When last we encountered our heroine, her Angels were mired in distress, largely of their own causing, and she was more than mildly annoyed with the situation. I believe the term livid was bandied about? So she did what anyone who is that mad at a loved one should do – she stepped away until she could approach the situation more rationally. Specifically, she said she would avoid watching the Angels play for the duration of the weekend while she was biking, wining, snapping photos and generally goofing around on the Central Coast…
…Yeah, any guesses as to how long that lasted? Mmmm hmmmm…uh huh…well, then…I see…Okay, all of you who said first pitch on Saturday greatly underestimate the depth of my anger. Those of you who said first pitch on Monday greatly overestimate the strength of my will power. And as for those of you who said the beginning of the third inning on Saturday? Well, you know me pretty darned well and it’s not your fault that you didn’t know that my in laws’ place has no television and no internet connection sufficient for, say, streaming baseball games. We know. We’ve tried. The middle of the 5th on Saturday. That’s when my resolve broke and we watched the game.
We were picking up amazing barbeque from the Main Street Grill – seriously, you can tell when the tri tip and brisket are ready each day from two blocks away when the perpetual heavenly aroma of the smoke shifts from a wood smell, to that of wood and meat to that of beautifully cooked meat. Yum! …but I digress. As I said, we were picking up barbeque to take with us, when Seth noticed that the game was already on in the dining room, in the 5th inning and that the Angels were actually winning. Yeah, I know. Already on TV. In Giants country with a heavy dash of A’s! What are the odds? Clearly this was meant to be. 😉 We might as well eat here, Seth suggested, as the guy at the register laughed at us good naturedly. We could probably watch the rest of the game by the time we’re done. Can we say ‘enabler’? Also, ‘awesome’!
I’m glad we changed our minds. It was a good game, though the offense still needs a lot of work. And I am equally glad we really were too busy to watch the game on Sunday (Yuck!!!) but not Monday night’s game. (Overly exciting in the 8th but, still, yay!!!) Suffice to say, I may get mad from time to time, but I’m in it for the long haul and I have a handful of hastily snatched up cheap tickets to prove it, because I plan to be there as the Angels turn this around…a lengthy process I think just may have started already. We’ll see.
Besides, the Angels released Bobby Abreu and brought up Mike Trout! You’ve all seen my posts about Bobby. I appreciated his efforts for the team in ’09 and ’10, I admire his career and, quite frankly, I like the guy, but this was a move that needed to be made. Bobby can’t contribute on the field anymore and his bat hasn’t been helping much either. With Trout, we have a lot of possibility. Is he the answer? Absolutely not. The answer to the Angels woes is a lot more complicated than anything one 20 year old top prospect can solve. But bringing Trout up is a great start as is moving Jordan Walden out of the closer’s spot until he can regain some control. I think that crafty and reliable Scott Downs is an excellent temp or even temp to perm if it comes to that. Now, I’ve never been one to desire a gift gesture as a form of apology after an argument. But if the Angels were intending to offer one even so, this is an excellent start to getting the team back on the right track and oh, so much better than any old roses. Now can we just put all of our big bats in the lineup at one time, already? Pretty please with some of that wonderful Central Coast barbeque on top?
All work and no baseball makes Kristen a sad girl…a most unacceptable state of affairs if you ask Kristen, I can tell you that. Lacking the ability to add baseball to the equation, clearly it was time to mix in a little playtime. It’s a three day weekend, so naturally Seth and I lit out for Cambria and Paso Robles the second we were both off work and packed up on Friday night. Yeah, it was a 4 and half hour drive starting at 8 p.m. So what? Brown footed loons are naturally nocturnal…and diurnal and crepuscular for that matter, whichever natural activity cycle is apt to lead to greater work productivity and/or a good time. We’re adaptable like that. Anyway, as we noted walking around town this morning, the Cambria/Paso Robles/long weekend/random weekend thing has been our thing for as long as there has been an us. Some years, I think we use the house more than his parents do…other years I know we do.
And after this many years of coming up here to California’s Central Coast wine county, I can tell you that that natural cycles of baseball and California wine mirror each other in so many different ways it’s a wonder they aren’t more closely associated than the more traditional pairing of baseball and beer. Just to name a few:
- In California, wine’s biggest event, its Fall Classic if you will, is the Harvest and crush (literally what it sounds like) which occurs in October. And, much like in baseball, you really want to get it over with before you hit November if at all possible.
