With only one day left in 2010, I believe it is customary to make a top 10 or some other sort of retrospective list. I don’t recall any actual written rule to this effect in the Big Book of Blogging Rules, wherever that may be, but it hey, the end of the year just cries out for such things, doesn’t it? So why buck tradition? If finding 10 things in this season of all seasons that make me happy to be an Angels fan makes me the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels baseball, well, I did choose the handle Blithescribe after all *big grin*. In no particular order, here are my personal 10 favorite things about Angels baseball in 2010:
Jered Weaver – Angels fans were all so very worried about who could step up and fill the ace’s shoes with Lackey headed for the Red Sox. That seems so wonderfully silly now! I actually wasn’t that worried. I didn’t know he would step up so fully this season, but I did remember that post season game against the Yankees in 2009 when Weaver became the 8th inning set up man in a moment of need and he came in looking like a steely eyed gunslinger and sat them down one, two, three. I remember standing up and cheering in my living room and thinking future ace. And to be the AL strikeout leader in 2010, icing on the cake! Now let’s get this man some run support in 2011 shall we.
Signing Dan Haren – This was one of those, really, we got him? Way to go Reagins! moments. A second ace to add to the rotation, he was an absolute pleasure to watch in 2010 and finished his partial season here with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. I hope that these stats are indicative of what we can expect to see in 2011. The fact that we happened to be there for his first (Where he took the Youk line drive to the pitching arm, ouch!) and second starts made this extra fun for me.
7/31 and 8/1 against the Rangers – Both were absolute, bare knuckled brawls of a game, the Angels were in top form, and we had tickets to both for our anniversary – this lady demands diamonds on such occasions, natch 😉 The Rangers won the first game, but the second was Weaver vs. Cliff Lee, the Angels pulled it off and it was quite possibly the best game I have seen from a stadium.
Players Doing What’s Best for the Team – Torii moving to right field so the Angels could bring Bourjos into center; Napoli taking over first base and doing a darned good job at it really, after Kendry’s injury when he hadn’t played first base since the minors; both were selfless, team spirited moves and, to my mind, damn clutch.
The Month of June – Instead of crumpling in the aftermath of Kendry’s season ending injury, the team cowboyed up and played like, well, like the Angels for the month of June and it was a beautiful thing to see…and then they crumpled. Would that the June play had lasted the rest of the year.
Peter Bourjos – It was such a breath of fresh air to watch this young bundle of talent and enthusiasm move up to the majors. And you’ve all heard it hundreds of time by now, but oh my God is this kid fast. In the games we attended alone I saw him rob four homeruns and turn two sure thing out bloopers to the short stop into a base hits. And he’s smart on the bases and out in the field too. He’s not perfect. He’s definitely a rookie so there were a few issues, primarily with his offense but he seemed to be improving by small increments with each at bat and I for one really look forward to watching him blossom into a full blown All Star in 2011.
Getting to See the Rookie Call-Ups in Action – While it would have been better if the Angles were in contention for a post season and the rookie call-ups mostly sat on the bench, the way things worked out it was a lot of fun to be there at the Big A for to see so many of their firsts – Conger, Trumbo and Romine’s first at bats, their first turns on defense. As with Bourjos, it was a bright spot to see so much youthful enthusiasm on the field, and I think we’ll be seeing Conger and Romine again, Conger quite soon.
16 Games! – My husband and I managed to go to 16 games this year. We typically watch between 100 and 130 of the games in some fashion, mostly on TV but this is the first time we’ve made it to the Big A, which is oh so much better, for so many. No, this is not earth shattering for Angels baseball as a whole, but it was a big deal in terms of my personal fan experience.
The Growth of the Friday Night Ritual – this is another one that would only matter in my house. A good bottle of wine, a gourmet dinner from our own kitchen and Angels baseball became what we called the Friday Night Ritual. It’s fun, companionable, affordable and this year we grew to love it to the point where we turned down all other invitations…’tis such a fine, fine line between the fanatic and fan!
