Do the Angels have (need) team chemistry? …
Torii Hunter returns to his “old stomping grounds” at an interesting time, with his former team reeling and seeking answers and, perhaps, needing leadership.
As I wrote in Spring Training, others will have to step up and fill the void of Hunter, who was the Angels’ heart and soul for the last five years — the one who called the team meetings, the one who lightened the mood and the one who, if necessary, got in your face.
The Angels don’t have a Torii Hunter in their clubhouse right now, but to be fair, hardly anybody does. What they do have is a litany of esteemed, accomplished players. Problem is, the vast majority of them are introverts.
One former player told me something interesting after Tuesday’s loss, which dropped the Angels to 4-10: “This is a good night for somebody in that clubhouse to say, ‘OK, coaches, get out — we’re going to talk this thing out. Let’s sit here all night until we figure this out.’ They don’t have that guy right now.”
Now, we are only 14 games into the season. And you don’t want to project all-out panic so early, which is why it’s wise to pick and choose your spots for a team meeting. But point taken.
That brings me to this question: Do the Angels have team chemistry?
Break that thought down long enough, and you can begin pondering your own existence. Is chemistry a requirement for winning, or does winning lead to chemistry? How is chemistry even defined? And does it even matter if a team gets along?
Thing is, it’s easy to appear like you lack chemistry when you aren’t playing well. C.J. Wilson, who came from a tight-knit clubhouse with the Rangers, nonetheless believes “the ingredients are there” with the Angels …
“We do have really good team chemistry,” he said. “What we didn’t have was good luck. Look at [Joey] Votto’s game-winning hit against us. It didn’t even leave the infield. It’s just a ball that bounced weird and was unplayable. And that’s how we lost the game – on a bounce.
“All the ingredients are there. The hard thing is when you’re coming down to the last four or five days of Spring Training and the roster isn’t already set, because geniuinely there’s a couple decisions to be made. Then the team is not aware of what the team is.”
Coming together and forming that chemistry, Wilson said, is a process.
“It adds up, like bricks,” he added. “You have to put the bricks together. It’s not like some sort of bounce-house, inflatable thing, where you just hit a button. It doesn’t happen like that.”
Here’s something else Wilson scoffs at: The perception that teams have one leader. There are too many players on a baseball roster, Wilson believes, for one player (i.e., Hunter) to be the one, bona fide leader of a team.
“The reality is, every team has leaders — plural,” Wilson said. “… It’s never been just one guy. This isn’t basketball. You don’t just pass it to one guy and just let him steal the show. That’s not how it works.”
I’ll say this about the Angels so far: Despite the slow start, they seem like a loose group, from Albert Pujols to Jered Weaver to Mike Trout on down. How much impact will that eventually have? Maybe none. Maybe a lot. Impossible to say.
“At the end of the day, all you want in a teammate is a guy that delivers,” Wilson said. “That’s really all it boils down to. I would’ve loved to have a guy like Bob Gibson. People said he was mean – I’ll take a mean guy who punches 300 guys out a year any day, because you know you can count on him. That dependability is what you build those things around. The team is built around the dependable guys.”