12/27/10 10:00 AM EST
Angels fell to earth in disappointing 2010
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
That was the case, in a literal sense, on May 29. Completing his home-run trot after a dramatic game-winning grand slam against the Mariners at Angel Stadium, Kendry Morales crashed onto home plate and fractured his left leg. The incident came to be symbolic of a season that never went as expected, or hoped, for manager Mike Scioscia and his troops.
The Angels had one good month -- June, oddly enough, right after Morales' injury -- and five mediocre or bad ones. Finishing 80-82, in third place, they were 10 games behind new division champion Texas. It was their first losing season since 2003. The Rangers went on to reach the World Series for the first time, while the Angels watched and wondered what happened to their world of dominance.
What happened was the offense ran dry, the defense was spotty at best and the bullpen was inconsistent. The only season-long plus was a rotation led by All-Star right-hander Jered Weaver, who finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award balloting.
The midseason trade for co-ace Dan Haren that sent Joe Saunders and three pitching prospects to Arizona would have provided a more significant lift if Haren had been given any run support, but Haren quickly discovered what Weaver and the other starters had endured. Offense was in short supply with Morales gone and most of the regulars experiencing down seasons.
Hideki Matsui, imported to replace Vladimir Guerrero as the primary designated hitter, did his part, with 21 homers and 84 RBIs, but he did not find the consistency that had marked his time with the Yankees.
Torii Hunter, who selflessly moved from center field to right in early August to accommodate the blazing speed and range of young Peter Bourjos, was the team's most consistently productive offensive player. Hunter led the team in slugging (.464), on-base percentage (.354) and RBIs (90) while batting .281. He was second to Mike Napoli in homers, with 23 to Napoli's 26.
Ervin Santana led the staff with 17 wins and had a 3.92 ERA. The Angels scored 4.94 runs per game for him, compared with 3.82 for Weaver and 3.36 for Haren.
Top five storylines of the 2010 season:
5. Angels host successful All-Star show
The baseball world flocked to Orange County en masse in July and was entertained by a highly successful Midsummer Classic showcase presided over by Angels owner Arte Moreno and his hard-working staff.
The festivities were a hit from the start, highlighted by the National League's gripping, 3-1 triumph to give its league champion home-field advantage for the World Series. The fan-friendly event included the appearances of such legends as Bo Jackson and Rickey Henderson in the celebrity softball game, a Futures All-Star Game featuring Angels prospect Hank Conger as the game MVP and a Home Run Derby claimed by David Ortiz after a duel with Hanley Ramirez. The Angels organization was applauded by Commissioner Bud Selig and fans from around the country for staging such an impressive spectacle.
4. Bourjos gives a preview of coming attractions, and Hunter gracefully gives him center stage
When he arrived from Triple-A Salt Lake in early August, Bourjos wasn't sure what to expect from his teammates -- especially Hunter. A nine-time Rawlings Gold Glove center fielder, Hunter willingly moved to right to clear space for the mercurial Bourjos and became his mentor. The kid from Scottsdale, Ariz., went on to produce one highlight-reel play after another for the final third of the season. If his offense catches up to his defense, the Angels have uncovered a star of the future. Another multitalented speed merchant, Mike Trout, will be knocking on the door soon.
3. Matsui shows class, and delivers in the clutch
Coming to the Angels after being named the 2009 World Series MVP for the champion Yankees, Matsui adapted beautifully to his new environment, earning the respect of teammates and the entire staff with his professionalism and grace. He was disappointed at times in his production, but the legend finished second on the club in RBIs, with 84, and had 21 homers while batting .274. He was one of the few bright lights in an offense that was dim for most of the season.
2. Morales goes down for the count, and the Angels are staggered
After Morales' fateful celebration went terribly wrong, the Angels did not buckle. The very next day, Howard Kendrick hit another walk-off home run, only this time the players were careful not to crowd him at the plate in accordance with new club rules governing such celebrations. The club went on a 12-3 run before the absence of Morales' big bat and superb glove gradually took a deadly toll. The Angels were not the same team without Morales, who is expected back at full strength in 2011.
1. Weaver has a breakout season
Through all of the Angels' the frustration and disappointment of not being able to put all of the elements of the game together, Weaver's excellence was the one constant. The big right-hander led the Major Leagues in strikeouts, with 233 in a career-high 224 1/3 innings, and carved out a 3.01 ERA. With the brand of run support the Angels had provided in previous seasons, he'd have been flirting with 20 wins. Weaver became a staff leader in the absence of his mentor, John Lackey, and figures to set the tone in 2011 with his work ethic and "team first" attitude.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.