For the Los Angeles Angels, with two weeks to go in the season, this wasn’t how they drew it up.
The Angels welcome the Chicago White Sox to town for a weekend series that hold many more playoff implications for the visiting team, than for those playing a home. Los Angeles, who shocked the baseball world last Fall by signing C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols on the same day, who added a Cy Young winner to their rotation in mid-season, and who employ the game’s brightest young star in Mike Trout, are a full four games out of the second Wild Card slot and in third place in their division.
Realistically, the Angels don’t have much of a shot to make the playoffs in 2012. But they can put a serious dent in Chicago’s chances, and keep their own slim hopes alive, with a big weekend.
L.A.’s chances aren’t completely dashed, of course, but they wasted a big opportunity over the past few days, including wasting a gem of a performance by Zack Greinke on Thursday night. While the Oakland A’s, the club the Angels are most immediately chasing for a playoff berth, were dropping two of three in Detroit, the Halos couldn’t capitalize and gained no ground in losing two of three to a depleted Texas squad.
The Angels have been not without some inner turmoil this season, either. Long-time hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was fired in May after reports that he and Pujols weren’t getting along. Pujols, it should be noted, was in the midst of the worst first month-and-a-half of a season in his career. Was it coincidence that Pujols perked up around the time Hatcher was replaced? Probably. Guys who make close to $30 million per year usually do so because they are pretty darn good hitters already. I doubt anything Hatcher said or didn’t say would have caused Pujols to temporarily forget how to hit.
Fitting then, since he and Pujols signed on the same day, that Wilson has also had a run-in or two with the Angels’ coaching staff. Following his latest start, once in which his former teammates knocked him out of the game in the third inning, Wilson and manager Mike Scioscia reportedly had a lengthy closed-door meeting; the second such meeting between the two this season.
Wilson had a strong first half, but has posted a 5.79 ERA since the All-Star break and walks have been an issue. It appears as if Wilson and pitching coach Mike Butcher disagree on the best way to attack hitters; which is to say that Butcher prefers Wilson to, you know, actually throw strikes and work within the zone. Wilson apparently thinks trying get hitters to chase in a better method.
Either way, given the disappointment that has been this season for the Angels and that the club has already yielded to a star player once this season, you have to figure that at the very least, Butcher’s job may be in jeopardy. It wouldn’t shock me if Scioscia’s isn’t as well, but many time, managers are given he option of replacing coaches before they get the axe themselves.
Ordinarily, you see a staff that has been as sable as the one in Anaheim and you assume the manager has full backing of the front office, but the Angels have quite a bit of money tied up in Wilson over the next four seasons and after a rough campaign his year, he’d be a tough guy to trade. Unless he and the coaching staff get on the same page, even more changes could be coming to the Halo dugout.
Oakland has seven meetings remaining with Texas this season, so if the Angels can right the ship, they might still be in play for the post-season appearance hat seemed a mere formality during the Winter. If they wind up falling short, it will interesting to see how much patience Arte Moreno is willing to display.