Commentary

Angels shouldn't chase first baseman

Morales' injury has some wondering if a move should be made, but L.A.'s not in position

Updated: June 9, 2010, 8:35 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

OAKLAND -- The question that seems to be hanging over the Los Angeles Angels ever since Kendry Morales went down with a grimace on top of home plate, his left ankle in pieces, is this: Do they fork over big money and go after a power-hitting first baseman?

The names of potentially available boppers -- Paul Konerko, Prince Fielder, Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche -- have been tossed around for weeks. The motivation -- a seemingly smooth path to another playoff appearance -- isn't such a stretch.

But it's probably not going to happen and, frankly, it probably shouldn't. It's the wrong move in early June and it's probably the wrong move in late July.

Even in the midst of their six-game winning streak -- which ended emphatically with a 10-1 loss in Oakland on Tuesday night that knocked them into second place -- the Angels weren't giving off the aura of a World Series contender. Even with, say, Konerko hitting home runs fairly regularly in the second half, was this team ever going to make any noise in October?

[+] EnlargeJered Weaver
AP Photo/George NikitinJered Weaver left the game after this Kurt Suzuki home run in the seventh inning.

How do you like the Angels chances against the New York Yankees again? How about the Tampa Bay Rays, even the Minnesota Twins? In their current incarnation, the Angels would be first-round fodder and, these days, their fans don't get too worked up about making playoff appearances. They have higher aspirations, and so does the organization.

And if you put all your efforts and concentrate all your finances on the first-base problem, what do you do about your leaky bullpen, your mediocre starting rotation and your lack of a leadoff hitter? First base might not even be the most pressing infield hole. What about third? The foundation of the Angels' offense is weak at the pillars: the corner infield spots.

"Are they really one guy away?" one veteran scout wondered Tuesday.

If you didn't realize that before, watching Michael Ryan and Kevin Frandsen converge on an infield popup in the fourth inning Tuesday -- Frandsen diving for naught -- should have summed it up. No offense to Ryan and Frandsen, but they're not the kind of corner infielders who carry teams deep into October.

I asked manager Mike Scioscia if he can continue mixing and matching at the corners all year. His answer, basically, was "yeah." Then again, what choice does he have? In other words, Angels fans, you can settle in for a long summer of Ryan, Frandsen, Robb Quinlan, Maicer Izturis & Co. Those guys should be good for, what, about eight home runs between them?

"I think things can settle if we can just get some guys producing," Scioscia said.

Tuesday night was one of Jered Weaver's worst starts in years and, when he falters, this team doesn't look like much of anything. Weaver's 114th pitch was a belt-high fastball over the middle of the plate that Kurt Suzuki sent soaring in the air and, eventually, bouncing up the steps beyond the left-field fence. That three-run blast was the 12th hit Weaver gave up in just over six innings. He hadn't been knocked around this way since Aug. 1, 2007.

The Angels' lineup, meanwhile, looked flummoxed facing an array of mediocre Oakland arms. It started with five good innings from converted reliever -- and fairly recent call-up -- Vin Mazzaro. It continued. In the seventh, Erick Aybar took a called third strike on the outside corner on a floating, 73 mph curveball from lefty Jerry Blevins.

The AL West has had the appearance of a rudderless mess all season. The Angels are right in the middle of that mass of mediocrity and one move, no matter how much of owner Arte Moreno's money it costs, isn't going to change that.

Scene and heard

Like the rest of the baseball-watching world, the Angels got caught up in Stephen Strasburg's debut for the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. They were able to watch the first five innings of his electric, 14-strikeout start on the clubhouse TVs here before heading out to the field to stretch.

Some of the Angels' pitchers related it to their first major league outings. Joe Saunders noted Strasburg seemed to be having trouble throwing his slow curveball early in the game, so he was throwing the hard slider.

"He's probably got so much adrenaline going right now, he can't slow his arm down," Saunders said.

Quote of the day

"I think from where he came into the league a couple years ago to where he is now, he's by far the most improved ... definitely catcher and, maybe, player in our league." -- Scioscia on Suzuki, a Cal State Fullerton alum.

Looking ahead

Oakland's Dallas Braden (4-5, 3.77 ERA) hasn't won since pitching his perfect game on May 9. Entering Wednesday's start against the Angels here, he's 0-3 with a 4.45 ERA since then and opponents have hit .277 against him. The Angels were one of the teams that beat him, getting to him for four runs in their 4-0 win on May 14.

In that game, Saunders (4-6, 4.78), who pitches for the Angels on Wednesday, threw a complete-game shutout, holding Oakland to four hits and striking out six. He has tended to pitch well against the A's, winning six of his past eight games with a 2.58 ERA.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

MORE MLB HEADLINES