Monday, July 19, 2010

A Two-Week Trial for Angels

By Ross Newhan

     Mike Scioscia, the Angel manager, would be the last person to characterize the next 12 games as make or break for his team. His point would be that there will still be two months remaining after the Angels run the gauntlet of two games in New York, four in Texas, three at home with Boston and three more at home with Texas.

     Tony Reagins? We don't know as much about the Angels general manager as we know about Scioscia, but he tutored under cautious and conservative predecessor Bill Stoneman and I suspect he, too, would be quick to say it is too early to label any certain period as critical.

    In a way, of course, they would be right. With two months left when these 12 games are over, anything can happen,

    In their hearts, however, Scioscia and Reagins have to know that the next two weeks could go a long way in determining the Angels ability to win their seventh division title in the last eight years.

   They have to recognize that 4 1/2 games behind division leading Rangers at the start of the trip and 7 1/2 games out of the wild card lead in the AL, a poor trip could doom their hopes of continued dominance in the division.

   Much of the trip, as well, coincides with the countdown to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and the Angels can use help, if that, too, is a subject that Scioscia and Reagins will only admit in cautious terms, if they admit it at all. They need power at first base, power at third base, a map to the Fountain of Youth for Hideki Matsui and Torii Hunter, and help for both the back end of the rotation and the middle of the bullpen.

   That's a lot of help, and it isn't going to come in one trade, even if the Angels can pull off a trade at a time when they are limited in dealing by a limit of expendable prospects. Paul McAnulty, the powerless veteran (six homers in 234 major league at bats) who had been getting some time at first base, much to the chagrin of Mike Napoli, who has 16 homers, was sent to the minors Sunday.  McAnulty's departure makes roster room for Macier Izturis, the valuable clutch hitter who plays three infield positions but still isn't a catalytic Chone Figgins and still isn't the answer to a lack of power at third base, where Brandon Wood has hit three home runs and Kevin Frandsen none.

    Six AL teams have scored more runs than the Angels and four have hit more home runs, which may not sound like an offensive crises, but the Rangers, the team the Angels have to beat, has scored 43 more runs and hit 47 more home runs, and the Angels 1) do not have a compensatory edge in pitching, if they have an edge at all, and 2) lack that MVP type offensive force that Vladimir Guerrero (to bring up a sore subject) and Josh Hamilton represent to the Rangers.

    No, we may not hear much from Scioscia and Reagins about the crucial nature of these next 12 games, but in this case, silence may speak volumes.       

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