As an Angels fan, I am used to not seeing my team on the national radar – sports news covers or features, popular culture, public awareness, generic poll via number of ball caps seen in random unexpected places, or otherwise. This is hardly a gripe – actually, I kind of like it – it’s just an observation. As I’ve mentioned before, I was raised a Dodger fan. And the Dodgers, while they aren’t the Yankees or, more recently, the Red Sox, are frequently on the national radar…not always for good reasons, sad to say, especially lately, but still, they’re there.
When you want to set a scene as being definitively in Los Angeles, you reference the Dodgers or show a glimpse of the stadium in a scan of the scenery. Dodgers Stadium isn’t as frequently filmed as the Hollywood sign, nor as oft destroyed in Hollywood natural disasters as the Capital Records building or those darned Angelyne signs, but it’s there never the less. (Yes, the Angels had top billing in that one movie but, seriously, I’m trying to forget that one. 😉 Remember the Naked Gun, by all means, but please forget that other one…er…ones, apparently. I stand corrected. See comments below.) You are likely to see Dodgers caps in random places, ditto shirts and other paraphernalia. Yankees gear is more common, but you get the general idea. I grew up thinking this was normal attention for your average baseball team, even though fans of 25-ish other teams could have told me otherwise. Now I get it. Sightings of Angels on the cover of, the TV screen of, or head or back of anything or anyone becomes increasingly rare the further you get from the general Orange County/Los Angeles area. This is normal attention for your average baseball team. And as a direct result, any random Angels sighting – National news feature, gear seen in a movie, ball cap on the head of a random fan in, say, Olathe, Kansas, never fails to give me a giddy little thrill.
Needless to say, those giddy little thrills have been quite the frequent occurrence since, oh, say December 8th. Go figure. Signing two of the biggest free agent names in the same day will do that for a team. And the best part is, they aren’t getting any less giddy or thrilling as they continue to multiply. So, imagine my delight this morning in the doctor’s office, when I spied this bright, shiny treasure:
My Angels on the cover of ESPN. Yes, it was bright and shiny. I swear, it glowed like Excalibur in the Disney cartoon. Why do you ask? And, yes, I am probably the only baseball blogger who didn’t already know the Angels were on the cover. January has been quite the suck for me. But not knowing made the thrill just that much more giddy-making. No, I don’t see this getting old anytime soon. While I liked the homey feel of non-attention, I could certainly grow to appreciate attention.
Random Thoughts on the article itself:
- Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar. Mind you, this is just a confirmation of my existing opinion of the guy, but, yeah. Total. Rockstar. However these signings turn out – and I certainly hope it’s a meets or exceeds expectations kind of scenario – he’s proven that he has the negotiating skills, brains, guts and personality to do well by the Angels for years to come.
- It really is interesting how very normal typical player concerns are when they’re deciding which offer to accept. Yes, I do understand, it’s much more about the money than anyone is going to actually come out and say. But even when you boil that down, it’s typical job stuff. Compensation. Job security – length of contract and no-trade clauses. Will my family be happy? Will I get to do the specific job I like to do? Will I like my boss/coworkers? etc…
- Except, of course, for C.J. Wilson whose pros and cons list was, between the screenwriting opportunities and possible sponsorship of his racing team, unique to say the least. Maybe it’s because I was hot and cold on the rumors that Angels were going after him in the first place? But whenever I watch or hear an interview with Wilson where he talks more about his – incredibly interesting, I’ll admit – hobbies than about baseball, I am torn between thinking “Wow, what an intriguing, well rounded guy” and “Nooo! He’s not Barry Zito. He’s not Barry Zito. He is. NOT. Barry Zito.”
- The part that made me laugh? One call from Albert Pujols apparently pulled Arte Moreno away from a movie date with his wife. They were in the middle of watching Melancholia. Okay, I like arty, abstract movies but please tell me that Arte wasn’t thanking Albert in more ways than one as soon as he saw the mighty bat’s name displayed on his cell phone. Oh, darn. Whoops. Sorry, honey. I am so disappointed to miss this boring drivel…er…I mean stirring dialog, but I gotta take this.
- Apparently a random woman reading ESPN magazine in a doctor’s office is still considered an oddity. I got a literal thumbs up from one gent when I picked up the magazine and several odd looks from other parties. Of course, the fact that I took a photo of the cover with my phone may have had something to do with that. I suppose that could be considered odd in some circles. 😉
- Did I mention that Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar?
