What a day! I had surgery to repair a hernia on my right side and was in the hospital for eight hours. My wife, Katrina, picked me up and drove me home, and it’s a good thing. I’ll sleep well tonight.
The surgery was a success. I did my homework when I found out what needed to be done, and I’m really happy to get this taken care of, so I can move on and play without this pain next year. Dr. John Priskett performed the surgery at Baylor University Hospital, and he assured me everything went right. That’s great news.
Whatever was wrong in there, it’s fixed now. It already feels great. I’ll have six to eight weeks of rehab, starting with some light bike work, cardio, and gradually picking up to where I’ll be able to work out in mid-January. That will have me ready for Spring Training.
I’m really excited by what Dr. Priskett told me. It was a low-risk, high-reward surgery. The long-term gain is significant. He said, “You’re going to feel way better, and you’ll play better.” That was music to my ears.
He said that once you have this surgery, it never bothers you anymore. No more hernias for me. The only way I’d hurt my other side is compensating for the right side, and that won’t happen, because the right side is strong again. So I’ll be good to go.
This was my first surgery since 1995 when I had my right knee operated on. My body has been good to me, allowing me to play a lot of baseball, all out, for the Twins in Minnesota and now with the Angels.
I look back on the season, and so many things happened. We lost Nick Adenhart, a teammate and friend, and we mourned and prayed and had to go on and play the season. We did that with passion and purpose, in Nick’s honor. It was a great team, one I’ll always remember.
For me, the team and Major League Baseball, it was a good year. I think about it all the time. I was on my way to my best season when I got hurt running into walls. The one at Dodger Stadium on May 22, when I caught my buddy Matt Kemp’s drive against the wall, I was hurting after that. Then I did it again in San Francisco on June 15, and that messed me up some more.
If I had played the whole season, I could have had 120-plus ribbies, 30-plus homers, scored 100 runs. It was great winning the Silver Slugger Award, but I know I could have done much more.
I knew on that Sunday in Arizona on June 28 that something was really wrong, when I sat at the locker after the game and couldn’t move. I was so disappointed that day, knowing I was hurt, but not knowing how bad it was.
I tried to play through it but had to go on the disabled list on July 10 with the adductor strain, and it cost me 32 games. When I came back, I still had some pain but I had to be there for my team, so I played the best I could. We took it to Game 6 in the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium after sweeping the Red Sox in Boston. That was an amazing experience.
It’s like I kept saying, adrenaline is a pain-killer. But it was a temporary solution. There are some things you can’t play through, and sometimes you have to go in and get something taken care of.
I want to thank all the fans who have expressed concern and shown me so much support over the years. I’m a lucky guy to have a great family and so many people care about me. I’m looking forward to taking it easy for a while, going on some dates with my wife and spending time with our sons.
Next thing we know, it will be February, and we’ll be playing baseball again in the sun in Arizona. I can’t wait to take another run at a championship.
We’re just happy to be here in the Big Apple, rain or shine. It’s been coming down all day, and a little chill in the air. Hopefully, we’ll get enough decent weather to play some baseball and get back home in good shape.
Facing the Yankees, the favorites, is kind of like facing the Red Sox. People said we weren’t supposed to win that series, but we had other ideas.
We were happy to play the Red Sox. We never said one word that we didn’t want to play the Red Sox. That all came from the media. We wanted to play anybody. We’re just happy to still be playing with a shot at the ring.
When I was younger and with the Twins, it was awesome going out and playing center field at Yankee Stadium in the postseason. They beat us in 2003 and 2004, but we were all minimum wage guys.
This team is a little different. We’ve got an owner, Arte Moreno, who wants to win as much as we do. When we went out and got Mark Teixeira last year at the Trade Deadline, I screamed, I was so happy.
Teixeira is the enemy, of course, but he’s a good dude. I really liked him when we were teammates, and I think he helped guys with his approach. Bobby Abreu has been doing that for us this year, helping not just the young guys but everybody. He has great at-bats. You don’t want to go up and swing at the first pitch after he’s had a seven-pitch at-bat. It trickles down, the domino effect.
We have a lot of leaders on this team, veterans who have been around, guys like Chone Figgins, Vladdy “Mula” Guerrero, John Lackey, Brian Fuentes. And Bobby is one of them. He’s a great leader.
