Monday, September 24, 2007

by Eric Denton

Sunday, September 23, 2007, the day the Angels can utter the word they've been fighting for.


The time for celebration is here, the first goal has been achieved. The Angels shrugged off multiple trips to the disabled list by their regulars and at times a sputtering offense and bullpen inconsistencies to capture their sixth AL West Championship.

A 7-4 victory eliminated the second place Seattle Mariners and put the Angels into the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons under manager Mike Scioscia.

While the Angels do not know who they will be facing in the post-season at this point, but they do know who it might be. The Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox have clinched playoff berths, with the New York Yankees in the drivers seat to capture the AL Wild Card. The Halos still have some work to do in the 2007 season. It would be nice for the Angels to end up with the best overall record assuring them home field advantage throughout the playoffs. While home field would be beneficial to the Angels, (they finished their home schedule 54-27, matching the 2002 World Series championship team for the best mark in franchise history.) resting some banged up regulars is going to be the main focus for Mike Scioscia.

The Angels have a 6-3 record against the Yankees, 5-5 record against the Indians and 4-6 against the Boston Red Sox. However, in their last seven meetings against Boston, the Angels are 4-3 winning two of four games at Fenway Park in August.

For some Angels this is their first champagne party. Center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. summed up why he came to the team this off-season.

"I knew champagne stings your eyes, but I had no idea it stings your skin. But you know what? This is the reason I came here, because I thought this was the best opportunity to win."

This Angels team has a much better chance in this writers opinion than they did in either 2004 or 2005. Those teams, while good clubs, did not have that certain spark this club has. Mike Scioscia has used over 100 different lineup combinations this year. When given a chance, the Angels youngsters and bench players came up big. Casey Kotchman and Chone Figgins regained their form in 2007. Reggie Willits showed he could be a premiere lead off hitter in MLB. Macier Izturis is currently leading the club batting .404 with RISP. Kendry Morales, Jeff Mathis were also big contributors to the club after mediocre showings in 2006.

This years playoff team will not feature AAAA players such as Alfredo Amezega and Adam Riggs or a still wet behind the ears Dallas McPherson as was the case in 04, or Kelvim Escobar pitching out of the bullpen in 2005. This years team seems to finally be healthy at the right time. Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, Justin Speier, Howie Kendrick and Gary Matthews are back in the lineup in time for the post-season.

Vladimir Guerrero will have a productive Garret Anderson batting behind him this year. Hopefully this will give Guerrero more pitches to see and the team MVP will have a big post-season after a disastrous one in 2005. The Angels will also need Chone Figgins and his .344 batting average to maintain the same consistency during the playoffs.

"The goal in this clubhouse has not been reached," said John Lackey during the celebration. "We're going to have a good time tonight . . . but we have three more [celebrations] to go. I've been through all of them, and it gets better as you go."

Lackey is right.

The ultimate goal has not been reached and each celebration is sweeter than the next. It's been five years since the 2002 World Series Championship.
Only Anderson, Lackey, Figgins, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez remain. With the exception of Anderson, these players were all rookies in 2002 and have learned you don't win a championship every season and reaching that goal is one you have to earn. Along with Guerrero, this is their team and their time to shine and show the world that the "other" LA team is the premiere franchise in Major League Baseball.

Three more champagne parties to go. If everything goes right the next time we'll see a picture of a soaked Arte Moreno, he'll be holding the Halos second World Series trophy.
Love to hear what you think!

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