Image credit: © Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
To dispense with the obvious, there was no Curse of the Bambino in Boston. There was nearly a century of poor management and even worse ownership. The curse that the Los Angeles Angels may be about to face—the Scourge of Shohei—need not last as long, but there’s no reason to believe this ownership will not do its utmost to take longer than it might otherwise have.
Shohei Ohtani was a unicorn the Angels lucked into, their second of the century after Joe DiMaggio turned out to have been reincarnated in the body of the 25th-overall pick of the 2009 draft. Their unearned luck has often been remarked upon, but it matters now only insofar as they can put it behind them, to disavow it and find a more reliable path forward. From Albert Pujols 12 years ago to Anthony Rendon four years ago they’ve strained without judgment to assemble the rest of a championship roster. The results speak for themselves: One playoff appearance (2014) in the Mike Trout years, none during the Ohtani years, and only losing records after 2015. With Trout’s constitution seemingly a spent force and Ohtani gone, it might be time to take the loss and consent to a rebuild that has been over 60 years in coming.
As manager of the Yankees, Casey Stengel once remarked that, “Them five-year plans are bunk. Look at us—we rebuild and win at the same time.” Whereas the Yankees of his time had advantages unavailable to today’s teams, such as the ability to sign any amateur prospect one could persuade to put his name to a contract, they also didn’t have free agency or access to the kind of international markets that brought Ohtani to America. A more recent Yankees example demonstrates how quickly a team can turn things around: In 2003, the Yankees went to the World Series with a starting rotation of Mike Mussina, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jeff Weaver, and Jose Contreras. During the winter that followed, almost all of them departed.