The LA Angels were a special team during the 2008 regular season. They had the contribution of every team member’s efforts when it counted.
Early in the season, the hitters made them contenders. Around mid-season, the pitching staff pulled through. And towards the end, both the offense and pitching staff kept the team in the games.
The Angels were in many ways fortunate to be able to clinch the American League West Division on September 10. But sometimes when you do the “best thing”, you end up with results that you don’t expect.
Clinching early allowed the Angels to rest their key players, and give Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and others a chance to get ready for the upcoming playoffs.
Sometimes accomplishing the goal of winning your division early can backfire. Clinching a playoff spot so early can players out of the "must win mentality." Come playoff time, you can’t get that “must win mentality” going quick enough. By the time it kicks in, your team is already out.
That’s exactly what happened to the Angels in 2008. Even though a team that clinches early can rest its players, it also loses the momentum you build when the team is trying to earn a playoff spot.
The Chicago Cubs and LA Angels both had the chance to clinch their division early, and we all know the results of that.
Last year the Colorado Rockies came into the playoffs with momentum. This year, the Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers are the teams with momentum still in the playoffs.
Many times during the 2008 season, the Angels were able to execute their game plan and win close games. Frankie Rodriguez played a vital role in many of those victories.
Yet the Angels weren't able to perform in the playoffs. Once again, they struggled against the Redsox and were eventually eliminated.
The Angels are known as a team that can execute when called upon. They are known for top-tier performances in key situations.
There is an old baseball saying that goes, “You live and die by the squeeze play.”
This was especially true for the Angels. Their season rode upon a suicide squeeze by Eric Aybar.
Unfortunately, the Angels season died when Aybar didn’t perform when he was called upon to bunt. If Aybar executed, the Angels might have won game four.
This could have completely turned momentum around in the Angels favor. They could have won game five at home and Mike Scioscia would have looked like a hero instead of a scapegoat.
For the Angels, that one play crushed their entire season. So close, yet so far!