Friday, April 12, 2013

By Jessica Grey, Staff Writer -

There’s no way to sugar coat this: the start of this season has sucked.  I’m a generally optimistic person, but even I’m having a hard time finding the silver linings in this particular black cloud.

Sometimes good things come out of bad starts.  I know you’ve heard the comparison before, but the 2002 season did start off pretty crappy.  True, the win/loss ratio was a little bit better than it is right now, but it was still bad.  The 2009 season also started out with struggle, albeit for different and much more important reasons then just losing baseball games.

Both of those seasons saw the Angels recovering from their early struggles and going on to postseason play.  And of course the 2002 season ended with the Angels as the champions of baseball.

“Yeah, yeah,” you say, “But we are an almost entirely different team than we were in 2009, and most definitely a different team than we were in 2002.”

This is true.  It’s also true that maybe “recovering” from a bad start isn’t the right term.  It’s not like you just get over this kind of defeat and go away unchanged as a person or a ball club.  The early struggle becomes a part of who you are, a part of how you play.  I would argue that without the bad start in 2002—if the Angels had come out and been a middle of the road team, maybe gone 10-10 instead of 6-14, it might have been easier to say “well, this is just going to be another average year.

It’s so much easier to be complacent when you’re cruising around in the average lane.

It’s harder when you can objectively look at something and say “Wow, we suck. Something needs to be done.”  Because then you actually have to do things.  Things like change and grow and get better.

That—the coming out of the fire and being better for it—that’s what makes great stories.  That’s why every single sports movie starts with a team not doing well.  It’s why championship teams like the 2002 Angels speak so strongly to us, why they live in our memory for so long. Would it be fun for fans and awesome for the players if a team started out fantastic, stayed fantastic, and ended fantastic?  Of course.  But it would be just that—fun.  The reward is sweeter when the struggle has been harder.

Of course this doesn’t address the issue of what the Angels can do to change—to grow from the place they are now.  And as much as I’d like to act like I can talk with authority about what it takes to run a professional baseball team, balancing every single thing that needs to go into putting together a winning season, it would be just that—an act.  I think, if we were honest, it is for most fans.  We all have our own ideas about what would work, what reliever should come in and in what inning...I suspect it might be a little bit more difficult to make those choices if we were actually in charge (please note, I am not saying fans don’t have a right to complain about manager decisions, complain all you want).

So am I frustrated by our rough start?  Yes.  Does it depress me?  Yes.  Am I sorry it happened?  I don’t know yet.

If the Angels can pull themselves together as a team, walk out of this fire, and come out stronger and more cohesive as a team, then no.  I will not be sorry one bit for any of these losses.  If they can’t, I will be sorry...but maybe not for the losses.

As a fan I believe they will come out of it.  I can look at the group of guys on our team and honestly say that I am sure they will pull it together.  The only question in my mind is how long will it take.  I know that the response of many fans will be, “Well, it better be soon or we won’t have a chance at the post season.”  Personally, I’m not even going to worry about the post season right now.  I want to see good baseball.  I want to see a functioning, healthy team.

Here’s what we have going for us: being in last place.  You read that right. For me, at least, there’s a freedom in being in last place.  To hit rock bottom nice and early so that you can experience the pain and struggle and that uncomfortable growth process before you’ve settled into complacency.

Let me put it this way: I’d rather having a crappy record now than a mediocre one with a crash later.

I could end this with any number of cliches - it’s always darkest before the dawn, the reward will be sweeter (oh wait, I already used that one), there’s nowhere to go but up, (insert your favorite cliche here).  But I won’t, even though they’re mostly true.  I’ll end with this instead:

The start of this season has sucked. I look forward to the rest of the season.

Love to hear what you think!

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