A pause for praise
There are so many things to respect and admire about the Angels. Here are some that leap to mind in the afterglow of one of the franchise’s greatest triumphs:
The tireless commitment of Torii Hunter, who represents every day, in every way. A guy couldn’t have a better teammate. When you play with Torii, you know he’s got your back, without hesitation, no questions asked.
The quiet assurance and endearing presence of Bobby Abreu, who walked into a new room and won it over from day one with his style, elegance, humor and wisdom. I had no idea he was this good a player and this brand of leader. If the Angels can’t keep him, they’ll be losing much more than hits, walks, RBIs, runs and steals. They’ll be losing a whole lot of class.
The unique greatness of Vladimir Guerrero. He seems oddly undervalued and underappreciated in this era where so much value is attached to working counts. Sure, he takes some wild swings. But he has been one of the most feared and productive hitters of this or any era, and it was so sweet to see him deliver at the big moment on Sunday – right after Abreu, a clutch hitter with few peers, came through.
The astounding athleticism of Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar on the left side of the infield. It doesn’t get any better than this. Figgins and Aybar have more range and stronger arms than any left-side combo in the past 35 years.
That’s how long I’ve been covering the sport – too long, some would say – and I’ve never seen a better third-base coach than Dino Ebel. He does his homework, knows every outfield arm in the game, stays on top of every possibility and rarely makes a bad decision.
The way Figgins keeps improving, simply by being so dedicated. He is totally immersed in the game, driven to succeed. He struggled finding hits against the Red Sox – Jacoby Ellsbury robbed him of what would have been an inside-the-park homer – but Figgy worked a huge walk against Jonathan Papelbon during the big rally and has a history of delivering in New York. As with Abreu, Figgins’ many gifts would be hard to replace as he ventures into free agency.
Jered Weaver’s emergence as a sturdy, dependable top-of-the-rotation starter, smart, resourceful and – most of all – extremely tough under duress. He learned his lessons well from John Lackey, his mentor.
Lackey’s true grit.
The style and competitive natures of lefties Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir. Kazmir’s arrival on Aug. 28 from Tampa Bay made this team complete. He’s a keeper.
The very real and productive mutual respect catchers Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli continue to display. In another environment, this could be a toxic situation, but these guys have been so close for so long, nothing could pull them apart – not even competition over who catches which pitcher and how often.
Along those same lines, the way Maicer Izturis and Howard Kendrick have handled their second-base platoon with such uncommon grace. Both are everyday players and know it, but they’ve created not a single ripple of discontent over sharing a job.
Kendry Morales’ intelligence. By wisely taking advice from his elders (Abreu, Mickey Hatcher) and controlling his aggression, he turned all that potential into production and accomplished the impossible in making fans get over Mark Teixeira’s loss.
Young relievers Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen holding up under a heavy workload and holding it together in front of Brian Fuentes.
Fuentes: 50 saves. How can you not appreciate that? He might not be a prototypical closer with premium gas, but the guy gets outs, and that’s the whole idea, right?
The strength and consistency of Juan Rivera, a rock-solid left fielder, and the manner in which Gary Matthews Jr. handled his very difficult role – and came through repeatedly in the clutch.
The enduring cool of Darren Oliver. Nothing rattles this guy. A pro’s pro.
The way Ervin Santana retained his humor while searching for the right stuff to come back after elbow issues made for some long nights.
The big, good-natured manner of Matt Palmer, who came out of nowhere to deliver much-needed innings and wins and went so respectfully to the bullpen, embracing any role handed him. Nobody appreciates wearing a big-league uniform more than this guy.
The willingness of Robb Quinlan, Reggie Willits, Brandon Wood and Bobby Wilson to do whatever is needed to bring their team closer to a win. Even if it’s not something that will show up in a boxscore.
Shane Loux, Dustin Moseley, Kelvim Escobar and Justin Speier, who did their part until they parted, and and all the young pitchers who helped stitch this crazy-quilt pitching staff together over the long haul.
The inner strength of Mike Scioscia, who navigated the most turbulent of waters this season with remarkable calm. Manager of the Year, no doubt. Manager of the Decade? Absolutely.
The dedication of coaches Hatcher, Ron Roenicke, Mike Butcher, Alfredo Griffin, Ebel, Orlando Mercado and Steve Soliz. Wise is the manager who surrounds himself with strong, independent thinkers willing to put in long hours for the greater good.
The way everyone mourned respectfully and continually honored the memory of Nick Adenhart, one of the best and brightest, gone much, much too soon.
wow mr spencer i think this is your best blog entry yet! You really capture the strength and attributes of this team. I’m proud of them and even though credit isn’t always given to em i think we fans know that they are appreciated every day 🙂
on to the ALCS! and hopefully the world series. This is a special team and i have complete faith in them to get her done!
Those are many of the reasons I have been a ticket holder for years. Whlie yes, I love the game of baseball and a night out of the house, but it also feels great to know my hard-earned money is going to a great franchise full of great guys.
This is a wonderful blog. I think though that there is even more to this story. Don’t forget that the hispanic owner is the son of immigrant parents and one of many siblings who through hard work and smarts became tremendously successful. His general manager, hired from within the organization is black and together they were smart enough to hire their white bilingual manger to a ten year contract. Together they have created a universal baseball family, an organization with a purpose, a style of baseball, and a commitment to character. The excellence on the diamond and the fan friendly environment of the stadium is a tribute to all of them.
Wow! I became a fan of the Anaheim Angels when they were doing their Cinderella story in 2002. Yes, I was one of the bandwaggoners that never got off, well… the bandwagon. And I am very proud of it.
Leaving comments is something i rarely do.
However, Mr. Lyle Spencer, you said the words that every Angel faithful have wanted to say or in some ways have said to pay tribute to the BEST TEAM in baseball. Thank you! You brought tears that I have not shed since the shocking loss of Nick Adenhart and his friends. Thank you.
And I would add that I think Tony Reagins has also done a wonderful job. Should well be executive of the year.
Hatcher and Butcher aren’t too shabby either.
Mr. Spencer has also served MLB.com with distinction and is a credit to his profession.
Now if only the communication-related crew associated with the club could get behind HOWARD kendrick and see that all outlets get it right. My understanding is that he was never “howie” to anyone who knows him more than in passing.
I’d like to take a moment to give praise and credit to this Angels team. They have had an incredible season up to this point and I hope we can keep it going. It was a bad game last night against the Yankees, but it is just one game. Go Halos, we are counting on you guys to bounce back strong in game 2! Just relax and have that swagger and we’ll be just fine…play your game!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, that I also feel deserves recognition for this wonderful organization. As a fan I’m proud to say the ANGELS represent all that is still good in baseball. Giving credit to their owner Artie Moreno and their GM Tony Reagins who have demonstrated their devotion to the game of baseball and offering that experience every time I visit the Big A. Much Thanks!
That is a great post. So many reasons to love this team. Go Halos!