Wednesday, May 13, 2009

By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

In the Mike Scioscia era, the most successful time in Angels’ history, there has been one consistent force that has driven the Angels to victory. Over the past nine years and change, the offense has been up and down. Despite being the strength of the team over the past several seasons, dominant starting pitching hasn’t always been there, either. The bullpen, however, has been one of the best in the Major Leagues year in and year out dating back to 2002.

For the 2009 Angels to be successful beyond the regular season, their bullpen must once again perform at an elite level.

Through 31 games this season the bullpen has been anything but elite; in fact, it has been the team’s most glaring weakness. With a combined record of 2-9, this group of relievers can be pegged as the reason the Angels do not have a comfortable five game lead on the rest of the division and instead are trailing the first place Texas Rangers by a game and a half.

After another gutty performance by starting pitcher Jered Weaver was ruined last night by the Halo crash-and-burn crew, fans and media members have united to ask one question: Why didn’t Mike (Scioscia) leave Weaver out there for one more inning? Weaver had gone seven innings, allowing just one run. His pitch count was rising, but at 98 he was certainly capable of pitching to three more hitters.

Instead, Scioscia chose to go to the ‘pen and the put the game in the hands of the unit that has caused the most grief to Angels fans this season.
And I contend he made the right call.

For the Angels to reach their ultimate goal, it will take a 25-man effort. The six gentlemen who spend most of their time beyond the left field wall, eating sunflower seeds and trading putting tips, will at some point be called upon to carry the other 19 players to late season and postseason victories. It isn’t often that players experience success in September and October after failing throughout the first five months of the season — and without an opportunity there can be no accomplishment.

So, as one who manages for 162 games rather than just one, Scioscia, faced with a situation that is seemingly destined to arrive on a chilly fall night, against the same Red Sox his team was battling in mid-May, gave a two-run lead to his bullpen with six outs to get.

That they failed is certainly disappointing to a tough luck Weaver and to the fans who were forced to go through the pain of another late inning meltdown. But to Scioscia and the front office, who have the job of fielding the team and placing the players in the roles that will give the organization and its fan base the best chance at celebrating on the final night of the season, it gives them the information they need to make critical decisions moving forward.

Nothing in sports is as valuable as experience.

If Jose Arredondo, Darren Oliver and Scot Shields are going to be called upon to go through the heart of the Boston line-up in October, Scioscia has to give them the opportunity to do it now.

From the perspective of Tony Reagins and the front office, allowing players the chance to succeed or fail is also important. With the trade deadline just more than two months away, they need to know which areas need improvement. After last night, we can only assume that another check mark was placed next to “bullpen.”

Looking back, Weaver could have gone out for the eighth inning and held the lead. Brian Fuentes could have closed the Red Sox out in the ninth and the Angels would have been three games over .500. However, one can only hide a wound so long before it is exposed. Attending to it early gives it the best chance to heal.
Love to hear what you think!


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