Disappointing Angels shouldn’t surprise anybody

Manager Mike Scioscia is going to have to work miracles to turn the young Angels into winners. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Inevitably, there comes a defining point in a season — a point at which you either throw up your hands and call it quits on a team or realize that your favorite club has fielded something special.

For the Angels, that moment came on Sunday in a loss to New York, which wrapped everything that is wrong with this club into one neat little package. There were untimely home runs given up by the pitching. There were wasted opportunities galore. There were two inning-ending strikeouts with men in scoring position, including Maicer Izturis’s pathetic whiff with the bases loaded. And, lest we forget, Torii Hunter came up to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs and the tying run at third. Predictably, the result was a ground ball into a double play.

I normally try to find the positives with every negative, but it’s starting to get pretty bleak if you’re an Angels fan.

Indeed, through the first quarter of the season, the Angels showed the world who they are. They can’t hit in clutch situations. They can’t run the bases. They can’t communicate in the outfield. And most importantly of all, they can’t win games.

But honestly, it was silly to expect anything different from a club nearly identical to (if not worse than) its 2010 iteration. The only difference this time around is a few million dollars more in dead weight. In fact, the previous Angels offseason will probably go down as one of the worst in franchise history.

The Angels have picked up valuable veterans over the last half decade, hoping to inject some much-needed leadership into the lineup. This season especially, that strategy has crashed and burned. Vernon Wells is an injured bust, and Hunter’s age is finally catching up with him. Russell Branyan has failed to produce the spark the front office expected, and Scott Kazmir is struggling in the minors. As a result, this youth-infused offense has turned out to be even worse than in 2010, getting shut out eight times through 61 games. The disappointing 2010 team was shut out nine times over the entire season.

Consider this: The Angels’ payroll is the fourth-largest in baseball at about $140 million. All three of the teams who spend more than Los Angeles — the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox, in that order — are very alive in their quest for the postseason and hold winning records. Meanwhile, with their mediocre record, the Angels are in third place and 4.5 games back in a lousy division. Seattle, who is in second place in the AL West, has only the 18th-largest payroll in baseball.

For a payroll this bloated, to perform so poorly is inexcusable.

Angels fans would like to see a lot more bang for theirs and Arte Moreno’s buck. The hope does persist that miracles can happen in the game of baseball. The Angels could conceivably make a complete 180 and contend for the division crown. They could also make a big maneuver before the trade deadline, provided they’re not clearly sellers when the time comes. But until either of those things happen, this team will continue to be a $140 million embarrassment. If nothing does come to fruition, Angels fans can comfort themselves with the fact that they won’t be caught by surprise this time around.

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