It's hard to imagine the Los Angeles Angels without manager Mike Scioscia, but it was also hard to imagine them without hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, who was fired Tuesday. Could Scioscia be the next scapegoat? That, plus talk of Brett Lawrie's suspension and a pair of fading pitching prospects in today's Triple Play.
1. Would you be shocked if Mike Scioscia is fired this year?
Mark Saxon (@markasaxon), ESPN LA
No, not after his reaction to Hatcher's firing, essentially saying he disagreed with the move. His relationship with GM Jerry Dipoto has the potential to be seriously flammable. Both are headstrong guys who believe in their philosophies, which don't entirely align. After owner Arte Moreno decided to shift the paradigm and invest more power in the GM's office, Scioscia no longer is the man behind the curtain. The Teflon jacket is clearly no longer on.
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN Stats & Info
I wouldn't be shocked, because teams with high expectations that end up failing always need a scapegoat. But I would deem it an undeserved firing and a mistake by upper-level management if he is let go. Scioscia has never had back-to-back losing seasons in his tenure as Angels manager. He knows the game and the league inside and out and has earned the right to survive any of the perceived mistakes of his tenure, such as the Mike Napoli trade.
Rob Abruzzese (@RobAbruzzese), Bronx Baseball Daily
No, I wouldn't be surprised to see Scioscia go. Normally a manager with his reputation doesn't have to worry about getting fired, but things don't appear to be going well between him and ownership after Hatcher, his long-time friend and hitting coach, was fired and Scioscia didn't attend the announcement. As long as the Angels are under .500, Scioscia is liable to be on the chopping block.
2. Brett Lawrie's suspension: Too little, too much or just right?
Saxon: I thought it was a little heavy. First of all, the calls were absolutely terrible. Neither pitch was near the strike zone, and on the second one, you could tell the umpire, Bill Miller, was trying to punish him for showing him up on the previous ball four. He didn't throw his helmet directly at him; it bounced and glanced off him. Unless a player truly threatens an umpire physically or does something way out of line -- spitting, epithets, etc. -- we have to give these guys some leeway to react.
Simon: I thought it was too little. Hitting an umpire with a helmet, even on the bounce, is worthy of sitting out a week. This should be a warning to Lawrie that there's a line between being hypercompetitive in a good way, like his exuberance, high-fives and hard-nosed play, and being hypercompetitive in a detrimental way. Lawrie crossed that line, and he needs to be penalized in a way that makes sure he doesn't do so again.
Abruzzese: Lawrie's suspension wasn't long enough. There is no room in baseball for this type of behavior, and his reaction seemed to legitimately cause Miller to fear for his well-being, whether Lawrie intended to hurt Miller or not. MLB needed to send the 22-year-old a message and failed to do so with such a light penalty.
3. Brian Matusz versus Luke Hochevar on Thursday: Which former top prospect has a better chance of succeeding at this point?
Saxon: I'll say Matusz. Of his last four starts, three of them were solid and just one was awful. Two of Hochevar's last three starts have been disasters. He pitched well against the Angels early this season, but who hasn't?
Simon: I'll take Matusz, who has shown a few signs of improvement over his last four starts, though he did get shelled by the Rangers. His strike rate, chase rate (percentage of pitches out of the strike zone that were swung at) and rate of home runs to fly balls are creeping close to his 2010 numbers. His biggest challenge will be surviving repeated matchups against American League East teams. Hochevar's 23 percent line-drive rate this season scares me too much to consider making him my pick.
Abruzzese: Matusz has the better chance to succeed. He has a few advantages over Hochevar. Although Hochevar was drafted No. 1 overall in 2006, Matusz (No. 4 pick in 2008) developed into a more highly regarded prospect, he has had more relative success in the majors, and perhaps most importantly, he is three full years younger. With time on his side and a better start in 2012, Matusz is the stronger bet.