Being an Angels Squatter, not easy...
The other day I was watching Chris Iannetta bat for the Angels at Fenway. At first his at bat looked painful. He went 0-2 and the other teams catcher and pitcher were mocking him, but then, 4 pitches later, it was 3-2, and he worked the walk with a foul ball or two.
Iannetta is not a particularly great catcher; I am not even sure I would call him a particularly good catcher, he is adequate behind the plate at best, and he is someone that can handle situational hitting at an MLB level. Currently he is batting less than .210 but his OBP is .362 because he is among the league leaders in walks. He didn't blow any innings open, but he kept the rally alive with a walk, and he made the other team's pitcher throw 6+ pitches many times. He is a team player, not a great player, but when you play on the Angels, if you catch, you are going to be carrying a lot of weight.
Scioscia, being a catcher, funnels the game through the catchers, and against them. Scioscia is always crouching, he is right there, blocking the plate, watching the catcher, the umpire on one shoulder, and Mike on the other, crouching with that Angels catcher.
Every so often, I get the urge to manage a softball team, to put one together, and play some softball. One thing I notice, when I take on this awesome, pain in the ass role, front the money, role, is how it degrades the way I actually play softball itself. When it's a co-ed team, it's the distraction of getting enough girls to show up each week, who can actually play. When it's a men's league team, it's taking the guys from work who kinda suck, but who think they are god's gift to sports, and balancing out the ego's in the lineup, etc. The point is, as the weeks pass, and I have to deal with more and more crap, my own playing of the actual game begins to fade off. I am focusing on everything but my own game, and it creeps into my play, it's hard to even enjoy playing at that point...the tie in is this,
I see that struggle in Chris Iannetta. Scioscia funnels so much of his influence through that position. Calling the pitches is such a big part of the game, and the Angels coaching staff seems very, very hands on, when it comes to pitching, pitch outs, etc. It has to be, such a big part of what Iannetta has to focus on, that I can understand why he is more apt to foul off pitches now, then square them up; at least he keeps his bat between the strike zone and the strike out. He knows he has to give up his game to appease Scioscia, but at the same time, he has to create statistical value for Jerry and his Agent. It's not an easy job, even when you have a decent pitching staff.
Ianetta lives in that strike zone. His glove getting hit by Jacoby Ellsbury yesterday; his fingers getting battered, essentially swatted. Looking to that dugout, squinting thousands of glances, key signals, and then get up there and bat sir, your offense can't do it without you, Mr. Angels catcher! Perhaps more so than any other team, this is a QB role. Iannetta is young minded, and trying to hold it together, but this is by no means, his idea of a great gig.
Scioscia pulls the plug quick on youth. Ask Hank Conger, ask Peter Bourjos, even Mark Trumbo couldn't get a 9 inning game in for the first two seasons, always getting his last at bat and inning or two clipped off.
It's not easy catching this team, even if they are in last place, spiritually speaking, catching them as they fall. The innings extended by errors, squatting for extra outs. Fouling off the the pitches it takes, to work all those walks. The batter after you popping out on the first pitch, get your gear back on. Time to sweat out another inning of Blanton, of Hanson, of Enright, of who knows what, two, three, relievers to get a couple outs. Get your gear on Chris, there are a lot more foul balls coming your way.