My friends and I play a lot of board and card games. Anything silly, strategy heavy or, ideally, both is held in high regard. One of them, a card game called Munchkin, is both a send-up of and homage to role playing games, kung fu theatre, sci-fi, superheroes, Lovecraftian horror and a lot of the other stuff you love as a kid…okay, a lot of the other stuff I loved as a kid…or, you know, as an adult in a couple of those cases. 😉 It’s an extremely silly game but also contains a fair bit of strategy. How longe do you collaborate with the other players to beat the monsters and steal their treasure? When do you start stabbing people in the back to win? Can you form alliances you can later betray? You know, great corporate world prep kind of stuff.
Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like a fun game. But is there, oh I don’t know, a baseball tie-in in here somewhere? Yeah. Wait. I’m getting there.
Most of the cards that give you advantages in this game, will also give you a disadvantage in certain situations. For example, the boots of buttkicking card gives you a +3 against monsters because, one would assume, you could stomp on them more effectively, but will also give you a -1 if can’t kill the monster and have to “run away” because, well, they’re heavy.
Fascinating, Kristen. But is there like a +4 centerfielder lurking in here somewhere or a Mendoza line card (+5 defense/-2 offense) because, frankly, I’m not seeing any baseball tie-in. Quiet you. *clears throat* Ahem.
My point is this. For whatever reason, for the past two seasons, the Angels seem to have a -6 against the Red Sox. (Other seasons would certainly qualify as well, but we seemed to have turned the corner in 2009.) I’m not saying the Sox haven’t played good ball when our two teams met, because they have, in many cases excellent ball. It just that lately the Angels seem to slump no matter what and strange things happen. Our bats disappear. Players botch routine plays left and right – Peter Bourjos has had two errors this season. Both of them were dropped routine pop-ups while playing the Red Sox. The great bullpen adventure becomes more Frank Miller than Stan Lee. Most streaks, pitching, hitting or otherwise grind to a halt. It’s weird.
This season, the Angels have taken two out of three against the first place Indians, the Rangers when they were hotter than hot, the Blue Jays and, most recently, the hot and getting hotter Rays. So one would think that we would at least split our series with the Red Sox but, apparently it never works out that way. Come on guys, this is mental! Look at who you have beaten and look at how lights out you’ve been when you’ve played your best this season. Now, pull it together, back up Haren and give him some run support – no runners left behind! – and you can win this one and then turn around and do the same thing for Santana!
As you probably deduced from the above or any number of news reports this evening, Jered Weaver’s undefeated streak came to an end, which was always going to happen eventually. As Dan Haren said in an interview after his loss, no one is going to finish the season at 27 and 0. He was recovering from a stomach virus during which he lost a reported 9 pounds – which really shows up on that lanky frame, 6’7″ or not – and had to spend some time in the hospital with an IV to restore fluids.
Suffice to say, he didn’t have his usual spark. His pitch counts were higher, things were just slightly off…and the really scary part is that he still could have won the game with a little more run support. And that’s not even addressing the crappy umpire call that lead to Pedroia being in a position to smack in the 2nd and 3rd of those runs and changed the game…of course, one of our runs benefitted from a less blatant bad call, so I can only complain so loudly *whistles*. What I’m saying here is, contrary to what some media folks are saying, the streak was not a fluke. Weaver is good and he is tough – and now we know just how tough! – and he will rack up more wins, as will the rest of the rotation who aren’t exactly chopped liver. Go Angels!
So the little bird we were counting on to fly in at the last minute and tell the Angels where the Rangers rumored jewel encrusted armor might have a crack or two (Psssst, it’s right over the heart…er…pitcher’s mound, a concept we should well understand.) was apparently delayed a day by bad weather. But, once that bird did arrive, ooooh boy. 15 hits. 15 runs. 12 RBIs. Nice. Almost too nice to be entertaining…almost. *grins*
So, about Monday. Even if the aforementioned bird had arrived, C.J. Wilson is definitely not the weak point in the armor I was talking about and he was pretty on. To make matters worse, it was not the good Ervin Santana who took the mound for the Angels. It’s not Scioscia’s fault. It’s so hard to tell until you get a few innings in. Both the good controlled Santana and the bad out of control Santana have dark goatees – in clear violation of the evil twin statutes in the Marvel accords, I might add. What’s a manager to do…other than, oh I don’t know, pull him a little earlier? I know, I know. Then we have to roll a D-10 to see if the Bullpen self destructs. In this particular game, however, the Bullpen did a fine job, especially Rich Thompson. It’s possible they might even have saved us if it weren’t for the bats. Not to take anything away from C.J. Wilson, who clearly pitched a great game, but it’s not like we can’t hit him. We were hitting him, in fact. Just not with runners in scoring position. 10 hits. 1 run. But, enough about that.
