Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Hot Stove Edition! This is the first in what we hope will be an occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Between two Giants World Series wins in three years (sorry Matt 😉 ), the AL West making quite the exciting splash in September 2012 and the ensuing Postseason, and recent shrewd personnel moves throughout the AL and NL West, MLB’s attention sure seems to be packing up and heading west these days. Matt and I are both incredibly excited by this development and especially by all of the attention recent Hot Stove moves have brought to my Angels and his Dodgers. So we thought that we would share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? Nah, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!
For this edition, we have posed six questions prompted our teams’ offseason activities and the ensuing fan and media commentary, to be answered on both of our blogs. We hope you enjoy this freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snarky ones), please ask away:
Which of your team’s offseason moves do you think was the strongest?
Kristen says: I imagine everyone is expecting me to say Josh Hamilton here. Hamilton was a huge signing and should be a boon to the team, combining with Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo to make the Angels offense a formidable one indeed (at least on paper — I am very careful about how excited I allow myself to get before the teams actually take the field when, as any longtime baseball fan can tell you, anything can happen). However, I actually think the Angels strongest move was the most recent — the trade for Jason Vargas. As a player, Hamilton is definitely on another level than Vargas and will probably contribute more to the team directly. But trading for Vargas set the rest of the Angels roster in ways that will benefit the entire team and make Hamilton’s talents that much more effective. In addition to providing another reliable, workhorse arm to a starting rotation that needed exactly that, the Kendrys Morales for Vargas trade ensured that the Angels do not have to make less advantageous trades to get said arm. They no longer have to worry about trading the more versatile slugger Mark Trumbo, whose bat has the potential to be more explosive in the lineup with Hamilton. They no longer have to worry about trading Peter Bourjos, who can instead be the gold glove caliber centerfield anchor between Hamilton and Trout in what should be a truly scary Angels outfield — oh, and having Bourjos and Trout tear up the base paths together won’t hurt either.
Matt says: As important Pitching was this off-season I’m not going to say it was Zach Greinke or Ryu. I think the strongest was Mark McGwire as the Dodgers hitting coach. The Dodgers had issues with getting hits and runs in games and that hurt the Dodgers playoff chances. Look at what Mark did as hitting coach with the Cardinals. They were pretty much in the top ten in Runs, Batting Avg, and OPB. For a Dodger Team with Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford that’s going to be huge help for them.
What, if anything, do you think your team still needs to do?
Matt says: I still think the Dodgers need to address the Bullpen and bench. Dodgers lack a LHP out the pen. Scott Elbert is still out, Paco Rodriguez isn’t really ready for a full stent like that, and missed the chance at resigning Randy Choate. The only thing the Dodgers did for the bullpen was resign Brandon League. They have Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang out there on the trade block so maybe they trade them for Bullpen help. Bench wise I believe the Dodgers have to address getting a 4th Outfielder because lets be honest Yasnel Puig isn’t really ready quite yet. They traded for Skip Shoemaker which help but a 1st/3rd Baseman off the bench along with a 4th Outfield will really help.
Kristen says: Well, if we were asking these questions earlier in the week, I would have said that the Angels need another starting pitcher in bold, italicized, all caps, 24 point font. But, thank you Santas Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno, that seems to be taken care of – see previous response. Instead I’m going to enter complete fairy tale land here (Well, it is Christmas after all — might as well wish big!) and say that I think the Angels need to move Vernon Wells, even if it means eating almost all of that huge contract. Nothing against Wells himself — he has been a smiling example of good attitude, trying hard to improve at the plate and gracefully moving wherever the team asked him to, including the bench. But this acquisition just hasn’t work out, and that’s putting it mildly. I would love it if any of the, quite frankly, trade porn rumors surrounding one team or another showing interest in Wells worked out…even if the deal is for practically nothing! The Angels would seriously benefit from having the room on the 25-man roster and I think Wells himself would benefit from the chances offered by that supposed panacea, the change of scenery.
Now that we know what you want your team to do, what do you think they will do? Any trade/move/signing predictions?
Kristen says: I think that, with the Vargas trade, the Angels are pretty much done. I suppose that you might hear about a smaller move here or there — one lesser known bullpen pitcher or non-top minor league prospect for another, but other than that they’re done making deals for the offseason. Although, if Jerry Dipoto chooses to see this as a challenge — because of course the Angels read my blog 😉 — and moves Vernon Wells just to spite my prediction, I certainly wouldn’t mind being wrong.
Matt says: I think the Dodgers will end up Trading Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano along with Dee Gordon for a Left Hand Arm out the bullpen. Theres been rumors about Andre Ethier being traded but I don’t see that happening at all. As far as signings go I believe the Dodgers will look into the Market for a Outfielder or Corner position player off the bench but at the same time I think they’re done.
