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. 😉
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? 😉
Once we got the house put back to rights after Thanksgiving, Seth and I spent most of the weekend playing strategy games with headlines on MLBN and Bloomberg playing in the background…as you do, when you’re a couple of geeks who have decided that all of the responsible chores you had planned for the long weekend just really don’t sound appealing. So instead of plastering and painting the bathroom, we played a lot of Settlers of Catan among other things.
For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Settlers of Catan is a continually variable resources management game. Think of it as Sid Meier’s Civilization unplugged. You shuffle the tiles and their numerical dice role assignments that make up the playing board at the beginning of every game, so rarely are any two games the same. Your goal is to get enough resources to build cities and other things that are worth points, oh and to keep your buddy from doing so. But in order to do this you have to trade with your buddy a lot because there is always a key resource or two you can’t access on your own.
Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like another fun game. But isn’t this supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, a baseball blog? Oh. You again. Hey, I brought it back around to baseball the last time I went on a strategy game tangent. Just work with me for a minute here. I’m getting to that part!
So, as I was saying. *glares over her shoulder at the peanut gallery* There we were playing Catan. Making trades. Listening to MLBN and hearing about trades though nothing earth shattering. And, well, my brain tends to make weird connections between completely disparate things.
You’re telling me! Quiet, you.
Ahem. All the trading just started to seem hilariously parallel, especially the AA and AAA outfielders I’ve never heard of that some teams seem to be stockpiling. In Catan, if you’ve pissed off your buddy so much by thwarting him that he won’t trade with you (or you’re close to winning which we refer to as being “Cuba”) you have an option of stockpiling 4 of some useless resource and trading it “off the island” with the deck for one of something you actually need. So, how many no name minor league outfielders does it take to build a major league closer? Or a clutch hitting third basemen? Or anyone we would actually like to hear about…and by we, I mean I because, well, I’m baseball news selfish like that. But more than lightbulb-esque jokes about minor league players, my strange baseball/Settlers of Catan juxtaposition lead to an oddly accurate illustration of the Angels current player situation.
See, it totally relates. Well, it’s about bloody time!!
Here it is, presented for your gaming pleasure, just in time for the holidays, Major League Baseball Players of Catan: The Angels Expansion! Hey, they have every other theme and expansion under the sun for Catan, why not? Anyway, looking at my goofy creation and the board the Angels have been clearly playing with for the last couple of seasons, I think the problem is readily apparent, don’t you?:
I mean if my dice roll options for hitting looked like that, you better bet I’d shuffle up the game board at the nearest opportunity. Strong starting pitching options with a few holes. Good and bad bullpen options based, seemingly, on a roll of the dice. Good fielding and throwing. Some speed. Some strong hitting for average but also some really poor hitting for average and almost no power hitting at all. I keep hearing all kinds of trade and signing rumors about the Angels, as we all do about our teams this time of year, but nothing that I like at all so far.
Catan, for real or as an illustration of the relative talents of Angels personnel, is all about balance and trying hard to compensate for lack of balance when it invariably occurs. Only rarely is pumping up one strength to the neglect of some or all of the others a good strategy. There is no shooting the moon, in baseball or in Catan. And, let’s be honest here, even teams with a lot of money still don’t have infinite money. Balance and prioritization are essential.
I do not want C.J. Wilson, one of the more consistent rumors. Not only do I not like the fact that the converted reliever slowed down earlier this season than last, but I think that it would be throwing entirely too much money at something that is already mostly a strength. We have a hole and a half, if you will, in our starting rotation. But we only have one power bat in our lineup…unless Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales come back in typical shape, but notice I’m not counting on that. I might have liked the David Ortiz rumor. Say what you will about the Fenway toybox, he always kills it in Anaheim, unlike Vernon Wells which probably should have been a clue, but I digress… But we have such a glut of big contract lame duck bats, at least going by 2011’s numbers, in the DH spot that I can’t see a way for the team to get rid of so, really, what’s the point?
So far, the rumor I like the most is Aramis Ramirez, but that one isn’t perfect either even when you ignore his fits of bad attitude for the sake of argument. More power at third base would be really nice. Really, really nice. But people forget that Alberto Callaspo may not be flashy but he hit consistently for average all season long, our highest batting average in 2011 in fact. And while I would like some power, if we replace Callaspo, we would then need to make up his batting average somewhere else in the lineup somehow. How about a power hitting catcher…or, even, an average hitting catcher? Clearly the slumping bats need to step it up big time or be replaced. But is that possible? It’s a puzzle. A Catan worthy puzzle. Mike Scioscia has said he likes playing Civilzation. I wonder if Jerry Dipoto likes resources management strategy games? Because like it or not, he’s got a pretty tricky one ahead of him.
