Purgatory Online

Thursday, May 06, 2004

On the heels of Aaron Sele replacing Ramon Ortiz in the lineup comes another intriguing roster move. Robb Quinlan has returned to Anaheim, replacing Matt Hensley. That's first baseman Robb Quinlan.

Now, it's obvious that the Angels weren't going to carry fourteen pitchers for very long, and Quinlan does fill a hole on the bench now that Chone Figgins and Shane Halter are starting regularly. But it's an especially noteworthy move combined with (1) the fact that Garret Anderson's back travails appear to be of the "indefinite duration" variety, and (2) Chone Figgins is getting some playing time at third base, and (3) Troy Glaus's move to DH seems to have slowed him down offensively not at all. Given that Figgins is looking like a guy who could really help the lineup, especially if he's returned to his natural spot at the top of the order, I wonder if Scioscia may be on the verge of moving Darin Erstad back to center, playing Quinlan at first, and using Glaus and Figgins to share third and DH? On one hand, it's crazy talk, because I think Scioscia will be very resistant to the notion of putting Erstad back in center. On the other, however...it makes some sense, and if Scioscia can pull the plug on Ortiz, he can do this, too.

Not that this has looked like a team that requires much adjusting recently. The Angels finished their sweep of the Tigers last night to remain in a first-place tie with Texas. On top of their 7-2 road trip, that makes the Angels 11 for their last 13. Sure, Detroit ain't New York. But so what? Beating up on the weak teams and contending with the strong ones is how championships get won, and the fact is that taking two out of three at Minnesota - on the basis of pitching, no less - is pretty impressive, too. The New Yorks and Bostons of the league will keep until later in the month; right now, the Angels are doing what they need to do, and deserve a lot of credit for it. The team currently has the best record in the majors, and leads the AL in runs scored. Washburn leads the league in wins; Glaus leads the majors in home runs and the American League in RBI, and trails only Jorge Posada in the AL in OPS. Jose Guillen, until recently the lineup's red-headed stepchild, has started cranking out hits. Kelvim Escobar has quietly become a dependable starter, and John Lackey is well down the path to doing the same. Frankie Rodriguez has yet to give up an earned run. Troy Percival has nine saves and an ERA of 1.69. Brendan Donnelly is likely to return next week, and eventually the club will add Garret Anderson, one of the best players in the league, back into the lineup.

Winning streaks are fragile things, and the baseball gods are capricious, but let's not forget that it's good to stop and smell the W's.