For Angel fans, right now, at this moment, the World Series is looking far away.
They're not winning.
Their bullpen is unreliable.
Their hitters are swinging like Vladdy.
The Red Sox are waiting.
The opening round is best of five.
Let's take a look at them one at a time:
1. They're not winning. This would be a bigger problem if the Texas Rangers hadn't tanked the last few weeks. Yes, the lead is down to five, and Texas is coming to town. But barring a major collapse, the Angels will get in. And the Angels already had their major collapse in 1995. Lightening won't strike twice. Even for the Halos.
2. The bullpen. This is a problem, and one we could see coming. The game tonight against Oakland was indicative of what's ahead in the playoffs. Pressure. And the inability to handle it.
Jason Bulger caved, Kevin Jepsen deteriorated, Matt Palmer... heck, what was Palmer doing pitching the 8th? Wasn't that the moment to bring in Brian Fuentes for a rare two inning stint? Scioscia did it with K-Rod when he really wanted a win. Of course, he had total confidence in K-Rod. I guess we saw tonight how much confidence he has in Fuentes - he brought in Palmer.
Blame Tony Reagins as well for this one. He shouldn't have sat on his hands during trading time. Scott Kazmir? Great. He better pitch a complete game every time.
3. The Vladdy factor. Oh, man, I saw this one coming, too. Suddenly the Angel hitters are striking out like flay swatters. Kendry Morales has lost his patience at the plate. So has Erick Aybar. Even Chone Figgins is swinging at more pitches in the dirt. They are, as Scioscia put it, swinging at pitches that only Vladimir Guerrero can hit. Trouble is, even Vladdy isn't hitting them now.
And since when did Tori Hunter become such a swing and miss guy? Is he feeling the pressure to do it all? Squeezing the bat too tightly? Maybe. And we won't even mention Mike Napoli. In fact, has anyone even seen Mike Napoli?
4. The Boston Red Sox. We've beat this one to death. We know they're coming in round one. And of course, that leads us to the biggest problem.
5. Best of Five. Could someone please explain to me why round one of the playoffs has not been expanded to best of seven?
It pushes the season too late into the year? Nah. It adds a couple of days. They added an entire round of playoffs. already They weren't worried about the push then.
The first round used to be best of three. Then major league baseball came to their senses and realized, hey, after six months, after 162 games, maybe getting swept out in two games is too fast. It's not fair. Well, getting knocked out in three isn't much better.
Make it best of seven like the other rounds. Basketball does it. Hockey does it.
And the Angels need it. Because it might take two games to get over the shock of playing Boston. Especially with this young team.
The Angels for years now have been a great regular season team that struggles in the playoffs. It's smelling that way again. They peaked early, and now they look like a team playing uphill. They need to get their focus back, their patience at the plate back, and soon.
Mistakes are going to happen. Nerves are going to be rattled. But after a few games, they'll settle in.
But the fact that they don't have seven games to do it in is ridiculous. It's shameful.
And it needs to change.