What a Difference a Break Makes
When Kendry Morales came down after his game-winning home run celebration, then stayed down; some Angels faithful rewound back to 1999. That was the year the Halos signed Mo Vaughn to a six-year, $80-million contract, at the time the highest in the game. The excitement in Orange County was palpable; the Angels were primed for success.
That is until Vaughn went after the first fly ball hit to him. He got under it, but lost his footing in the visitors dugout. First game, first play and the $80-million dollar man was out with a badly sprained ankle. That's worse than bad luck, that's Clippers-bad-luck.
Somehow, as snake-bit as the team seemed over the years, the "Halo Hex" nickname never stuck. It's almost as if the World Series championship in 2002 wiped the board clean of all talk of hexes and curses.
Winning fixes everything.
This year has been different for the Angels, however. They started the season as optimistic as always, but stumbled out of the gates. Sure, winning fixes everything, but the problem with winning is you have to keep it up. After awhile, it's expected.
In 2010, the Angels strengths turned into weaknesses. The bullpen, long a Halo power, began to show signs of falling apart. The starting pitching wasn't up to par. Homeruns weren't flying off Halo bats, defense was just OK and the leadoff position wasn't getting on base.
They would win two then lose one, win one and lose three. The team seemed to be mired in mud while running uphill in high heels. Trust me; it's not an easy thing to do . . . I've, um, heard.
Then, as the team was inching closer to that elusive .500 goal once again, Mo Vaughn 2.0 happened. In one of the quirkiest sports injuries of all time, Morales breaks his leg after a walk-off home run. That had to be the first walk-off in the history of baseball where the guy who hit it didn't actually walk off. We may never see this injury duplicated in our lifetime, it was just that odd.
Looking back, however, it seems clear that the break represented a fork in the road for the Angels.
Would they hang their heads after losing arguably their best hitter and certainly their most powerful hitter? Would the "Halo Hex" moniker finally stick? Or, would the team rebound the only way that a team can, by winning.
The answer has come loud and clear: this team is winning.
Whether losing Morales proved to be the catalyst or not we can't know, but numbers don't lie. In the eight games since the Angels first baseman went down, the team has hit .310 with 58 runs, 13 homeruns and 25 doubles. The resurgence of power baseball has been led by Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli.
The hitting is back.
During a recent stretch of 30 games, Angels starters combined for a 3.59 ERA and allowed three earned runs or fewer in 28 games in a 40-game span. During their recent six-game win streak that saw them get back to the top of the AL West, they were 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA.
The pitching is back.
Most importantly, since the Morales fracture, the team has won nine while only dropping two games.
The winning is back.
What were you all so worried about?