When Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced in mid-March that slugger Kendrys Morales would be put on the 15-day disabled list for a still tender toe resulting from his ankle surgery and broken leg last season, that placement pretty much ruled out any lingering ideas that Morales would actually get the start at first base for the Halos on Opening Day.
Well, now the starting roster is set, and Morales is not on it. Twenty-five-year-old rookie Mark Trumbo will take his place at first whether he's ready to step out of the minor-league dugout or not.
As reported by the Angels' site on MLB.com, Morales has reached a plateau with the toe injury (tip o' the hat to Scioscia for an obvious and unnecessary “pla-toe” pun). A disappointing prospect considering, as most Angels fans know, Morales was putting up MVP-calibre numbers in his breakout 2009 season–34 homers, 106 RBIs, .569 slugging–and was projecting similar stats for 2010 before the most depressing walk-off homer celebration in league history happened.
Most, including Scioscia, expected Morales to be ready by tomorrow's opener against the Kansas City Royals. But Morales still isn't quite ready–he can barely round the bases, making his manager reluctant to play him to start the season. After all, as Scioscia noted, the season is 162 games long, so Morales still has time to recover. The only problem is it's been almost a year since Morales actually broke his ankle, and the Cuban slugger was supposed to be all the way back by now.
So here's some of the things that may or may not happen before Morales ever actually gets another major league start for the Angels, or at least is well enough to contribute to a healthy season in Anaheim.
That Bobby Abreu will start aging backwards a lá Benjamin Button
Abreu has said a lot this spring that he's feeling younger than ever in his new DH role for the Halos. Surprising considering he's the oldest player on a team with other players who are ancient in baseball years. It's also surprising considering his nickname, “El Comedulce,” means “candy-eater.”
But Abreu really hasn't shown his age so far. His batting numbers are better this spring than they have been in the last two springs–before he dropped to a .316 average to finish spring ball, Abreu's BA topped .367 at one point with a .417 OBP.
Of course, exhibition-season power doesn't always predict regular-season success (Brandon Wood, we'll get to you later), and Abreu's hitting numbers took a significant drop off last season. His 20 homers were nice, but he didn't drive in nearly as many runs as he's used to: 78 RBIs in 2010, compared to the century mark he hit in each of his previous four seasons.
A lot of critics attribute the drop off to Abreu finally feeling the years start to weigh on him, but such a significant dip in production probably had more to due with a problem with the Angels' team offense than Abreu's batting alone. Proof? The Angels as a team hit an 18-year low in .OBP in 2010, getting on base at just a .311 clip. The previous two years? .350 and .330. Abreu can't drive in runs when the rest of his teammates are about as flaccid as a USC fraternity spokesman's excuses for this kind of behavior (though clearly his brothers aren't having that same problem).
The rest of the Halos' team batting stats also followed this trend, with the team hitting at a decade-low in nearly every category. Their strikeout numbers were telling as well: 1,070 Ks as a team. That's the second highest total for strikeouts in team history. So can you really blame Abreu's numbers for kicking the bucket along with a historically bad Angels' offense?
Halos fans should be happy El Luche is embracing his new role as a DH, a role in which he will flourish this season. Abreu is a rare combination of a power hitter who can also run the bases well: He's always been a dynamic stealer of bases, and his numbers in that category didn't take a dive last season along with his batting statistics. He stole 24 bases last year; not a career high by any means but still consistent with his production over the last few years. The speed that Abreu brings to the DH role will be a huge help in revving up an Angels' offense that lost any sort of fire-starter with Chone Figgins' departure after the 2009 season.
So, is it possible Bobby's new job as the Angels' big bat will actually start making him age backwards and start dating Cate Blanchett before Kendry returns? Considering how much time Morales is taking to heal up, it's entirely possible that every Halos fan will be in diapers again before that happens.
That Brandon Wood will actually become a functioning member of the Angels
Thankfully, this spring, the will he/won't he arguments have finally started to fade out when it comes to Wood. It's clear the Angels are starting to see the answer that's been right in front of them for the better part of two seasons now: he won't.
Wood had some good showings this offseason–over about a week span in the middle of March, the struggling infielder hit seven-for-20 with two home runs, a triple and double. Impressive, but even his usually solid spring numbers have dropped off this year.
Worse for Wood is that the Angels are all set at every position he could potentially fill–Trumbo at first, Howie Kendrick at second, Marcier Izturis at third, Eric Aybar at shortstop and with Alberto Callaspo filling in–so he's been relegated to a distant back up on the Opening Day roster.
The most likely outcome for Wood's career with the Angels? He's done. The Halos just have to clear waivers in order to dump him. The team could also find a buyer among rebuilding programs like the Toronto Blue Jays.
So what's more likely to happen, Kendrys coming back or Wood's time on the squad finally wrapping up? It looks like the Angels' woody for Wood has shriveled up faster than when this guy got the boot from his frat (yes, another boner/frat boy pun. You can never get too many jabs at those bros over at Kappa Sig).
That a fat man will complete the Los Angeles Marathon
Wait . . . that already happened. Professional sumo wrestler Kelly Gneiting finished the 26.2 mile run in 9:48:52 earlier this month. Before the race, he weighed in at exactly 400 pounds. After crossing the finish line, Gneiting slimmed down to a svelte 396.2 pounds, still enough for the people at Guinness World Records to officially declare him the fattest man to ever complete a marathon.
Gneiting told the Los Angeles Times after the race that he believes he is "one of the best athletes in the world.” Now that's an only-in-America kind of statement.
Granted, more than a few of the geezers (ahem, Abreu, Torii Hunter) on the current Angels roster probably couldn't finish a marathon by themselves, and in his current condition Morales can barely run from home plate to first. So give the big guy props for actually running the whole race.