Humbling year comes to a close

ARLINGTON – This is where the long season ends, today, much too soon for us. It’s been a trying year. I’ve been humbled, and we’ve been humbled as a team. Nobody saw this coming, and we’re not going to let it happen again. When we get together for Spring Training, I want us all to remember how bad this felt. That will make us that much hungrier.

Looking back, we got beat down, starting in Spring Training. There was a lot of turnover, a lot of change. Four core guys left: Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Darren Oliver. That’s a good piece of the club. And Gary Matthews Jr., too. He was an important role player for us.

It never really came together for us, other than that one stretch we put together in June where we played like us. The rest of the year, that wasn’t us at all. It was somebody else. We weren’t letting our talents flow. We were pressing, trying to do too much, trying to win games by ourselves.

When I signed here, I expected us to be dominant every year. We have to get that feeling back. One thing you can’t expect is injuries, and we had some big ones: Kendry Morales, Maicer Izturis, Jeff Mathis, Joel Pineiro, Jason Bulger. We lost key guys, and I think it kind of knocked us off balance because we didn’t have as much depth as in the past.

This is the first time in my career since 2000, when I was 24 years old, that I played on a team that didn’t have a winning record. With the Twins, we were always in contention. In 2005 I broke my ankle and we didn’t make the postseason, and we didn’t make it in 2007 even though we were fighting for it and got close. Then we made it my first two years here and were two wins away from the World Series last season.

This is a humbling season for me. Sometimes you have to be humbled. You get spoiled sometimes with winning. I have been slapped in the face and the team’s been slapped in the face. I’ve been winning my whole career, and I’m not used to this feeling.

Things don’t always work out the way you plan. I had sports hernia surgery on Nov. 27, and it took me time to get to where I could do my rehab. When I got to Spring Training, it was like I had to learn to run the bases with it again. I had a lot of catching up to do, and the truth is, I didn’t feel the same, like myself, until recently, in August and September.

It all went back to May of 2009 at Dodger Stadium when I crashed into the wall making a catch on Matt Kemp. Then I hit the wall hard in San Francisco a few weeks later, and my groin got really bad. I always try to play through injuries – that’s just who I am – but this was bad. I had to sit a long time, and when I came back I wasn’t right but I gave it my best shot.

Playing center field requires a lot of running, and it seems like I was doing even more than normal this season. My old explosion wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like myself going after balls. I could still make plays, but it wasn’t me. That was something that really hurt me. I always told myself I would retire if I couldn’t play center field, but life is about revising things. It’s like when I said I wasn’t going to get married until I was 25, and I got married when I was 21. Life happens, as they say.

Anyway, I always thought I loved center field more than the game itself. When the decision was made to move me to right field and play Peter Bourjos in center, I found out I loved the game more than center field. That was big. It was hard for me to give up center field, but I knew I had to do it. It improved our defense. Peter is showing what he can do out there. He’s not a finished product, and that’s what’s scary – seeing how good he is already and knowing that he can get so much better.

When Pete got here, I liked that he asked me questions. That let me know he really wanted it. He’s into the game and understands the game offensively and defensively. I wouldn’t put too much on him too soon – let him play and learn and grow. This is just the beginning for him, and I know what that’s like. When I started out in Minnesota, I had guys like Kirby Puckett and Shane Mack to show me things. Now I can do that with Peter, like I did with Denard Span while I was still with the Twins. Now he’s playing some good center field.

It’s funny, it wasn’t until the end of August, the beginning of September, that my legs started feeling a lot better. I felt like I had some burst again, and I was getting down the line better. I think that moving to right actually did help me save wear on my legs. In the long run, that can be a really good thing. Next Spring Training, I’m going to be primed.

We learned a lot this season through the humbling we took. Now we have to turn it back around and be the Angels. That’s all. Just be the Angels, who we are. That will be enough. I’m excited about coming back and getting back to the top, where we belong.

You can catch me on MLB Network with some commentary during the postseason, and I’ll try to be enthusiastic and upbeat. But you know me: I’d rather be on that field, helping drive the Angels toward our ultimate goal. Wait’ll next year.

13 Comments

I’ve been an Angels fan since I was 3 years old and I can’t remember ever wanting a season to end more than this one. I’ll be looking forward to Spring. I know you’ve still got it!

Torii is a class act. This was a rough year, but I have no doubts that next year, with Torii leading the team the Angels will again be one of the top teams. KEEP IT UP TORII! GO HALOS!

You’re a great leader Torii ! and an wonderful inspiration to us all… thanks for playing hard – next year will be our year for sure!

Torii, you’ve been one of my favorite players for a long time. I loved watching you play since you were in Minnesota- it’s just fun to watch the way you go out after a ball in the outfield. Your energy is electric and infectious. I hoped the Angels would sign you when you became a free agent, and in my opinion, you’ve been worth every penny.
Tough year, but way to battle it out until the end. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys come out strong in the spring next season!

