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Mike Scioscia: Josh Hamilton not the same player he was with Rangers

Josh HamiltonMike Scioscia isn’t exactly thrilled with the type of production — or lack thereof — he’s received from Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton is only hitting .216 with a .630 OPS since the All-Star break and went 1-for-5 with 4 strikeouts Friday against the Rangers. That prompted Scioscia to say Saturday that Hamilton isn’t the player he was with Texas when he was a 5-time All-Star, won the 2009 AL MVP and commanded a 5-year, $125 million contract from the Angels.

“Josh is not the same that we saw when we were looking at the other dugout,” Scioscia said via the Dallas Morning News. “He’s not in the batter’s box with the confidence we know he has. He’s not attacking the ball like he can. He’s working hard to try to find it …but we need him to do what he’s capable of doing, or close to that.”

Despite being exasperated with Hamilton, Scioscia says he is not moving the outfielder from the cleanup spot in the lineup.

Though Hamilton has struggled lately, his regular season numbers could be worse. He’s batting .266/.339/.414 this season and was really scorching before going down with a thumb injury. Sometimes that’s all it takes to take a player out of his rhythm.

If Scioscia maintains confidence in Hamilton, I’m sure the outfielder will come around. He’s always been a streak hitter and will likely get hot again before too long. Maybe Scioscia is trying to motivate Hamilton by talking him down.

Mike Scioscia did not want Mike Trout doing Home Run Derby

Mike Trout home runMike Trout was hearing it from many of his fellow All-Stars on Monday in Minnesota about not being a part of the Home Run Derby, and the guy had to pass the buck onto his manager.

Trout is one of the biggest stars in the game and, with 22 home runs on the season (fourth in MLB), he certainly has the power to challenge for the crown. So why isn’t one of the fan favorites in the Derby? Trout says you can blame Mike Scioscia for that.

Trout says Scioscia didn’t want him to participate in the Derby because the manager felt it could wear out the All-Star candidate, make him prone to injury, and possibly mess up his swing.

But that won’t stop Trouty from doing it next season.

“If I get another chance, and if I said I wanted to do it,” Trout said via the Los Angeles Times. “Scioscia would be against it, but he would support it.

“I don’t think it will mess up my swing,” Trout said.

Does the Home Run Derby mess up a player? Nobody really knows the answer to that. There is a lot of conjecture but logic would tell you it doesn’t.

As a fan of the game, it would be nice to see Trouty in the derby. As an Angels fan, it’s just as well that he’s not. Bottom line? Trout should do what he wants.

Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols nearly fought during Angels team meeting

Torii Hunter Albert PujolsTorii Hunter wanted to fight Albert Pujols during a Los Angeles Angels team meeting last season, according to a report.

Scott Miller at CBS Sports has a lengthy article full of strong reporting about the Angels. The article touches on the influence of Angels owner Arte Moreno, and casts the owner as a meddling, negative influence when it comes to building the team. But the real highlight is a story about Hunter and Pujols getting into it last season when the Angels were in a tough stretch.

According to Miller, the Angels had just badly lost three games to the Tampa Bay Rays in August (they were swept in that four-game series), and they called a team meeting following the third loss, a 10-8 defeat on Aug. 19 in which they blew an 8-0 lead. The previous game, the Angels lost 12-3 as Jered Weaver was pounded. Weaver got upset with a teammate for missing a ball during that outing. The next day, C.J. Wilson apparently was chirping in the Angels’ dugout about the hitters struggling, and Torii Hunter had to tell him to pipe down. With all the tension between teammates, a meeting was called following the 10-8 loss.

Miller says veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins called the meeting, but the players couldn’t decide on the format. Pujols apparently wanted it to include the coaches, while Hawkins thought it should just be between the players. During the meeting, Pujols supposedly called out Weaver for showing up a teammate on Friday. He then turned his attention to Hunter for the incident in the dugout with Wilson on Saturday. Hunter reportedly became livid with Pujols.

Here’s Miller’s description of what ensued:

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Mike Scioscia does not believe Yasiel Puig should be an All-Star

Yasiel PuigLos Angeles Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig has taken baseball by storm over the past month. The 22-year-old Cuban hit four home runs in his first 5 games in the big leagues. He is hitting .430 over a 29-game span and his defense has arguably been better than his bat. Puig looks like a lock to make the NL All-Star roster for years to come, but could 2013 be one of them?

Mike Scioscia feels Puig needs to put in more time in order to be selected to the All-Star team.

“I think he needs to go a little farther to earn it,” the Los Angeles Angels manager said, via the LA Times. “If he’s not an All-Star this year, he’s going to be an All-Star for years to come. But I do think you have to play enough to earn a spot on the All-Star team.”

Scioscia certainly isn’t the only one who feels that way. Bruce Bochy essentially said the same thing last month and Jonathan Papelbon thinks it would be a “joke” if Puig was selected.

“I don’t think MLB will discount what he’s done, even though it’s a limited number of at-bats,” Scioscia said. “There’s a pull to bring the best players to the game, because of the bearing it has on home-field advantage in the World Series. That’s going to give him a deeper look than maybe it would have been in any other situation.”

