Results tagged ‘ Darren Oliver ’

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.

Angels: Built to win

ANAHEIM – It’s great to be back in our park, back home. We got everything accomplished we needed to do in Arizona, and now it’s time to get ready for the real thing. We’re looking forward to seeing the Twins on Monday, so we can get this show started.

I know there’s been a lot of attention focused on the guys we lost this winter – Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. But that’s the way the game is. Guys move on, and you adapt. We’ve made some great additions, and I’m really excited with the team we’ve put together here.

Of course, it hurts losing teammates who were friends. A guy like Figgy, he was a respected man in the clubhouse, a leadoff guy who scored more than 100 runs and saved a lot of runs with his glove. He played the game right. But he got a great deal in Seattle, just like I got a great deal here. I’m happy for Figgy, but he’s on the other side now, and we’ll compete against each other with everything we’ve got.

I’ve got a ton of confidence in Erick Aybar taking over as the leadoff man. He’s a young guy with tremendous talent coming off a big year. And he can fly. He’s going to be fun to watch on the bases. With another year of experience with his mentor, Bobby Abreu, Aybar should be even better.

Bobby’s one of the best leaders in the game, and I’m so happy he’s back. You could see his influence last year in how much Aybar and Kendry Morales and so many other guys improved during the season. Bobby even helped out veterans like Figgy and me in a big way by showing us how to be more disciplined and selective at the plate. Everyone learned from watching Bobby and listening to him.

Lackey was a bulldog, one of the reasons I wanted to come here, but he got a great deal in Boston. We signed Joel Pineiro to replace Lackey in the rotation, and I’m impressed with Pineiro. You’ve got to like a guy who throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He should get real deep in games with our defense behind him.

With Pineiro, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir, we’ve got five solid starters, five guys who will give us a chance to win every night. We’re built to win with that rotation and with a deep bullpen. We’ve got some big arms out there, and this is Brian Fuentes’ second year in the American League. That always helps, getting that first year to figure things out.
 
Hideki Matsui is the guy I call the Quiet Assassin. He’s as clutch as they come, in a quiet way. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Hideki does in our lineup. He’s a pro, like Bobby, and you can never have enough of those guys.

Morales was born to hit. I call him Captain Caveman and Bam-Bam. He’s solid, strong and he always wants to use that stick and hit. And he’s good down at first with the glove.

Hitting behind Aybar and Bobby, and in front of Hideki, Morales, Juan Rivera, Howard Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, Maicer Izturis. That’s a lot of talent, a load of weapons.

Brandon Wood, his thing is to play defense and do his part. Let us have the pressure. That’s why they’re paying us. We just want him to relax and play. He’s got it in him to hit at least 20 homers, with 70-plus RBIs. If he does that, he helps the team tremendously. The way he’s played third base, he’s been impressive.

Everybody knows what Izturis can do – pretty much whatever you need. He’s versatile and clutch, the kind of guy every winning team needs. Kendrick is going to do some really big damage this year. He’s my pick to click. I definitely feel he’s one day going to win that batting title, if he can just stay healthy.

With the kind of talent we have in front of me and behind me, I should be in a good position to drive in runs and score a lot of runs. All I have to do is stay on the field.

I was on my way to my best season ever when I messed up my groin crashing into walls last year. I really feel good now – once I broke the scar tissue sliding this spring, I was good to go. I don’t even think about the sports hernia surgery I had last winter anymore. I’m ready to get after it.

I think we’re built to win the division. There’s a reason why the Angels have won the AL West three years in a row and five of the past six. These guys know how to compete, how to win. I thought we had a great year last season, considering everything we went through losing Nick Adenhart. We’ll never forget Nick, what he meant to us.

This team has a lot of heart. Our mission this season is to take it all the way. We can’t wait to get started.

 

Dodgers, Angels project proud heritage

For a couple of years now, people have been talking about the decline of the African-American player in Major League Baseball. The sport has made it a priority to get inner-city kids interested and involved in the game again, and the players have also done their part. I have the Torii Hunter Project, CC Sabathia has his, Jimmy Rollins has his thing going, Derrek Lee. Guys are doing what they can to get inner-city kids back into the game.

This is important to us, because it’s our heritage. Back in the days of the Negro Leagues, baseball was huge for African-Americans. They played in front of 20,000, 30,000 fans. Everybody was all dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses, everybody looking fine and having a great time.

The last 10 years we’ve seen a decline in African-Americans in the Majors, but there are signs it’s coming back around. Two years ago it was on its way to 7 percent African-American representation in the Major Leagues, but now it’s up to 10, 11 percent. That’s encouraging. It tells me these programs and projects are starting to work.

This series with the Dodgers is especially exciting for me. I’m always into the game — I don’t hide my love of playing baseball — but this Interleague series is definitely special. I look over at the other side of the field and see Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, Orlando Hudson, James Loney, Juan Pierre, Cory Wade. And Xavier Paul just went on the disabled list. That’s a lot of African-Americans on one team.

Over in our clubhouse, we’ve got Chone Figgins, Howard Kendrick, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. and myself. It really feels good to see African-Americans playing the game and showing kids how they can have long, productive careers — and make a lot of money in this sport.

Like anything worthwhile, it’s never easy. It takes a lot of mental toughness. It’s a humbling game with a lot of failure involved. But it’s worth all the time and effort, believe me. I signed when I was 17, and I’m signed through 37 years old. That means I’ll have 20 years in the game, at least. How many guys do that in the NFL and NBA?

Last year it was the Angels, Rays and Brewers who had the highest percentage of African-Americans, but it looks to me like it’s the Dodgers and Angels now. Two L.A. teams, playing an exciting brand of baseball — old-school style. We go first to third, run the bases hard, play great defense. We compete..

