LA Angels underachievement puts Mike Scioscia on firing block

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The Los Angeles Angels are probably in a very bad mood right now. They don’t want to be home in time to watch their favorite prime time shows.

They don’t want the free time for lawn care. They want to be playing baseball. Still.

Should be Winning

And they expected to be playing baseball still this fall. This was a team built to win now, a team that led the majors in victories with 98. If a team goes 98-64 in the regular season it is right to harbor high expectations and optimistic thoughts as the playoffs begin.

That team does not figure that the playoffs will be over for them in an eye-blink. The Angels hung around for only a few days, just long enough to be swept by the Kansas City Royals, this year’s Cinderella team.

If this was the NCAA tournament, the Royals would be Virginia Commonwealth or George Mason reaching the Final Four, for that is where the Royals are as participants in the upcoming American League Championship Series, in the majors’ final four.

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Significant Investment/No Return

In recent years Angels owner Arte Moreno has invested a fortune in players coming available on the free agent market. He signed Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols and made them as rich as a miner who discovered his own gold mine. Their payback, while not useless, has been below expected returns. Pujols was the best player in the game when the Angels stole him away from the St. Louis Cardinals. Ever since, he has been mortal, with some high points. But Pujols has not captured Southern California like a burst-upon-the-scene movie star.

Concurrent with Pujols’ relocation, the Angels did introduce homegrown talent Mike Trout, who is the favorite to be announced as 2014’s Most Valuable Player after the World Series. The outfielder is now widely acclaimed as the best position player in baseball. While both Trout and Pujols had their moments in the brief Angels playoff series (each hit a home run), neither was able to carry the team.

Though given the way the 0-3 run against the Royals played out it is impossible to know, the Angels may well have missed pitcher Garrett Richards. A first-game Richards win might have changed everything. Richards was cruising along with his best-ever performance, the Angels ace with a 13-4 record and a 2.61 earned run average, when he was lost for the season with a knee injury. (A knee injury? Was he freelancing as an NFL running back?) Los Angeles admirably recovered from his absence, fortunate to have rookie Matt Shoemaker step in and win 16 games.

Scioscia on the Ropes

Still, if you are running the Angels, what do you do now to ensure this flameout doesn’t happen again? Manager Mike Scioscia is the longest-tenured dugout boss in the game, in charge since 2000. The Angels have won a lot of games with him at the helm. They even won a World Series under Scioscia in 2002.

Just making the playoffs with this ball club wasn’t sufficient. The Angels, with their talent and $155 million payroll, should still be playing. It is difficult to determine what in-house soul-searching will produce. LA doesn’t appear to be in need of more hitting and has gazillions of dollars wrapped up in the players already on the roster. If Richards comes back healthy they don’t appear to need more pitching.

Since teams never stand pat, the only conclusion is that Scioscia is probably in trouble.

Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels

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