Hello Blogosphere. I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday! For the last eight years or so Seth and I have hosted Thanksgiving so that we can celebrate with both our families at once – that and to show off the kind of cooking chops we seldom have the opportunity to flaunt all in one meal outside of holiday scenarios. This year, however, my mother wanted to host Thanksgiving for the combined family and it was actually lovely to have the night before mostly off and then head to my parents’ house for Mom and Dad’s good cooking. It was kind of like being a kid again…well, some kind of precocious (read, obnoxious) foodie kid with a cranberry, polenta crusted tart in tow, at any rate.
It is nice to go home sometimes and just catch up with everyone. We talked a lot about work. Family. Politics. You know, the usual. Oh and, of course, a bit of baseball. My father said that he is fed up with professional sports these days…followed by the pause for comedic effect, the merrily twinkling eyes and the affectionate, “that’s why I root for the Dodgers.” This followed by some more serious Dodgers roster talk (not yet knowing of the impending TV deal, of course), similar Angels talk, a lot of good natured ribbing at the expense of both teams and more than a little head shaking over our two So Cal teams. See, I come by my outlook on the game honestly.
Among our baseball topics – Mike Trout. I was a little surprised to find out that my dad was paying attention to Trout’s season because he’s very busy and doesn’t always pay attention to AL doings. But, then again, Trout was quite a story in 2012 and he is every bit the sort of player my father adores – a good kid playing the game extremely well and playing it the right way. So, of course, if two folks are discussing Mike Trout in late November you know what had to come up don’t you? Da dum…….da dum…da dum da dum da dum da dum…da da da DUM! But of course, the AL MVP vote. What else? And if you think for one second that I’m going to use this holiday conversation snippet as an excuse for a very delayed post about my thoughts on the AL MVP vote, well I have one thing to say to you: Thank you. Clearly you’ve been reading this blog for a while. 😉
No worries, though. This is absolutely not a bitter fest. Yes, I thought Mike Trout should have won MVP. That’s how I would have voted were I in the baseball writers’ shoes. But I am neither shocked nor upset over the outcome. Here’s the thing, both Trout and Miguel Cabrera had stellar seasons – MVP level stellar seasons. I happen to feel that a player like Trout who excelled across the board at offense, defense, speed and any other skills test you want to throw his way is more valuable to his team than a player who only beats him out in terms of offense but, at the same time, I cannot deny that being the first player to win the triple crown in 45 years is a highly compelling argument. Both guys carried their team at various points. Both guys were clutch. Both guys hit milestones during the season. The Tigers made it to the playoffs, but the Angels had a better record in a stronger division. Cabrera’s booming bat lead the Tigers to victory in September as the While Sox collapsed. Trout’s bat slumped in September but he still lead the Angels to victory with his speed and his glove while the A’s simply could not lose. As I said, I liked Trout for MVP, but both candidates were excellent choices and I’m certainly not going to complain about Cabrera winning the honor.
I do, however, have a complaint about the way the discussion and debate were framed, both leading up to the AL MVP vote and since the winners were announced. I really dislike the fact that so many people writing/talking/arguing about this subject just blast the other side for the paragraph after paragraph as if the opposing candidate were unworthy even of nomination until the final few sentences when they toss in a sheepish, ‘oh, by the way, [the other guy] had a pretty good year too.’ And I outright hate all of the “Miguel Cabrera is an old school, old stats candidate whose contributions must be judged with your eyes, while Mike Trout is a new stats, SABR candidate whose contributions must be judged one paper” idiocy. Ummmm…have you seen Mike Trout play?? If you need paper to judge that, well that’s your business but I wouldn’t admit something like that in public. 😉 And as for Cabrera, his offense looks good whether we’re using old stats or new. This isn’t a new stats vs. old stats argument. It’s that same “better offense vs. strong offense/better defense/better speed combination” phrased in terms of stats and on that debate, agree or agree to disagree, the baseball writers have spoken…for the 2012 season at any rate.
So, congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on winning MVP, one more on a nice list of 2012 accomplishments and, well, congratulations to Mike Trout too while we’re at it. Earning 2nd place in the AL MVP voting in one’s rookie season is hardly an accomplishment to sneeze at and the kid has his own, equally well deserved, long list of 2012 accomplishments.
