Tagged: Friends

Angels Slump Continues – Is It Time to Panic Yet?

 

Oh my god! The Angels lost five in a row! Weaver’s choking and Torii’s all washed up because he dropped the ball. It’s 2010 all over again. The Angels are driving me to drink. And the sky is falling. And the end of the world is coming this weekend. And, and…insert list of increasingly dire sounding hyperbole here

Actually, it was my husband who drove me to drink. Literally. In a car. Because he’s a sweetie and a half and it was our circle’s standing Wednesday night happy hour. And the further reality is, I am pretty far from panicking. Because this is not 2010. I repeat. This is not 2010.

Mind you, I’m not trying to put a pretty face on the last two weeks. This is an ugly slump and that’s all there is to it. But here’s the thing. That really is all there is to it. It’s a slump. Does it point out team weaknesses? Yes, much like any other slump does. Slumps aren’t generally known for being caused by strengths.

But, unlike May 2010, we only just slipped below .500. We haven’t been dancing around trying to climb up to it for several weeks. This season, we have a couple of guys in the bullpen in regular use that I trust every time they take the mound…which doesn’t mean they aren’t going to mess up from time to time, like this week for example, but more often than not we do have some reliable relievers. This season, the bats have been slumping off and on but this does mean that at least they have also been on at times, definitely not the case this time last season. Current scouting reports are starting to get around on our formerly hot hitting rookies, exposing some of their youthful mistakes, like Peter Bourjos’ penchant for fastballs high and away outside the zone. At the moment, it’s affecting their averages and they just need time to adapt again, much like they all managed to do when they made the jump to the big leagues.

We have given our starting pitchers run support in 2011, just not so much this month. Some of the fielding errors in this slump were the result of guys getting used to recent changes in the infield and outfield, changes that will cease to be novel soon. And, unlike the Angels great June last season, wins so far this season have been because of things the team had done right, not because of adrenaline in the aftermath of losing a teammate for the season to a crazy accident. Also, this season, when the Angels are down, I see them fighting back to regain/gain the lead. They aren’t always successful but, unlike 2010, they aren’t just giving up either.

Is Jered Weaver choking? No. I think he’s still recovering from the flu and losing so much weight in uncomfortable fashion. In hindsight, Weaver probably should have skipped his start against the Red Sox and rested a few more days before jumping back into the fray. He was showing signs of improvement to my eyes before Monday’s game. I think coming home to warmer weather might get him back on the healing track. And as for Torii, I think folks should also look at his amazing Gold Glove catch in the 7th inning before they really start judging the final missed catch. One shows us why he is a 9 time Gold Glove winner and the other shows why he’s made the switch to right. Taken together, the catches show us an Angels veteran who can still play great ball but has a few more off days than he did in his prime.

The last two weeks were a perfect storm of events resulting in a slump and the Angels just need something to break the cycle. The bad road trip is all over now. I hope the return to home cooking and their own beds is enough to jar the Angels out of this slump. If not, then I’m sure the start of Interleague play is just the ticket, hopefully this weekend but, if not, then certainly right after. Even in a bad season like 2010, the Angels do love to play the National league. Come to think of it, maybe the Angels need a standing happy hour too, like we have in my circle of friends. Forget team meetings and laying down the law. Go out together and relax for the evening. Have a tasty beverage or three. Talk, laugh and unwind until people start saying things that are so silly, they have you laughing for days after at the memory of it all. It does wonders for one’s ability to break the cycle of a bad week – or two! – let me tell you.

Rain, Rain, Go Away. Come Back Again After Opening  Day!

As you might have guessed from my title, sunny Southern California isn’t exactly living up to the hype at the moment. April showers and all that. Normally I would be fine with this. Drought year water restrictions are really annoying and I would like to avoid that. But tomorrow is the Angels home opening day and we have tickets and…and…okay, a rain out would hardly be an epic tragedy but I am starting to get seriously twitchy for a live game and the weather report is just teasing me – bouncing back and forth between dire predictions of a 60% chance of rain all day and then roughly a 30% change of rain in the morning and early afternoon.

I sure hope the rain clears out in time for the game. Seth and I could not be more excited and have a whole evening planned it. We’re even both leaving work early enough to carpool and still get there in time to watch batting practice, unheard of on a weekday. It will be nice to start the home opener on a high note after a 5 to 1 win over the Rays. Dan Haren picked up the win. He pitched very well and was no doubt pleased with the Angels generous, early run support after their stinginess last season. Though many were initially confused by the nasty stuff of Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, the bats were alive and well. Jordan Walden had his second outing since assuming the closer role and it was another one, two, three inning. I am so happy with this change! But I think that contests to give Walden a nickname and snazzy walk up music are a little premature. Let’s actually watch the kid play first before we saddle him with a nickname.

