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Why the Angels are struggling

4/13/2013

There's no way an owner would invest as much money in a team as Arte Moreno has in the Angels without reacting strongly to a terrible start. Moreno has spent more than half a billion in payroll since the last time the Angels made the playoffs, and has another half-billion or so in future commitments to Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver, and so far Moreno's club is among the worst in baseball.

The Angels are already 6 1/2 games behind Oakland in the AL West and are winless in four awful games at home this week, games in which they were outscored 33-11. Friday's game ended with Hamilton forgetting the number of outs with his team down five runs, and getting doubled off of first base on a foul ball. From the Associated Press story:

"That's obviously a bad play. That's a mental mistake," manager Mike Scioscia said. "As perfect as players try to play, and as hard as they try to play, unfortunately mental mistakes are occasionally going to creep into the scenario.

"We've seen it from other teams, and unfortunately it got us tonight. And Josh knows it. He's accountable. He knows he messed up. So we're going to move on. It's a mental mistake. It happens. It's obviously ugly when it happens, and we're going to move on. That's it."

That's a mental mistake, but the physical failings are piling up, too. So far this season, opposing hitters are batting .301 against the Angels' starting pitchers, who have a 6.02 ERA. Hamilton, meanwhile, is batting .179 with 2 doubles, no homers and 14 strikeouts in 39 at-bats. Mike Trout is hitting .227, and rival evaluators have been struck by how the joy he played with last year seems diminished. "He looks like he's not having any fun," said one scout. As a team, the Angels have a .385 slugging percentage.

For every action, there is a reaction, and the presumption in baseball is that Moreno -- who is said to be much more competitive and George Steinbrenner-esque than his public image -- will react. Will that mean roster changes? A managerial change with Scioscia, which would have been unthinkable a year ago?

Stay tuned.

The Angels' tailspin has gone from bad to worse, writes J.P. Hoornstra.

Around the league

• Speaking of the Angels: the Mets' Matt Harvey, now one of the top young pitchers in the game, explained on Friday's podcast how his decision on whether to sign with the Angels -- or to play in college -- came down to the last hours before the signing deadline. And he explained his intentions if somebody charges the mound, a la Carlos Quentin.

• The Orioles have demonstrated a willingness to go to a six-year deal with catcher Matt Wieters, according to sources, to sign a player they drafted, developed and have great respect for -- but to date, there is no traction in the talks on a long-term contract. "It's not happening," said one source.

Wieters, 26, is making $5.5 million this year, and, given his service time and the fact that he's eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, a six-year offer presumably would be for something in the range north of $70 million.

• The hits just keep on coming for the Blue Jays, who now face an immediate future without Jose Reyes. General manager Alex Anthopoulos said he already has reached out to executives with other teams in search of help. You have to wonder whether John McDonald would be a good fit because he's not really playing much for the Pirates, the Blue Jays know him and Pittsburgh has alternatives in the minors, such as Jordy Mercer, who had a good spring training. Mercer has gotten off to a nice start in Triple-A.

• The Jays are staying calm despite a slow start, writes Brendan Kennedy.

To repeat: The AL East is a complete mud bog, with five capable but flawed teams trying to sort through stuff, none of them poised, at this moment, to separate from the pack.

• Before Quentin's suspension of eight games was announced, Paul Konerko had strong words in defense of his former teammate. From Mark Gonzales' story:

Paul Konerko defended former White Sox teammate Carlos Quentin on Friday, saying his motives for charging Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke run deeper than getting hit by him for the third time Thursday night.

"If you watch the games I've watched, he probably has had more than five pitches that have gone over his head," Konerko said of Quentin, now with the Padres, charging Greinke after a 3-2 pitch hit him and igniting a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in Greinke suffering a broken right collarbone.

• The problems go back to the days of the Royals-White Sox feuds, writes Pete Grathoff. Jay Paris thinks what Quentin did was a selfish act.

Ted Lilly or Chris Capuano will replace Greinke in the Dodgers' rotation.

Giancarlo Stanton is out with shoulder pain, as Joe Capozzi writes.

Ryan Zimmerman's throwing mechanics have come under scrutiny in the past. He has had some shoulder issues and, as written here before, some rival evaluators believe he has a mild case of the yips. He was rescued from a throwing error early in Friday's game when Adam LaRoche came off the bag to retrieve what should have been a routine toss before returning to the base.