People think he’s quiet, but Bobby’s not as mellow as you think. He is funny. He has everybody cracking up in the clubhouse. He’s so much fun off the field, but when he steps between those lines, he’s focused, man.
As for the Yankees, what can you say that hasn’t already been said? They always have one of the best lineups. It’s nothing different than in the past. You look at my old buddy CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Tex . . . so many great players. Those guys are impressive over there. I like them as a team. They play the game right, the way we do.
As for the Angels beating the Yankees in the playoffs twice before, in 2002 and 2005, I wasn’t here, so I don’t have a lot to offer about that. We played them even this year, five wins apiece. There was a lot of scoring, a lot of yelling, and some quiet times. Yankee Stadium, old or new, it’s always exciting to play here.
As a kid, you grow up watching games at Yankee Stadium, and how here you are, in the postseason. The regular season doesn’t matter now. It’s all about what you do now.
I’m sure I’ll be as excited as ever running out to center field in Game 1, all that adrenaline pumping. It’s a dream come true, playing on this field, in the ALCS, with a chance to beat the Yankees. I think we can do. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and we can go out and see what happens.
I’ve never been a part of a game that felt any better than this. The way we came back, the way we just refused to go down, it was just amazing to be in the middle of something like that.
I can’t tell you how good I feel for Vladimir Guerrero. This has been a very rough season for him, with all the injuries he’s had to overcome. To see him deliver like he did, driving that game-winning hit against Jonathan Papelbon, was unbelievable.
This guy Vladdy is a Hall of Famer in my book. He’s an all-time great hitter, and a great teammate. I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone was so thrilled to see him get that big, big hit. Because he’s been so great for so long, and people were starting to doubt him. Who’s doubting Vladdy now? Who’s saying he can’t hit a good fastball?
There were so many big moments. Erick Aybar got it started with his two-out hit, then Chone Figgins worked a huge walk against Papelbon. Bobby Abreu comes up, and he’s a guy you want hitting in that situation, cool as can be. He drives one off the monster, and now we’re only one run down.
I was ready to hit, looking forward to it, but they walked me intentionally. Was I surprised? I can’t really say. Their manager, Terry Francona, knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy.
So is my man, Mike Scioscia – manager of the year! No doubt.
I’m happy they did walk me now, because of the way it turned out, but I really wanted to hit in that situation. It’s what you live for as an athlete, and that’s why we’re all so happy for Vlad.
The big man came through in a big way. Hits don’t get any bigger than that one. He’s not a guy who shows much emotion, but he was smiling over there at first base like you rarely see him. I was pointing over to him from second base, and I could just feel his joy. It was one of those magical moments.
This team has so much character, I can’t say enough about the heart of these guys. We have been playing for Nick Adenhart all season, and I know he’s proud of us now. Nick loved the game, everything about it, and this was as good as it gets, beating the Red Sox in Boston. I’ve got a lot of respect for that team over there, how good those guys are. That’s what makes this so gratifying.
No more talk about curses!
We beat the Red Sox in their house!
As for Nick, I like what our hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, said. If Nick’s up there writing the script, it’s a masterpiece.
We’re going to celebrate this, but we know we’ve still got work to do. We don’t want this to end.
The Twins, my old team, are still alive. I’m not going to lie. I’m pulling for those guys against the Yankees. Hey, I raised some of those guys on the Twins team. How could I not be pulling for them?
Whoever we play, we’re going to be ready. We’ve got everything we need on this team, young guys with energy, smart veterans, pitching, hitting, defense, speed. And athletes. Man, we’ve got some athletes. We just have to go out and keep doing what we do.
We got the first three wins. Now we need four more to get to where we want to be, the Fall Classic.
Enjoy the ride, everybody. I guarantee you we are. I just need to find some goggles that keep the champagne out of my eyes.
We’re going to Boston feeling good about being up 2-0, but we’re staying hungry. We won’t be satisfied until this is over. We’re going to enjoy these two wins, but we know how dangerous the Red Sox are, and we’ve got a job to finish now.
So many guys came through in this second game, but you have to start with Jered Weaver. Man, he was dealing. I’ve got a great view out in center field, and he was on his game, just like John Lackey in Game 1. Weaver’s been doing it all season, and he really brought it out on the big stage. And that was great to see, after the way he’s performed all year long for us.
