I’ve always said that it’s not how you start a season, but how you finish it, and here we are in the playoffs again. It feels good, man. The playoffs to me are something where I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I just try to play the game.
Everyone is back at zero now. Every player and team that is in the playoffs, they start at zero again. I don’t know if every player thinks of it that way, and that’s why they might have a hard time in the playoffs. If you had a great regular season and if you carry that to the playoffs and think everything is going to be the same, sometimes it doesn’t work. It’s different in the playoffs. Everybody is different, and you just have to be prepared for that.
I can’t wait to get out there for Game 1 here at Anaheim on Thursday night. You know how I am, I like to get things over with. The playoffs, it’s something where not too many people are out there playing. There’s only eight teams here. You get here, you know you’re only a couple of steps away from the World Series. I know how sweet it is to be in the World Series. Not just being in it, but winning it all. It’s a great thing. That’s my goal.
The last couple of days, we’ve had our workouts here on the field, and you can’t help but watch the games being televised on the scoreboard. That Tigers-Twins one-game playoff yesterday was amazing. Today, we were watching the Yankees and Minnesota. Of course that gets you more excited to get out there. It gets your mindset there to where you want to get out there and start competing.
This started out as a tough season for me, but I finished strong. Everything that happened in the past, that’s already taken care of. A guy like me, when I struggle, it’s harder than for another guy because I have too many people that care about me and expect me to do well. They care about me, but they started driving me crazy. One day, I just said, forget about it. I turned off my phone and was just going to go and play the game like you did in Little League and not worry about stuff. Just go out there and hack.
None of it matters now. I had a good last four months of the season and here we are, playing the Angels again. It seems like we play them every year. We’ve beaten them three times in the playoffs before, but this is a whole different team than what we’ve faced in the past. They’ve got power, speed, good pitching. Great defense. They do everything. We’ve got to play well to beat them.
You get out there in the playoffs and the one thing that’s different from what we’re used to all year is that there’s no tomorrow. Like I always say, it’s ride or die time. You’ve got to go and play your best because if they catch you sleeping, you know where you’re going to be — you’re going to be watching at home. We don’t want to be there, trust me.
We throw Jon Lester for Game 1 and we feel great about that. He got it done for us all year long. He’s one of our aces. It’s time to get this going and see how we do. We feel good as a team and we’re ready to get October started again.
We got our chance to celebrate a good season as a team a few days ago. It was great. We played a good game here, almost had a great comeback and lost, but then had to wait and see what Texas did out in Anaheim. Once they lost, the party was on.
Even though we lost that night, what matters is that we played well through the year, so that’s why we were celebrating. It’s
not all about one game. It’s about all the 162 games that you play to be the one of the teams celebrating going to the playoffs.
Of course, you’d rather win and clinch it yourself, but when it happens, you have to take it, no matter what. Everybody on the team, pretty much, was there. It was great.
Now, it’s almost time for the playoffs. The whole world is watching you. When you have everyone watching you, there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of adrenaline going on. You want to get the best out of it.
You talk about the pressure of the playoffs and all that, but I don’t really think about it, because that’s when you start getting nervous and putting pressure on yourself.
We’re playing the Angels. Man, it seems like we play them every year, but whatever it takes. That’s how it is. They played the best in their division, and we had a tough fight for ours, but we’ll go in as the Wild Card. We won the World Series before as the Wild Card, so the key is just getting there.
It’s funny that we keep playing the Angels because Vladimir Guerrero is one of my best friends. I’d love to see him move on in the playoffs and play in the next round, but I can’t feel that way when he’s playing against us. You’re trying to win as many games as you can, as fast as you can, and I feel bad for him because he’s my friend, and we beat him the last couple of years, but that’s how it goes. I’ve got not just him, but Torii Hunter is another great friend. That’s my boy right there. We go way back to when we were in Minnesota together. It’s crazy.
Our team — we’re faced with a really good situation. We had some rough series with the Yankees and the Blue Jays lately, but things happen, and guys know how to figure things out. Now, we’re coming up to the biggest time of year.