Anaheim Angels

AL West Division2nd2nd2nd1st
American League 7th10th8th1st
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2011 eulogy: It's all Tony Reagins' fault -- except the Dan Haren acquisition, which was consummated by the Rally Monkey's stat-monger cousin, the WARP Orangutan. Offseason to-do list: Sort out the 1B/DH logjam. This might require donating a gently worn Bobby Abreu to charity ... Take advantage of the rich relief market to add a veteran closer, which would allow the team to shunt Jordan Walden into a more appropriate set-up role ... Conjure a plausible explanation as to why they gave up on Mike Napoli ("Sometimes when a pitcher wanted to throw a fastball, he'd call for a slider. We can't have somebody fomenting discord like that"). Odds of achieving Cardinals-like glory in 2012: It depends if Mike Scioscia can be counted on to play the team's best players, as he mostly did down the stretch. I don't think he can, frankly.
What went right: Just when the season seemed lost, Mike Scioscia started playing his best players. What an innovator! Given how much of a copycat league MLB has become, you can expect other managers to do the same in 2012 and beyond ... If Peter Bourjos is excitement personified, that makes Mike Trout ... I dunno. Excitement incarnate? Liquid excitement? We should settle this before next season ... Howie Kendrick grew up. The rookies distinguished themselves. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren kicked all kinds of ass. If you'd told me prior to the season that all of these things would happen, I'd have pegged the Angels as a 95-win team. What went wrong: Through Monday, Jeff Mathis had logged 281 plate appearances (.174/.225/.259) and Vernon Wells had logged 523 (.218/.249/.415). There's your three-game difference in the wild-card standings. Regular-season epilogue: The season was lost before it started, courtesy of the Wells/Napoli deal. For his final meal, Tony Reagins should order the lamb shank.
If the Angels somehow make the playoffs, their pitching could make them a tough out. Similarly, if Nickelback somehow goes back in time to 1960 and writes/records all the Beatles' songs and claims them as their own, their music could make them a real Grammy contender. ... Wow, Jered Weaver pitched on three days' rest on Sunday afternoon. That's a lot to ask from a 28-year-old. Next thing you know, they'll wean him off the teat. ... I assume Mike Scioscia was just trying to prop up Mark Trumbo -- he of the .296 OBP -- by mentioning that he's "in the MVP conversation." Or maybe Scioscia was just trying to make the short-attention-span fans forget that Mike Napoli has been more valuable than any Angel not named Weaver. Either way, "embarrassing" doesn't begin to describe it.
If you'd asked me to predict a key killer moment in a pivotal mid-September Angels loss, I'd have guessed "superdefender Peter Bourjos drops a catchable pop fly" long after "Dan Haren walks 12 runs around the bases" and "Torii Hunter fights a hobo in right field, prompting the umps to call for a forfeit." ... I am as baseball-infatuated with Mike Trout as everyone else (see this week's Player Rankings for details), but let's stop throwing around dumbstats like "the Angels are 20-6 in games in which he starts." This leaves out a bit of information. Like: How did he perform in those games? Who pitched? Against what level of competition? I realize we need a constant flow of information to help us make sense of a random universe, but let's try to use numbers for good, not just for the hell of it.
They're only a few games back, and yet we've already ceded the division to the Rangers. Why is that? It might have something to do with the tiring staff -- Jered Weaver's recharge-battery light blinked like mad on Saturday night -- and the dearth of bullpen options following Tony Reagins' nothingman act at the trade deadline ... Really, the difference between the Angels and Rangers in the standings basically boils down to Reagins' moves and non-moves. Playing some undistinguished Triple-A kid in left field would've produced a more favorable result than playing Vernon Wells. Is it funny that the gap in the standings can almost single-handedly be attributed to Mike Napoli's performance vis-a-vis those of the LA backstops, or is it ironic? I suppose that depends on which team you root for.
For Mike Scioscia, it was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks. He finally stopped basing his lineup decisions on past achievement, punting Jeff Mathis to the far end of the bench and demoting Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells to platoon duty. On the other hand, starting Ervin Santana and Jeff Weaver on short rest -- in the repressive Texas heat, no less -- seemed a bit of a panic move ... All in all, Scioscia is doing a far better job getting his best players onto the field than he was just three short weeks ago. Wouldn't you know it: the team's recent record reflects that. [Insert small-sample-size caveat here.]
Here's your new, mainstream-media-approved narrative: The two last-licks comebacks -- one against the Rangers last Thursday and another against the Orioles on Saturday -- saved the season. Had they lost those games, they'd have spiraled into third place and/or clinical depression. Now they are born anew, ready to stalk the Rangers for the next month. ... Or not. They're still a gaggle of games back, plus they won only three of 10 games during their litmus-test stretch against the Yankees, Jays and Rangers. ... The Texas series was over before it started: Last Monday's starter went down five batters into the game, which drained the bullpen -- and then Rangers went into deep-count mode on Tuesday. Frankly, the Angels are fortunate to be only 4.5 back after that display.
The adult part of their schedule started with a 2-4 run through New York and Toronto, with three more games against the Rangers up next. It's silly to read too much into any 10-game schedule stretch, but ... well, I'm gonna read a whole lot into that 10-game schedule stretch if the Angels don't at least split with Texas. The series couldn't have started much worse, with Garrett Richards departing the game five batters in ... Two HRs in a game for Bobby Abreu, including one off Mariano Rivera? Scioscia is gonna bat him third until the end of time, and possibly a season or two beyond that.
They scored four runs over the weekend and won two games. Some would call that good fortune; me, I call it DESTINY... Is it too dramatic to label the next two weeks the ones in which the division will be won or lost? Probably, but it'd sure enhance the Angels' bona fides as a contender if they come out of this Yankees/Jays/Rangers stretch looking strong ... Mark Trumbo: He's a slugger! He's an outmaker! He's both -- in one convenient, affordable package!
The Angels didn't bother upgrading at the trade deadline and Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter. Who cares? Unwritten rules were violated during Sunday's game against the Tigers! Gather the members of the enforcement committee! ... Homer-admiring, above-the shoulders retaliation, bunts to break up a no-hitter, accidental elbows around home plate -- the game had 'em all and then some. It's a miracle the Angels and Tigers didn't codify a few more unwritten rules (e.g., no loitering in the on-deck circle) and then break them, just to show they could ... Shoot, we lost Mike Trout to the minors before he got a chance to line up against Peter Bourjos in a foot race. They were planning on settling the who's-faster question once and for all at dusk on the field behind Old Man Aybar's farm. Now, we'll never know for sure. Sigh.
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