Welcome to I-5 Bias: the 2013 Season’s End Edition! This is the latest in what continues to be a fun, occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Matt and I were originally inspired to start this column by the huge shift in attention the AL and NL West have enjoyed. Between tough competitions down to the October wire, prominent postseason performances and some pretty loud player acquisitions, the AL and NL West, and frequently my Angels and his Dodgers specifically, have been big, big news. So we thought that we would share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? No, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!
Understandably, I almost didn’t want to do this edition, given the Angels sad, sad finish. But I would be a poor sport indeed if I didn’t continue in light of my fellow blogger’s team’s huge success. So, *mumbles* Congratulations Dodgers and good luck. Angels, kindly get it together this offseason – pretty please! And hopefully the next postseason will have more of a both ends of the I-5 vibe – not that a Freeway Series with Vin Scully announcing and the Angels ultimately victorious – naturally! – isn’t a bucket list level dream of mine or anything…nope, not at all. *nods* But I digress…
For this edition, we have posed six questions prompted by our teams’ final season records and the ensuing fan and media commentary, to be answered on both of our blogs. We hope you enjoy this freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snotty ones), please ask away:
The Dodgers and the Angels both had abysmal starts to their seasons. But by the end of June, the Dodgers started to turn things completely around. What are your thoughts on the Dodgers comeback/why do you think they were able to turn their season around?
Matt says: It’s amazing to think about what the Dodgers did. At the begining a lot of things were going completely wrong. Injuries, Leaving runners on base, Errors, Mismanagement, I mean whatever you thought of it happened with the Dodgers. When they went on that run It was unbelieveable run and took first place, There was a feeling that this team could do something special. How they were able to turn it around? Honestly there was a number of things. Everyone started to trust one another, In an Interview before the Blue Jays Series Adrian Gonzalez and AJ Ellis said that everyone on that team started to trust each other. Taking a few pitches and not over do things knowing the next guy behing them. Anotheher was the pitching started to get better. If you look at the Dodgers Statisiticly pitching it started with their top two starting pitchers in Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. In the 2nd half both are a world better with low ERA’s and great win-loss records so there was no doubt that they would get it together. The rest of the staff on the other hand really went on to shock me. Ricky Nolasco was really getting it together, Hyun Jin Ryu continued his success, and the Bullpen as a whole managed to get better and the addition of Brian Wilson made it better as well. Let’s also not forget about Yasiel Puig! I think he was the huge spark that the Dodgers needed with his play.
Kristen says: I think it was as close to a perfect storm of good as a team can get – things started clicking for the Dodgers when Yasiel Puig debuted right as key players started coming off the DL. This is, perhaps, an oversimplified explanation for a pretty epic comeback, but that’s all I’ve got and, really, it’s no worse than Vin’s Magic Castle explanation. 😉
And what are your thoughts on the Angels continually frustrating season/why do you think they weren’t able to turn their season around?
Kristen says: Frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it. Trust me, I watched something like 145 of 162. Seriously. There are a lot of things that went wrong – injuries, veterans failing to perform, an on again/off again offense – but I think that the worst thing, the truly irreparable nail in the coffin, was pitching. This is a team that had relied on stellar pitching for the last string of seasons and they went into 2013 without a true starting rotation and no improvements to speak of in a shaky bullpen. Then injuries and aging arms made the pitching situation even worse and the powers that be failed to make any moves that constituted so much as a legitimate patch before the trade deadline – not that they really had a lot of funds to make such a thing possible by that point in the season.
Matt says: The Angels were a team I thought would also get it together in the 2nd half of the season. They had the offensive fire power, Pujols, Trout, and Kendrick was doing their thing, Josh Hamilton was starting to come around but ultimately the Angels couldn’t get it done. You had the injury to Albert that put himout for the rest of the season and inconsistant play it just wasn’t good all around. I think what hurt the Angels was the inconsistant ball play. The inability to really put something together to make a run hurt them. In the AL West you can’t afford to lose series against the A’s and Rangers and expect to make up ground. Droping games against Seattle and Houston didn’t help at all either. I believe the Angels needed to get it together consistantly and didn’t.
With postseason baseball coming for the Dodgers what is their biggest strength and weakness? How far do you think they can go?
Matt says: Their biggest strength will be pitching. I always preach that pitching will win you championships. Look at the Giants in 2010-2012 and look at the Phillies 2008-2009. Both had a great pitching staff that lifted them to World Series appaerances/Championships. That’s what the Dodgers needed and they tackled it well the Dodgers pitching staff is getting it done at the right time and when it’s really needed. Kershaw and Greinke in game one and two is scary enough and the bullpen has been lights out. As far as their weakness I do believe it’s their health. Dodgers for some reason have this issue with staying healthy and that tend to hurt them a lot. Right now L.A. have Matt Kemp out for the season with a ankle injury and the status of Andre Ethier is really up in the air right now. This team must stay healthy in order to really make an impact. I do believe the Dodgers can go far. It’s going to be difficult because they have a lot of good teams to pan up against and will be on the road. I think the Dodgers can make it to the World Series due to their pitching and talent.
Kristen says: I think pitching is the Dodgers biggest strength and an on again, off again offense is potentially their biggest liability. They sure aren’t hitting right now but even the last few games leading up to the postseason aren’t always an indication of play come October. If the Dodgers start hitting again, they could go pretty far.
What, if anything, do you think the season fallout will be in the Angels organization? Is there anything this team can do to get back on track for 2014?
