In much the same fashion as 2012, the Los Angeles Angels will enter their 2013 campaign with plenty of lofty expectations. GM Jerry Dipotohas done a wonderful job to ensure the Halos still have the talent to compete, even though they will look remarkably different. With such a talented roster, 2013 will be playoffs-or-bust in Anaheim.
For all the hype around the players, though, most of the pressure will fall on the shoulders of manager Mike Scioscia, whose club has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
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No letdown was bigger than the Halos’ disappointing 2012 campaign. In spite of all its talent, the club could not overcome a horrific start with a phenomenal push in late September.
The finish was unthinkable – across the board, the Halos had one of the most talented rosters in baseball. The starting rotation boasted Cy Youngcandidate Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. The lineup featured Torii Hunter in the best season of his career, the rookie phenomenon Mike Trout, and of course the great Albert Pujols. Their supporting cast was pretty darn good, too, save for a dangerously meltdown-prone bullpen.
The fact of the matter is the Angels were good, at least on paper. But something didn’t quite “click,” as cliched as it sounds. The club struggled and their season ended in disappointment. The struggles came across the board, not only from a faulty bullpen. The Halos suffered from boneheaded baserunning, stone-cold bats in key situations, and plenty of managerial goofs. For most of the Angels’ 2012 flaws wrapped into a neat little summation, look no further than this game.
Most glaring of the Angels’ errors in that painful July collapse was Mike Scioscia’s decision to keep Kendrys Morales in the game instead of pinch-running Peter Bourjos, upon which Bill Plunkett elaborates in his article. It could have been a crucial turning point in the season, with the Halos taking advantage of the Rangers in the midst of a lackluster July. Instead, the loss gave Texas a divisional lead they would not relinquish to the Angels for the rest of the season.
Moments like these not only determine whether a club is championship-caliber; they also test the mettle of its manager. Scioscia missed the call, then proceeded to defend his decision-making when the game was over. He was confident his reasoning for the non-move was sound, but pundits and fans alike begged to differ. Hindsight is 20-20, but the desperate nature of the situation seemed to call for a more aggressive approach.
This was arguably the most egregious error of Scioscia’s 2012, but scattered about the season were several instances of leaving a pitcher in the game for too long or pulling one too early.
Plenty of blame for the Angels’ struggles throughout 2012 was leveled at Scioscia across the Angels blogosphere, and deservedly so. If Scioscia truly is a drag on his club, the upcoming season will be a strong indicator. The skipper has had a whole season to adapt to a roster heavy with star power, so perhaps he will manage his talent more ably this time around.
Scioscia and his Angels missed the playoffs by only a few games last season. As disappointing as the result was, Scioscia still deserved the benefit of the doubt given how close he came. This time, however, Scioscia’s job may not be as secure if the Angels miss the postseason again.
The road back to the playoffs looks daunting. Texas looks to forget the smart of their late-season collapse and early-playoff exit. Oakland hopes to parlay an American League West crown and ALCS appearance into sustained success. However, Angels owner Arte Moreno is unlikely to accept a competitive West as an excuse. The talent on the Angels’ roster is good enough to compete with anybody.
If the Angels miss the playoffs, don’t be surprised if Mike Scioscia loses his job. With all the money Moreno has invested in revamping the roster, his patience has to be running out. We are still getting to know Moreno as a team owner, so only he knows what he plans to do if the Angels underperform again. But any owner worth his salt ought to consider making the difficult decision if it genuinely looks like the Angels will stay mired in mediocrity.
With any luck, Scioscia’s club will play like his job depends on it.