It's One Step Forward, Two Back For the Angels
The Angels under Mike Scioscia have been about consistency. Their manager preaches, and seems to live by, a mantra of keeping everything balanced. Losses don't get the team too low and winning doesn't get them too high. The approach has worked well for Orange County's baseball team over the years but is being tested this season after a rough start.
When you strive to keep things balanced it seems you avoid extremes. For the Angels, that's meant a surprising lack of long winning or losing streaks. The team just always seems to win series. Two out of three is all takes--that's what leaves me a tad concerned about the Angels of 2010, where before they would consistently win series, this year they have lost their first three.
Every team losses games, it's a cruel byproduct of competing. No one panics after a loss, but when those losses pile up and you begin to collect enough data to evaluate team weaknesses, well, then you start to worry a little. The Angels, for the first time in recent memory, seem to have weaknesses in areas that have always been a strength.
Scioscia recently called starting pitching the heartbeat of their club. After the first ten games, it might be time to apply a defibrillator, low dose for now... CLEAR!!!
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Fourteen of the 17 home runs, the Angels have given up came at the hands of the starting pitchers. The starters sport a 2-7 record and a 5.88 earned-run average. Maybe we need to up the charge a little. CLEAR!!!
There are some positives to point to however.
Erick Aybar looks comfortable in the lead off spot. He appears to be patient, is working the pitcher and stole his first base against the Yankees.
Brandon Wood had two hits in the series against the Bombers and has his batting average in the triple digits. Sure, it's just barely there, but .100 looks a lot better than the .053 he was down to earlier. A two for three night will move him up another hundred points or so this early in the season. It would be nice to see him return to Anaheim in the .200 range with a big fly and a few ribbies.
Hideki Matsui is the real deal. When others were touting him as an upgrade over Vladimir Guerrero, I bristled. Vlady was one of only a handful of players I would stop whatever I was doing to watch him hit. It was always an adventure. Matsui fits this Angel team perfectly however--he is steady, solid and a professional hitter. He is an upgrade at DH over Guerrero thus far.
While we are on the subject of Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui, I have to acknowledge the Yankees for that amazing welcome back tribute they gave their former left fielder. It's one thing to give a nod to a former player, another altogether to allow him to upstage an event as emotional as a ring ceremony. That's exactly what the Yankees did however when they announced him last as their 2009 World Series rings were handed out.
The crowd went crazy, his former teammates mobbed him; it was classy.
I remember when Scott Spezio returned to the Big A after signing with the Mariners. His first at bat was preceded with a video tribute and "thank you" for the guy who hit the biggest home run in the history of the franchise. It didn't have the pizzazz of what the Yanks did for Matsui, but classy nonetheless.
That home run Spezio hit came against the San Francisco Giants. The NL Champs were eight outs away from the World Series title when--with the Rally Monkey doing his thing--Spezio hit a three-run blast that shifted momentum of the game. The Angels went on to win the 2002 World Series.
Which leads us to the final positive about the Angels' less than stellar start: 2002 was the last time this team started 3-7. Maybe it's a good omen after all.
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