As the Angels packed their bags, Albert Pujols extended his hand to Mark Trumbo.
"Take care. Finish strong," Pujols said. "I'll be in touch."
This was all wrong. Trumbo and the Angels were headed to Texas, to try to knock the Rangers out of the playoffs. Pujols was headed home, his season ended by injury in July.
BOX SCORE: Angels 3, Oakland 1
Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Jerry Dipoto were headed to Texas too, neither one sure of whether he would be working for the Angels next week. Although the Angels' strong finish could persuade owner Arte Moreno to keep both men in place, two people who speak with Moreno regularly each said he had no idea what the owner would decide.
The Angels concluded their home schedule with a 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday. If the Angels win three of their final four games, they would finish the season at .500, a mark they last hit April 3.
That would be no consolation to a team expected to win the American League West and challenge for the World Series. Instead, for the fourth consecutive season, the Angels did not make the playoffs.
"You're either there or you're not," Trumbo said. "Whether you finish 30 games out or one game out, you're either in it or you're not in it. We're not in it."
Indeed, the question might have shifted from whether the Angels are a World Series contender to whether they remain an elite franchise.
Of the 30 major league teams, 18 have qualified for a postseason appearance since the Angels last played in October. That number would rise to 19 if the Cleveland Indians clinch a wild-card spot this week.
The Angels finished their home schedule 39-42, their first losing record in Anaheim since 2001. They sold 3 million tickets for the 11th consecutive season, but just barely at 3.02 million, down for the third consecutive year and down 11% from 2006, when the Angels sold a club-record 3.41 million.
In 2009, when the Angels won their fifth AL West championship in six years, the ESPN "Ultimate Standings" ranked the team first among the 122 franchises in the four major North American sports, based on fan surveys and numerical analysis.
In this year's standings, the Angels ranked 51st, including below-average finishes in the categories of ownership, players and fan relations.
Angels President John Carpino said he did not believe the team had lost its status as an elite franchise.
"We're not at that point," Carpino said. "We still have a very good team and a very good future."
Still, he said that the Angels need to right themselves on the field.
"Winning definitely builds a successful brand," he said. "When you're winning, I'm a lot smarter. Our ticket sales are a lot better. Winning cures a lot of problems."
Jered Weaver won his final start of the season, giving up one run and five hits over seven innings. He finished 11-8 with a 3.27 earned-run average. He became the fourth AL pitcher to win at least 110 games, lose no more than 60 and post an ERA under 3.30 in his first eight seasons, and the first do so since Hall of Fame member Jim Palmer (1965-73).
However, the Angels have finished third in each of the two full seasons since Weaver forfeited free agency to sign a five-year, $85-million contract extension.
"He has expectations," Scioscia said. "That's why he signed here. He has expectations of us winning championships, winning playoffs, getting to the World Series. We've got a little work to do before we get there."