Vernon Wells is Yankee now. Um. Wow! If anything could drag me forth from my hacking, wheezing, non-blogging stupor it would definitely be this little bit of “I can’t believe he actually pulled that one off” Jerry Dipoto magic. Okay. So that was a week ago, give or take, which means that it actually took the Vernon Wells trade, some pretty impressive contract extension news and the end of spring training to drag me forth from my hacking, wheezing, non-blogging stupor, but who’s counting?
Basically, I spent most of the month of March almost but not quite coming down with the ick that’s been going around the office, just managed to feel truly good in time to go to spring training in Arizona and came back sick as a dog. Okay, at this point dogs might rightfully take offense as they would have behaved more sensibly. I was too busy at work to take sick days, so I decided to mind over matter — read, ignore and wallow in denial — my way through things and wound up with the worst case of bronchitis I’ve ever had. Smart, huh?
While my intelligence is certainly in doubt at this point, there is no denying that Jerry Dipoto is a frickin’ genius and well deserving of the enthusiastic whispers and croaks of excited approval I managed upon hearing the news. Vernon Wells has never worked out for the Angels. That much is clear. But at the same time, it’s not for lack of trying and Wells has handled an awkward for all concerned situation like a gentleman and a true team player. Whatever the Angels asked Wells to do, he did with grace, including switching positions, switching to part time status and ultimately riding the pine…everything the Angels asked him to do except, sadly, hit the ball. So, while I am glad to see Wells go, I am also glad to see him go somewhere. I like the guy, I respect him and ultimately I wish him a fresh start and a good season…of course, at the same time, I do not wish Wells a good season against Angels pitching and, as immature as it may be, I will never wish the Yankees as a whole a good season, so I suppose I’m sending awfully mixed messages here. Oh well. The term fan is derived from the word fanatic not from any sort of word containing terms like sensible and/or rational in the definition. Deal with it. 😉
As for the impressive contract extensions, bravo to Buster Posey and Justin Verlander and their respective teams. I love decisions like this. As much as I might covet certain players for my Angels, in the end I love seeing players grow up with and stay with the team that drafted them. This growing trend of signing key players to contract extensions well before they hit free agency brings a little of the romance of the Golden Era back to the game, in a way that is actually fair to the players. I wholeheartedly approve. I am absolutely not wishing the season away — Heeeeellllllll no! — but it will be interesting to watch how this trend changes the Hot Stove season in the years to come as it completely restructures the free agency pool.
And, most importantly, tomorrow is Opening Day!! Okay, yes, it was fun watching the Astros beat the Rangers in a real game that actually counts, but this newer one-game teaser trailer to the season will never be Opening Day to me. Tomorrow is the real deal. And I say cheers to that!! And, when I’m feeling a lot better, I’ll even tip my glass. Right now it’s filled with tea and copious amounts of lemon juice and honey, which is very therapeutic but rather vile when you get right down to it, wholly inappropriate for any sort of toasting. So, verbal — whispered — cheers today and official cheers further down the line. I don’t care, tomorrow every team will respond to that most wonderful of phrases, ‘Play Ball!!’ so it’s all good!
Waiting all day for a repairman to arrive in a paradisiacal place like Yosemite National Park – you know, just in case you were all wondering or anything like that – is no less annoying than waiting for one back home. Oh, the view from the kitchen windows is infinitely more gorgeous, but that’s about it.
Long story short, the stove in the cabin blew up. Yeah, no joke. Manufacturer’s defect. Gas build up while cooking. Boom. I wasn’t there, mind you, but I assume it was rather spectacular sounding. Fortunately there were no injuries. So, now someone has to be here for the repairman and the Brown Footed Loons happened to be on the verge of migrating again so, voila!, we added an odd detour redundancy to our vacation so that we could wait in Yosemite – before heading to Cambria/Paso Robles for the Harvest Festival and then back to Yosemite for the rest of the week – for a repairman who never showed…yeah, Sears is now a 4 letter word in my house.
While that was certainly a less than awesome start to our vacation – to put it mildly! – I’ll tell you what is awesome: baseball fans! Seth and I decided to give ourselves a treat on the way from Yosemite to Cambria and stop at a little steakhouse just outside the park we’d been dying to try rather than grabbing fast food. Well, wouldn’t you know it, this little steakhouse, it had a little bar. And in the little bar, it had a certain game on both TVs…and a large party of Giants fans, central California being no doubter Giants country, wearing their team gear with pride and rooting loudly. So we decided to kick it in the bar and catch a few innings.
