Tag Archives: 2009

How Far We’ve Come

angels clinch

As you know, the Angels punched their postseason ticket Monday night thanks to an 11-0 walloping of the Texas Rangers.

This marks the 3rd consecutive year and 5th time in the last 6 seasons that the Angels have won the American League West division.

It has been the Angels’ division to run away with the past few years, mixed in with moderate competition from Oakland, Texas, and Seattle… but there never had been any doubt that the Angels were the clear-cut team to beat in the AL West.

This year started off the same way, but just 3 days and a handful of hours into the season… everything changed.

The Angels organization was rocked after receiving news of the sudden and unsuspected passing of young pitcher Nick Adenhart, a victim of a deadly drunk driving accident that killed 2 others in the car he was in and internally decapitated another.

The Angels went into a tailspin.

They started the season at 6-11, their worst start to a season in 7 years.

Vladimir Guerrero clearly wasn’t his normal slugging himself.

The Angels were without all-star starters John Lackey and Ervin Santana to begin the season.

Signs were beginning to point to the Angels having a long and disappointing season ahead of them.

Being the heavy favorites to win the AL West at the beginning of the year, the Angels had plenty of expectations heading into the ’09 campaign.

But being dealt an indescribable loss of a fellow teammate 3 games into the season just threw any expectations out the window.

Baseball became irrelevant.

It went from an everyday job to an afterthought.

It opened the eyes of many to what was really important in life… family.

Nick Adenhart was buried in his hometown of Williamsport, Maryland on April 17th, a service that drew a crowd of over 1,500 people, all remembering the fallen 22-year-old.

It was a moment that turned the surreal into the real.

The Angels had lost a teammate, but more importantly, the Adenhart family had lost a son.

From that point forward, the Angels were no longer a team.

They were no longer an organization.

They were a family.

A family that banded together, embodied resiliency, and rose above all obstacles to attain a common goal.

The 2009 Angels personify resilience.

Not only did they have to rise above the tragedy of Nick Adenhart to begin the season, but they also had to fill the voids of Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter being injured and missing a month’s worse of time simultaneously midway through the season (with Juan Rivera missing a week and half’s play during that time as well).

Did the Angels throw in the towel and cave in?

No way, no how.

The Angels would win 17 of 20 games with Vlad and Torii out of the lineup, a streak that spoke volumes of the depth and perseverance of the Angels’ organization as a whole.

It also spoke volumes of their manager, Mike Scioscia; the most level-headed manager in all of baseball who regardless of any scenario or situation, would always keep calm and remain on an even-keel.

The 2002 Angels will forever be remembered as the Comeback Kids.

But the 2009 Angels never quit. They had every reason in the world to quit, and no one could blame them for doing so.

They could have packed it up, threw in the towel, and called the ’09 season a wash.

I couldn’t have blamed them if they did. Not after a blow like that to the organization, no way I could even think of blaming them.

But despite all the adversity, they didn’t give up. Not once.

This is a team of heart.

This is a team of perseverance.

This is a team of champions.

From tragedy to triumph, regardless of how the Angels do this postseason, they’ve won it all in my mind.

Tonight, when I saw the entire team walk out to the image of Nick Adenhart on the center field wall (http://www.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=6901489 for video of that moment)… I realized why I’m an Angel fan.

The reason?

Because this team is a family… and I feel like I am a part of that family.

And family… is loved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel News, Angel Stories, September Game Recaps

From Scapegoat to Unsung Hero

aybar hero

Although the Angels’ 2008 season ended on a walk-off hit by the Red Sox, many remember it ending with Erick Aybar at the plate.

With 1 out and a pinch-runner Reggie Willits on 3rd, Mike Scioscia opted to win or lose by doing what they had done all year… play Angel baseball.

A suicide squeeze was the call, but when the pitch ran up inside on Aybar and he couldn’t get the bat on the ball, Willits, like the rest of the team, was done for. You could feel the momentum shift away from the Angels, it was that monumental. Pack it up. Head home. Season over.

One could only imagine what had gone through Aybar’s head on that flight home, and for the entire offseason for that matter. Many people (including myself) blamed Aybar for ending the Angels’ postseason run. Many people blamed Mike Scioscia for putting on a high-risk play in such a crucial situation.