We’re having fun, playing our game. It’s something we’re talking about. Let’s have fun and let our God-given ability take place.
Josh Beckett is a big-game pitcher, one of the best. It’s not easy to beat a guy like Beckett. His ball was moving, like usual, but we had some great at-bats and scored some runs.
How about Vladimir Guerrero, going the other way for a big hit and then drawing that walk to get our seventh inning started. We were having a lot of fun with Vladdy over that. The big man really came through. He’s a Hall of Famer.
Then Howard Kendrick comes in to run for Vladdy and steals a big bag. Beckett’s quick over to first, so it’s not easy to run on him. Howie got a nice jump and beat it cleanly. Then Maicer Izturis, who hadn’t even played for about a week, walks up and does what he does – he slammed that huge base-hit to center field for the lead.
Maicer is one of those quiet guys people don’t pay much attention to, but he can play the game. He does it all, and he’s a guy you want up there in a big situation, because he’s so cool.
Big Mike Napoli goes old school and takes a pitch in the back, and that keeps it going. And then Erick Aybar — what a season he’s had — he goes up and crushes that ball to center field, and he’s flying to third base. That’s the way we play the game, hard, aggressively. Aybar’s not scared. He loves to compete.
We know all about the Red Sox. Those guys are not going to let up. They’ve been down before and come back. We can enjoy this now, but starting Sunday, forget that and go out and play the game.
The next one is at noon on Sunday, East Coast time, and we’ve got a day to get adjusted and be ready. I might have a cup of coffee before that one. Hopefully, we’ll all get some good sleep and be ready to go.
I couldn’t sleep the night before the series started. You just want the game to be here. Then it’s finally here, and you go out and play, get a big win, and it’s just an incredible feeling.
What you do after a game like this is you go home, dream about it, get up tomorrow, and come back and do it again.
Sure, it’s a big win, and my home run felt great. But it’s just one game, and we know how good these Red Sox are. Nobody has to tell us.
The first thing I want to mention is the crowd. Man, it was loud. I’ve never heard Angel Stadium get that loud. That was exciting.
It was a great duel starting out between two of the best, John Lackey and Jon Lester. Lackey was Lackey. He came through big with his A game when we needed it. And Lester, man, he’s tough — one of the best lefties in the game. He throws hard, and he brings that slider down at your feet.
In my second at-bat, when I walked, he actually hit me on the back foot with a pitch. I looked back at the umpire, Joe West, but he didn’t see it. So I stayed up there. Right now, my big toenail is sore.
When I came up in the fifth, we had runners on first and third. It was a good hitting situation. Erick Aybar doubled, and Chone Figgins bunted him to third. Then Bobby Abreu walked. Four walks in one game – can you believe that? That man is too much.
I took a pitch from Lester and then he threw a two-seam fastball. Bobby was running, and I saw him going. I hit a mistake, I guess. I usually pop it up. Truth is, I didn’t know where the ball was. I closed my eyes and swung.
Running the bases, the crowd going crazy, the adrenaline was pumping so hard, it was unbelievable. I wish everyone could know what that feels like. It’s hard to describe. Just an unbelievable experience. I was running the bases and talking to myself, kind of like when I played football in high school. `Do what you do,’ that kind of thing.
When I got in the dugout, I was so excited I spiked my helmet. It was just one of those moments, a tremendous release.
This is special. I rank it way up there. But it’s just the start.
We played the way I know we can play in this first game. Now we have to keep it going. I try to lead by example. I don’t know if I’m going to hit a home run – you can’t just tell yourself to do it. You just react and play the game, have faith and confidence that you’re going to get it done.
What I like about our team is that the guys brought the dog with them. You can’t be scared, or you’re never going to make it happen.
We have to keep believing in ourselves and keep playing the game with passion and playing smart. If we do that, I like our chances.
This is my sixth postseason, and it’s a whole new season. It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season. It’s all about who wants it more. You see guys who hit 30, 40 homers, drive in 100 runs, and they don’t do a thing in postseason. You’ve got pitchers who dominate in the regular season and don’t win in the postseason. It’s the same game, but different.
I think guys here learned from last year, losing in four games to Boston. I’m not saying any names, but I can hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes. It’s totally different. The younger guys have that bulldog in them now. It’s what I was waiting to see, and I’m seeing it now.