- While wine blending, bottling and selling can occur all year long depending on what varietals a winery offers, the majority of the blending, the tinkering with the 25 man roster if you will, occurs in February and March and again in the early summer months.
- Rookie wines can be excellent right out of the bottle, or take several years of aging and conditioning before they really show their stuff, and the aging almost always improves the end result.
- Some winemakers rely on their own farm system, growing the majority of their own grapes. Others rely on the farm systems of their colleagues. Trades and outright “free agency” purchases are common.
- Many amateur aficionados think they know almost as much as or ever better than the professionals…and a lot of them have blogs. 😉
- Both the aficionados and the professional raters rely on often obscure numbers and statistics that are not necessarily what the actual wine makers, being more of a by taste, gut instinct and experience sort, rely on when putting together the finished product.
- And then, there is the fickle finger of fate thing. Just as really promising rookies may fail to live up to their potential or excellent ballplayers suffer career ending injuries, sometimes nature says “nope, I don’t think so” in the form of a drought, or quite the opposite, or any number of other minor disasters and the grapes just don’t live up to their potential either.
This last bit really speaks to what’s happening in Paso Robles and I would imagine the rest of California’s winery regions this year. California didn’t really have much of a summer in 2011. And, while consistent balmy mid 70’s weather is wonderful for tourism and fantastic fodder for any number of movies, it absolutely sucks for grapes which need hot days and cool breezes at night in order to fully develop the sugars that eventually ferment into the delicious nectar we enjoy. That kind of weather was in short supply this off season, much like free-agent starting pitchers of quality.
And, much like baseball teams with said starting pitchers, wineries tried different things to insure victory, from leaving the grapes on the vines an extra long time, risking catastrophic rain storms, to stripping the leaves off to give the gapes the full benefit of the sun, risking malnourishment and, should the heat wave finally come, scorched grapes. Just as in baseball, some wineries lucked out and some did not (the Angels clearly falling in the former category here). And it’s safe to say that in both worlds a lot of teams/wineries have rebuilding years ahead of them. But here’s the thing about rebuilding years in wine or in baseball that a lot of folks forget. Rebuilding necessities can lead to unexpected levels of creativity and take us in directions we never thought we could go. And, every now and then, this leads to an even better result than anyone could have possibly imagined. I can’t wait to see how the fruits of 2011 and early 2012 work out for everyone, on the field and in my glass. Cheers!
I’m a freak, I admit it. I loved math in school. Algebra, geometry, trig, calc, it all appealed. I was even working on a math minor in college until multiple variable calculus. Trippy stuff that. Once I stopped being able to see what the shapes were doing in my head. *tap, tap* I’m out. But I still enjoy it. Problem solving. Statistics. Wonderful stuff! But this elimination number math? Yuck! That’s an entirely different story.
Oh I am familiar with it. Between my Dodger fan childhood and my Angels fan adulthood, I have _plenty_ of experience with elimination number math, I’m afraid, and just enough experience with magic number math to know that I significantly prefer that…then again, don’t we all? The Angels have certainly spoiled me more years than not this past decade but, especially with last season’s refresher course, I’m not too rusty to torture myself with endless “what if” elimination number math scenarios. Tom Godwin had the Cold Equations. I call these the Desperate Equations.
Could it happen this way?:
If the Rangers lose one and the Angels win two, and the Rangers lose one and then another one, and another two and the Angels win one and then another two and two more…
Or, maybe, could it happen this way?:
If the Red Sox lose one, and lose one more, and the Rays lose two, and the Red Sox lose one and the Rays lose two more, and the Angels win four…
So, one plus one plus two plus one… Hmmmm….anyone else overcome with an irrational desire to watch Clue? 😉
All equations point to the fact that the Angels still have a chance. But with another loss to their record, and especially if they continue committing those kind of errors, it’s a thin wisp of a chance, even after this evening’s win. If they win just about every game left. If the Rangers or the Red Sox and the Rays start losing, a lot. If. If. If…suffice to say, it’s pretty darned iffy. But stranger things have happened.
