The end of last season was a disappointing one, but one also filled with hope - hope that next year small ball would finally be balanced with big bats, and we could go into 2010 with the enthusiasm of Rex Hudler.
No, I guess not.
Something happened to the Angels this off season, and it wasn't pretty. Obviously, the death of Rory Markus is a tragedy that stands alone, and none of the other events are even in the same sentence.
But the baseball season is getting close, so it's time to talk about it.
The Angels lost so much of their personality, they feel like a corporate sponsorship - which I guess is what Fox wants them to be.
No Vladimir Guerrero, no Chone Figgins, no John Lackey, no Rex Hudler.
That's a lot of heart, soul, and enthusiasm gone.
Now, there are strong arguments to be made that the loss of Vladdy and Figgins are for the betterment of the team.
I, for one, have been calling for Figgins' removal for years. He turned himself into a solid player, and certainly helped the Angels win a lot of regular season games. But Figgins crumpled in crunch time. Every time. And the Angels need power, so it's time to give Wood a chance.
Vladdy was without a doubt a joy to watch and root for. He was the soul of the team, the one player that the other players emulated - which was okay when Vladdy was crushing the ball. But the team evolved - fortunately - from the toes to nose approach that defined them in years past, and Vladdy had become obsolete in this line-up. The team needed a young slugger, one with good knees, plenty of speed, and solid defense.
Instead they got Hideki Matsui. No glove. No speed. And no personality. Thanks a lot.
Then they lost Lackey, the leader of the pitching staff. The heart of the team.
And as if that wasn't enough, they went all the way up into the press box to gut the spirit of the team, and tossed out Rex Hudler.
No matter what the reason, losing Hud and being forced to listen to the drone-like dialog of Mark Gubicza, or worse, the cliché dribble of Jose Mota, is going to make this season nothing short of torturous.
We loved Hud. Sure, he spoke like a kid on the sandlot. Sure, he was a homer. But hell, that's why we liked him. If I want a neutral announcer, I'll listen to a national broadcast. When I listen to an Angels game, I want an ANGELS FAN. I want someone who can capture my emotions, my joy, my disappointments.
No Figgins, no Vladdy, no Lackey, no Hud.
That's a lot of joy gone.
I don't know what this season will be like, but I know it won't be the same.
Nonetheless, I'm an Angels fan. So I'll root for Matsui as if he were the most exciting player in the world. I'll grit my teeth every time Mota robotically describes a game. And I'll follow every pitch, every play, every inning, with all of my heart and soul.
After all, what else am I going to do? Root for the Dodgers?
I don't think so.