Oh, and the tickets arrived today! My husband and I will officially be travelling for baseball this summer. Fairly late in the 2010 season, I was commiserating with an old college friend about the state of our teams. Neither of us liked our chances for a post season and we both knew we would be experiencing withdrawal like symptoms all winter. Of course, his team’s ranking at that point was just so much more torture and it all turned out pretty darned well for him in the end. But we had so much fun goofing around, chatting about the game that he proposed an annual fan exchange program – in 2011 he and his guy will take my husband and I to a Giants game and we will take them to an Angels game. So we are heading up to San Francisco in July for the Giants/Dodgers game and we have great seats! For any family who may be lurking on the blog, first, thank you for reading 🙂 and, second, I will not be wearing either team’s colors but will wear my Angels hat instead.

The Giants game happens to be the same weekend the Angels are in the Bay Area to play the A’s, so I also nabbed good seats for the planned Angels vs. A’s single admission, double header on that Saturday. Single admission, double header! Doesn’t that sound like a great throwback to childhood?! I am so excited, I can’t wait…for this weekend or for that one!

Ignoring the Rumors on a Ramble up the California Coast

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!

The Baseball Conversation Starved Red Sox Fan Who Came to Dinner

This last weekend, my husband and I hosted our annual holiday party after the holidays, a gathering of friends who have too many other obligations to get together during the actual holidays. This is my favorite party we throw every year. Friends fill the house enjoying cocktails and wontons in quantities that can only be described as festive. Why wontons? Long story short, I started making them in addition to other things because I like dim sum. Our guests routinely hoovered them by the handful so years ago we just made wontons the focal point and our own peculiar holiday tradition. We have a “pink elephant” gift exchange where everyone brings a copy of a favorite book for one round and a DVD of a favorite movie for another. So there is lots of raucous fun as everone ohs and ahs over what each person brought and then “steals” the presents from one another. I don’t think we stop laughing the whole night and everyone leaves with a new book to read, a new movie to watch…and often a list of a few new ideas to put on Netflix or add to their reading list.

New among the guests this year? One baseball talk starved Red Sox fan. An old friend of my husband’s whose path we crossed again about a year ago. This is a gentleman who talks a heck of a lot of Red Sox trash and plays Shipping Up to Boston and Tessie on his cell phone “for” me when the Sox are in town. Not that I ever throw it right back in any way or do anything else to warrant such treatment, of course. *smiles sweetly and attempts to look innocent* But oddly enough there was less bravado about him this evening. He wanted to know my opinion about the deals and if I had heard anything new. He wanted to make sure my husband and I would take him to the game again when the Red Sox were in town because he had so much fun last year. This last was not the mocking comment I originally took it for, mostly. Ignoring, for a moment, the egregious stomping my team suffered at the hands of his team once three glorious innings of the Angels on top came crashing to a halt as Dan Haren took a Youk line drive to the pitching elbow (eh, that’s baseball) and turned the mound over to a string of side show acts, I actually had a good time too. I want the Angels to win this year, thank you very much, but yeah, I’ll take him to the game again. It’s fun to have someone else sitting with us who knows his stuff, even if he cheers at all the wrong times for my taste.

And then things got weird. This Angels fan suddenly found herself feeling like she was comforting the Red Sox fan about his team’s Hot Stove activities. But, you guys got Crawford and Gonzalez, I said, I hate to say it but you’re going to put a heck of a team on the field this season.

Meh, I know, he said. But I’m worried about Bon. They’re thinking of trading him you know, or just letting him go to another team next year. If Bon isn’t a Red Sock anymore then, that’s it, I just don’t think I can be a fan anymore… This lead to a retelling of how my friend became a Red Sox fan as an adult and of his first game, seen from the Fox Sports box at Fenway no less, and a squeaker of a Jonathan Papelbon save…followed by a lot more whining (because, seriously, if your team has had the offseason the Rod Sox have had, it’s whining) and downright wistful hope that all of this was part of some greater ploy to keep Papelbon’s demands reasonable so the Sox can resign him in 2012 as a free agent.

And then the realization hit me. Oh my God! The anger. The threats. The rationalization. All in one thought pattern no less. Could it actually be? And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, proof that the scourge of Hot Stove Grief can strike anyone, even that most unlikely of candidates, a Red Sox fan in the middle of 2010-2011 offseason!

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In Angels news, the team signed Alberto Callaspo to a one year contract, avoiding arbitration. So that’s one 2011 arbitration situation nicely side-stepped and seven more to contend with before the season starts. Yikes! If we don’t have Adrian Beltre or another star at third base in our future, then I am happy with this decision. Callaspo plays a good third base, not a Gold Glove third base by any means, but he does get the job done. And Callaspo’s bat, streaky but respectable over the course of the season, was not the reason the Angels third base position produced a dismal .223 batting average last year. He and Aybar just need to get over their occasional bouts of detrimental oneupsmanship (as opposed to the good kind they also exhibit which spurs both to work harder) and call the GD ball for crying out loud!