Please, forgive the following vitriol. Being a sports fan means letting go of reason in favor of a little entertaining rant from time to time.
Here’s the scenario: your club is still alive in the race for the American League West and has somehow scrambled its way back into the Wild Card picture. You’re alive, but you don’t quite have a grip on your destiny just yet. The Texas Rangers, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Boston Red Sox are all headed in the same direction, and they’ll be damned if they let anybody get in their way. And they’re all a little closer than you are.
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But what’s the one thing you should do, no matter the current circumstances?
The answer is easy: keep winning. Put the best product you possibly can on the field, day in and day out.
At this stage of the season, you’ve come too far and done too much to squander a fantastic opportunity to play baseball well into the fall. If you’re simply not good enough even when you’re giving the best you’ve got, then so be it. At least you tried to seize the opportunity.
But what the Los Angeles Angels are currently doing is beyond any rational sports fan’s comprehension. Time and time again, Angel fans are bewildered by the sight of two men – two key figures in a controversial 2010-2011 offseason – trotting onto the field with an inexplicable air of confidence and high expectation.
We get it, guys: you traded away Mike Napoli, who is currently tearing things up in Arlington, in favor of both of these men. You stuck with Mathis as the de facto starting catcher over Napoli in spite of Napoli’s obvious offensive upside. You honestly thought Mathis’s defense would be worth the offensive sacrifice. You sent Napoli to Toronto simply because acquiring Wells was the only feasible move you could make after botching one potential acquisition after another.
So it’s not all too surprising to me that Scioscia and the Angels front office have decided to “stick to their guns” in all this. They want the world to see that their risky offseason moves have some sort of payoff, be it in the form of a meaningless late-inning Wells home run in a blowout or the occasional runner caught stealing by Mathis.
Heaven forbid they look like fools for acquiring an aging outfielder with a contract almost as fat as his useless behind.
Lord knows they can’t be called stupid for placing all of their faith in a guy who is currently struggling to keep his batting average above .180 (Congrats, by the way – you’re at a solid .183, Jeffy). Meanwhile, rooks Hank Conger and Bobby Wilson, who are offensively superior, continue to waste away on the bench.
“He’s bound to find his swing eventually.” Get real.
By allowing these two clowns run rampant all over the Angels’ winning percentage, the Angels are sending a very clear message:
We’d rather lose games than admit we’ve made a mistake.
Look, I’m a fan. I don’t care what kind of clubhouse politics are going on. I don’t care who is getting paid what. All I want is to see a group of guys on the field who will win games. I want to see good defense. I want to see some hustle on the bases.
If that means letting Vernon Wells sit on his expensive keister all night so he can keep posting his clever little rhyming tweets, I’m all for it. Bench the man. Hell, we’d all be “too blessed to be stressed” if the Angels could wriggle their way into the playoffs sans any contribution from the afterbirth of the front office’s little offseason experiment.
The pieces are all there. Texas is losing more games than they have all season. The Angels are playing the softest September schedule I’ve ever seen, and the worst of it is already out of the way. Tampa Bay and Boston could very well clobber each other out of contention for the Wild Card. The Angels have a reasonably good team who could beat anybody on any given day. The baseball gods, in all their cruel wisdom, are practically screaming in Mike Scioscia’s ear:
Here’s a spot in the playoffs, reserved specifically for you! All you have to do is pretend like you still care and field the best team you possibly can.
Yet here we are, going down 8-3 to Baltimore in late September, with Texas losing yet another game on the very same night. Take the hint, Mike, and let the world know your club has made a mistake. Stop prolonging the torture of the Mathis/Wells experiment and bench them. All you’d have to do to earn our forgiveness is to do what you do best: win.
It should be a whole lot easier with those two out of the way.