Finally sitting down to write again while watching the final games of the World Baseball Classic, I tip my hat to Puerto Rico for defeating reigning champion Japan, but I also have to belatedly tip my glass to Team USA. While I wish they could have made it this far and clearly theirs was not as great a finish as we’d hoped — certainly not as great a finish as the players had hoped — it was much better than I expected after catching the USA vs. Mexico game. And, hey, I have the last of the Balvenie RumCask in the glass I am tipping, so I can honestly say that a) this is a quality toast and b) that I may actually shed a tear or two in a moment…though certainly not for Team USA. 😉
Taking the not-particularly-way-back machine to one week ago, I return to the subject of our Annual Baseball Extravaganza, Spring Training Edition. For Seth and I, this was a trip filled with firsts — our first trip to Spring Training and our first World Baseball Classic game. Friday afternoon we left Tempe Diablo stadium when the Arizona sky opened up and poured water and ice, checked into our hotel, wrung as much water as we could from our jeans (serves us right for trying to pack light, I suppose) and headed to Chase Field to watch Team USA and Team Mexico battle to move to the next round in the WBC. Yes, that’s a lot of baseball. *Big silly grin* My kind of vacation.
The energy walking into Chase was incredible. Our seats were excellent, in the third row just a section and change behind first base. In my opinion half of the fun of the WBC is seeing our MLB players in different uniforms, playing for their home country or for Team USA. It was an absolute kick to see so many players I adore but don’t get to watch nearly as often as my Angels – R.A. Dickey, Giancarlo Stanton, Brandon Phillips, Joe Mauer, Eric Hosmer and the list goes on – playing together in red, white and blue, especially on the same field with Adrian Gonzalez, Sergio Romo and everyone else playing for Mexico. Sadly, the game itself was one sided and ho hum. Mexico hit, ran and hit and ran some more while USA played like…well…like an MLB team in their second or third week of Spring Training. I had the wrong angle to tell if Dickey was having an off night or if Mexico simply has no issues hitting a knuckleball. Not that it mattered, because the outfield couldn’t seem to make a play to save their lives, a development I was not expecting given the quality of the players involved. Mind you, I had a blast and am excited we had tickets to see the game but, in the end, my excitement and enjoyment were more because we got to see a WBC game than because the game itself was anything special.
A couple of observations:
The strangest thing about the game: Oddly enough, I scould not get used to the sounds. As I mentioned, it poured in Arizona that Friday so Chase Field wisely took advantage of all modern conveniences and this became the first baseball game I have ever watched under a closed roof. I was plenty grateful for the roof, mind you, especially sitting there still damp from the epic deluge and hail that ended the Angels game that afternoon. But at the same time I was reminded how much the traditional sounds of the game are part of the whole experience for me. Under a roof you still get the crack of the bat, etc., but it’s flatter and somewhat muted. It just doesn’t sound right…kind of Langoliers-ish for any of you out there who devoured Stephen King to the degree I did as a child. Now, don’t get me wrong. Baseball played underneath a retractable roof is decidedly better than a game called for inclement weather, or than sitting in the stands dripping wet, cold and absolutely hating life for that matter. But the game is still best enjoyed outside.
The best thing about the game: As I said, the energy was incredible! You hear a lot about games with a playoff atmosphere. Now, I have yet to afford the privilege of being at an actual playoff game — though that is indeed one for the bucket list — but I have been at several hard contested, end-of-the-season games that folks later describe as having a playoff atmosphere and I can definitely attest to the fact that that kind of energy is wild, intense and wonderful. I also had the luck of being at the Big A for every pitch of Jered Weaver’s no hitter (No, I probably won’t stop mentioning that for a few seasons yet. Why do you ask? 😉 ) and the energy at that game was positively electric to the point where you could feel it on your skin. The energy at the WBC game was palpable, like that, but less intense. It was a rowdy, fun, the-crowd-is-absolutely-into-it-and-hanging-on-every-pitch kind of energy and, yet, at the same time it was casual. This wasn’t a playoff atmosphere, it felt like everything a simple every day game can and should be, and this during a relatively lopsided, uneventful game. If every regular season MLB game could feel like that? Well, I would probably love going to baseball games even more, something I did not think possible.
News Flash! There is precious little, if any, justice in this world. Oh. Yeah. That not exactly news to anyone. Okay. This just in! MLB Awards are often political and don’t always go to the most deserving player. Yeah, you’re right. Not exactly earth shattering either. Okay, we’ll just go with this, even though I’m sure news has already travelled fast: Mike Trout didn’t win the Gold Glove for AL Centerfielders.
Oh well, that’s okay. I’m sure the winner had, you know, less errors, a better WAR and a higher fielding percentage than Mike Trout…ummmmmmm…yeah. Never mind. Look, sour grapes aside, none of this is meant as a diss of winner Adam Jones. He also had a very good year. A great year even. But was it, I ask you, a Trout year? No, no it was not. In fact, that should be a new measure of fielding greatness and/or just plain overall awesomeness from now on – the Trout year. “Well, he had a great career in Center and his WAR was high but what does that translate to in Trout years?”
Oh well, I suppose this is an odd sort of balancing of the scales after Erick Aybar won the Gold Glove with more errors than either of the other two finalists last season. When it comes to MLB Awards, in any given season there’s plenty of WTF to go around.
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Congratulations to the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants! But I do have to say, as an unaffiliated fan rooting for a borrowed team, that was one boring World Series. Deadly boring in fact. Oh, I watched it and I was pleased to have four more games before we begrudgingly usher in the dread long winter without. But wouldn’t it have been better to have 6 or 7 games to tide us through till Spring Training? If you were to say I was spoiled by the sheer nail biting amazingness of 2011’s close, hard fought duel to the finish, you’d be absolutely right. But that doesn’t make it wrong to have hoped for the Tigers to take the lead once – nay, several times – before Game 4. Sweeps are only fun for the fans of the team doing the sweeping…and even then, I’m not so sure.
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It’s early yet, but we’ve still had a bit of Angels contract news. The team extended Chris Iannetta’s contract, which pleases me greatly. They also put Bobby Wilson out on Waivers and he was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays, who are apparently trying to collect the whole tradable set of Angels cast off catchers. I know Wilson wasn’t an All Star, headline grabbing catcher, but he was a more than serviceable backstop who busted his ass to do right by the team in general and Angels pitchers in particular. He always played whatever role was asked of him with a great attitude and a smile on his face and I don’t think that gets as much recognition as it should.
I’m not questioning Jerry Dipoto’s decision to part ways with Wilson. It does make a lot of sense to finally create enough room for Hank Conger to move up to the Bigs full time. But what I am saying is that I noticed Bobby Wilson’s efforts and contributions, noticed and appreciated them. I enjoyed rooting for him as an Angel and now I wish him all the best as a Jay or wherever they trade him to…even if it’s Texas. *grumble, grumble, Texas, grumble, grumble*
While I certainly have a myriad of hopes for other Angels personnel decisions, at the moment I’m primarily focused on the fate of free agent Torii Hunter. First and foremost, he’s my favorite Angel – on a long list of favorites, mind you, but still – and as a very close second, in case you weren’t watching last season, he absolutely kicked ass. While I doubt his 2013 numbers will match his 2012 numbers, I’m sure they’ll still be very good indeed, not to mention all of the mentoring he provides, shaping the Angels of the future. So, Jerry? Torii? Just so we’re clear, I have all of my fingers, toes and anything else I can think of to cross, crossed hoping for news that Torii Hunter stays an Angel in 2013. Got it? Eeeeeeexcellent!