Best decision all day! The food was excellent, the wait staff friendly and the company could not be beat. We sat down just as Buster Posey struck out in the 4th inning. So we were there for what happened immediately after. Hunter Pence’s comebacker hit. Lance Lynn’s errant throw the bounced off the bag. And the Giants’ 4th inning scoring spree. The bar went from sedate to very loud indeed and, even after we confessed our Angels fan status, our cheers were welcomed into the mix. Baseball fans appreciate other baseball fans, especially come playoffs time. Except for a few inevitable bad apples I have found this to be true again and again, a point that was underscored when the rest of the local crowd showed up. This is a very small town and this bar seems to be one of the preferred places from which to catch the game. Four local Cardinals fans wandered in wearing their team gear with pride, clearly transplants from a more birds on bats part of the country. The Giants fans at the bar and the Cards fans greeted one another warmly and, when there wasn’t quite enough room at the bar for everyone, seating arrangements were shuffled about to make sure the new arrivals weren’t sitting at nearby bar room table by themselves. All very companionable and sweet. Like I said, baseball fans are awesome!
The game itself was a breath of fresh air in what had previously threated to be a dull series. Sorry, Cards and Tigers fans, but sweeps and near sweeps are only desirable if you’re an existing part of the fan base of the team doing the dominating. For the rest of us, especially after getting thoroughly spoiled by the wild, tightly contested wonderfulness that was the Division Series X 4, quite frankly, the ALCS was kind of a let down and the NLCS looked like it was heading that way. Yeah, I was rooting for the Tigers in the ALCS, but I rather hoped the Yankees would put up a fight. I get that Derek Jeter’s injury was a crushing blow to team morale, but even before that they were not themselves.
Fortunately for baseball fans everywhere, especially those of us watching purely for love of the game, the Giants rallying after two straight losses to shut out the Cardinals and take Game 6 saved the NLCS from a similarly ho hum fate, no matter what happens tomorrow. And it was great to see Barry Zito going retro, channeling pitches from his own more lights out era. I love a good comeback story. They’re one of my favorite parts of the game…along with taut pitchers’ duels, stellar defensive plays, ballsy steals, and diverse groups of great fans coming together to bond over our shared love.
A belated Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from the Emerald Isle!…
…Yeah, I wish. 😉 Though as not-Ireland places for a St. Patrick’s weekend getaway go, Paso Robles, CA is plenty nice enough. And although the particular shades of green in this landscape are all wrong for Ireland, it is still quite lovely and the mist and rain were at least accurate. So what’s a diehard Angels fan like me doing in a place like Paso Robles when there are games going on Arizona, you ask?
Well, with Pujols-mania bringing folks out to Tempe in droves, hotel stays and such suddenly got more expensive and harder to book, so we decided to wait and go to Spring Training another year. Oh well, I was a little sad but that does mean more money for the regular season ticket budget, which certainly makes up for missing out…and, besides, it’s the Zinfandel Festival which means I just spent a lovely weekend going through my own little baseball blogger’s Spring Training, which came none too soon if you ask me. Between Albert Pujols heating up the lineup, the rest of the bats following right long, the starting rotation looking great and even more formidable with the addition of C.J. Wilson, and what is looking more and more like the very real possibility of Kendrys Morales returning to the 25-man roster, this could be a very special season in the making. A blogger’s got to prepare. Training and drills are a must.
Okay, training and drills. Fine, you say. But at a wine festival? Of course at a wine festival! Where else could I get all of this practice and prep in? Take photos, for example. If you read this blog last season – first off thank you! – you know I like to take photos when I go to Angels games so that I can pepper my posts with photos that are as much mine as the commentary. Well, taking baseball game photos can be tricky. There’s a lot of action. Your subjects are constantly on the move, sometimes in unpredictable ways. It’s all too easy for the rusty blogger to end up with a large collection of photos like this one, which I like to call Not-So-Still life with Aybar:
Or even this one. Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos were both well in frame and in focus when I started to take the photo…:
You’ve got to warm up for tricky action shots. Practicing on things that don’t move but require a lot of detail and focus can be helpful, like this vineyard (I love the gnalred, wintery vines and the lines created by the three distinct fields with vines running at three different angles):
Or this gorgeous tasting room:
Then you can move on to some simple action subjects, like these Paso Robles wild turkeys:
I say a simple action shot because, although this is an impressive little dominance display here, with a lot of action going on, turkeys (the real ones with feathers at any rate) don’t generally muck up photos by adjusting themselves. Still, although no Spring Training can ever replicate the real thing I think I have gotten enough “innings” in with the camera to be ready for the regular season.