Kristen says: I feel like Sadusky in National Treasure, “Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben.” I don’t know or even really want to predict who is going to leave but it’s certain that someone, and probably several someones, will. There are rumors flying far and wide about Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia. On the one hand, if you take injuries out of the equation, Jerry Dipoto is responsible for the pitching situation – he dismantled the old starting rotation to build this one. One the other hand, Scioscia has managed four teams that failed to make the post season in a row, two of them with losing records…and don’t think we haven’t noticed that this is the first season Arte Moreno has failed to respond to questions over Sosh’s future with with instant unwavering support. So is it one or both of these guys or will it be a massive player shift? Or, D, some of all of the above? Personally, I’d like the fallout to be enough player movement to get an actual starting rotation going into 2014 without throwing all babies out with the bathwater to accomplish it. But I learned a long time again that I don’t think like a team owner, especially not this team owner, so I doubt it will be that.
Matt says: I don’t think much will happen in the Angels Organization really but ig I had to pick I do believe the Angels will let go Jerry Dipoto. He has made splash signings with Albert Puljos, CJ Wilson, and Josh Hamilton but really nothing much has come out of it. He also failed to get the Angels true help which was to upgrade the pitching staff. I do believe that there is something that this team can do to turn it around in 2014 and that’s to get pitching help. They have the offensive firepower and enough of it but now is the time to really lock down on pitching if they want to make an impact in the AL West.
After winning the NL West the Dodgers came out of their clubhouse and celebrated in the Diamondbacks pool in the outfield. This was controversial and commentators have expressed differing opinions on the matter. What is your take on the celebration?
Matt says: Well I maybe in the majority that actaully don’t have an issue with this. I honestly think the Diamondbacks and media are making a huge deal out of it than we are or the Dodgers. If anything it started with them saying that the Dodgers couldn’t comeback out to celebrate which puzzles me. It was all done when everyone was out of the stadium and Los Angeles didn’t mean any harm over it at all. I understand the sportsmanship and classiness of celebrating but lets not forget when the Dbacks clinched they went swiming in their pool in 2011. It’s really no issue at all really and I think it’s bigger deal to Arizona than anyone else.
Kristen says: On the one hand, I think the DBacks telling the Dodgers not to come back out of the Clubhouse to celebrate on their field was out of line and contrary to baseball tradition. So, if the Dodgers had just come out of the Clubhouse and celebrated on the field, I wouldn’t have any objections. But come on Dodgers, you can’t tell me that a large part of your motivation to celebrate specifically by jumping in the DBacks’ pool wasn’t sticking it to a division rival with whom you have bad blood and have brawled this season, knowing that such an action would really piss them off. While that is certainly an understandable, human motivation it isn’t exactly a classy one. So, do I think the Dodgers are evil? No. But they sure aren’t winning any kudos for sportsmanship this season. Of course, did they actually set out to? Probably not.
So, baseball fan boys and girls, what does the 2013 season have to teach us about pre-season media hype?
Kristen says: Well, both the Dodgers and the Angels were heavily hyped to go all the way. The Angels…yeah, ‘nuff said. *sigh* While the Dodgers have made it to the post season in style for sure…but with significant help from guys who weren’t even on the team when the predictions were made. Look, an MLB season is too long and complicated to ever listen to the preseason predictions with anything more than the kind of interest a diehard baseball fan shows any MLB news when there are no live games on yet and a ‘that’s nice’.
Matt says: I think it taught us something very valuable. Baseball isn’t played on paper. If you were to tell me the Giants, Angels, Nationals and Blue Jays wouldn’t even come close to playoff contention then I would think you’re crazy. This season basically showed us a lot when it comes to pre-season media hype. The Dodgers and Angels got off to bad starts but the Dodgers managed to get it together in the second half of the season and the Angels struggled which was disapointing to see. I think we will all be more careful when we take a look at things in the pre-season but this was another example of how anything can happen in baseball.
Get to Know Your Bloggers Bonus Question: Do you have any favorite memories and moments from the MLB Postseason?
Matt says: Well I do have a few memories and moments from the MLB Postseason. The Dodgers sweeping the Cardnials in 2009 is one that sticksout because St Louis was a heavy favorite and it really shocked a lot of us when the Dodgers swept them out of the playoffs. Another was the Cardinals/Rangers World Series. It was sad to see Texas lose it when they had two chances at winning it but amazing to see the Cards win it thanks to David Freese heroics but I think my favorite has to be the Red Sox and Yankees 2004 Series where the Yankees were up 3-0 in the series and was bound to win the series only for the Sox to pulloff an amazing comeback to win the ALCS which was crazy to see. I hope to see some this postseason as well that we can talk about for years to come.
Kristen says: You all know what I’m going to say here, right? ‘Erstad says he’s got it. Erstad makes the catch!’…except, favorite memory though that was, I wasn’t strictly back to being a baseball fan in 2002. I was a bitter, bitter lady over the strike, and I’d been raised a Dodgers fan, after all. No, I wouldn’t come back to baseball until I fell head over heels in love with the Angels about three seasons after the 2002 series. Sad, but true. But I do remember when they won. My grandfather was a lifelong Angels fan going back to the Minor League PCL days, but he passed away in 1990 and missed the team’s truly good years. It’s maudlin, but I remember catching the end of game 7 on TV and wishing that somehow he knew, as you do.