Personal Firsts – Kendry’s exhibition game grand slam against the Dodgers was the first grand slam my husband had ever seen live at a stadium – he didn’t go to as many Dodger games as I did as a kid ;). This was the first year I timed the tickets such that I got to see Weaver pitch at the stadium and honestly, you can’t really appreciate the sheer amount of ground this 6′ 7″ talented stork of a man covers and the deceptiveness of his delivery until you’ve seen it at the game. The first time either of us was there for an entire series – the last homestand against the A’s, many, many thanks to D for his generosity in just handing my husband the season tickets, this game and so many others. And the list goes on…
Suffice to say, yes it was a dismal season. But there were bright spots and enjoyable times for me at least and I for one am ready to call clean cup move down and see what the 2011 season brings…ideally Adrian Beltre but, if not, I am still eager to see what the Angels can do.
The Sports Lodge, our Orange and Los Angeles County morning sports radio show (broadcast from KLAA out of Angels stadium, for full disclosure) turned the daily One on One segment over to the listeners today. This is a semiweekly occurrence, as host Roger Lodge sees fit, where a usually divisive question is posed and listeners ad invited to call the show and weigh in. Today’s question was prompted by Arte Moreno’s comments to the Los Angeles Times that if he increased the Angles offers for high end free agents to the levels other teams have paid, it would necessitate raising ticket prices and he is unwilling to do that. So, Lodge’s question to the listeners: Would you rather raise ticket prices, land a big name free agent like an Adrian Beltre and have a real shot at being championship team? Or, keep ticket prices the same as they are right now and watch the same below .500 result you watched last year?
I wish I was able to hear the listeners responses but my car has the wimpiest antenna known to man and, per its usual, it refused to pick up am radio from the point in my commute when Lodge finished his funny Devil’s advocate spiel until moments before I pulled into the parking lot at work. Gee, thanks car. Had I a chance to call in I would have teased Lodge about the question itself (which was probably part of why he phrased it that way, truth be told) which I think was based on three pieces of false logic:
1) The 2010 Angels were a bad, sub .500 team that cannot improve without a big name free agency signing. Last year was bad, really bad. But all that bad was the result of bad performances, not a bad team (an important nuance to my way of thinking) and more than a little bad luck on top of it. Bad performances from otherwise good players, even season long bad performances, can improve. With bad players, this would be far less likely. Can this season’s bad performances improve without outside help? Yes! If the entire roster had just batted at their normal batting averages this season, for one thing, we would have won a lot of the games we lost this year. Will performances improve without outside help? God I hope so. There are no guarantees, but it doesn’t seem too farfetched to expect most of the players to return to playing to their normal capability, which would be a big improvement. And we get Kendry back, which is another improvement in and of itself and mitigates the bad luck factor.
2) Small changes addressing specific problems will not do anything to improve that situation. I think we need a few more changes to address additional weak spots on the team, of course, but one of our bigger problems last year was the Arson Squad Bullpen part deux. Signing Downs and Takahashi will definitely improve that situation and, while I don’t think this is the entire fix by a long shot, it’s an important improvement all the same.
3) A single big name free agency signing can turn a bad sub .500 team into a championship team. I had the most issues with this question premise. I do not believe that one player can elevate a truly poor team into a great team. Does anyone really think that with the Jayson Werth signing the Nationals are going to take the NL East next year? No, but for a team like the Red Sox who were so close, but not close enough last year, signing Carl Crawford might make enough of a difference to justify the expense.
I see the Angles, playing at the level the current roster is capable of playing at, as being a lot closer to the Red Sox example than to the Nationals example and, in that sense, I think a big name free agency signing could definitely help us rise back to the level of championship team. But I take issue with the idea that without such a signing, nothing else matters and we’re back to a below .500 performance in 2011.
So . What are your thoughts on the possibilities of a single big name free agent turning a bad team around? Or on my musings on bad team vs. bad performances as it relates to the Angels or just in general?
