Can teamwork win championships?
It certainly doesn’t win headlines.
The sports writers are typing away about Manny Ramirez walking the base paths after a homerun (Why should they be surprised? He plays the outfield the same way…) and his demands to traded. They’re telling you more about two AL East lineups stacked with more ego and talent than the rest of the league combined.
And why not? The Red Sox have played their way to two championships recently, and the Yankees, despite their miserable playoff performances, ride on the shoulders of A-Rod and Jeter long enough to usually make the playoffs.
It begs the question: can teamwork win championships?
I think it can.
Whatever drama may have eclipsed the rest of the league doesn’t, in fact, change the results. Very quietly a small market team out west has earned the honor of baseball’s best record. It’s very probable that nobody on the team will hit 30 home runs this year. Only one of their starting position players is hitting over .300. Not one of them, except for their closing pitcher, leads the league in a single statistical category.
The (insert preferred location tag here) Angels (and possibly here) manufacture their runs. And they do it as a team. You can see it in the way they execute hit and runs. If a player stands on second, you can bet the batter is looking to knock a slow roller toward first base. If a player makes it to third (a rare occurrence for the offensively challenged club), the following batters will do everything they can to get their player home.
Not exactly glamorous baseball. A sacrifice bunt from the #5 batter doesn’t inspire us as much writing as the walk off homerun.
And yet, there is something compelling and almost childish about the way the Angels earn their wins. Gone are the egos that haunt other successful teams. Instead their simple strategy of advancing the runner and playing solid defense reminds this writer of how baseball is played growing up. Those of us who played through Little League, high school, and college never did rely on the longball to get our wins. We had to do the smart thing and make choices that would benefit the team, not our own playing career. Each win was savored. Each loss left us hungry for the next game. Either way, we couldn’t get enough baseball.
You can see that on the faces of the Angels players, few of whom can boast more than a few years of Major League experience. Even Vladimir Guerrero, their roster player closest to star status, flashes an easy smile whenever his teammates do something well.
Is this a team that can win a championship?
It certainly wouldn’t hurt the sport if they did. How different would the sport be if other teams began to emulate the Angels’ brand of success? How different would the sport be if a small market team out west quietly reminded the world what baseball is like when players love the game?
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