Cut to today and you have a completely different game. Matt Palmer had an excellent second start. If he keeps this up, I will have even less worries about the starting rotation once you get past Weaver and Haren. And the bats, especially the junior bats, were on fire. Mark Trumbo, Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos combined for nine of the 15 hits and two of the three homeruns. Trumbo had four RBIs! Conger rocked at the plate! And Bourjos? Yes, it was a single and an error not a real infield the park home run but how many other ballplayers could get all the way home on that error? A few, but not many. The sight of him tearing around second and then third? He is so fast that it looked like a special effect. Vernon Wells, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis also continued their hitting streaks and our fielding was spot on. Of course, the Rangers also committed four uncharacteristic errors and pretty much crumpled after the fourth inning, which didn’t hurt matters any. In fact, it almost took the fun out the game…almost.
But about the kids? I’m extending my Chatwood plea to all of them. Can we keep them, Sosh? Please. They’re young. They won’t be much trouble. Can we, can we? Well, they’re all safe for the first round of returns from the DL, at any rate. Erick Aybar came off the DL this evening and I am pleased with the corresponding roster change. Brandon Wood has been designated for assignment. The assumption is that he won’t pass waivers and will cease to be an Angel sometime in the next three days. Wood seems like a nice kid. He’s got pretty good moves at short stop and I wish him well wherever he lands, but it’s time. It’s more than time. The Murphy’s Law corollary pertaining to baseball changes of scenery being what it is, expect Wood to become a 2011 batting champion runner up somewhere else, ha ha ha.
So, there you have it, two very uneven games. They killed us once, we killed them once and we’re still tied for first place…an unimportant April 19th 1st place, but still. Tomorrow, the rubber match, with our hero, Ace #1, Jered Weaver – as opposed to our hero, Ace #2 Dan Haren 🙂 – appearing on the mound for the Angels. He will duel it out with Matt Harrison, a Nolan Ryan favorite and all around tough customer. Hopefully both teams really show up this time and make this the game it should be…with the Angels ultimately winning, of course. This could be a heck of a game.
Submitted for your approval: one normally mild mannered couple travelling companionably together down the 57 freeway as they do several times a month without incident. But this time something is different. Their voices grow louder and more excited and their gestures more enthusiastic. Their hearts beat faster, their anticipation increases to a child-like pitch and gooseflesh rises on their arms. Little do they know that they’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of lights out pitching and the sounds wooden bats striking balls, but of mental toughness; a dimension of wins and of losses, sadly this time the latter; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are a couple of chalk lines, a wall and a series of time honored rules startlingly complex in their seeming simplicity. That’s the signpost up ahead – it says exit Katella for Angels Stadium. Their next stop? The Baseball Zone. *Cue theme music. No! Not Buttercup. Never Buttercup!*
Friday night, as planned, we took ourselves out to the ballgame, to watch the Angels Home Opener against the Blue Jays. The weather was seriously touch and go for a while there, including a complete downpour as I was leaving my house. But it stayed dry in Anaheim through the game and the Friday Night Fireworks that followed, only starting to pelt us with a few fat rain drops as we headed out to our car. Would that my Angels had held the lead anywhere near as well as the clouds held back the rain.
The game itself? It started off well enough. Ervin Santana pitched like the good Ervin, the one with control who can throw strikes. Peter Bourjos is amazing to watch in center, flying across the grass, making difficult catches look effortless. We had a few good hits, scoring one in the 1st inning and another in the 3rd for an early two run lead. The Jays were slipping and sliding all over the outfield. Everything was off to a great start, and then we started to strand runners. Vernon Wells failed to cash in on runners in scoring position. Additional batters started to strand more runners. A two run lead is not a very safe thing deep into the game and it didn’t last. Santana gave up three runs aided by a few sloppy plays in the outfield.
