The season can be a grind. After an entire life spent as a baseball fan, I always understood that, but never more so than this year. Trying to dig up multiple stories every day, stalking a pair of Indian men, and creating a beloved national icon really took its toll.
A fine portrait of what the season can do to a man comes in today's LA Times. Remember back in the halcyon days of February when we talked about the pure ray of sunshine that was Torii Hunter? Well, not so much anymore. It's been a few weeks and Hunter still isn't over the Angels playoff loss. Pardon my prolific use of the blockquote here, but there is sooo much good stuff. It's really a must read.
"Truth is, for me as a player, I probably would have let him hit."
The voice was Torii Hunter's and it was far less juiced than usual as he walked through the nightmare moments that spelled the end for this year's Angels team.
"I don't even think they were trying to pitch to [Aybar]," Hunter said, so plaintively I imagined him staring hard at the floor and shaking his head in disbelief. "It was just five terrible minutes . . . the worst five minutes of my life."
"I am depressed, I'm ticked, I'm upset, my stomach hurts, yeah, all of that," Hunter noted, without much prompting.
He said he has watched the remaining playoff and World Series games from a suede sofa in his Dallas-area home. (For the record, he's rooting for Tampa Bay but will not be too distressed if Philly wins because Jimmy Rollins is a friend.) Often, he's found himself screaming at the TV in pure frustration. "It plays out in the back of your head all the time: 'Why am I not in the World Series? Why?' The season we had, we should have been there. But the way we played in the first round, we didn't deserve it."
I hear it's a bitch to get tears out of suede. Later in the article Hunter goes on to refute the notion that the squeeze play was a hallmark of this Angels team saying it's something you do "very rarely" and even more rarely in the postseason. He goes out of his way to say he's not criticizing Scioscia or Aybar, which means he is definitely criticizing Scioscia and Aybar.
Hunter had a rough series personally. He made a couple errors that I can think of and almost blew out his knee arguing a call at first base. Mix that with high expectations and you can see why he'd be upset. It would happen to almost any player. But for him to still be taking it this hard and to be so candid about it makes me like him even more. You're still my special happy guy, Torii!