Giving Puig any type of crown after 29 MLB games would be silly, but the point is the MLB All-Star game is considered one of the most boring events of the calendar year for sports fans. The game has “meaning” in that it decides home-field advantage for the World Series, but that has not resulted in more buzz or popularity. As we learned from how fast his merchandise has been selling, Puig is a fan favorite. The All-Star game needs as many of those as it can get.

H/T Hardball Talk

Mike Scioscia correctly protests Houston Astros’ pitching change; Umpires were wrong

Mike Scioscia umpireAn MLB spokesman said on Friday that the umpires made a mistake by allowing the Houston Astros to make a pitching change in the seventh inning of Thursday’s Angels-Astros game, a move that was protested by Mike Scioscia.

The Astros were up 5-3 in the top of the seventh. Paul Clemens had just walked Chris Ianetta to put runners on first and second with two outs. Left-handed batter J.B. Shuck was coming up, so Houston decided to bring in lefty relief pitcher Wesley Wright. Scioscia decided to counter by pinch-hitting for Shuck with right-handed batter Luis Jimenez.

This is what led to the error.

Astros manager Bo Porter responded to Scioscia’s move by going back to his bullpen to have right-handed Hector Ambriz come in. However, he did not have Wright pitch to a batter, which is required when a reliever is brought in.

Rule 3.05(B) states:

If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.

With Ambriz coming in, Scioscia also made a change and subbed out Jimenez for lefty Scott Cousins, who popped out to end the inning.

Ambriz gave up two runs the following inning and was charged for a third run, which was the winning run.

MLB says it is reviewing the matter. I’m not really sure what there is to review — the umpires made a big mistake and MLB confirmed it. Scioscia knew the rule. It’s shocking that the umpires didn’t.

Mike Scioscia: Albert Pujols is only playing at 70 percent

Albert PujolsAlbert Pujols has been hitting the ball well for the Angels this season, which is even more impressive given his health limitations.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Sunday that Pujols, 33, is playing at only 70 percent health.

“You know, Albert’s going to give you what he has,” Scioscia said, via MLB.com. “If he has 70 percent, he’s going to give you 70 percent. That’s where he is right now, whatever percentage you want to put on it. Obviously, he’s not 100 percent.”

Pujols has played seven games at first base this season and served as the designated hitter for the others. He was moved from first to DH prior to Sunday’s game to take the pressure off his foot, per MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom.

It’s pretty clear watching Pujols that he is not even close to full strength. He struggles to move and does not completely run out ground balls. Still, he has managed to bat .293 through 12 games. Half of his 12 hits have been for extra bases — he has four doubles and two home runs, and he has walked 11 times.

Pujols underwent knee surgery over the offseason and is also being bothered by plantar fasciitis in his foot. One has to wonder how long he will be able to keep this up. The way he is going, I cannot imagine him making it through the season without a stint on the disabled list.

Photo credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Scioscia hurting Angels with his sacrifice bunt-happy ways

Mike Scioscia stareMike Scioscia used to be lauded for his smallball managerial style, but it’s time to recognize that the approach is hurting the team.

The Los Angeles Angels have gone 1-2 to start the season. People like to say it’s too early to overreact, but it’s not too early for me to point out some poor decisions by Scioscia. Twice in three games Scioscia has taken away the team’s best chances at scoring runs by having some of his better hitters sacrifice bunt.

First Instance: The Angels and Reds were tied 1-1 in the 7th on Opening Day Monday. Josh Hamilton walked and Mark Trumbo singled to start the inning. It looked like the Angels were going to have a big inning to break open the game … until Scioscia decided to bunt Howie Kendrick. Kendrick, keep in mind, crushed the ball in spring training batting .435. with a 1.204 OPS. Kendrick sacrifices to move Hamilton and Trumbo to second and third with one out and 7-8-9 coming up. The Reds intentionally walked Alberto Callaspo to load the bases, Chris Iannetta struck out, and Jered Weaver was coming up next. Scioscia pinch hit for Weaver with J.B. Shuck, who also struck out.

The game went scoreless until the 13th when Iannetta hit a 2-run single to put the Angels up. They won 3-1, but they could have been up by that margin in the seventh if Scioscia let Howie hit.

Second Instance: The Angels were down 5-4 with nobody out in the top of the 9th Thursday. Mike Trout laced a single to left off Aroldis Chapman to lead off the inning. Erick Aybar, who was 3-for-4 in the game and stung the ball in his previous at-bat (Brandon Phillips made a diving stop on him), was up. Scioscia had him sacrifice bunt to move Trout to second. The Angels then had Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton coming up with one out, Trout on second, and Chapman pitching. Pujols lined out to right, and Hamilton struck out to end the game. Angels lose 5-4.

The Angels have one of the best lineups in baseball, but it’s hard to maximize the team’s potential when Scioscia takes the bat out of his hitters’ hands. Each time I saw Scioscia bunt with a good hitter, I recalled the classic Jimmy Dugan line from “A League of Their Own” when he tells Dottie Henson, “You’ve got a squeeze bunt with our best hitter? Stop thinking with your tits if you want a big inning here.”

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