Now, with my odd mixed fan base baseball background, I also have vivid warm fuzzies over 1988, and that first Saturday game, building the Lego castle of the weekend all along the den floor with my sister while we watched the World Series. Memories of Vin Scully’s, ‘And look who’s coming up…’ and just knowing who I was going to see when I put down the Legos and looked up at the screen, because Kirk Gibson was my hero, so of course he would come in at just the right moment to win the game like it was some sort of fairy tale.
Ah childhood! But I guess that’s part of why I really get into doing this whole I-5 Bias thing, even when my team blows so many goats for the season that they actually made me momentarily happy the regular season has ended. Oh well, here’s looking forward to 2014 and hopefully less drama and more editions of I-5 Bias where I get to brag about my guys. Cheers!
Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Freeway Series Edition! This is the fourth in what we hope will be an occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Between two Giants World Series wins in three years (sorry Matt 😉 ), the AL West making quite the exciting splash in September 2012 and the ensuing Postseason, and recent shrewd personnel moves throughout the AL and NL West, MLB’s attention sure seems to be packing up and heading west these days. Despite the Dodgers and Angels terrible 2013 starts, Matt and I are both incredibly excited by this development want to share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? Nah, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!
For this edition, we have posed six Angels and Dodgers oriented questions to be answered on both of our blogs prompted by the first two months of the 2013 season and the Freeway Series that begins today. We hope you enjoy this continuing freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snarky ones), please ask away:
So, the 2013 Dodgers and Angels. Hmmm…how can I put this delicately? What the hell happened??
Kristen says: While I love SABR and all of the increased attention even the average fan pays to statistics and analysis these days, the drawback is that no one is satisfied until they have a specific, detailed answer to performance questions these days and, I’m sorry, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. I mean, if there were a specific, detailed answer to the question of the Angels slower than molasses in a blizzard start to the season, don’t you think the problem would have been quickly solvable? In a nutshell, I think this was a perfect storm for the Angels. Heading into the season, player transactions were very tightly concentrated on beefing up the offense, and very much at the expense of the quality of the Angels starting rotation while virtually ignoring the bullpen. I was already queasy over the idea of assuming the offense would always pick up the pitching and then Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance with a series of injuries taking out the only ace in the Angels pitching staff, turning the starting rotation and bullpen into personnel revolving doors, removing key set up pieces from the lineup and hampering the starts of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton – severely, in the case of Pujols. Does that fully explain the Angels start? Perhaps not for everyone, but when you throw in the added pressure of not living up to sky high expectations as each new calamity occurred, it explains things for me…not that I’ve been obsessing over this since Opening Day or anything…*whistles innocently*
Matt says: Well with the Dodgers I am still trying to figure out what is going on. This season hasn’t been the start we all expected for them. To be fair Injuries has hit the Dodgers pretty good but that’s no excuse. Between issues with batting with RISP, Bullpen meltdowns, and mismanagement in games the Dodgers have found themselves in a good hole.
Be honest. Do you think the Dodgers/Angels’ issues are fixable? How fixable? And what would it take at this point for you as a fan to call the season a success?
Matt says: Yes I do believe it is but that’s up to the Manager. Switch up the line up to where it’s more effective to get runs, Make better bullpen decisions and not put the same guys who keep blowing the game in. As far as what will make this season successful? Winning and getting back to the Playoffs is what will save this season. At the start all the expectations were going to be on but missing the playoffs after spending on the Starting Pitching and making changes will be a disapointment. They have to get it in gear ASAP.
Kristen says: Well, don’t look now but the Angels offense is back online, the pitchers are performing well enough and then some, and the guys have quite a nice little winning streak going on heading into the Freeway Series. And the cherry on top? Ace Jered Weaver is coming off the DL and scheduled to pitch on Wednesday…the game I have tickets for. Score! If this level of play continues, then I will count the Angels season a success, no matter what the standings say at the end. It’s not that I don’t care about making the playoffs, I very much do. And I’m not counting the Angels out at all. If they keep playing like this, anything is possible especially with two wild card opportunities. No, I’m just acknowledging the fact that when a team digs themselves this deep of a hole to start the season, they are no longer fully in control of their own destiny – final standings are as much a matter of the other teams having off days as your team having good ones, something that we as baseball fans know you can hope for all you want but never, ever count on.
There have been talk/rumors of Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia possibly getting fired. Do you believe it’s time for them to go or should they even take blame?
Kristen says: Nope. Never. You will not see me calling for Sosh’s head over this. Not going to happen. I may cringe over his bullpen management from time to time…er…all the time and yes, there have been and will always be instances of mismanagement. But I really think that as fans we have a tendency to point to the handful of mismanaged plays and ignore the rest of the game. Besides, injuries aren’t the manager’s fault. Personnel changes are not the manager’s fault. And somehow, despite all of the setbacks, the Angels are climbing back into this race and I think that that speaks volumes for the players’ grit, of course, but also for Sosh’s ability to keep them together even through the rough times.
Matt says: I’m going to be straight up with Mattingly. From the looks of this he isn’t the right fit for the Dodgers. He has mismanaged games on his part and at times shows lack of fire but as of late he is starting to pick up that fire and take action. Benching Ethier and Kemp as well as calling out the team is a start right there. Now should he take blame. Yes but not ALL of it. Blame has to go around to everyone on their part. Mattingly has messed up on his part and it’s going to cost him his job at some point.
One more uncomfortable question: What do you think about emergency/closed door team meetings — players only or otherwise? Are they ever effective or do they just feed the drama?
