Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Wild Card Clock Is Ticking on the Angels---and Scioscia?

    By Ross Newhan

    This is not exactly a revealing statement, but I haven't seen it stated clearly anywhere else: The Angels are dead in the American League West.

    They are 10 games behind the Texas Rangers entering Tuesday night's game against the Boston Red Sox with 33 to play, and the Rangers are going to win the division for the third straight year. The one-time dominance of the Angels in the West during the mid-2010s is over, and this year's failure by Manager Mike Scioscia's team to even mount a challenge is an embarrassment.

    It is an embarrassment because the Angels have the most potentially potent lineup in their history and, potentially, the best rotation in the American League.

   The rotation, however, has been a second half disappointment, and the bullpen has been a season-long failure, which is not entirely a surprise.

    Jordan Walden has gone from a 32-save rookie surprise to one save. General Manager Jerrry DiPoto made a nice mid-season addition in Ernesto Frieri, but Frieri appears tired, set up man Scott Down does not appear healthy and the rest of the bullpen can't be trusted.

    The Angels enter the Boston series four games behind the American League's second wild card team. They still have a shot at the playoffs, and while that could ease a measure of discontent, they are a team that should have been better than a last gasp playoff team and they are an organization that should have dealt with the bullpen issue earlier in the season.

   With a payroll of almost $160 million, with that offense and potential rotation, it is easy to feel that something has been missing besides a deeper bullpen and reliable closer.

   DiPoto and owner Arte Moreno both insist that Scioscia will be back, and to question his status is a distraction.

   Scioscia has six more years remaining on his remarkable contract, but I don't totally accept that Scioscia's position is secure.

   The firing of batting coach Mickey Hatcher--on top of the previous departures of coaches Bud Black, Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke--has changed the environment around Scioscia (and the firing of Hatcher, in particular, did little to strengthen the relationship between Scoscia and DiPoto).

   I don't know if Scioscia will be fired. I don't know if he would quit. I do believe, as stated above, there are internal issues that have been affecting the Angels performance and leadership.

  I do not remember while covering the Angels as a columnist and game reporter for The Times that I wrote as many instances of both subtle and outright questioning of Scioscia stratagy and personnel decisions as I have read this year in stories by writers I respect.

  The Rangers have buried the Angels (who even tral the under-manned and under-financed Oakland A's in the West), and there can be no more excuses.

 The wild card clocking is ticking on the Angels--and their manager?                

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