By the time they brought in Fernando Rodney in the 9th – I know, not a save situation, but I was surprised! – I felt absolutely deflated. Rodney performed acceptably, allowing one runner on, but no walks and no additional runs. However, bringing him out just cemented the frustrating sense of one step forward, three giant steps back I was having after the stranded runners. Oh well, you never know what wonders or horrors you might witness when you visit: the Baseball Zone! I prefer wonders myself but I suppose that, in the end, a bad Friday night at the ballpark is probably better than a good Friday night almost anywhere else…and it’s only April 9th…But Conger needs to stop swinging for the fences, Wells needs to find his bat and work on running forward to make catches, and everyone else needs to work on hitting with runners in scoring position. I’m not panicking. All of this will come in the next few weeks. But…seriously!
The Opening Day experience outside of the game? It was fantastic, from the first goosebump raising view of the field coming up through the stadium to our seats, to that first bite of wonderfully nasty ballpark hotdog that I have been jonesing for, for months. Eli Grba, the first Angel selected in the team’s first draft and the Angels’ first opening day pitcher threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Grba is the first of a planned string of Angels alumni to perform this duty throughout the season. He was so cute in the interview before the game, talking about how nervous he was to throw out the pitch after so many years and how his friends would make fun of him if he bounced it on the ground. He did just fine, but it’s amusing to note that friends are the same everywhere no matter what the generation, and your best friends are the ones who’ll affectionately give you the most grief when necessary…or when not so necessary.
The front office has switched up some of the music and the pre-game slide show for the 50th anniversary and, while I need to see it a few more times to remember all of the details, I’m enjoying it so far. The flashback 1980s uniforms were a trip and a half. I remember these uniforms well from any number of Freeway Series I watched as a kid, though I was rooting for the other guys back then. I am amused that the concept of flashback uniforms extends to colors, logos and jersey designs, but the cut of the pants remains identical to the modern uniforms – no skinny pants fashion faux paus for the sake of historical accuracy here. Actually I laugh mostly because I can picture the players emphatically vetoing the silly looking and, no doubt, less comfortable 1980’s pants.
Fortunately, win or lose, here’s the thing about the Baseball Zone. It’s absolutely addicting. The first question I asked my husband this morning? So, do want to go to the ballgame tonight? He reigned me in a little – someone needs to sometimes! – but only just a little. We’re going back on Tuesday night and trying it out in the view level this time because my no more than $15 per ticket and try to keep it under $10 except for very special games rules are in full effect. Sometimes I reign myself in too. 🙂
Hopefully this evening’s game, which is about to begin, will be better. Kaz is conveniently injured and on the DL. Maybe he really did hurt his back, maybe he didn’t but he always seems to go on the DL right before his first start back after being obliterated by the opposing team. Either way, I’m excited to see how Matt Palmer does. Hey Angels, how about a little run support please? And by a little, I actually mean a lot.
Ah, the Angels game today. Losing the third straight game to the Royals 12 – 9 in the 13th inning was…
So…um…yeah…Baby showers anyone? I went to my husband’s cousin’s baby shower today. I absolutely loathe baby showers. Isn’t that funny? I mean, I like kids. I love helping friends and family celebrate good news, but I loathe baby showers…
Right. The game. This is a baseball blog after all, so I probably should talk about the game. I have a fun, bantering relationship with the husband of one of my cousins and, helpful Dodger loving fellow that he is, he left the following questions on my Facebook wall round about inning 11: “Four runs in the last three innings and you’re still going extras? Are the Angels aware they’re playing the Royals? Further, are they aware that these are not the same Royals they’ll call neighbors next year?” Yeah, about that…well see…it was like this…
You know what the problem with baby showers is? It’s the stupid games. If we could just have a normal party, co-ed or still ladies only, without having to diaper a balloon or pluck tiny pins from rice or guess…well, you get the general idea…and I digress. Again.
So, back to the game and the questions on my Facebook. Well, when you start out the game with Scott Kazmir on the mound, he allows five runs in the first one and 2/3s innings, we pull him and then go the bullpen in the 2nd inning. Our bullpen. The Arson squad part duex. In the second inning. You knew the game wasn’t going to be pretty. Oh, and our “closer”? Walking 3 batters and allowing two earned runs in 1/3 of an inning? I’m just…
You know, today’s shower was actually fun! I think this really just proves my basic argument though. The wonderful ladies who planned it dispensed with the silly games…Oh, I’m doing it again aren’t I? That weird tangent thing? Yeah.
