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The Baseball Notebook


July 29, 2010 7:27 AM

The Fallen Angels

Scoscia.jpgThis day has seemed inevitable for a while now--in fact, right back to the fateful Sunday afternoon when Kendry Morales broke his foot in a postgame celebration on through Texas' acquisition of Cliff Lee. But now even the most optimistic fan of the Los Angeles Angels would be hard-pressed to find a reason why this team will rally over the final two months. Yesterday they were swept at home by the wounded Red Sox, a series where they were supposed to bounce back after losing three of four in Texas. LAA is now at .500 (52-52) and have been passed by Oakland in the AL West. Trailing the Rangers by 8.5 games, we can safely say that it's time to give the three-time defending division champs and one of the truly outstanding organizations in the game, a proper burial for 2010.

Offense has been the problem for Mike Scoscia's team all year. Tori Hunter is the only hitter who can be said to be having a complete season, hitting for average, drawing walks and hitting for power. Mike Napoli has hit for power. Bobby Abreu has got on base. But they've both been one-dimensional, while Hideki Matsui and Juan Rivera have not been able to get it done. The bullpen has been a problem. Brian Fuentes piles up saves, but his ERA is shaky at 3.86 and he's not an asset in a tie game late. The setup crew has no one reliable. Starting pitching has been respectable--good enough to win if you can hit and have relief help. But it's not spectacular and that came through crystal-clear in yesterday's 7-3 loss to Boston. Joe Piniero was hurt before the game started, and Scoscia had to rely on his bullpen the entire way They hung in admirably before a grand slam by Marco Scutaro broke a tie game. And that's the epitaph for the 2010 Los Angeles Angels. They fought admirably, but it hasn't been enough, as they give way to a new champion in the West.

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One more playoff team from last year has realistically played its way out and that's the Colorado Rockies. Even home games with the Pittsburgh Pirates can't stop the slide, as they've fallen 6 ½ out in the wild-card race. That's a long climb under any circumstances, but when you consider they're fighting with at least five other teams and it's almost impossible to think they could play well enough to move up. At the very least they can look to themselves for inspiration. It will take something akin to their epic 21-of-22 streak in 2007 to get them into the postseason this year.

Colorado's problems aren't as readily diagnosed as LAA's, but we can make a few conclusions. They lack pitching depth behind Ubaldo Jiminez, a fact that's been made painfully clear as Jiminez slumps and no one is there to stop the team's free-fall. They've been hit with injuries, notably to Troy Tulowitzki. And while Todd Helton was having a bad year, putting him on the DL didn't give him a chance to hit his way out of it, as a veteran can often do. Huston Street hasn't been healthy. Of the remaining players, only Miguel Olivo is a certified star and that's enough to carry you into the postseason.

So of the eight teams the made the '09 playoffs, LAA and Colorado are done. Boston is on life support and being checked daily by the nurses in Intensive Care. As is Detroit, a pseudo-ninth playoff team, who lost a one-game AL Central battle to the Twins last year. The Dodgers and Phillies have a long road ahead. The Cardinals and Twins are in tough fights. Only New York is safe.

Photo from exposay.com

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