Adding insult to the cruelest injury the Los Angeles Angels could have imagined was the mere presence of the team they shared space with all day and night Wednesday.
It was a doubleheader that was supposed to showcase two of the top players in baseball over the past decade for the Angels against the Cincinnati Reds and their roster full of the potential top players of tomorrow.
In the end, Mike Trout did not play in either game for the Angels because of continued pain in his surgically repaired broken hand, and Shohei Ohtani departed early in the opening game with what later was diagnosed as an elbow ligament tear that will prevent him from pitching again this season.
An Angels franchise that has cornered the market on tough luck just added more to its portfolio.
The implications of the Reds being on the Angels' home field Wednesday were clear. Los Angeles could have moved Ohtani at this month's trade deadline for multiple high-level prospects and turn young just as Cincinnati has done.
The Reds have become the envy of baseball with a speedy, powerful, dynamic club that includes the most coveted young player of them all in Elly De La Cruz. Cincinnati has more fresh talent on its infield, such as Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Matt McLain and the recently added Noelvi Marte.
The Angels could have landed multiple top-40 prospects of their own for Ohtani, but elected to keep their two-way star in the hopes of re-signing the soon-to-be free agent in the offseason. There were no assurances he would stay, of course, and now the future has become even more clouded with Ohtani's UCL tear and a potential Tommy John surgery ahead.
It was another cruel blow for the Angels, who have shown an improved ability to draft in recent years, but moved top prospects like catcher Edgar Quero and left-hander Ky Bush to land pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez from the Chicago White Sox.
Los Angeles also added veterans C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk for the stretch drive. But the club actually has been worse since the trade deadline. The Reds' doubleheader sweep dropped the Angels to a dreadful 5-16 in August, all from a club that was confident it would be better.
Trout is now back on the IL after just returning Tuesday from a lengthy absence. And that was the second-worst news Wednesday. Cron (back) also is on the IL, while Anthony Rendon, still being paid his $38 million salary, has been on the IL most of the season with a variety of injuries.
Rendon represents a number of costly free agents who have failed to deliver postseason success in the era of owner Arte Moreno. Players like Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton have come and gone after multi-year deals, either unable to deliver or not having enough talent around them to guide success.
Trout's dominance of more than a decade has delivered one playoff appearance in 2014 that ended in three consecutive defeats.
Ohtani has redefined what an elite major leaguer looks like and has never been to the playoffs since he joined the Angels in 2018 and won Rookie of the Year. And while producing maybe the greatest season baseball has ever seen, Ohtani isn't likely to be in the playoffs this year, either, even if he delays a possible elbow surgery and stays on the active roster as a hitter only.
The Angels enter play Thursday 12 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West, 10 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot in the league.
The Angels don't have a ballpark worth going out of the way to visit, they have failed to find the postseason with a pair of generational talents on the roster, and they have an owner who has disappointed just about all of the fan base.
Wednesday was one last resounding blow to any remaining loyalists who kept the faith for a 2023 playoff push.
Before a marathon Wednesday ended, a powerful scene emerged. Ohtani elected to play in the second game as the designated hitter following the diagnosis of his elbow injury, and while on base during a pause in the action, he was surrounded by all that young Reds talent.
De La Cruz reached out to touch Ohtani with his index finger, as if to say, "Are you real?" Ohtani appeared to gesture toward the right-field corner, where De La Cruz ripped a bases-clearing triple in his six-RBI opening game while returning the sentiment.
Encarnacion-Strand, McLain and Marte also were there. There were smiles of admiration all around.
Roster rebuilds and youth movements don't guarantee success, but the entire scene seemed to represent what could have been for the Angels.
"Tough day for all of us," Angels general manager Perry Minasian said.
—By Doug Padilla, Field Level Media
—Field Level Media