When Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno committed more than $330 million last December to sign the top free-agent hitter and starting pitcher on the market, he had to be hoping for more than what he’s gotten from the underachieving Angels this season.
A few days before the waiver trading deadline last month, Moreno green-lighted a deal that would commit even more of his cash to the 2012 season when they sent their top position-player prospect, Jean Segura, and two minor-league pitchers, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena, to the Milwaukee Brewers to land former Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke.
For a two-month rental of Greinke, the Angels will pay the right-hander $5.15 million for the remainder of the season but general manager Jerry Dipoto may believe LA of A has a legitimate chance of landing Greinke when he hits the free-agent market this winter.
But despite all that high-priced talent and the emergence of perhaps the most dynamic rookie ever in young Mike Trout, the Angels have struggled off and on all season long. It appeared for awhile the Halos had righted the ship after a horrible start to the season, when the Angels found themselves seven games under .500 and eight games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West in May.
But after being demolished in a four-game sweep at Angels Stadium by the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend, during which they were outscored 37-14 and the starters surrendered 19 runs, Los Angeles has now matched a season high with its nine-game deficit in the division. The Angels also trail the Baltimore Orioles by 4½ games for the AL’s second wild-card spot.
How awful was the Angels’ starting pitching in this series? Dan Haren kicked off the festivities on Thursday night, when the three-time All-Star was rocked for four runs in the fourth inning and lasted just 3 2/3 innings in a 7-0 Tampa Bay victory.
Ace right-hander Jered Weaver followed that up on Friday with the worst start of his career, falling to 15-3 on the season after surrendering seven runs in the fourth inning, leaving without recording an out in the frame as the Rays cruised to a 12-3 win.
Wilson took the bump on Saturday night and the Angels endured what might have been their most soul-crushing defeat of the season. After being staked to an early 8-0 lead, Wilson did what he could to give it all back, allowing seven runs in the fifth inning. The bullpen eventually finished the job when Kevin Jepsen served up a two-run pinch-hit home run to Carlos Pena to seal a 10-8 loss.
Finally on Sunday, Greinke was tagged for six runs on seven hits in six innings and fell to 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA since coming over from the Brewers and Tampa Bay completed the sweep with an 8-3 win.
The Angels are 14-22 since the All-Star break and their 5.66 staff ERA during that span is the second-worst in baseball, better than only the Colorado Rockies. Whenever your pitching staff is associated with the phrase “better than only the Colorado Rockies,” it is an indication that things have gotten just about as bad as they can get.
In August, that number has ballooned to an MLB-worst 6.76.
Adding embarrassing insult to injury was the fact that Saturday night’s implosion took place the same night that the Angels were capping a homestand-long celebration of the 10th anniversary of the franchise’s only World Series winner in 2002 with a team reunion.
There is one thing that is the same about the Angels of 10 years ago and the Angels of today. Not even the team name is the same, mind you, as that World Series was won by the Anaheim Angels.
No, the one constant between then and now is the guy making out the lineup card, manager Mike Scioscia. When the Angels weren’t hitting earlier in the season, hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was given some nice parting gifts on his way out. Now that the problems have shifted to the mound, it may be pitching coach Mike Butcher who is the next to go.
There are two simple facts to consider when thinking about what is next for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim should they miss the postseason for the third consecutive year:
1. The manager can’t go make pitches for the guys who aren’t making them.
2. It will always be easier and more expedient to replace one manager and a handful of coaches than it is to replace 25 players, particularly after ownership commits huge piles of cash designed to make the team a contender right now.
For Scioscia, who signed a 10-year contract extension in 2009 that was meant to keep him in the dugout through the 2018 season, it means the relative anonymity that comes with not managing one of the mega-budget teams has come to an end.
It also means that there may be consequences to missing the postseason party one too many times.z