Thursday, February 11, 2010

By Thomas Crow - Contributor

Having already clinched the best record in the American League, the 2008 Angels had one goal remaining to complete what would be the most successful regular season in franchise history. With 99 wins and three games to go, 100 or more wins seemed certain with Texas coming to town.

The Rangers were simply playing out their remaining few games while the Western Division Champion Angels were preparing for the playoffs and had their three top starters ready to take the mound. However, after two disappointing, even if meaningless, starts by John Lackey and Ervin Santana, Angels fans began to resign themselves that 99 might have to be good enough. Heck, 99 wins was good enough in 2002 wasn't it?

Joe Saunders, who was fresh off enduring kidney stones, would have none of that, though. He and the Angels bullpen combined to three-hit the always powerful Rangers lineup, who had scored twenty runs the previous two games. Mike Napoli concluded his sizzling September by going 3-for-3 with two doubles and blast over the center field fence to drive in four runs, securing the 100th win for the Angels and an appreciative home crowd.

It may have taken them all 162 games, but the Angels finally reached the century mark in wins and in doing so joined a rather exclusive club of excellent teams who have done so. The Angels finished 21 games in front of the second place Rangers and a gaudy 39 games in front of the trendy pre-season division pick Mariners. Even more remarkable was the Angels won 50 games at home and 50 games on the road.

Sadly for us fans, however, the Angels met the same fate as many of their 100-plus win peers by losing in the playoffs. For whatever reason these teams, despite all their regular season success, historically far more seemingly than their fair share do not win the World Series. But four postseason games cannot diminish what is accomplished over 162. Winning a fourth division title in five years, after winning three in four previous decades is quite an accomplishment.

This is truly the golden age of the Angels franchise. We could easily be writing about the most wins again next season and perhaps even that now seemingly elusive second World Series title.
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