Matt says: You know about those meetings I actually really like them. You have time to really air out whatever issues their are and talk about what you have to do as a team to get it going in the right direction. The Media will always make it more than what it needs to be but they are an effective way to talk as a team to get things going in a positive spin.
Kristen says: I think that, like any other tool, closed door meetings can be useful at times, useless at others and downright detrimental at others. I think a team meeting certainly can turn things around and, when such things become necessary, I do love it when the players show enough passion, initiative and team spirit to take ownership and have their own meeting. Here’s the thing though. Back in the day, fans would never hear about a closed door meeting or certainly not about every closed door meeting. Now we hear about every single one, often as they’re happening. Frequently we even hear what was said at the meetings – pretty contrary to the point of ‘closed door’ don’t you think? This is the part I don’t think it healthy. It adds to the drama and it also leads to the tail wagging the dog. When things start to go downhill, everyone expects a closed door meeting creating external pressure for the meeting to happen, rather than the meeting just occurring or not occurring naturally in keeping with the rhythms and chemistry of that particular team.
With the new schedule and league realignment, rivalry matchups including the Freeway Series have shrunk from 6 games to 4 for the season. Do you like this development or is it messing too much with tradition, albeit a relatively recent tradition?
Kristen says: I love the Freeway Series and the rivalry fan energy that both surrounds it at the ballparks and spills over into our work and social lives for a few days. I’m really going to miss that lasting for two full series and, to be honest, a shorter more compacted Freeway Series cuts into my ability to attend one game at each stadium, a mini-tradition Seth and I have enjoyed for a few years. But, at the same time, I get the necessity of trimming down the rivalry matchups under the new schedule. I also understand how awkward and underwhelming two series’ worth of rivalry matchups were under the old schedule for teams/fan bases who had no natural rival and were stuck with 6 games against an, in essence, MLB manufactured and assigned rival. So, while I’m disappointed for Angels and Dodgers fans, I get that this was the best course of action.
Matt says: Well I ALWAYS have enjoyed the freeways series. To be honest I don’t have an issue with the series being 4 games because you have 2 in LA then right then another 2 in Anaheim. So more of a 4 game series home and home. I know this will eventually end up being a Opening Day match up soon with the realignment so 4 games isn’t bad. Though I did like the 6 game format.
Make your predictions now. Which team will win the Freeway Series and with what record?
Matt says: With what I have seen from the Dodgers they for some reason can’t get it together. Against St Louis they were shut out where they didn’t even show up and Yesterday where errors took them out of the game. This series starts off with Greinke and Ryu so it’s not pitching that I am worried about but the lack of offense. With that said I see this series going 2-2. Dodgers taking one in LA and one in Anaheim but with the Dodgers I really don’t know what to expect out of them at times especially with a hot Angels team coming into Dodger Stadium.
Kristen says: The Angels are hot right now and, since the start of interleague play, have owned the NL, including the Dodgers. I predict the Angels will win 3 out 4.
Meet the Bloggers Bonus Question: Do you enjoy the Freeway Series and, if so, what is your first/best Freeway Series memory?
Kristen says: I can’t pick out one specific, favorite memory – there are just too many! But the thing I love the most about the Freeway Series and the warm, fuzzy sense of family tradition I get from it. Growing up, my family primarily rooted for the Dodgers, but the Angels were Grandpa’s team, so I always knew both teams and loved watching them play each other. And, coming from such a Freeway family, as it were, my parents always took my sister and I to at least one Freeway Series game. There was no interleague play when I was a child so the Freeway Series was a pre-season exhibition. This meant that the Freeway Series was frequently my first live baseball game after the long winter without, adding to the specialness of the occasion.
Matt says: Theres so many favorite memories and moments from this series. I enjoy the Freeway Series because it’s two teams that’s close to each other clashing. As far as my favorite/best Freeway Series memory wellll theres so many that I can’t pin point on one. Mine would have to be my first trip to Angels Stadium in 2009. The night before Juan Rivera (Angels player at the time) hit a walk off Home Run. This night Jarred and Jeff Weaver pitched against each other. The Dodgers won that night but what made it memorible was that it was my Very First Freeway Series that I witnessed (The First of Many).
What a difference a few days makes. Shutout by the Royals on Wednesday and shutout for seven of nine innings on Tuesday. Blast and damn. < broken record > The Angels hit in both games, just not with runners in scoring position. </ broken record > Heck, we even managed to load up the bases twice today, once with no outs, and have no runs to show for it. No, Scott Downs should not have given up the homerun today and Joel Pineiro should not have given up five in the third yesterday. But the offense needs to stop putting our starters and relievers in a position where they have three or less, often less, runs to work with, especially when we can and have done much better.
Six runs on Sunday, ten on Monday, three on Tuesday and none today. I really don’t want to have to come up with a “Tanana and Ryan, then two days of cryin’” like slogan for the 2011 offense, thank you very much, but that’s certainly the way things looked in May. Okay, now </ broken record >.
* * * * *
Tanana and Ryan, then two days of cryin’. This, of course, was the Angels own special version of the more famous “Spahn, then Sain, then pray for rain.” from back in the days when Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan lead the Angels four-man starting rotation. I can’t remember if I learned that one from life-long Angels fan grandfather or from any number of trivia and history books I devoured as a young lass. Either way, the Angels pre-game shows and Angels weekly continue to air snippets from the 50th Anniversary celebration documentary and are currently in the middle of the Tanana/Ryan era and I can’t help but think of my grandfather.
