For 12 years, Mota has served as a pre and postgame analyst on FOX Sports West and a color commentator for FOX Sports Espanol. He arrived in 2002, right in time for the Angels' first and only World Series championship, and has seen quite the transition ever since -- from five American League West titles in six years to four consecutive playoff absences despite back-to-back blockbuster signings.
Mota recently spoke with MLB.com about what needs to happen for the Angels to get back to their winning ways.
MLB.com: This team has spent a lot of money and brought in some big-name players, but what was once a model franchise has now gone four consecutive years without making the playoffs. What's it going to take for the Angels to get back to playing October baseball again?
Mota: It's going to take pitching. Not once in a while, two or three times through the rotation do well -- consistency all throughout. I recall the days when Mike Scioscia always spoke about shortening the game, when guys who started the game didn't have to worry so much about, 'How deep can I go so I don't put too much stress on the guys in the bullpen?' And that needs to come back. When I talk about pitching, it's a combination of having enough depth in your rotation, because you're always going to need more than five starters, and then having enough guys that can bounce back with each other in the bullpen where you can go out there and throw night after night but also have a buffer with experience and guys that can go multiple innings.
MLB.com: Last year they tried to shore up the rotation with three veteran guys -- Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas. This year they're doing it a different way, with three young guys in Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. There's no doubt the upside is greater. But the Angels have to win now. They need these three guys to click in the big leagues now. What are your expectations for the trio?
Mota: I expect them to fit well into the system. And I expect, especially with the failures of the last four years, for more emphasis to be put on certain things that need to be happening, which is catch the ball behind the guys that are on the mound. Richards is one of those guys that I really look forward to seeing because he's bounced back so much between the rotation and the bullpen -- from the short guy to a long guy to a guy who was sometimes discarded or pushed away. He's going to get the ball now. It's up to him.
Santiago is quite an interesting guy because even though people talk about the screwball, he's got the changeup, he's got a very decent fastball to keep you honest. It's a matter of command. If he has enough strikes that drop off the zone as balls but guys are swinging at it, he's going to be effective. The question is stamina. How effective will he be pitching in September? Same thing with Garrett Richards.
And it's the thing that Tyler Skaggs needs to answer. When the big lights are on, when Tyler Skaggs got those starts with the D-backs in those 68 innings, he's given up a lot of home runs, which means at times maybe he was aiming the ball, not thinking about mechanics; the mechanics got out of whack. But in the Minors, his strikeout-per-inning average [was high]. So he can bring that to the big leagues as long as he knows that velocity isn't the issue. It's going to be location and understanding who he is as a pitcher mechanically.
MLB.com: Here's a guy you know well -- Albert Pujols. He's 34 years old now, coming off the only bad season he's really ever had. How does he look to you so far? And can fans expect an MVP-caliber season if he's healthy?
Mota: You can expect it if he's healthy, and he is healthy. And the thing with Albert is he's a guy who just always makes you wonder because when people start questioning him, whether it was about the age in St. Louis or how good he was going to be because he wasn't a good defensive player until he made himself a Gold Glover -- all these questions have always been around with Albert. That's given him a chip in his shoulder. Where he got drafted, that bothered him. He used that as inspiration.
If healthy, I don't question his ability. He can hit, he looks great. Now he's 34, he understands his body a little bit more, so I think there's going to be an adjustment with regards to the amount of work he used to do as a young player, the amount of swings he needed or wanted. And Don Baylor will be a big influence on that because Don Baylor went through a transition himself and was productive all the way to the end.
But with Albert the key is the intangibles, what he brings. He's comfortable in Mike Scioscia's system; he's comfortable with the Angels. He wants to win very badly. That's one thing that Albert has been really hurt by the most. The contract, yes, that he hasn't played to his potential. But not winning -- he grew up winning. He grew up in that franchise where all they do is win and develop players and play together.
MLB.com: How do you interpret Josh Hamilton's 2013 season, the first of a five-year, $125 million contract?
Mota: I think Josh, to me, was a little confused, because of the whole contract situation. I think his feelings were hurt over the whole Texas situation, how that was handled. But I also saw him trying to live up to the contract, and it's not easy. It doesn't matter how long you've been around. That zone was big, and that zone gets big when you're trying to prove a point. When the zone closed down, the last 45 games, he was Josh Hamilton, pretty much.
MLB.com: You mentioned at the start about catching the ball and the fundamentals. This team was one of the best defensive teams in baseball in 2012. Last year, by almost every measure, it was one of the worst. What happened, and how can that be fixed in 2014?
Mota: No excuses. A lot of plays were not made. A lot of it has to do with the guys in the transition on the mound. A lot of it had to do with the new system of technology. They need to make plays. In order to have that guy throw 110, 120 pitches and last through the seventh inning or so, you cannot be prolonging innings. Fifty-two unearned runs is way too high for a Mike Scioscia-type team.
The stolen bases need to be stopped, too. It doesn't only fall on the catchers. It falls on both the pitchers and the catchers. To see Mike Scioscia take the initiative in late August to start working on that shows how much it was bothering him, when the Texas Rangers stole 13 bases in two games. It was a wakeup call. So all that needs to come together with the guy with the ball, the pitcher. If he throws strikes, is ahead in the count, pitching to his strengths, everybody behind him is going to be better. Pick up the pace a little bit, too. I think sometimes last year the game got slow because guys were on their heels and not making plays.