October 28, 2011

Shearing the sheep

Sometimes baseball fans are like sheep. They play follow the leader or in the case of baseball opinions – follow the popular consensus. Someone assumes they have the answers, voice their opinion and before you know it – it becomes the popular opinion. That’s been the case in and around Anaheim lately.

The moment Tony Reagins resigned as the general manager of the Angels and talks began about who might replace him – the sports talk shows, message boards and every conceivable media outlet was a blaze with the idea that none of it mattered because Mike Scioscia was the "real" general manager.


Seriously, sometimes I wonder if the vast majority of baseball fans ever came up with an original thought of their own.

Let me explain something that hopefully will make sense to those of you who having been crying “baaaaah” lately and let me do it by looking at a team that’s about to play a 7th game in this year’s World Series – the Texas Rangers.

When you watch the Rangers – the camera seems to always find Nolan Ryan in the crowd. Nolan Ryan is one of those larger than life personas. He has the reputation of being his own man and a no-nonsense kind of guy. Kind of like Mike Scioscia. Whenever the baseball public talks about how good the Rangers are – they give most, if not all of the credit to Nolan Ryan. After all, he’s clearly the face of the franchise.

Well, the truth of the matter is that the Rangers are where they are today because they have a brilliant young general manager named Jon Daniels. He’s the man responsible for putting the current Rangers roster together, but since his face isn’t necessarily recognizable to the television viewing audience – it’s Ryan’s mug that constantly receives face time and as a by-product of that exposure – it is he who also receives most of the credit.

Who is the face of the Angels? You got it – Mike Scioscia. Scioscia like Ryan isn’t responsible for making roster moves – what they have done (each in their own way) is instill a mentality and a philosophy on how to play the game. They’re responsible for setting a tone and attitude more than anything. And because they have that role – a lot of people have made the very false assumption that their “control” extends to personnel issues as well.

I can see how people would make that assumption (IF they’re 8 years old and believe everything they see, hear and read).

Its funny how the public has this need to assign blame or give credit to just about everything that happens and they don’t necessarily put a lot of thought or research into the process.

Mike Scioscia recently took the baseball talk circuit and made it clear that he only has the time and ability to manage, period.

Those who have already made up their minds otherwise; won’t buy it. Those that like Scioscia found reason to believe him.

Think about this – the baseball season is a grind. For a manager there isn’t much time for anything other than preparing for a game, playing a game and then traveling to the next one. Think about how much time a manager has to spend reviewing scouting reports, making out a lineup, checking on the health and attitude of his team, etc. And on top of that keep abreast of what’s happening within his team’s minor league system.

Does anyone really believe Scioscia has the time (or the energy for that matter) to evaluate the talent on other teams and make recommendations as to who the Angels should acquire? It doesn’t make any sense what-so-ever. I can’t imagine Scioscia staying on top of the waiver wire or reviewing the statistics and tape of players all over baseball, including those in the National League.

Does he have input? I would hope so. I can’t imagine any manager not having some kind of input into player personnel decisions.

Every franchise has a face. It is often the face of that organization that gets all the credit or all the blame for how well or how poorly that team does.

Mike Scioscia is responsible for a lot of the Angels’ success. He’s also accountable for a lot of the team’s failures as well. Both of those things are related to what he does on the field – either in a game or on the practice fields at spring training and not about him being some kind of defacto general manager. When you really think about it – the idea is more than a little silly.

And before you try to equate this to what happens in the National Football League (NFL) with people like Mike Holmgren or Bill Parcells; stop. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to kiwi. They’re not even the same shape and you really don’t need me to explain how they’re different; do you?

Come on; admit it. When you think about the idea that Mike Scioscia is really the team’s GM – you have to laugh, don’t you?

So... here we are - Jerry DiPoto, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks is about to be announced as the Angels new GM (announcement will be Saturday). Those who believe Scioscia is the real GM will look at this guy as an inexperienced man who will have to defer to the larger-than-life Scioscia. Those who believe it's a new day will look at DiPoto as a breath of fresh air, who comes with a diverse background and the ability to help change the direction of an organization.

I'm optimistic and hopeful. How about you?

October 12, 2011

Nap-oh-please make it stop

I can’t take it. It’s hard to watch and even harder to reconcile in my head. How in the world did Mike Napoli end up in Texas? Yeah, I know “how” – I should ask “Why?” Okay, I know the “why” as well; I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around it all.

Every time I hear an announcer or an analyst talk about what a fantastic hitter Napoli is with two strikes or how he doesn’t chase the high fast ball anymore or how good he’s been behind the plate, etc., etc., my head wants to explode.