There is A LOT of money being spent in LA/OC these days. A LOT OF IT! Does your team’s payroll size or amount being spent worry you at all?
Matt says: To be honest yes it does. With the amount of money being put into the Dodgers I would hope winning comes with it. You can’t buy wins or world series and playing Yankee ball can only work when done right. I fear of the Dodgers being like the Red Soxs. All the money being spent and no playoff apperance or anything. Not only that but the fear of Contracts back loading up to where the Dodgers can’t do anything in the future but the Dodgers said they have deep pockets and a new 2 Billion dollar TV deal is coming in soon so we shall see what happens but I can’t say it doesn’t worry me or isn’t in the back of my mind. Everyone tries to play Yankee Ball but the only way that works is if you get the players that fit and generate wins.
Kristen says: Absolutely. Spending this much money should scare anyone. Every player, no matter how talented, is a risk. No one wants to see it happen but any player has the potential to age, slump, lose their swing/pitching location/etc., fail to mesh with a given team and (God forbid) get injured. And when you’ve spent outrageous sums of money acquiring that player, the end result of any such occurrence is devastating because suddenly you’re priced out of just eating that paycheck one way or another to move the player off your roster. And if this happens on several such deals? Yeah, say hello to a nice block of ever-so-much-fun-for-the-whole-team-family “rebuilding” seasons. No. Thank. You!
Here’s the thing though – I think that more and more teams are going to need to come to terms with this level of spending as we go on. Teams are wisely locking up their talent before they hit free agency with greater frequency, leaving smaller free agency pools for teams in a buying mode to fight over. Nothing against Zack Greinke — he’s one hell of a pitcher and I wish the Angels had been able to keep him — but do you really think he would have garnered this impressive a contact if the Giants, Phillies and Angels had allowed Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and Jered Weaver to hit the free agency market in 2013 as scheduled? And Greinke is just the latest example of this phenomenon. And, of course, when quality players are making those kinds of dollars you know that marquee players will command even more from their current team or on the FA market (Holy Staggering Albert Pujols Contract, Batman!!). The end result is that, while the Dodgers and Angels may seem to be leading the charge at the moment, more and more teams will be joining in that charge out of necessity over the next several seasons — as a trend this is both kind of exciting and very scary.
The MLBN analysts seem to think that the Dodgers and Angels offseason moves are all about one upping each other. Do you think there is any truth to this? How do you feel about that?
Kristen says: To quote Annie Savoy, “Baseball may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth, and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.” Or, from the owners’ perspectives it’s also a business. I’m sure Arte Moreno and Magic Johnson and partners do consider things like Los Angeles/Orange County market share when they’re making decisions about advertising, overall ballpark experience and the price of parking, beer, etc. But I highly doubt that this thinking extends to personnel decisions. Competitive teams that win games and reach the Postseason make fans happy and draw them to the ballpark. In order to do that, it’s far more important to be competitive within one’s own division than with an interleague rival as I’m sure all owners and GMs involved are well aware. I can see why the timing of some of the Angels and Dodgers free agency signings lead to the comments in question on MLBN, but I think that both the signings and their timing had little to do with Freeway Series rivalry. Yes, the Angels wanted Zack Greinke and so did the Dodgers. But at least half a dozen other teams also seriously wanted Greinke. He was the best free agent starting pitcher on the market this season. Once the Dodgers signed Greinke, I’m not surprised that the Hamilton signing followed so quickly on its heels. Suddenly the Angels had a lot less pokers in the big money free agents fire and could just concentrate their efforts on Hamilton.
Matt says: You know that’s an interesting question. I honestly don’t think it’s one upping at all and theres two reasons for that. 1- The Dodgers and Angels are filling needs that prevented them from making the playoffs. Thing was it just so happen the Angels signed Hamilton in the heat of the Dodgers making serious moves. 2- The Angels turned out to be the mystery team that was after Hamilton and got him just like last year with Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson So they’ve done this before. People predicted the Dodgers having money to throw at Free Agents before Off-Season. I don’t believe it’s one upping at all but It has caught the attention of the National Media so I like the westcoast attention the Baseball Media is giving.
Now on to something really important – the annual LA/OC billboard war. Which team do you think will have the most/best billboards plastered all over town?
Matt says: Hahaha It was a year ago when the Angels had billboards all over LA/OC until the Dodgers got new owners. I believe it’ll be fairly even. In the OC you have Albert Pujols, Jarred Weaver, Josh Hamilton, and Mike Trout where in LA you have Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Adrian Gonzalez. I believe the Dodgers will have them posted all over L.A. knowing Magic and his promoting of the Dodger brand and the Angels will do a lot of marking themselves as well. It’ll be interesting to see.