I’ve written of my grandfather’s Angels fandom on this blog before and of my own upbringing rooting for the Dodgers – and don’t think there wasn’t a small, or perhaps not so small, amount of youthful rebellion in my father choosing to root for the Dodgers over his father’s Angels…well, youthful rebellion and maybe Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale had a little bit to do with it too. Grandpa passed away a few years after the Dodgers won the Series in 1988, so he never saw my conversion to Angels fandom, though I bet he’d have been tickled by it.
If I close my eyes I can still hear the particular sound of the radio playing the baseball game on the floor next to Grandpa’s armchair in the dining room, punctuated with short bursts of an announcer’s voice growing excited over a play; an announcer’s voice that was both less melodic and more enthusiastic than that of Vin Scully, with whom I was more familiar. And I can hear the occasional sounds of my grandfather’s hand slapping the arm of his chair softly in approval as he kept one ear on the game throughout our visits.
It’s funny what you remember and funnier still what you inherit from family. The hand slap of approval, for example? My father does the same thing. I remember distinctly from childhood, on the few Sundays my Dad took time to watch a game, being able to tell you from pretty much any room in the house if the Dodgers, or USC or anyone playing Notre Dame was doing well by the deep, happy sounding thump of his hand against the coffee table or the arm of his chair. One. Two. Three. And then continuing louder and more insistent, like fans slapping the backs of seats at a game, if the action on the TV screen continued, eventually resulting in a whoop of joy and a resonant “All right!”
My father’s approval slap is significantly louder than Grandpa’s was. I think this has less to do with any difference in enthusiasm than it does with an understanding that slapping the chair arm too loudly in my grandparents’ house probably would have violated my grandmother’s sense of decorum with company over, even family company, and resulted in the radio’s banishment to the workshop in the garage. Much to my everlasting amusement, during a particularly good Angels game last season – hush you, there were a few – I paused mid cheer because I was suddenly overcome with these memories of Grandpa, Dad and baseball and couldn’t think why…until I noticed my own right hand, poised to continue slapping the coffee table with enthusiasm. I don’t know when I started doing that. It was completely unconscious on my part. But it makes me smile to think that I have my mother’s laugh and my father’s – and his father’s – cheer.
And all of this remembering and recounting helps remind me that these 2011 Angels, frustrating though a few things have been this season, are not my grandfather’s Angels in the best possible way. It would have surprised and thrilled him to no end to root for a team that could smooth over some rough edges and contend, let alone one with such talent – five quality starters, a bullpen that can get the job done, gold glove winners in the outfield, and a bumper crop of talented rookies. Okay, he would have seen flickers of recognition in the lack of power displayed by the lineup thus far and the occasional wilder exploits of the bullpen, but only flickers. It’s June and these Angels are only two games out of first.
Perspective achieved. Rest up today guys and enjoy some home cooking, or whatever gets you ready to hit and play a great game. The Yankees are coming to town and we’ve got Weaver on the mound on Friday and Howie Kendrick returning to the lineup. Time to go win some ballgames!
* * * * *
My fingers are crossed for Dan Haren! More blah Angels luck this week – he experienced a “tweak in his back” during Wednesday’s bullpen session significant enough to fall down. He will be evaluated tomorrow in order to determine if he will make his scheduled start on Saturday. If he has to sit the start out, this will be the first scheduled start Haren has ever missed…ever, as in entire career. He’s old school like that, one of the reasons I like him and love having him on the team so much. I want Haren to maintain his streak because I want this to be nothing and him to remain in top condition. But if this isn’t nothing, please, please, sit out a start or two to prevent worse issues down the line.
After working way too many hours the last few weeks and finding out that the Amgen Tour of California was due to race right down our street, my husband and I fled both crowds and responsibility for the weekend up the coast to the Paso Robles Wine Festival. Originally I was going to be a good girl and skip this one, but who am I to argue with what was clearly fate…or at least the whim of Amgen tour schedulers? Regardless, I spent the weekend roaming wine country and Saturday evening under the stars on the patio of one of my favorite wineries, drinking great wine, enjoying street style tacos and chatting it up with the locals…and joining the band and several other guests in a silly mood in a rousing rendition of Stairway to Heaven in “honor” of the Rapture that wasn’t, but that’s another story.
We always enjoy great conversations at these events. Wine people, not unlike baseball people, really run the gamut in terms of professions, life experiences, ages, backgrounds and outside interests. When you get a lot of us in a relaxed environment, enjoying that libation for which we all share an affinity, the conversation begins to flow as freely as the wine from the bottles and combines the diverse characteristics of all present, much like the rich Rhone blends for which this region is becoming famous.
So, while I missed watching Saturday’s blown lead and all of Sundays heroics, I did observe and enjoy the following:
No matter how subtle you think you being when you check the score on your phone a few times over the course of the evening – even if you keep your expression neutral through a Herculean effort when your starter starts blowing his lead – someone is going to notice. Furthermore, that someone will then more than likely ask the score of his or her own game, thus providing the beginnings of a nice conversation. So, really, checking the score is not anti-social behavior…really, really.
When baseball fans get to talking about our favorite thing, our faces light up in a beautiful smile. We just can’t help it. Like the Professor from Cal Poly SLO who grew up in L.A. as he reminisced about Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and times when L.A. baseball was a brand new idea. Or his wife, telling us about her nephew is a hot stuff potential draft pick out if UCSB. Or the Coast Union baseball players apparently freshly returned from kicking some serious butt down in Los Angeles…and many more. All fantastic stories to hear.