I still have hope. I am practical and this is far from my first September rodeo, but I have hope. And I have tickets to Friday night’s game against the A’s and Monday night’s game against the Rangers. One way or the other, however these equations work themselves out, I want to enjoy watching my team play as much as possible. After all, whether it starts at the end of October or September, it’s a long, cold, baseball-less winter. Gotta gorge yourself while the game’s in season…and if the solution to either of the equations works out to a be Red, Halo’d October, I want to be there to see it.
* * * * *
And sadly, as part of the Desperate Equations, I find myself once again rooting for the Yankees. The AL West is so…well…the AL West that this happens once or twice a season out of necessity. The enemy of my enemy is…still really distasteful to root for truth be told but, much like when I rooted for the Red Sox against the Rangers a few weeks ago, it has be done.
However, it amuses me to no end that Red Sox fans are rooting for the Yankees along with me at the moment. Red Sox fans, you’re a little newer at this rooting for the enemy thing than some of the rest of us, so I offer you the following advice from another favorite movie:
The shame is like the pain. You only feel it once.
And that is absolutely…not true. But the shame and the pain do get a little be better each time. Enjoy. 😉
* * * * *
On a more humorous note, when Seth and I stopped for gas on the way out of town this weekend, we noticed we had a hitchhiker on the pedal of my bike:
We tried to coax the little guy off, but he was so stubborn he would have none of it. And he had two broken back legs so we figured we would just let him be. Maybe the wind would give him enough of a lift to fly away when we took off. But no, the next morning when we went to unload our bikes for our morning ride, some 245 miles away, he was still in the truck bed and very much alive. This time he let us move him to the grass. Maybe he was hoping to catch some sort of wounded mantis transport for Florida? It was like the Incredible Journey in search of LoMo.
What’s that you say? No baseball this week. Well, fine then. We’ll go on vacation and make our own fun:
Okay, so some of you live for the All-Star game. Me, I appreciate the concept and love to see the interviews and interactions surrounding it, but just can never get into the game itself, except as background noise. Honestly I think it’s because the players switch in and out with such frequency that it seems like a completely different game every other inning or so – patchwork baseball rather than a continuous game. Maybe with less players, such that everyone remained in the game longer, I’d like it more.
With this attitude of mine, and the fact that Thursday was a travel day for the haloed ones, it was fortuitous that the beginning of Seth’s and my vacation fell within this dead period. Yes, I am posting this from the road on our Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza trip! It’s a long drive from Los Angeles to Oakland though, and realizing that the friends we are staying with are not on vacation, we decided to stop over at my inlaws’ beach house in Cambria for a few days first and then complete the drive on Friday.
Cambria is a small town just north of San Luis Obispo and just south of San Simeon of Hearst’s Castle fame. It’s our usual base of operations for our regular excursions into Paso Robles wine country, just not this trip. If you’ve ever read any of the smart, delightful lunacy that is Christopher Moore – and if you haven’t you should 😉 – Cambria is Pine Cove. Literally. The author used to live here. Okay, so there are no lust lizards or zombie Santa Clauses but the shops and many of the locals do fit the descriptions. Behold, the local gas station and car wash with a better wine selection than many wine shops in Los Angeles:
…But I digress. We left Los Angeles late after work on Wednesday, arrived in Cambria around 3 a.m. Thursday – seriously Caltrans, just because it’s “Car-mageddon” this week doesn’t mean you also need to start work on every single construction project on the docket, okay – and were on the water in San Simeon Bay by 11 a.m. This is a great way to start a vacation. I love ocean kayaking, especially surrounded by all of this loveliness:
William Randolph Hearst had the original pier built to bring supplies to his “humble abode” which he just referred to as “the Ranch.” Some ranch! I highly recommend a tour if you are ever in this part of the world. Interesting side note about Hearst. Did you know that he played baseball as a young man? A Hearst’s Castle tour guide once told me that when Hearst went away to boarding school back east, he and a few other boys in his class weren’t interested in the sports the school offered, so they introduced their peers to baseball. Hearst was also the newspaper editor who first published Ernest Thayer’s famous Casey at the Bat when he wasn’t off furnishing wars and the like, of course. Pretty cool stuff.