Later, on a much tougher play, Zimmerman's throwing error was pivotal in Atlanta's comeback.
Whatever the issue is, Zimmerman can look incredibly uncomfortable throwing, at a position where being able to make long and accurate throws is a prerequisite.

• The Washington bullpen crumbled, writes Adam Kilgore.

Ramiro Pena dropped the head of the bat and became a hero.

• Before all of that, Bryce Harper clubbed a home run -- on a two-seam fastball on the outer half of the plate, hit to the opposite field.

From Elias: Harper hit his fifth home run of the season, off Julio Teheran, in the Nationals' loss against the Braves on Friday, becoming only the second player younger than 21 years old in major league history to hit five or more home runs in his team's first 10 games of a season. Miguel Cabrera had six in the first 10 games for the Marlins in 2004. Teheran is the third player born in the 1990s to allow a home run to Harper, joining Henderson Alvarez and Jacob Turner (who has allowed two homers to Harper). The only other home run by a player born in the '90s off a pitcher born in that decade was by Mike Trout off Turner.

• You can't stop the Astros, you can only hope to contain them: That's three wins in a row, after Bud Norris shut down the Angels.

Shelby Miller's outing was eye-opening.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Red Sox juggled their rotation.

2. Aaron Hicks is struggling, but he's still in the leadoff spot, writes La Velle Neal.

3. The Rays have juggled their rotation.

4. Carlos Carrasco got hit with an eight-game suspension.

5. The Indians pushed back the start for Ubaldo Jimenez.

Dings and dents

1. Andy Pettitte has had some back spasms.

2. Ryan Braun says he's close to 100 percent.

3. Lance Berkman has a sore knee.

4. An Atlanta reliever landed on the disabled list.

5. Chase Headley has started his rehab work.

6. The D-backs are dealing with a bunch of injuries, as Steve Gilbert writes.

Friday's games

1.The Phillies got some extra-inning heroics.

2. Andrew McCutchen clubbed a two-run homer as the Pirates beat Cincinnati. Pittsburgh is one week into its brutal 31-game stretch of contests against contenders, and so far the Pirates are 3-4.

3. CC Sabathia did some masterly work. He has 193 career victories.

4. The Orioles made mistakes. Adam Jones knows what he did wrong.

5. The Mets frolicked.

6. Jose Quintana was just about flawless, but the White Sox still lost.

7. Justin Masterson was "the man" before Nick Swisher walked it off. It was a big win for the Indians.

From Elias: Masterson shut out the White Sox on Friday, improving his won-lost record to 3-0 in three games this season, in which he's allowed only one run. The only other Indians pitcher to win his first three starts of a season while allowing no more than one run total was Luis Tiant, who began the 1966 season with three straight shutouts.

AL East

• Jackie Bradley is confident despite his early hitting issues.

• The Rays have been picking it so far, as Marc Topkin writes.

AL Central

• Jim Leyland thinks of Torii Hunter as a dignified player.

AL West

• Oakland had a lot of heroes Friday night, as Carl Steward writes.

Yu Darvish had a rough inning.

• A Mariners pitcher had a great celebration of his 32nd birthday.

NL East

• The Braves are trying to find ways to keep Evan Gattis in the lineup and tried him at first. On Friday, that didn't go well: He used the wrong foot at the base and missed a foul pop.

• The Marlins: Anemic, so far.

NL Central

Starlin Castro redeemed himself.

Mike Leake had a tough day.

NL West

Huston Street struggled.

Sergio Romo quickly turned the page, as Alex Pavolic writes.

Dexter Fowler keeps hitting home runs.

Other stuff

• The Twins' grounds crew did a great job, as Pat Borzi writes.

• Bob Uecker has some vivid memories of Stan Musial, as Rick Hummel writes.

• A lot of stuff is swirling around Alex Rodriguez's alleged connection with the Miami PED clinic. He is a desperate man, writes John Harper.

Jackie Bradley Jr. liked '42.'

• A former pen pal of Robinson liked "42," as Bob Sansevere writes.

• Dave Dombrowski has been asked to head the diversity panel by the commissioner, writes Lynn Henning.

• It was 50 years ago that Pete Rose got his first hit, as Joe Kay writes.

• Vanderbilt is streaking.

And today will be better than yesterday.