Kristen says: *snerk* The “billboard wars” always make me smile and laugh. I take the 605 freeway to work. Most seasons that freeway is littered with Dodgers billboards heading south and Angels billboards heading north as if both teams were making a concerted effort to convert their rival fan base. Honestly, the arrival of the billboards is one of my favorite So Cal signs of spring. Last season at the height of all of the Frank McCourt ick in L.A., the Angels rather dominated the local billboard space and, as much as I like seeing red everywhere I look, it just wasn’t nearly as much fun as when it’s a “battle.” (Yes, mine is a long and boring commute and I take my simple pleasures where I can. Why do you ask?) However, between Arte Moreno (who made his fortune in advertising and billboards, don’cha know) and Magic Johnson (who also seems to have an admirable grasp of the importance of good marketing) I am sure both that teams will being trying to convert us all once again this season — looking forward to it, in fact!
Hello all. Rumors of my blogging demise have been greatly exaggerated! …Well, just exaggerated at any rate. But it was seriously touch and go there for a while. We’re talking nearly Brazil, Tuttle eaten by great cascades of paperwork, here. And I’m the one that created all of the paperwork! But I digress…
So the Angels went out and signed Josh Hamilton! And just how busy was I with my months’ long hell project for work in the middle of all of this delicious Hot Stove madness? Busy enough that I didn’t find out until Seth called me that morning on a break — Seth does not generally have to break Angels news to me. Busy enough that the ensuing conversation went something like this:Seth: So did you hear the news about Josh Hamilton? Me: *typing* No. Did he sign today or something? That’s early. Seth: Yeah, he’ll be wearing red in 2013. Me: *still typing* Red? *pause in thought while still typing* So is he staying with the Rangers after all, then? Or did the Red Sox nab him? Seth: *laughing* Noooo. He’ll be wearing our red. The Angels signed him. Me: *abruptly stops typing* *begins making largely unintelligible noises that it’s safe to assume denote shock and excitement* Seth: *affectionately laughs at me*
So, the Angels went out and signed Josh Hamilton!!! *happy dance*
…and I had no clue until about an hour after it happened. Yeah, so what does that make me? Exactly. A big damn dork, sir. Well, since Thursday I have completed my hell project, caught back up on holiday obligations and vacillated emotions on the Hamilton signing between variations on elated, excited and giddy, and cautious, concerned and nervous. But you know what, I’ve settled on giddy. I think excitement is the way to go. So, why the conundrum in the first place? After all, he is a five-five time All Star, former MVP, regular play of the week making, routine topper of one or more AL batting stat charts.
*pauses happy dance for discussion and logic* Well, I’m not particularly bothered by the contract. It’s less than the ridiculous from any team’s perspective 7 to 10 years he was supposedly originally seeking and the Angels were planning on spending serious money one way (Zack Greinke) or another (any of the other high priced names bandied about in Halos news circles) this offseason. Spending it on a 31-year-old whose name is regularly listed among the best players in the game and who hits .285 with 43 homers in a year where his team is mad at him for sloughing it? Well, let’s just say that if colossal sums of money are going to be spent anyway, I think there are far worse ways they can be spent.
And, no, I’m not concerned about the “obvious” thing. Yes, Hamilton’s past issues with drugs and alcohol are well documented along with his two public relapses as a Texas Ranger. To my eye, Hamilton has his life well under control in this area. Look, there’s a reason the proper term for people who deal with addiction issues is recovering not recovered. There is always the potential for relapse, even for those who are far further removed from their addictive behaviors than Hamilton and have attained decades of sobriety. But the fact that Hamilton has kept his relapses to one evening in each instance of behavior that would only qualify as a kind-of-wild Saturday night for a lot of single baseball players who don’t have issues with addiction, before climbing right back up on the wagon with renewed dedication to his sobriety tells me that no team should worry about ramifications from drug or alcohol use. Yes, there are temptations aplenty in Los Angeles but those temptations are present in every city fielding a Major League Baseball team, including Arlington, along with most towns that do not. I don’t think this is a legitimate concern.
I do, however, have a small concern about Hamilton’s playing time, namely that he has only played in more than 133 games two seasons in his Major League career. Now the fact that the primary reason for Hamilton’s numerous DL stints is because he plays hard does balance this drawback heavily in my opinion, but it’s still there. I also have concerns about Hamilton’s attitude, but only on occasion. Look, by all accounts, Hamilton is a great clubhouse guy. In interviews he comes across as affable, warmly chatty, humorous and caring. He’s an unselfish fielder, no matter where he’s moved in the outfield during a game. And his charitable activities are impressive. I believe him to be a genuinely nice guy. But there are times…strange Monster induced eye ailments keeping him out of games…throwing a coach under the bus after breaking an arm attempting to slide home…seeming to give up those last few weeks in Texas…when this big, talented, joyful kid of a baseball player seems more like a pouty brat. This isn’t a deal breaking concern from my perspective. I don’t expect it to come up very often in Hamilton’s relationship with the Angels as it didn’t in his relationship with the Rangers and, as mentioned before, his overall stats are still a plus during such times. However, it is clear to me that when Hamilton is unhappy there are repercussions on the job. Just something for Angels fans to keep in mind, along with the whiffing slumps that can and do come with such a free swinging style, while we’re doing our happy dances.
