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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Changing skippers won't solve Angels' woes

Starting pitching the primary culprit in poor start in Scioscia's 14th season at helm

There may be dumber ideas than firing Mike Scioscia, but I can't think of any. I understand why it's a topic of conversation, and Scioscia does, too. When a team begins a season with high expectations and then falls on its face out of the gate, someone has to be held accountable.

That someone usually is the skipper. Never mind the circumstances or personnel. Never mind fairness. Competent managers get fired every season. It usually happens when management has no other options and hopes a change at the top might kick-start the club.

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It's a tactic that almost never works, but teams keep trying it. It's one way to placate unhappy fans or calm the media. If you think the media doesn't matter in such things, guess again. It's incredible how when columnists and talk-show hosts turn on a manager, many players do the same thing.

It's a lot easier to blame the guy in the corner office than to look in the mirror. I know a certain pitcher who has blamed his problems the past couple of years on a certain manager. He was thrilled when his team got rid of the guy. Unfortunately, his performance hasn't improved. He's sure to be blaming the new guy in no time.

As for Scioscia, it's not complicated. He is as respected as almost any single man in baseball, and for the past 14 years he has represented the Angels with professionalism and competence and decency.

If anyone thinks the Angels can hire someone better than Mike Scioscia, they're kidding themselves. He has guided them to the playoffs six times and won a World Series. Among active managers, Scioscia's .547 winning percentage trails only Joe Girardi, Davey Johnson and Charlie Manuel.

Beyond the numbers, the Halos play hard for Scioscia. They run the bases aggressively, taking on a National League mindset. They missed the playoffs in 2011 and '12, but were 26 games above .500 over those two seasons.

Some of Scioscia's former players have taken veiled shots at him in recent years, and that's not unusual. What is unusual is that a guy could do this most public of jobs for 14 years and almost never have a former player say a negative thing about him.

Scioscia is like Charlie Manuel in that his players know he's not to be crossed, but they also know he has their backs and that everything he does is what he believes is best for the team.

If the Angels weren't playing hard for Scioscia, if they were stacking mental mistake upon mental mistake, then it would be appropriate to wonder if a different manager could change the environment.

There's no indication that's the case. Scioscia seems to still have the trust of his players. He sets a terrific tone in Spring Training with daily early-morning meetings that are part standup comedy and part getting his message across. In his own way, Scioscia uses those meetings to build camaraderie and to get players invested in the day's work.

Are the 2013 Angels a good team? At the moment, they are 4-10. So, no, they are not. That dream-team offense hasn't materialized, thanks in large part to Josh Hamilton's slow start. Hamilton's track record says he'll eventually hit, and when he does, the Halos could be something special to watch, at least on offense.

It's the pitching staff that should be keeping general manager Jerry Dipoto awake at night. The three new starting pitchers he acquired last offseason -- Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson -- are a combined 1-6 with a 7.36 ERA.

Dipoto's new closer, Ryan Madson, is injured, and so is his ace, Jered Weaver. With a fastball in the 85-mph range, Weaver was raising eyebrows among some scouts even before he broke his left elbow last week.

Angels starters have failed to get an out in the seventh inning in 13 of the team's 14 games and have made four quality starts (three or fewer earned runs in six or more innings). The A's (11), Rangers (seven) and Mariners (nine) have combined for 27 such starts.

Still, some will focus on the manager. On whether Scioscia should call another team meeting. On whether he should inspire the pitchers to do better. On whether it's time to change for the sake of change.

It's easy to look for simple solutions to broader problems. The Halos aren't 4-10 because their manager has been bad. Getting rid of Scioscia almost certainly would not calm down Hamilton at the plate or give Hanson back the zip on his fastball.

Plenty of us thought the Angels were a playoff team when the season began. Those three starters have performed so poorly that Dipoto eventually may be forced to trade for a starter.

But the Halos can't trade for three starters. Dipoto simply has to hope that his player evaluations of three weeks ago will end up being right. In the end, that's where the change must come. Scioscia simply should not be an issue.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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