Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Quick Word About Character

Now that it's been a week since the Boston Red Sox destroyed my beloved Angels in the ALDS, and I've had a chance to calm down, I think I can write more reflectively and less reactionary on what I observed. I can't make any excuses for the Angels because the Red Sox beat them in every conceivable category. So, my comments are not so much about the details of the game as they are about how the game was played. My basic thoughts are the same as they were a week ago, I'm just less hot-headed about them. It does help my soul that the Red Sox are down two games to one in the ALCS. Go Cleveland!

I'll start off by saying that my observations don't have a lot of statistical verification. As I'll explain, I'm working from a very small sample and what I have to say may be contrary to reality. But all I have to go on, in this case, are my observations so, I'll speak my peace and let those of you who can refute me, do so in the comments.

Since 2002, I've been to approximately fifty Angel games and watched about as many on TV. I've listened to probably a hundred but, as you'll see, that doesn't help my case. I've also watched several hundred mlb.com video clips of game highlights. In that same time period, I've seen maybe five Boston Red Sox games that didn't involve the Angels, and none of them were live. Obviously, we're dealing with imbalanced research and substandard investigative reporting.

However, the imbalance highlights my point. You see, in all of my experience with the Angels, it isn't often that they show poor character. Back when Troy Glaus was an Angel, he would swear every few games after a strikeout, which is amazing considering how often he struck out. Jarrod Washburn had a tendency to swear every now and then when a batter would hit one out of the park — also amazing considering how often he gave up home runs. And our wonderful Texan, John Lackey, doesn't always display his best side when he has a bad outing. When things are going well for the Angels, there is relatively little showboating or grandstanding. No throwing of the bat or raised arms when it is clear that the ball is headed out of the park and definitely no "joyful swearing?" when a double play is turned. In general, I'm proud of how the Angels carry themselves as they play the game.

The Red Sox have a completely different field presence. During the last few weeks of the season, I saw Dustin Pedroia — likely this year's rookie of the year — turn a double play and let out an enthusiastic "f*@# yeah!" When Jonathan Papelbon struck out an Angel to end the inning in the second game of the ALDS, there was no mistaking that he felt it necessary to give us all a, "yeah, yeah, f*@# yeah!" This is what the Red Sox do when they do something good! Not to mention that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez — in this year's ALDS, at least — couldn't hit one out without throwing the bat, admiring their performance for what seemed an eternity and walking half way to first with their hands raised in the air. Their showboating or grandstanding puts Barry Bonds to shame.

After realizing that the Red Sox are a team full of the kind of people that I don't want my son to grow up admiring , i.e. people with lots of talent but with egos and attitudes that render that talent morally worthless, and that the Angels are, for the most part, the kind of people I want my son admiring, I found myself actually believing the ol' cliché, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." I would have loved to watch the Angels take the World Series this year, to see Vlad Guerrero finally get a ring, to see Garret Anderson prove himself in the latter part of his career. But if they'd have had to act like the Red Sox to do it, no thanks. I'll settle for the AL West Championship and proudly dress my kid in Angel gear, knowing that the character they exhibit is the kind I'd like him to exhibit as he grows up and learns to play sports, study in school and live life. Character does matter. Keep it up Angels.