This week, I went to my first Angels game in almost two months and for a number of reasons, the trip was surprisingly difficult.

First of all, despite the fact that Los Angeles is listed first in its formal name, the team still resides in Anaheim. It’s a fun little town in north Orange County, but it is hardly convenient to me in my suburban home in Temecula.

There is no direct path to the stadium from where I reside, leaving two opposing routes that either force me to make a giant loop north or a giant loop south. Both involve multiple freeways, on-ramps, and exits, and each offers its own unique set pros and cons to weigh.

Not mention, southern California’s legendary rush hour traffic, which arrives just in time for most 7 p.m. starts.

Normally, these are minor speed bumps for die-hard fans like myself who would brave any peril for the thrill of seeing their sporting heroes up close and personal.

But this season, dodging reckless drivers and fighting back road rage only adds to the torment that is watching Angel baseball.

As we approach September and the final stretch run toward the playoffs, the Angels sit a whopping 10 games back in the AL West, mired in third place behind the division-leading Texas Rangers and the surprisingly decent Oakland A’s.

Now, facing an uphill climb in the final weeks of the 2010 season is not exactly an unexpected position for the Halos. I, along with many other baseball, correctly predicted the Rangers would have a breakout season and become the No. 1 contenders to claim the division crown.

That said, this wild west brawl was supposed to be a shoot-out at the Big A corral. Instead, the Angels look too weak to even lift their six-shooter.

Their 10-game deficit in the division is the furthest back they’ve been since 2003 and for the first time since that season, they risk finishing the year with a losing record.

But it’s not the losses that make this squad so frustrating to watch.

It’s the sad fact that there is simply no positive aspect to the Angels’ game. Not one area could you point to and say, “well at least they’re doing that right.”

For the most part, the starting pitching has failed to live up to the standard set in recent years, the bullpen is shaky and unreliable, the defense has all but disappeared with the exception of Peter Bourjos in center field, and the bats are quieter than a nun on Sunday.

Plenty of teams around the league have struggled to compete in the standings but still manage to be exciting on the field. The Milwaukee Brewers are playing sub-.500 ball once again, and yet players like Corey Hart, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun continue to draw fans in.

The San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies are both fighting for their playoff lives in the NL West and NL Wild Card, and while there are certain aspects of each team that must infuriate their fans, they still have a captivating show to look forward to every night.

As Angel fans, what do we have to look forward to?

Perhaps we’ve become spoiled in the last decade. Six postseason appearances, five division titles—including the last three in a row—and a World Series title have washed away the years of mediocrity and worse that preceded them.

Throughout the 1990’s, Angel Stadium routinely housed meager crowds during the week, usually no more than 15,000 or so. On the weekends, attendance would shoot up when the extremely casual fan-base at the time saw taking in a game as an interesting social activity for a Friday night.

Following the ’02 championship season, however, the Angels pack in 3-4 million fans every year, often ranking second or third in the majors in attendance.And the team always made it worth our while.

This year, and particularly this point in the year, there is little if anything to be excited about anymore.

Heading into the game this week, the second of a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, I hoped for the best, but I fully expected the worst. And I got it.

Awful starting pitching from Ervin Santana who allowed six runs, a miserable effort from a relief corps. that combined to give up four more runs, another non-existent offense that managed to produce just three runs while leaving 12 men on base, and a defensive breakdown on the infield like I’ve never seen.

True to my die-hard roots, I sat and suffered through all nine blowout innings. Not that it was easy.

On the way to the car, my family and I briefly discussed the embarrassment we had just witnessed, if only just to get it out of the way. The pitiful effort, and season, was the elephant in the room and it had to be acknowledged.

But the conversation quickly to turned to more appealing sports fare. Football season is almost here, and while I’ll always choose baseball first, I’m looking forward to a distraction from the heartbreaking season here in Anaheim.

Besides, there’s always next year.

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