September 4, 2013

Remaining reasonable in the face of chaos

The 2013 season started to head south for me on November 16, 2012 – the day Torii Hunter signed with the Detroit Tigers.  Hunter had become my all-time favorite baseball player, let alone Angel – surpassing both Roberto Clemente and Bobby Grich.   A big part of my joy was sucked right out of me and I began to wonder what kind of season was in store for us in 2013.

I felt betrayed by Arte Moreno.  I felt he had led Angel fans to believe that resigning Hunter was a priority.  Regardless of the truth of how things went down – that was how I felt at the time and quite frankly, it still bothers me.

Things got progressively worse the following month when the Angels signed Joe Blanton on December 12.  In my mind – Joe Blanton was a bottom-of-the-barrel kind of guy and I could not understand why in the world Jerry Dipoto would make such a signing.  It was a “face palm” moment for sure.

Those two events were the beginning of the demise of the 2013 season in my opinion and it all happened before 2012 was even over.  It was as if the Angels had a dug themselves into a hole before spring had even come along.

By the time the season rolled around, it was clear to me that everything had to go just right for the Angels to have any chance.  There was no margin for error.  That was a tall order and the results are obvious.

Now, I’m really not here to rehash all the reasons why the Angels have been so terrible this season.  I also don’t want to be “that guy” who comes across as just plain angry.  No, “Angry-Blogger-Dude” isn’t a title I’m looking to champion.  Trust me.

My reasons for this post are purely selfish.  I am hoping it will be therapeutic to put some of my thoughts out on my blog.  To do that I have to organize my thoughts and I’m hoping that process will help me cope.

I haven’t posted much because for the most part, I didn’t know what to say.  I was dumbfounded by what I was seeing on the field.  Lately I’ve also been disturbed by what I’ve been reading in all the media outlets.  As a blogger, I try to focus on the fan experience and quite frankly that experience has been horrific lately.

So, here we go….

Here’s what I know… If you look at the current 40 man roster – exactly half the players were acquired in some fashion by Jerry Dipoto.  Of the 26 players on the active roster (rosters expanded Sept. 1), 12 of them are Dipoto’s. 

I’m certain this means something.  In a nutshell, the roster – be it the 40 or 25 man version, isn’t very impressive.  In fact, one could argue that it stinks.

There are a lot of journeymen and career minor leaguers in the organization right now and that doesn’t appear to be a good thing.  That’s not even counting the reclamation projects like Dontrell Willis or Chad Cordero or even Andy Marte who aren’t even on the 40 man roster. 

Sure, every organization has names like these peppered throughout their farm system, but it sure seems like more than a fair share of them have found their way into the Angels organization.  Let’s not forget Ryan Madson, Brad Hawpe, Brendan Harris, Bill Hall, Chris Snyder, Mark Lowe, and others – who spent time on the active roster and are now elsewhere and in most cases – looking for work.

Is that an unusually high number of also-rans?  I am going to guess that it is.  Some of these names are ones that you’d expect to see on an independent league roster.  Oh wait, some of them actually came from the hinder lands.

It seems to me that Dipoto has been turning over a lot of rocks looking for pieces to make this team better.  Yes, he found J.B. Shuck, but most of his moves have proven to be for naught.   So this begs the question – is this the best he can do, all things considered?  I ask that openly and honestly.

I’m not even including the big ticket moves in this conversation – this about the “little” things that make up a roster.  If the prospects in the minor leagues can’t even displace the Andy Marte’s or Chad Cordero’s of the world – that speaks volumes.

I know the minor league system is in transition and the state of its condition isn’t solely on Dipoto, but he hasn’t done much, if anything to make it any better.  The 40 man roster seems out of whack.  The pieces don’t match and it looks like the old’ finger in the dike scenario.  It’s also been a revolving door with players coming and going as frequently as baseballs are being hit out of the park after Joe Blanton throws a pitch.

I think it’s safe to say that Dipoto won’t be nominated for GM of the Year. 

The bottom line is that I like Mike Scioscia.  I think he’s one of the best in the game.  I also know we can argue that point all day long and never change one another’s mind.  Regardless of that, one thing seems pretty clear – Dipoto’s philosophy and Scioscia’s don’t seem to mix and they certainly don’t complement each other.  Something has to give.

Some people say that Dipoto’s plan needs time.  Tell that to my friends who aren’t renewing their season tickets.  Tell that to the great many fans who are staying away from the ball park this season.

Some people think that Scioscia needs to go.  To that I say, be careful what you wish for.  There’s a reason most managers don’t stay with one organization for any great length of time.  There’s a reason that many have speculated that if Scioscia was to be fired, he wouldn’t stay unemployed for very long.  Can you say the same about Jerry Dipoto?

Mike Scioscia is unique.  His fingerprints are all over the organization; or at least they were.  It’s rare that a manager has that much input and impact.  I believe he can still be effective. 

I’m not happy with how things stand today and I know for a fact I’m not alone in that sentiment.  As I mentioned previously, it’s as if we are looking into the abyss.  That’s a crappy feeling.

Clearly, there are issues between Moreno, Dipoto and Scioscia.  It’s maddening.  It’s depressing.  It has to be resolved.  Of the 3, I’m going to take Scioscia’s side every time and I believe I've arrived at that conclusion in a reasonable manner.  What do you say?

