I’ve never really cared for the last few days leading up to the July 31st trade deadline. Oh I know they’re supposed to be exciting, filled with stimulating fan trade speculation, debates and the thrilling sense of possibility for teams in the post season running or close to it. But while I enjoy the discussion and debates, and I’m not immune to the sense of possibility, for me it’s always tainted with faint traces of an impending sense of doom. Perhaps it’s a lingering hangover from some of the crazier – because they weren’t all crazy – deals Tony Reagins used to pull this time of year. Perhaps it’s just the intense degree to which I hate parting with favorite players I’ve grown attached to, and I know that if you’re going to get someone good, well then, you’d better give up someone good.
Either way, it seems to me that buying and selling teams alike are just as likely, and perhaps more so, to do themselves harm as good this time of year. Think about it. What kind of decisions do we make when our need is great, the options are far from plentiful and the asking price is predictably obscene? Sometimes desperation and opportunity lead to brilliance but more often…uh huh. Exactly. Yes, GMs typically do a better job than you or I in such situations, but the comparison still has merit. For every Rangers scoring Cliff Lee tale there is an Angels “scoring” Scott Kazmir story, or much, much worse.
No this doesn’t mean that I’m arguing against all trade deadline wheeling and dealing or even that I wish the Angels would abstain from it. It just means that when it comes to thoughts of trade discussions surrounding my team, I spend most of the last few days of July in a state of hmmmm…how shall we say? Cautiously optimistic worry? Hopeful panic? Serene terror? Yeah, any those will do. Flip a coin. And this season in particular I don’t want to give up the most obvious trading chips – Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger, etc. – and I don’t like a lot of the options being discussed, especially when those options are discussed in terms of some or *gasp!* all of the Angels most obvious trading chips.
So, imagine how wonderful it felt to finally exhale and feel my heart rate return to normal ranges when it was announced this afternoon that the Angels landed Zack Greinke. And that the price for these coveted riches was infield prospect Jean Segura (who is excellent but blocked by Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, much like Alexi Amarista before him) and two AA pitching prospects, instead of the frequently discussed Bourjos, Conger, Santana and half the farm. Oh yeah, it felt that good.
Am I completely thrilled with the deal? No. I worry about Greinke. While I think that, in many ways, the Angels will be a good match for working with his anxiety issues and he’s certainly a great pitcher, I lost a lot of respect for Greinke when he gave up in Kansas City because he didn’t like the way the season was going, admitted it and couldn’t seem to understand why folks got so mad about it. And then there’s his little pitching in away games issue. Also, I think that unless Greinke signs a lengthier contact preventing him from going free agent at the end of this season, this was a more expensive deal than I would have liked, even without giving up Bourjos, et al. However, in the larger context of trade deadline deals, notoriously desperate and expensive as they are, this deal really is pretty good. Ever since our magical December 2011, we Angels fans have referred to GM Jerry Dipoto as the JeDi Master and, if Greinke performs to his capabilities as an Angel and especially if we keep him, Dipoto has proven once again that he is just that.
As much as I am happy with this deal – with the caveats and concerns mentioned above – I am even happier that it means a lot of this Angels crazy talk can die down now, because I was getting seriously twitchy for awhile there. I did not want James Shields, another pitcher out of Tampa Bay going through a rough patch. Yes, Shields is way more talented than Kazmir but still, I worry. And I did not and do not like Francisco Liriano for the Angels. I can’t see how he would be much of an upgrade from Ervin Santana. He’s plenty wild and crazy himself. Yeah, I know. After a while I was starting to sounding downright Suessical with my “do not likes” and “do not wants,” even to my own ears. Hmmm…I do not care if he hits a ton I do not care if his contract’s far from done. While I actually like green eggs and ham, I did not want that lazy, pouting HanRam. (So, thank you Dodgers for taking him right off the table early. Best of luck to you!)
You laugh, but just try having all of this goofiness in your head. Oh well, I will be better now that deal is done and as close to sane as I ever get about Angels baseball come August 1st. Welcome to the Angels Zack Greinke. Hopefully this is the beginning of a beautifully mutually beneficial partnership.