With this week’s news that the Angels have reached one-year deals, avoiding arbitration with both Eric Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, the team appears to be mostly set for the season. Although, I don’t think anyone would mind another reliable arm for the bullpen, should it just happen to present itself and, you know, except for the “will they be ready or won’t they” injury situations with Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. Hey, you can’t have everything, right? …except, perhaps, when Jerry Dipoto is starting off his Haloed tenure with a bang, so we’ll see. *whistles softly*
At any rate, traditionally this is the time to start predicting lineups, rotations and such. But, let’s be honest. Being an Angels fan adds a certain layer – or, like 10! – of, shall we say, complexity to this age old pastime. Oh, I can predict the starting rotation with ease and a fair bit of certainty: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana and Jerome Williams. And don’t think I didn’t all kinds of delicious little shivers up and down my arms typing that list of names just now. The 2012 starting rotation rocks. Hard. But moving past that and on to predicting the lineup? That’s another story. This is, after all, a Mike Scioscia team, she types with affection.
The boys at Hot Stove proposed this starting lineup shortly after Albert Pujols was signed:
And as lineups go, it makes a certain amount of sense. But it has two major flaws. 1) Relegating Trumbo to a part time DH role (What a waste! At that point, trade him.) and, even more importantly, 2) it only allows for 4 different variations. Four…Amateurs! 😉
First, let’s consider the leadoff spot. Sosh will never stick to just one leadoff man. Yes, Aybar will fill that role frequently no doubt, but expect to see Peter Bourjos and Macier Izturis (provided he isn’t eventually part of trade for say, a bullpen arm, just to pull something completely out of thin air) in the leadoff spot a fair number of times as well. And then there will be those really random days, when Sosh is either feeling extra spicy or he thinks the guys need a kick in the pants. On those days we might find Howie Kendrick, Mike Trout or even Alberto Callaspo striding to the plate ahead of everyone else. You just never know with Scioscia.
Then there’s the cleanup spot. Albert Pujols is clearly the logical choice. But sometimes Scioscia likes to mix things up and bat the toughest slugger in the 5th spot. At that point you might see Trumbo or Morales take a turn batting 4th. And should the offense start to enter any lengthy slumps (Which you won’t do in 2012, right guys? Right?) expect to see some downright crazy things take place with the cleanup spot. In 2011 Maicer batted 4th in, I believe, two games.
And, really, that’s only the beginning. Torii’s natural place in the lineup is batting 3rd. But when he has an off week or two, expect to see him moved to batting 2nd…at which point he is likely to change his walkup song to Movin’ On Up again because, is there anyone who has more fun during a game than Torii? As much sure, but more? Nah, didn’t think so.
You can be sure that Trout and Bourjos will play in the same game many times throughout the season. And, in addition to taking the leadoff role some of the time, Bourjos will probably bat 2nd a few times as well. And the minute Trout comes into his own at the plate, Chris Iannetta is likely to see some time in the 9th spot – it’s an Angels catchers’ tradition, after all. Alberto Callaspo consistently has one of the highest batting averages on the team. He’s sure to spend some time batting 2nd or 3rd. And what of Bobby Abreu? So far I haven’t heard any noise about trading him. If he’s still with the team come Opening Day, I’m sure there will be several lineup variations featuring him at DH too…
…And this? This is just what I have come up with typing darn near stream of consciousness for a few minutes. Imagine what Scioscia will come up with given an entire season to plot and plan? That said, is any of this constant lineup shifting effective? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. On the average, I’d say it’s probably neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. It’s just Scioscia’s thing. And we fans gripe about it when the team is losing and joke about it with affection when the team is winning. Either way, I’ll not be attempting to diagram all of that variation into one master lineup, slash marks or not, thank you very much. 🙂
If it seems as though I compare all things baseball to all things relationship a lot, that would be because A) I do, and B) the analogy absolutely works! Hey, it’s not like I made this up. I mean, how happy were you as young person the first time you made it past first base on a date? Not so much the first time you struck out with a cutie in public, right? Or, take the amazing t-shirt a friend of mine got after the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which proclaimed “I saved second base!” Honestly, it would be weirder to try and separate the concepts.
