The Los Angeles Angels entered Monday six games out of first place in the American League West, but perhaps more importantly weren’t even second in their division. The Texas Rangers lead the way and the Oakland A’s were 3.5 games back as the Major League Baseball season has hit its stretch run.
It’s a precarious spot for the Angels, who spent big money in the offseason to bring in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson only to have suffered from some big dry spells during the year. That said, Torii Hunter says he believes the Angels will not only still make the playoffs, but that they can win the division.
Torii Hunter joined ESPN Los Angeles with Max and Marcellus to discuss why it’s not too late for the Angels to make a run, why chemistry matters in baseball, if he’s watching the standings, what it’s like to play with Mike Trout and Trout’s skills in center field.
Did this team take too long to catch fire? Is it too little, too late?:
“Nah, it’s not too late. It’s going to take a while, man, when you have new guys like C.J. Wilson, that guy Pujols and different guys like that and they’re coming in. It’s going to take them a while to gel together and get that chemistry to come together.”
In basketball you’ve got to integrate pieces, and football to a certain extent, but you’re saying a first baseman and a starting pitcher have to figure out chemistry?:
“When you talk about chemistry, you talk about knowing your teammates, knowing the clubhouse, that feel of, ‘I want to succeed and I want to show these guys I’m worth the money.’ … You just want to be a part. Say you go to a new job, you do a radio show in Miami or something. … It’s a mental sport. Seventy-five percent of this game is mental. Your mechanics is your mind. If you’re tired, if you don’t feel well or you don’t feel like you’re welcome, you’re going to do bad. Baseball’s a mental game. Pujols, for him, he struggled the first six weeks. He’s coming from St. Louis and he’s coming from the National League. The American League is totally different. … I can keep explaining, but in baseball, you just have to have a little time.”
How much are you guys watching the standings and wondering about making the playoffs?:
“I definitely think we’re going to make the playoffs. Our first goal, right now, is to win the division and take it away from Texas. It’s realistic, man. I’m telling you, I remember in 2006, I was with the Minnesota Twins, and we were 8.5 games back in September. In the 162nd game, we won the whole thing, won the division and went on to the playoffs. Then Pujols, last year, 11.5 games out in September and they won the World Series.”
What is it like for you to watch Mike Trout every day?:
“What you guys are witnessing is greatness. This guy’s one of the best players to play the game right now. We don’t know what his future holds. He has to stay injury-free, stay healthy, things like that. But this year, what you’re looking at is something special. He’s a special kid. He doesn’t get caught up in all the hype of Mike Trout. … He just goes out there and tries to help the team wins. He’s going to be a leader.”
As a nine-time Gold Glove winner in center field, what’s it like watching him play the position?:
“It’s great. We’re always constantly working on something, whether it’s his throwing or his routes or different things like that. But he has so much speed that he can step in on a ball and looks at it and sees the ball is going to be over his head and make up ground because he’s so fast.”
There’s always a moment when you understand a player is going to be special. When was that for you with Mike Trout?:
“For me it was last year. Last year, I watched him take his first at-bat. He just worked the pitcher, waiting for his pitch. He was 19 at the time. When you’re 19 years old, and you’re sitting there waiting on your pitch, that’s hard to do. When I was 19, I was swinging at everything. … He waited for his pitch, worked the count his first at-bat to a 3-2 count, had like an eight-pitch at-bat and got a walk out of it. I’m like, ‘Oh man, this kid is special.’ He was like Joe Mauer at the plate when he was young.”