Unless you’re Mike Trout, even on a day during which you got iced by Clayton Kershaw sustaining a scoreless inning streak, it must suck to be a Los Angeles Angel these days. Even when you’re in the thick of the American League West races despite being swept by the now-first-place Astros before dropping the first two against the Dodgers.
In his 1970s days with the Milwaukee Brewers, George Scott, the big colourful first baseman who’d been a Red Sox favourite, had a chat with the team’s then co-owner Edmund Fitzgerald, about whose team Gordon Lightfoot did not write “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” “If we’re gonna win,” Scott told Fitzgerald, “the players gotta play better, the coaches gotta coach better, the manager’s gotta manage better, and the owners gotta own better.”
When Josh Hamilton joined the Angels, discovering his new home park was a pitcher’s park for the most part, and finding pitchers otherwise began exploiting his willingness to chase out of the strike zone, life became difficult enough on the field. It became impossible, though, when the Angels’ management decided his reward for copping to an off-season substance relapse, on Super Bowl Sunday, without being compelled to do so by a drug test or an arrest or another factor beyond his own conscience, should be his head on a plate.
Forget the payrolls, as Kansas City outfielder Jarrod Dyson rightly points out. They don’t matter when you hit the field or step into the batter’s box. The wealthiest teams in baseball have been known to collapse like insolvent counties.
The Los Angeles Angels joined their ranks ignominiously Sunday thanks to a Royals team that seems to know nothing of the meaning of rolling over and playing dead. And these Angels, who’d run roughshod after the All-Star break and turned into a threshing machine while all around what remained of the American League West deflated, looked and played like zombies in a division series game they had to win just to stay alive.
When the Oakland Athletics dealt for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, there were those ready to hand the World Series rings to them on a platinum platter. And there were those others, myself included, who cautioned not to do it just yet. Not that it stopped them, especially after the A’s landed Jon Lester out of Boston.
Ubaldo Jimenez got a five-game suspension for drilling Troy Tulowitzki on the first pitch Sunday. The Players’ Association intends to back him as he appeals it. They are actually right about this. This turns out not to have been a mere sticks-and-stones issue. The backstory is Tulowitzki’s public criticism of Jimenez’s public gripe that the Rockies—who traded him to the Cleveland Indians during last season—offered and signed Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to big-dollar extensions after signing him to a mere “team-friendly” deal but not thinking of a comparable extension after he had his big year. Tulowitzki suggested once or twice recently that “a certain point (comes) in this game where you go play and you shut your mouth. And you don’t worry about what other people are doing.” He may have been absolutely right. Jimenez may have been absolutely wrong to fret over one or another man’s deal compared to his own. His pitching in 2011 would certainly suggest how wrong he was.
Most baseball analysts blurt out observations that beg for further examination here and there. Ken Rosenthal, the Fox Sports writer and commentator, and one of the best analysts of the breed, is one of them. Here he is, musing about Don Mattingly’s growth as a manager in light of having had “three strikes” against him when he took the command post for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year: He had never managed in the majors or minors. He had to exert greater authority over players who knew him only as a coach. And he had been a great player — a drawback, seeing as how great players rarely make great managers.
While the Tampa Bay Rays were opening an American League Division Series with a striking 9-0 thrashing of the Texas Rangers, including one rookie starter and two relievers combining on a two-hit shutout, the Rangers’ main American League West rivals, whom they shoved out of the wild card picture after snatching the West from them, made a cruel prophet out of their general manager.
“We have to make moves, we can’t stand pat,” Tony Reagins said the day after the regular season ended with the Angels not even showing pride enough to shove Texas back and take away their division series home field advantage. Only nobody bargained that the first move the Angels would make was Reagins moving out of his job.