The Top 3 Questions Angels Fans Should Be Asking


There are always warning signs to addiction.

Addicts often experience mental and emotional instability, changes in physical appearance, and a sudden rejection of family or friends.

Fans, then, are addicts.

First and foremost, we are fanatics, the root of the term “fan.” We cheer wildly in large groups of strangers for players most of us have never met. We dress up in costumes like children on Halloween to show our team pride.

And, for a brief few hours, we push away everything in our world that doesn’t revolve around that day’s game.

Friends, family, work? All an after-thought.

However, in our nearly uncontrollable fanaticism, many of us also forget to truly examine our passions, to compare the fantasy in our minds with the reality on the field and see if they match up.

This offseason, the scuttlebutt surrounding the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has centered almost exclusively on the starting pitching, with a slight foray into third base.

Now, that is not to say that these issues do not have their place in our minds, because they do.

The moment John Lackey and Roy Halladay were out of reach, Angels fans were immediately critical of the front office and horribly afraid for the future.

Months later, many are still questioning who will step into that all-important “ace” role.

A few have also wondered what kind of player Brandon Wood will be as he enters his first full season as the Angels’ third baseman.

However, these are not the only questions we should be asking. Or rather, they are only a part of the larger questions that we as fans must keep in mind for the season to come.

Here are the top three questions the Angels will have to answer in 2010.

How Will Nick Adenhart Be Remembered This Season?

This might not seem like the most burning question facing the Angels in 2010, but it may be more important than some realize.

Following Nick Adenhart’s death, fans watched helplessly as the Angels drifted through the first two months of the season, their head slung low along with their spirits.

They played 159 games with a black patch over their hearts to honor their fallen comrade.

That is a lot of grief to be carrying around.

Even before Adenhart was killed, players were already sporting memorial patches in honor of longtime Angels advisor Preston Gomez.

Now, here we are in February, and Angels owner Arte Moreno continues to sport a No. 34 button (Adenhart’s uniform number) on his jacket at the Spring Training facilities in Tempe, Arizona.

At last check, the fan memorial set up in Adenhart’s honor outside the home plate gates at the Big A remains untouched.

It is difficult for a team to perform well with such heavy hearts, and it wasn’t until manager Mike Scioscia snapped them out of their funk that the Angels finally got their act together last season.

And although nearly a year has passed since then, many players are sure to be dealing with the losses in some way.

Jered Weaver, the consensus pick to claim the No. 1 starter’s role, was a good friend of Adenhart and began inscribing his initials on the back of the mound before each start.

What good will it do him to pitch another season with Nick’s ghost staring from the outfield fence again?

Adenhart’s memory will forever live on in the hearts of his teammates and of the fans who were lucky enough to see him pitch. But it’s time to lay the patches and murals on the field to rest.

Instead, let’s retire his No. 34 and add it to the memorable Angels of the past out in the right field pavilion. There it will stand alongside names like Nolan Ryan and Jackie Robinson, a just enshrinement after an unjust demise.

Those feelings of anger and loss still linger, but players and fans alike must be allowed to move on.

Can This Angels Squad Withstand Another Year of Injuries Like 2009?

Both Lackey and Ervin Santana began last season on the disabled list. Santana would make a return trip shortly after his season debut.

Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero both missed July with various ailments while Joe Saunders followed suit in August.

Fortunately, the Angels survived their downfalls, thanks in large part to an offensive surge the likes of which this organization has never seen.

That, and the adequate replacements who filled in for their injured counterparts.

Unrecognizable players like Matt Palmer and Sean O’Sullivan became household names when they took over on the mound. The rookies combined for 15-4 record.

Others, however, were not so remarkable.

Anthony Ortega suffered an embarrassing rookie debut, and Trevor Bell wasn’t much better.

This season, Palmer will assume the long-relief role out of the bullpen. The rest will likely begin their years at Double- or Triple-A, the only safety net this team has should any of its starters fall.

At the plate, guys like Kendry Morales and Bobby Abreu stepped up big time in the absence of big bats. But in the field, it was Gary Matthews, Jr. who held it down with the glove while Hunter healed.

Without Matthews, the Angels will look to Minor Leaguers like Terry Evans, Chris Pettit, and Peter Bourjos to provide support.

Barely a career Major League start between them, it’s anyone’s guess how they will perform should the Angels chronologically impaired outfielders and DH succumb to their age.

Is This Team Built To Go Deep In The Postseason?

Once again, the Angels have put together a fine cast of characters for us fans to enjoy during the long haul of the season.

But the playoffs are a whole different animal.

The Angels starting rotation might turn out to be the best, top to bottom, of any team in the regular season. Filled to the brim with solid arms and sound minds, there doesn’t appear to be a weak link in the bunch.

There also doesn’t appear to be a true No. 1 starter, either.

What the Angels will feature in 2010 are five No. 2’s and 3’s. Good pitchers who can give you six or seven quality innings, but none who can dominate on a consistent basis.

In the playoffs, that’s exactly what you need: one or two arms that can take over a game and hold their opponents down under pressure.

Weaver looks like he has the most potential to be that guy, but right now he’s still a question mark. What he becomes remains to be seen.

The Angels will also run out a nice, balanced offense this year. Plenty of speed mixed with a little power that should serve them well over a 162-game season. Like it does every other season.

And like every other season, that offense continually falls short in the playoffs.

Fans will forever love Scioscia’s aggressive style of play, running at every opportunity and taking the extra base when it’s there. But come October,  your team has to walk tall and carry a big stick.

Just ask the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, who featured a very similar type of offense over the last two years: an overwhelming amount of power mixed with a little timely speed on the base paths.

That’s it. No outlandish steals of home, no relying on going first-to-third with every baserunner.

Just pure power hitters who can drive the ball into the gap or over the fence.

Last year, Morales became the Angels’ go-to guy for power after he cranked 34 balls out of the yard and drove in over 100 runs. This year, the team hopes he can repeat those numbers, but his bat alone won’t be enough to get back to the World Series.

The Angels will also be looking at Wood to not only replace Chone Figgins, but become the legit big league power threat he’s shown glimpses of in the Minors.

So far, he’s only shown his big, loopy swing that produces more strikeouts than anything else.

Newly signed DH Hideki Matsui, who was apart of that Yankees juggernaut from a year ago, will be also be looked at to repeat his 2009 performance of 28 home runs and 90 RBI, though the right field porch in Anaheim is far less welcoming than in New York.

Juan Rivera, who popped 25 big flies last season, and Hunter, who hit 22, should both be contributors this season as well, Hunter in particular if he can stay healthy.

And if all those pieces fall into place, along with Erick Aybar staying healthy and Howie Kendrick staying productive, the Angels will be right back where they were last season: in line for another divisional title, and another postseason disappointment.

If so, us fans will be left with those same signs of addiction, mental and emotional instability chief among them.