I do finding it amusing though that the timing for these analogies is often opposite. I mean, right now, just as millions of men and women everywhere are resolving not to date Mr. or Ms. Right in 2012, or to stop dating their friends’ castoffs, baseball teams are leaping to the contrary conclusion that these are fine ideas. This isn’t a pot/kettle situation. Vernon Wells in 2011. Fernando Rodney in 2010. Scott Kazmir in 2009. I could go on but, really, what’s the point? As an Angels fan, suffice to say, I know from whence I speak.
Trying to look at it from the teams’ perspectives, I get it. At least, I think I do. I mean, we’ve all been there right? You think the Angels just didn’t understand Fernando Rodney. Not the way you can, Rays. They nagged him way too much about his control and all of those walks without spending enough time appreciating the speed of his fastball and the rakish angle of his ball cap. If only the Angels had taken more time to praise him and shower him with applause, you know, like they back when the relationship was fresh, things might have been different.
And what about Carlos Zambrano? I know Marlins, I know. Clearly he and the Cubs had severe compatibility issues. Sure the making up part was epic every. Single. Time. But all of the volatile spats that lead to the making up? And their increasing frequency coupled with little to no making up? This wasn’t a case of opposites attracting, they weren’t even speaking the same language. It will be different with you, right Marlins? Signing Carlos will be like getting to marry your best friend, right? Near perfect compatibility.
And for the rest of you out there joining me in a collective WTF – hey, I can see that face you’re making! – just remember, it always looks different when your friend is the one rationalizing a bad decision then when you’re the one doing it. And, really, who are we to point fingers? Sometimes these things work out, crazy as they may seem at the time…right? My husband and I made all of our friends make those faces when we started dating and we’re heading toward our second decade together…though examples of this working out are far more prevalent among humans than among baseball teams, I think. Still, good luck Rays, Marlins and everyone else in this position. Maybe it really will be different with you…
“Have fun storming the castle, Boys!” “Do you think they’ll make it?” “It’ll take a miracle…”
So, 2011 is drawing to a close and it is my tradition to take a few moments and write up my top Angels Baseball moments for the 2011 season. It should be noted that, as this blog is now just over a year old, tradition means I am doing it for the second time. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? …But I digress. These are not the Angels only highlights for the season or even necessarily the ones that folks who get paid to analyze this kind of stuff would point out. There are enough articles about that floating around out there already. No, these are the highlights, both Angels and personal, that made my baseball season, in no particular order:
Jered Weaver! Both the season he had – which, were it not for Verlander’s even more amazing season would have easily been a Cy Young season – and the fact that he signed a contract with the Angels through 2016. I loved every minute I spent watching this homegrown dynamo on the mound and look forward to many more in the seasons to come.
Being Wrong. Yes, sometimes being wrong is a great thing and I am thrilled that I was wrong to have worried about Mark Trumbo taking over at first base. My concerns were based on his rookie call-up outings and the issues he had getting into position for plays during Spring Training. But the AL Rookie of the Year runner up worked hard to improve quickly at first and was a bright spot in an offense that was otherwise anything but. None of this guarantees that Trumbo will also be good at third base, but he has more than earned my interest in seeing what he can do in yet another new position.
Ervin Santana’s No Hitter. A former on one season then wild as all get out the next pitcher, Santana showed he has gained considerable consistency following up on his excellent 2010 season with another quality season, and how! The no hitter was merely the most obvious indicator of thischange, but what an indicator it was.
Dan Haren’s 1 hit shutout. And we were there!! Having a full season with Haren on the team would have been a highlight in and of itself, but getting to see this game, live and in person, with a great view of every nasty pitch going over the plate was absolute baseball magic.
Young Angels’ feats. I said it many times throughout the regular season, the Angels rookies and practically rookies made my season. Whether it was watching Peter Bourjos’ dramatic plays in center, Tyler Chatwood’s development on the mound or Mark Trumbo slowly make opposing pitchers start to take notice, the Angels “kids” made the game a lot of fun to watch and gave me significant hope for future seasons.