World Series Here They Come
Cardinals and Rangers it is! It may not be the World Series matchup I was envisioning at any point this season, but if the LDS and LCS were any indication, this should be a fun series. So I’ll be rooting for the Cardinals then. It’s petty, to be sure. But I just can’t root for the team that took the AL-West. The Rangers absolutely deserve to be where they are. They have one of the scariest line-ups in baseball and have played lights out all season long. But, call it sour grapes, call it immaturity as a fan, darned if I can bring myself to root for them. That said, if the Cardinals want to beat these guys and end the season as World Series champions, as I hope they will, their starting rotation needs to be more consistent. I don’t think you’re going to be able to give up three homeruns to the Rangers in the first two innings and still pull off a win. Although, crazy, amazing things have been happening for the last month or so. And a come from behind, spoiler of a team that inspires Tony La Russa to disturbing acts of cuteness – Who knew he had it in him? – might just be able to do anything.
I am tired of hearing the about the supposed inevitability of Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee this winter spoken in the sad, hushed tones usually reserved for a terminal cancer diagnosis. “Oh, woe is us! If only there were something anyone could do.” No one passed a law decreeing this must be so. I don’t even recall a petition. And it’s not prophecy. No watery tart rose from a movie set in Python-esque fashion to extend the legendary bat ex-sluggingcalibur to a couple of gits standing there with coconut shells (or would that be peanut shells in this baseball version?). There is something someone can do about it. Prince Fielder can decide to accept the offer Milwaukee is certain to extend and stay.
Strange tractor beam like market forces do not just snatch free agents up and move them from team to team against their will. Free agents make decisions. And as far as decisions go, it’s not as if Prince Fielder is going to be asked to choose between untold riches and a modest living wherein if he saves wisely someday he might be able to send one of his kids to college. He will be asked to choose between millions and even more millions. That said, there is nothing evil or wrong with choosing even more millions. This is a personal, long term career decision and money is an extremely compelling, understandable argument. However, athletes do make decisions for personal reasons too. It’s not as if that just isn’t done. Cliff Lee prefers to play in Philly, even if they weren’t the highest bidder. Jered Weaver preferred not to test the free agent market because he already knew where he wanted to spend his career and didn’t want to haggle indefinitely. So, if Prince Fielder really doesn’t want to leave the Brewers, he doesn’t have to. He can choose to stay. And if he does choose to leave for a higher bidder it will be because there is something he wanted more than he wanted to stay with the Brewers and that’s all there is to that. Not an inevitable tragedy, just a career decision…and one that despite all of the speculation, Fielder has not actually made yet, or at least not made public.
Boston Dirty Laundry
I find what happened in Boston disturbing. No, not the collapse. Not even the finger pointing. A certain amount of that is only to be expected after such a disappointment. No, it was the anonymous, public and extremely personal nature of the finger pointing in the Boston Globe article. The tales of bad attitudes, slacking work ethics, drinking and a manager’s marital and alleged medicinal woes? Back in the day, this is the kind of stuff you would only hear about years later when someone involved decided to spice up a memoir with a few tell alls, if you ever heard about it at all.
And there’s a reason for that: it’s completely unproductive. Airing this sort dirty laundry so very publically doesn’t help a team. It doesn’t help the fans. And it doesn’t help a front office fix problems and move forward. And the anonymous source(s) who provided the dirt know that. No one is going to turn around six months from now and say, “You know what the turning point was? It was that article. It really helped everyone sit down together as a team and pledge to work harder together for a better 2012.” And it bothers me that someone who is close enough to a team to have this kind of information (allegedly – anonymous sources and all that.) would, instead of using it in some productive way, choose to use it to strike out at a team for their own reasons (which, depending on who you think the source(s) is, could be any number of things). The reason I bring this up is not to beat up on Boston. I don’t think this is a uniquely Boston thing at all. But when it comes to this sort of information, I do think that sometimes the old ways are best. Save it for the memoir, when it no longer matters if it’s productive or not anymore and you have to have the guts to put your name on it.