Of course the 2011 AL Cy Young Award went to Justin Verlander and of course it was unanimous. Congratulations and a hearty well deserved to him! For the voting to have gone any other way would have been a crime. Verlander was just plain that dominant this season. However I was quite pleased to see Jered Weaver so solidly in second place in the voting. I think that in most other years Weaver’s 2011 performance would have earned him the Cy Young and was thrilled to see him get a subtle bit of recognition for his efforts. Next season, if he can stay away from the flu, who knows what he might accomplish! And I do have to note that I am equally pleased to be among the very few teams that actually handed Verlander a loss this season. The season may have ended with more of a whimper than anything else for the Angels but the team definitely had its moments.
Second proved to be an ongoing theme for Angels this season, with Mark Trumbo also finishing in second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Rookie of the Year wasn’t nearly so cut and dried as the Cy Young competition this season with many strong rookies in contention. Congratulations to Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays. He is one of several players I would have been pleased to see win this honor. While I certainly think Mark Trumbo was equally worthy, I did expect his lower on base percentage would keep him from actually taking home the award…though that certainly didn’t stop the players who faced Trumbo this season from recognizing his difference making bat and the work he’s put in at first.
* * * * *
That old hot stove is starting its pre-boil routine with a few unexpected quick deal bubbles rising here and there. And, of course, with the GMs meeting this week it certainly adds to the feeling that we’re all waiting. Quietly. Holding our breath. For some. Large. Important. Announcement…that in reality probably isn’t coming any time soon. Oh well, even though most years they don’t tell us much of anything, the GM meetings always intrigue me. I understand that the format is probably just like the baseball version of any number of other industry conferences, which is to say more than a little dull, but in my mind I always want to make them absolutely fascinating. Like the basic conference format should echo the passion and excitement of the subject matter. I mean, this is baseball after all! Or maybe it’s just that after attending so many dull business conferences in the mortgage industry and when I worked in fundraising, I want to live vicariously though someone, even if it’s only in my own head. 😀
So, what do you think the GM meetings are like? More like this:
Don’t let the cute pajamas fool you. Slumber party politics are often the most vicious. 😉
With the rumors and red herrings that sometimes come out of these meetings, it’s clear some sort of fantasy is going on. Maybe it’s more like Rick’s Café Americain with all manner of secret deals, illicit gambling and other hijinks going on just barely undetected and Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder playing the part of letters of transit…yeah. Yeah! We’ll go with that one.
It all started with an orange speedo…or rather the search for one, as in “Mike Napoli Orange Speedo.” No, I wasn’t the one looking for this, but I started getting search engine hits using this phrase and had to laugh. Initially, I assumed that the legends of Mike Napoli, man’s man, ladies’ man, man about town (gee, can you tell I’ve been watching Down with Love? 😉 ) were finding new inspiration in Texas. But eventually a hash tag clued me in to the fact that this was a Twitter thing. Apparently Naps has been ending most of tweets with #orangespeedo. Color me amused…and also clueless so, hey, if any Ranger fans in the know would like enlighten us, feel free. 🙂
Tracking down the story behind this goofy micro-trending topic got me thinking about Twitter in general and baseball players who tweet in particular. We’ve all heard the wonderful stories of the relaxed atmosphere fans enjoyed around the ballpark during baseball’s Golden Age, how baseball players and fans used to casually interact more regularly. My grandfather and his friends used to shag balls for the minor league Angels during batting practice. My father-in-law remembers being among the random kids who were invited down onto the field to play catch with one another and some of the ballplayers before Hollywood Stars games. Now those were minor league teams, at the time the only baseball we had in Los Angeles, but I have heard similar stories about major league teams on the lucky-to-have-them east coast. The father of a friend and a few of his buddies were occasional Brooklyn Dodgers bat boys, not because they were anyone special. Quite the opposite in fact: because they were neighborhood kids who hung around Ebbets all the time.
It’s not as if the average fan developed close, personal friendships with baseball players in the Golden Age but there was definitely a greater feeling of closeness than, say, I experienced in my youth. Fans got to learn a little bit about the players as people from their own small interactions with them, or from a friend or family member’s interactions with them. When I went to ballgames as a child and a teen, the players were certainly nice to the fans, with plenty of smiles for the kids especially. But I definitely envy the chattier atmosphere enjoyed by earlier generations.
I think Twitter and other social media brings a little bit of this closeness back to the player/fan relationship. As with the Golden Age, the average fan is not going to develop a close personal friendship with his or her favorite players over Twitter. But, depending on how they choose to tweet, we can learn a little bit more about them as people. A lot of it is every bit as unentertaining as our thoughts are to other people. But some of it is sweet, funny or interesting. Mike Napoli and Torii Hunter still talking a little trash over who is the reigning dominoes king of the Angels clubhouse – my money’s on Torii ;). Howie Kendrick has taken up photography and, like CJ Wilson, occasionally shares his work with the fans on Twitter. And so on. In a way, this is even more casual and relaxed than what our grandparents experienced…just not in person.