I will have a big smile on my face tonight. I feel a lot of pride in what I’m seeing. I want inner-city kids to understand how great this game is, how you don’t have to have a 40-inch vertical leap or be able to run through a building to play baseball. You need desire, a strong work ethic, and you have to know how to handle failure and adversity.

The game is getting back to speed, moving away from all the focus being on power. You see how important the stolen base is again, with guys like Carl Crawford and Figgy. Heck, I’ve even got eight bags. Bobby Abreu is stealing bases.

This is the game our grandparents and their parents grew up loving. Knowing everything the Dodgers have represented for bringing Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella into the game and breaking down that color barrier, I’m so happy to see the team they’re putting on the field now.

I’m always excited to play the game and never take for granted how fortunate I am. This is going to be a great weekend of baseball. 

Hard to believe its over

toriigame4swing550x250.jpg

I really hate for it to end like this. I could have sworn we were going to The Show, the Fall Classic. One-hundred percent, I thought we were going to The Show.

This has been such a great season, and this was such a great team, it makes me sick to think that it’s over and we didn’t go all the way. I really thought we had the team to get it done. Walking away is so hard when you’ve gone through so much with a team for eight months.

It’s really hard to swallow. I thought we were taking it back to Anaheim for Game 5. We came back, and when I got that single to drive in the two runs to tie it, the guys were going crazy. I was trying to go the other way like that, hit it hard. He threw me a fastball that I was able to drive, and it was an awesome feeling to see Tex and Vlad score. Tying up the game in that situation, with two outs and two strikes on me, that was a thrill. I felt like we had all the momentum, that we’d be coming home for the decisive game.

toriilettinggoofbat275x375.jpg

And just like that, we didn’t make the squeeze play work, they got a couple of hits, and our season was over.

The thing now is, you don’t know who’s coming back next season. You can’t say you’re going to be in this position again and have a team like this. This was the chance. This was the team. Unless everybody comes back — and we all have no idea how that’s going to turn out — we won’t get another chance with this team.

In a perfect world, I would love to have Mark Teixeira back, Frankie Rodriguez, Garret Anderson, Darren Oliver, Juan Rivera, Jon Garland — all those guys. But that’s out of our hands. That’s the business side of the game, and you never know what’s going to happen there. We have to trust our management people to make good moves and keep us strong and competitive.

What hurts for all the guys in this room is that we feel we’re a better team than those guys, but they’re moving on. That’s hard to take. It was little things here and there. Maturity. Some guys probably learned a lot this postseason that will help them in the future. You have to be 100 percent mentally committed to getting it done.

For me there are two seasons — the regular season and the postseason. I’m happy about what we did in the regular season. We made it to 100 wins, the first team to do that for this franchise, and that’s something we should all feel good about. We hung together and made a lot of great things happen. The fans were great, and I think we gave them a good show.

But the postseason, that’s a big disappointment. I’m just really upset about October. Maybe in time we’ll all be able to understand what happened, why we didn’t get it done, but right now, it just doesn’t make sense. We had so much talent on this team, so much camaraderie. I’m so proud of these guys, what they accomplished.

I think we all just need a little time to get over it. Before long, we’ll be back at it with Mike Scioscia and the staff, bringing big hopes and expectations to 2009. But right now, it’s a little too painful to put into words.

Hard to believe it’s over

toriigame4swing550x250.jpg

I really hate for it to end like this. I could have sworn we were going to The Show, the Fall Classic. One-hundred percent, I thought we were going to The Show.

This has been such a great season, and this was such a great team, it makes me sick to think that it’s over and we didn’t go all the way. I really thought we had the team to get it done. Walking away is so hard when you’ve gone through so much with a team for eight months.

It’s really hard to swallow. I thought we were taking it back to Anaheim for Game 5. We came back, and when I got that single to drive in the two runs to tie it, the guys were going crazy. I was trying to go the other way like that, hit it hard. He threw me a fastball that I was able to drive, and it was an awesome feeling to see Tex and Vlad score. Tying up the game in that situation, with two outs and two strikes on me, that was a thrill. I felt like we had all the momentum, that we’d be coming home for the decisive game.

toriilettinggoofbat275x375.jpg

And just like that, we didn’t make the squeeze play work, they got a couple of hits, and our season was over.

The thing now is, you don’t know who’s coming back next season. You can’t say you’re going to be in this position again and have a team like this. This was the chance. This was the team. Unless everybody comes back — and we all have no idea how that’s going to turn out — we won’t get another chance with this team.

In a perfect world, I would love to have Mark Teixeira back, Frankie Rodriguez, Garret Anderson, Darren Oliver, Juan Rivera, Jon Garland — all those guys. But that’s out of our hands. That’s the business side of the game, and you never know what’s going to happen there. We have to trust our management people to make good moves and keep us strong and competitive.

What hurts for all the guys in this room is that we feel we’re a better team than those guys, but they’re moving on. That’s hard to take. It was little things here and there. Maturity. Some guys probably learned a lot this postseason that will help them in the future. You have to be 100 percent mentally committed to getting it done.

For me there are two seasons — the regular season and the postseason. I’m happy about what we did in the regular season. We made it to 100 wins, the first team to do that for this franchise, and that’s something we should all feel good about. We hung together and made a lot of great things happen. The fans were great, and I think we gave them a good show.

But the postseason, that’s a big disappointment. I’m just really upset about October. Maybe in time we’ll all be able to understand what happened, why we didn’t get it done, but right now, it just doesn’t make sense. We had so much talent on this team, so much camaraderie. I’m so proud of these guys, what they accomplished.

I think we all just need a little time to get over it. Before long, we’ll be back at it with Mike Scioscia and the staff, bringing big hopes and expectations to 2009. But right now, it’s a little too painful to put into words.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.