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Angels might be too giddy for an unfinished job

They have a lot of work to do after postseason failures the last six seasons.

September 29, 2009|HELENE ELLIOTT

The champagne flowed and the beer foamed and nothing and no one stayed dry in the Angels' clubhouse Monday.

Their 11-0 rout of the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium clinched their trip to the playoffs, giving them the American League West title for the fifth time in six seasons and their sixth playoff berth in this decade.

Their celebration was loud and soggy and unrestrained.

Players danced alone or with each other. They grabbed cans of beer, bottles of champagne and each other, stopping only occasionally to get a refill or to wipe their eyes.

Darren Oliver, spying General Manager Tony Reagins in a back room, ran up to him and emptied two beer cans over Reagins' head. Pitching coach Mike Butcher, recognizing a good opportunity to close when he saw one, finished the assault by spilling a bubbling bottle of champagne over Reagins' head.

Players came back out to their dugout and sprayed beer and champagne on fans who had gathered in the first few rows of seats. Several players then picked up a garden hose normally used to water the field and directed it toward the fans behind the visiting dugout, who loved every droplet.

Then, in a more serious vein, players ran out to the monument affixed to the center field wall that pays tribute to pitcher Nick Adenhart, killed in a car accident the first week of the season. They patted the wall in thanks and reassurance, a touching gesture in a sea of silliness.

All in all, the Angels had themselves quite a celebration, looking awfully happy for a team that probably will get pummeled by the Boston Red Sox very soon.

Again.

After winning only one of five playoff series since their 2002 World Series triumph, after two first-round dismissals by the Red Sox the last two seasons -- a sweep in 2007 in which they were outscored, 19-4, and a four-game loss a year ago -- it's not enough anymore for the Angels to simply reach the playoffs.

It should be a pit stop, not their final destination. The start of something big, not the prelude to a big disappointment.

The occasion didn't call for the giddiness they showed Monday, not after they'd been stumbling toward the finish of a race they should have ended long ago but allowed to become close because of a September record that's 14-12.

This is a party that should have been subdued. A few sighs of relief. Some joyful whoops.

Reagins, though, begged to differ.

"We worked too hard to be quiet," he said, mopping the mingled beer and champagne off his face. "This team has gone through a lot and worked hard to get here."

They're here. Now what?

"We got there," Manager Mike Scioscia said as he embraced owner Arte Moreno. "This is the first step."

It's on him and every player in that clubhouse to make sure it's not the last that they take together this season.

"It is the first step," Moreno insisted. "We've got a lot of baseball to play."

Then why the big celebration now?

"I always say you can't dance unless you've gotten invited to the party," Moreno said.

Consider them invited. The question is how long they'll stay.

The 40,484 fans were in an expectant mood early in the game and an exultant frame of mind as the Angels padded the score against five Texas pitchers. Starter Ervin Santana got a standing ovation as he left the mound after the seventh inning. Bobby Abreu was serenaded with a chant of "Bob-by!" as he came to bat in the eighth.

Catching that vibe, players in the Angels dugout clustered along the protective railing and leaned forward during the last two innings, ready to turn the field into their own personal playground. After Ian Kinsler grounded to third base and Chone Figgins fielded it and made a perfect throw to first, players leaped over the railing, hugging and dancing on the mound and in front of the dugout.

One player held up Adenhart's jersey, which had become the Angels' talisman this season, set out in his locker and placed in their dugout in a show of friendship and respect. Someone doused it with beer, a thoughtless choice given that the driver of the car that struck the vehicle in which Adenhart and three friends were riding allegedly was drunk at the time. The Angels undoubtedly meant no disrespect, but it was a discordant moment.

Torii Hunter said the team is determined to get a World Series ring for Adenhart and that the occasion felt different than it had a year ago. "We've got to get past the first round, though," he said, a sobering thought if ever there was one.

--

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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