If you’re an Angels fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s utterly painful to watch. It’s like being a little kid standing in your front yard while all the neighbor kids pile into a mini-van to head of to Disneyland and your left behind sad and jealous because you could have gone too, but your parents didn’t pay attention when plans were being made (not that this actually happened to me).

How did this happen? Crap. I’m doing it again. I’m asking questions that I know the answers to. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t understand it and I doubt that I ever will.

This creates a problem for me. You see, I like Mike Scioscia. Heck, I think he’s the best thing to ever happen to the Angels. Yeah, that’s right – EVER. It’s just that I can’t reconcile my appreciation for Scioscia with the fact that he let Mike Napoli go.

Now I know that no one is perfect – especially baseball managers and general managers. They all make mistakes and every move has some risk involved; but never-the-less, I can’t let this one go.

I mean if the Angels had simply decided it was time for Hank Conger; maybe, just maybe I’d understand. I mean I understood the thought process behind letting Troy Glaus go because Dallas McPherson appeared to be ready. And even though that didn’t work out, I could justify it in my head.

But… Napoli leaving to make room for Jeff Mathis? The same Mathis who could be non-tendered any day now?

If I could, I would kidnap Scioscia and lock him in a room; inject him with some truth serum and start asking questions.

Was it personal Mike? Was it really about his defense? Does his family make better Italian food than yours? Does he buy his appliances at Best Buy instead of Howard's? What was it really? I've got to know.

Face it; the complete turn-around of Napoli has been astonishing. He could always hit homeruns, but now he’s turned into Johnny Bench. He’s not the same guy he was in Anaheim and I’m not so sure he would have ever become who he is today had he stayed in Anaheim.

And about that…

What’s that all about? Is Mike Scioscia that hard on catchers? Is Mickey Hatcher really that inept? Yes, I know – I’m doing it again with the obvious questions… you think you know the answers; but do we really? No, really; I don’t want to hear the speculation of a bunch of sheep who spout the same nonsense that everyone else does. I want some real answers.

Unfortunately, I’ll probably never get the answers I want… (I’m thinking about the truth serum idea again).


Somebody get Bengie Molina on the phone. I want to ask him what it was like playing for Scioscia. I’m serious – Molina was the total package and I’d love to get his perspective.

Can anyone validate what happened? Anyone? Hello?

Meanwhile, baseball marches on.

As great as the postseason has been so far; and let me tell you – it’s been utterly spectacular; I still feel a little empty. Actually, make that a-whole-lot-of empty because the Angels failed to get there for the second year in a row and every time I turn on a Rangers game I see signs like “Year of the Napoli.”

Josh Hamilton even made a comment that had something to do with who the Rangers might get from the Angels this off season after watching Vladimir Guerrero last year and Napoli this year contribute to their success. That wouldn't be so funny if it weren't so true.

Seriously… this isn’t fun at all. Oh sure – Rangers fans are yucking it up pretty good, but most die-hard Angels fans are suffering here.

You hear the praise being heaped on Napoli and you sit there starring at the T.V. numb and utterly stunned. And just when you think you’ve come back to your senses – you watch him hit a homerun or throw a runner out or do something that makes you plant your face firmly in the palm of your hands.

And the truth of the matter is that you can’t really hate Napoli for his success. He didn’t choose to be in Texas – he ended up there. I have no problem booing the likes of Ian Kinsler or CJ Wilson, but I can’t muster up any animosity for Napoli at all and let me tell you - I've tried.

He was never one of my favorites, but that’s probably because I knew he wasn’t one of Scioscia’s favorites. Why Mike; why?

We see Napoli having success and we are hopeless to do anything about it.

Our nightmare has been Napoli’s dream come true. Not only did he have a fantastic season, he even put an exclamation point on it when his team ended the year in Anaheim – where he hit four homeruns in that final series. It was like watching a movie in slow motion.

It feels like Angel fans are being punished over and over and over and over and… well, you get the picture.

If Texas goes on to win the World Series I’m not going to be very happy about it (the thought just makes me want to puke), but a small part of me will be happy for Napoli (a really teeny tiny part of me). If it happens (Texas winning *gag*) my emotions will again be in conflict; happy for Nap and disgusted that it happened in Texas.

Regardless of what happens; 2011 season has been sort of a coming-out party for Napoli. It truly has been his year (just like those signs say).

It’s like he was freed from a boss he hated even though he was doing something he normally loved to do. When you hear him interviewed he seems to be having fun. He seems to have found the joy again and I can’t help but be happy for him. He probably never deserved the amount of criticism that was thrown his way; especially, when we compare how much praise has always been given to Mathis.