I love this time of year. It takes me back to high school football in Pine Bluff, Ark., when I just wanted to go out and hit guys. I still want to hit — just a different kind of hitting.
Even though it’s the same game, the adrenaline and hype of it take you up to another level. You’ve got to block it out, go out and have fun. I don’t think anything needs to be said. We finished off on a good note, winning seven of the last eight, and we’re carrying that momentum into the postseason.
One thing about the playoffs – you don’t need any coffee. You don’t want to get too boosted up. I hurt my knee jumping up and down on a play last year against the Red Sox where I thought I was safe – and I wasn’t. The adrenaline was going crazy on me. I’m drinking straight water. Pure adrenaline is going to take over for you.
My whole focus is on the Red Sox, of course, but I’ve got to say, that Twins-Tigers playoff game was awesome. I watched it at home, and I caught myself every once in a while cheering for the guys I used to play with in Minnesota. They battled through it and got it done, and to do it without Justin Morneau, one of the best pure hitters in the game, and Joe Crede, that was impressive. But I know those guys, how much heart they have, how they battle.
Now they go on to New York. In 2003 and 2004, the Yankees put it on us. Hopefully, they can get it done. I texted most of the guys after it was over and told them how happy I was for them. It was a roller-coaster ride, and I was really excited for Alexi Casilla, getting the big hit, and of course for Joe Mauer and the rest of the guys.
Now they just go on straight adrenaline. The Twins probably have momentum, coming off a playoff game, a great win, but that’s a good team they’re playing.
The Twins are probably the closest team to us in their style. They’ve got a batting champion in Mauer, and they always play hard. I think we might have a couple more athletes. Put us on a football field, and we’d win. We have some old quarterbacks on this team – John Lackey, Jeff Mathis, Scott Kazmir, myself. Mathis would be our QB. He was a division I recruit, by Florida State.
I’ve got a lot of confidence in Lackey in Game 1. John’s a bulldog who wants the ball every fifth day. He’s not afraid to throw strikes. The passion he has on the mound, when he comes into the dugout, either he’s upset or excited. I always like our chances when he’s out there.
As for our offense, you can’t say enough about what Bobby Abreu has brought to this team. Bobby’s whole thing is swing at strikes – whether it’s the first pitch or the last pitch you see. It’s simple, but it’s hard, especially for young guys and a hitter like Vladimir Guerrero, who’s always been so aggressive. Vladdy’s Vladdy. He’s been playing and doing it his way for a long time. And he’s a Hall of Famer.
Bobby definitely had a positive impact on me. I’ve been playing for years, but I’m getting better. Besides his approach on the field, another thing Bobby brings is the way he prepares himself. He gets here early, does his running, lifts his weights. Guys see that, and they want to be like Bobby. They know he’s always on the field.
The way Bobby carries himself, that’s another thing he brings to the clubhouse. He’s always relaxed, always singing. He’s a bad singer, but that’s OK. He’s suave. One of a kind.
I really like the way we set up with Chone Figgins and Bobby up top, then the rest of us. Those two guys know how to get on base and run the bases. Guys like Vlad, Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales, we’ve got some bangers in the middle. We have a lot of weapons.
I think we’re ready. Now it’s time to go out and get it done.
A lot of people around the game aren’t noticing how good our division, the AL West, is this season. If you look at the records, it’s the best of the six divisions – and it’s not even close.
I’m finally back now, playing again, but I’ve had a lot of time lately to watch games and study things, missing five weeks with the adductor strain on my right side. One thing I’ve seen is that our whole division has been playing some great baseball, whether the media recognizes it or not.
Check it out. After Sunday’s games, the AL West’s four teams are a combined 35 games over .500. The next closest is the AL East, 25 games over .500. That’s a 10-game gap.
Our Angels are 26 over, Texas is 17 over, and Seattle is four over. Oakland is 12 under .500.
The only way you can judge a division is how it does outside its own division, since you’re going to end up .500 playing each other. We’ve beaten up on the AL East, and I think that says a lot about how tough our division has been. We’re 21 games over .500 against the East. Boston is 11-20 against the West, and Tampa Bay is 8-17.
To be 35 games above .500 overall, that’s a division winning percentage of .537. Take all of our games outside the division, and our winning percentage is .553.
