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T.J. SIMERS

Angels' Mike Scioscia not the problem, but he might pay the price

Owner Arte Moreno is likely to pin the blame for the Angels' poor play on the manager. But if Moreno fires him, the good news is Scioscia looks great in Dodger Blue.

T.J. Simers

1:45 AM EDT, May 9, 2013

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HOUSTON — I planned on joining the Angels in Chicago this weekend.

But as soon as the Astros beat them Tuesday night, I took a red-eye to Houston to make sure I had a chance to say goodbye to Mike Scioscia.

You just never know with Angry Arte, a better chance that Scioscia is going, going, gone these days than anything Albert Pujols might hit.

Make it two straight losses to the Astros after Wednesday night's 3-1 halfhearted effort, and I picture Arte Moreno somewhere screaming, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

It's a good thing he can't fire sports columnists.

Scioscia and I have had our differences. In some cases, extreme differences, but I think we will get along better when he begins managing the Dodgers next season.

We already know he's a great guy, a brilliant but stubborn manager who looks good in blue.

And if Angry Arte fires Scioscia with five years remaining on his contract, momentum building with each ugly loss, Moreno must know the Dodgers will be happy to pick up the tab.

That would allow Scioscia to return home. Dodgers fans would be getting someone who wasn't a former Yankee as manager and Angry Arte would no longer be on the hook to Scioscia.

Now if Moreno could find someone to take Pujols and Josh Hamilton as well, he might come out of hiding and smile again.

I thought it would be helpful to know what went wrong with the Angels under Scioscia since he seems to be the one designated to take the fall. So we chatted.

"Do you know how my week has gone?" said Scioscia when we began. "We're playing [lousy] baseball, I'm getting my 2011 taxes audited and I'm now talking to you."

Several national baseball writers have labeled Scioscia a goner, some suggesting he could be out by the end of this weekend if the team continues to flop around.

I doubt that will happen until the national baseball writers focus on the poor decisions made by Angry Arte, including the hiring of General Manager Jerry Dipoto.

Dipoto has stuck Scioscia with a bunch of journeymen pitchers like he was — Joe Blanton is now 0-6, like that's a surprise.

And if anyone should know the value of a relief pitcher, it should be Dipoto, who never threw a complete game.

Dipoto told The Times' Mike DiGiovanna on Wednesday that he wouldn't say whether Scioscia's job was in jeopardy because "it's an unfair question."

Why not just say, "No, his job is not in jeopardy"?

To the people who say the Angels need to make a change in managers, I asked Scioscia, what would he tell them?

"I know that's the chatter that's out there," Scioscia said. "But if you ask me, I'm ready for the challenge and I believe I'm the right manager for this group."

He said it really doesn't matter, though, what folks say, he's not going to call it quits. Or care about anything other than what is going on his clubhouse.

"It didn't start well last year and I stayed around all season and it got better," he said. "And it will again."

He'd make a great preacher, although I'm not suggesting a career change. I happen to think the problems are elsewhere in the Angels' organization, but it will probably be Scioscia who is dismissed.

"Any possibility after 14 years folks have grown tired of hearing your voice?" I asked.

"That's something I brought up," Scioscia said. "After last season we all came together as a coaching staff and for 5 1/2 hours we peeled the paint off of everything. But I don't feel that's the case. We have 13 new players on the roster."

I can understand how tired the media must be listening to Scioscia year after year, but there are only three players who have been with the team more than six years.

"I'm frustrated, but not by anything in the media or the chatter out there," he said. "I'm frustrated in trying to find the key to unlock this team and get it to where we think it can be."

Fair question: Has Scioscia gone stale on everyone? We've been told repeatedly the Angels are loaded with talent, and yet they've missed the playoffs three straight years. And if they get swept here, I can't imagine them dropping any lower.

Or is the Angels' problem the owner? Have Moreno's emotions gotten the best of him, losing his temper in free-agent negotiations, backing off only to sign others on a whim and pay the price for 10 years?

Something is not right here, but it's hard to believe that someone who has been considered one of the game's top managers has suddenly gone stupid.

And yet the Angels aren't winning, can't run the bases or catch the ball. Even the Dodgers aren't this bad.

"The one constant on every team we have had that has won is a strong bullpen," Scioscia said.

That will be news to Dipoto, who has failed to make the 'pen a priority.

"When our bullpen is there, we put up wins," Scioscia said.

Last season, the team fired hitting instructor Mickey Hatcher about this time, promoted Mike Trout to the major league roster and then got hot.

The Angels' minor league system is ranked last in baseball, so there won't be any immediate jolt.

So who gets fired?

Beyond a change just for Angry Arte's sake, I cannot make a case that it should be Scioscia.

But if it is, most Dodgers fans will probably be in complete agreement.

t.j.simers@latimes.com