With only one day left in 2010, I believe it is customary to make a top 10 or some other sort of retrospective list. I don’t recall any actual written rule to this effect in the Big Book of Blogging Rules, wherever that may be, but it hey, the end of the year just cries out for such things, doesn’t it? So why buck tradition? If finding 10 things in this season of all seasons that make me happy to be an Angels fan makes me the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels baseball, well, I did choose the handle Blithescribe after all *big grin*. In no particular order, here are my personal 10 favorite things about Angels baseball in 2010:
Jered Weaver – Angels fans were all so very worried about who could step up and fill the ace’s shoes with Lackey headed for the Red Sox. That seems so wonderfully silly now! I actually wasn’t that worried. I didn’t know he would step up so fully this season, but I did remember that post season game against the Yankees in 2009 when Weaver became the 8th inning set up man in a moment of need and he came in looking like a steely eyed gunslinger and sat them down one, two, three. I remember standing up and cheering in my living room and thinking future ace. And to be the AL strikeout leader in 2010, icing on the cake! Now let’s get this man some run support in 2011 shall we.
Signing Dan Haren – This was one of those, really, we got him? Way to go Reagins! moments. A second ace to add to the rotation, he was an absolute pleasure to watch in 2010 and finished his partial season here with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. I hope that these stats are indicative of what we can expect to see in 2011. The fact that we happened to be there for his first (Where he took the Youk line drive to the pitching arm, ouch!) and second starts made this extra fun for me.
7/31 and 8/1 against the Rangers – Both were absolute, bare knuckled brawls of a game, the Angels were in top form, and we had tickets to both for our anniversary – this lady demands diamonds on such occasions, natch 😉 The Rangers won the first game, but the second was Weaver vs. Cliff Lee, the Angels pulled it off and it was quite possibly the best game I have seen from a stadium.
Players Doing What’s Best for the Team – Torii moving to right field so the Angels could bring Bourjos into center; Napoli taking over first base and doing a darned good job at it really, after Kendry’s injury when he hadn’t played first base since the minors; both were selfless, team spirited moves and, to my mind, damn clutch.
The Month of June – Instead of crumpling in the aftermath of Kendry’s season ending injury, the team cowboyed up and played like, well, like the Angels for the month of June and it was a beautiful thing to see…and then they crumpled. Would that the June play had lasted the rest of the year.
Peter Bourjos – It was such a breath of fresh air to watch this young bundle of talent and enthusiasm move up to the majors. And you’ve all heard it hundreds of time by now, but oh my God is this kid fast. In the games we attended alone I saw him rob four homeruns and turn two sure thing out bloopers to the short stop into a base hits. And he’s smart on the bases and out in the field too. He’s not perfect. He’s definitely a rookie so there were a few issues, primarily with his offense but he seemed to be improving by small increments with each at bat and I for one really look forward to watching him blossom into a full blown All Star in 2011.
Getting to See the Rookie Call-Ups in Action – While it would have been better if the Angles were in contention for a post season and the rookie call-ups mostly sat on the bench, the way things worked out it was a lot of fun to be there at the Big A for to see so many of their firsts – Conger, Trumbo and Romine’s first at bats, their first turns on defense. As with Bourjos, it was a bright spot to see so much youthful enthusiasm on the field, and I think we’ll be seeing Conger and Romine again, Conger quite soon.
16 Games! – My husband and I managed to go to 16 games this year. We typically watch between 100 and 130 of the games in some fashion, mostly on TV but this is the first time we’ve made it to the Big A, which is oh so much better, for so many. No, this is not earth shattering for Angels baseball as a whole, but it was a big deal in terms of my personal fan experience.
The Growth of the Friday Night Ritual – this is another one that would only matter in my house. A good bottle of wine, a gourmet dinner from our own kitchen and Angels baseball became what we called the Friday Night Ritual. It’s fun, companionable, affordable and this year we grew to love it to the point where we turned down all other invitations…’tis such a fine, fine line between the fanatic and fan!
