All about catching Rangers
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.
Shooting for a ring — and a trip to D.C.
I’m known for having good timing, especially in center field, but it let me down for once when I got hurt and couldn’t go to St. Louis to play in the All-Star Game. That was terrible timing.
I was so excited when I was selected to the American League All-Star team. Unfortunately, my body just didn’t hold up for me after I ran into those walls at Dodger Stadium and San Francisco. I remember the day when it finally got to me, and I knew I was in trouble. It was after that game in Arizona on June 27 when I sat at my locker for the longest time, in a daze. I couldn’t move. My groin was killing me. That was the day it blew up on me. I tried to play on, but it never really was right after that.
There were several reasons why it was so disappointing not to be in St. Louis. First of all, I appreciated all the fans voting for me when I came in fourth in the balloting, just missing out on the starting lineup. And I really felt good when my fellow players put me on the team by giving me the second most votes of all the American League outfielders, behind Jason Bay. In fact, I got the fourth most votes of all the players in the league. That was tremendous, feeling all that respect from my peers.
As for the All-Star Game, the presence of Barack Obama, our first African-American President, made it something really special to me. He was in the clubhouse shaking everybody’s hand, and I was home with my family in Texas – not that there was anything wrong with that. It’s always good to have some time with the family. But I hated that I missed out on meeting Barack Obama.
When I was growing up in Arkansas, we’d be out messing around and you’d hear a kid say, “I want to grow up to be the President.” And we’d say, “Hey, you’re black. No way you’re going to be President. Are you out of your mind?”
Now here it is, happening in our lifetime. It’s an amazing thing to see. And I was supposed to be there in St. Louis, playing in front of the President and meeting him. But it didn’t happen.
I’m getting better with this adductor strain on my right side. What this does, as I recover, is make me want to get to the World Series and win it even more than ever, if that’s possible.
Now I have a double goal: win the World Series and go to the White House with my team and meet the President there. We could talk some hoops, maybe play “horse,” shoot around a little. I know basketball is his game, and I could play the game in my time.
To be there with my teammates, after winning a World Series, that would top meeting Barack Obama at the All-Star Game. That would be so cool, for all of us. So I’m looking at it as an added incentive to go out and win a World Series. That would be the best of both worlds. We win the World Series, and meet Barack Obama at the White House.
Hey, it can happen. We’ve got a ton of talent on this team. Watching how our offense came through without Vladimir Guerrero and me in the lineup, against the Yankees and in the first game after the break against the A’s, that’s impressive. We’ve got a lot of guys who can swing the bat, and if our pitching comes together the way it can . . . look out.
The Angels could rock all the way through October, to Washington, D.C. and the house of President Obama and the First Lady.