SPORTS DIGEST: Angels, Sparks decide to make changes at the top

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By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

Coaches and managers know that when they accept a job running a professional sports team that they are destined for one thing: to be fired eventually.

June 7 was termination day for two Los Angeles sports teams — the Los Angeles Angels, who fired manager Joe Maddon; and the Los Angeles Sparks, who parted ways with head coach and general manager Derek Fisher.

Maddon’s firing was the most surprising, because Fisher has been rumored to be on the hot seat since a new team president was named just prior to the start of the season.

Less than a month ago, Maddon was basking in the glory of the best start by an Angels team in years. On May 15, the Angels were 24-13 and tied for first place with Houston in the American League West.

Since then, they are 3-16 including 13 straight losses, which caused second-year general manager Perry Minasian to fire Maddon, who was the bench coach to manager Mike Scioscia in 2002 when the Angels won their only World Series championship in their 61 years of existence.

Maddon left the Angels in 2006 to manage the Tampa Bay Rays. Two years later, the Rays were in the World Series.

He left Tampa after the 2014 season and was signed to manage the Chicago Cubs. Two years later, the Cubs won the World Series, the first Cubs team to do that since 1908.

Maddon didn’t get to the World Series in his second year with the Angels. That was last year and the Angels finished fourth in the American League West despite having the American League most valuable player, Shohei Ohtani, and a former MVP in Mike Trout.

The tailspin the Angels have been in the last three weeks could be blamed on injuries to key players like Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher and Taylor Ward, the rest of the league figuring out the Angels’ weak bullpen and simply bad luck.

Trout, generally considered the best player in the game, ended a 0-for-26 slump at the plate June 6.

After losing 12 straight games, Minasian got permission from team owner Arte Moreno to make Maddon the fall guy.

Phil Nevin, who grew up in Orange County, starred at Cal State Fullerton in the early 1990s and is the first overall No. 1 draft pick to manage in the major leagues, takes over for Maddon. Nevin has never managed in the major leagues.

The Angels celebrated his hiring by losing to the Boston Red Sox, 6-5 in 10 innings, making it 13 losses in a row.

He has the rest of the season to prove he is a major league manager. If he gets the Angels into the postseason for the first time since 2014, he might keep the job. No one knows what Moreno is doing with his team these days.

Moreno’s first move when he bought the team from Disney in 2005 was to lower the beer prices at Anaheim Stadium. That’s the best decision he has made in 17 years owning the team.

The Sparks acted quicker than the Angels in firing their head coach. Fisher, who was fired by the New York Knicks in the second year of his only NBA head coaching assignment, had retooled the Sparks roster in the offseason as general manager, adding center Liz Cambage and point guard Justin Canada to the lineup.

The Sparks opened the season with two road wins, but then lost five in a row and were 5-7 on the season when the decision was made June 7.

Assistant coach Fred Williams, who has previous WNBA head coaching experience, will replace Fisher, who failed to lead the Sparks to the playoffs last year for the first time in franchise history.

Getting fired goes with the territory in the coaching profession. It is always a sign that something is wrong with a team. But sometimes, the wrong person becomes the fall guy.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out for both the Angels and the Sparks.

DODGERS SLUMP: With the firing of Maddon and Fisher this week, is Dave Roberts’ job safe with the Dodgers? For the time being, yes.

Roberts and the Dodgers agreed to a three-year contract extension in March, so he isn’t going anywhere, despite the Dodgers losing six of the last eight games and the so-called fans who flood social media with calls for his firing every time the Dodgers lose a game.

All Roberts does is win games. Over the last six years, the Dodgers have more wins than any other team in baseball. In that span, they have gone to three World Series, more than any other team.

Despite their recent tailspin, the Dodgers are still leading the National League West and they still have the fourth best overall record in baseball.

Heading in to a weekend series against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers have been let down by their bullpen lately, which has given up four runs in three consecutive games, all losses.

The bullpen is now feeling the residual affect of losing Blake Treinen to a shoulder injury in late April. The Dodgers consider Treinen one of the most effective relief pitchers in all of baseball and use him in high-leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings as a bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel.

The Dodgers have been hoping for two years that Brusdar Graterol would harness his 100-mile-an-hour fastball and develop into a full-fledged pitcher and not just a thrower, but his pitches still find too much of the fat part of the plate.

Evan Phillips and Yency Almonte have been more consistent out of the bullpen lately as possible replacements for Treinen

The Dodgers continue to get great starts from Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson, who are both making bids for all-star game berths in July.

Anderson is now 7-0, tied for the league lead in wins, with a 2.59 earned run average.

Gonsolin is 6-0 with a 1.59 ERA and has come from the fifth starter at the beginning of the year to the best starter on the staff. Walker Buehler and Julio Urias continue to struggle, but Clayton Kershaw should return to the rotation this weekend against the Giants and Andrew Heaney isn’t too far behind.

With their starting pitching depth, the Dodgers might be wise to go to a six-man starting rotation leading up to the all-star break and take advantage of their pitching depth, especially with the bullpen getting knocked around.

The Dodger hitters also have been struggling lately. The Dodgers don’t hit left-handed pitching well and with Max Muncy and Edwin Rios out with injuries, they aren’t hitting right handers well either.

Muncy, Will Smith, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger are all having subpar seasons. If their bats wake up and the bullpen starts getting people out again, the Dodgers should right the ship and this 2-6 record should be just a blip in a long season full of them.

That would be very timely with the weekend series coming up against the Giants

 

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