As for the rest of my blogger’s Spring Training? Well, I got to study plenty of tasty treats in preparation for my Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels nights, like this glorious roast pork panini and sundried tomato salad from Farmstand 46. They call it The Goat:
…or the Zinfandel sliders, the tacos al pastor, the paella or any of the other deliciousness I was too busy nom-ing to take a photo of. Would I really make a roast pork panini or paella just for our Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels enjoyment? *laughs* Will Mike Scioscia change the Angels lineup a minimum of 60 times this season? Hell. Yes.
Speaking of Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels, what better place to stock up the old wine cellar than at Zin Fest? Yes, I think it’s going to be a beautiful season:
I even got my usual pre-season gabfest in with some of the Giants fans at the Barrel 27 pick-up party. Not surprisingly they are every bit as thrilled to be getting Buster Posey back as we are with the positive Kendrys outlook. Not to mention it was fun talking rookies and just barely not rookies with them. The Giants have some great younger players in the mix or soon to be in the mix too – one gent I was chatting with is particularly enamored with Baby Giraffe, Brandon Belt – so our two fan bases have some fun things in common.
So, I have my trusty camera at the ready, my Opening Day tickets in hand…er…inbox, plenty of wine options (seriously if I actually showed you the full collection of options, you would laugh at me!) and my typing fingers limber and warmed up. 19 days until Opening Day and I. Can’t. Wait!
Well, if the Angels had to lose two close games to the Yankees, at least it happened while I was out of town. It’s so much easier to stay detached you only check in with one of the games on your phone from time to time. You’re a lot less invested and barely notice all of the runners stranded in scoring position when you’re merely regaling your husband with your own rendition of the game day play by play ob the way back down the coast.
Seriously, when you can’t watch the game on TV, or hear your announcers’ commentary on the radio, you really only notice the good stuff – Bobby’s hitting streak, Trumbo’s homerun, Fleet Pete doing his thing, the fact that Howie’s back. All of the bad stuff – the missed scoring opportunities, the botched plays, the Yankees homeruns – barely even registers. …You know, except for the part where I’m totally lying. April or September, squeaker or blow out, glued to the action before you on the field from the first pitch or just catching the score the next morning, losses always sting…especially when they seem to be coming in streaks.
It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s only June. It’s just two losses. And all of the other clichés which, of course, are clichés for a reason. Yes, we’re only four games out of first and it’s just the beginning of June. Anything is still possible and I believe that this team can turn things around but it’s disheartening to be back under .500 on June 5th…and to have the AL West standings finally spread out by more than two games and be in third place and four games out. Absolutely fixable, but completely frustrating even so.
Anyway. Me? Out of town again? So soon? Well, that at least that’s more fun to write about than griping about the Angels. This weekend is the reason I was not going to go up to the wine festival last weekend until the Am Gen Tour was coming through and I decided that practicality and responsibility are really terribly overrated concepts. So this weekend, we were back up in Paso Robles for the Seafood and Sangria Summer Kickoff Party at Rio Seco, the baseball winery.
It was pouring rain for much of the weekend so the summer kickoff took place indoors, but the evening was a lot of fun. The Hinkle family were gracious hosts as always. This was a mostly locals crowd but they made sure we felt right at home – the older daughter who we usually chat with in the tasting room even asked how the Angels were doing. They remember their baseball and baseball fans here. The food was excellent. I now have several great ideas for sangria later in the summer, including one with the MVP reserve, apples and berries. More please! And the party favors were half cases of wine – the Grand Slam Cab/Syrah blend no less, ensuring that the party will continue at several Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels evenings at our house later this summer. We had a nice time hearing some of the local gossip and all about the Giants – central coast California is absolutely not Angels country. They’re disappointed about Buster Posey but not exactly calling for Scott Cousins’ head or any rule changes in Paso Robles. Bruce Bochy take note…and a lesson or four.