Muse: When a team goes on a late-season run the way the Angels did in September to win the AL West, it’s easy to develop a sense of bullet-proof confidence. After all, the Angels had their offensive malaises during the season and weathered some injuries, so when everything came together the last three weeks, and they put the A’s away and claimed homefield advantage in the first round and then bopped the Yankees, everyone was feeling pretty good. Today’s all-ball edition of The Sporting Muse: News: Angels autopsy begins. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week In truth, they weren’t feeling good, literally. The whispers during the playoffs said Vladimir Guerrero was suffering from shoulder pain related to his regular-season injury, which certainly would explain why his usually marvelous batting stroke completely broke down in the postseason. Bartolo Colon’s early September struggles were related to his back, but by season’s end there were new concerns that he was suffering compensation injuries in his arm and shoulder. Sure enough, a shoulder strain took him out of Game 5 of the ALDS. Chone Figgins looked a bit fatigued in the postseason, and catcher Bengie Molina went from terror to terrible at the plate immediately after being hit on the elbow by a pitch in the Yankees series. Things like that happen. The Chicago White Sox, meanwhile, were the antithesis. When your starting pitchers can throw 44 1/3 of 45 innings in a five-game series, including four complete games, you’re operating at peak efficiency. Beyond peak, in fact, when you realize the Sox tossed just nine complete games during the regular season. To their credit, no one in red offered any excuses when there were more than a few around. That reflects the quality of the manager, Mike Scioscia, and the sense of class that he brought with him from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Considering the Dodgers’ current direction, he apparently took it all. News: Angels begin plotting for 2006. Muse: Everyone will want to see how Colon recovers, and how Guerrero responds to his playoff meltdown, and if Garret Anderson can put the arthritic condition that plagued him in 2004 further behind him. But Bill Stoneman deserves watching more than anyone. The Angels’ GM gambled in the offseason that he could get away with letting Troy Glaus and David Eckstein leave, and while the team won 95 games and a pennant, one wonders whether they’d still be playing if he hadn’t. Glaus hit 37 home runs in Arizona and was able to play third base all season coming off a shoulder injury that the Angels wondered would limit his effectiveness in the field. So much for that. The Angels won the division despite having to use Darin Erstad and Bengie Molina in the No. 5 spot in the lineup, which didn’t afford Guerrero and Anderson much protection. Eckstein, meanwhile, is the Cardinal whose two-out single in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLCS on Monday extended the inning and allowed Albert Pujols to hit his game-winning home run and extend the series. Eckstein had 185 hits this season, was the second-toughest hitter to strikeout in the NL, and led the league with a .373 average with runners in scoring position. Orlando Cabrera is better defensively, yes, but Eck was a catalyst, something the Angels certainly could have used in October. How would this Angels lineup have performed all season: Eckstein, Figgins, Guerrero, Anderson, Glaus, Erstad, the DH, Molina and Adam Kennedy? Stoneman now has to find a power bat for the 2006 lineup, decide whether to re-sign Molina and how to replace him if they don’t, and how to restructure the pitching staff since Jarrod Washburn is a free agent and has likely played his last game in Anaheim. The coming free-agent class is weak by usual standards, with Chicago’s Paul Konerko the one seemingly sure-thing among home run hitters. So it’s sort of an all-or-nothing dilemma for Stoneman. News: Cardinals extend Astros to Game 6. Muse: Based on what we’ve seen from the two NL teams thus far, one has to favor the White Sox in the World Series. They have the best balance. They can beat you with defense, they play little ball extremely well, have more than enough power they’ve hit 200-plus home runs in six straight seasons and their pitching right now is operating at 120 percent. The Cardinals have a few lineup holes and their pitching can be spotty. The Astros don’t hit as well as they did a year ago and their pitching after their three starters and closer Brad Lidge is pedestrian. Plus, you know St. Louis’ Tony LaRussa overmanages at times, and Houston’s Phil Garner does some strange things with his personnel. Go-go White Sox. It’s fun watching a team come together the way they have. News: Dodgers continue their descent into Clipper-ville. Muse: Last week’s decision to fire three members of the communications staff is another example of how dysfunctional the franchise has become. I mean, were John Olguin, Chris Gutierrez and Paul Gomez the problem with the ’05 team? I guess they did a poor job defending Paul DePodesta’s moves and the general senselessness of the McCourts. Seriously, the team of Johnnie Cochran, William Jennings Bryant and Alan Dershowitz couldn’t defend the McCourts. But let’s get one apology out of the way. We’ve been banging on Frank McCourt for all of the nonsense, but in truth he’s not the one wearing the pants in the family or the front office. Jamie McCourt, his power-hungry wife who wears the Size 0 mini-skirts, is making a majority of the decisions alongside her key henchman, senior vice-president of public affairs Howard Sunkin, whose baseball background is the same as Jamie’s dress size. His background is in public affairs and politics. Team McCourt is running the team without much thought to the product, which is hardly an unusual tactic in the business world, where certain theories are believed to be universal. The McCourt’s goal is to squeeze every dollar out of the franchise for their own benefit, and if winning is a byproduct, great. If not? As long as the money keeps coming in, it’s tolerable. News: Dodgers search for a manager continues. Muse: Really, it doesn’t matter who the Dodgers hire. There are two requirements for Jim Tracy’s replacement drink DePodesta’s Kool-Aid and work cheap. All of the candidates Terry Collins, Jerry Royster, etc share either a lack of success as a major league manager or a lack of experience. Now why would a team with the Dodgers’ history go in that direction unless they wanted someone pliable and cheap? Don’t be tricked into thinking that the Dodgers are serious about Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson and Bobby Valentine, new candidates mentioned this week. The McCourt’s want little to do with anything representing the O’Malley or Fox Dodgers, and this is just a P.R. move to briefly placate fans. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!