It’s not like the game didn’t have it’s high points. The offense was amazing! The Angels hit five homeruns! Five! And Howie Kendrick hit two of them. We hit doubles. We hit triples. Bobby Abreu went five for five. Peter Bourjos went first to home! Have I mentioned before that the kid’s just a little fast? There were a number of truly heroic defensive plays too. Torii’s catch. Maicer’s catch. Jeff Mathis’ tag at the plate. Fleet Pete flying in to bail Vernon Wells out of a jam and keeping two of the runners from scoring, at least.
We scored nine runs for crying out loud! Customarily, when a team scores nine runs, including five homeruns, etc., that team wins…unless our bullpen is involved. So I think you all probably understand why I would rather talk about anything, even that most dreaded of social obligations the baby shower, than about today’s game.
In all seriousness, it’s only four games and the Angels traditionally start out slow. We fans usually spend most of April moaning and groaning about how it’s the end of the world and the Angels usually shape up and then some by May and do well, with occasional bouts of ugly, for the rest of the season. The problem is that last season we didn’t. And, some of the reasons we didn’t are some of the same reasons we just lost three straight to the Royals. I usually don’t call for radical changes in early April but, after last season, spring training and this week, it’s time to call the Scott Kazmir and Fernando Rodney experiments a failure. Bring Matt Palmer back up from the minors and look for a closer. An effective one.
Okay, so nobody actually exchanges cheesy greeting cards for Opening Day, but we really should. Hear me out. Opening Day should absolutely be a national holiday, complete with paid time off from work and the whole nine yards. National pastime, national holiday.
…Yeah my boss, awesome though he is, wasn’t buying it either.
But here’s the thing, what do many national holidays have in common? That’s right, cheesy greeting cards. Hallmark is clearly the power lobby in the holiday business. They have even created holidays just for the purpose of selling more cheesy greeting cards. All we need to do is supply Hallmark with another cheesy greeting card money maker and *poof* I’m telling you, national pastime, national holiday. Seriously. You’re reading this on the internet. So it has to be true, right? 😉
Oh well, cheesy greeting card filled national holiday or not, it’s Opening Day. Very, very early on Opening Day as I post this to be sure, but still. Opening Day! Even if your team doesn’t start playing until tomorrow, if that thought alone doesn’t make you giddy to the point where your smiles and good cheer just come bubbling out at random moments, then I don’t know what would.
Happy Opening Day! Play ball.
It’s about 226 miles to Cambria, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a hot thermos of coffee, it’s dark (and so late it’s nearly early) and we’re not wearing our sunglasses. Hit it.
We’re heading up the coast to meet old college friends for a long weekend in Cambria and Paso Robles – oh yes, there will be wine! …and local micro breweries and gourmet food and live jazz and…yeah, it’s that kind of place. Having finished my half of the driving duties up through Gaviota Pass I am free to blog about baseball for the rest of the ride so long as I keep my husband awake and entertained sharing news articles and your blogs.
The only problem? Ugh! After the news and rumors today I don’t want to blog about baseball. Manny!?! Yes, I know the rumors have been linking his name with the Angels off and on all offseason but now they’re starting to sound serious. I do not want Manny Ramirez on the Angels. I don’t care if he does hit a ton every third season or so. I like baseball players, not drama queens. Let Manny be a diva…er…I mean Manny anywhere else. The thought of Manny in an Angels uniform is enough to make that optimism I was starting to feel dry up again for a while. If they really want to sign an aging DH with no real ability to play the outfield anymore, sign Vladdy please. Professional, clubhouse leader, not a diva bone in his body, swing at anything and hit it more often than anyone rationally should be able to Vladdy.
So enough thinking about baseball for one evening if the rumors only annoy me, right? Okay, then music it is. I just noticed that there is a profound lack of Journey on the radio stations in SLO county this evening. Now anywhere else in the country this would be business as usual. But this year, from the Northern most tip of Santa Barbara up through Paso Robles (and I would assume all the way up the coast to San Francisco) the amount of Journey on the radio stations increased exponentially with the Giants fortunes as the season progressed. The last time we were up here, during the playoffs, Don’t Stop Believin’, Lights and the like were like Law and Order reruns on basic cable – at any given moment, they were playing on at least one station. Not so tonight. This is almost eerie. Can it be they’ve finally tired of it? …Yeah, back to baseball and still annoyed thinking about the Manny rumors. This isn’t working.
