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It's not Mike Scioscia's fault Angels pitchers can't deliver

Manager can be blamed for tactical mistakes and other issues, but there's nothing much he can do when the pitching staff underachieves miserably.

August 20, 2012|T.J. Simers

I worry now some harm might come to the Rally Monkey, as mad as Angry Arte must be paying these losers.

I picture his Angel Stadium suite already littered with stuffed monkeys ripped to shreds.

Bill the Waiter at the Mini Gourmet in Yorba Linda is so upset with his Angels, he's saying Sunday morning: "If you can't win with Secretariat, it's time to get a new jockey."

Hard to imagine Mike Scioscia ever being mistaken for a jockey, but then who thought the Angels would just fold?

As rock-bottom moments go, it would be difficult to dip lower than Saturday night, with the organization honoring its 2002 World Series champions and the 2012 team curling into a ball.

One by one, the top championship players were introduced before the game, each shaking hands with Angry Arte, who had nothing to do with the 2002 World Series or any World Series thereafter.

Where was Michael Eisner, the Disney owner who made this place so happy a decade ago? Is this the only way for Angry Arte to take a World Series bow?

As soon as the championship festivities were over, the team that Angry Arte has built ran out to an 8-0 lead. Then it rolled over and played dead, losing, 10-8.

"Now I know what it feels like to be my parents," says Bill the Waiter. "They think I'm underperforming as well."

A players-only meeting is called after the Angels embarrass themselves in front of the 2002 champions, reporters later hearing uproarious laughter from the clubhouse.

Maybe they thought it funny to see what their waistlines will look like in 10 years, but as laughers go, Tampa Bay is enjoying another one Sunday.

The Rays have jumped ahead of the lifeless Angels, 6-1, and it's the fourth inning. They will go on cruise control to win, 8-3.

"I think the attitude of this team is terrific," Scioscia is saying before the game, which is like being named Miss Congeniality in the Miss America Pageant.

"I heard a lot of stuff being floated around about this team's heart … questions about the guys playing hard and do they care," he says. "There's no doubt in my mind about these guys' character."

Usually it's UCLA football coaches talking about character and attitude after getting pulverized.

"There's not one player on this team that doesn't have the thought process that we're going to make the playoffs," Scioscia says.

What a strange, lackluster way to show it, the Angels quitting on this homestand and going 3-7, falling nine games — and that's nine games with 40 to play — behind Texas.

And 41/2 games out of a wild-card spot.

I'm reminded of"House"; every episode the patient gets sicker and sicker, and no one seems to know what to do until the final five minutes. Then the patient is suddenly cured ... or dies.

The Angels talk and act as if they will suddenly be cured. In fact, Scioscia says there is a tangible explanation to what ails the Angels: horrific starting pitching leading to dreadful relief pitching. But no known cure yet.

Is all this the manager's fault?

Yes, if you consider his reluctance to take the ball and the mound and start the next game for the Angels.

When Zack Greinke starts for the Angels a day after a team meeting to get everyone off to a fresh start and he loads the bases in the second inning, hits a batter to give up one run and then walks in another, what's wrong with Scioscia?

The Angels were down, 4-0, before batting twice, and that's with Greinke arriving in a trade as the best starting pitcher available at the deadline.

A night earlier the Angels are winning, 8-0, andC.J. Wilsongives up seven runs while failing to make it out of the fifth inning. He's now winless in his last 10 starts. I have criticized Scioscia consistently in the past, but this one is not on him.

Would you want the world's assessment of your job riding on how well Ervin Santana pitches?

The Angels' problem is obvious: a flawed front-office policy as much to blame as the starting pitchers. If the starting pitching falls flat, the Angels are not going to have the bullpen to save the day the way they are currently constructed.

Money spent here is on starting pitching and hitting, everyone knowing the team's weakness going into the off-season was relief. Very little was done to prepare for a stretch like this.

Someone has to be the fall guy, of course, because it's sports.

As easy as it would be to point to Scioscia, and I've never been shy about pointing, I know the argument that can be made.

Maybe the brain drain, losing coaches such as Bud Black, Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke, has taken its toll on Scioscia's effectiveness.

Or maybe the players are tired of the grind, and I'm talking about his voice and approach.

There are also mismanaged plays one might second-guess, a pinch-runner who maybe should have been inserted into a game or a loss here or there on his judgment.

Maybe there's a little truth in all of it when it comes to Scioscia, but none of it as devastating to a team built on starting pitching as when those pitchers choose to do a collective belly flop.

As easy as it might be to drop all this on Scioscia, and Angry Arte for that matter, I'm going to pass.

The Angels pitched their dreams on starting pitching, shocking really to find it a nightmare.

So here we are, as Bill the Waiter was saying about himself Sunday morning, "someone suffering from low self-esteem and taking prescribed drugs for depression if I want to remain an Angels fan. It's just the way it has to be."

t.j.simers@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesTJSimers

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