Remember how last week Bobby Valentine declared, for no apparent reason and on TV, no less, that Kevin Youkilis was not “as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past”? One of my ensuing conclusions was that, had Valentine seen said comment as his final line of recourse in reaching a problematic Youkilis, it would have been entirely justified.
It wasn’t, of course. Youkilis appears merely to be scuffling, not mentally checked out, and Valentine was just popping off, as he’s known to do.
Still, the sentiment holds. Yesterday, it might have held in the visitors’ clubhouse at Tropicana Field, where Torii Hunter alluded to the press that some people may have some problems with Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
With Los Angeles in last place, having just lost their third in a row and sixth of their last eight, Hunter handed a barely veiled reference to the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think we believe we’re trying that hard,” he said. “We’re just going through the motions. We have to do what we’re capable of doing. That’s everybody, not just the players.”
Scioscia is a pretty clear target for the phrase, “not just the players.” What did Hunter mean? The Times’ Mike DiGiovanna led his story with it:
Not only are the Angels not hitting, they’re not stealing bases, bunting, executing hit-and-run plays and pushing the envelope offensively, all trademarks of Mike Scioscia-managed teams.
They’re not scratching and clawing or sacrificing themselves enough for the team, and those deficiencies, as well as an inability to hit in the clutch, were evident again Wednesday night . . .
DiGiovanna’s guess was that Hunter was referring specifically to Sciocia’s failure to have Macier Izturis bunt Hunter and Vernon Wells over, after they led off the second with singles. Izturis ended up flying to left, and both runners were eventually stranded.
Asked if the game could have changed with some early execution, Hunter said, “You mean if we bunted in the second? What can we do? All we do is play the game.”
The Angels held a pre-game, players-only meeting today, following a previous meeting eight days ago, in which Scioscia apparently told his charges they had to “grind it out.” The wagons are officially being circled.
Whatever was said by Angels players today, one thing is clear: By this point in his career, Scioscia has earned the right to be above public scrutiny by his players, frustrated as they may be. Hunter is one of the few in the game who can get away with something like that, owing to his own reputation and veteran status. Still, it speaks to some serious fractures among the ranks, which is just what today’s meeting was designed to address.
Such is the nature of this kind of thing that it did not present early returns. The Angels scored only three runs against Tampa Bay Thursday, and lost, 4-3, on a game-ending, two-run homer by Brandon Allen.
(DiGiovanna weighed in on Sciocia’s in-game machinations with a ninth-inning tweet —”Unconventional move by #Angels MRG… and I like it. For a change”—after reliever Scott Downs opened the frame instead of closer Jordan Walden, with the Angels holding a one-run lead. Walden came in after Downs retired Matt Joyce. Two batters later, the game was over.)
These are the kinds of things that happen on losing ballclubs—especially those predicted by many to reach the World Series. Still, it’s only April, and nobody knows how much time is left in the season better than a roster full of veterans. Now we’ll see how much longer they can keep their mouths shut.
(Via Hardball Talk.)