So, there you have it. There are a few drawbacks to this deal to keep in mind and the Angels still need to do something more with the starting rotation – Please Santa Jerry, please!! But the prospect of Hamilton’s bat in the lineup protecting Albert Pujols, or protected by Pujols (and, all things being Scioscia, probably both before season’s end) coming soon on the heels of Mike Trout turning a hard hit single into a triple, a bunt into a double or some other feat of amazement, makes me positively gleeful. Unexpectedly having too many outfielders is a potentially useful problem for the Angels to have depending on how it’s handled. And this was the first weekend in forever that I didn’t bring any work home with me. On the whole, I’d say it’s all rather giddy making. *resumes happy dance with exuberance*
In their last 5 games, the Angels have:
- Scored 46 runs!
- Allowed the opposing team to score 44 runs.
- Hit 15 home runs!
- Allowed the opposing team to hit 10 home runs.
- Struck out 30 batters!
- Were struck out 48 times.
- Came from behind to tie or pull into the lead so many times, they reminded me of the 2009 Angels who were among the league leaders in that regard.
- Blew the lead so frequently that none of those comebacks amounted to anything.
- Beat the division leading Rangers 2 times, one of which was more of a good old-fashioned shellacking.
- Lost to the division leading Rangers 2 times and the White Sox once, just for good measure.
- Left 40 guys on base.
- Went to the bullpen 16 times – 4 times apiece in the last three games.
- Moved out of 3rd place (yay!) to tie the A’s for 2nd.
- Shot past the A’s to a 2nd place that was just 3 games out of 1st place.
- Sank right back into 3rd place one game further out of 1st than they started.
- Brought me to my feet cheering repeatedly.
- Sat me right back down again in exasperation complete with loud expletives and an annoyed fist bump on the table for good measure repeatedly.
Wow! There is an inordinate amount of both !!! and #$@! in that list. Come to think of it, I suppose this is true in different ways both for Angels fans and for fans of the opposition. So what on Earth are we supposed to make of a crazy, simultaneously hot and cold, brilliant upside, scary downside team like this? I would say that the Angels really need to get key players back off the DL in top form, or top August form at any rate, and figure out what’s broken with the starting rotation and fix it. This list just illustrates what those who have been watching the games already know – so many important pieces, essential to having a shot at the post season are already present, accounted for and how in the way the Angels are playing right now.
However, the sick and amazing bullpen of a few weeks ago has become a sick and ailing bullpen in the absence of Scott Downs. As much as Andrew Romine looks like he can fill a big league short stop’s shoes in a few seasons, the defense and the base paths are both missing Erick Aybar. Recent, blessedly brief, stints with various strains for Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo did the lineup no favors. And the starting rotation is kind of, sort of, maybe just starting to come together…maybe. But Dan Haren did push back another start due to back issues. (On the one hand, way to go Danny for admitting you’re hurting and taking the steps you need to fix it. On the other hand, ouch. We need him back strong and we need him back now.) Ervin Santana is restricted to three innings until he can get his head straight. And Zack Greinke, if the small sample size of the last two starts are any indication, is still working through his home vs. road issues, though I do admire a pitcher who toughs out a bad few innings and finishes strong.
The other thing I would take from this Jekyll and Hyde list is that the Angels season future is unclear. I know that a lot of folks saying it’s over now, that this Rangers series was the “the moment” and the Angels blew it. But I don’t buy that. Oh, I believe in momentum, but I also think that trying to pick out what “the moment” is in any season as it’s happening is impossible. It’s a little too much like writing history as it happens. Oh, plenty of people do write history as it happens and I can tell you as a history major that historians do value such analysis…but as primary source documents not as their intended purpose. The 2012 season is moving quickly. But we do have two solid months of baseball left and, for the Angels, much of that baseball will be played in the AL West. If they can get some guys back or start playing around their absence with more grace, well, anything is still possible.