This morning, to cap off our brief Cambria stay, we rode our bikes up California’s famous Highway One from Cambria to San Simeon Bay and back again. Sixteen miles of rolling hills, clear blue sky and gorgeous ocean views, not to mention taking in the clean, briny smell of the ocean with each breath. It was the perfect way to pass the time until our games start up again this evening.
And now, I return you to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. The All Star Break is over, even for the Angels, today and we are packing up the car for the next leg of our trip to Oakland, to visit good friends and enjoy great baseball. Next post: the A’s vs. Angels double header on Saturday. I can’t wait!
The saying from my title is from a pun-ny billboard advertising a Chumash casino off the 101 on the way up to California’s Central Coast wine country. I thought it was clever and it made me smile thinking, more like only 11 days until win country. Baseball season is just around the corner! As you can probably guess from this introduction, Seth and I spent the weekend on the Central Coast for the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival, our it-fit-the-budget-better-than-SpringTraining March trip. Wine, parties under a patio in the rain, eclectic conversation (We went into this great little used bookstore. But when you stepped inside it was really huge, like a TARDIS, for the win.) and, even without Spring Training, plenty of baseball talk. It was a great weekend.
Paso Robles is a wonderfully casual place. There is wine, very good wine even, aplenty. But the winemakers have the perfect fun attitude about their craft and for festival weekends, they throw great laid back parties featuring pairings like wine and street tacos, Pinot and paella, or wine with Santa Maria style barbeque or sliders. It’s common to have winery parties centered around MLB playoffs or, this weekend, around college basketball games. It’s anything but stuffy, which is why I always have so much fun up there. And, seriously, for a town located about as far away from professional baseball as you can get in the state of California, there sure are a lot of baseball fans in Paso.
This trip I ran into an unusual number of Angels fans too. The winemaker’s wife who went to Villa Park high school in Orange County with Bert Blyleven and Bob Boone’s sons. The casual fans up from Orange County for a visit (Vernon Wells, who?). Dissecting the starting rotation and the Kaz question over a Methuselah – a six liter bottle of wine, truly awesome in its absolute absurdity – of a lovely meritage blend. The local who literally tugged on my sleeve at another event after noticing my jacket. So do you think they’re going to make it this year? Ah, the eternal question.
We also made a special trip to Rio Seco, the baseball winery, hoping for a spring training tie-in. Former minor league pitcher, retired scout and winemaker Tom Hinkle and friends were actually at Spring Training though. No matter, the wine was great as usual, from the Grand Slam and the MVP to the “futures” barrel tasting. Hinkles’ wife and daughter, who run the winery alongside him, are as knowledgeable and hospitable hosts as one could ask for…and they told me that Tom thinks the Angels made some good decisions in the offseason and are ready for a great year. *huge grin* Hey, come for the wine, stay for the season predictions. Rio Seco is hosting a summer kickoff wine and seafood event in June, and Seth and I are planning to make the trip back up again at that point. I jokingly asked if they would have the game on, and my wonderful hostess replied, Here? Are you kidding, we’ll probably have several of the games on, before noting “big Angels fans” next to our names on the guest list. I have a feeling that will be a great party.
In Angels news this weekend, It’s official, Kendrys Morales will start the season on the 15 day DL. (Yes, Kendrys. Apparently they mucked up his name on his original visa, which is more common than you’d think) I am disappointed but I am also relieved. He’s hitting. He’s fielding. But it sounds like his ability to run at the level required to play hasn’t improved much since Spring Training started and now there is a problem with his big toe and narrow cleats – injuries to your feet and ankles suck. They take forever to heal and complications as they heal are common. So, suffice to say. Slow down. Heal fully. Come back strong and ready to enjoy a productive career.
But the rest of you Angels, please, stop trying to be trendy. Just because so many of the cool kids are going on the DL this spring doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Trumbo, Pineiro, Bourjos, I’m looking at you. All joking aside, Pineiro’s sholder strain concerns me. Bourjos is back playing after hip tightness. Trumbo is due back any day now from groin tightness but no word on Pineiro since he was pulled from the minor league game he was pitching in today. I’m glad the team is taking precautionary measures with minor injuries and such during Spring Training, but let’s be careful not to need the precautionary measures in the first place, shall we?
