There will come a time this season—like a roll of the dice—when the Los Angeles Angels will need a lucky break.
Regardless of the $154-plus million payroll, the quirks and unknowns during the long season are too great for any team to just cruise along without befitting from more than a few “ground balls with eyes,” or a Bill Hall-like spring…in October.
That’s the beauty of the game: In a season as long, up-and-down and sideways as the MLB, anything is possible.
And without question, for a team to win the World Series, regardless if it is the best thing in baseball since the last "Baseball's Best All-Time (fill in the blank here)," it will take more than one or two rabbit’s feet in the clubhouse—and on the field.
The Los Angeles Angels are not an exception.
Sure, the odds for winning the World Series has the Angels tied with the Detroit Tigers atop the board (7-1). However, if the 2013 Halos are going to hoist the trophy at the end of the year then these five “breaks” will have to go their way.
Good (or good enough) health, and the general repetition a manager has penciling in a lineup, is one of the more sought after pieces on any MLB team’s wish list.
Lack of health…not so much.
A team on the constant mend can cause turmoil over the long season, leaving coaches, players and general managers on the hot seat faster than you can say Icy Hot—thanks, Shaq.
Unfortunately, keeping the main core of the pitching staff and position players isn’t something the Angels have been able to do recently. Whether it’s arm issues, lower body issues or even asthma, there have been enough clinical pitfalls documented to merit concern.
So if there is to be a legitimate shot at the Angels getting to final dance, then it will require a little sunshine on the wounded shoulder. (The 2012 Baltimore Orioles season path isn’t one I would suggest to mimic.)
Keeping the players who have battled injury or have concern for the Angels—Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson and Pujols—consistently healthy may be too tall of an order; however, if they do manage to stay on the field for 30 starts or 120-plus games, then this really could be "the team."
If not, then it is in serious trouble. I still don't believe this team has the greatest depth.
If there ever was going to be an argument made for the Angels’ success, based solely on their schedule, then 2013 is the year.
And what does that have to do with luck? Nothing.
Remember: a 14-12 record in July of 2012 was quickly squashed in by the late-end of that month and the 13-15 in August.
The Angels will need to be the hot team during those months in 2013, while others fizzle, if they want to stroll into the playoffs.
At this point, the Angels’ starting pitching (and the worry that comes with it) is old news. During the season, none of it will work as an excuse for not winning with such a powerful lineup supporting them.
Yes, it can still be the Angels' downfall.
However, if Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson or Jason Vargas carry their weight, and at the right time, this staff can very much resemble something like oh…say...the 2012 San Francisco Giants' staff—not much on paper after the No. 1 and No. 2 starters, but equipped with enough talent to win games, especially in the playoffs.
Someone will have to come up big in the late innings.
Historically, with the likes of Troy Percival and K-Rod etched in fans' minds, the Angels have always had the ending to the story.
Unfortunately, 2012 was a never-ending story, which always included the ‘pen blowing a lead.
The good news is the organization fixed—or so it hopes—the relief pitching situation with arms like Ryan Madson (when healthy) and Sean Burnett (when healthy).
The bad news is that is only a fraction of winning late.
Last season the Angels were 18-18 in one-run games, and 3-4 in extra-inning games. Sure much of that can be blamed on pitching, but that is almost cliché at this point.
There also has to be a clutch player—a West Coast Derek Jeter with functioning ankles—on the Angels roster this season that can come up big. Somebody also has to get a hit once in awhile.
Call it timing, call it luck; in 2002 the Angels were 10-5 in extra-inning games and 31-22 in one-run games.
The breaks they got in all those games helped pave the way to Rally Monkey Pop-Culture…and a World Series ring.
Every team needs a little break now and again.
I am assuming, at this point, you have figured out that sound in the back of your mind is Mr. Obvious, saying "the general idea of a "lucky break" is the lucky break the Angels will need in 2013."
Baseball, as the description for sports generally can sometimes go, is a game of inches. A ground ball three inches to the right is a hit; three inches to the left and it’s a double play.
The slow-footed player, seemingly running in place down to first base, versus the speedster sprinting down to first base, can be the difference between a no-hitter…or a sigh by 50,000 fans.
A few inches left of the line, and Carlton Fisk is left with nothing more than long foul ball; and Matt Damon is stuck writing a different scene for Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.
You get the point.
Regardless of how great the Angels lineup—and odds—are in 2013, they will need a few lucky bounces to go their way in order to achieve champion status.
Whether that is Peter Bourjos beating out one extra infield grounder, Vernon Wells' bat consistently meeting the pitch or Jered Weaver getting the “1998 Greg Maddux strike zone,” simple, blind luck stretched over 162 games is what makes a team great.