Happy New Year!!
I hope everyone had a great time last night and I wish you all the best in 2012!
New Year’s Day is traditionally a day for proclaiming resolutions for the year to come…and the wee hours in between New Year’s Day and January 2nd work just as well in a year where New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday. I don’t know about you all but it just isn’t New Year’s for me until I get to flop in front of the Rose Parade on TV with a nice brunch and a flute or several of champagne. I am not usually one to make specific official resolutions for myself. A general try to grow and improve in life is sufficient. In 2011, the Angels certainly did grow and improve over their 2010 season and it was a pleasure to watch. But there is plenty of room for continued growth and improvement in 2012. If the Angels happen to be in a more traditional New Year’s resolutions state of mind, I can certainly suggest a few resolutions they would do well to make for the coming season:
- Most importantly, everyone stay healthy! Take care of those hamstrings. Mind those groin muscles. Don’t let the walls get the best of quite so many arguments. Oh, and that freak plate jumping accident may have been a once in a lifetime thing and all, but how about we don’t jump on the plate anyway.
- Enough with the GIDPs already. This is a good resolution for everyone but Torii, and now Albert, I’m mainly looking at you.
- Think before you steal. Seriously. Thinking caps on and fully functioning. Successful base stealing is thing of beauty to behold and an Angels baseball staple. Caught stealing? Not so much on either count.
- Stop swinging for the fences every at bat, especially if that’s not really your swing. Watching all of you, I know this was not done to showboat. You were trying to kick start the offense which is admirable. But, more often than not, a nice solid line drive into the gap helps just as much as a homerun and always more than popping out.
- No runners left behind in 2012! Raise that RISP and more RBIs! This was a 2011 resolution, and you all definitely improved in this regard but what the heck? There’s always room for more improvement right?
- In 2011, you resolved to make the 8th inning a little less unnecessarily exciting. For 2012, let’s resolve to do the same for the 9th inning, shall we? Extra innings are only fun when we were already coming from behind and, while it’s certainly sweet of you to think of them, this economy has already given the antacid industry enough of a boost.
- Leave any woes from last season in the past. Everyone starts the 2012 season with a clean slate!
- You brought a lot of the old swagger and sense of fun back in 2011 and it was wonderful. Keep it up, please.
- I love seeing how Angels veterans always help out the rookies and the newbies and how quickly the rookies and newbies fit right in and really look forward to seeing it all over again in 2012.
So, 2011 is drawing to a close and it is my tradition to take a few moments and write up my top Angels Baseball moments for the 2011 season. It should be noted that, as this blog is now just over a year old, tradition means I am doing it for the second time. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? …But I digress. These are not the Angels only highlights for the season or even necessarily the ones that folks who get paid to analyze this kind of stuff would point out. There are enough articles about that floating around out there already. No, these are the highlights, both Angels and personal, that made my baseball season, in no particular order:
Jered Weaver! Both the season he had – which, were it not for Verlander’s even more amazing season would have easily been a Cy Young season – and the fact that he signed a contract with the Angels through 2016. I loved every minute I spent watching this homegrown dynamo on the mound and look forward to many more in the seasons to come.
Being Wrong. Yes, sometimes being wrong is a great thing and I am thrilled that I was wrong to have worried about Mark Trumbo taking over at first base. My concerns were based on his rookie call-up outings and the issues he had getting into position for plays during Spring Training. But the AL Rookie of the Year runner up worked hard to improve quickly at first and was a bright spot in an offense that was otherwise anything but. None of this guarantees that Trumbo will also be good at third base, but he has more than earned my interest in seeing what he can do in yet another new position.
Ervin Santana’s No Hitter. A former on one season then wild as all get out the next pitcher, Santana showed he has gained considerable consistency following up on his excellent 2010 season with another quality season, and how! The no hitter was merely the most obvious indicator of thischange, but what an indicator it was.
Dan Haren’s 1 hit shutout. And we were there!! Having a full season with Haren on the team would have been a highlight in and of itself, but getting to see this game, live and in person, with a great view of every nasty pitch going over the plate was absolute baseball magic.
Young Angels’ feats. I said it many times throughout the regular season, the Angels rookies and practically rookies made my season. Whether it was watching Peter Bourjos’ dramatic plays in center, Tyler Chatwood’s development on the mound or Mark Trumbo slowly make opposing pitchers start to take notice, the Angels “kids” made the game a lot of fun to watch and gave me significant hope for future seasons.
Personal Game Attendance at an All-Time High! So I tallied it up and we went to 22 games this season, two of which were the Angels/A’s double header. Wow! So. Ummmm…Hon, when you read this, remember how that fact of that being absolutely (Wonderfully!) crazy is tempered by my folks and your boss giving us tickets. 😉 Being at the game so often gave us the chance to catch a lot of season highlights. Bourjos’ first home run of the season. Trumbo’s first big league homerun. A couple of flying Bourjos catches. An I can’t believe he caught that Torii Hunter catch…and that was just during the Haren 1-hit shutout game, no kidding. There was even more than that over the course of the other 21 games. I only hope that tickets are not so expensive this season that we have difficulties getting to the game. I don’t have to go to 22 games (Though I will never turn it down!) but if I don’t get to the ballpark every couple of weeks or so, crankiness is likly to ensue. 🙂
Travelling for Baseball. Seth and I have talked about eventually seeing a game in every Major League stadium for years, but it has also been years since we’ve been able to do any real travelling. This season we finally got started on our plans and while we may have started small we started well, travelling up to the Bay Area to visit with friends and watch games at the Coliseum and AT&T Park. So. Much. Fun! This coming season, the way things look, I think we may only be able to make it down to Petco Park in San Diego, which is local but still progress.