Oh, before I sign off though, I do have one more Trout related rant…this offseason it seems that few MLBN and online discussions of the awards, the Angels 2012 season or Mike Trout can go by without snark, tsk tsking and/or contemptuous sighs over the Angels’ “terrible decision” not to bring Trout to the bigs right out of Spring Training “for whatever reason.” Baseball analysts (and various and sundry bloggers…and Chris Rose), would you quit harping on this subject and just do a little quick research already. Trout was so sick during Spring Training that he lost something like 10 pounds and barely had a Spring Training to speak of, then got well only to suffer through a bout of tendonitis in his shoulder. Had the Angels brought him up in April, under those conditions, it would hardly have been a recipe for Trout success and might well have been a recipe for injury or illness disaster. Whether you want to look at it as the Angels looking out for the player or looking out for their investment (and I tend to assume it’s a little of both and there’s not a thing wrong with that), the decision was a good one. And I say that even as a fan who suffered though that terrible, awful, no good, very bad, oh how I even hate bringing it up again, April. < /rant >
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?
Thursday’s game. Angels vs. A’s. Our usual attempts to get to the ballpark at a decent hour actually worked this time and we arrived in time to catch the tail end of warm ups.
And in time to catch Erick Aybar’s Gold Glove Award ceremony…Murphy’s Law being what it is, of course this meant he was good for at least one colossal error this game and Murphy, sadly as usual, did not disappoint. Oh well, it was still neat to watch him get the award, especially on the day the Angels very smartly locked him up for four more years! Whoo hoo!
Before the game begins, the unlit halo looms expectantly over the stadium. Sadly, the halo would remain unlit for another evening.
Heading down the 57 for the game, I told my husband that I had a good feeling about this game, that I was sure the Angels were due for a win and that we would get to see Albert Pujols’ first Angels home run…personally, I don’t think I was so much wrong as just a game or two early. See, I don’t claim clairvoyance, I just see patterns and the Angels patterns say improvement to me.
Indeed, the Angels were improved over the previous evening, though still unvictorious and then this evening, they were even further improved – though we still seriously need to work on those LOBsters – and they won!!
Obviously, it’s more fun to be at a game where the Angels win, than one where they lose, but as much as I was annoyed with mistakes that simply didn’t have to be, we still had a fine evening at the ballpark – because isn’t an evening at that the ballpark better than an evening just about anywhere else? And the A’s fan gents behind us were a kick and a half. Be it at the Big A or the coliseum the opposing fans I tend to have the most fun with are A’s fans. I hope you enjoyed your trip, boys, and that we were as nice to you as your fellows were to us on our trip to Oakland last season – and the A’s fans were pretty darned nice hosts.
Honestly, one game is only one game so my greatest regret about the Angels losing this specific one game is the high socks. Note:
Yes, exactly, they all wore high socks to change their luck…well, except C.J. and the other pitchers. If the Angels had won this game, you know the high socks would be here to stay, and I do appreciate the neater, more professional look of the old school uniform.
Speaking of C.J., part of the impetus of my going online to find the $10 club section tickets for this game was the thought that I wanted to see Mr. Wilson’s home debut in an Angels uniform. Well, Mr. Wilson, as you have probably seen on Quick Pitch, SportsCenter or the like had some good innings and some not so good innings and one pretty bad inning – not his usual performance at all, though typical of the times the Angels did beat him. Hit C.J. early and he gets a little flustered. Still it was nice to help welcome him to the Big A properly and if his first two appearances and all of the times I’ve watched him kick Angels behind in a Rangers uniform are any indication, I expect pretty good things.
You could see the bullpen well from our seats. They look so normal and harmless, don’t they? Well, by and large they are, or rather their harm is helpfully directed at the opposition. As for the rest of time, well, to paraphrase Wednesday, homicidal maniacs look like everybody else, don’t they?
Still, they were more than acceptable on Thursday and pretty darned good on Friday and I so want to see a pattern there!
