In response to Rev's article ranking the bad decisions and unfortunate events that led to the Angel's second couch-warming off season in a row, I would like to begin a discussion about what went right in 2011. It's not that I disagree with Rev, nor am I a deluded optimist, but for my health's sake, I prefer not to revel too long in negativity. I'd rather move on in the grieving process toward acceptance, and look for the silver lining in this golden-haloed, 50th anniversary season of Angels baseball. So, here are some of what I consider to be the highlights of the season. I may not be able to come up with 10, but I'll start. Please add your own:
1) Ervin Santana's no-hitter. I watched that morning game alone with my 1 year Baby Manatee. I think even she knew that something special was happening. It transcended all the typical frustrations of this 2011 team, and it put some fear in hitters across the league, knowing that our THIRD starter is that good. It gave some hope that maybe a team built on pitching and defense really can succeed.
2) Mark Trumbo's pending rookie-of-the-year campaign. I've seen articles from both FS and ESPN pinning him as the front runner for the award, with competition mainly from Ivan Nova. In some ways, Trumbo was Wally Joyner reincarnate, and watching him play this season brought me back in fits and spurts to the simplistic childhood love I had for baseball back in the days of Wally World.
3) Jered Weaver's re-signing. Aside from commanding the role of staff ace, and giving Cy Young caliber outings almost every time he took the hill, WTY shocked us all by re-signing mid-season for a nice hometown discount. He made us all fall in love with his "how much do you need?" press conference. This gives us hope for the future. Let us also not forget two minor victories that tie in with this: we succeeded in signing a Boras client, and the FO departed from its often infuriating policy of not negotiating contracts during the season.
4) Mike Trout's call-up. At only 19 years old, Trout was the exciting mid-season call up this year, not to take anything away from Bourjos who is still deserving of his own credit. He showed flashes of what he is almost certain to become, a 5 tool mainstay in the line-up for years to come. With his 2 HR game and his flashing leather, he expunged the last of the woes over the failed Brandon Wood experiment, and restored our confidence in our minor league system.
5) Howie Kendrick's all-star season. I know there are still Halos Heaven Howie Haters out there, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. Although he finished the season with a sub .300 average, and still failed to win that batting title that other people promised he would win someday, Howie took an already successful career to a new level. He showed greater versatility with a number of starts at 1B and LF, and at the same time seemed to improve his range at 2B. He showed that he can hit almost anywhere in the line-up, and he showed some more power, turning some of those doubles he loves so much into a career high 18 home runs.
Each of these highlights were not only exciting to watch at the time, but give us a glimmer of hope. The future may not be as bad as some of the pessimists believe. We have a number of effective veterans and a vibrant group of young players who seem to be establishing themselves as legitimate big-leaguers.
If the FO can break the pattern of great move>putrid move>great move>putrid move, and follow up Weaver's re-signing with one or two other smart signings this off season (as well as one or two necessary releases), I am confident that we will retake the division and hopefully be the last team standing at the end of October 2012.