It's mid-August and i'm running low on Angels baseball dope, trying my best to scrape some hype resin from the innards of the television and the remains of the ESPN broadcast, hoping to maybe get a little bit of buzz from it; my summertime homeostasis. It doesn't work, though. This stuff is bunk, I got burned on it big time. That feeling is setting in, I know I'll be tossing and turning for a few days to come. No Angels baseball worth writing home about, discussing in a dank bar or even angrily spewing about in a comments section leaves me shaking and feeling regret for things that were out of my control, yet I tied my fleeting happiness to it in July, convinced I'd be walking in high cotton come October, and now the Monday mid-August hangover and withdrawals are kicking in. I felt like a fool, the victim of an elaborate and convincing ruse to get me to go all in on a team that would just build me up to let me down, and mess me around.
The Angels are back home now, after a grueling road trip through Chicago and Kansas City that saw both the White Sox and Royals degrade and demean the Halos. They were already showing signs of hitting the skids before leaving for this little jaunt: series wins against the Indians and Orioles made the recent epic fails against Texas, Houston and the Dodgers not stick out as much as they should. Then they go on this road trip, where they failed to utilize RISP to an almost laughable degree, meanwhile their rivals, divisional and wild card, are all trending up and putting the Angels in their place, which is out of the playoff promised land.
That's right: the Angels are, as of now, out of the playoff picture for the first time since July 2nd. Ahhhhh...July. Remember July? July ruled. The Angels were playing out of their minds, including multiple vintage Albert Pujols sightings throughout the calendar month, Mike Trout shredding pitchers in Mike Trout fashion. It was sublime; an antidote for the front office and Jerry Dipoto acrimony that had stewed since spring training and boiled over with Dipoto's departure at the beginning of the July. All was well in the Halosphere. But it has all come crashing down, and we shouldn't be surprised.
This team is playing to what-should-be their expectations. In July, the Angels had a team average of .274, were slugging .454 and had a collective OPS of .789. In the three months before July, they were batting a collective .242 and had an OPS of .686. July was the 2015 Angels peak; the salad days. And with every peak, comes a valley, and they've found one in the form of their absolutely atrocious August where, in 15 games thus far, they've batted .217 with an OBP of .281. Then there is the ridiculousness of their inability to score with RISP, the reappearance of Bad Matt Shoemaker, the disappearance of Good Albert Pujols, the diminished Mike Trout, the epic ineptitude of the bullpen, especially closer Huston Street...dark days, my friends. Dark days.
We had a good thing going there for awhile, but it wasn't sustainable. The high would soon wear off and I almost want to give the Angels props for trying their best to re-up our mojo supply, get our bodies humming like tuning forks once again for Angels baseball, by winning a few games here and there against lowly opponents or flukes. They'll attempt to do that very same thing tonight, against the White Sox(again), but even if they can squeeze out a few victories here and there, the writing is now on the wall, in big, red, stenciled letters: This team is just not that good.
They will keep us in enough baseball fervor, just enough of a close race for the playoffs, that we will be fooled into thinking they have a chance. We will have glimpses of the highs that got us floating dangerously high in July, but the burgeoning AL West and Wild Card spots will be all for naught, and we will have to shore up for a long, hard, dope-sick winter. Some will say the playoffs are a crapshoot, and that the Angels just need to get in and then anything can happen. They think this because they've seen other teams do it in recent history, and they start hearing players' names they've never heard before, doing big, clutch things to propel their team into an unlikely World Series. Here's the thing, though: the Angels are not the Giants, or Royals, or Cardinals, or any other team that snuck in and then stole the whole damn show with a rag tag group of baseball mutineers. Those teams all had actual talent. If you've been watching the Angels and think the current Angels roster has multiple guys who are ready to step up and shine, then you've obviously been freebasing Mike Scioscia for too long, and we may have to stage an intervention.
What a cruel summer, and ultimately, a cruel joke. The Angels are slipping further and further away from contention, and as if these weren't the dog days of summer already, they've now gone ahead and gave us a whole new slew of worries and gripes. I just want to taste some of that July baseball again, and those appointment television broadcasts, and the boisterous and celebratory post-game atmosphere. Instead, i'm left trying to regain a high that is now two weeks dead, while doing whatever I can to wash the Buttercup taste out of my mouth.