing some serious WTF on the American League. The team went 72-45 after May 22, 54-29 after June 30, then followed that up with an average of 97 wins the next 3 seasons.
As I wrote in that July 30, 2009 post:
There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether we'll win 37 of the next 62 games, but at this point those who bet against it might start pondering whether the burden of proof lies with them, and not us.
The Angels, of course, won 37 of the next 62 games.
When all was said and done the 2006ish-2009 Angels ended up playing .600 ball for a total of 605 games, or 3.7 seasons. To put that in perspective, the following franchises have never finished a season with a .600 winning percentage -- Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins. It was just a damned good baseball team there for a nice long stretch. We'll probably never see its likes around here again.
How long has the current team been frustratingly mediocre? Well, let's do the .600 exercise in reverse. This year's 30-34 after last year's 80-82 gets us 6 games under .500 since the glory days passed us by. Walking 2009 results backward we see the team closed out a 97-win season with a 26-20 finish. Which means that since the morning of Aug. 19, 2009, the Angels have played .500 baseball over 272 games. And the trend lines are more ominous than that, too -- .565 to finish 2009, .494 for 2010, and .469 so far this year.
As happens frequently in both baseball and life, participants are often the last to discover that their status has suffered a devastating blow. It took Johnny Rotten in the sucktastic '70s to deliver England the news that it was "just another country," decades after it was obvious to everyone else. The Angels still think of themselves as an elite baseball team, but they're just not. One of many reasons why this might be Mike Scioscia's most interesting managing seasons yet.