While there is the tiniest bit of reassurance that at least the Angels beat the Red Sox in the postseason, the general feeling from this Angels fan is one of frustration. From lineup changes never made to player mistakes, the Angels lost themselves. They've been beaten by Boston in the past for sure, but this year, the Angels pretty much just handed the Red Sox their tickets to the ALCS.
I think Mike Scoscia is the best coach the Angels have ever had and expect him to continue to helm the club for many years to come, but I can't help but point out that Howie Kendrick should've never started past Game Two. I'll give him Game 1 to get the jitters out, but he stayed jittery all the way through, and this oft-touted "future batting champion" looked totally overmatched, swinging at awful curve balls in the dirt and falling behind in every count. If he had provided stellar, game-changing defense I could have overlooke dhis ability to kill rallies just by taking the plate, but his bobbles, late jumps, and general mediocrity in the field made me sorry he'd made the postseason roster. In short, Kendrick was a major factor in another first-round bump for the Angels.
While Vlad Guerrero's stat line doesn't look terrible, I can't believe the Angels' offensive hero for the entire series was Mike Napoli. Now, when Nap's hot, he's on fire, and he put that heat on display in Game Three, but I can't help but wonder when Valdimir Guerrero will show up in the postseason. The free-swinging beast of a player let pitchers get ahead by being too cautious on the first pitch, facing many 0-1 counts after Lester and Okajima would groove one right into the wheelhouse, and when he did make contact, it was for piddly singles. The worst of it, though, was the looks he was giving throughout the series. He was looking frustrated, confused, and hopeless, without that competitive fire that drives a team. Instead of carrying these guys on his back like he did in 2003, that role was left to mark Teixera. While Tex didn't swing for power either, his eye was excellent, and when he swung out of the zone, it seemed to be with a knowledge of what the ball would do every time. In Game Five, his strikeout against Lester, a pivotal moment, was not even his fault - the pitches six inches off the plate (as verified by TBS) were simply bad calls by the home plate umpire. Watching Vlad and Tex play, I found myself wondering if Guerrero's best days are behind him and he's headed towards even more power and contact reduction, and if maybe the Angels shouldn't be pursuing their mid-season acquisition with everything they've got. I've not seen such a steady mid-lineup presence since Garret Anderson's glory days.
And let's go there, shall we? I love Garret Anderson; he's Mr. Angel to me, and always will be, even moreso than Tim Salmon. But his performance in Game 4 was what set up the middle of the order to be at a direct disadvantage all night long. I know his swing and stance make good left-handed sliders tough on him, but he looked like a 9-spot hitter, like he should've been on the bench waiting for a right-handed pitcher to pinch-hit against. Left field would have been better with Willits, who finally got a chance to make a difference before being hung up to dry on the failed suicide squeeze.
It's hard to talk about the series and not get angry, but what's important to draw from it is the experience that Aybar and Kendrick soaked up; give them a healthy 2009 and I guarantee they'll be much better prepared next playoffs. Record aside, it's obvious that K-Rod is merely an above-average reliever prone to struggle with his control and his dropping velocity. The Angels need to just let him go and move ahead with 'Dondo or Shields shutting the door. Or perhaps Escobar can come back as a closer for the remainder of his contract.
Garland should probably head elsewhere, because the salary he wants isn't what the Angels should give a player obviously struggling to make that next step. Moseley, Green, and Adenhart should compete for a starting spot next year, and the other four Angels starters should form the core of one of the Major Leagues' best rotations yet again.
Anderson should be bought out but also re-signed as he and Vlad take turns with DH and playing the field. He starts off ice cold, but GA's second-half surges prove invaluable when others tail off in the summer swelter. Bring him back with the understanding that 300-400 ABs is more realistic than 5-600, and hopefully he'll take it. He should finish his career in Anaheim, and I think his veteran presence is needed on a team that's infusing so much youth into the everyday lineup.
As for the free agent talk, the Angels should pursue Mark Teixeira with everything they've got. His calm, cool demeanor, incomparable batting eye, and well-rounded defense make him one of baseball's very best, and unless your starting 1B is Pujols, Tex is a major improvement. The Yankees can bid all they like; if Arte Moreno really wants a championship, making Teixeira the new centerpiece of his offense is the way to do it. Let him clean up after Guerrero, since he's got the better eye and contact bat, and let Guerrero deal with pitchers who don't want to get to this Scott Boras client.
And plesae don't got for CC. He's a great pitcher, but thepitching staff is very strong as-is, and overloading on great arms is nice unless you can't score, in which case every game is tight and nerve-wracking, becuase 2-1, while still a win, isn't the kind you want day-in, day-out.
The Angels came up short because too many players made basic mistakes in the field and at the plate, but if the Halos can bring back a similar offense, the extra experience (and a few hundred million towards a free-agent rental) should be all they need to get over the hump. Get Wood into the game, probably at 3B, put Figgins in left field and let him work all over giving guys some rest. I will say that the recent love for Kendry Morales baffles me. He had a few good at-bats in the ALDS, but I don't think he's a starter for a division-leading team.