When a suicide squeeze is called, the manager puts the absolute utmost confidence in the batter to at least hit the ball into the field of play, because if not, the runner is a sitting duck, and the team squanders a potentially vital run-scoring opportunity.

But, as the great Mark McGwire once said, “I’m not here to talk about the past.” It’s time to recognize what’s been going on in the present day.

Since day 1 of  being part of the Angels’ system (just like that fateful at-bat in Boston), the club had invested the utmost of confidence and placed immensely high hopes in this “Aybar kid”. He’s quick, he’s a slap-hitter, his range in the field is jaw-dropping, he’s acrobatic, you name it. Over his minor league career, Aybar hit at an impressive .312 mark. When he was 20 years old, he stole 51 bases over the course of his season in Advanced-A ball.

Management had touted Aybar as a player where “the sky’s the limit” for him in terms of potential and the type of player he could grow to be.

In 2007, he hit .237.

In 2008, he hit .277.

An improvement, yes, but me like plenty of other Angel fans out there were missing something. If this kid is supposed to be “so good”, don’t you think he could lay a suicide squeeze down? You’d think. This guy’s our future everyday shortstop? Yeah right.

As you can tell, I was not impressed with Aybar whatsoever since he had been called up to the Angels’ big league squad. I had seen flashes of him being who the Angels hyped him up to be, but he was way too streaky. He’d go on a tear for a few games with the bat, then go ice cold for a week. Consistency was nonexistent.

Then 2009 rolled around.

A redemption year for Aybar, if you will. And a year where I finally understand why the Angels’ front office loved this kid so much.

To start the season, I was hoping they would give the starting shortstop job to Maicer Izturis, a guy who was consistent, clutch, and more proven to-date. But Aybar had put forth a better spring training than Mighty Maicer, and was the Opening Day shortstop for the Halos.

Erick would hit at a disappointing .245 mark over the course of the opening month, which had me somewhat furious why Mike Scioscia kept putting him in the lineup.

He would hit .303 during the month of May, which made me a tad bit happier. His season average was just a shade under .280 after 2 months of play… not great, but not horrible either.

June gloom hit Aybar pretty hard as he batted a mere .256 during June, but then Aybar would turn on the jets.

EA had an absolutely unreal month of July. So good in fact that he had the highest batting average of every starting position player in the entire league over the course of the month.

What did he hit, you ask?

.414. Let that soak in for a moment, do a double take if you need to, you’re reading it correctly.

36 hits in 87 at-bats, 17 runs scored, 18 RBI, a homer, 2 triples, and 6 doubles. All while playing exceptional defense in the field.

In a double-header at Kansas City, Aybar collected 7 hits (yeah… 7 hits in one day!) by going 7-for-9 with 5 runs scored! I don’t know if you could draw up a more successful day of baseball for one player.

His batting average has dipped below .300 once since July 19th (September 4th’s game with the Mariners capped off an 0-for-20 slide… which brought his average to .299).

On the season he’s hitting .306 with 5 homers, 53 RBI, 62 runs scored, 21 doubles, and 5 triples, all career bests. He’s also stolen 13 bases and posted a .350 on-base percentage, also his best marks in his young career.

But as much as he’s been letting his bat do the talking, his work at shortstop has been nothing short of sensational.

Entering 2009, Aybar had possessed unbelievable range in the field, meaning he could cover so much ground that he would almost always get a glove on a ball hit in his general area. He has a cannon for an arm despite being just 5’10” and 170 pounds. But he had always been erratic. For every highlight reel play that he’d make, he would counter by messing up the simplest of grounders.

But as in almost every aspect of Aybar’s game, 2009 would be a new season.

This year has proven to be a “make a name for myself” type of year for Aybar. He would routinely make plays that even the best of shortstops could only dream of making. He’s been making appearances on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day feature seemingly every other day.

At this juncture, I don’t think I could be any happier for Erick.

Nearly 11 months after a potentially career-defining blunder at the ripe age 0f 24, he’s helping erase Angel fans’ unforgettable memory of his ALDS Game 4 mishap by playing the best ball of his career.

And although 2009 has been a year that has shown me a lot about individual players (Torii Hunter, Kendry Morales, Aybar, Juan Rivera just to name a few), but more about what this team is really made of.

This team is made of competitors. This team is made of positive influences. This team is made of winners.

This team… is a team of destiny.