An Angels fan in Giants country gets less hisses these days, go figure. 😉 2002 is apparently no longer Too soon! Too soon!
It is a small, small world after all. I was chatting with the Winemaker at Bodega De Edgar, the gentleman who makes the Spanish varietals I’ve waxed poetic on this blog about before, and a couple of other guests and the subject of baseball came up – and I didn’t bring it up, ha! They asked if Seth and I were Dodger fans. No, we’re Angel fans and then the vintner narrowly avoided a cartoon character worthy spit take. Do you by any chance have a blog? Why yes I do. Okay, because I have been trying to figure out who this lady could be that blogs about the Angels and my wine for a few weeks now. How funny and random is that? I could not stop laughing. And, ha, I mentioned the name of the winery again so, Edgar, now I’ll come up on your next Google search too. 😉
If you are a younger sibling, you will never escape being called by your older brother or sister’s name, especially if your parents follow the tradition of giving everyone a name with the same first initial, like my parents did. Not even if you grow up to make millions of dollars. Not even if you are a Major League Baseball player. As we head into this evening’s match-up with the A’s, the number of national media folks I have heard call Jered Weaver Jeff makes me crack up. Seriously, on MLB tonight, on ESPN, it’s crazy. It does make me wonder though, does Mom Weaver ever do the “Jeff?! Jered?! Oh you know who I’m talking to!” thing?
I am so enjoying MLBN’s 20 Greatest Games series. I haven’t seen them all but, with my very Dodgers childhood, I definitely could not miss this evening’s episode: 1988 World Series Game One! I remember that evening vividly. It was a Saturday night, date night for my parents, so my sister and I were enjoying a small Domino’s pizza and had the beginnings of a truly epic Lego castle complete with maze winding its way across the den floor in front of the TV. I may have been too old for a lot of toys at that point but if you’re ever too old for Legos, well then, you’re just too old.
We were so disappointed, my sister and I, when they announced that Kirk Gibson wouldn’t be able to play. New to the Dodgers that year, He was already one of our favorites, right up there with Mike Scioscia, Orel Hershiser, Alfredo Griffin and Mickey Hatcher – is it any wonder why I say watching the Angels for me now is like watching the Dodgers of my youth, my Dodgers? Now, if my friends were any indication, pre-teen girls in Los Angeles were supposed to prefer Steve Sax in those days – Sexy Saxy as one young lady who may or may not have really understood her own nickname, called him. I didn’t dislike him at all, but I wasn’t seeing it.
As you can tell, this was quite the fun trip down memory lane for me. Hatcher’s improbable home run. My first real exposure to baseball’s unusually intimate relationship with the flying fickle finger of fate when the broadcast team felt the need to put “Joe Canseco has never hit a grand slam before” among his stats as he came up to bat with bases loaded. Ouch! The looooong tense wait for something, anything good to happen for the Dodgers. Scioscia scoring Mike Marshall in the 6th to bring the game within one run. Two and a half very tense innings, plus two outs and then hearing Vin Scully say “And look who’s coming up…” Oh that hopeful, long drawn out at bat. The pitch Gibson fouled off and watching him stagger towards first on two bad legs. And then, the hit. What a hit! Pandamonium. Legos flying everywhere, as we jumped up and down and cheered. I only know Vin Scully’s famous call of the hit from all of the replays afterwards. We were too loud to hear it when the homerun actually happened.
Dave Stewart, the A’s starting pitcher from game 1 was a very entertaining narrator. I had no idea that he hit Sax in the first inning because of some trash talk the day before. I no longer think I was being fanciful when I thought maybe Sax tipped his helmet a bit at Stewart before he took his base. It was great to hear about the famous hit from the man himself, interviewed via satellite from Spring Training in Arizona. The fact that Bob Costas, host of 20 Greatest Games, was present for Game 1 and played a few interesting roles in both that game and the Series gave this episode a nice touch. It was Costas who emphatically announced that there was no way Gibson could play at the beginning of the game. Later, standing in the hallway ready to walk out onto the field for postgame interviews, Costas overheard Gibson’s painful warm-up session in the batting cage in those last moments of the bottom of the 9th. Costas also reminded about how he accidentally inspired Tommy Lasorda’s “Kill Costas” rallying cry to the team with one of his pre-Series broadcasts about the A’s. I had completely forgotten about this detail, though it amused me to no end at the time.
Back in 1988, I remember getting goose bumps all up and down my arms when I watched Kirk Gibson hit that ball, knowing even then that I had just seen one of the great hits. Watching it all over again in a full game highlight reel format, I still get goose bumps.
Christmas is but two days away. My sister and her fiancé will start their drive in from Las Vegas this evening and my husband and I will be celebrating with my side of the family tomorrow night. This time of year always beings so many great memories bubbling to the surface – holidays past, time spent with family, childhood fun. Between starting this blog, enjoying all of your blogs and pumping or shaking my fist over the various offseason rumors, baseball is very much on my brain right now and playing an even larger role in those memories than usual. And for me childhood baseball memories mean memories of the Dodgers…
In 1988 my sister got to be the Dodger’s honorary bat girl for a day. To be honest, I actually liked this a lot better than if I was the bat girl myself – I got to tag along and meet everyone with her, but I didn’t have to stand near the plate on the field in front of everyone and have my face on the Jumbotron. I would be okay with it now, but at that age I was painfully shy. This was a very special day and the Dodgers organization were wonderful hosts. In those days, they picked a bat boy and bat girl for every game but you wouldn’t have known it from the amount of individual attention they lavished on my sister, of course, but also on the whole family.
