How do you solve a problem like Joe Blanton? If you were to ask your typical Angel fan the answer would be to take him out behind one of the Big A dumpsters, shoot him in the head and wait for the garbage truck to come by and pick up the remains. While that solution does have a certain appeal, the health department might lower Angel Stadium's grade, so we'll have to explore other avenues. We'll have to do it quickly though because if everything goes according to plan, tonight will be Joe Blanton's last start for a long time.
The optimal scenario is for Jered Weaver to return from his broken elbow next week and slot into Blanton's spot in the rotation. With Tommy Hanson due back and Jerome Williams pitching well, it is the perfect time to exile Blanton to the bullpen. The only real issue is that the team must be willing to throw in the towel on Joe.
Let's not forget, the team did sign him to a two-year, $16 million deal that was roundly criticized at the time. Thus there is a monetary commitment there that the team may want to support even if it flies in the face of the sunk cost principle. Yanking Blanton from the rotation after just less than two months would be an open admission that Jerry Dipoto got that move dead wrong. Being able to own up to a mistake and acting quickly to rectify it is an admirable trait, but not a trait a lot of GMs possess.
Does Dipoto actually have the kind of stones to admit he was wrong? Blanton's start tonight should give us a strong indicator. If Blanton pitches even at an average level, it might give the Halos all the ammunition they need to play the, "he's been working on some things and showing signs of progress, so we want to give him a chance to turn it around." Even as I type that hypothetical quote, I can hear just hear it coming out of Scioscia's mouth and it sends a shive down my spine.
That isn't because Jerome Williams is some great shakes although he is pitching very well right now, mostly against lousy lineups, and seems like a fair bet to outpitch Blanton the rest of the way. Rather it is because we have seen this scenario play out time and time again with Scioscia. He has an undying allegiance to veteran players, even ones that are new to the team. Just last season we saw the Big Catorce steadfastly refuse to give up on Ervin Santana, who is ironically Blanton's opposing number tonight. He always found a reason to give Ervin one more shot. He was always "competing better" or "working on his arm angle" or some other such bullshit.
Now though, it is the perfect storm of timing to remove Blanton from the rotation. If Scioscia and Dipoto can't put their heads together to decide to pull the plug now, it might never happen. It will be another four months of Blanton throwing batting practice every fifth day. As slim a margin of error as the Angels have when it comes to getting back in the playoff race, that isn't something they can afford to let happen. They should know better, but I fear they somehow won't. And make no mistake, this will be a mutual decision between the GM and manager. It is Dipoto's reputation taking a hit if Blanton fails and it is Scioscia's domain when it comes to how players are used and he doesn't seem like the sort who likes being told how to run that domain. If either of them have any reservation about kicking Blanton to the curb, then there is a real danger that they will do the wrong thing and vote to stick with him if he shows even a flash of competence tonight.
That puts us in the precarious position of basically rooting against Blanton tonight. If he gets rocked and fails to get through five innings for the umpteenth time this season, then it should give the Angel braintrust all the cover they need to dump Blanton into the bullpen. Heck, they can even dig into their old bag of tricks and give him a made up injury so that he can save a little face. Whatever they have to do to get him out of the rotation is A-OK in my book. But if he shows some semblance of effectiveness against a middling Royal lineup then, well, dammit.
So, I don't know about you, but I'll be hoping for a classic 12-11 Angel victory tonight so that Dipoto and Scioscia are cleared to save themselves from themselves.