Personal Game Attendance at an All-Time High! So I tallied it up and we went to 22 games this season, two of which were the Angels/A’s double header. Wow! So. Ummmm…Hon, when you read this, remember how that fact of that being absolutely (Wonderfully!) crazy is tempered by my folks and your boss giving us tickets. 😉 Being at the game so often gave us the chance to catch a lot of season highlights. Bourjos’ first home run of the season. Trumbo’s first big league homerun. A couple of flying Bourjos catches. An I can’t believe he caught that Torii Hunter catch…and that was just during the Haren 1-hit shutout game, no kidding. There was even more than that over the course of the other 21 games. I only hope that tickets are not so expensive this season that we have difficulties getting to the game. I don’t have to go to 22 games (Though I will never turn it down!) but if I don’t get to the ballpark every couple of weeks or so, crankiness is likly to ensue. 🙂
Travelling for Baseball. Seth and I have talked about eventually seeing a game in every Major League stadium for years, but it has also been years since we’ve been able to do any real travelling. This season we finally got started on our plans and while we may have started small we started well, travelling up to the Bay Area to visit with friends and watch games at the Coliseum and AT&T Park. So. Much. Fun! This coming season, the way things look, I think we may only be able to make it down to Petco Park in San Diego, which is local but still progress.
And last but not least…I hesitate to include this winter’s signings only because at the moment Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson have not had the opportunity to take a single swing or deliver a single pitch for the Angels. We suspect they will be strong, difference making additions to the team but while it’s all still just on paper, it’s only highly probable, not actual. But I will add this to my list: last year at this time I was writing about Hot Stove Grief (Hey, this is a serious disorder. Wipe that smirk off your face!) and feeling like the front office was just phoning it in. Today I feel like the front office is really working to put the best team on the field they possibly can and I am hopeful and excited for the season to begin. What a difference a few months make!
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! 😉
Hey, everyone else has a pun-ny Yu Darvish related headline going on right now. I was feeling left out. 😉
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jon Daniels is the GM but the Rangers sneaking in under the radar to win negotiation rights with Yu Darvish when other teams were considered more highly favored was so sneaky clever that it reminded me of the Adrian Beltre deal last season, wherein I did say Nolan Ryan, you stinker…or, you know, some colorful approximation there of. And, hey, I applaud sneaky. I delight in clever. The unexpected team signing the coveted player (as long as it isn’t instead of the Angels, mind you) makes me outright giggle in approving glee. I just wish those Rangers weren’t so darned good at it.
Of course everyone’s divided over whether the Rangers signing Darvish will ultimately be good for them or bad. Depending on who you talk to, Darvish will either be the second coming of the Phillies 2011 starting rotation, Nolan Ryan and Chris Carpenter rolled all into one pitcher…or Dice-K part deux. But, but, he’s going to have a hard time adapting to the MLB, say the latter contingent…we have a different mound…a different ball…we have different philosophies on throwing before a game…He’ll melt in the Texas heat…blah, blah blah. While most of that sounds like valid concerns, I just have a feeling that if Darvish agrees to terms with Texas it’s all going to work out just fine for them. Lately Jon Daniels seems to have a pretty much un-erring eye for picking just the right players to fit the Rangers’ needs each season and I have no reason to believe this will work out any differently…Grrrrr.
So, am I worried? Eh, I say bring it on! Even if they sign Prince Fielder too…though, understandably I am rooting for anyone who isn’t the Rangers and preferably who isn’t in the AL West to sign Prince Fielder, but still. Bring it. Not because I feel particularly assured of the outcome, mind you. Even if the Rangers sign an, I assume, stellar Darvish, I still say the Angels have the better starting rotation. Even with Albert Pujols on the Angels I still say that the Rangers have the stronger lineup. I think the outcome of each matchup between the two teams is anyone’s guess.
No, I say bring it on because the more this offseason takes shape, the more certain I feel that almost every game the Angels and the Rangers play one another in 2012 is going to be the sort of game that everyone is posting about the next day in heavily exclamation pointed italics peppered with phrases like “Wow!,” “Amazing!” and “I will tell my grandchildren about…” Okay, maybe that last phrase is exaggerating a tad…but maybe it’s not. And I. Can’t. Wait!
The Angels are on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days and it’s an awful lot of fun! Ever since that wild and crazy Albert Pujols/C.J. Wilson double deal day, the Angels, usually only an occasional mention at this point in the offseason, are in the thick of every discussion on MLBN, ESPN, west coast sports radio and the like about the best rosters, lineups, rotations, etc. in baseball. In truth a lot of these discussions are vehement denials that the Angels have the best anything but, hey, it’s just nice to warrant being in the discussions this far out from the season. And it’s exciting that so many existing Angels players are getting their just praise in the middle of these discussions along with the well deserved praise for the feats of our newest acquisitions.
