Well, good thing I waited.
I had an article all written about how the Angels demise was not a surprise this year. Good reasons, too, such as Hideki Matsui not being surrounded by the likes of A-Rod and Jeter, and Erick Aybar being so confused in the lead-off spot that he was repeatedly taking strike three in his haste to see pitches. Then of course there was the issue of how the infield was too young and inexperienced, there was no true leader among the starting pitchers, and the outfield was one of the weakest fielding outfields the team has had in years (even with Hunter, because Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera have been butchering balls left and right.) Last but not least was the bullpen, which everyone knows has been, well… horrible (and still is, basically).
But that was all before the Angels got the break they’ve been looking for all year. I’m of course not talking about the horrible injury to one of their best players and all around nice guy; I’m talking about the wake-up call to the rest of them.
The team needed something to snap them to and grow them up. Something to test their mettle.
I watched when Morales was caught under an avalanche of celebrating players at the plate, and felt like most Angels fans did when he crumpled: there goes the season. But the opposite has happened.
It brought the team together. Forced everyone to step up their game. Turned this team into what it needed to be, which is a bunch of guys playing their hearts out and scratching and clawing for every win.
Will it last? Who knows. I still feel that this team is too young to be a true World Series contender. But the AL West is weak enough that they have a great shot at getting in the playoffs again if they can continue to hit and pitch to their capabilities.
Of course, at some point Mike Scioscia is going to have to get over his love affair with Brian Fuentes.
I know he loves to set a plan and make it work, and Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Rodney, and Fuentes is his idea for this year’s team. But Fuentes, despite great determination and a legitimate track record, hasn’t risen to the level this team needs. Scioscia teams need great closers. Fuentes can be good, but he can also be horrible. That spells .500 ball.
Of course, it’s still not clear who will step up and fill the gaping holes in this year’s pen. Scott Shields? There’s nothing more to say on that one. We know who he is… and what he isn’t. Jason Bulger? Uh… no. Not yet. Francisco Rodriguez. Who knows? Maybe.
At the moment, the bullpen is full of maybe’s.
Despite it all, the Angels are playing better and once again looking like they could take the West.
I’m just glad I didn’t write that article about their demise.
At least, not yet.