Philadelphia, PA – This wasn't supposed to happen to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
After an offseason that saw them sign not only the best player on the planet in Albert Pujols, but the best pitcher available in C.J. Wilson, the Angels were not only going to contend for an American League West crown, they were being pegged as one of the best teams in baseball.
And rightfully so, by the way.
Pujols is what he is, but the addition of Wilson to an already loaded pitching staff that included Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana figured to be enough to unseat a Texas Rangers team that had captured the last two division and league crowns.
At the very least it should have been enough to get the Angels to the postseason, given the added wild card teams. But, as they say, that is why you play the games.
Heading into Thursday, the Angels are just 6-12, but eight games back in the loss column of the Rangers. Now, of course, it is not even May yet, but eight games is eight games. And Texas is not exactly a team playing above its head here in the early going like, say, the Baltimore Orioles.
This is a Rangers team that has represented the AL in each of the past two seasons. Translation: they are not going anywhere, so if the Angels are going to be a factor, something has to change. And fast.
It's hard to lay the blame on any one player, but Pujols has been a huge disappointment. Perhaps the three-time NL MVP is overdoing it in trying to live up to the lofty $254 million deal he signed this winter, but he is mired in the worst stretch of his career, an 0-for-19 slide that has dipped his average to a mere .222. Not to mention he's yet to hit a home run and only has four RBIs on the year and even heard boos on the Angels' last homestand.
Things may have reached a boiling point on Wednesday when after a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay, outfielder Torii Hunter seemingly called out manager Mike Scioscia.
"We have to fight a little harder," Hunter told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't think we believe we're trying that hard. We're just going through the motions. We have to do what we're capable of doing. That's everybody; not just the players."
Hunter was apparently miffed about Scioscia's failure to call a bunt with two runners on base in the second inning, which led to the Angels being held scoreless following back-to-back singles to begin the frame.
Now let's get this straight: Scioscia might be the best manager in baseball. He won a World Series with the Angels in 2002 and is currently the only active skipper to have won 1,000 games with his current team.
But the question has to be asked, could Scioscia be in some trouble?
Owner Arte Moreno is not exactly George Steinbrenner in the mid 1980s, but he's also not someone who is going to sit on his hands, either, especially after an offseason that saw him dole out more than $300 million to improve a club that has missed the playoffs in each of the past two years.
Firing Scioscia now is probably the knee-jerkiest of all knee-jerk reactions, but like they say, you can't fire the players. There have been better managers than Scioscia who have been fired before.
Sometimes change just has to happen, but Scioscia has surely earned the right to at least try and get the situation straightened out.
But if this lingers for another couple of weeks, all bets are off.