December 6, 2010

The five players I will miss one day...

I’ve been a little under the weather lately and thus the lag on this blog. Today, I’m a little shell shocked from all the activity that took place over the weekend. I was pretty much un-plugged and disconnected all weekend and missed the news about Jayson Werth, Adrian Gonzalez, Lance Berkman, Shaun Marcum, Derek Jeter, Mark Reynolds, etc., etc.

Rather than repeat what everyone else is basically saying about all the deals; let’s just say that a lot of what actually happened is once again very different from all the speculation that lead up to the actual deals. That kind of makes me nervous, given how so many people are predicting that Carl Crawford will end up in Anaheim.

Time will definitely tell.

The Winter Meetings have begun; well at least for most everyone not named the Angels. Apparently, Tony Reagins is in route today. I’m sure this will add to the anxiety most Angel fans are feeling these days.

My own thoughts on all the moves relate to what it must be like to be a San Diego Padre season ticket holder right about now. They just lost the best player on their team and one of their all-time greats, period. Padre fans, I feel for you. Your team just went from being one game away from the post-season to obscurity. I’m not saying that to be harsh. I know that just has to hurt. It has to hurt on many levels because Gonzalez was so great in your community and such a solid citizen all the way around.

The void created by players like Gonzalez leaving is absolutely huge. I’m thinking of all the little kids who think of him as their favorite player. It just makes the careers of people like Tony Gwynn or the Angels own Tim Salmon all the more special in that they stayed in one place for their whole baseball life.

All of this makes you appreciate what you have while you have it.

Baseball players come and go. Some leave an indelible imprint while they play the game and some fade into the sunset without a second thought. Well, I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot lately and Adrian Gonzalez leaving and Derek Jeter staying gave me even more reason to think about it.

I was thinking there are some baseball players who I will really miss once they retire or leave the game and I probably have taken some of them for granted. I mean, you get used to seeing certain players do certain things and even though some of those things are incredible, you don’t necessarily realize it at the time. Again, we take them for granted.

So, I came up with a list of the five players I will truly miss when they leave the game of baseball (Angels past and present excluded). I’ll miss them for different reasons, but I’ll miss their contributions just the same.

Number 5 on my list is Todd Helton.

Like I said earlier, it’s unusual these days for one player to spend his entire career with one organization; especially when that career spans a great number of years. Todd Helton has been a Colorado Rockie for fourteen seasons now. He’s a five-time all-star with more than 300 career homeruns and a career batting average of .324. He is for all intensive purposes the face of the Colorado Rockies. When I think of the Rockies, he’s the first player that comes to mind.

He’s what I would consider ‘old school” and from what I can tell, he seems to be a pretty funny guy....

Todd Helton isn’t going to the Hall of Fame (and he’s not going to win any Oscars), but he’s been the model of consistency for years. There’s something to be said about a guy who shows up day in and day out, plays hard, hits well, plays good defense (3 gold gloves) and plays the game the right way. I like the fact that I’ve always been able to associate him with the Colorado Rockies. When he’s done, I’ll miss him because in this day of free agency and the need for some players to seek the biggest possible contract, he’s an endangered species.

Number 4 on my list is Alberto Pujols.

What can you say about a player who hits anything and everything?

After all, Albert Pujols is a machine.

I don’t k now if Pujols will be a Cardinal for his entire career, but part of me hopes so. I’d say that with Mark Teixeira in New York and Adrian Gonzalez now in Boston for years to come, the number of teams that can actually afford and might need Pujols just got smaller.

Pujols is so great that when he’s just “very good,” we think he’s having an off season. He had a fantastic 2010 campaign with 42 homeruns, a .312 batting average and a 1.011 OPS and he finished second in the MVP voting.

It’s gotten to the point where we expect him to perform at such an elite level that a season like the one he just had seems sub-par (even though it’s certainly not).

He’s just the kind of player you expect to do something amazing every time he comes to bat. He’s probably the guy you’d least like to face when the game is on the line and yet, he’s the guy you most want to see at the same time.

Number 3 on my list is David Ortiz

One day, I will miss David Ortiz the way Laker fans miss Larry Bird. If you're a Laker fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about. He has been a pain the rear of Angel fans for years now and because of that I will miss him slightly more than Pujols. Crazy, I know.

