Last season I was at the Big A when the A’s eliminated the Angels from contention in the AL West and all but eliminated them from the Wild Card race. I cheered the Angels on loudly and remained positive throughout the game even when the end was pretty clear. But as soon as the bright flashes of the season’s last Big Bang Friday fireworks began to light up the sky behind the rock pile, the tears started to roll down my cheeks. They did not stop until we were back in the car and halfway home from the game.
However, I have yet to shed any tears for the end of the Angels’ 2012 season. Not when the Texas Rangers eliminated the Angels from AL West contention in the second game of Sunday’s double header. Not when the Rangers also knocked the Angels out of the Wild Card race on Monday, this time by losing to the A’s. And, while of course I can’t be sure, I kind of feel like the tears aren’t going to start at any point in the coming days either.
A cynical person might say that I’m becoming inured to Angels disappointments (though the use of “becoming” certainly implies an ignorance of Angels baseball prior to 2002) but that isn’t the case at all. In 2011 I felt like, although there were certainly individual exceptions, the team as a whole just didn’t have the heart or the fight to really make a go of it. To my baseball fan’s heart, that was tragic. 2012 may have started off that way, but as the season progressed and the team gelled, the heart came out and the Angels started to fight hard. It wasn’t enough. There were clearly other issues the team needed to overcome and did not, but the presence of the heart and the fight made 2012 more of a disappointment than a tragedy for me.
In the coming days and weeks, the various talking heads, print reporters and seemingly everyone else are going to discuss this Angels season in terms of failure. I’m sure they’ll pair failure with adjectives like complete, utter and colossal because huge sums of money were spent, expectations were high and pumped up even higher by said talking heads, and expectations were not met. I get that. And, like I said, I’m disappointed, but I just can’t join them in calling the entire season a failure.
The Angels 2012 was the season:
- Of Jered Weaver’s first career no hitter and also his first 20 win season.
- Of Mike Trout being all that we ever hoped for and more…and the impressive list of his amazing achievements this season is still growing!
- Of Torii Hunter playing like one of the kids again and proving more than ever why he is the team leader.
- Of four Angels being named to the AL All Star Team and deservedly so.
- And of smaller victories too, like Kevin Jepsen coming back from knee surgery as a reliable reliever we could all cheer for; and Mark Trumbo starting off the season on tear and exceeding last season’s stats even with his long slump in the second half.
- And yes, this was also a season where everyone predicted the Angels would make the playoffs, many predicted they would make it to the World Series and the Angels were unable to do any such thing.
But when I add all of that together, I just don’t come up with failure as the sum total. The fact of the last item’s truth does not in any way lessen my joy in the rest of the list.
Look, I am absolutely not one of those “winning isn’t important, let’s give everyone a participation prize and a great big self-esteem boosting hug instead” folks. But at the same time I reject the idea that the only acceptable outcome to any competition is winning the prize. Yes, winning is very important. Yes, winning is the best outcome and should always be the goal, but winning is not the only good outcome. Competitions just aren’t that black and white. Falling short of the goal isn’t failing. Failure is achieving nothing. Failure is not even having the heart to fight. Neither of those definitions describe the 2012 Angels.
So, Angels fans. Be disappointed. Be sad. Be angry. Laugh maniacally as you stick pins into the scapegoat bobble head(s) of your choice. Feel whatever it is you’re feeling right now and deal with this disappointment in your own way. But do not forget to hold your head high – and that’s my advice to the players too, incidentally – because there was a lot about this season to be proud of.
We have much to discuss this offseason. Some of the Angels 2012 issues righted themselves over the course of the season, but there are other issues that the team absolutely must address before 2013 and I know we all have our opinions how the team should handle them. Let’s just not lose sight of all of the positive things, of all of the smaller victories throughout the season, while we’re playing armchair GM.