I probably should not let my mood rise and fall based on the results of the latest Angels game. That way lies a certain sort of madness I suppose…or perhaps just strong fanaticism. But darned if I wasn’t more than a little mopey after last weekend’s debacle. And, now that the Angels have won two in a row with strong bats making an appearance, darned if I’m not grinning from ear to ear…of course the fact that we’re leaving for San Diego tomorrow morning to catch the Angels/Padres series might have something to do with my mood as well. But before we embark on what I hope will be a nice long streak of giddy making wins, there is a little unpleasant business this blogger should attend to:
Bye Mickey Hatcher
The Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher Tuesday evening and, I have to admit, I’m pleased. Oh, not for the reasons you might think. This isn’t another ‘Dancing in the streets, Ding Dong the Hatch is Gone’ Angels blog post. I was never particularly in the ‘Fire Hatcher, he’s the bane of our existence’ camp. Look, since 2010 the Angels offense has been dismal to put it kindly and Angels fans readily place the blame on Hatcher. But the thing is, before the 2010 season the Angels offense was pretty darned good for a few years there, at least from a batting average and overall effectiveness standpoint if not from a frightening power standpoint. I vividly remember a few games late in the 2009 season where the entire Angels starting lineup was batting at or over .300. Crazy good! And if we’re going to blame Mickey Hatcher for the bad times, doesn’t it only stand to reason that we credit him for the good times? I mean, it’s not as if either apex of the pendulum was a brief moment in time such that one might characterize it as a fluke.
But, here we are in May 2012 and while the offense had shown brief flashes of teasing hope heading into Tuesday, it still looked like the third season in a row of wildly swinging but otherwise quiet bats. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Angels lack of recent championships occurred simultaneously with the lack of offense. Do I think this is Hatcher’s fault? No. I don’t think he “ruins” swings or there would be no way to explain the seasons before 2010. And ultimately whatever the hitting coach is or is not doing, whatever the team’s strategy and hitting philosophy, the burden is on the players to get in the batter’s box and make contact with the ball.
But I also think it’s clear that Hatcher wasn’t equipped to fix the current situation or we would have seen strong signs of a breakthrough long before now. Over the weekend against the Rangers you could see how much the team has internalized the situation as they started to noticeably despair the moment the Rangers pulled ahead. When a problem gets this convoluted and existing personnel can’t solve it, it’s time to bring in fresh ideas and a new point of view, not because existing staff are to blame for causing the problem or aren’t good at their job under normal circumstances but specifically because they are no longer an effective fit for the job under the current circumstances. On the one hand, I’m sorry to see Hatcher go. He’s a good guy who cares a lot about the team and the team in turn owes him thanks for the good years. But on the other hand I am pleased that Jerry Dipoto recognized the severity of the offense problem and didn’t let the team flounder for another full season without trying something radical. Do I think this solves the Angels problems? I certainly hope so!! But bringing in a fresh point of view is never a guarantee of good results.
Regardless, the Angels offense sure looked good Tuesday and positively exciting on Wednesday to the joy and relief of Halos fans everywhere. Now, a lot of fans are already cheering on new hitting coach Jim Eppard, freshly promoted from AAA Salt Lake City, and congratulating him on our seemingly revitalized bats. But, seriously people, that’s just plain silly. However good Eppard may eventually be for the team, no one walks off the plane and magically turns two plus seasons of weak offense around in less than 24 hours. It could be a sort of placebo effect, relief over someone finally making a radical move to help, just one of those inexplicable things or even some delayed positive result of Hatcher’s influence, though that would be sad considering the situation. Whatever the reason, hitting is contagious and I sincerely hope that Eppard’s fresh presence, methods and point of view are able to help coax this initial hitting outbreak into a full blown virulent offensive epidemic…or, you know, just not stand in the way while it happens of its own accord because, sometimes, that is the most effective thing a leader can do.
Keep it going guys! Interleague is nigh and you know what that traditionally means for the Angels!
Have You See This Centerfielder?
Wednesday was Peter Bourjos bobble head night but somehow I really think that Bourjos would have preferred to be in the lineup than the subject of the evening’s promotional giveaway. I know I would have preferred it. Not to take anything away from Vernon Wells’ two great defensive plays on Monday or his hits this evening, but I would still also really like to see Bourjos and Mike Trout in the same outfield and the same lineup – an outfield with quicker, better defense every time, not just sometimes. And to add insult to injury, not only was Bourjos not in the lineup for the 14th time in the last 18 games, but he was handing out his own bobble heads at the front gate. Oh, I’m sure meeting and shaking hands with Bourjos was a very nice thing for the fans, but really? They had him handing out bobbleheads at the front gate? What’s next? ‘Hey, Petey, while you’re not doing anything would you mind taking over for the bat boy for a few innings?’
Yes, Bourjos started off the season in a hitting slump like, oh gee, I don’t know, most of the rest of the team. But he alone has not been given the chance to work his way through said slump with playing time. Surely they can find better use for a kid who was on the short list for a Gold Glove in his first full season in the majors than occasional pinch running duties. Why wouldn’t we want to make every effort to allow he and Mike Trout to grow together into one dynamite outfield duo? Of course, as I finish this post it looks like he’s in the lineup today – yay! – so maybe this is the sign of better things to come?
