Buy Me Some Peanuts and Nickelback
The Angels tried to stop their 13-game losing streak by playing nothing but Nickelback songs when their hitters went to bat last night. They got shut out.
I was going to write about the Angels firing manager Joe Maddon on Wednesday morning after their 13th consecutive loss, but it’s a good thing I waited, because the team did something even more jarring last night to try to turn things around. That’s right: rather than have players use their customary walk-up songs, each Angel stepped into the batter’s box to a different Nickelback tune. Even more hilarious, the players themselves did not sign up for this.
From Sarah Wexler at MLB.com:
It was a decision the Angels’ coaching staff made in order to change things up a bit, one the players didn’t know was coming. Bally Sports West reporter Erica Weston suggested during the game’s broadcast that the specific source of the idea was likely staff assistant Tim Buss, the man responsible for the cowboy hat players wear in the dugout after homering.
“It definitely threw us off guard a little bit,” said starting pitcher Reid Detmers, who delivered 4 1/3 scoreless innings. “That's just trying to keep us loose, have some fun.”
The word “fun: is doing a lot of work here. My man Alden Gonzalez from ESPN came through with the setlist:
This was not a drill. Angel fans went to a ball game last night and a Nickelback concert broke out, because apparently those fans have not suffered enough. I wasn’t at the Big A last night, and it’s a good thing because Nickelback is not my scene. There were SO many other artists that staff assistant Tim Buss could have used to shake up the team’s juju. Beyoncé, for one, has never lost at anything in her life. And what about Harry Styles? My unproblematic fave has the number-one album in the world right now, two highly anticipated movies coming out, a hot, successful girlfriend, and when I met him years ago he smelled great! Did staff assistant Tim Buss choose Nickelback as a joke *because* they are unlistenable? Was this a failed attempt at a reverse jinx?
The Angels had poor rookie Jo Adell walking up to a song that’s second line goes, ‘It’s like the bottom of the ninth and I’m never gonna win.” !! (I don’t know any Nickelback lyrics, so shout out to my bestie Casey Newton for texting me with that tidbit.)
Spoiler alert: The Angels did have a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth but they failed to score a run, and lost to the Red Sox 1-0. They have now dropped a franchise-record 14 games in a row. And it’s a good thing, too, because if the club had pulled off some kind of miraculous walk-off win, then Nickelback would have replaced the rally monkey and Angels fans would be subjected to songs from that band during games until the end of time. Don’t believe me? Here’s Alden again:
It’s true! The team runs onto the field each home game to “Calling All Angels” by Train. It’s an early aughts vibe! Which unfortunately is also the last time the Angels were any good.
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There are myriad reasons why the Angels have lost 14 in a row. Mike Trout was 7 for his last 46 during this skid, then he got hurt. Shohei Ohtani has given up nine runs in his last two starts. The rest of the starting rotation has been awful, outside of Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen. Anthony Rendon is injured (again). I watched a game where they had some guy in right field who looked as scared as I would be out there and seemed to lose every ball in the lights because baseball is hard.
I blame myself for this Angels mess. Back on May 12 I wrote a newsletter proclaiming my absolute joy that the Angels were finally relevant again and Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout were going to play meaningful games in October. They’ve gone 6-19 since.
It’s hard to know if changing managers will right this ship when it seems like the organization’s troubles run much deeper. I like third-year general manager Perry Minasian, and my gut feeling about him was solidified when he had the decency to drive to Joe Maddon’s home to fire him. That’s a level of class that wouldn’t dawn on many men in this cutthroat industry, where people are more likely to find out they’ve been canned or traded from a reporter’s tweet than from a team executive face-to-face.
When Minasian took over, it was clear he had a ton of work to do to turn the Angels into contenders, and I think this work might be better tackled by a more progressive coaching staff open to using the kinds of information that winning teams like the Dodgers, Astros and Braves use. It’s not a fluke that guys like Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Tyler Anderson have all gone to the Dodgers as middling players and turned into exceptional ones. The Dodgers’ coaching staff, analytics department and player development team probably lead the baseball universe in information synthesis—but they’re not the only ones at the forefront of the information revolution. When you see a guy like Kevin Gausman or Carlos Rodón go to the Giants on a short deal and you want to compliment the Giants on making such good gambles, understand that those kinds of options aren’t available to many teams. High upside guys like Gausman and Rodón want to sign short contracts with a team where they know they’ll get better so they can turn around and get huge money as free agents once they’re fixed.
Organizations like the Giants and the ones I listed above change hitters swing paths swing paths and tell pitchers to stop throwing pitches that stink and rely on other, better pitches they may have neglected. The best example of this might be when the Red Sox told Rich Hill to ditch his fastball and lead with his curve. Hill went from playing for the Long Island Rubber Ducks to winning World Series games simply by changing his pitch selection, which he never would have done had some nerd not told him to. Throwing your best pitches and ditching your duds might sound obvious, but it’s not! The teams that make the playoffs every year all do this, and the teams that are behind on information-gathering stand no chance against them.
Injuries happen, and losing Trout and Rendon is obviously not going to help the Angels win ball games. But every team endures pulled hamstrings and barking elbows as the season goes on. The Dodgers have been without Clayton Kershaw for a month and they’re still in first place because Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson have been undefeated in his absence. The Angels simply don’t have reinforcements like that. I want so badly for former top prospect Jo Adell to be good, but as I write this he has a .600 OPS during his first 90 games over the first three seasons in the big leagues. Every team has prospects who flame out, but it seems like the Angels have more than most. I don’t know why that is, but until the club fixes it we might be looking at more nu metal nights.
I’m sitting here looking for a clever Nickelback lyric to end with but it’s not possible because they’re all terrible. The most-quoted line from their most famous song appears to be “Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, no.” This is a band that also sings, “‘Who wins. Well, who cares. It always ends up the same.’ And someone thought their music was inspirational enough to stop a 13-game skid?
I will give the Angels points for making everyone laugh, though. That’s hard to do when you’re 0-for-June. But Nickelback never made anything better. Everyone knows their greatest contribution to the culture is the photo at the top of this newsletter.
If I were running the Angels, I might build a funeral pyre in the parking lot and encourage every player to burn everything in his locker that isn’t jewelry. Then I’d take the field tonight and play nothing but Carly Rae Jepsen songs to turn the party. Then I’d hold a prayer circle over the pitchers mound for Mike Trout’s injured groin, which is awkward, but not as awkward as the Nickelback game.