However, while I enjoy all the talk, it is just talk at this point and ultimately meaningless except as a diversion from the fact that there is no actual baseball on. While it is the job of the analysts and sports writers to speculate about best teams in baseball early and often, I just can’t. Not until baseballs have been pitched, hit, thrown and caught with regular season intentions for a good month or so, and certainly not this far back in December when even Spring Training is but a glimmer on the horizon. All I know at this point is that my team looks darned competitive so far and that makes me one happy fan and even more eager for the season to begin. Thank you Arte and Jerry!!
Trumbo and Kendrys Morales
The Angels tendered the injured Kendrys Morales, proving they are not ready to give up on him yet. The chatter about moving Mark Trumbo to third also seems to be increasing in more official sounding ways. I am highly in favor of both experiments. I think it’ relatively inexpensive to give Kendrys one more season to see if he able to return to anything like his former playing ability. Foot injuries suck, no lie. I tore my arch more than a decade ago and the thing still gives me a fair bit of pain from time to time and I’m not trying to play professional sports on it. So I’m not holding my breath that he will come back in any more than a DH capacity anytime in the next season or so, if he comes back at all. But the possibility of having Bam Bam back in the lineup in any capacity is worth another season’s experimentation.
As for Trumbo, he’s young. He’s cheap. He swings a hell of a bat. He’s team spirited and practical and willing to bust his ass to learn new positions. Remember, we drafted Trumbo as a pitcher. Then made him a corner outfielder when it looked like he was a blown out arm waiting to happen. Then made him a first baseman after Kendrys was injured and now it’s over to the hot corner. And every time he’s said sure thing Coach, busted out his glove and his notebook and practiced, practiced, practiced. And did I mentioned he swings a hell of a bat? I expect some growing pains at third throughout this experiment, but I think that the experiment is a worthwhile one.
One More Press Conference Thought
Over the last several seasons it has amused me to no end to watch MLBN and ESPN analyst after analyst call Jered Weaver, Jeff…sometimes realizing their error a short time later and correcting it…sometimes continuing to make the error. Apparently even millions of dollars can’t cure the curse of being a same initialed younger sibling. In fact, this offseason I have noticed a tendency to just refer to him as Weaver. I imagine a memo came down from on high saying that, now that Weaver the Elder has retired and there is but one of them still in the game, it’s just plain safer. Vin Scully is guilty of this as well, but I don’t think any memos will fix that. That’s akin to the teacher who had your older brother or sister first. It’s never going to change.
So, during the press conference when Albert Pujols began talking about his new teammates, you had to know what was about to happen…and sure enough it did. ‘…and with such a great pitching rotation with Danny Haren and Jeff Weaver…Jeff…Weav…Oh Mahn! I’m so sorry Mahn! I mean with Weaver…’ Albert never did actually say Jered. Apparently he agrees with that memo, sight unseen. Stick to the last name, it’s easier.
The Trevor Cahill Trade
I am not in the Billy Beane is a frickin’genius camp, nor am I in the Billy Beane is a frickin’ idiot camp. He’s a GM with a “surefire” method for beating the house at cards that, like most surefire methods, sometimes works out pretty darned well, occasionally very well indeed and, more often than not, doesn’t work out at all. Not so different from every other GM out there, really, except that his method has Hollywood publicity. Oh, and then there is the A’s dismal payroll to contend with but that is also not a unique problem in baseball.
Trading ace Trevor Cahill five entire years before free agency for a potential-ace-in-a-few-years and a couple of nothing-special-as-of-yet minor leaguers was certainly one of those head scratcher moves. I’ve heard a lot of speculation about the reasoning behind this deal. But tell me, am I the only one that thinks it’s less about the A’s current payroll and more about their desire to move to San Jose? An exaggerated, in your face, “this is what you’ve reduced us to” statement sure to garner enough attention that maybe, just maybe Selig will stop holding them in limbo and get the deal done already? Yes, I did spend my adolescence reading a lot of novels about intrigue, conspiracies and Machiavellian politics. Why do you ask? 😉