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BILL DWYRE

For the Angels, things are far from heavenly

Generally, the fans, the announcers and even the players seem happy. But the numbers so far this season haven't been promising. These nice guys just might finish last.

June 10, 2011|Bill Dwyre
  • Royals catcher Brayan Pena tags out Angels designated hitter Bobby Abreu in the sixth inning on Friday night at Angel Stadium.
Royals catcher Brayan Pena tags out Angels designated hitter Bobby Abreu… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

Friends, Romans, Angels fans. Lend me your ears. We come to bury your team, not praise it.

It is time.

We wish we could report that Angel Stadium remains the happiest place on earth, even though that other place with all the mouse ears is just down the street.

The Angels' once magic kingdom is still trying.

Generally, the fans are happy, doing their silly wave and still buying tickets, although more empty seats appeared as soon as the Yankees left town.

Generally, the announcers are happy. They have an uncanny knack of staying upbeat through all the passed balls, men left on base and awkward lunges at third strikes 2 feet outside the strike zone. There is always an opposing pitcher with a 23-55 career record and a good triple-A slider to chat up and fill air time.

Generally, even the players seem happy, although much of that upbeat attitude stems from the leadership of Manager Mike Scioscia, whose job it is to see sunshine in a rainstorm, and veteran outfielder Torii Hunter, the team leader who leaves the daily impression that he'd like to bring Ernie Banks and play two.

Baseball promotes this. Its 162-game season allows the presence of happy faces and wishful thinking until about Aug. 15. After that, 16 games out of first place, everybody can hide in the trainer's room.

The Times' Mike DiGiovanna rolled it all out in Friday's paper. Indisputable facts and numbers. Lousy batting averages. Blown chances. Gagging instead of clutch hitting. Excelling only in the category of men left on base. The Angels have presented a new comfort level for an opposing manager. They load the bases and he knows he can take a potty break. No worries. They will do no harm.

The Angels carried a 30-34 record into Friday night and the start of a three-game series with the underwhelming Kansas City Royals. Once, that would have represented a chance to salivate over a series fattening-up. Now, it is fingers crossed, hope for two-out-of-three and get out of town.

Leo Durocher might have had it right about this team.

These nice guys just might finish last, even though this may be the year the weak American League West allows Bud Selig to rule there will be two wild cards in the AL. The Rangers will likely change all that soon. They made the Word Series last year and seem poised to take off again.

Yes, it is early. Yes, it is only the second week in June. Yes, only six games out of first place is not normally a time to shrug and call it a season. But with the Angels, it isn't so much that they are losing, as how. They have gone 3-8 in their last 11 and have dropped six in a row and eight of their last nine. A slump, sure. Those happen.

But when they allowed Tampa Bay to complete its sweep Wednesday night, they were one for five with a runner on third base and fewer than two out. Pretty telling. With the Angels, that's not an aberration. It's more like a given.

Certainly, they could catch fire. But unlike many teams that merely seem to need a spark, these Angels need a blowtorch.

Much of this is about expectations. Since Scioscia led them to a World Series title in 2002, they have thought and acted like a playoff team, with just a couple of disappointing years in between. In 2009, they played the Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

As the golf commercial says, these guys are good. Make that "were."

Scioscia is asked where his frustration level is, on a scale of one to 10.

"It's up there," he says.

He continues by saying that a high frustration level is a good thing, because it indicates high expectations. "What we have is a team," he says, "that has much more going for it offensively than it has shown."

Maybe. And maybe what we see is what we are going to get. All season.

Case in point: Friday night. Royals 2, Angels 0. Bottom of the fourth. Hunter starts it by hitting a single to right field. Howie Kendrick flies deep to center, allowing Hunter to tag and go to second. Cleanup hitter Bobby Abreu bounces to second, moving Hunter to third. Vernon Wells walks, making it first and third, two out, lead run at the plate in the form of Erick Aybar.

Aybar bounces to the pitcher.

This happens night after night, game after game. It has started to create a fan base of lip-biters and fingernail-chewers.

This was to be the season that wiped out memories of last year's fade and missed playoffs. This could have been, and still could be, the season of making a dent in the Dodgers' fan base.

It's not like all is swell at Chavez Ravine. Nor is it that fed-up Dodgers fans would not consider driving down the 5 Freeway to see exciting, winning baseball.

Little of that at the moment in Anaheim.

The beat went on Friday night. Royals 4, Angels 2.

We are constantly told by fans and emailers to be positive, so we will.

The excitement continues at Angel Stadium. The Friday night fireworks were great, as always. And Taio Cruz will perform after Saturday's game.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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