Funny news from today’s game? Scioscia was thrown out for arguing that a third out tag had beat the runner scoring. If this were the regular season I might feel more outrage or annoyance – it does sound like the ump was a little overzealous – than amusement but, seriously, who gets thrown out of the game in Spring Training? Too funny!
My husband and I took Friday off and spend a long weekend at his folks’ vacation home in Cambria, wine tasting through Paso Robles with friends from college. We had the best time. Chatty fun playing vintner during a wine blending party at the always gracious (not to mention delicious!) Mitchella vineyards. A relaxing lunch on Calcareous Vineyard’s lovely patio. Rhone blends and Zinfandels and Syrahs, oh my at the other wineries. Fun and stories at the baseball winery, yes, baseball winery. A delicious dinner in, prepared by my talented husband. Some of the best Mexican street food style tacos I’ve had since my Oxy days. Games and port in the evenings. It was an absolutely fantastic weekend that looked like a neat combination of this:
Interspersed with a healthy dose of this:
So, about that baseball winery. Out in Paso Robles, down the Union Road wine trail just south of East 46 there is an absolute gem for baseball fans. Rio Seco‘s owner and winemaker is Tom Hinkle, a retired baseball scout and former Minor League Baseball player. Hinkle was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and spent several years in their farm system in the 1960s, coached baseball at Cal State Poly SLO in the 1970s and became a Major League Baseball scout in the 1980s for a full roster of teams over the course of roughly 26 years including the Padres, Cubs, Expos, Blue Jays, Tigers and Brewers. Apparently he is the scout who helped sign Randy Johnson among other names you would recognize.
Visiting Tom Hinkle’s winery is a kick. Rio Seco is everything a small family run winery should be – great wine, nice people, a friendly, no frills tasting room in one of the barrel rooms filled with constant glimpses into the business of winemaking, and plenty of locals stopping by which speaks to both the enjoyable nature of the wine and the excellent hospitality of the winemaking family. One of the Hinkle daughters or Mrs. Hinkle are the most likely candidates to pour your wine tasting and all are full of stories about the winery and Tom’s career. If you catch Tom in the tasting room, he is always willing to chat about baseball past and present. He is no Angels fan, judging from the not unfriendly but gruff “Oh. Halos fans.” my husband and I received the first time we visited. Eh, no one is perfect, right? But it was fantastic to hear his opinions on the standings and which teams were likely to make it to the playoffs when we caught him with a few minutes of free time over Labor Day weekend last summer. While I disagreed with him that the bulk of the Angels problem was losing John Lackey, even at that time he was saying watch out for the Giants who could go all the way. Apparently, the Hinkles are friends with Peter Bourjos’ family and it was a lot of fun for us to hear the retired scout talk about him so soon after he was called up from the minors.
Tom was not available this last trip, so we wound up chatting with one of his daughters while we tasted the new vintages. She told us that while Tom is retired, he still gets calls from former colleagues and several of the local teams asking for insight into a particular player so the baseball world is still very much a part of their lives. Rio Seco itself has a nice baseball theme running through it from their “All-Star line-up” of baseball themed wines, including the Grand Slam and Clubhouse Reds, to the Diamond Club wine club (a portion of this club’s proceeds are donated to the Baseball Scout of the Year Foundation each year) to the small mementos from Hinkle’s career in MLB and at Cal Poly SLO scattered throughout the tasting room/barrel room. Many of the events they throw are baseball themed and frequently involve other baseball scouts both current and retired. I am sorry I missed the Harvest Festival BBQ and playoffs analysis this past October and hope Rio Seco hosts some kind of preseason analysis event at Zinfandel Festival in March.