1 Comment

Filed under Angel Stories

Lackey Notches 100th Career Win

lackey 100

It seems like the milestones have come pouring in for Angels players this year.

Vladdy hits home run #400 of his career.

Vlad and Figgy get their 1,000th career hits in their Angels careers.

Bobby Abreu hits home run #250 and picks up career hit #2,000.

The list goes on.

This time, it wasn’t a positional player reaching a noteworthy milestone.

Staff ace John Lackey picked up his 100th career win on Sunday vs. Oakland in typical John Lackey fashion. He fired 8 innings of 1-run ball (the run he allowed was also unearned), scattering 5 hits and punching out 6 Oakland batters in a 9-1 rout in the Angels’ favor.

Lackey became only the 5th pitcher to garner 100 wins with the Angels organization, joining the likes of Chuck Finley, Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana, and Mike Witt… that’s some pretty good company right there.

Lackey was drafted in the 2nd round back in the 1999 MLB Draft by the Angels out of Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, a team that Lackey helped win the Junior College World Series that same year.

Angel fans remember John Lackey being the young man who Mike Scioscia controversially made the Game 7 starter of the 2002 World Series, at the time he had just turned 24 years of age.

“Big John” threw 5 innings of 1 run ball (like his 100th win, the run was also unearned), helping catapult the Angels to their first World Championship in franchise history. Lackey became the first rookie pitcher to win a World Series Game 7 since Babe Adams of the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (roughly 93 years if you’re counting, give or take a few days).

The two seasons following the ’02 championship run would be difficult for Lackey. He was on the losing ended 29 times during the course of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, with ERAs of 4.63 and 4.67 respectively.

But 2005 would be Lackey’s turning point in his career. He went 14-5 with a career-high 199 strikeouts on the year, while getting his ERA to a respectable 3.45 mark.

He would continue to develop into a staff ace through 2006, and 2007 would be Lackey’s best season on the bump. He would compile a 19-9 record with a fantastic ERA of 3.01. He’d throw a career-high 224 innings and strike out a total of 179 batters and walk a then-career best 52. Lackey would finish 3rd in AL Cy Young voting.

The ’08 and ’09 seasons each started with injury troubles for Lackey, but he would remain (and continues to remain) a vital piece to the Angels’ rotation and deep playoff run aspirations.

Congratulations, John. Don’t stop now! (… oh, and even though your contract is up after this year, how about you come on back and keep winning more games!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel News, Angel Stories, August Game Recaps

Trevor Bell Gets 1st Career Win

trevor bell

Congratulations to young 22-year-old Trevor Bell, who in his 2nd Major League start, earned his 1st career win.

The 6’2″ righty from just up the street in North Hollywood scattered 9 hits in his 5 1/3 innings of action, allowing 3 runs while striking out 2 Cleveland batters.

Bell was drafted by the Halos in the 1st round back in 2005 as the 37th overall pick.

In the 22 starts in the minors (11 in AA, 11 in AAA) before being called up this month, Bell compiled a record of 7-7, with a 2.70 ERA and 2 complete game shutouts. He struck out 89 batters in all and walked 35.

Although on paper it may have not been the finest performance he was looking for, the W was put next to his name, and this will be one he looks back on for quite some time. The Angels won the game by the final of 5-4.

A big congratulations to Trevor Bell, hopefully plenty more W’s will be put next to your name over the course of your career!

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel News, Angel Stories, August Game Recaps

Figgins Falls Short in Final Vote Results

jiggy

Well, Halo fans, we did our best.

We spread the word.

We voted like crazy.

We got Figgy wit’ it.

But in the end, it just wasn’t enough.

Our loveable little man Chone Figgins will again be on the outside looking in to the All-Star game picture, as Brandon Inge won the final AL All-Star spot today, as voted on by the fans.

Inge took first place, with Rangers’ 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler taking 2nd place, and Mr. Figgins finishing 3rd.

Philadelphia Phillies’ outfielder Shane Victorino aka “the flyin’ Hawaiian” nabbed the All-Star availability for the National League, making a shocking surge to get in over the San Francisco Giants’ talented and young 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval.

That does not take away one bit the value that Figgins brings to this Angels team, and as much as Torii Hunter has been the MVP of this team through the first half and more of this season, Figgy has been equally as important to the team.

Figgy has scored the most runs in all of the American League, and among all leadoff hitters in the MLB, Figgy’s on-base percentage mark of .395 is tops.

