Tax season has proven to be the eternal enemy of the Los Angeles Angels; or at least for the last couple of seasons. The Angels have started the season 3-8 and critics are stalking the idea of another letdown in Anaheim.
Let’s face it, Angels manager Mike Scioscia is safe for at least another season, but the same can’t be said for pitching coach Mike Butcher and general manager Jerry Dipoto. Are the recent pitching woes the fault of Butcher or has Dipoto become a general manger with absolutely no foresight of the future?
Someone is getting fired.
In the last two offseasons, Los Angeles has abandoned their once staple ideology of strong pitching and stingy fielding for big bats and even bigger contracts. In 2011, Dipoto signed aging slugger Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract and junk-ball lefty C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million contract, making the Angels instant favorites to win the American League West Division crown. Dipoto then made probably his best move to acquire ace Zach Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers for prospects (Jean Segura was the Angels’ top-ranked middle infield prospect). Greinke then contributed 89.1 innings and a 6-2 record to the Angels’ losing effort.
Pujols had a slow start, Mike Trout was a late call-up and Los Angeles missed the playoffs. Plenty of valid excuses for 2012.
This season, more of the same problems seem to be presenting themselves for the Angels. The Angels’ vulnerability in their starting rotation has been amplified with the recent injury to Jered Weaver and the team’s big-name crew of clean up hitters (Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo) simply isn’t hitting. Dipoto gave up signing fan favorite, and gold glove outfielder, Torii Hunter for Hamilton and replaced starters Ervin Santana and Dan Haren with Jason Vargas, half of Tommy Hanson’s left arm and Joe Blanton, who is already three feet in the ground.
Much of the initial blame is being focused on Butcher and Scioscia while Dipoto stands behind the protection of Angels’ owner Arte Moreno. Dipoto has assembled a team of used parts and has paid top dollar for mediocre results. Meanwhile, Butcher is attempting to form a rotation out of a slew of No. 4 starters (Wilson, Vargas, Blanton, Hanson) and has an ace with declining velocity sitting on the designated list for the next four weeks.
Butcher can only play the cards he has been dealt, and he appears to have solved the problems surrounding the bullpen from last season. However, Scioscia and Dipoto are both safe from unemployment. Scioscia, because there’s no better alternative and Dipoto because Arte will protect him.
Here’s what should have happened:
Dipoto was smart to let Santana and Haren walk, as neither of them deserved upwards of $12 million each season. He should have passed on the Hamilton sweepstakes, resigned Hunter for $13 million and given Greinke a monster contract. Granted, Greinke has garnered the “injury prone” moniker but he would serve as the perfect 1A and 1B starter with Weaver. Hamilton is a defensive liability and has little to no discretion at the plate. It’s not wild to say that Hunter can contribute 20+ home runs, 90+ RBI and 80+ runs.
Even if Los Angeles couldn’t have gotten Greinke to stay, Dipoto would have been better off trying to bolster the starting rotation with more stable talent. Wilson doesn’t attack hitters, and he is still the second-best pitcher in the rotation. Blanton and Vargas will combine to make $16 million this season; you mean to tell me there weren’t any other options in the market for $8 million each?
Consider this my preamble to the Angels faithful. My Gettysburg address. Changes will be made in Los Angeles’ front office and the only remaining question is who will go first. Unfortunately for all parties involved, Butcher will be the first to empty his desk if the Angels don’t begin winning a substantial amount of games.
Please don’t use the series with the Houston Astros as a litmus test.
John Engel is a Pac-12 college basketball writer for Rant Sports and also works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in Los Angeles. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.