It just doesn’t compute and I doubt that it ever will.

So here we are… while Ranger fans chant Nap-o-li, Nap-o-li; we Angel fans watch in quiet (or maybe not-so-quiet) anguish. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The funny thing is that even though the Angels are in the process of a massive face lift – as they go about looking to replace Tony Reagins and an-ever-growing cast of thousands (scouts, front office personnel, etc.) – I can’t get the whole Napoli thing out of my mind. It’s as if I am looking for some kind of closure; a valid explanation, if you will before I can “turn the page.”

Oh well… Approximately 124 days till pitchers and catchers report. It’s going to be a long off season. Buckle up.

October 3, 2011

Making sense of it all

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Angels under the ownership of Arte Moreno is that they always find ways to surprise me. This was never truer than when Tony Reagins resigned last week as the team’s general manager.

It was a move that most Angels fans wanted in the worst way and yet those same folks (including me) probably doubted it would happen in the near future. So when the news first hit the internet, I had to do a double take. And when I realized my eyes weren’t deceiving me – I threw both fists up in the air and let out a “Yes!” I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day.

Reagins seems like a nice guy. I mean he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would kick his dog after a bad day at the office and even though I didn’t care much for some of the moves he made or didn’t make; I couldn’t say that I actually disliked the man per say.

Granted, I didn’t really want him to continue on as the Angels’ GM, but I had kind of accepted the idea that he would.

Now, I don’t know Reagins and I’ve never had more than a three or four sentence conversation with him; so I’m really in no position to judge the man’s character, but I will say that he did project a certain image that I didn’t care a great deal about.

It appeared to me that there was a certain arrogance about him. I wouldn’t say he was “cocky” per say, but more along the lines of an arrogance born out of naivety. There were times when I thought he’s either really not that bright or just plain arrogant. The whole Carl Crawford debacle made that more evident than ever (I blogged about it: HERE)

That whole episode made it virtually impossible for a lot of people to ever take him seriously again. He seemed over-matched and again – arrogant; almost defiant in his own failures. And let’s be honest – he failed at monumental levels. He failed like Jeff Mathis failed as a hitter. Just saying.

So here we are; the Angels are in search of a general manager and speculation is rampant. As soon as the news hit the fan; names like Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman and Billy Beane were being thrown about as if they were the only names Angels fans had ever heard.

Personally, I believe all of those names are pipe dreams and in the case of Billy Beane it’s even laughable, if you ask me.

What’s even more laughable is the popular opinion that Mike Scioscia calls all the shots and that whoever the GM is or will be – will be taking their orders from him.


While I do find it believable that Scioscia has a tremendous amount of input regarding personnel issues; I can’t fathom a scenario where he would actually perform the duties of a GM from behind the scenes. Think about it.

If the Angels really wanted to Scioscia to take on the responsibilities of a general manager – they’d most likely come right out and say it. I don’t see any reason to try and hide something like that what-so-ever.

Do I believe the GM seeks the blessings of Scioscia? You bet. I would be that’s true (seeking out the opinions and blessings of managers) in most cases throughout major league baseball. That only makes sense (unless you’re Sandy Alderson or Billy Beane), who are notorious for enforcing their will).

All of this feeds into the idea that someone like Theo Epstein could never co-exist with Scioscia. While I don’t believe for a second that Epstein is leaving Boston (where he grew up cheering for the Red Sox) to come to the left coast; I will say that having Scioscia as the manager would probably be the least of his worries.

Think about the players Epstein has acquired over the years via trades, free agency or the draft? Are there any that you think Scioscia wouldn’t want? Adrian Gonzalez? Carl Crawford? Dustin Pedroia? Jacoby Ellsbury? Anyone?

Okay, I could see Scioscia not wanting a guy like J.D. Drew who makes Garret Anderson seem like an overachiever when it comes to effort and maybe he wouldn’t exactly welcome John Lackey back with open arms, but you get the idea.

Seriously, Scioscia would embrace Epstein or anyone who could arm him with those kinds of weapons. I also believe that Epstein would in turn embrace the knowledge and wisdom of someone like Scioscia who has demonstrated the keen ability to get the most out of his players (Although, I would love to hear a conversation between the two about Jeff Mathis).

In any case, it’s all moot because I don’t believe Epstein is coming to Anaheim. Chicago? Maybe, but not Anaheim.

So who are the top candidates? I really don’t know enough names (other than the retired Pat Gillick or the Dodgers’ Logan White) to venture a real guess.

All I know is that I hope they’re on board soon so that the Angels can hit the ground running when the Post season ends and the Hot Stove Season begins.