Personal Firsts – Kendry’s exhibition game grand slam against the Dodgers was the first grand slam my husband had ever seen live at a stadium – he didn’t go to as many Dodger games as I did as a kid ;). This was the first year I timed the tickets such that I got to see Weaver pitch at the stadium and honestly, you can’t really appreciate the sheer amount of ground this 6′ 7″ talented stork of a man covers and the deceptiveness of his delivery until you’ve seen it at the game. The first time either of us was there for an entire series – the last homestand against the A’s, many, many thanks to D for his generosity in just handing my husband the season tickets, this game and so many others. And the list goes on…
Suffice to say, yes it was a dismal season. But there were bright spots and enjoyable times for me at least and I for one am ready to call clean cup move down and see what the 2011 season brings…ideally Adrian Beltre but, if not, I am still eager to see what the Angels can do.
I would like to wish a very Merry Christmas, the happiest of holidays and best wishes for the New Year to all of you out there in the blogosphere, readers and writers alike!
So, taking a glance around the blogs, it appears that writing a parody of The Night Before Christmas isn’t exactly the most original idea I’ve ever had…as I probably should have suspected in community of writers, LOL. You all make me smile, a lot. Anyway, here are my lines to add to the chorus:
T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Only Blithescribe was stirring with laptop and mouse.
The stockings were draped from the bookshelves with care,
Because we don’t have a real chimney, so we hang them there.
In the armchair I nestled, snuggled with pillows and cats,
Perusing MLBlogs for new posts and great stats.
While my husband lay sleeping, on the couch by the tree,
Because really, hands down, he’s much smarter than me.
When outside our house, there arose such a clatter,
That I ran to the door to see what was the matter.
And what did I see on our porch clear as day?
Would you believe it was Santa with reindeer and sleigh?
“Only seven reindeer, Santa? Is one of them late?
I could be mistaken, but I’ve read you use eight.”
“Oh, that. Minor accident in Arkansas, you see.
He’s still on my good list, but no presents for Cliff Lee!”
Shocked and surprised, I invited Santa inside.
“I thought you were a myth. Clearly somebody lied.”
He smiled, “I get that a lot and, yet, I am here.”
“So, cookies and milk? Or can I get you a beer?”
While I got the drinks, Santa skimmed through the blogs,
And my husband remained on the couch sawing logs.
“Hot Stove is insane this year,” Santa said with a smirk.
“On Crawford, on Lee, on Soriano and Werth?
Seven years is too crazy for me to understand.”
So Santa Claus is real and a big baseball fan!
After beer and bourbon, Santa’s a right jolly old elf,
So I poured a glass of Maker’s Mark for myself.
“Thank you,” Santa said, “for the drinks and good rest.
This gets harder every time, I have to confess.
So little girl, what can Santa give you this year?”
That would have sounded dirty were it not meant with good cheer.
“Well you’re a little late Santa” I said, quite bereft.
“I wanted bats for the Angels and Crawford in left.”
“Carl Crawford, you say? Yeah, I’m sorry about him.”
“Santa, say it ain’t so! You gave Crawford to them.”
Santa pulled up his sleeve with a sheepish little grin,
To reveal a B-shaped tattoo, right there on his skin.
“Dustin left us for baseball. I couldn’t help myself.
North Polers stick together. I root for the elf”
That explains everything! Santa’s a Red Sox fan.
Well they do have red stockings and cute toy sized stands.
“Okay, Angels season tickets would simply be heaven.
One pair? Home side field box? Say section 111?”
He had a broad face and a round little belly,
That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.
“That’s hilarious Blithescribe,” he laughed as he stood.
“Seriously, lady? You think you’ve been that good?”
Instead he gave me books. Fourteen all in a stack,
Two for each week ’til my birthday, just like in years back!
I giggled like a child and clapped my hands with glee.
Books were always the best present underneath the tree.
Then Santa had to leave, with more countries still to go,
I hugged him thank you, as he headed out our door.
And I heard him exclaim as he leapt from our porch,
Merry Christmas to all, only 51 days ’til pitchers and catchers report!
