COMMENTARY | Everybody knows that sports teams are just collections of individuals working together (hopefully) toward a common goal. And while each player on the team has his own unique personality, oftentimes there's one guy who emerges as a symbol of what we all collectively think of that team. An icon.
When the New York Yankees were winning championships, Jeter's star shone the brightest. As he's aged, so has the team and it looks less and less like this group of guys has what it takes to go anywhere.
Since joining the Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera just seems to be getting better -- at hitting. And he's gotten worse and worse at fielding and baserunning -- but Tigers fans don't care, even though the team's bad baserunning and bad defense cost them the World Series last year.
In the band Coldplay, there's Chris Martin and a few other guys who probably play instruments or something. On the television show Mad Men there's Jon Hamm and then some other folks like that well-endowed lady and that one old guy that looks like Jamie Lee Curtis.
And in the entire collection of weirdos on Twitter, Amanda Bynes has emerged as the one weirdo to rule them all. This is just something that tends to happen among groups.
With every player who has become such a symbol, a lot of that has to do with the environment -- the team and the city. Would Jeter be "Jeter" in Oakland? Would Cabrera be "Miggy" in New York? Would Bynes be "completely bonkers" on MySpace?
Two offseasons ago, the Angels were hoping they were buying their icon when they dumped $240 million on Albert Pujols. They immediately put up billboards announcing the arrival of "El Hombre." And then Al told the team he didn't like "El Hombre" because it's Spanish for "The Man," and that was Stan Musial's nickname. Are you kidding me, Al, you just got $240 million?
It was clear in that moment that Pujols would never really be the icon the Angels hoped he could be even in the first few years of the deal that everyone knew would quickly become a joke.
Then, last year, a 19-year-old phenomenon named Mike Trout exploded onto the scene, outplayed everybody in baseball and was the American League MVP -- even if the dinosaur baseball writers screwed up the voting.
Trout does everything about baseball at the highest possible levels. If you were trying to dream up the perfect all-around baseball player, wake up and smell the Trout.
And while Mike Trout is a superstar in the making and a fan-favorite, he's too good to symbolize what this Angels team is right now. And what it is right now is a mess.
Enter Josh Hamilton. Last offseason the Angels shocked the world -- again -- when they signed Hamilton away from the Texas Rangers. As with Pujols, these were decisions made by owner Arte Moreno and not the "baseball men" in the organization. It appeared that Arte's apparent inferiority complex about the Los Angeles Dodgers had gotten the better of him -- again.
When healthy, Hamilton is one of the top hitters in baseball and a pretty darn good defender as well. But the Angels didn't need another outfielder. They needed pitching.
So, then the plan was clear: The Angels would out-slug other teams with their super-powered offense. This is a great idea for a beer-league softball team, but there haven't been many teams with even a winning record that have gone down this road.
The plan hasn't worked. The team is still under .500 even with some very impressive play over the last couple weeks. The fans have been calling for Jerry DiPoto's head and Mike Scioscia appears to be hanging on by a thread.
And at the core of the team's struggles has been Hamilton's under-performance. Josh's numbers at the plate have been almost comatose and, in the field, he's made some almost terrifying errors. However, there's hope for him. In the last two weeks, during the team's improved stretch of play, Josh's OPS has been around 1.100 -- exactly the kind of firepower the team was hoping for.
Hamilton and the Angels are stuck with each other and he personifies everything that's right and wrong with the team. Like the Angels, he has the potential for great offense and very good defense -- and he can't pitch.
He just hasn't gotten it sorted out yet. He's a mess. Just like the Angels. But there are signs of life and flickers of hope. Just like the Angels.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Miguel Cabrera
- Derek Jeter
- Josh Hamilton