Our guide took us to meet then manager Tommy Lasorda who was warm and friendly and cracked jokes about the players. He asked if there was any player we would specifically like to meet and we both really wanted to meet Orel Hershiser. But that was not to be. Lasorda explained that Hershiser was pitching that game and he really didn’t like to be bothered with anything outside of the game once he got to the field. I remember we were disappointed but also understood. Who wants to bother their favorite pitcher if it might keep him from pitching at his best? Our second choice was Mike Scioscia, another family favorite. My sister and I both have a huge soft spot for catchers. She was a softball catcher. For me it’s more of an admiration for players who both play and manage on the field, combining athletic skills with the strategy side of baseball. Scioscia was an absolute sweetheart. He signed baseballs for both of us, chatted with everyone and even had my sister show him her eight year old’s catcher’s crouch when he found out what position she played. He was a really great guy and I remember thinking that he must have daughters because he knew just how to talk to us not down to us.
After that a young assistant, who I think was a ball boy, who had been standing with Lasorda came back up to us and handed my sister a baseball obviously newly signed by Orel Hershiser. Wow! He had gone to the bullpen to get it for her. In my youth, I was appreciative but the enormity of this gesture didn’t occur to me – this kid, who probably wasn’t that much older than me, had to disturb the Bulldog before a game to get the autographed baseball. I truly appreciate it now. I wonder what he said to him? Did he just hand him the baseball and hope he would sign it? Did he make a joke about demanding fans? Or did he tell him there were two little girls who knew all the Dodgers by name, number and stats, who thought he was just fantastic (my sister even wore his number 55 in softball) and would treasure a signed ball? Whatever he said, it worked and meant a lot to us. Players who are inclined to do such things must do them all the time and probably don’t remember each individual good deed, but I will always remember that and think extra fondly of both Hershiser and the ball boy, wherever he is. This weekend I will have to ask my sister if she remembers this…and if she still has the ball.
Later we got to tour the press box. At the time my sister wanted to be a female Vin Scully when she grew up and I wanted to be a news reporter so it was neat to see all the audio equipment and watch some of the reporters prep for the game. Vin Scully himself was there, but he was well into his game prep and, understandably, could not be disturbed. Still he looked up from his work to smile and wave at us as we toured the booth which was awfully nice. Instead, we met another one of the Dodgers broadcasters. I looked up, and up, and up some more and there was Don Drysdale with a friendly smile, extending his huge hand to envelope first my sister’s and then mine in a welcoming handshake. He would have dwarfed me at my adult height, and I am a tall woman. As a little girl, he seemed like a friendly giant…well he was in his civilian attitude. I know from history that batters who faced him probably would not have described him as friendly on the mound. Don Drysdale would consider an intentional walk a waste of three pitches. If he wants to put you on base, he can hit you with one pitch. I adore this quote, usually attributed to Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon. It’s quintessential baseball in the great “bad” old days. Drysdale was also a lot better at answering a bunch of questions from excited little girls than his reputation might have led you to expect. I actually shed a few tears years later when he died, remembering how kind and hospitable he was.
We had excellent seats that night in the field boxes and I remember enjoying the game but cannot for the life of me recollect any additional details about it. Getting to go behind the scenes and meet some of our favorite players and the people who worked with them, however? Those details I will remember forever.
My husband and I spent this evening with his parents – we provided tech support services and then joined them for a nice dinner and the usual lively conversations that I have come to enjoy as a part of his family. Somehow we got on the subject of Angels games, which is odd because my in-laws are not really baseball people, a fact my father-in-law had just laughingly reminded me of when a nostalgic, childlike grin broke over his face. He’s not a big baseball guy now, but when he was a kid living in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles in the 1940s apparently he and his friends used to go watch the Hollywood Stars play. Have you ever heard of the Hollywood Stars, he asked me. But of course. I love baseball history and the history of the Los Angeles minor league teams, the Hollywood Stars and their arch-rivals the Los Angeles Angels, is a lot of fun.
My father-in-law then told us how he and the local kids would go to see the Stars play, sometimes in the stands from the beginning, other times hanging out at the back fence, jostling one another for glimpses of the game though the chain link until the team would throw the gates wide open in the 7th inning and let everyone come in to watch. Apparently the latter was known as being part of the Knothole Club. I think we all get what I call my giddy little kid feeling when we talk about our baseball memories and my father-in-law was no exception. He beamed as he told us about getting to hang out on the field and chat with the Stars while they warmed up before games. It was a completely different era, a minor league environment in a city that had never known a major league baseball team and it sounds the Stars were pretty laid back. You could be on the field before games as long as you stayed outside the foul lines and didn’t make a nuisance of yourself with the players until the umpires took the field. Once the umpires made an appearance, it was find your seats kids, it’s almost time for first pitch. It had been so long that my father-in-law didn’t really remember specific players’ names but it was clear the he remembered the feeling of being there and, although I only wish I had so many memories of being that close to the game, I can totally relate.