September 3, 2013

First comes mayhem and then the abyss

This isn’t the worst season the Angels have ever had; it just feels like it is. 

There’s a great deal of chatter out there regarding Angels baseball and quite frankly none of it is good.  The amount of venom that’s being spewed is at epidemic proportions.  People aren’t just mad, they’re fed up and even a little nasty about it. 

There’s a lot of finger pointing going on.  Some of them are pointing at Jerry Dipoto; some at Mike Scioscia and some at Arte Moreno.  Heck, some are pointing at all 3. That finger isn’t just pointing; it’s being waved with intensity.

Fans are fed up; columnists, writers, bloggers, message boards, sports talk radio and the like are having a field day.  Speculation is running rampant and it’s hard to separate the truth from fiction.

What happened? Where did it all go wrong?  Most importantly, what is the truth and how does this franchise rebound?

I can’t ever remember a time when the fan base was this restless; let alone - annoyed and frustrated.  2002 changed everything.  For better or worse - the franchise has never been the same since 2002, as expectations were elevated to new levels.

The good news is that all the anger and frustration is a sign that fans actually care.  They’re passionate about this team and although the end result may mean that many will be walking away from supporting the team at all; all of it is sending a message to the front office…  We don’t like what you’ve done with our team and we want you to fix it!

As I check in with fellow season ticket holders – many of them aren’t renewing.  They can’t justify the investment of time and money.  Their emotions run the gamut of everything from despair to disgust.

It’s sad.  We enjoyed a sort of golden age of Angels baseball from 2002-2009 and I would hate to think that’s as good as it will ever get, but lately – it feels like that might be the case.  Think about it.

The future looks bleak.  Every fan knows that the farm system is in shambles, we don’t know who’s running the show – be it Dipoto, Scioscia or Moreno and it seems like there is massive dysfunction and chaos at every turn.  It’s like the team is auditioning for one of those All-State Insurance commercials with the “Mayhem Guy.”

 It feels like it all went bad overnight and what makes things worse is that it doesn’t seem like the team can rebound the other way just as quickly.  The next few years could be painful and when you’re not accustomed to waiting and watching a rebuilding process – it just sucks.   Not only that, it’s painful too.

I’ve been an Angels fan for a long time – since the late 60’s and I know all about the lean years, but like I said earlier – 2002 changed everything.  I want to get back to that 2002 feeling.  I know it’s never easy winning a world championship and quite frankly that’s what makes it all the more special.  What I want is some leadership and a plan; and right now, I’m not seeing either.

So I’m about to give you my take.  I’ve given all of this a lot of thought and I’ve spent countless hours mulling this all over in my head. 

When I think about Moreno, Dipoto and Scioscia – I think about the one individual in this group who has had success at the major league level and that’s Mike Scioscia.  The way I see it – Scioscia along with Bill Stoneman are the two individuals who changed Angels' baseball forever and the farther away we get from their original plan – the more likely we’ll continue to see the demise of the franchise.

Scioscia is the one of the three with a track record and who clearly had a vision for how a franchise should develop players and play on the field.  I don’t get a sense of vision from the other two.  I assume they have one – but I just don’t see it.

You can say what you want about Scioscia and some of you are attacking him pretty hard, but at the end of the day – I’m going to back Scioscia 100%.  Even though I don’t know him personally, I get a sense of who he is as a man and I respect him a great deal.  I believe that given the proper tools – as in the kind of players who play the way he wants – this team will be successful.  Anything less than that isn’t going to work.

I love the way Scioscia’s team played when they were winning.  I loved the fact that they had the sabermetric community scratching their heads because they often outperformed their projections.  I mean that was a beautiful thing.

I don’t have any confidence in Dipoto.  Why should I?  I also have less and less confidence in Moreno – given how he’s portrayed in the media.  I know I don’t know the whole story and I’m never going to have all the facts about what’s really happening behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t draw my own conclusions.

I don’t like what I’m reading and I certainly haven’t enjoyed what I’ve seen take place on the field. 

Angel fans are beginning to lose hope.  That’s a big deal because without hope, the will to fight and hang in there vanishes.  Our little utopia is crumbling and the real impact is the loss of friends who sit around us at games.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back to a time when it was easy to get a seat at the stadium.  I would much rather see the stadium full and decked out in red with rally sticks thundering.

Things feel out of control and almost desperate.  It’s like we’re looking into the abyss.

I don’t know how to fix this franchise, but I’m guessing Mike Scioscia does.  My head hurts when I try to think of what needs to be done and how long it might take.  That being said, I do have an opinion.

For me – the plan is simple.  First – Arte Moreno needs to stay out of the baseball business, period.  Second – we need a GM who thinks about the game the same way Mike Scioscia does.  Put the two together and then get out of the way.  It’s a simple plan, but it’s easier said than done.  There are egos to contend with and a fan base that wants to see improvement right now.

I have hated almost every moment of this season and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.  The joy has been sucked out of me and I’m not happy about it.  I will still support the team, but my enthusiasm has taken a hit. 

Let’s get back to basics.  Let’s get back to solid pitching and defense and forcing the issue on the base paths.  Let’s get back to winning.  Let’s get back to playing Mike Scioscia’s brand of baseball… or else.