It was a foregone conclusion for most of the month, but the Angels finally wrapped up their third straight AL West title last night, wiping out division contender Texas with a 11-0 shutout. It was a bittersweet moment for a team who have quietly established a near-stranglehold on the division, but who still misses a fellow player taken from them just six months ago.
After their win but before the media showed up, manager Mike Scioscia addressed his team and reminded them - though they probably didn’t need it - that the win also belonged just as much to killed rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart as to the rest of them. To the Angels’ credit, they did exactly that. It’s just that pouring their beer and champagne on his jersey, all things considered, might be taken the wrong way.
From the LOS ANGELES TIMES:
They honored him in a way that was beautiful and in a way that caused some second thoughts.
After they had celebrated in the clubhouse they ran back onto the field enmasse, soggy and disheveled, taking a direct path to center field to lovingly pat the patch with Adenhart’s picture and uniform No. 34 that has been affixed to the wall of Angel Stadium. It was spontaneous and heartfelt, a poignant moment for the thousands of fans who remained in the stands and ere lucky enough to see it.
But those same players also doused Adenhart’s jersey with beer on the field and in the clubhouse, a debatable choice given that the driver of the car that it the vehicle in which Adenhart and three friends were riding allegedly was drunk at the time of the accident.
The soaking might be considered thoughtless. Inappropriate because of the way he died.
Not by the Angels. They saw it as a gesture of remembrance and inclusion, a way to keep Adenhart’s memory alive during a sports ritual they wish he could have shared.
To be clear about this, there are two groups of people whose opinion on this truly matters: Adenhart’s teammates and families of the victims. Obviously, the Angels have spoken, and nobody can interpret their actions as disrespectful; it’s clear they intended to keep including Adenhart as they’ve done all year. We’ll see if the victims’ family disagree, but for right now we don’t know of any objections.
This situation, though, is emblematic of alcohol’s odd relationship with society. Though it’s unquestionably more dangerous than, say, marijuana, it’s still a legal and celebrated aspect of society and celebration. We tried outlawing alcohol a few decades ago, and um, that didn’t work out so well. So it’s here to stay.
All the same, it is a little off-putting that the traditional celebration that the Angels partook in - and that just about every time has for decades and will for the foreseeable future - is so couched in the makings of the tragedy that killed Adenhart and his friends in the first place. And yes, that includes the driver of Adenhart’s car, who was herself drunk.
We will happily take the Angels at their word that no disrespect was intended, because it wouldn’t make sense any other way. We’ll just point out that we’re not sure every team would have been so brave as to honor their fallen teammate in such a manner.