Friday evening’s game further confirms the pattern I thought I was seeing earlier – improvement. Yes, there are still a few issues, but I think that if we can just find a lineup, or even one lineup for groundball pitchers and one lineup for flyball pitchers, and that/those lineup(s) make sense, and we stick with it/them long enough for guys to get comfortable, we’ll really see something here.
And speaking of a return to consistency, after way, way too many day games, the Friday Night Ritual is back – that’s right Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels. This evening I made a spinach, tomato and mushroom paella with grilled Argentinean chorizo (it’s closer to a heavily paprika-ed Italian sausage than the chorizo you may be used to). It was everything the Friday night ritual should be – a delicious and gourmet seeming but budget conscious meal to enjoy with the game plus leftovers for the rest of the weekend. We paired it with a yummy (totally a technical/industry term 😉 ) Paso wine – Clavo’s Collusion, a Cabernet, Malbec and Petite Verdot blend. Yum! Perhas the return of the Friday night ritual added a little luck? Okay, probably not. But that doesn’t make it any less tasty.
And if there seems to be a certain, um, disjointedness to this post, a, shall we say, joie de vin…well…there’s a reason for that. Did you not read about the ritual? It’s Friday!! The Halo is lit and so am I! Happy weekend everyone!
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!
Personally, I am not a football fan. I don’t actively dislike football so much as it just fails to hold my attention for any length of time. I understand the rules and some of the basic strategies. I enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the Super Bowl, all the more so on those occasions, like today, when it’s actually a good game. But, well, it’s not like I would even know who was playing well in advance if it weren’t for the fact that my boss is from Boston with all of the fan affiliations that that entails and some of the guys at work are Giants fans. Still, watching the game today at my department’s annual Super Bowl party, it occurred to me that love it, hate it or something in between, there are several things the passionate baseball fan should appreciate about the Super Bowl.
1) Whether you are also a rabid football fan or someone like me who can take it or leave it, I think all passionate baseball fans can agree that single best thing about the Super Bowl is that it means our long winter ordeal is almost over, pitchers and catchers are mere days away from reporting. Oh, sure. Fine. There is the game itself and all that, you more rabid two and three sport types say. But ask yourself this, how often is the game really that good? Personally I remember a lot more dull one-sided exhibition-y affairs than I do real, exciting games. So I stand by my number one, thank you very much. Which brings me to…
2) More often than not, the Super Bowl is one of the more potent reminders of how much we should appreciate baseball’s lack of a clock. Let’s hear it for no “now stall for the next 8 minutes until the clock runs out” strategy. Hip. Hip. Hooray!! Because as fun and complex strategy laden as the 1st half of the Super Bowl often is, the 4th quarter, and sometimes much of the 2nd half, is just as often dull and plodding with the game’s outcome already decided. Clearly this year’s Super Bowl did not suffer from a ho hum 4th quarter, however this is not always or even often the case.
3) The food! Baseball is a marathon not a sprint, as every manager and most of the players will tell us countless times throughout the season and the spreads we put out for enjoying the game reflect this. No way, no how could we indulge in the wonderfully glutinous array of tastiness that is the traditional Super Bowl spread for every game of a four to seven game World Series, let alone for the regular season. We’d die from the sheer excess of it all. So baseball fans should appreciate and enjoy the ritual of the Super Bowl super munchies for the rare opportunity that it is.
4) Practice, practice, practice. I don’t know about you all, but I put my throat through a serious workout during the regular baseball season. Yelling. Cheering. Ranting at the tv. It can be tough on the unprepared body. This is probably not an issue for the multisport fans among us but it’s not like I really indulge in these activities in the offseason. I mean, seriously, “All right Bohannan! Way to bad ass your way out of the that one.” or “Come on Chef Freitag, can’t you see he respected the ingredient?!” just doesn’t really work for me. So the Super Bowl is kind of like that initial work out preparing my throat for the Spring Training that will fully prepare it for the regular season to come.
