By Jason Sinner - Angelswin Columnist
Oh the times they are a changed.
2002 was the most amazing year in the history of Halo baseball. Everything came together. We were the playoffs version of the ‘Fargo’ wood chipper. We were unstoppable. I'm am quite sure that every Angel fan on the planet has very fond memories of that season right to the very last nerve racking second as Erstad settled under that ball. I remember I was on an airplane at the time and when the flight attendant made the announcement, the entire cabin erupted in unison. I'll never forget that moment as long as I live.
Does anyone remember how the 2001 season ended? Although you might, it is certainly a memory that holds very little joy or any real significance. We finished 75-87 that year. A whopping 41 games behind the first place Mariners and only two games out of the cellar. It was a pretty dismal year to say the least. It was just another addition to a fairly long string of disappointing moments in Angel history to that point. We also finished that year near the middle of the pack in attendance. About two million fans showed up to watch, but it was the ninth time in the last ten years that the team was below the league average.
Anyone remember the 2001/2002 off-season? We added Brad Fullmer. Not a bad pickup at the time, but not exactly David Ortiz (who knew?). We replaced Ismael Valdez and Pat Rapp with Aaron Sele and Kevin Appier (The Appier/Sele combo had an ERA of 0.2 better than the combo of Valdez and Rapp the previous year). That's about it. Two innings eaters and a mediocre DH to a team that was twelve games below .500 and out of first by over 50% of their total wins for the previous season. I don't recall my exact level of optimism at the time, but as the 2002 season approached, I don't remember thinking we had any shot of winning the whole thing.
Remember that 2002 team?
(and a few others)
Doesn't exactly strike fear into my heart even knowing what I know now. I can say with the utmost confidence that nobody saw us coming.
Well, you've come a long way baby. Three division titles later, and oh how the times have changed. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are now about as inconspicuous as a fart in a car. Fans flock to games in droves driving attendance at or over a million above the league average. Payroll has skyrocketed to consistently well over $100million and we are a common destination or at least on the short list of any of the top free agents from year to year. We maintain a top farm system and are generally considered one of the top franchises in all of professional sports, let alone baseball.
With all this success, however, come greater expectations. We have seen the halo mantra change from 'Yes We Can!' to 'We need a big bat!'. There is constant scrutiny of even the most trivial of front office moves by both media and fans and good is no longer good enough. The Halos have truly come to reside under the proverbial microscope. We have been drawn in by the sweet taste of glory and our addiction is now complete as we constantly look to replicate that virgin high. Every top player even remotely available is a must. Every top prospect is a future hall of famer. Every current player must perform at or above expectations at all times or they will endure the fan's wrath. The media has recognized this sucker as easy pickens as they constantly tantalize and tease us with their rumors and inside information of the next big name that is potentially coming our way.
As the now all too familiar disappointment of a less than perfect off-season mounts we sit at our desks in front of our keyboards and analyze every foreseeable possibility of the coming season. The sick lineups. The playoff matchups. The potential trades. The disappointment and frustration that we are bound to endure. "We can't beat them, they have our number." "We aren't an elite team." "Another playoff three and out coming."
Were we better off before when expectations weren't so lofty? When the playoffs were a treat and not an embarrassment? When we were also rans and step children and under the radar?
I submit the following as exhibit A and ask the jury to compare it to the 2002 World Championship Team:
I have my own conclusion. You can come to yours.
Before the 2002 season, the electronic paper trail was much different. We had little hope, and history certainly wasn't on our side. We weren't the best team on paper. Not even close. A lot has changed. The fans, the owner, the media, the players and especially the expectations. But one thing remains the same, when those players step between the lines come April, each and every one of us will root and cheer and pour our hearts into each and every game. If you were witness to the 2002 Championship Team and the pain, heartache and years of mediocrity that came previous, then you can look at our team now and know deep down inside that we can win it all.