The pressure of expectations

April.  What is it with April?  Is spring training not long enough?  Is it the cold weather away from home?  Is it Mike Scioscia and his coaching staff? Mike Butcher?  Is it team chemistry?  I don’t know, I’m sure you can effectively argue anything at this point.  Bottom line: our halos are playing like poop, and they know they are.  Other than the utter failure of our rotation, let’s try and shed some light on another topic.

Last year, after the signing of Albert Pujols, Mr. Moreno was quick to start his promotion of our generation’s best hitter, placing “El Hombre” billboards of Pujols all across Southern California.  Yes, “El Hombre,” the man brought in by Arte to get the Angels back into the playoffs.  The man brought in to save the Angels from more disappointment.  The man brought in to win a World Series.

Now as you remember, Albert immediately expressed his disdain for these billboards, stating that “El Hombre” was Stan Musial, and that he could never live up to his example.  But, come on, was that the only reason?  How does one live up to such great expectations upon joining a new team?  It was too much, even for a veteran like Pujols.  There’s enough pressure that comes along with a $240 million contract and a new team.  Everyone in the universe already knew what the Angels pulled off.  Why add more pressure by making such a bold comparison to the Cardinal legend?  The consequences? Albert spent April trying to be “El Hombre” instead of himself, showing the world how “unmanly” he could be.  It was only until the beginning of May that it was clear he shook off these comparisons, and went back to mashing the baseball.

Now, to April 2013.  It’s evident that Albert let the pressure get under his skin last year by his performance this year.  With Mike Trout returning for his first full season, and the new signing of Josh Hamilton, Albert suddenly became the third player fans were looking forward to see.  Freeing Albert from everyone’s eyes allowed him to start the season strong, and get back to his normal self.  It’s still early in the season, but so far he’s showing us what he can do when he’s comfortable.  So far, Mr. Pujols is showing off a .413 OBP.  Expect that to rise!

Now, to the Chosen One.  I’m getting the feeling that everyone is forgetting Mike Trout is only 21.  The guy still lives with his parents for goodness sake, and he’s already being treated like Mickey Mantle, even though he played like him for only one season.  Now, it’s alright for the media to portray Trout in that fashion, it’s their job, but his own organization? They should know better.  With only one proven season under his belt, the Angels marketing team deemed it appropriate to have more Trout promotions than any other player on the team.  I’m going to reiterate; the guy still has acne!  He started drinking legally a few months ago!  And the organization decides to put the weight of Southern California on his extremely young shoulders.  It doesn’t help that he lost his friend and mentor to the Detroit Tigers.

Nobody was expecting Mike Trout to be Mike Trout every day of the season, but it’s important to note that it took him about two weeks to start hitting the baseball with RISP.  I mean what do you think was going through his head?

If this organization wants to be successful, then they should take a break with the marketing.  When it comes down to September baseball and just baseball in general, it’s winning that fills up the seats, not player giveaways.  A high payroll team already has sky high expectations, there’s no need to add to it with excessive promotions.  There’s a reason why everyone’s raising an eyebrow at the Angels, and nobody pointing to the Rays.  Expectations.  Nobody expects much from a low payroll team, making it easier for them to succeed.  High payroll teams are under a microscope every game of the season (yes even with the ESPN west coast bias).

As we saw last year, the first month of the season can be just as vital as the last.  Players have enough pressure from family and fans; the last place they (especially 21 year olds) should be expecting it from is their own team.  We all remember what pressure and high expectations did to Brandon Wood and Dallas McPherson; let’s hope the same doesn’t happen to the Millville Meteor.