If at the beginning of the season, you had told me that by the time we reached the All-Star Break, Howie Kendrick and Vladimir Guerrero would be our biggest offensive liabilities, John Lackey and Ervin Santana would have stratospheric ERAs, our bullpen would be the worst in baseball, and despite ALL OF THAT, we would still be 12 games over .500 and on top of our division... well, first, I'd have laughed in your face. A lot. Like, for HOURS.
But after I finished laughing, I would probably have said something like, "Man, who stepped up?" As it turns out, the answer is pretty much everyone else.
Certainly, no recent Angels team has overcome more adversity to get where they are. From having half our starting rotation out to start the season, to losing two of our best relievers in Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields, to losing our biggest bat 8 games in, to having our batting champion-to-be struggle at staying over the mendoza line, to losing a promising young rookie in a tragic car accident, this has been a season where everything we've taken for granted the last few years has been turned on its head.
And I'll admit it--after the way this season started, I thought, "You know... this one might be a lost cause."
Fortunately for us, the guys in our clubhouse weren't having it, and I think that it may be an argument for the amount of success Arte has had in breeding a culture of winning in this organization.
From the front office on down, everyone on this team expects to win, come hell or high water. Previous seasons have taught us that the size of our opponent's lead is meaningless--we can come back. Poor performance by our off-season signings is irrelevant--someone else will step up. Injuries to stars can be weathered. Hot streaks by our opponents can be snuffed out or matched. The only thing that matters is winning the game we are playing that day.
That's our team philosophy and I think the players have internalized it. Those of you familliar with sabermetric assessments of previous seasons will be unsurprised to hear that we have once again been dubbed "the luckiest team in baseball" according to what "should" have happened.
Really, it's become such a familliar refrain that it's actually lost most of its irritation value for me. These days I mostly just shrug it off. Luckiest team in baseball, huh? Sure we are guys. Sure we are.
So, looking forward, what's next? Well, we'll be missing Vlad and Hunter for a while. Some of our starting pitchers need to get their heads together. And it'd be nice if someone other than Fuentes and Oliver would step up as being truly reliable in the pen. Certainly, we haven't won this division by any means and we could still finish the season on the outside of the postseason looking in.
But more than ever, I feel blessed to be an Angels fan right now. This is a team that has utterly erased the word "quit" from its collective lexicon, and because of that, they can never become a lost cause. It's fun to watch guys like that play. ^_^