Torii…thanks for caring about your team and your fans. You are a fantastic player and role model. Love your enthusiasm for the sport and your candid comments on this blog. Your Angel fans know that this will be a season to learn and grow from and we will all be ready to cheer you on when you return in the spring. I already have next season’s calendar posted at my desk at work, counting the days.
World Champions LAA Angels of Anaheim 2011—-mark my words!
Go Angels !!!!

To tell you the truth, the Angels are a solid power hitter and bullpen guy away from being back in the playoffs and competing for a title. As a die hard Angels fan, it was a tough and frustrating season to go through this past season. But I do see the potential of some of the young guys, so I’m optimistic. To tell you the truth, I don’t see the Angels going after Dunn, as 1st is Morales’ and Scos will probably use one of his current starters to fill the DH role. The way I see it, the Angels are (should) going to go after Carl Crawford the most. Carl will be the ultimate table setter for this team, and will provide some power from time to time which is a bonus (15-20 homers). They traded for Callaspo, and that move was for next season (same with Haren). So Callaspo is going to be the third baseman with Izzy backing him up, which I’m fine with. Even if they only acquire Crawford on the offensive side it would go a long way. The line up: Crawford (LF), Callaspo (3b), Napoli (yes, napoli, C), Morales (1B), Hunter (RF), Abreu (DH), Kendrick (2B), Bourjious (C), Aybar (SS). If Napoli has Morales and Hunter in back of him (which he needs to be more consistent with runners in scoring position), he’s definitely going to get more hitter’s pitches and fastballs to smash, which is what he is, a power hitter that will get you at least 30 hrs if he plays everyday. Couple that with Crawford at the top of the lineup and our solid starting pitching and we have something special next year.

thanks for the post torii, we’re lucky to have someone with as much class as you here in anaheim.

just remember, having to feel all this disappointment will only make any future success taste that much sweeter… contrast is good in life, and learning from missteps is what makes us better in the long run :)

I cant wait for you to be on Mlb Network Your going to make everyone laugh.

Mr Hunter,

2010 was rough for us. Losing Kendry like that really brought down our morale but I appreciate the fight. Especially when it was the hardest. Whether we’re in postseason or not I have to say that I appreciate you as a player and as a person. I am incredibly lucky to watch you play everyday. Not many have the luxury. Thank you for your class and for your genuine passion for the game. Have an incredible offseason and see you next year!

http://mimi.mlblogs.com

Hunter, congrats on the MVP award. You really deserved it. I have been an Angels fan since i was about 6 years old. They were called the California Angels back then. So, I have seen every division win, the AL championiship, and the World Series. I cried when they won that. I have seen some bad seasons like this one a few times. This seasons actually came out better than I thought it might with everything that happened. I don’t mean to criticize but that bullpen was not even close to how it has been in the previous seasons. I can’t remember seeing that many blown games in one season. We would have had at least 2 20+ winners if they got the support that was needed. Well, anyway, I’m already counting the days until next season. I can’t wait to see your smiling face and positive attitude as the Angels come back with a vengence and bring the World Series to Anaheim in 2011.

It was very professional of you to help the team by agreeing to play RF and thus giving Peter Bourjos a chance to play.

Now there is talk amongst some fans that you have lost a step or two. Some even believe that in 2012 you’ll agree to DH in order to make way for Mike Trout.

I say ‘hell will freeze over’ before you let this happen. What are your feelings?

I USE TO RESPECT YOU AS PLAYER BUT AFTER I SAW YOUR QUOTE ON ESPN ABOUT LATINO PLAYERS LAST SEASON ON WHY MLB HAS A LOW NUMBER OF BLACK PLAYERS BEING SIGNED
AND YOU USE LATINOS AS SCAPEGOATS.YOU RACIST JERK IMAGINE IF A LATINO PLAYER WOULD OF SAID THE CRAP THAT CAME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH THEY WOULD PROBABLY TRY TO DEPORT HIM.NOW WHAT IF A WHITE PLAYER OF SAID WHAT YOU SAID YOU THINK HE WOULD OF BEEN ABLE TO KEEP HIS JOB.ONE THINGS FOR SURE YOU BEEN WELL TRAINED.

Losing out on Crawford is devistating. He should be an Angel, but I don’t believe Reagins has what it takes to land a big name FA via free agency (Beltre would not count…). Reagins should be on the phone to Torii Hunter and give him an appology. Crawford should have got 7yrs $147M, with all of Arte’s and Reagins talk about letting fans know they are in it to win and plan on spending could not have been further from the truth… how do you let Crawford go (your main target) for that amount?? Reagins owes Hunter an appology.

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