Angels’ demise rests mostly on Scioscia’s shoulders
OK, SO we all love Mike Scioscia. Great guy, super Dodger, outstanding manager and all that.
But I blame the Angels’ quick playoff exit on Scioscia’s athletic arrogance, hanging him on his own season-long mantra: “If we play our game, we can beat anyone.”
The Angels played their game the best at home this season, better than any other team in the American League, compiling a 54-27 record, going 40-41 on the road, hitting .305 in Angel Stadium and .263 on the road.
If baseball teams do everything they can to get an edge, maybe pinch-hitting a right-handed batter for a left-hander, then why not go all out for home-field advantage, the most decisive edge to your advantage?
But instead, Scioscia blew it, just like the Dodgers, who didn’t go all out to win it when given a head start on the rest of the National League with the best record in July.
Two weeks ago Sunday, the Angels, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians each had 92 wins, the Angels clinching and soaking themselves with champagne after securing a playoff berth.
They played 156 games to get that far, and although they didn’t exactly quit, it’s Scioscia who sets the tone around here on everything, and he shrugged when asked about the importance of locking up the home-field advantage with a week to play.
For days, in fact, the question had been raised -- the Angels win, and what do you do? Celebrate or buckle down? The answer was always the same from Scioscia: “If we play our game, we can beat anyone.”
Six games to play, time to go all out to give themselves the best chance of winning it all, and they proved my point -- unable to play their game effectively on the road, they couldn’t even take advantage of a schedule calling for them to play against down-and-out teams in Texas and Oakland.
Scioscia insisted that some of his players needed to rest, suggesting it might very well have meant season-ending injuries to some of them if pressed on, and just maybe they might get hit by a truck too on the way back to the hotel.
They started Ervin Santana, Dustin Moseley and Joe Saunders on the mound against the Rangers, and the Angels were swept in Texas, not only losing the home-field advantage but just maybe the competitive bite they had enjoyed down the stretch.
Once they clinched, and Scioscia turned off the competitive afterburners, the Angels went 2-7 to finish the regular season and playoffs.
“You’re trying to make the point that we didn’t try to win those games, and I vehemently disagree with you,” Scioscia said. “You’re way off base.”
I’m not suggesting the players on the field didn’t try to win, but I am suggesting that they take their lead from the manager, who never demonstrated any sense of urgency when it came to locking up the Angel Stadium advantage.
Surprisingly, we don’t always agree. Scioscia likes to say he never looks at the standings, and I like to say that makes no sense, baseball being his only job, and he doesn’t even take a look to see how his team is faring in comparison to everyone else?
He thinks he can win playing small ball; I believe the Angels need someone who can hit home runs and protect Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup before his stay here in an Angels uniform comes to an end.
We continue to disagree. Scioscia said his players were going to need some rest sooner or later, and resting them sooner, he said, might very well have ended with the same results.
But sorry, I’m not buying his Grady Little imitation, resting Garret Anderson and Guerrero when every game still counted, professional athletes paid to keep grinding -- until their four-month vacation officially begins.
There was nothing wrong with Anderson, who carried the team since the All-Star break, and although Guerrero was battling a sore elbow, the AL provides the DH position for superstars who only need to pick up a bat four times a night.
Mr. HGH came up lame, but so it goes in sports, Stanford starting a kid at quarterback for the first time, and how did that work out? Little made sure some of the Dodgers were well-rested too as they began their off-season.
Why pour champagne over each other’s heads when the only thing that matters is winning the World Series? Is it just about making the playoffs around here?
A team that hits .305 at home, .263 on the road and has to begin the playoffs in a place like Fenway Park, where John Lackey, the ace of the staff, has a history of being pounded, has wasted any advantage that it might have had.
Tell me these results weren’t predictable.
Someone else suggested the Angels never had a chance because they were too beat up to win this series, and Scioscia said, “I don’t think it was the injuries.”
Maybe he was just disagreeable after getting swept, ignoring the obvious, because of course it was the injuries. And one more reason why a boost from their home-town fans might’ve helped the Angels’ cause. Who can forget the impact of those noise sticks?
“We’ll never know,” said Anderson when asked whether the Angels blew it, allowing Manny Ramirez & Co. to get off to such a feel-good start.
But then baseball is a game of numbers, every one of them favoring the Angels at home, averaging one more run a game at home than on the road and surrendering one fewer run at home than on the road.
By the way, Bobby Grich was scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 4 in Angel Stadium -- unfortunately, a home game now that will have to be put off until April.
THE POLLS came out, and while the media had USC ranked No. 10 and the coaches had them at No. 7, you have to wonder what the coaches know -- they had UCLA getting two votes in the USA Today poll.
TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Mr. Schmidt:
“Try and find the positive side of at least one story. It will make you a happier person.”
Are you suggesting I move to a town with better teams?
T.J. Simers can be reached at email@example.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.