This is not the face of a team leader
Just shy of 50 games into the season the Angels still find themselves languishing around the .500 mark, waiting for something to kick them into gear. Or perhaps more accurately, someone. It is time for the Angels to turn to their leader in the locker room for some real inspiration now. Time for that leader of men to step forward and set an example for the rest of the Halos. Time for him to show why he earns both the big bucks and the respect of his peers. Time to-
Wait, who the hell is the leader of this team? The Yankees have Derek Jeter. The Red Sox have Jason Varitek. The White Sox have Paul Konerko. The Angels have a stupid jumping spider monkey.
It isn't customary for baseball teams to have team captains, but maybe it is time that the Angels appoint one. Mike Scioscia is one heck of a manager, but he's still just a coach. When it comes to motivation, there is only so much he can do. This team is listless and needs a new voice, a voice from within their own ranks to give them an emotional kick in the ass. But who is up to the task?
Perhaps John Lackey could fill the void since he is longest tenured Angel? He's vocal and hyper-competitive, both good things for a leader, but he's also a starting pitcher. How motivational can you be when you only play once every five days?
Chone Figgins has been around just as long as Lackey, but he can barely handle leading off, much less leading a locker room.
They could turn to their marquee player, Vladimir Guerrero, he's done some amazing things as an Angel but Seeing how he is a veritable mute, he'll have to pull off a minor miracle to ascend to team captain status.
Maybe the Halos should give the job to one of their younger players? There's Mike Napoli. He's got a really sweet pencil-thing chinstrap beard thing going on. That's cool right? Or possibly Kendry Morales. He's been good for like a whole month, that's got to count for something. Don't forget about Howie Kendrick. He'd be the reverse psychology team captain. All the rest of the guys just need to look at him to see what not
to do if they want to be a successful major league ballplayer.
The only logical choice here is Torii Hunter. He was the heart of the Minnesota Twins for so many years, but he hasn't been able to shake that "I'm the new guy" vibe. What he needs to see is that he is becoming the face of this franchise both to the players and the fans. He was more than happy to embrace that very same role in Minnesota but has shown reluctance as an Angel.
What Torii can teach the team is how to play with passion. Most of the roster goes about their job with the excitement of somebody with a root canal scheduled later in the day. This isn't a team that is having fun each and every day nor is it a team where everyone is willing to run through a wall to make a play. I call it the Garret Anderson syndrome. Never a smile, the bare minimum amount of effort and little concern about the end result. GA isn't on the team anymore but his lackadaisical attitude has remained.
But Hunter is the Bizarro Garret Anderson. He is the only player consistently laughing on the bench and playing each day with the enthusiasm of a 12-year old. Just watch his reaction after he made that game-saving catch against Kansas City last year. I don't remember the last time I've seen another Angel the pumped up over anything.
While I am fully aware that team chemistry is vastly overrated and entirely unquantifiable, that doesn't mean it doesn't count for something. Look at the last several World Series teams if you don't believe me. The Rays were a crew of young, brash mohawked guys that feared nothing. The Rockies rallied around their Christian principles. Ozzie Guillen's brazen, borderline insanity lit a fire under his world champion White Sox. And who could forget the Red Sox collection of self-proclaimed "idiots."
If those examples aren't enough, just look back at the Angels' only. That team had no primetime slugger or anything resembling an ace pitcher, but still they shocked the world because they hungry and fearless. They were led by Tim Salmon, a consummate professional, and Darin Erstad, the redass to end all redasses, and David Eckstein, the ultimate underdog on a team full of underdogs.
Seven seasons later the current Angel roster has almost nothing in common with that 2002 team. The last several seasons this franchise has become increasingly timid both on and off the field. Even their trademark aggressive running attack has been handled in a much more reserved fashion of late. Perhaps a shake-up is order?
No Angel fan would object to trying to acquire another bat, but with no gaping holes in the line-up (assuming Howie Kendrick turns it around) perhaps the Angels should be scouring the trade market less for offensive punch and more for an emotional boost. The team can't wait around forever for a leader to emerge from within, acquiring one isn't such a bad idea. Would anyone really object to bringing in someone like Ivan Rodriguez? A proven leader and past champion who could slot in as a role player while unifying the locker room.
Be it Torii Hunter or someone else, the Angels need a player rise up from the ranks to help them recapture that magic from 2002. And it needs to happen soon before they dig themselves too big of a whole to climb out from.