Hold on to your hats, Angels fans. This is going to be a long, drawn out, hard to swallow article.
But then again, so was yet another early October exit.
Turn off the Halo.
It's time for some painful analysis in my post series "year in review" piece.
This is what the Angels need to address this offseason, period.
6. Team Approach (especially Mickey Hatcher)
Let's just get into it.
The Angels show up, do their jobs, and go home.
I'm not saying that the individual players don't have heart.
I know they do.
What I'm saying is maybe Scioscia's ability to get the team to turn the page so well on losing games is part of the problem, because they don't feel the burn from losses.
Maybe they'd play a little harder, a little more emotionally, with their hearts on their sleeves, like the (god I hate that I'm saying this) Dodgers, or Red Sox, or Tampa Bay.
Maybe they need a little more spit in your eye attitude and win at all costs swagger.
I'm a total homer for this next line, but the 2002 team could win. Any game, any time, anywhere. They had an aura that whatever adversity they faced, they had the tools to overcome it.
Good pitching? Work the counts!
Lots of offense? Produce more runs and manufacture in spots 1-9.
Rough outing by the pitcher? Great defense.
This year's team never seemed to step up for each other, and I don't know why.
Every team member will tell you that the club had special chemistry this year, lots of camaraderie, and Scioscia starts that with his usual training camp antics in spring. The team wins and loses together—they just don't do it on the field.
When Lackey needed a modicum of help from his teammates in both games of this series, the defense folded like a house of cards. Sure, Kendrick and Aybar are playing in their first real postseasons, but that shouldn't matter.
So was Lowrie, who hit the game-winning single last night.
Lester's only in his second.
All those two did was show up and execute—and the Angels' execution, top to bottom this series, was suspect at best.
The heart of the order had hits, but how many were singles? I think something like 90 percent of them.
Batters three, four, and five in a lineup aren't there to single and get one base. They are there to move the runners along. Granted, there weren't many runners, but there weren't any extra base hits anyway, so it's a push.
Napoli brought it.
Lackey brought it.
Everyone else showed up and hoped it would be enough.
That's what makes the difference, and that's why I'm actually really worried about this postseason.
Not because of what we have or don't have come spring training.
You can't teach hunger, fire, and gamesmanship.
I don't know if any Angels have enough (minus Lackey, Shields, and maybe Napoli).
My biggest fear with Teixeira is that he's the best free agent of the year and has said himself that he never even had Anaheim on the radar until he arrived here.
Will a two-month battle with the boys in Anaheim and the experience of playing here be able to change that?
Sure, our ownership is dedicated and great, and the fans show up every night, but he might have a real sour taste too.
If the Angels can't win with this lineup, how are they going to do more with less next year?
He's obviously looking for a big payday, and Arte Moreno has said he doesn't see us increasing the payroll ridiculously this offseason.
Wonder what he's saying now that we lost.
Regardless, it's going to take some big bucks to sign Tex long term, and I think the Angels have to be as aggressive as possible to bring him back.
Their offseason needs to begin and end with Tex as priority number one.
Boy, he better have offseason knee surgery. He runs like he's got wooden legs.
He's got a team option for next year that will obviously be picked up, but what beyond that?
He's obviously in decline. Surgery definitely has the potential to help, but in the long term, he's obviously better suited for a full time DH role.
I say tear up the option year, plunk him with a moderately high 3-4 year deal, and put him on the pine as a DH and spot starting outfielder.
Even if the knees are healthy, they won't be for long.
Talk about letting your mouth cash checks.
When he had to go to arbitration last year and lost, he was visibly upset with the organization for not recognizing his talent and respecting him.
He then went out and set the single season saves record, destroying the previous one by five saves.
Then he no-showed in October.
I think the problem with Frankie—and I hope to god that October was a lesson learned—is that he suddenly wasn't as good as his ego thought he was.