Despite his All-Star caliber statistics and rankings and feeling like he was deserving of an All-Star spot, Figgins took it in stride like a professional, just as he always does.

“I want to thank the organization and all the fans for voting for me, and I especially thank my teammates and their families for getting behind me. It really means a lot knowing it was so important to those people who are closest to you. In a way, that’s just as meaningful as winning and going to the All-Star Game,” Figgins said.

The possibility still remains that if a player must withdraw due to injury, that Figgy still has a shot of being named to the All-Star squad, as well as Jered Weaver if any pitcher pulls out of the Mid-Summer Classic.

“Maybe my time will come soon. It’s definitely a goal of mine, along with the biggest goal — winning a World championship again,” Figgy said.

One more series to go before the All-Star break, but again, congratulations to the two players who will represent the Halos in the 2009 All-Star Game: Torii Hunter and Brian Fuentes.

Both are incredibly deserving and will certainly represent the Angels well in St. Louis.

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel News, Angel Stories

LET’S GET CHONE FIGGINS INTO THE 2009 ALL-STAR GAME!!!

Click HERE

or where it says VOTE on the button below

to vote for Figgy!

[clearspring_widget title=”2009 MLB All-Stars Campaign Widget” wid=”4a4263777ca3b4e9″ pid=”4a51709a87532a58″ width=”300″ height=”250″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

figgy point

As much as I’m happy that the play of Torii Hunter and Brian Fuentes didn’t go unnoticed by players and coaches, I just can’t seem to understand how they turned a blind eye and left Chone Figgins off the team.

The speedster atop the Halo lineup has been the table-setter all year long and has been hitting the ball great as well as playing Gold Glove-caliber defense over at the hot corner.

On the season, Figgy and all 5’8″ of him (that’s what they list him at… I’m not buying it) are hitting .312 with 1 homer and 26 RBI, to go along with 24 steals on the basepaths. Entering today’s final game with the Orioles, Chone was tied for 1st in the American League in runs with 60 and had the 8th best on-base percentage mark in the AL as well.

Halo fans, we NEED to get our boy Chone to St. Louis for the All-Star game… we all know he deserves it!

Vote as many times as you can! Tell your friends to vote as many times as they can! Let’s get it done!

I can’t stand to have Figgy’s numbers go overlooked… again!

Just clickVOTEor right here to get started!

[clearspring_widget title=”2009 MLB All-Stars Campaign Widget” wid=”4a4263777ca3b4e9″ pid=”4a51709a87532a58″ width=”300″ height=”250″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel News

Hunter and Fuentes Selected to ’09 All-Star Team

fuentes and hunter
After today’s All-Star team rosters were announced, I’m proud to say that two very deserving Angels made the squad, those two being the Halos’ first half Superman in Torii Hunter, and first-year closer Brian Fuentes.

In 75 games played, Torii has posted a .304 batting average, along with a club-best 17 home runs and 63 RBI to go along with some stellar center field play (still 0 errors on the season… hopefully this won’t jinx him!). He’s been on fire all year long, and without his hot bat during Vlad’s DL stint, who knows where the Angels would be. One thing’s for sure, they sure as heck wouldn’t be sitting atop the AL West.

He will be making his 3rd All-Star appearance, as he finished 4th in outfield voting, barely missing a starting spot behind Seattle Mariner hit machine Ichiro Suzuki, Boston Red Sox slugger Jason Bay, and the Texas Rangers’ comeback kid in Josh Hamilton, who has only played in 35 of the team’s 80 games this year (but I guess that’s what you get when the fans vote).

And for Fuentes, he’s been successful on 24 of 27 possible save opportunities this year, and that 24 saves is tops among all MLB closers. After a rocky start to the season (blowing 2 of his first 7 save opportunities), Fuentes has been in a groove, shutting the door in 19 of his past 20 opportunities. He hasn’t given up a run since May 30th and in 10 appearances during the month of June, he allowed no runs and only surrendered 3 hits to opposing lineups.

Fuentes was selected in by the players and coaches, with this being his 4th All-Star appearance of his career (All-Star from 2005-2007 with the Colorado Rockies).

The 2009 All-Star game takes place on Tuesday July 14th under the Gateway Arch in beautiful St. Louis, Missouri.

Leave a comment

Filed under Angel News