Monday Night’s Shutout by the A’s
As you can probably tell from the photos, we were there. It was about as pleasant as you might imagine.
The Good – Hey it was a night at the ballpark and our friend scored her mother’s company seats so we were sitting pretty in the Diamond Club right behind home plate for free. That part wasn’t just good, it was downright giddy making.
The Bad – We were shut out. 5 – 0. By a division rival. I don’t think any more details are really necessary.
Still, there were signs of hope that I think were the logical precursor to the last few nights’ offensive productivity. Namely that the Angels were hitting the ball – right at the A’s for an out in many cases, but there was still some solid contact going on and a few cases of robbery by an excellent play. There was also less wild swinging. Albert Puljos in particular looked more comfortable and, up until the very last at bat where he swung at one so high and one so low that Vladdy would have been saying ‘Really?’, had good discipline and good contact…just at people and robbed in one case. Looking at him Monday I felt we would be seeing more of the old Albert later this week and, indeed, we have. Keep it going! I am rooting for you!!
And here are a few more random game photos just for kicks. No on to the today’s White Sox game, the Padres and, hopefully, a lot more winning! Go Angels!!
Money can make people do some pretty strange things and that in turn can lead to awful decision making. And the more money we’re talking about, the more things can get even stranger and the decisions even worse. This proportional relationship explains but in no way excuses baseball GM thinking, which at times provides us with arguably some of the most ridiculous occurrences of this phenomenon. Allow me to explain by putting a, completely random of course, GM big money/bad decision situation into everyday terms. Say I went shoe shopping and on a bizarre whim committed…oh, let’s pull a completely random number out thin air here…let’s say $86 million give or take on some sort of weird four season…er…month…four month payment plan. I mean, personally, I usually spend more like $40 to $60 on a pair of shoes and I don’t believe I’ve ever spent more than a bill on a pair but I have heard of Manolo Blahniks and the like – hello, I do have two X chromosomes! – so I suppose that $86 million might be reasonable for someone else. 😉
Now let’s say these shoes just plain turn out to be bad shoes. I mean, they’re certainly nice, personable shoes…er, I mean pretty. That’s it, pretty. They look good on my feet. But other than that, they’re bad shoes. They give me blisters, pinch my heels and make my feet ache. Every now and then it finally seems like they’re starting to get comfortable but then they don’t allow me to walk for any length of time before all the blisters and pinching start up again. And, to top it all off, they’re not just affecting my feet. When I wear these shoes, more often than not, they wreak havoc with the whole starting lineup…er…my back. My back and, actually my legs. Now these shoes worked out okay for a friend of mine but, as anyone can tell you, she’s much more hitter friendly…er…I mean she has much, much better arches.
So what should I do about these shoes? I mean, I committed all of that money to them, so I suppose I should just keep wearing them until I’m crippled right? There’s no way I could eBay the silly things. Who else would be crazy enough to commit so much money to them. And, in the mean time, other, better, more reliable shoes are just sitting there riding pine – in my closet that is, it’s one of those new fangled pine closets – and gathering dust. So, just to be fair, I should probably trade those better, more reliable shoes for another aging reliever and a few sticks of used bubble gum right? …er…I mean used gym socks, old flip flops and a couple of packs of mothballs. Suffice to say, this is completely ridiculous and I am thrilled that Major League GMs don’t get to make my sartorial decisions for me.
So, baseball. Because this blog is about baseball after all, not about shoes, crazy monitory decisions or strange, badly used literary devices…okay, maybe it is frequently about strange, badly used literary devices, but I digress. Peter Bourjos. The trade talk has been flying through the rumor mill again like crazy and, coincidentally or not, he’s riding the pine again tonight. I know his bat has been terrible so far this season. I also know that, so far, when Sosh puts him back in for a game, he hits…and then is benched again, which isn’t exactly sensible or positive reinforcement. I also know he started out slow last season and finished out 2011 hitting a respectable .271, a figure we sure wish Vernon Wells had achieved. And his defense? Oh my word, his defense!! So this makes no sense to me.
As far as Bourjos’ latest replacement goes, I love Mike Trout. I want him to stay in the lineup, batting leadoff, and in the outfield every game. But I want to see Peter Bourjos in the outfield with him instead of Vernon Wells. Bourjos is younger. Bourjos is faster. Bourjos catches everything in sight! Bourjos made changes at the plate last season that lead to a respectable batting average and appears to be on the verge of doing the same thing this season while Wells is, at best, one step forward, two steps right back to last season. Keeping and playing Bourjos and Trout together would mean many more seasons of an amazing outfield combination that can’t even see their peak approaching from where they stand, as opposed to aging outfield.
