Just another thing that's gone wrong for the Angels this season. Bill Plunkett:
- Angels manager Mike Scioscia's defense of Hideki Matsui has been far more consistent this season than Matsui's production.
With Matsui in the depths of yet another slump (1 for his past 14), Scioscia benched Matsui for the third time in the past seven games, the first time against a right-handed starter. But Scioscia continued to express confidence that Matsui's next good streak is just around the corner.
Scioscia insists he has seen no loss of bat speed with Matsui, a sure sign of aging in a hitter. While the legion of reporters who document Matsui's every move – even on a day spent on the Angels' bench – worry that the Angels might release him (signed to a one-year, $6 million contract), Scioscia assured them Sunday was not a signal that his confidence in Matsui had evaporated and the veteran's playing time would disappear in the final third of the season.And the point is what, exactly?
None of this matters to anyone except Matsui and those Angels fans who live and die with every pitch.
In less than two months, Matsui's contract and the Angels' season will expire.
Matsui doesn't make a great deal of money. They have to pay him whether he's on the roster or not, and anyway it's not like he's blocking some hot prospect. Matsui's got the sixth-highest OPS among Angels with at least a dozen plate appearances this season. All the guys ahead of him are already playing.
Well, sort of. Mark Trumbo, 24, has been tearing up the Pacific Coast League pretty good this season. He's probably a future DH, and might even take his place in the lineup next spring. But there's little difference between promoting him tomorrow and promoting him on the 1st of September when the active rosters are expanded.
Little difference, because [Hank] Conger's not great and because the Angels' fate has been determined already. They're nine games out of first place and a dozen games behind Tampa Bay.
Yes, it's time to start thinking about the future. But that can wait for another week or three while management comes to terms with reality.
I suppose there's a larger point to be made here, about spending real money on non-elite older players. I'll bet you can find columns last winter complaining that the Yankees should have kept Matsui and Johnny Damon, because by golly they were still pretty good hitters and what's a few more million dollars to the Yankees, anyway?
It was never about the money. It was about getting younger and (perhaps) better. Granted, Damon's and Matsui's replacements -- Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson -- haven't exactly hit their projections, and the Yankees might have won about as many games if they had kept the older guys. But the get-younger impulse will serve the organization well in coming years.