September 26, 2010
As the regular season winds down, 22 teams are facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
Meanwhile, the fans of those squads are looking at the prospect of spending the winter without the warmth of a postseason appearance. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're asking a blogger from each team to write a cathartic missive to their disappointing 2010 lineups.
Dear Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,
Thank you for your concerns about my spending too much time watching Angels baseball.
No, really: Your concerns for my well being are much appreciated. However, you didn't have to go so far as to not make the post season this year. Another month of baseball really wasn't going to kill me. On the other hand, your not making the postseason might actually be harmful to my health.
Don't try to explain yourself. You know I hate it when you make excuses. Let me make this easy for both of us. It's time for a break. You leave me no choice but to say ... see you next spring.
Please don't think of this as goodbye. After all, this is baseball and there's always next year. Think of this as a break and a chance for us to see other teams. I don't want to feel guilty when I'm cheering for the Twins, Rays, Reds or Padres (anyone but the Rangers or Yankees) in the postseason. And you can feel free to concentrate on stealing players away from their current relationships.
I know it's not going to be easy. Not seeing you in the playoffs is going to sting a bit. You know, I thought we had something special. After all, this year's marketing theme was all about "Tradition" and after winning the division five of the previous six years, I thought going to the post season was an annual event. This was supposed to be our time. I admit, I'm a little heartbroken.
I guess the writing was on the wall when I didn't get my usual postseason invoice in August. I mean you even sent me one in 2006 when things looked bleak. That invoice was a symbol of hope. I must say I'm a little disappointed that you never even brought it up. Do you have any idea how many times I ran to the mail box while filled with anticipation, only to be let down?
The Good Times: Sure, we had some good times. I'll never forget Opening Day on April 5. Who could forget seeing Jeff Mathis(notes) hitting a home run? I thought for sure that was some kind of sign of great things to come.
During that first game, Matsui Land was launched, Kendry Morales(notes) picked up where he left off in 2009 and Jered Weaver(notes) was looking very much like an ace. It felt good to be 1-0. Never mind losing the next four games; you climbed back to .500 by April 20.
Wait, what am I saying? I'm actually talking about a .500 baseball team like it's a good thing.
Gee, when I think about the way the season started and the way we stumbled through the rest of the year, I guess there really weren't that many good times after all. Okay, I'll give you Jered Weaver's win on my wife Cheryl's birthday (May 7), but let's be real — that came after a seven-game losing streak. Every time you took a step forward, it seemed like you took two back.
Take May 29 for example. Kendry Morales hit a walk off grand slam in the 10th inning and then broke his leg jumping on home plate. I know, I know that was out of your control, but it speaks to the kind of roller coaster ride you've put me through all season.
I'll even give you June 7. You actually stood on the top of the AL West (a half game ahead of Texas) on that day. We had hope, but that only lasted one day and back you fell to second place, never to see first again. I can count the number of days (three) you actually lead the west on one hand.
I do appreciate your bringing Peter Bourjos(notes) into the family on Aug. 3. He's been a breath of fresh air and I look forward to seeing him over the next several years playing the kind of baseball that all fans will come to love.
The Bad Times: Let me give it to you straight; the bad times really outweighed the good.
Aug. 23 is particularly distasteful. That's the night you fell to third place behind the team I despise the most — the Oakland Athletics. You know I can't stand them and yet, you let them walk right past us like we weren't even there. I can't even begin to tell you how much that hurt.
You hurt me in many ways. You traded away my favorite pitcher in Joe Saunders(notes). You trotted out names like Cory Aldridge(notes), Mike Ryan, Kevin Frandsen(notes), and Paul McAnulty(notes) on occasion and tried to pass them off as major leaguers. Did you think I wouldn't notice?
To make matters worse, you wouldn't give Mark Trumbo(notes) a chance to see if he could make a difference. Think about where our relationship might be if you had let him into our lives. I mean you'd think a team that has struggled to score runs all year would see what a guy who hit 36 homers in Triple-A might be able to bring to the table. I'm just saying.
It's Not All You: Maybe my expectations were too high. I guess I took division titles for granted and thought we'd win four in a row. I mean even the Los Angeles Dodgers haven't won more than two division titles in a row (which is kind of beautiful thing if you think about it). Then again, you created this monster when you took things to a higher level in 2002.
Forgive me for mentioning 2002. I know I shouldn't bring up ancient history.
I will even admit that had I been in Mike Scioscia's shoes, I too would have given Brandon Wood(notes) every chance in the world to live up to expectations. I mean we've watched him grow up together and we had every reason to believe he'd make us both proud.
And yes, I know that losing Kendry Morales was devastating. He's meant so much to both of us. I guess we were both in denial about our ability to move forward without him.
Last, but certainly not least — no one could have predicted that so many players would hit, 20 (Mike Napoli(notes) -27), 30 (Juan Rivera(notes) -38, Bobby Abreu(notes) -37) or even 58 points (Erick Aybar(notes)) below what they did in 2009.
Shape Up Or Ship Out: Look, we all want the same thing and that's another World Series title. Getting there isn't going to be easy; if it were the Cubs wouldn't be the lovable losers they are.
You know what you have to do. You need to get more athletic in the outfield. I don't want to see Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera out there ever again. I am not kidding around here. Abreu has DH written all over him and Rivera has "trade bait with an affordable contract" written all over him.
Go get Carl Crawford(notes) and let us imagine how great the outfield will be with him, Bourjos and Torii Hunter(notes). Let's declare the outfield a "no fly (ball) zone" and get back to playing great defense. After all, great defense has always been one of our foundations for success.
Make a decision about the catching situation. Either make Mike Napoli the every day guy or let him the DH (sorry, Bobby) and insert Hank Conger(notes) in that role. Whatever you do, do not subject us to another season of Jeff Mathis. That would just be cruel and unusual punishment. More Mathis will only create a bigger riff between us. He's not as good defensively as you keep telling us he is and his offense is monumentally horrible. It's time to kick him out of the house.
Also, fix the bullpen. I don't have the answers for how to make it better; that's your job. Figure it out and get it done. I can accept a few blown saves every now and then, but if "the Angels blowing saves" becomes a trending topic on Twitter, Yahoo! or elsewhere, you'd better believe Angel fans will be up in arms again and I'll be doing more than writing you a letter next year.
Last, but not least please free Brandon Wood. I like Wood and I want him to succeed, but I'm not certain you can afford to take another chance on him. The only way you can do that is if you add so much offense that his role will be irrelevant. That means doing more than just adding Carl Crawford (hint, hint).
You've got your work cut out for you. I expect big things for our 50th anniversary season, so don't let me down. I mean you haven't forgotten our anniversary have you? I'll be expecting a big, shiny gift come next fall.
So, get busy and we'll talk again when pitchers and Molinas report.
See you next April,
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Follow James on Twitter — @truegrich
Read Big League Stew's previous Dear John letters here.