When David Ortiz is up to bat with the game on the line, bad things happen. Bad things like walk off homeruns and game winning hits.

Willie McCovey hit 18 grand slams in his career. Not the most by a player, but when I was a kid and McCovey came to bat with the bases loaded, it seemed like he hit a homerun every time. It got to the point where every time McCovey came to bat, I had to watch. There are only a handful of players who have commanded that kind of attention from me; Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell, and Mike Piazza come to mind (I know, I know... but I loved to watch Piazza hit).

Even though Ortiz has only half as many career grand slams as McCovey, I think of him like I used to think of McCovey.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t shed any tears when Ortiz walks away from the game, but I will miss him because he represents a big part of the rivalry that has existed between the Angels and Red Sox.

Number 2 is Mariano Rivera.

Like Ortiz, I have this thing about great players on the teams I hate. If they play with class and aren’t arrogant I appreciate them.

Closers are so unpredictable. One year they’re flawless and the next they’re a disaster, but not Mariano. Nope. This guy is the model of consistency and even though Eric Gagne was once known as “Game Over” – it’s Rivera who truly deserves that distinction and nickname.

He’s the guy who gives Yankee fans a reason to breathe a sigh of relief. He’s that steady, calming presence that makes you believe everything is going to be okay because he’s in the game. He’s so great and yet I he doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves in my opinion.

Check out these videos of “Mo.”

Who made who more famous?

It’s all about “the cutter.”

Who will I miss more than anyone once they’re gone from the game of baseball (Angels, past and present excluded)? Why it’s Ichiro.

Everything he does seems effortless and yet if you know anything about Ichiro, you know that he’s worked extremely hard to make it seem like it’s effortless.

Check out this piece by Brad Lefton in 2003.

Here’s an excerpt:

Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena had a hunch about Ichiro Suzuki. Pena didn't think the Mariners right fielder was as tense on the field as his often-steely face might otherwise indicate. Pena was building his theory on some casual observations he had made: Ichiro seemed to exhale when swinging the bat, whereas other players tensely grit their teeth; and the soft sound of Ichiro's footsteps approaching first base in full throttle was different than the heavy clumps he was used to hearing. But an exchange between the two at Comerica Park last season simply blew away Pena and confirmed his hunch.

After Ichiro singled for the first time in a game, Pena seized the moment. As the two were getting set for the next pitch, Pena initiated a casual conversation, like first basemen often do. "I asked him a question, and he answered, `Absolutely,' as he was taking his lead." Pena recalls. "The next thing I knew, he was gone with the pitch, stealing second. I mean he was halfway to second base almost while he was still talking. Other guys, if you say something to them when they're about to steal, they won't talk to you because they're tense. They know something's about to happen, and they've got to focus. I couldn't believe he went on that very pitch. He's so relaxed, he can do that."

Former Mariners manager Lou Piniella saw Ichiro up close for two years and knew early on that Pena's hunch was solid. "Ichiro works very hard at his game, but at the same time, he's very relaxed and he's very confident. He really has the mental part of the game under control."

I don't understand why more players don't train like Ichirio. He is rarely ever hurt and looks like he can play well into his forties.

Here's some fun stuff for your viewing pleasure...

Ichirio is a special player. If you stop to think about what he's accomplished, the way he's done it and all he may continue to do, it's simply amazing.

So there you have it... who willl you miss when they're gone?


  1. Definitely Ichiro and Mo, but also Torii Hunter, who really just _is_ baseball and the Angels for me right now in terms of leadership, ability and team spirit, and Bengie Molina (and this one is coming soon, of course, though it sounds like he’ll be back for 2011). I will also miss Jamie Moyer when he retires. He’s a class act and has been playing so long that he was a rookie when I first got into baseball. He’s my last still playing connection to the early years of my fandom. (I didn’t watch Vizquel play until later because he played in the American league at the time and I grew up in a Dodger house.) I hope his Tommy John surgery is successful this season and that he’s able to come back for 2012.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Just to be clear, my list excludes Angels past and present on purpose. I too will miss Hunter and Molina when they're done.