Oh, and the wine itself is really good. According to the Hinkle daughters, their parents refer to Rio Seco wines as being primarily Monday through Thursday wines, rather than weekend and special occasion wines. I adore that phrase and tend to agree with this assessment in the sense that all of Rio Seco’s wines are easily enjoyable, would be equally good on their own or with a meal and are priced such that opening several bottles in the middle of the week will not cause any strain on the budget…but I will happily drink this wine Friday through Sunday as well. My favorites are the #22 Zinfandel (named for the fact that this gem was the 22nd bonded winery in Paso, it’s got a deep blackberry and raspberry flavor with allspice, cinnamon and clove notes, typical of a Paso Robles Zinfandel) and the Grand Slam (a fruit forward table red with nice tannins that begs to be paired with pasta with a spicy marinara sauce, hard salami and cheese or a big juicy burger). Oddly enough for me, another favorite is Glee, a White Cabernet. To me, this is part of the magic of a tasting room. Leave your preconceived “oh, I only like red wine” and “we’re not drinking Merlot!” notions at the door and taste everything the winery is willing to let you taste. You never know, you might find something you weren’t expecting to like. As, lo and behold, I have found a non-dry rose I actually like. I am quite fond of dry roses actually, but seldom like sweet ones. The Glee is sweet without being cloying. It tastes like pureed strawberries with a hint of citrus, vanilla and light herbal notes. This is refreshing in the extreme and we like drinking it while we are barbequing the meat we will eventually serve with red wine at a party.
So, if you are out and about in Paso Robles and looking for a treat, or if you want to purchase a tasty baseball themed wine for one of your gatherings this season (they accept online orders) I highly recommend Rio Seco. I didn’t want to plaster MLBlogs with descriptions of the other wineries we visited on our trip because I don’t know enough of you well enough to know it this would be interesting for you. But if you have an interest in less well known California wines, I did write a couple of posts on the trip on my LiveJournal here and here.
It’s about 226 miles to Cambria, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a hot thermos of coffee, it’s dark (and so late it’s nearly early) and we’re not wearing our sunglasses. Hit it.
We’re heading up the coast to meet old college friends for a long weekend in Cambria and Paso Robles – oh yes, there will be wine! …and local micro breweries and gourmet food and live jazz and…yeah, it’s that kind of place. Having finished my half of the driving duties up through Gaviota Pass I am free to blog about baseball for the rest of the ride so long as I keep my husband awake and entertained sharing news articles and your blogs.
The only problem? Ugh! After the news and rumors today I don’t want to blog about baseball. Manny!?! Yes, I know the rumors have been linking his name with the Angels off and on all offseason but now they’re starting to sound serious. I do not want Manny Ramirez on the Angels. I don’t care if he does hit a ton every third season or so. I like baseball players, not drama queens. Let Manny be a diva…er…I mean Manny anywhere else. The thought of Manny in an Angels uniform is enough to make that optimism I was starting to feel dry up again for a while. If they really want to sign an aging DH with no real ability to play the outfield anymore, sign Vladdy please. Professional, clubhouse leader, not a diva bone in his body, swing at anything and hit it more often than anyone rationally should be able to Vladdy.
So enough thinking about baseball for one evening if the rumors only annoy me, right? Okay, then music it is. I just noticed that there is a profound lack of Journey on the radio stations in SLO county this evening. Now anywhere else in the country this would be business as usual. But this year, from the Northern most tip of Santa Barbara up through Paso Robles (and I would assume all the way up the coast to San Francisco) the amount of Journey on the radio stations increased exponentially with the Giants fortunes as the season progressed. The last time we were up here, during the playoffs, Don’t Stop Believin’, Lights and the like were like Law and Order reruns on basic cable – at any given moment, they were playing on at least one station. Not so tonight. This is almost eerie. Can it be they’ve finally tired of it? …Yeah, back to baseball and still annoyed thinking about the Manny rumors. This isn’t working.
Let’s try this again. This is an absolutely gorgeous drive, even late at night. Ocean, forest, orchards, vineyards, plenty of reminders that California is a huge state with far more farms and open spaces than city even still…though that is changing slowly but surely. The cities stretch just a little bit further every year. Driving up here late after work is great because then you don’t eat up four hours of your day off getting to the vacation. The only drawback? Bring your own coffee because, seriously, trying to find decent coffee in Santa Maria or thereabouts after one in the morning is kind of like Mariano Rivera blowing a save. It’s technically possible. You’ve heard of it happening before. It may even have happened once or twice while you were watching. But just how often does it happen really? Yeah, I have a one track mind this evening and this is a lost cause. Okay that’s it. I’m putting this post away and thinking about friends and wine for the rest of the evening…er…morning.
And, of course, what song came on the radio right as I was about to put down the Blackberry? Yep, you guessed it. Uprising by Muse. Haunted I tell you. Well at least it isn’t Don’t Stop Believin’ because even if Giants fans aren’t tired of it, I am. 😉
Have a nice weekend everyone!