LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t help but notice a few parallels with the team that plays approximately 30 miles down the freeway from them.
Massive expectations after an offseason splash, two franchises trying to plug the hole on declining attendance from three straight seasons out of the postseason. A slow start, mounting injuries, a manager rumored to be on the hot seat. You could go on.
The Dodgers hope they soon have one more thing in common with the Los Angeles Angels. While the Dodgers have shown only glimpses of getting their disappointing season moving ahead, the Angels are in full-scale recovery mode, having won eight straight games.
“You always knew they had a talented club, and they were going to put it together,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I wish they would have just waited a little longer.”
Southern California’s two expensive, sub-.500 teams meet this week in a new home-and-home format that features two games at Dodger Stadium Monday and Tuesday, followed by a couple of games at Angel Stadium. It will be a chance for the Angels to stay on a roll and for the Dodgers to finally get on one. The energy in those games is always elevated.
“We’re not done yet,” Angels catcher Hank Conger told reporters this weekend in Kansas City. “We’ve got things rolling, but we need to continue this momentum in order to be where we want to be down the road.”
The parallels eventually peter out, of course. While Angels manager Mike Scioscia was rumored to be on the hot seat, few people doubt that Mattingly actually is. In just his third season as manager, Mattingly realizes it. The Angels had high expectations, but not as high as the Dodgers, who are spending a National League record $217 million on salaries, $75 million more than the Angels.
Mattingly said he considered the rumors about Scioscia’s shaky hold on his job to be “absurd.” Scioscia is in his 14th season in Anaheim. He won the 2002 World Series and made the playoffs six times.
“Playing against his teams from the AL, I always hated it,” Mattingly said. “They’re tough to play against. They’re a little different now, not quite as speed-oriented, but they’re well managed and prepared.”
Angels owner Arte Moreno gave Scioscia a sturdier vote of confidence 10 days ago than Dodgers president Stan Kasten gave Mattingly Friday. Moreno told FoxSports.com that the chances of an in-season managerial change for his team are, “right now, zero,” and that was before his team caught fire.
Meanwhile, Kasten said he was not thinking of pulling the plug on Mattingly any time soon but reserved the right to do so on fairly short notice.
“I expect this to work, but if it doesn’t, I guess there maybe will be a day where we have to look at a different solution,” Kasten said.
Mattingly is in the final year of his contract, and the Dodgers have declined to pick up his 2014 option, saying they’ll wait until November to make that call. Scioscia is halfway through a 10-year deal that reportedly pays him about $5 million per year. It would be a far more financially painful move for Moreno than for the Dodgers.
National writers have speculated that the Dodgers could cut ties with Mattingly and try to work out a deal with Moreno to get Scioscia, a Dodgers catcher from 1980 to 1992. That speculation probably isn’t going to entirely disappear, particularly after Kasten brought up Scioscia as an example of how the length of a manager’s deal won’t quash rumors about his job security.
“Down the road from here, there’s a pretty damn good manager -- one of the best, maybe, ever -- who also won a world championship and, until the last week or so, I’ve been reading his death watch,” Kasten said. “And he’s got five years left on his contract.”
The Angels are 23-27 and in third place in the AL West. The Dodgers are 20-28 and in last place in the NL West. Both teams, though, are on the mend. The Dodgers now have a formidable top of the rotation with Zack Greinke back after he fractured his left collarbone in a brawl with San Diego’s Carlos Quentin in his second start. All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez could start a rehab assignment this week and will likely join the Dodgers next weekend.
Angels ace Jered Weaver is expected to return from a fractured left elbow and pitch Wednesday or Thursday against the Dodgers.
It just might be ‘go’ time for both teams, but for the next four days, somebody’s going to have to be the launching pad.