Saturday, October 10, 2009

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

By David Saltzer - Columnist

Aybar, I’m sorry.

I’ll admit it: I wasn’t an Aybar fan this year. By the end of April, I was ready to throw in the towel on him. In several threads I wrote that the Angels should either trade him or bench him in favor of playing Brandon Wood.

I wasn’t condemning him for missing the bunt in last year’s playoffs. While failing to make a critical play never makes for popularity, I wasn’t willing to condemn him for an isolated moment. After all, in Game 3 last year, Aybar drove in Mike Napoli in the 12th inning to win the game and force the controversial Game 4.

Instead, by the end of April, I was frustrated with him. While he made spectacular plays, he botched the routine plays. He could go from hero to zero in the same inning. He lacked confidence at the plate and was a space cadet in the field. I couldn’t understand how he could be so erratic in his play.

And yet, Scioscia stuck with him.

Prior to the 2008 season, I had seen Aybar develop in our minor leagues. I was so impressed with Aybar, that I was more than confident in the decision to trade Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland. At the time, this wasn’t the most popular trade as “OC” was coming off a career year and the Angels paid part of his salary to make the deal happen.

But, by April, all of that promise looked like a distant memory. That canon for an arm that I had seen him display in the minor leagues threw erratically. Those spectacular plays on the field that I had seen him make paled in comparison the botched routine plays that I watched him miss. The steady contact that I had seen him make in the minors led to only a 245/263/340 line.

And yet, Scioscia stuck with him.

Aybar, I have to admit it: I was wrong about you and for that, I’m sorry. Watching you play in the second half of this year has been like watching a completely different player from the one I saw in April. Watching you play in the post season is a night-and day type difference between the one I saw last year. You’ve become the player I hoped you would be and have become an integral part of our offense and defense.

Thank you Scioscia for believing in Aybar and sticking with him in spite of all howls from the arm-chair managers like me. And, thank you Aybar for working hard to refine and improve your game. The Angels would not be this confident against Boston without your spectacular and steady defense or your much improved offense.
Love to hear what you think!


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