Ok, so, barring a mathematically stunning win/loss streak across the entire AL West, The Angels season is over. You know it isn’t going well when some people are lambasting this team for having the audacity to win a few games on their way out, thus potentially lowering their place in the draft queue, but I guess that’s natural. What is also natural, in any sport, is to try and place blame, and when any team underperforms, this blame usually starts with management. There has been no shortage of speculation recently as to whether Mike Scioscia or Jerry Dipoto, or both, may be looking for new jobs come spring. Just for the sake of counterbalance, here’s a few reasons why they shouldn’t be.
Firstly, this is a team packed with talent which has simply underperformed. Dipoto is taking a lot of heat for his blockbuster signings of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and to a lesser degree C.J. Wilson, and the juggernaut contracts that the Angels are stuck with as a result. But come on, do you seriously think there’s a GM in Baseball who wouldn’t have signed those guys, given the open checkbook he had? Yes, the length of contract given to Pujols, in particular, given his age, is staggering, but if that’s what it took to nab a no-doubt Hall of Famer, then I can’t imagine anyone else would have been able to resist under the circumstances. Getting someone as dynamic as Hamilton, particularly from division rival Texas, must have seemed like a gift too good to be true (and at this point, it looks like being exactly that). Throw in Trout, Trumbo, Kendrick and so on, and this is still, despite what the numbers may say, amongst the most imposing offenses in the game. The pitching is another matter, but I'll be writing about that at another time.
Yes, they’ve failed to live up to the hype. But switching attention to Scioscia, is that because of poor management? Personally, I don’t believe it is. Name me a specific example of where Mike got it wrong. He tried everything with Hamilton to arrest his slump – moving him, resting him, playing him at DH – the guy just couldn’t get it together, at least not until recently, when it’s too late. Pujols, quite frankly, shouldn’t have been playing at all for most of the year, with his foot injury. Finally busting it badly enough that even he couldn’t tough it out may be the best thing that happened to the Angels all season – forcing the bug guy to finally rest up, and giving him a few extra months to get back to health before 2014.
Speaking of injuries, it’s not like Jerry and Mike were out there hurting their guys on purpose. When you spend significant stretches of the season without three-fifths of your starting rotation, your starting center fielder, shortstop, first and second basemen and the majority of your preferred bullpen, it’s going to be a tough year. In fact, if you look at what the team has managed recently, winning back-to-back road series with a bunch of guys most fans couldn’t have picked out of a police lineup, never mind a Major League one, in April, I’d say that actually shows that Mike’s still got it.
The 2013 Angels aren’t the first team to promise so much, and underwhelm so badly. The Red Sox did it for nearly a century, and the 2013 Blue Jays are doing it right now. I understand the impulse to start calling for heads, I’m just suggesting that this season has had as much to do with bad breaks and bad luck as it did with bad management.