Oddly enough, this took me right back to my own childhood and my grandfather’s parallel stories with the rival team. In the 1920’s (or early 1930’s, my own memory gets a little fuzzy here) he and his friends hung around the old Wrigley Field watching the minor league Los Angeles Angels. The Angels would let the local kids shag balls during their batting practices and, occasionally, give them tickets to come and watch a game. I also got the impression that my grandfather and his friends snuck into a fair number of games or that any security that may have been around looked the other way, not that he would have specifically told a granddaughter such things. Regardless, the Angels paid enough attention to their youthful fans that it made quite an impression on my grandfather and he became a life-long fan, first of the minor league Angels, then of the major league expansion which included a few players from the minor league team. I remember that during baseball season the radio next to his armchair was always tuned to the Angels games. While my grandfather was alive, I was primarily a Dodgers fan along with the rest of the immediate family. But watching his passion and hearing his stories, gave me an affection for the Angels, my immediate family’s “American League Team,” that I believe helped plant the seeds for my eventual conversion as an adult.
I love history. I love hearing people’s stories. And I love baseball. I treasured my grandfather’s stories and the hand me down connection they gave me to our part of California’s early baseball history. It made me smile to discover that my husband has that connection as well.
A little Pacific Coast League history, for those who are interested, that provides background for the stories above as well as the amusing, rivaled, often intertwined and occasionally downright incestuous relationship between the Dodgers and the Angels:
The Hollywood Stars my father-in-law grew up watching were actually the second incarnation of this minor league baseball team. Several Hollywood actors owned stock in the team including one Mr. Gene Autry. The Stars had a few major league affiliations, including at one point the Brooklyn Dodgers. Their rivalry with the Minor League Los Angeles Angels came about largely because, in their first incarnation, the Stars had been tenants of the Angels and alternated playing time with them as the “B” team at California’s Wrigley Field. This is truly humorous when you consider that from 1962 until 1966, the newly created major league Los Angeles Angels had much the same relationship with the Los Angeles Dodgers and were considered the “B” team at the new Dodger Stadium. It was the Dodgers move to Los Angeles that brought about the immediate demise of the Hollywood Stars and the minor league Los Angeles Angels (whom O’Malley now also owned) move and transformation into the Spokane Indians the following year.
That famous interlocked L and A? It was originally the minor league Angels logo. When Gene Autry founded the major league Los Angeles Angels expansion team, he had to buy the rights to the Los Angeles Angels name from Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley. Stories like this are part of why I love baseball history! Seriously, how could you not love stuff like this?
It’s Thursday night, a special Veteran’s Day game night. Excitement in the stands is high. Kickoff is moments away. The referees mill about on the field. The cheerleaders stand on each other’s shoulders displaying a sign the size of a king sized sheet, exhorting their team to pound their crosstown rivals. The home team bursts though the paper sign and runs onto the field at…Burroughs High School? Whoa, whoa, wait. Why am I here? I don’t go back to high school. It was fun and all, but it’s been over for a long time and I am not one of the people Bruce Springsteen had in mind when he wrote Glory Days.
Oh yeah, my friend Leggz is in town. Leggz joined the Air Force right out of high school and has led an amazing life all over the world. Once every other year or so when she comes for a visit, I find myself happily doing a lot of things I would not normally do, like going back to Burbank to hang out, going to reunions and, yes, even attending our alma mater’s homecoming game. It was great to see Leggz, nice to see some other folks I have not seen in a while, and the team gave us an entertaining game. But this was a surreal experience.
So, what does this have to do with baseball? While I was waiting in the long line to buy a soda from the booster club moms and dads (none of them my classmates yet, whooo hooo!) I heard a distinctive voice behind me booming “Hey, Stat Girl!” It was our old baseball coach, now retired and looking like a man enjoying life. I was an enthusiastic softball player as a young person, but never good enough to play outside of the middle rung ponytail leagues. So in high school I kept stats for the baseball team and had a blast doing it…and being the only girl on a bus full of teenage boys was only a small part of the allure, thank you very much 😉
Our league didn’t have special tables for the statisticians so I sat in the dugout with the team, on the far end of the bench with a great view of the whole field – very convenient for coach. “Hey, Stat Girl, remind me what this guy did to us last time.” “Double into left center, Coach.” *grunted thanks followed by gestures rearranging the outfield* This was also convenient for the players. Having a bad game? The guys kept the razzing to a minimum towards my end of the dugout, so the other side of the stat girl was the safety zone, apparently. Also, I’m a good listener, especially when I’m that close to the game.
Initially, I kept the more astute baseball talk to a minimum. Boys look at you funny otherwise, right? Except for baseball players, I found out to my delight – and men, as I found out later and even more to my delight. But one game, a player in the middle of a rough stretch at the plate was grousing about not being able to figure it out and I couldn’t keep it light anymore. “You’ve started to rest the bat on your shoulder. You don’t have your swing when you rest the bat on your shoulder.” The player at first looked at me really funny, then digested what I said and asked a few more questions. Soon, word spread and more baseball talk followed, first with that player and then the others and, halfway through the season, the stat corner ceased to be a razzing free zone because razzing, after all, is acceptance. Keeping stats for those three seasons in high school made me feel more connected to the game of baseball than ever and it was nice to take a few minutes, at a game I barely wanted to attend, to reminisce with Coach and catch up.
You can’t go home again, not really. And for the most part this is a good thing. We grow up, move on, and retain the parts of our past that are meaningful and important. However, every now and then, and most often when Leggz is in town, making the attempt to go home again yields some unexpectedly fun results.
We now leave this little trip down memory lane and return you to your regularly scheduled MLB programming.