If the team hadn’t committed so much money to Wells, I don’t think we’d even be having this conversation. But they did and we are. However, I don’t think any amount of money justifies the team cost of continually not using the best tool we currently have available…and it certainly doesn’t justify trading that tool for another bullpen arm. Since I first saw Bourjos play in 2010, I have been dying to see a regular outfield with Trout in left, Bourjos in center and Torii in right (for as long as Torii’s an Angel and I do hope that’s longer than this just this season). I just hope Jerry Dipoto wants to see the same thing.
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And now the highly anticipated Angels/Rangers game is about to begin! Go Halos!!! Of course…I’ll be catching it delayed by about an hour and 15. Seth doesn’t get off work until 6 and the Friday Night Ritual just isn’t the same if I start the game without him – besides, he’d wait for me. 🙂 In the mean time, I’ll be preparing the Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels spread – blue cheese bacon burgers with fried leeks and fresh tomatoes. Wine still to be determined, but definitely, definitely red. I’m thinking something in a Syrah.
Mike Scioscia left Albert Pujols out of the lineup today, a common Scioscia tool to give a struggling player a day away from the grind to mentally refresh for, hopefully, a new approach. So I don’t think I can avoid it any longer. Apparently it’s high time for the obligatory what’s wrong with Albert Pujols post. Well, I do blog about the Angels, after all, so you know that tackling this topic is practically a contractual obligation. 😉
As you may or may not have noticed, although I do comment on Pujols from time to time, I’ve pretty much avoided arm chair batting coaching, ranting, raving, advising, foaming at the mouth, begging, pleading and/or keeping a running lack of homerun tally anywhere even remotely in his general direction. It’s not that I don’t care, far from it. It’s just that I am absolutely certain he’ll come around eventually, though I am coming to realize that eventually may be a lot later than I originally thought, and while his slumbering bat is certainly a problem, fixating on it fixes nothing and ignores a whole host of other problems that have been far thornier for going on three seasons now.
As for what’s wrong with Albert? Well, there’s the new league/new ball parks/new opposing pitchers theory. At least in the short term that was probably part of it. Angels blogger True Grich suggests that moving away from his wife and children, who are remaining in St. Louis for the time being might have a lot to do with things. I can’t say I disagree. I mean going for long periods of time without…companionship, someone to lighten up your off time, hugs from the kidlets, comfort, laughing together, someone to talk through the bad stuff with and anything else that one might add after those ellipses, when one was used to enjoying those things on a regular basis would throw anyone for a loop, especially when things aren’t going well. MLB Network recently compared the dimensions of Angels stadium to Busch stadium, pointing out that Pujols’ Angels stadium on the warning track fly outs would simply have been out of the ballpark at Busch stadium. Well, honestly, I’d been wondering about this very thing and given that many of Pujols’ homeruns weren’t of the tape measure variety, I can see how this would seriously mess up a person’s swing for a while.
I think all three of these things are part of the problem, but I actually think that the main problem is the homeruns, or rather that homeruns have become the fixation. When he is more himself, Pujols hits for average and for power, which means that he hits a lot of singles and doubles and those figure heavily into his RBI and run totals. He keeps saying he isn’t a homerun hitter that he’s more of a doubles guy and this is true in the same sense that Jered Weaver says he’s not really a strikeout pitcher. Strikeouts aren’t Weaver’s primary goal, they just happen a lot when he’s on his game. Ditto for Pujols and the homeruns. When he’s on his game and hitting well, the homeruns just come along with all of other hits.
But ever since the Angels signed Pujols, the fixation has been on his eventual homerun total and when he was going to hit the first one. This wouldn’t be a problem if Albert himself wasn’t also fixated on that first homerun and obviously swinging for the fences. Which came first, the Angels’ expectations or Pujols’ pressure on himself? I don’t even think it matters but somehow he needs to start believing his own words again and just focus on hitting the ball and the rest will come. Heck, homeruns are a wonderful, highly productive tool in the lineup, but if Pujols gives us an around .300 batting average and high RBI and run total, I personally wouldn’t care about how many of those hits were specifically homeruns.
I really hope that taking a day off has helped Pujols clear his head…or reach the point where he’s frustrated enough to brute force stubborn his way through his problems. But I don’t think it would hurt to also arrange a visit from his family, wipe the homerun thoughts completely from his mind and watch a tape of that MLBN segment, you know, just in case.
In the meantime, it’s sad to hear everyone on the team talking about Pujols in terms that are the very definition of Mendoza line – Yes, he’s struggling at the plate, but he’ll come around and in the mean time look at that defense. – but I’m afraid that’s just the way it’s going to have to be until he figures it out and comes around. The fact of the matter is that his defense is out of sight and do we really want to be the team who decided after less than two months that a.326 lifetime batting average over 11 seasons and one+ month (even after all of this ick) is somehow a fluke? Because even if takes most of this season for Pujols to get back to his usual form, it will be worth it in the long run…that said, if it does take most of the season, I may have to rethink my no ranting, raving, whining and/or foaming at the mouth policy. I’m just saying’.
