The Angels are looking at a significant deficit, at three teams ahead of them, at 10 weeks of playing uphill.
About to begin the post-All Star break portion of their 2018 season, they’re looking at something else even more substantial:
The potential conclusion of Mike Scioscia’s managerial reign.
With 65 games left in the 10th and final year of a contract extension he signed in January 2009, Scioscia could be beginning the end of a possible Hall of Fame career.
“I love managing,” he said Sunday. “All I’m thinking about right now is our game today and then it will be the game after that. That’s it.”
All season, Scioscia, who turns 60 in November, has refused to publicly discuss his future beyond the next pitch.
The team’s upper management, including owner Arte Moreno and general manager Billy Eppler, isn’t expected to make any decision official until after the season is allowed to play out.
By all accounts, Moreno, Eppler and Scioscia remain on strong working terms. The relationships appear to be sound and, at this point at least, whatever direction the franchise goes, that choice probably will be made in concert.
And unless the Angels make a dramatic leap in the standings over the next 2 1/2 months, someone else could be managing the team in 2019.
“It’s a long season,” All-Star center fielder Mike Trout said. “We gotta stay positive. We can’t give up yet.”
The climb back starting Friday against first-place Houston is a daunting one for a team that has used the disabled list 25 times and employed 50 players, including 29 pitchers.
“You never want to be on a team that’s completely giving up on a season because there’s still a ways to go,” pitcher Tyler Skaggs said. “Look what the A’s have done. If we were to go on that type of run, we’re right back in this.”
Oakland was below .500 in mid-June before starting a 21-6 roll — by winning two of three against the Angels, no less — to move within three games of Seattle. It will take something similarly stunning from the Angels now.
If the Mariners are only average the rest of the season, they’ll finish with 91 wins. That means the Angels would need to go 42-23 to catch them. If the Mariners maintain their current pace, the Angels would have to finish 48-17.
“This team is not out of the playoff race by any means,” second baseman Ian Kinsler insisted. “Especially with the second wild card now, crazy things can happen.”
Overcoming large deficits to make the postseason is a baseball tradition, one that has continued to thrive over the past two decades.
Minnesota trailed by 11 games at the All-Star break before coming back to win the AL Central in 2006.
The A’s were nine games behind Texas at the break before winning the AL West on the final day of the 2012 regular season.
The 2014 Dodgers and 2002 A’s also came back to make the playoffs after surfacing from double-digit holes.
“We have the same optimism about reaching our goal,” Scioscia said. “But we know that there are some things that we need to do better. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”
The bullpen has had steady and impressive stretches but also been fragile and unreliable. A heavy workload in April yielded largely encouraging results but also might have contributed to an eventual decline in performance.
Though fairly dependable, the rotation has failed to provide a sufficient number of innings, a problem made more difficult to solve because of an onslaught of injuries that has forced the Angels to use 12 starters.
“When you have more than half of the starting pitchers on the DL, it’s really tough,” Albert Pujols said. “But we need to figure out a way to do it.”
St. Louis figured out a way in 2006. Pujols recently invoked the memory of that team, one he helped win a World Series title despite injuries to key figures Mark Mulder, Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein.
Those Cardinals also suffered from the sort of inconsistency that led to two eight-game losing streaks before they rallied to go 11-5 in the postseason, beating Detroit in five games for the championship.
“We don’t expect anybody to feel sorry for us,” Scioscia said. “We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. This game is really about where you are now, where you are today. We have to take care of things in-house.”
Determining where the Angels are today is no harder than looking at the standings.
Determining where they could be tomorrow — especially as it relates to their manager — is a little more involved.