ARLINGTON – This was a big day for one of my early heroes. Andre Dawson was the guy I wanted to be like when I was a kid growing up in Pine Bluff, Ark. My granddad and I would watch games on WGN, and “The Hawk” was killing the ball and making great plays in right field for the Cubs. He ran the bases hard and he had a cannon, I remember that.
Andre had a huge influence on me with the way he played the game, his aggressive, all-out style. You could tell the man loved to play and was a fierce competitor, and that’s how I’ve always tried to be. I even copied his batting stance when I was a kid, before I found my own.
I heard about how great he was in Montreal, and how that artificial turf in the Expos’ park he played in for 10 years messed up his knees. Lyle Spencer, who covers us for MLB.com, has told me how much the Dodgers respected Andre back in the day when he was covering them. He thought The Hawk was the best player in the National League when he was a young center fielder covering ground, throwing guys out and hitting bombs for the Expos.
I can relate to what he went through, now that I’ve moved from the artificial turf in Minnesota to the natural surface, God’s green grass, in Southern California with the Angels. It makes a huge difference over the course of the season. I used to feel so beat up playing on that carpet. I’m really happy for the young Twins like my protégé Denard Span, who won’t have to go through what I did, and what Kirby Puckett went through playing center field on that hard turf.
It tells you a lot about Andre Dawson that he was able to get through that, get to Wrigley Field as a free agent, and show his stuff when he won the NL MVP award in 1987. If anybody had any doubts about him being a Hall of Fame player, that should have taken care of them. He led the league with 49 homers and 137 RBIs. That man could rake.
This is a great day for a great player and a good man. I also want to congratulate the other Hall of Famers who were enshrined today – Whitey Herzog, Doug Harvey, Jon Miller and Bill Madden. It’s the biggest honor in the game, and I’m sure they’re all having the time of their lives in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Whitey Herzog managed the Cardinals when they were my favorite team in the ’80s, with Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee, all those burners. Herzog turned out some great teams, and he’s very deserving. I’m sure he’s happy to go in with an umpire like Harvey, an announcer like Miller and a writer like Madden – along with The Hawk, of course.
Time to get ready for the series finale with the Rangers. We’ve got some work today.
NEW YORK – It’s been a long, bumpy ride through the first half for our Angels, and the All-Star Game was an awesome experience in every way. But now it’s strictly baseball. It’s about catching the Rangers, and they’re hotter than a firecracker.
They’ve got the best offensive numbers in Major League Baseball, and they added Cliff Lee to a strong pitching staff. They’ve also got Tommy Hunter, who’s 7-0 after getting sent down. There’s something about T-Hunters. That’s a little joke, you know.
Going to Texas, home for me, after we finish up with the Yankees, we know what we have to do. We have to play well, play consistent baseball. Everybody has to step up, play smart and tough baseball. We’ve got to bunt guys over, hit-and-run. We’ve got to come out of the bullpen throwing strikes, make all the plays.
In the past, we were the team everyone was chasing. Now we’re the ones trying to catch up, so we can’t afford to be making mistakes. Sometimes teams with a lead can get comfortable, but they know they can’t get too comfortable. They know what we’ve done before, and what we’re capable of doing. We’re the team that’s been winning for a long time, that has history. We’re playing well, but they’ve been playing better. We have to change that.
The first half, to sum it up, you have to say it was a bumpy road. In April, we didn’t play the way we were capable of playing. The offense, defense and pitching were all subpar. Then we got to May and June and started playing our style of baseball – great defense, hitting the ball pretty hard, pitching well. It seemed like we didn’t have any flaws.
Then the last week before the All-Star Game, we ran into the hottest team in the game, the White Sox, and they swept us four straight in Chicago. We had those rain delays and then the long flight to Oakland, getting in at 5 a.m. That kind of carried over to Oakland, and we didn’t play well there.
The All-Star break was good for the guys, I think. They were able to go to the beach, relax, not even think about the game. It refreshed the guys. For myself and Jered Weaver, it was a little different. We were involved in all the All-Star Game and all the activities. It was awesome, don’t get me wrong. But it was also a little exhausting.
I had 25 to 30 family members come in, and I was entertaining them, Angel fans, MLB fans and some of the players, too. From 7 a.m. all the way through the way, I was on the move, attending the Fanfest, events, talking to people. It was an amazing experience. The color fed was everywhere I went. It gave me a real sense of how big the Angels are now, how loyal the fan base is. It was a great experience. It was for the fans, and they had a great time. So it was well worth it in every respect.
Now it’s all baseball. It’s time to go to work. I’m excited to get Maicer Izturis back, because he’s one of the best clutch hitters around, .326 in his career with runners in scoring position, and a tremendous all-around player. He’s going to help a lot – he already has, driving in those big runs in our win last night over the Yankees.
With Izzy getting back in it, with Mike Napoli tearing it up and playing good first base, and with Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, Juan Rivera and all the other veterans firing on all cylinders, we know we’re capable of playing great baseball. It’s time to go. Let’s do it.