Let’s try this again. This is an absolutely gorgeous drive, even late at night. Ocean, forest, orchards, vineyards, plenty of reminders that California is a huge state with far more farms and open spaces than city even still…though that is changing slowly but surely. The cities stretch just a little bit further every year. Driving up here late after work is great because then you don’t eat up four hours of your day off getting to the vacation. The only drawback? Bring your own coffee because, seriously, trying to find decent coffee in Santa Maria or thereabouts after one in the morning is kind of like Mariano Rivera blowing a save. It’s technically possible. You’ve heard of it happening before. It may even have happened once or twice while you were watching. But just how often does it happen really? Yeah, I have a one track mind this evening and this is a lost cause. Okay that’s it. I’m putting this post away and thinking about friends and wine for the rest of the evening…er…morning.
And, of course, what song came on the radio right as I was about to put down the Blackberry? Yep, you guessed it. Uprising by Muse. Haunted I tell you. Well at least it isn’t Don’t Stop Believin’ because even if Giants fans aren’t tired of it, I am. 😉
Have a nice weekend everyone!
They will not force us. They will stop degrading us. They will not control us. We will be victorious.
The Angels are haunting me. Seriously. The lines in italics above? They’re lyrics from the song Uprising by Muse and lately, I hear this song everywhere I go. On the radio at home. In my car. At the office. When I walk into one of our schools. At my favorite local Sushi restaurant – every time I walk in, be if for dine-in or take out. Seriously. Every time. I realize that my local sushi restaurant only has one iPod mix of about 90 minutes in length and this song is included in that mix, but every time? Even when I just stop in to pick up a phone order? Seriously, what are the odds? Yes, the Angels are definitely hunting me.
Perhaps I should explain. This song is played at every Angels game right before the bottom of the 1st inning. I love music and form a strong memory connection to certain songs. My ear will pick up on the background music at restaurants and even in the middle of a loud Vegas casino so, for me, the music played at the ballpark is noticeable and very memorable. Some team songs or walk up music will forever be linked to specific person or team for me. I doubt I will ever hear Guns n’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle again without thinking stand back, Mark McGuire’s coming to the plate. Take Me Out to the Ballgame, oddly enough, still has tinges of Dodgers association for me because theirs is the first name I belted out in lieu of “home team” many, many years ago. With other songs, like The Who’s Baba O’Riley, which the Rangers play before each game, I remember the baseball relationship to the song but hearing it doesn’t make me cringe because other memories formed a more powerful association long ago – in this case, listening to my Dad playing records.
Most of the songs played at Angels games have formed a very strong Angels baseball association for me. Train’s Calling All Angels, which is played during the historical highlight reel before the start of every game. Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky, which plays as the Angels start to take the field for the first time. And, of course, Uprising. I hear these songs, and I get my inevitable anticipatory goose bumps and chills. Oh, I didn’t mention the goose bumps? Yeah, whenever I know something exceptionally cool is about to happen or I see something creative that is just beautifully done, I get literal goose bumps on my arms, often chills. Previews for a movie based on a book I’ve read or a part of history I’ve studied where they get the scene just right? Concert announcement for a band I’ve been dying to see? New book release from a favorite author? A particularly well done cover song? Witty dialog? Angels game is about to start? Goose bumps in every instance.
So, Uprising plays, or Spirit in the Sky or Calling all Angels, and there I stand, Pavlov’s Angels fan with anticipatory goose bumps on my arms because my ear is absolutely certain that the game’s about to start. But, of course, I know it’s only January and I’m on my way to work, out with friends eating sushi this evening or whatever and I shake my head at my own silliness and sigh. Haunted I tell you. Now where did I put that countdown of the days until pitchers and catchers report? Because I’m sure I calculated something wrong. It’s moving way too slow.
(Editor’s Note: Build Me Up Buttercup is a notable exception to the whole Angels music/goose bumps thing. When that song plays during the 7th inning stretch, I sit down and mull over finding the poor misguided creature whose idea it was to use that song and politely suggesting that they turn in their marketing card. Right now.)