And on the Adrian Beltre front? Well, it’s the Angels rumor mill hokey pokey – We put the right bid in, we pulled it right back out, wait we put a new bid in, no we threw the whole thing out. The rumor mill hokey pokey sure turns stuff all around. Darned if anyone knows who really knows what it’s all about. 😉
Friday, in an interview with the L.A. Times, Angels Owner Arte Moreno stated that the Angles had made a quote, unquote significant offer to Adrian Beltre. In the article (linked above) the Times speculates that the offer was in the vicinity of 5 years and $70 million and was likely to be the Angels final offer. This was such an uncharacteristic statement from anyone in the Angels notoriously tight lipped front office, let alone from Moreno, that I’ve been waiting with interest to see what if anything came of this announcement over the weekend. When I read between the lines – always a dangerous and unscientific pastime but, seriously, who can resist? – I think Moreno is saying the Angels don’t expect to be able to land Beltre but, he’s aware that a vocal percentage of the fanbase perceives the front office as being overly passive and bungling the deal with Carl Crawford and he wants to avoid incurring that same perception with Beltre.
Sure enough, today there is talk that Beltre rejected that supposedly final Angles offer and that’s likely to be the end of that…of course talk is just talk until contracts are actually signed and a lot of the talk this hot stove season has been dead wrong. Carl Crawford? Cliff Lee? Need I say more? But in this case the predictions and rumors interest me far less than the fact that Moreno said anything at all in the middle of the negotiations. I think that fans’ anger and frustration is getting to him and, I would imagine, to the rest of the front office as well, especially in light of the money is no object promises for change Moreno made at the end of last season. Well, good…maybe…depending on the front office’s response. Frustrated action good. Frustrated kneejerk reaction, bad.
Note that I speak of the fans’ anger and frustration in the third person. Me? I’m not thrilled with the way the offseason has gone so far but I’m also not crying gloom and doom just yet, apart from a few shocked sarcastic comments as each new development broke, of course. Kendry coming back to all reports as good as new is a big deal and already an improvement over last year. His is an impressive bat and often shields and inspires other bats in the lineup. The deals the Angels have made this off season have strengthened the Bullpen which was a major issue last year. Do I want more? Of course? Would I feel better about next season if we had an additional big bat or two or a new younger guy in left field? Very much so. Would I feel better if we could resolve the strange platoon of partial skill sets at third base? Double hell yeah on that one. But if Beltre is out of the picture, who is left who would be a good fit? And if the answer is no one just yet, I’m far from ready to give up on the whole 2011 season in December 2010, thank you very much. Which brings me to the rest of the weirdness seemingly swirling around the Big A…
There is a lot of new discussion about the Angles going after Scott Podsednik or Johnny Damon if they can’t land Adrian Beltre. More typically, none of it is from the front office this time, so who knows how true any of it is. But I don’t like the idea of either player for us really. Nothing against either one, but we already have two left fielders in their 30’s with good gloves but slowing feet and diminishing range, and Abreu can also bat leadoff and/or be the DH. I would like the Angels to use Juan Rivera a lot less but it doesn’t seem like either Podsednik or Damon would be that much of an improvement. True, we do need a DH now, but I prefer the idea of looking for some more speed in left field (and on the base paths) and moving Bobby into the DH role rather than platooning or replacing him with someone with basically the same pros and cons. Who is the answer? Darned if I know. Luckily, I only have to comment on the outcome of the decisions. I don’t actually have to make them.
When the Nationals upset everyone’s plans by landing Jayson Werth, unexpectedly and so very, very early, I was worried this would happen. When the Red Sox signed Adrian Gonzalez I was somewhat relieved but still concerned. And, wouldn’t you know it, golly gosh darn it all to heck in a forking hand basket and other similarly lengthy strings of appropriate-for-the-family-show-that-is-MLBlogs swearing, the goram Red Sox went and signed Carl Crawford. Grrrrrr…er…I mean, well played Mr. Epstein. Well played. The Sox are going to be tough again this year. No, on second thought, grrrrrrrrrrr really covered it better.
Well then, moving right along. Mike Scioscia and Tony Reagins met with the press on separate occasions yesterday afternoon and my original plan for the evening was to blog about their – unsurprisingly similar – comments. Gotta love Hot Stove…and, actually I do. I’m just not particularly in love with it tonight. Although typically noncommittal, both Scioscia and Reagins did say that bumping up the Angels offense is the primary goal for the off season. Reagins indicated that this could be accomplished by either trades or free agency acquisitions or a combination of the two. When the subject of the Angels trying to land Crawford came up, he was evasive but didn’t outright say no the way he did with questions about the Angels making an offer to Cliff Lee. He later tantalizing said that signing one great free agent or signing two very good ones could be similarly beneficial.