5) Camaraderie! Again, this is probably not as much an issue for some of you who are multi-sport fans. But for those of us who only or who mostly come alive for baseball, it’s not just missing the season, it’s missing the camaraderie of sharing the game with friends, with family, with complete strangers at the ballpark, at the sports bar, tailgating in the parking lot. The Super Bowl is one great big excuse to enjoy a little tide me over sports fueled camaraderie until the regular baseball season begins with a huge party…even if a lot of the participants are only watching for the commercials. My department throws an especially fun Super Bowl party and, wow, that really hit the spot for me today.
Now, the Super Bowl is over. Let the happy dancing in honor of the close proximity of the annual reporting of pitchers and their masked counterparts commence. One. Two. Oh, come on. You know you’re going to do it. Three. Uh huh. I thought so. 😉
Fifty-three. Fifty. Three. Fifty-three days without baseball. I mean that’s an accomplishment. Now there are only sixty-*mumble, mumble, grrr* days left until Spring Training games begin. Yikes! It’s kind of like catching a glimpse of the clock during the middle of an especially punishing work out and realizing, Yay! This is almost half over…shortly followed by, Crap! I have more than half of this left to go.
I mean, I’m doing okay right now. Really. It’s not like I’m going stir crazy or anything. It’s the holidays. Christmas and New Year’s are easily my favorite offseason times of the year. And preparing for the holidays provides a never ending array of exciting distractions that completely…well, almost…okay kind of cover up the fact that Hot Stove goings on and random bits of news and rumors are great and all, but they don’t really fill the void so much as tease and remind one what one is missing.
Speaking of hot stoves:
One of the main holiday distractions in my house is candy making. The habit started a few years ago when we were really, really broke and still needed something to give everyone for Christmas. But it turns out that we’re pretty good at it, even to the point of starting to make up our own recipes, and folks who know us out right ask for it every year. Score!
And there’s the added bonus that it is really, really distracting. When you spend every evening for a week, most of the weekend and then some boiling sugar, melting chocolate, wrapping caramels, slicing marshmallows, etc. and packing it all up to look pretty, you completely forget about missing baseball! …well, almost forget…kind of forg…yeah, you don’t actually forget at all. But you do have fun and reach the practical conclusion that if a game were on, you wouldn’t have time to watch it and that that fact would make you even more sad.
Okay, I lied earlier. I am stir crazy. I think I may even be starting to crack up just a little bit. The candy making has gotten a little, well… Tell me. Is this the product of a well mind? I think not:
Help me MLBN. You’re my only hope. Air a game. Any game. I don’t care what game! Or marshmallow baseball peeps cannot be far behind!
…Hmmmm…baseball peeps. You know, it’s not like it’s terribly hard to improvise a round cookie cutter. In fact, come to think of it, I have biscuit cutters. And I could paint on the stitches…Yikes!! MLBN, put a game on already! 😉
Cooking is magic, holiday cooking especially so. You start out with piles of basic ingredients, many of which frankly don’t seem like they will play well together. You chop, mix, sauté, caramelize, roast, bake and so on…
…and eventually something truly amazing and greater than the sum of its parts emerges. Kind of like a baseball team, no? Or, at least, every season we certainly hope that this will be the case.
So, as I was doing my fair share of the chopping, sautéing and so forth…
…it occurred to me that there is another baseball/Thanksgiving parallel. Yes, there is a baseball parallel for everything. Sometimes several. It’s baseball. It’s magic like that. Why do you ask? Anyway, as I was saying, there are a lot of folks whose efforts go into putting that delicious Thanksgiving meal on the table, each with their own talents and assigned tasks.
But, unless you’re one of them, you have little to no idea what steps go into the process, how long it’s going to take and what tasty goodness is going to emerge from the kitchen until it’s placed on the table in front of you. All you know is that they’re in there working at that hot stove, so to speak, and eventually something has to emerge from the kitchen…or from your local pizza parlor, I suppose, if all of those kitchen efforts end in disaster. All you can do is wait, hope and salivate…and can I just say that on the baseball side of this parallel, salivating for some news, any news, especially for weeks on end is really undignified…um…yes, I’m speaking metaphorically…of course I am…*nods*
At any rate, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there in the blogosphere…coming at the end of the day for the Americans and a month late for the Canadians, of course but, hey, it’s the thought that counts. 😉