Angels are pretty much powerless against Boston
It’s been Southern California’s steamy summertime love affair.
It’s been six months of diamond Kotches and gold Figgies and long-stemmed Willitses.
You love how the Angels play baseball.
You adore the bunts, the steals, the sacrifices.
You’re infatuated with the taking of extra bases, the moving of slow runners, the transforming of tiny hits into huge innings while Mike Scioscia works the thin strings with his beefy hands and shrugs.
You swoon at this strange concept of baseball teamwork, this oxymoron of clubhouse intelligence, this old-fashioned notion of winning invisibly.
Which means you’re not going to like what I have to say, but it has to be said.
Get over it.
Dump the idea that this Angels style can win a championship, because it can’t.
Break up with the notion that this Angels way can parade under November confetti, because it won’t.
Split up with the theory that these Angels are a miniature version of the 2002 World Series-winning Angels, because they’re not even close.
Those Angels literally had the power to triumph in playoff games like Friday night’s Boston marathon.
These Angels, like each of the last three Angels teams, do not.
“I love the way these guys won the division manufacturing runs,” Tim Salmon said. “But why did we win the World Series? We won because Scott Spiezio hit a home run. We did not win because Scott Spiezio hit a single.”
I rang up the former Angels star at his Phoenix home Saturday afternoon because I wanted to see if I was crazy.
I, too, had been enamored all season with Angels baseball. But watching the Angels lose the first two games to the Boston Red Sox in this division series, it again became apparent that more is needed.
During the last three trade deadlines, more was needed. During this winter, more will be needed.
General Manager Bill Stoneman’s resistance to deal for a slugger didn’t stop them from winning a division title. But, once again, it’s probably going to prevent them from winning a ring.
Once again, it became apparent that this gentle summer brand of Angels baseball is not necessarily the power brand of October baseball.
Scioscia desperately pinch-hitting for his catcher in the middle of an at-bat because he knew of no other way to get the runner home from second base, that’s not October baseball.
Vladimir Guerrero getting drilled on the shoulder by a kid who has not thrown one wild pitch in his 106 1/3 career innings but obviously figured no other Angels bat would make him pay, that is not October baseball.
Three extra-base hits in two games, nine runners stranded in scoring position with two outs, that’s not October baseball.
The dramatics of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, that’s October baseball.
“It’s frustrating to watch,” said Salmon, who was careful to note that he was not being critical of the players or the manager.
“The players are great at what they do, and you’ll never hear Mike complain about anything,” Salmon said. “But you can’t deny that every team in this position needs a couple of clutch hitters who, late in the game, can win a game in one swing.”
The Angels have but one of those hitters in Guerrero, but two things are happening to him.
1) He’s become a human dartboard for opposing pitchers such as Boston’s Manny Delcarmen, who figure the Angels are toast without him.
2) He’s become a human groundout, with three singles in his last 27 postseason at-bats dating to 2005.
Guerrero has limited, but inconsistent, help. Garret Anderson was hot late in the regular season, but he is no longer the regular power threat. Gary Matthews Jr. has some pop in his bat, but pop has also been heard in his knees.
And after that . . . the silence of despair.
They fall behind Josh Beckett by four runs in the opener, they have no chance to catch up. Guerrero leaves Game 2 with a sore shoulder, and their lineup becomes a patchwork mess.
As Salmon noted, manufacturing runs against different levels of pitchers during the regular season is one thing, but trying to do it against everybody’s ace in the postseason is a different thing entirely.
“I think we saw the other night, maybe the only way to manufacture two runs against a guy like Josh Beckett would be to hit a two-run homer,” Salmon said.
You want postseason homers? Despite its reputation for purely smart baseball, that 2002 team also hit postseason homers.
Troy Glaus -- why did they dump him again? -- had seven homers. Salmon had four homers. Adam Kennedy, remember, had three homers in one game.
In 16 postseason games, they hit 24 homers.
In its last 12 postseason games, the current crew has hit nine homers.
During its last six postseason games -- all losses -- it has hit a grand total of two homers.
“Getting to the postseason is the easy part,” Salmon said. “Getting through it is the tough part.”
Facing elimination today in front of thousands of infatuated fans at Angel Stadium, that’s one of those tough parts.
Facing elimination without the strength to keep the spark alive would be the heartbreaking part.
Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.