After the AL East, the next strongest division is the NL West, 12 games over .500. What that tells me is there’s great baseball being played all over the West. Look at Colorado and San Francisco, leading Florida and Atlanta in the Wild Card race, and Texas taking the lead from Boston for the AL Wild Card.
The NL East is nine games under .500, and the two Centrals are way down. The NL Central is 26 games under .500, and the AL Central is 37 games below .500.
The Yankees and Red Sox get most of the national publicity and attention, but if you put their records together, they’re 140-96. The Angels and Rangers combined are 138-95. That’s close to a dead heat.
I remember watching ESPN last year, hearing guys say that the Los Angeles Angels have the best record in baseball, but it’s because they beat up on a weak division. We beat up on everybody last year, not just the West.
To say we benefit from playing in a weak division, that’s just not true – especially this year. Our record in the division is not good. We’re 15-19. But we’re 23-10 against the AL East, 19-12 against the Central and 14-4 in Interleague Play.
The Rangers, look what they’re doing. Those guys can play. Seattle is hanging tough and still playing well, and Oakland’s playing good baseball with all the young players it has.
West Coast teams just get no respect. Why? I guess because everybody’s asleep in the East when we’re doing our thing.
I’m not in the AL Central any more, with the Twins, so I can tell you that the West is a lot better than people think. And I’m not even bringing up the travel factor, how our teams have to spend so much more time in the air and how that can wear on you over a long season.
The West is for real. Don’t sleep on us. And there’s a ton of great young talent coming up in both West divisions, so it should be wild out West for a long time to come.
It’s an awesome place, no doubt about it. New Yankee Stadium has all the modern, state-of-the-art conveniences, and it still has that feel of the old stadium, where you always knew you were walking into history every time you played there. The field looks the same and plays basically the same, and that’s great. Why mess with a good thing?
It’s a funny thing about the old ballpark. I didn’t do very well there during the regular season, but I had some moments in October in the postseason. Even those came with a bad ending, though. The Yankees beat my Twins in the 2003 and 2004 playoffs, and that always stings. Still stings, to this day.
Lyle Spencer of MLB.com did some research and reminded me that I had some big games in the old park when it really counted. He told me I should remember that I came up big on the big stage, the biggest one, and I appreciated that.
In 2003, we won the first game of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium, 3-1. I had a triple, an RBI and two walks that day. In Game 2, Andy Pettitte beat us, 4-1. Our only run was a home run I hit, and I had another hit that day.
They beat us in four games in that series, and I ended up hitting .429. In my first playoff series, in 2002 against the A’s, I’d batted .300 with four doubles and two RBIs in five games.
I’m not that big on numbers, but it’s nice to have those next to my name, I have to admit. October baseball is what it’s all about. It always takes me back to my high school football days in Arkansas, the adrenaline and excitement and energy you feel.
In 2004, back at Yankee Stadium, we won Game 1 again, 2-0, behind Johan Santana, and I went 1-for-4. The next game was a heartbreaker. We lost, 7-6, in 12 innings. I went 3-for-6 with a double and a homer. I had a single against Tom Gordon when we scored two runs in the eighth inning to tie the game.
The homer came against Tanyon Sturtze with two outs in the 12th inning and gave us the lead. But the Yankees came back with two in the bottom half to win it.
That was my last postseason game in the old park. I ended up going 7-for-16 in the Bronx in those four games for a .438 average, with two homers, a triple and a double.
We ended up losing that series too, in four games, and I batted .353. It’s strange. Even though I put up some good numbers in those two series, I was left feeling nothing but disappointment and frustration.
It’s not hard to figure out why. This is a team game, and it’s all about winning. You win as a team, lose as a team.
So there we were last October, playing Boston in the ALDS, full of high hopes in my first season with the Angels. I thought we were ready. I was confident we had the best team — and it was the same deal. Heartbreak.
The numbers say I had a good series, hitting .389 with five RBIs in four games, but we lost, and it hurt way down deep. Same ol’ same ol’, and that’s something we have to change this season.
I’ve played in 20 ALDS games with a .350 average and a .563 slugging percentage. But the only time we made it to the AL Championship Series, in 2002, the Angels knocked us off on their way to the World Series title.
It’s time for the Angels to do it again. And I want to be right in the middle of it when it happens.