Starting Howie Kendrick in the playoffs after he came back from injury so late in the season was, in hindsight, a mistake. THE mistake. He disappeared, was overmatched and the palpable failure magnified itself into grand defensive lapses that cost us almost dearly in game three and dearly in game four. To a lesser extent, Erick Aybar brought little to the team
We will never know what would have happened if we had started Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Wood in the playoffs. Maybe we would have pined for Aybar and Kendrick, but perhaps the warmed-up AAA-rookie duo would have done more than those two.
There are other what-ifs, but were the Angels to have had the simplest offensive production from EITHER of those two spots, the team would at least be looking at a deciding game five.
Barring that, the only other missing factor was the spark plug factor on which Scioscia offenses depend so heavily. So Figgins not getting on base in 3 out of 4 games was a kick to the balls of any chance the Angels had. Also note that the great game Figgins had with the glove was also the game where his bat showed up.
So it wasn’t Frankie, it wasn’t Reggie, it wasn’t Shields. It was Howie, the decision to play a rehabbing Howie over a number of options, an absent Figgy, a weak Aybar.
On August 13, Howie Kendrick pulled up lame on a hit with a bad hammy and a few innings later, Maicer Izturis dislocated his thumb. One player came back and was ineffective and one player’s platoon partner couldn’t handle the full-time role. Perhaps the fate of the season was decided then and there.
To whine a bit, a lot of calls went Boston’s way, their pitchers and batters were free to saunter about the mound and box and then blame west coast viewing audiences for 5 hour games, followed by quickened Rapuano strike zones making for the 6th inning starting 90 minutes after the first pitch. I thought for a minute about a headline that read: “Tim Welke = Tim Donaghy?” but no whining. I could bitch about the absurdly pro-Boston telecast, but Red Sox Nation is about to get served a plate of shit to eat when the whole nation roots for the underdog Tampa Rays and the Boston Beer Belly Fans wonder where all the lovable adoration of America went. Hint: We loved your dirty water when it quenched the underdog but it has acquired an entitlement stench beyond Steinbrenner proportions.
Everyone showed up except our middle infielders, the calls went Bitchston’s way, the media was all Franconastroka and we were STILL in every game against the aging World Champions. When Billy Beane says the playoffs are a crapshoot he is lauded as a statistical genius and Oakland fans bend over for biannual rebuilding projects. When Angel fans hear that the playoffs are a crapshoot they still recall the snake eyes roll in 2002 that paid off and everything pales. It is the price of success.
Paying that price is John Lackey, team leader, Angel icon and alone without run support in two games that were eminently winnable. As always, no matter how bright the future looks, you have to wonder how many more postseason chances even the best of them will get.
We'll have to wait until next year to find out.