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Now, on to something happier. After two games in a row that made me think temper tantrums are seriously wasted on the young, the Angels offense finally showed back up, thanks primarily to a significant youth uprising. Mike Trout sent his first homerun of the season sailing over the wall. Mark Trumbo hit a Trumbomb that may just now have landed, I mean we’re talking into right into Big Papi 2010 Homerun Derby territory. C.J. Wilson pitched a good game tonight, the defense was on and the Angels offense pushed and pushed again, forcing and then taking advantage of several Blue Jay errors. It was like watching Friday’s game but in reverse and, you know, fun! 😉 If Trumbo, Trout and Kendrys Morales (who also had a big night) aren’t all in the lineup tomorrow after the night they had then I truly will think, love Scioscia though I do, that there is an evil Magic 8 Ball making all too many of the lineup decisions.
I was going to bite my tongue and just post my photos from Sunday’s Fan Fest and ensuing disappointing game. I was going to refrain from ranting and just see how things worked out for a little while longer, really I was. And then, this evening. Yuck!!! …only, I didn’t say yuck.
< rant >
Yes, Ervin Santana gave up five runs, four of them solo homeruns. Yes, the team was facing David Price. But five runs should not be an insurmountable deficit, especially with these bats in the lineup. The offense needs to find their swings, find their chemistry and start producing and, although it’s only April, they need to do it quickly before we fall too much farther in the hole. But one thing that would seriously help is a having a set lineup.
Look, I love Mike Scioscia and am absolutely not part of the crowd calling for his head, but the another day, another lineup thing has got to stop. 15 different lineups in the first 17 games is Lewis Carroll levels of ridiculous without any of Lewis Carroll’s awesomeness to me…hence my rusty attempts at cartooning. (Be kind. This is the first time I’ve put pencil to drawing pad with any greater cartooning intent than amusing my niece and nephew in years. *nervous giggle*)
Think about it, 15 lineups and none of them have worked? How do we really know that? I mean, did they really not work, or did they just not work that day? Because expecting to be able to assess a lineup accurately after just one game is kind of like going speed dating and expecting a marriage proposal from someone by the end of the evening. And if all Scioscia is trying to do is find a lineup that produces, why didn’t he stick with any of the lineups he used in games the Angels won? Clearly I’m not a baseball manager, but does this make sense to anyone?
We have pitchers with radically different styles and, apparently, way more depth than is good for us. I understand this. So if Scioscia can’t come up with just one lineup to stick with – and I do get that – than how about one lineup for fly ball pitchers and one lineup for ground ball pitchers or something like that? Restricting the crazy lineup roulette to two or three in some sort of regular rotation would surely be an improvement.
Again, I have no delusions of grandeur that I am some sort of baseball managing genius but certain things just seem obvious, especially after a few games. Albert Pujols should not be DHing, at least not this year, next year or any year so long as keeps making those outrageous defensive plays. Good God damn, that man can move. Young guys like Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Peter Bourjos, who have a set position they aren’t experimenting with or trying out for should not sit out a game to “rest” unless there are legitimate reasons they need to rest and by that I mean illness and injuries. And they should have a static position in the lineup to go with their regular playtime. Howie was hitting! He was hitting a ton. Then he sat out a day and now he’s not hitting anymore. Yes, he should do his best to maintain his own rhythm but shouldn’t the lineup support him in this endeavor?
Also, Mark Trumbo needs to be in the lineup as often as possible, and Kendrys Morales needs to be in it more often than not. And leave Torii Hunter in right. Yes, I realize that doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room. Scioscia is left with flopping Trumbo, Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo at third; Trumbo and Vernon Wells in left; and Kendrys and Bobby Abreu at DH, because let’s be honest here, neither of them should be playing anywhere on the field right now. But he doesn’t need a whole lot of wiggle room with only two or three lineups on a regular schedule, now does he?
</ rant >
Am I sure the Angels will turn it around eventually? Absolutely. Am I sure it will happen in enough time to matter? Not completely, no. Especially not with the rate at which Texas is tearing through the opposition. I’m not giving up by any means – Hello, it’s April! – but something needs to change and fast…seriously guys. Don’t make me turn this blog around and start cartooning again. 😉
And, while we’re at it, Torii and Vernon (Because, yes, of course the Angels read this blog. Why do you ask? ;)), quit messing with Peter Bourjos’ walk. I don’t know for certain that that is what’s messing with his swing, but something sure is so you might as well cool it just in case.
Okay. Now </ rant >