Friday, September 30, 2011

Reagins Resignation? No Way His Decision

    By Ross Newhan

    Tony Reagins kept insisting in a Friday conference call that his decision to resign as general manager of the Angels came after 30 days of discussions with his family.

    With due respect, I don't believe that for a minute.

     I mean, you don't have to go much further than the third or fourth paragraph of the Angels' press release on the Reagins development to find owner Arte Moreno quoted as saying:

    "In moving forward we felt a change was needed."

    It's that simple.

   Moreno is pouring too much money into the Angels to tolerate not making the playoffs for the second straight year.

   Why would Reagins give up the job he pursued, step by ladder step, for 20 years in the organization. He had no choice but to move into the non-factor role of assistant to chairman Dennis Kuhl if he wanted to keep drawing his contractural pay check.

   The Angels were an enigma this year, and Reagins contributed to that.

   I don't blame him for the enormously high priced Vernon Wells going into the tank after being acquired in a trade for Mike Napoli, who compounded the mysterious collapse of Wells by having a career year with the division winning Texas Rangers. I do blame Reagins for doing nothing at the non-waiver trade deadline despite the Angels need for power at third base, starting help at the back end of the rotation and bonafide relief help at a time Texas was trading for two bonafide relievers. The Angels needed a lift, and Reagins needed to send a message to the clubhouse that he would do anything within reason to provide it. Instead, he did nothing.

   In large measure, the Angels are still living off their 2002 World Series victory. Yes, they won five of seven division titles after that, but they have not returned to the World Series and they are no longer the dominant team in the American League West despite having only Texas to beat given the hapless stature of the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's.

   I wrote in a recent blog that for the first time in Mike Scioscia's tenure as manager there was a strange aura emanating from the clubhouse and a stranger inconsistency to the team's performance.

   Maybe it is time for Scioscia to move upstairs, replacing Reagins and prompting the Angels to search for a new manager rather than a general manager.

   Maybe former bench coach Joe Maddon could be convinced to return as manager, aklthough he certainly has a good thing going in Tampa Bay.

   If not Scioscia as GM, or possibly Los Angeles resident Joe Torre, the recommendation here is that Moreno make another of his major capital investments by attempting to lure Theo Epstein from Boston before the new ownership of the Chicago Cubs offers him a partnership stake and half of the Wrigley Field ivy.

   On Friday, the Red Sox, in the aftermath of the club's 7-20 September wild card collapse, announced that manager Terry Francona's option years would not be picked up.

  Francona led the Sox to two World Series titles in his eight years, changing the franchise's hapless history. His firing, sources close to the club told me, was not Epstein's idea. He was overruled by the club's owners, a stupid move that could not have sat well with Epstein, who, despite his New England roots, may be ready for another challenge in a less frantic environment.

   He would find a solid nucleus, featuring Jered Weaver and a core of talented young players who were all scouted and signed by former scouting director Eddie Bane. The latter was ousted by Reagins last winter in a personality clash. That inexplicable firing prompted Reagins to take some heat from this writer and others.

  Reagins is out of the firing line now, and I can't believe anyone would think it was his decision.                                

Thursday, September 29, 2011

They Should Bottle Wednesday Night


       By Ross Newhan

       It is safe to say that baseball has never experienced a more memorable series of 162nd games than those of Wednesday night, certainly not since the introduction of the wild card.

       Testing my dexterity with the TV remote--or that of any viewer--the virtually simultaneous finishes in Baltimore and Tampa Bay, along with the slightly earlier finish in Atlanta, combined all the nuances, strategies, emotions and elements that still make baseball the best game--or would you still prefer watching the Browns and Bengals?

       When the Red Sox and Braves were finished in more ways than one--authors of two or the greatest collapses in baseball history and probably surpassing anything the Red Sox had done before in that regard-- it was being whispered and written that Boston general manager Theo Epstein will now take on another monumental assignment by moving to a similar position with the Chicago Cubs (if Ned Colletti doesn't) and that Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez--a few minutes ago the virtually handpicked and remodeled Bobby Cox--will be fired.

     Managers often get fired when a closer who is one of the best in baseball fails in a pivotal moment.

     With the American League wild card--or, at least, a tie for it--on the line in Boston, Jonathan Papelbon, couldn't get the one out he needed in Baltimore. Nor could Craig Kimbrel. with a tie for the National League lead at stake in Atlanta, get the ninth inning shutout he needed. Kimbrel set an NL rookie record this year with 46 saves but was making his 79th appearance. A lot of work at 23.

     Of course, it should never have come down to the ninth inning of Game 162.

    The Braves led St. Louis by 8 1/2 games in the first week of September, and the Red Sox led Tampa Bay by nine on Sept. 4, becoming the first team in baseball history to lose a nine game lead in the final month.

     Now, however, it will be the Cardinals, who had defeated Houston earlier Wednesday night, advancing to the NL's division series, and the Rays moving on in the AL.

   Tampa Bay's September comeback was capped by the game of games Wednesday night, rebounding from a 7-0 deficit against the New York Yankees by scoring six runs in the eighth inning, trying it in the ninth and winning it on a 12th inning home run by Evan Longoria, who had hit a three run homer in the eighth.

    The victory came only a few minutes after the Red Sox loss had been flashed on the Tampa scoreboard, and as Manager Joe Maddon said later, speaking of his team's improbable comeback against both the Yankees and Red Sox but capturing the events of a memorable night in Baltimore and Atlanta as well, " all goes beyond earthly measure."  
     So far beyond that the postseason will be difficult to top it.