Wednesday, June 4, 2014

By Glen McKee, Writer and Satirist

Heading into a series with Oakland that started last Friday, the Angels were seven games over .500 and a mere 1.5 games back of the Athletics juggernaut.  It was the best of times, apparently.  Some of us knew this, many of us suspected it, and a few of us had no idea (you posters know who you are).  

As I write this, the Angels are coming off an embarrassing sweep in the aforementioned Oakland and looking destined to start of the series in Houston with a loss (the Angels did in fact lose 7-2, and had their usual lousy hitting with RISP).  Even though we just got Josh Hamilton back (and he did hit a home run), things are taking a turn for the grim.  It’s during times like these that I am reminded of the words of the great lyrical poet (and excellent skin-pounder [let it go, people]), Neal Peart.  In his gnomic verse, “Force Ten,” he said, and I quote: “tough times demand tough talk, demand tough hearts, demand that the goddamned Angels do something.”  I may have paraphrased a little bit there, but the point remains – it’s time for this team to toughen up and do what is necessary, however ugly that action may be, to keep this team competitive.  It’s time for some tough talk, and you know it’s tough because each heading is bolded.  Bold is tough.

I must preface this with the caveat that the Angels management has already shown this year that they feel the fire under their collective posteriors and have (for the most part) reacted accordingly.  Promising bullpen arms have been promoted, and younger players are being given a chance on the team.  However, it isn’t enough.  Hence, tough talk.  So here we go ...

Tough Talk point #1 – cut Ibanez. 

It was almost inevitable with the signing of Ibanez that there would be a countdown until he was released.  You can talk clubhouse chemistry all you want, and I’ll counter with his horrible stats.  Nothing personal, but just like Shakira's hips, his stats don’t lie.  He’s terrible at the plate and not getting better, and he’s slightly better than terrible in the field (and remember the talk that he’d hardly ever get starts in the OF?).  With a possible injury to Trout (no whammy), I have no doubt that Scioscia will go veteran-crazy and give Ibanez even more starts in the OF, along with batting him somewhere in the 4-6 spot.  To paraphrase member Tdawg, he should be batting benchth.  We all know Scioscia will keep playing Ibanez.  If my daughter had a toy that was causing her harm but she couldn’t stop playing with, I’d take it away from her.  Ibanez is to Scioscia as a Mattel Guillotine is to my daughter.  Remove the temptation from Scioscia.  I’m lookin’ at you, Jerry. 

Tough Talk point #2 – shake up the lineup.

I know, it’s rich that I’m complaining about a stagnant Scioscia lineup.  A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and whatnot.  Anyway…Pujols-Freese-Ibanez is turning into Larry, Moe, and Curly.  First, get Pujols out of the three-hole.  Put Hamilton there and hope that he can at least come close to what he was showing before the injury.  Just to be sure, I checked the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights and there’s nothing in either one of them about Pujols having to bat third.  Assuming Trout isn’t injured (no whammy), switch Trout and Pujols.  What’s the worst that could happen – a leadoff hit or walk followed by a groundout and strikeout, as opposed to a strikeout and groundout?  Heck, move him down to fifth and let Conger bat third.  And while we’re at it, get Kendrick out of the first half of the lineup.  I’m tired of seeing him smiling in the dugout after every out.  Hey, props to you for being happy, Howie – I’m all for an enjoyable workplace.  However, a little remorse when you kill a scoring opportunity would engender some goodwill from the fans.  Show a little regret, even if you don’t feel it. 

More shakeups – get Green and Cron in the lineup more.  I don’t care how bad Cron is in the OF, he can’t be worse than Ibanez and his bat is much better.  Stick him in LF.  Remember last year when Howie learned it on the fly?   We can do the same with Cron and his bat is a huge upgrade over Ibanez.  The next time Howie kills a rally (I know, he’s far from being the only one that does it but he’s my example for now) let him ride the pine and have Green start in his place the next game.  Show the team that you’re serious.  Embrace the possible future and give the kids their turn if the veterans aren’t doing the job.  I know that hitting a baseball is something even the best in the game fail at least 70% of the time, but it’s disheartening to keep seeing the same thing over and over.  As a fan, how many times have you accurately predicted that the veterans would leave a runner (or two or three) stranded with less than two outs?  And then the inning is over. Give the kids a chance.  They can’t do too much worse and many of them are already doing much better. 

With all of that said, the one lineup shakeup you can’t do is to take Aybar out.  Dude needs to play every day he can.  Why?  Because of things like this:

Nobody else on this team does anything like that, not even Trout.  That’s some damn fine baserunning right there!  The team needs more of that, and it’s worth the risk of the occasional boneheaded play Aybar makes.  You wanna make an omelet, you have to crack some eggs, and I like what Aybar is cooking.  The team needs more of him.

Tough Talk point #3 – keep embracing the youth movement.

I’m already out of talking points, so this is a combination of #1 and #2 (again, let it go).  After the game on Tuesday the Angels will face a roster decision and may have to bring up some bullpen help, after the pen has pitched at least 5.1 innings.  Don’t make that move at the expense of sending Cron or Green back down and then giving us the excuse of them getting regular reps at SLC.  That’s insulting, while you keep Ibanez on the roster.  At the start of the year we were told we had to wait for May, because Ibanez heated up in May of last year.  It’s June, and he’s still as frozen as a Disney movie.  He’s not gonna thaw.  Don’t waste young talent on the false hope that he will.  The Angels have already shown a willingness to go younger with Morin and Bedrosian in the pen.  Keep it up – half measures won’t get you to the playoffs. 

Tough Talk point #4 – more gnomes. 

The Jered Weaver gnome is work of dark magic and it just might steal your soul if you stare at it for too long (and if anybody happens to get a spare please PM me – I have no soul, so no worries), and that’s the kind of thing this team needs – some magic, be it Gandalf or Sauron.  Just imagine how great an Aybar gnome would look.  A CJ Cron gnome has possibilities as well, and if you wanted to go old-school you could have a Figgy Gnome (so small it wouldn’t scare away a hummingbird).  Or, and I’m thinking way outside the box here, how about a two-headed Kendrick and Hamilton gnome?  That’s twice the magic!  Bottom line: more gnomes. 

It isn’t too late to make the necessary changes, but time is running out.  "We can attack the day like birds of prey or scavengers under cover" – the choice is up to management.  I want some more attacking.

Love to hear what you think!

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