First Place

It’s not just another baseball season, of course. The Nick Adenhart tragedy ensured that, and will overshadow anything that will happen to this franchise for years to come. There are constant reminders: the picture in centerfield, the pregame video montage, and the memorial out in front of the stadium. I haven’t visited in a month, but I know it’s there, and I think about it every single game. It’s humbling. The team plays with another patch on its shoulder – for longtime scout Preston Gomez, who passed away in January, never fully recovering from head injuries after being struck by a vehicle over a year ago. It’s always been a star-crossed franchise, but Lyman Bostock and Donnie Moore were before my time.

Everything else pales in comparison. Everything else is just baseball. But even by those standards, it’s been a trying season. Four members of our starting rotation have hit the disabled list for extended amounts of time. Lackey and Santana have since returned, but other than a glimpse here and there, neither have performed to their abilities. Escobar and Moseley remain in limbo. Meanwhile, the bridge to new closer Brian Fuentes has been precarious all year long. Our superb late-inning guys from 2008 – Shields and Arredondo – looked awful the first two months. Turns out they both nursed injuries, and the former won’t be back this season. And for the next two weeks, we won’t have our #3 and #4 hitters.

Back in April, I watched pained as the bullpen blow one game after another. Every game was close, and then the floodgates would open in the middle innings. Against Bulger. Against Jepsen, Thompson, Rodriguez, Shields, Speier, and anybody else we could throw out there. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. And after a week or two of exasperation, I came to expect failure. It is hard to fathom that that was the same season. In spite of everything, the Angels somehow sit in first place, three months later. Even speaking in baseball, I realize that it doesn’t matter. And in the greater scope of things, it matters less. At the same time, this team being in first place this season is so incredibly meaningful. I know it sounds strange, but I’m proud. I’m proud of the guys. And I’ve never been prouder of this organization.

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