The fall of 2008 was bleak if you were an Angels fan. It marked the second consecutive year the Red Sox would demolish the Angels in the ALDS. The lowlight of the affair was a failed Erick Aybar bunt in the ninth inning of game four. The bunt attempt wafted lazily into the air, and in the next inning, the Red Sox would win the game – and the series – in walk-off fashion.
In 2009, the Angels would sweep the Red Sox in the ALDS, marking the first time the Halos ever defeated Boston in the playoffs. But in the ALCS against the New York Yankees, the Angels faltered in an all-too-familiar way. One of the most embarrassing moments came when – you guessed it – Aybar let a Hideki Matsui infield fly ball fall at his feet as the Yankees scored a run.
Since then, though, Angel fans are treated to a more explosive, reliable Aybar.
Coming off a Gold Glove season in 2011, Aybar began 2012 the way only he can. Leading off the game – and his season – for the Angels, Aybar attempted a leadoff bunt but was thrown out by Royals pitcher Bruce Chen. The move was completely out of the blue. It was risky, and it may have even been stupid. But it was Erick Aybar, through and through. I couldn’t help but remember his controversial bunt attempt to try to break up Justin Verlander‘s bid for a no-hitter last season as he walked back to the dugout. Who sums up the fast-running, risk-taking, defensive-minded Angels better than Aybar?
Later in the game, Aybar redeemed himself and a putrid Angels offense with a bases-loaded triple, essentially icing the game for the Halos. It was the kind of spark Halo fans should come to expect by midseason.
Aybar is somewhat of a controversial player whose fiery antics, combined with his occasional displays of both boldness and boneheadedness, push fans to either love him or hate him. But I’m here to say something bold, fiery and perhaps boneheaded myself: Aybar should sit there with Jered Weaver and Albert Pujols as one of your favorite Angels.
Here is a guy who has been steadily improving his game since his arrival, and in this first turbulent week of the season, Aybar has provided plenty of firepower. There was his triple on opening day, and most recently, his stellar defensive performance against the Twins.
I’m not saying Aybar should be at the top of your jersey wish list when you’ve saved up enough moolah, but hey – give the guy some consideration at the very least, would you?