And last but not least…I hesitate to include this winter’s signings only because at the moment Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson have not had the opportunity to take a single swing or deliver a single pitch for the Angels. We suspect they will be strong, difference making additions to the team but while it’s all still just on paper, it’s only highly probable, not actual. But I will add this to my list: last year at this time I was writing about Hot Stove Grief (Hey, this is a serious disorder. Wipe that smirk off your face!) and feeling like the front office was just phoning it in. Today I feel like the front office is really working to put the best team on the field they possibly can and I am hopeful and excited for the season to begin. What a difference a few months make!
“By mid-day when even the best fed hobbits were out and about again…” This quote always pops into my mind the morning…er…early afternoon after a late night party. Of course, I feel that Tolkien intended best fed to also imply most thoroughly imbibed, latest celebrating and anything else that indicates general decadence and celebratory debauchery.
New Year’s Day is a day for proclaiming resolutions for the year to come. I’m sure the Angels have their resolutions just like you and I. Obviously, I’m not privy to what those resolutions might be, but having watched them all through the 2010 season, I can make some pretty good guesses:
- Stop picking one favorite pitcher or two in the starting rotation each year. Run support for all Angels pitchers in 2011!
- Everybody bats well above the Mendoza line in 2011. Just to be perfectly clear, .212 is not well above by any standard measurement, metric, imperial or otherwise.
- Unless you happen to be coming from behind, let’s make the 8th inning a little less exciting in 2011 shall we? There is nothing wrong with maintaining a lead and the antacid industry doesn’t need any extra boosts in this economy.
- All hustle, all the time – run for it, stretch for it, dive for it, bust your butt. Every game. Every inning. Every play. No exceptions. Angels who need to make this resolution know who they are.
- No runners left behind in 2011! Raise that RISP and more RBIs!
- Stealing bases is part of what Angels baseball is all about but know yourself and the opposing team. If you can’t steal 3rd (or 2nd for that matter) don’t.
- More decisive victories! Contrary to popular Bull Durham quote, shutouts are not fascist and while I love a bare knuckled baseball brawl for the victory as much as anyone, games where your lead is never in question aren’t boring, I assure you.
- Bring back the old swagger and sense of fun. Have a great time and kick some serious butt this year!
And last but not least, a suggested Angels fan resolution: Unless regular season play gives us any reason to react otherwise, let’s revisit that sense of “this year could be the year” optimism young fans feel at the beginning of every baseball season and let the 2011 season start with a clean slate.
Okay, so maybe I am the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels baseball 🙂
Christmas is just around the corner and at my house that means we’ve been making candy for three days…yes, even while it’s raining cats and dogs. What can I say? We’re brave and we’ve been getting more than passable results by adjusting the times and temperatures slightly. Anyway, watching and swirling pot after napalm like pot of boiling sugar and butter, waiting for that magic second when it achieves optimum caramel color and that heavenly smell begins to permeate the room, a mere second and a half at most before it begins to burn, gives one a lot of time to think…Maybe it’s just the sugar rush talking, but it occurs to me that building a winning baseball team, one that can make it to the postseason and win the World Series, bears some resemblance to the process I have just repeated many times in the last several days.
Candy making is both an exact and an inexact science. You have a set list of ingredients, precise ratios for those ingredients and highly specific directions to follow with regards to cooking times, stirring procedures and temperatures. Follow the recipe exactly and you get a winning result every single time…except when you don’t. Slight changes in humidity, the freshness of the ingredients, water quality, a nick in your pan, all can lead to bad results – poor consistency, candy that won’t harden or goes straight to the burned stage. And Lord help you if a sugar crystal drops into the mix at the wrong moment! And the best part? You can’t predict the degree to which any of these things will matter or even if they will matter at all until the moment you are making the candy. Sometimes cooking it longer will combat the high humidity of a heavy rainstorm. Other times, even slightly raised humidity is impossible to overcome.
Everyone knows the ingredients needed for a winning baseball team – a great starting rotation, a reliable bullpen complete with an effective closer, hot bats, a high OPS and fantastic gloves and arms on defense. But what is the perfect ratio? Theories abound – great starters that go deep make a reliable bullpen less necessary, you can have adequate pitching as long as you have a team of hitters, you can have low OPS as long as you have a killer starting rotation, and so on. But for every theory you will find plenty of World Series Winning examples to contradict it. I would argue that team chemistry can play a huge rule in determining which teams make it to the postseason, but others would disagree and teams with lousy chemistry have certainly managed to achieve that feat before (the 2002 Giants, for example).
And this is before you even get to all of the external factors – the other teams’ abilities, ownership/financial issues, heck, even the weather. Apparently rain affects everything! And what about injuries, that greatest and most hated of all equalizers? Sometimes injuries have little effect (In 2010? The Rangers.), other times there is no hope for team recovery without the injured player (In 2010? The Angels.) or in light of a cascade of injuries (In 2010? The Red Sox.).
My point is simply this, we can guess predict the outcome of a season all we want but it is impossible to really know until we get there. There are just entirely too many variables. In light of recent acquisitions, the prevailing theory is that the Phillies and the Red Sox are certain to meet up in the World Series. I’m not saying it’s not possible. Both have the makings of frightening opponents next year and some years the more popular predictions do come to pass. Other years, you have a World Series matchup between the Giants and the Rangers. And who were some of the favored predictions last year? Well, the Philllies and the Mariners come to mind…With an off season that’s already been full of surprises, the one prediction I feel certain of is that the 2011 season will be anything but dull.
Meanwhile, I sit here nibbling on a piece of near perfect pine nut brittle that should, by all rights, have failed to become brittle…purely for quality control purposes I assure you 😉