He was lights out as a rookie when he entered and propped up a pitching staff en route to the Angels' first World Series Championship. He was stellar the following season and has slowly started to decline ever since.
The problem with winning it all on your first shot is expectations and assumptions.
If you win the lottery on the ticket you bought on your 18th birthday, you have no concept of how lucky you are.
That's the problem with K-Rod. He's had it easy with these Angels.
Lots of opportunities to close out games, and lots of help in doing so, too.
He walks a lot of batters now. He gives up tons of singles and doubles (HRs? ask Drew). He's not 1-2-3 lights out at all anymore, though he flirts with it from time to time and still has electric stuff.
He hasn't evolved as a pitcher. With the exception of the new changeup, he still thinks he has the stuff to get by any batter at any time. I get that that is essential to a closer's mental makeup, but he takes it too far, relying on stuff out of the zone and constantly banking too much on batters chasing stuff they used to when he was new and exciting.
Frankie: You're a talented pitcher with great stuff. Stop being a thrower and learn how to be a pitcher.
You're going to cash in somewhere this offseason, and while you said all the right things about the Angels being first choice, you better mean it and offer a hometown discount.
You got one by being here for the last six seasons.
Barring injury, full time. Period.
Spot start anyone else. No more pitcher-specific tandems. I don't care. He's the only one who can hit—and that, right now, lost the Angels the ALDS (hitting, not Mathis. Jeez, I'm not that mean.).
Team Approach (Mickey Hatcher)
Mike Scioscia is amazing.
Situational baseball can only get you so far.
It's called the regular season.
Sure, manufacturing runs can be successful in October too.
It just hasn't been for the Angels in six seasons.
You know what does work?
Working the count.
Not wasting outs sending runners on a "What if" ALL the time.
Not wasting outs in the ninth inning of a tie win-or-go-home ball game by bunting over to third.
You have a runner at second with nobody out and three batters to move him home?
Put the bat in the hitter's hands. Don't take it out.
Micromanaging rarely works in business and really only exists when it has to.
Keep it the same way in baseball. Situational hitting and running and the whole bit work well as they are intended.
(Is that a word?)
They can't become the absolute end-all be-all.
In 2002? Scioscia did stuff purely on hunches. He flew by the seat of his very experienced baseball pants and plugged and chugged as needed.
He needs more of that.
Sure, the bunt works when executed, but what about when it's not?
And Mickey Hatcher needs to pull the "swing at everything" stick out of his behind.
Learn to work the count. That's how you get to good pitchers. It's how you win playoff series.
Arredondo is great and could take over with Shields on a split platoon for closer if K-Rod bails or is "allowed to go elsewhere."
I think the team's got great pitching.
Problem is, we need to lock it up long term.
Saunders, Santana—get 'em done.
CC Sabathia wants to pitch in California.
Make that phone call and do more than kick the tires.
The easy call is Lackey.
He's another guy in an option year, and you have to realize that he wants to win. He's loyal to a fault and bleeds Halo Red better than anyone, and he is the one TRUE 100 percent gamer on the team.
He has to know you're committed to winning.
He doesn't like losing, especially in October, and isn't afraid to call out all the players at fault. He leads by example and gives you the best chance to win of anyone.
You have to do what it takes to get him to sign here long-term so we keep the junkyard dog in the yard where he belongs.
The Angels had a great season, but I'm going to say one final thing.
The Yankees are a team that is expected to win, year in and year out. After a decade of mediocrity—by their standards, not baseball's—the team's fans are upset.
They boo their star players when they slump.
They shout passionately at the out of town fans, and they show up and expect their team to play their brand of baseball to their utmost ability.
The Angels' fans have always quietly been happy when their team does well, showing up for games, cheering all the way, and enjoying the ride.
Finally, the Angels had expectations, and they didn't live up to them.
Expectations breed contempt, and I think the Angels' faithful are starting to expect more from these halos.
I know I am, and I can't stand losing.
Welcome to expectations central, Angels.
I hope you can start to live up to them.