Carig: Is Shohei Ohtani done with the Angels? For the good of the sport, I hope so. | ET REALITY


The end of a curious era came Friday night in a clubhouse in Anaheim, with a lousy team playing out another lost season, while the belongings of the greatest player to ever wear a Los Angels uniform were packed up. Angels. All that was left at the end of the evening was a nearly empty locker and a full duffel bag.

No ceremonial farewell. No expression of gratitude. Just a cute oblique and some good old-fashioned Gen Z ghosting.

How appropriate. Now the credits revolve around a baseball parody.

Shohei Ohtani deserved better. The game deserved better. Both deserved the promise that emerged years ago on the two-way star’s first day in uniform, when the Angels hailed his arrival as a historic day that would take them back to the World Series. That day, Ohtani demurred when he was compared to Babe Ruth, while also revealing the mechanism behind his greatness: “I think today is the real starting point for me, and I just want to get as close to it as possible.”

Ohtani wasn’t kidding: He started approaching the Bambino and never stopped approaching, elbow surgery be damned. The problem, of course, is that he worked for pranksters. And once again, he reminded the world that singular excellence is no match for collective mediocrity.

The Angels sabotaged everything, ensuring Ohtani would never experience a winning season, much less grace the October stage. They did this through general mismanagement and their own brand of incompetence. Those sins endured despite the turnover of managers and administrative regimes, which only further reinforces the fact that all the credit for this failure falls on the one constant in all of this: the owner, Arte Moreno.

All of this came to the surface during these last four months, as Moreno emptied the minor league system, only to have the Angels fall out of the race, which was accelerated by arm fatigue that turned out to be a torn UCL for Ohtani. Then came the hasty decision to reduce their losses with an unprecedented delivery of players. For the shameless, the exemption’s antics were incredibly clever. To everyone else, they were incredibly degrading.

All of which led to a clean locker, a full suitcase, and many broken promises.

That scene marked what has been a relentless wave of missteps, which together paint a picture of an organization in disarray.

It might be an oversimplification to say the Angels wasted having two generational stars in Ohtani and Mike Trout, especially since their primes weren’t exactly simultaneous. That being said, there are some franchises that are still waiting to employ their first supernova of its kind. What remains surprising in all of this is the level of waste. The Angels have managed like no one else to do so little with so much.

Strong organizations create a plan and then follow it. These Angels, not so much. A line can be drawn from Albert Pujols to Anthony Rendon, with the extension of Ohtani and Trout in between. What is clear is that all these expensive transactions were not part of any grand plan. Rather, they were the product of a billionaire who collected trinkets, just expensive ones to stick on a billboard.

For Ohtani, free agency is an attraction, and for anyone who cares about the greater good of the game, the preferred outcome is obvious. Ohtani should end up anywhere but where he started: a very expensive and very frustrating place away from baseball.

What a shame. Orange County has hosted the Angels for decades. The area has a deep baseball tradition and a loyal fan base. They were smart enough to appreciate what Ohtani is: a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

If only the Angels could have done the same.

Insuring Ohtani carried a much greater obligation than simply making sure his paychecks arrived on time. He demanded that the organization do everything in its power to shed its reputation for buffoonery. Instead, the Angels never made the playoffs under Ohtani. They were never particularly close either.

Surprisingly, all those losses are no guarantee of losing Ohtani. The Angels have shown they will pay. They have also shown that they are content with letting Team Ohtani call the shots. This type of autonomy is far from guaranteed elsewhere, and the Ohtani team knows that with the Angels it would still be part of any future deal. The franchise also knows that its relevance outside of its base is tied to its partnership with Ohtani.

There should be an opportunity for Angels fans to say goodbye, just in case. On Saturday, general manager Perry Minasian said that although Ohtani’s oblique injury would end his season (and although he would soon undergo some type of procedure on his injured elbow), he would be present for the team’s final stay in home. Minasian reiterated that the Angels will pursue Ohtani in free agency. Makes sense.

But the best outcome is for the superstar to resist any temptation to stay. Because at this point, given her employer’s persistent lack of imagination and foresight, the Angels would be doing a public service by simply telling her to go away. It would be foolish to expect this kind of benevolence, of course, although there is nothing wrong with expecting it.

Because this much is indisputable: the best chance for the game’s most transcendent player to reach his most important stage is to grab that full duffel bag in front of his empty locker and make sure it gets sent somewhere else.

The Angels are not a fit for Shohei Ohtani, and there is no evidence to suggest that will change anytime soon.

(Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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