First the Nationals, then the Red Sox and now, apparently, the Phillies have pulled off a completely unexpected out of left field, or in this case the Bullpen, deal. Cliff Lee. Wow. All this time, I thought that the secret unnamed suitor was sort of a joke, part of the general circus atmosphere and most likely the Nationals anyway, but it was serious. I think we now know the reason Cliff Lee has been off hunting deer all this time – he couldn’t trust himself not to break out in a big Fooled You! grin…much like Carl Crawford, apparently. (Tony Reagins, I take back most of my griping about you, on the Crawford issue at least.)
Yeah, so there I was, diligently writing my company’s newsletter (Yes. Still. At just shy of midnight. Why do you ask?), enjoying a lovely glass of port (Mitchella Vineyards Riportella III – tawny, brandied cherries, slightly spicy, absolutely gorgeous – and, yes, de rigueur when one is still writing one’s company newsletter at just shy of midnight), when on a whim I decided to glance at a few of the MLBlogs until the latest fit of I-don’t-really-want-to-be-writing-about-HR-issues-at-this-hour-on-my-own-time-thank-you-very-much spawned stuck-ness passed. And, much like Wednesday evening, I was left briefly wondering if I didn’t somehow check out The Onion by mistake. Nope, no joke. Lee’s a Phillie, again. (So, Yogi, gotta ask. Would that be déjà vu all over again or just plain ordinary déjà vu?)
I’d be lying if I said I was sorry the Angels won’t have to face Lee in 2011 unless all parties involved have an excellent post season run…and, with Tony Reagins’ latest announcement that having a full season with Kendry Morales and Dan Haren in addition to the two pitchers he has acquired is the equivalent of pulling off four free agency signings, the early odds on the Angels achieving this feat aren’t looking as good as I had hoped. Sorry Tony, I still really have to disagree with you on that one. But I digress (Yes, I am on my second glass of port, why do you ask? LOL!)…
I do offer my sincere condolences to my friends on MLBlogs, especially the Yankees and Rangers fans, who were hoping their team would snag Cliff Lee. We all know what it is to root really hard for our guys and what it is to be extremely disappointed when they don’t get what we most want them have. As one sometime, and recently oft, disappointed fan to another, I feel your pain. To borrow loosely the wisdom according to Scarlett O’Hara, that greatest of all pragmatists, Tomorrow is another day. You can stand it then. And later there will be small satisfaction in knowing that you won’t have to face him unless it’s in the post season either.
As much as I would like to be posting this evening with stellar Angels signing/trade news, there is still no real news to report. Granted, the reports of all the guys we’re supposedly in talks with are coming faster and faster on each others’ heels – Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, even Rafael Soriano. Yes please. Yes please. And, hey, if we can afford him too and he doesn’t succumb to the usual Angels closer curse – well, he had career seasons for the two years before Tony signed him, I just don’t know what happened – yes please to him too. Why not. If you’re going to dream, dream big. And those are just the reports we have a reason to take seriously. Depending on who you’re reading, supposedly, we’re also talking to Jayson Werth, A.J. Pierzynski (because we really need another catcher), and Cliff Lee, among others. Heck, if you looked hard enough, someone probably has a “hot tip from an MLB insider” that Tony Reagins is in talks with Big Foot as a potential 3rd base option… Although…he probably swings a pretty big bat wouldn’t you think? Anyone know what his stats are against lefties?
None of this is to say that Hot Stove hasn’t been interesting so far…for a variety of definitions of interesting. I am very happy for the Dodgers. The Dodgers are kind of like an amiable ex-boyfriend for me. We weren’t right for one another but we parted ways on good terms and I always wish them well…except during the Freeway Series, of course. I was worried that in the middle of the ongoing divorce proceedings between Mommy Dearest and the king of all deadbeat baseball dads, the Dodgers would be left out of the trading season all together. Quite the contrary, they have been very busy so far. I think Uribe will be a great addition to the team, at 2nd for now with today’s trading of Theriot and with great options down the road for short and/or 3rd if Furcael spends another season on and off the DL and/or when Casey Blake’s contract is up. He wasn’t cheap, but it’s not like there are any great bargains out there this year.
