Now a quarter of a way into the 2010 season, the Angels’ play thus far has aptly demonstrated that the team is a long ways away from resembling the division-winning squad that was two wins away from the World Series last year. Production from the infield has been completely absent thanks to the failed Brandon Wood experiment at 3B and Siegfred-and-Roy vanishing act replicated by Aybar and Kendrick at second and short, respectively. The great DH trade-off from franchise icon Vladimir Guerrero to playoff villain Hideki Matsui has been an absolute disaster, as Matsui further torments Angel fans by forgetting to bring the big stick he used to club them to death in ’09. All the while, Vlad packs his own for his journey to the center of Arlington and top of the AL West.
However, Angel fans had a few reasons to smile on Tuesday after Ervin Santana stepped up and delivered a complete game victory over the Blue Jays. Santana gave up only 5 base runners (albeit, 3 of them scoring) and one extra-base hit, while striking out a season-high 10. His effort was his third straight dominant outing, and third straight win (good positive reinforcement). Santana is starting to resemble the 2008 version of himself and with continued consistency, he has the chance to pair with Jered Weaver as a formidable duo at the top of the rotation.
Another positive development was the continued plate mastery shown by surging catcher Mike Napoli as he belted his fourth homer in five games. The embattled Napoli watched his playing time begin to diminish towards the latter half of last season. His struggles continued in the playoffs, and sat and watched as backup Jeff Mathis came up with several clutch hits in the ALCS while providing his usual stellar defense behind the plate. Mathis won the job entering the ’10 season and took off immediately with the bat. Napoli’s role in the team was the most tenuous it had ever been. Were Mathis able to somewhat maintain his hitting pace, Napoli would undoubtedly lose his opportunity to make his mark. When Mathis broke his wrist, Napoli was the one person in the Angels organization (fan, player, or executive) who might have let out a smile in the mirror when he woke up the next morning. Yet, he also had gained another chance to establish what type of player he was and demonstrate his unique skills at the catcher position, also known as massive power. Once Mathis returns from injury (which shouldn’t be too long), the Angels might have the chance to use one of the duo in a trade.
With big names starting to fill out the shelves in the trade market such as SP Roy Oswalt and OF/1B/DH Lance Berkman, having two hot catchers at the same time could provide a brief sell-high opportunity for Tony Reagins and the Angels’ brass to add necessary components to their team, such as an offensive-minded 3B or OF.
In the meantime, it was nice to see that one victory could signal the arrival of a couple upcoming players in Ervin Santana and Mike Napoli. Hopefully, in the days and weeks ahead, a few more will show up as well.
(Contact Anuj Agarwal at [email protected])