It’s Not How They Wanted the Season to End, but ...
Don’t even bother, Angel fans.
Don’t spend the next 11 months wondering why Mike Scioscia sent Jarrod Washburn in to replace Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Don’t moan about Chone Figgins stopping at second base on Darin Erstad’s double off the Green Monster in the top of the ninth.
Don’t gripe about the questionable ball and strike calls.
There should be no angst in Anaheim, because even if everything went the Angels’ way in Game 3, it would have only delayed the inevitable. It was evident from Game 1 that it was a matter of when, not if, the Boston Red Sox were going to win this series, and the answer came Friday night in the form of an 8-6 Red Sox victory in 10 innings.
Even though they went out on the wrong side of a sweep, this season still goes down as a success for the Angels.
The only failure for the team and owner Arte Moreno is that they have not yet reached the level he considers the appropriate goal for this ballclub.
“We want to build a championship-caliber team,” Moreno said before this division series started. “We want to make the playoffs every year. We want our fans to be disappointed if we don’t win the World Series.”
They might be disappointed now, but that doesn’t make the Angels a disappointment.
For a squad to go into the playoffs defensively hampered without its starting second baseman (the injured Adam Kennedy) and offensively weakened with its second-leading power hitter (the suspended Jose Guillen) and expect to beat a very good team isn’t rational thinking.
In the end, the Angels overcame numerous injuries, the potential distraction of Guillen, and did what they were supposed to do: win the American League West.
“It’s always a success when you’re still playing in October and there’s 22 teams sitting at home,” Troy Percival said. “You go into the postseason to go all the way and win. You don’t go to the World Series to lose, you don’t go to the playoffs to lose. But only one team can win, and at this point I’m going to put my money on Boston. They’re pretty good.”
Where the Angels have one most-valuable-player candidate in Vladimir Guerrero (who drove in half of their 12 runs this series) the Red Sox have two in Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
Where Moreno’s off-season splurge that brought in Guerrero, Guillen, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar made them contenders, Boston’s acquisition of Curt Schilling looks like the transaction of the winter.
So what can the Angels do to top that this time around?
They could get into a bidding war with the New York Yankees for Pedro Martinez, see if Moreno can go mano-a-mano with George Steinbrenner.
Or they could start with the simple things and get a left-handed setup man. That way they wouldn’t find themselves in the same situation they did Friday, when Scioscia brought in the lefty Washburn -- coming off a less-than-stellar start in Game 1 -- to face the left-handed Ortiz.
Scioscia said with Rodriguez coming off a 44-pitch outing in Game 2 and closing in on 40 pitches again in Game 3, he was thinking long-term.
“The least of the options would be taking a chance with a terrific arm like that,” Scioscia said. “He was getting tired, he was getting fatigued and he was in uncharted waters. We’re not going to take a chance and ruin a career.”
That might be a little overdramatic, but if I’m Scioscia I’d rather explain this move than spend next year explaining what happened to the one-time dynamo Rodriguez, especially if Rodriguez takes over the closer’s role.
For now that belongs to Percival, and he wasn’t called on in Game 3. Even though he’s right-handed, he’s used to pitching in these situations.
Washburn isn’t. He hung a slider on his first pitch, and Ortiz sent the ball over the left-field wall, the Red Sox into the league championship series, and the Angels on a flight back home and perhaps into a new era in their history.
Some of the familiar, fan-friendly faces could be gone. Percival and Troy Glaus are free agents, and Tim Salmon (whose only contribution in this series was to hobble on crutches to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 1) might not be able to play out the final year of his contract next season.
Moreno said before the series that strong playoff performances or another championship run could make him emotionally committed to bringing everyone back.
While Glaus hit two home runs in this series, Percival never got a chance to pitch. It could be the final out he recorded as an Angel was the save that clinched the division title in Oakland a week ago.
Moreno said emotions do factor in, but he also said there was a finite number of roster positions and a budget to consider.
If, for a moment, it sounded a little cold and calculated, that’s because the warm, fuzzy feeling of this season just got a little chillier. Next year, just getting there won’t be enough. If the Angels plan on raising ticket prices, as Moreno indicated they will for some of the more expensive seats, then it’s time to raise the level of expectations as well.
J.A. Adande can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Adande go to latimes.com/Adande