Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, right, pulls closer Jordan Walden out of… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia is not getting the job done.
He has been bulletproof until now, and maybe as secure as any manager in baseball, but there are now questions about his effectiveness as a leader.
Those who cover the team regularly say the team appears flat and lifeless. How can a team fewer than 20 games into a season be flat?
Isn't it the manager's job to make sure such a thing does not happen?
But then Scioscia is nowhere near the carefree, fun-loving manager with the quick quip he was when just starting.
He has become super-sensitive to criticism and protective of his way of handling a team.
As he has gained more security and become more controlling, incredibly he has become more insecure, uptight and tense. No one says he has to be close to his players, and he's not.
One player called it "Scioscia's stranglehold" on the team, laughing and saying if Scioscia knew it was him talking, he'd soon be sitting behind closed doors with an angry Scioscia.
Scioscia's constant lineup changes, while adding a degree of uncertainty to the lives of his players, are also a reminder of how much he controls them.
While his mentor Tom Lasorda dealt with each player differently, Scioscia treats them all as if they're from the same mold. Challenge his thinking, and nice knowing you.
Fans are unhappy with the team's 6-13 start, and that's to be expected because they're probably tired of ripping into batting coach Mickey Hatcher.
But when team leader Torii Hunter questions how hard the Angels are playing and adds, "That's everybody; not just the players," there is no doubt he is referring to the manager.
Hunter tells reporters, "I don't think we believe we're trying that hard. We're just going through the motions."
If that's what is happening just 19 games into the season, what does that say about the millionaires wearing Angels uniforms? What does that say about the guy paid to motivate them if they're incapable of motivating themselves?
How badly are things going? There is no bigger homer radio station in Southern California than the Angels' station, 830, but now it's taking potshots at Scioscia.
"Scioscia is dropping the ball," says Angels postgame co-host, Morgan Spokny.
When the house organ starts to go after you, you have bottomed out.
Spokny says the manager is hurting the Angels because he's not playing Mark Trumbo all the time. No idea who Spokny is, but he seems to know more than Scioscia.
On Angelswin.com, ordinarily a gung-ho "Go Angels" site, the question poised to fans is: "Has Scioscia made one good decision this year?"
The consensus is no.
"Angel25Fan," who runs a picture of Gene Autry along with his comments, writes: "I remember when we used to call Scioscia 'Svengali' — when he was a magician and could do no wrong. Now he can do nothing right."
Angels play-by-play announcer Terry Smith adds to the criticism of Scioscia's work. A day earlier he tells a postgame audience he can't understand why there wasn't a pitcher warming up while Jason Isringhausen was well on his way to walking four straight hitters.
Smith repeats the second-guessing before the finale with Tampa Bay. His broadcasting mate, Jose Mota, agrees.
Throw in a players-only meeting before Thursday's game, another late-inning collapse a few hours later and the Angels have become a $151-million last-place joke.
But I'm guessing Arte Moreno isn't laughing.
The diehards probably will tell you the Rangers' magic number to eliminate the Angels from AL West contention is 150. They just know things will get better, citing the law of averages, given the Angels' resumes.
But how do you explain the underachieving Angels?
I asked Scioscia last Saturday, and he became angry. He said he had answered that question every day for the previous 10 days.
I told him I wasn't surprised because the Angels were underachievers the previous 10 days and he should be answering that question until they are not.
He likes to talk about continuity, but then his ever-changing lineup has the look of a manager picking names out of a hat. He's supposed to be the best, if not one of the best managers in the game, and so given some of the best talent in the game, why is he failing?
Is this just about Albert Pujols and his failure to come even close to all the preseason hype?
AM 830 began its broadcast of the Angels' game in Tampa with Smith screaming, "Outta here, the power of Pujols."
How pathetic that the station has to hype an Angels game with a Pujols home run hit in spring training.
But here he is, however old he might really be, one hit in his last 24 trips to the plate. And thanks for the memory.
It's more than that, of course; maybe the Angels as a team now expecti to lose if the phone rings in the bullpen.
Angels closer Jordan Walden blew 10 saves a year ago, as well as Thursday's game. There might not be anything more demoralizing to a team than a game won, then lost.
Whatever the specific problem, the guy in command is charged with fixing it. And he might want to start with himself.
As tightly as he tries to control everything, it isn't working. Two straight years missing the playoffs and the start to this season prove that.
And yet as memory serves, they don't come more engaging and charismatic than Scioscia when not playing the role of Captain Queeg.
So how about lightening up a little, having a little fun and allowing the players to do the same?
There's still a wild card to be won.