I was surprised the Tigers were able to pounce so quickly on Victor Martinez, I expected that one to be more drawn out. They wanted another big bat and they certainly got one. I am interested to see what if any moves they make later in the off season.
I am perplexed at the way the Yankees are dealing with Derek Jeter. Of course they were going to negotiate. Players always want more than teams want to pay – this is true of employers and employees everywhere. But does anyone honestly believe that the Yankees want to let Derek Jeter go any more than he wants to leave? So what happened here and who thought the front office arguing this out in the media would be a good idea? The front office comments sound childish and pouty. Yankee fans don’t like it. Non Yankees baseball fans don’t seem to like it much either and it can’t be good for team morale. They will probably settle for the same amount they would have settled for without all of this upheaval so what was the upside here? Obviously bad PR decisions catch my attention.
The courting of Cliff Lee, on the other hand, amuses me to no end, partially because of how coy many of the suitors are trying to be and partially the degree to which the media are being anything but. Cliff Lee watch day 27! Breaking news: Cliff Lee signs…up for DirecTv. It’s definitely my own imp of the perverse, but if I were Cliff Lee I wouldn’t be able to resist messing with folks at this point. You know, show up at the grocery store in a D-backs ball cap or something. I predict the Rangers will make a strong offer but that Lee will be in Yankee’s pinstripes next year.
The coveting of Cliff Lee has been an understandable thing on many blogs so I just thought I’d put that out there. I’m not saying that he’s not an amazing pitcher. Though I will not praise him to the positively silly degree that the post season announcers did, he is definitely one of the best pitchers currently in baseball. He is one of these pitchers, and seemingly one of those teammates, who would be an asset to any team’s starting rotation.
But asset though he may be, unless we all somehow walk through the backstop into a magical baseball wonderland where players are always treated fairly even without a contract, umpires have the perfect angle to make the call on every play and Cliff Lee is willing to come to the Angels and *poof* just take over Scott Kazmir’s contract while Kaz begins an epic Tolkein-esque quest in search of his lost slider, I don’t want him for the Angels. Our starting rotation was one of our strengths this season – once you ignore the aberration that was April and, unfortunately Kaz’ difficulties. If everyone stays healthy in 2011 -and the Angels don’t make any abysmally stupid decisions regarding Weaver’s arbitration – we will have two aces in Weaver and Haren and two additional excellent starters in Pineiro and Santana (Be the good Santana please! You are not a Star Trek movie. We don’t need even and odd number rules about you.). If Kaz is able to work things out in the offseason – and I really hope he is but I’m not holding my breath – then we’ll have a great 5th starter too. If not we do have a few options that keep this from being a catastrophic need.
What the Angels need is Kendry back healthy and ready to play at the level to which we have all become accustomed – and to all reports so far, he’s looking like his old self, yay! We need another outfielder and a third baseman, and we need them both to have big or, barring that, consistent bats. The minor league call ups in the Angels’ bullpen were really something special this year and helped shore up our reliever woes at lot towards the end of the season, but an additional, reliable reliever with some veteran status wouldn’t hurt and then there is the closing situation. Myself, I like Walden for the position. I think he showed some promise there in September. But if those who know far more than I disagree and Rodney isn’t performing any better, then this will need to be addressed as well.
This is the Angels real needs list and it’s long and expensive, so I am glad Tony Reagins hasn’t been making any trips to Arkansas this fall and doesn’t appear to have any planned for the future. Angels fans often joke that Tony is some sort of trade and player acquisition ninja, that you’ll rarely, if ever, see one of his deals coming until it’s negotiated, signed and everyone involved is ready for the press conference. Torii Hunter. Del Taco. Need I say more? So I suppose anything is possible. But I certainly hope this one is as far off the radar as it appears to be. Lee is wonderful, but leave him to the Yankees and Rangers to duke it out over. They have a lot less holes to shore up in the off season than the Angels do.