Los Angeles Angels: A Sinking Ship?

The disappointing start to the season for the Los Angeles Angels is apparent. No team spent more money in the recent offseason, and as a result perhaps no team had a higher expectation placed on them in terms of improvement from 2011 to 2012. After a 6-12 start to their season and having lost 5 of the first 6 series they have played, the cracks in the team’s foundation are revealing themselves. All the worse, the Angels were supposed to have one of the easiest schedules to start the 2012 season, with 4 of those 6 series coming against the Royals, Twins, A’s, and Orioles.

“You have to dig deep. We can’t get down in the first two innings and say, ’Here we go again.’ We have to fight a little harder. I don’t think we believe we’re trying that hard. We’re just going through the motions. We have to do what we’re capable of doing. That’s everybody; not just the players.”

Those were the words of Torii Hunter after the Angels 3-2 loss to the Rays on Wednesday night (full story here). If you read that quote, there is a lot that is being said without it being said. It’s entirely different to be in the room with the players instead of reading it in the media, but Hunter is giving us a clear perception of the state of the clubhouse.

“We can’t get down in the first two innings and say, ‘Here we go again.’“ Translation: Hunter sees this Angels team as a team that doesn’t have much fight in them, and gives up when they get down.

“I don’t think we believe we’re trying that hard. We’re just going through the motions. We have to do what we’re capable of doing.” This is the kind of comment that should be made behind closed doors, in players-only meetings, not to the media. The kiss of death is the “not trying” stamp being slapped on a team. As a veteran leader of this team, the onus is on Hunter to inspire others in private, not criticize the group’s effort in public.

“That’s everybody, not just the players.” This is the least veiled comment from Hunter. The underlying tone of a riff between the players and the management is apparent. The source of the issue is unknown, but all signs point to Hunter’s displeasure being with manager Mike Scioscia. Later, in response to a question asking if the game would have been different with earlier execution, Hunter said: “You mean if we bunted in the second? What can we do? All we do is play the game.” Hunter and Vernon Wells began the second inning with singles, only to see their teammates behind them make quiet outs at the plate, squandering an opportunity for a big inning.

This isn’t the first time that Hunter has spoken out about his teammates in an ill-advised manner, as I wrote last month.

There is almost nothing that the Los Angeles Angels are doing well as a team. They rank 12th in the AL in runs scored and team OPS, last in the league in home runs, 9th in the AL in team ERA, and are farther from first place in their division than any other team in baseball, 8.5 games behind the Texas Rangers. The lone bright spot in the organization is super-prospect Mike Trout, but he is stuck in AAA, blocked by Wells and Hunter from being able to grab an outfield spot with the big league team.

It is still early in the 2012 season, and the Angels remain a talented club that will perform at a higher level than they have to this point. However, incidents like this show that the rough start is impacting the players as well. If the team’s course doesn’t change soon, the tension in the clubhouse will only continue to build, and the cracks will only continue to grow.

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