Scioscia voices displeasure over Angels' disappointing start
Manager Mike Scioscia held a team meeting after the Angels fell to 2-6
Scioscia said the Angels have been hurt by poor execution and
The Mets, Mariners, Orioles and Astros also should worry about their poor play
NEW YORK -- These are not the Angels. This 2-6 team, sitting in last place in the AL West, 3.5 games out of first, looks nothing like the team that has won three straight division titles and six of the past eight. Which may be why after their latest sub-par effort, a 7-5 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday, manager Mike Scioscia held a closed-door clubhouse meeting with his slumping squad. Club leader Torii Hunter identified the speech as a "pump-it-up special.'' But Scioscia's public critique of their latest game and their eight-game start was less than flattering. No pom-poms were involved as he gave an honest assessment of the state of the disappointed and disappointing team.
The Angels' stretched the clubhouse cooldown period to the outer limits of the permissible 10 minutes to allow Scioscia to "tighten some stuff up,'' in his words.
How did he do that? "You get out that verbal wrench, and you tighten it up,'' Scioscia said. "We have different sizes in several different languages.''
Afterward, Scioscia offered his version of some of the many things he's seen and the many things he'd like to see going forward:
"Some things have happened this week that have been uncharacteristic, and some things have snowballed.''
"Some guys in that room are trying too hard. Some guys' confidence is getting tested.''
"There are a lot of things we're not doing as well as expected to.''
"The real heartbeat of our club is the rotation. We've been getting good efforts mixed in with inconsistencies.''
"Pitchers are getting a little tentative, a little indecisive, in the pitcher-catcher relationship.''
"I think the guys in the bullpen need to get settled.''
"For the most part, we're not playing the high level of baseball we're capable of playing.''
"There are things that obviously we need to clean up.''
"We haven't competed the way we can.''
"We're talking about being able to execute ... and right now we're not.''
That was never more obvious than in the fourth inning, when Kendry Morales, forgot how many outs there were and nearly got doubled off second base on a routine fly ball to right field by Jeff Mathis. Morales was almost to third base before frantically running back toward second. Morales would have been out if New York's Nick Swisher had made a decent throw to shortstop Derek Jeter, who was awaiting what seemed to be a sure double play at second base.
When someone mentioned regarding Morales' mistake to Scioscia that "it happens,'' Scioscia quickly shot back, "It shouldn't happen. That is definitely not something that falls under the heading, 'Junk happens.' That's something obviously we need eliminate.''
The Angels have a fairly established team that was thought by most experts to have taken a small step back after losing ace John Lackey, leadoff man Chone Figgins and cleanup hitter Vladimir Guerrero in free agency, though Guerrero was replaced by Hideki Matsui in what may turn out to be an upgrade, pitcher Joel Pineiro was signed to give them what appeared to be excellent rotation depth and the bullpen was expected to be much better with the return of Scot Shields and signing of Fernando Rodney.
There isn't much that can be done beyond talking to them. Although, one thing to keep an eye on is youngster Brandon Wood, who is struggling offensively as Figgins' replacement at third base. Wood had only his second hit of the season in the loss to the Yankees and has looked overmatched at times. They have given him a couple days off already, and Scioscia said they will "monitor'' his progress.
One thing Scioscia should be pleased about is that the Angels are not making excuses. "He's right,'' Hunter said of Scioscia. "We've got to go out and play the game the way we know how to perform and execute.''
Hunter didn't accept the suggestion that the tragedy a couple of their players witnessed before heading to Yankee Stadium for the game -- a 39-year-old man plunged to his death outside their team hotel -- is a valid excuse for a poor performance.
"That ain't the reason why we lost,'' Hunter said. "We've been playing bad the the whole time -- eight days.''
Hunter called the start "disappointing'' but stopped short of saying he's concerned.
"Come back and ask me that in 30, 40 games,'' he said. "If we're 2-28, I'd really be (ticked).''
That, of course, won't happen. For now, on a scale of 1-10, the Angels only rank a 5 on the Worry Meter. But as their manager well knows, they need to avoid many repeat performances of Tuesday's disaster.
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