Scioscia and Reagins said that the Angels would be perfectly comfortable heading into the 2011 season with third base as it stands now – manned by a platoon of primarily Maicer Izturis backed by Alberto Callaspo and Brandon Wood. I completely disagree with being comfortable with the third base situation, incidentally. Maicer really is the Rally Monkey. When he plays, he makes things happen, at the plate, in the field and on the base paths. It’s just the “when he plays” part that is the difficulty. He is plagued by injuries that leave him on the DL for significant stretches two and three times a season. Callaspo made some great plays for the Angels and had some fantastic plate appearances but his glove and his bat are inconsistent. And Brandon Wood? I am sure you already know all about his well publicized issues. I wish it were different, really I do. If only his major league success matched his heart and his desire, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But that just isn’t the case and he hasn’t worked out in spectacular fashion. But I digress…
Reading between the lines of all of these comments, which is always dangerous, I believe that signing Crawford and keeping the three-way third base platoon was Plan A. With Plan A off the table, I believe that signing Adrian Beltre and possibly one other person and sticking with an Abreu, Bourjos and Hunter outfield is Plan B. Lyle Spencer, MLB.com’s Angels beat reporter, seemed to be leading us toward these conclusions, though I’m hardly certain that’s any less dangerous than just reading between the lines for myself. But it’s fun to speculate and it’s not like they’re going to give us any more information to go on until the deal, whatever it is, is done.
Come on Mr. Reagins. Make a move please, a really good one…a move the player accepts even. Let’s not have all of the off season surprises coming at the Angels expense, shall we. Impatient? Who, me?
The Nationals signed Jayson Werth for a $126 million dollars over 7 years deal! On the day before the Winter Meetings begin! Holy out of the blue Hot Stove developments, Batman!
There I was, enjoying a leisurely late Sunday afternoon – the last game wrapped up at 3:30 this morning, don’t judge, LOL – putting the house back together from the evening’s festivities when I decided to quickly check out the Hot Stove blog to see if there happened to be any new pre-Winter Meeting rumors. It was unlikely, right, but I needed a distraction from the dishes. Boy was I in for a surprise.
The Nationals signing Jayson Werth potentially changes everything for the Angels. Everyone who had their sights set on Werth will now train them on Carl Crawford instead. Christmas certainly came early for the Crawford family – his price just went way up. This is also potentially an early present for Adrian Beltre and several of the other highly sought free agents. With so many teams’ Plan A off the table before the meetings even start, there is plenty of time for offers and counter offers on Plans B through D and so on. And the farther apart each deal happens, the harder it gets to sneak a contract signing in under the radar before five or six other teams dive into the fray. I don’t even remember the Nationals being mentioned in the list of Werth suitors. The Nationals GM is the new player transaction ninja, I think.
I wonder how this news went down as everyone arrived at the winter meetings today? Welcome to the Swan and Dolphin Resort. We hope you had a nice flight. Here is your meeting packet including your room reservations, the week’s iteniary, and agendas for tomorrow’s meetings. And oh, by the way, you might want to spend the next few hours fleshing out plans D through N because, while you were in the air, the Nationals just started the dominoes rolling in a completely different direction. Have a pleasant stay. I’m sure that isn’t how it actually happened, but the mental image amused me. In this day and age, all of the GMs probably knew the second the trade became official via electronic alert, a courtesy text or, you know, Twitter.
Oh yeah, and the White Sox signed Adam Dunn late Thursday and resigned A.J. Pierzynski on Friday, the Cardinals signed Lance Berkman on Saturday, the Yankees resigned Derek Jeter on Saturday and the Red Sox nearly lost out on their deal with the Padres for Adrian Gonzales Saturday only to lock it in today, which hopefully will take a little bit of the edge off of their quest for Crawford and/or to resign Beltre. That last development was announced a mere three hours ago. Has this been an inordinately busy early Hot Stove weekend or what? I can’t wait to see what news the next few days bring.