Sadly, just as insurance and safety concerns along with fans venturing to the ballpark in greater and greater numbers brought an end to the casual chats and games of catch of the Golden Age, easy Twitter access to ballplayers is bound to come to an end at some point. As more and more people get Twitter accounts and begin following their teams and others, instances of jokes or comments take out of context or just plain taken the wrong way will increase, the occasional truly inappropriate breach of clubhouse confidentiality will occur, or something else will happen (perhaps even an outright MLB rule requiring such 😦 ) that will lead to players keeping their public accounts very bland and public relations-ish indeed, or shutting them down altogether. So it’s best to enjoy it while it lasts. Just think, eventually our grandchildren will listen to our glory days stories and exclaim in a mixture of awe and disbelief “You mean they really used to tease each other and crack jokes and post their favorite workout mixes and stuff right there on the Internet for everyone to see?! Wow, you were so lucky!” …you know, after we re-explain such quaint technologies as the Internet and Twitter to them for the 14th time.
Day. Nine. Nine days without baseball. Nine! That’s two entire days longer than a week! Recent studies question the canonical stages of grief based on the, very sound if you ask me, notion that we all grieve in such different ways that assigning set stages, even with the understanding that people may progress through them differently, is ludicrous. Besides, I’m not entirely certain that they would have applied to grief from baseball loss anyway.
Regardless I think it’s safe to say that what I am experiencing right now is denial, channel surfing for a substitute and then trying to behave as though that substitute were the real thing. The MLB All-Stars vs. Taiwan games. The Arizona Fall League. Heck, I’m even watching the darned awards shows on MLBN, something I would not normally be inclined to do. La la la! Look it’s still baseball. La la la…except, really, it’s not. Well, not the same anyway. *sigh*
I tried to get excited over the MLB All-Stars in Taiwan, really I did. They featured a great bunch of players and Erick Aybar, Trevor Bell, Rich Thompson and the rest of the Angels players made a strong showing for their team, but when it came right down to it, the games were only so so.
As for the awards shows and the like, I love that Mark Trumbo won the Player’s Choice Award for AL Rookie of the Year. I’m thrilled that players all over the league saw in Trumbo the same amazing things that Angels and Angels fans have been seeing in him all season. On base percentage be damned, the kid is doing great things with his bat and with his glove. But in the end an awards show isn’t a baseball game. It’s more like a visual aid for a press release about baseball with a few fun, extended interviews included.
And the AFL Rising Stars Game? Mike Trout is clearly tired and probably should get some rest before spring training or, as I said to crack up Seth, Awww, the poor little guy’s all tuckered out. And it was a boring blow out of a game with the kind of play one would expect from rising stars who are a mix of fresh from rookie ball young players and recent rookie call-ups. No offense to the kids, but in the end I turned it off thinking I could probably get a better baseball fix watching Major League. I did. Even if it was edited in truly silly ways for basic cable.
Eh, I suppose I really am being a bit of a baby about this. I mean, existing without baseball will get easier as fall and winter wear on and Spring Training isn’t that far away, right? I mean it’s only, what? 70-ish…? *reaches for calendar* 80-something…? *begins counting on calendar* 90, 91…?! La la la! I resolve to stop counting and be in denial about this too! La la la.
* * * * *
On an even sillier note, if anything finally drives me from my denial it may very well be the weather. It just doesn’t winter-rainstorm-downpour in Southern California during baseball season once you get past April. Yet it was coming down hard all day Friday and all evening as we watched the game in Taiwan. Yes, rain in Southern California. Look! Photographic evidence from my very own porch:
Of course then, Southern California being what it is, the weather got all gorgeous again the very next day, though when the rainy season starts in earnest this can take several days 🙂 :
But it is raining again today. Really, really.
From the first two outs (*sigh* I want a Molina brother behind the plate again! And, wow! It’s a flying Super Carpenter!) Game 1 did not disappoint. I find that while I have less team specific passion for the game when I don’t have a team in the mix, if the game is a good one my overall baseball fan passion is still thoroughly indulged. And, hey, my temporarily-adopted-strictly-for-the-month-of-October team won! Keep it going Cardinals!
But as much as I enjoyed this game, it only served to underscore the fact that there is someone I am missing. Missing terribly. We take a lot of breaks in our relationship, and this is just one more scheduled break, so I shouldn’t be so mopey about it. But it…well…it’s just that baseball is so much our thing that it’s impossible to enjoy a game like this without feeling like something is missing.
It doesn’t help that everywhere I turn these last few weeks there are the inevitable relationship reminders:
When I turn on the TV:
When I do the laundry:
When I leave for work in the morning:
Heck, even when I pay my bills!:
You’re on my car:
You’re in my living room:
Apparently you’re even still lurking in my husband’s pockets:
Oh Angels baseball! I’m used to the long winters apart but why’d you have to leave me so early two years in a row?! I understand. I do. You need to rest. Regroup. Recover. Think about something completely non-baseball related for awhile.
I know it will be different in the spring. You’ll be more attentive. More involved and into the relationship with me and all of the other women and men in your life for the entire season. And we won’t, any of us, have to take a relationship break until the end of October!!
It’s okay, Angels Baseball. You don’t have to respond. We all know this is what you want too. 😉