He’s back! He’s back! Kendrys Morales is back! And he looked pretty darned good too, with a single in his first at bat in an Angels’ uniform since Memorial Weekend, 2010 and another in his third at bat. He’s running. He’s sliding!! And all in more or less regular form. I tell you, it brought a tear to my eye…okay more than one.
Flushed, cheering and bouncing around the room from excitement, I posted something similarly gushy on FaceBook. And what stupendous outpouring of love did I receive for this momentous announcement? Pray tell, how many ‘hell yeahs!’ and ‘Right ons!’ exactly? *crickets* That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Nothin’ but *crickets* I say this with extreme affection, but baseball philistines the lot of them. 😉 And this, in a nutshell, is why I blog. Whoever you root for, you’ve been there before. You all get why this news is so amazing!
I haven’t posted a whole lot about Kendrys lately. I haven’t been documenting his progress religiously in this blog and I’ve avoided making impassioned predictions about his ability to return. And, trust me, it’s not because I haven’t been tracking his progress since his second surgery with keen interest. And it’s not because I haven’t been hoping that he could make it back to the roster this season with all of my little old baseball lovin’ heart. No, it’s just that I’m a practical person and, while I do tend toward optimism, it’s a cautious, guarded sort of optimism.
After last season’s disappointment, hoping and rooting for Kendrys to play again and then the setbacks, the second surgery, and another season on the DL, I had to take all of the reports this offseason of his impending 2012 return with several cups of salt – forget those measly grains. Foot and ankle injuries are terrible. Even when they heal, scar tissue can prevent the injured foot from ever working properly again, from ever functioning without a great deal of pain again. And that’s just for those of us who expect normal things of our bodies. For a professional athlete who requires so much more strength and dexterity from his body? Yeah, it’s just that much harder.
So I promised myself that I wasn’t going to get excited about Kendrys until I saw him stride up to the plate, bat in hand, in a regular season game. And I meant it. No, seriously. I promised. Not until the regular seas…yeah, and that all flew out the window today watching that perfectly quirky, half pigeon-toed batting stance. You know the one. Yeah! And then the foot twist and the kick when he swings. And the sound the ball makes when it flies off his bat?! It was exactly like the old Kendrys…okay, with some rust. But you can see the old Kendrys not too far underneath the rust. Promise now thoroughly defenestrated, I can’t stop thinking about a regular season lineup with Kendrys batting 4th right behind Albert Pujols. A prediction? Why, yes. I think it’s absolutely going to happen and I couldn’t be more excited.
A belated Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from the Emerald Isle!…
…Yeah, I wish. 😉 Though as not-Ireland places for a St. Patrick’s weekend getaway go, Paso Robles, CA is plenty nice enough. And although the particular shades of green in this landscape are all wrong for Ireland, it is still quite lovely and the mist and rain were at least accurate. So what’s a diehard Angels fan like me doing in a place like Paso Robles when there are games going on Arizona, you ask?
Well, with Pujols-mania bringing folks out to Tempe in droves, hotel stays and such suddenly got more expensive and harder to book, so we decided to wait and go to Spring Training another year. Oh well, I was a little sad but that does mean more money for the regular season ticket budget, which certainly makes up for missing out…and, besides, it’s the Zinfandel Festival which means I just spent a lovely weekend going through my own little baseball blogger’s Spring Training, which came none too soon if you ask me. Between Albert Pujols heating up the lineup, the rest of the bats following right long, the starting rotation looking great and even more formidable with the addition of C.J. Wilson, and what is looking more and more like the very real possibility of Kendrys Morales returning to the 25-man roster, this could be a very special season in the making. A blogger’s got to prepare. Training and drills are a must.
Okay, training and drills. Fine, you say. But at a wine festival? Of course at a wine festival! Where else could I get all of this practice and prep in? Take photos, for example. If you read this blog last season – first off thank you! – you know I like to take photos when I go to Angels games so that I can pepper my posts with photos that are as much mine as the commentary. Well, taking baseball game photos can be tricky. There’s a lot of action. Your subjects are constantly on the move, sometimes in unpredictable ways. It’s all too easy for the rusty blogger to end up with a large collection of photos like this one, which I like to call Not-So-Still life with Aybar:
Or even this one. Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos were both well in frame and in focus when I started to take the photo…:
You’ve got to warm up for tricky action shots. Practicing on things that don’t move but require a lot of detail and focus can be helpful, like this vineyard (I love the gnalred, wintery vines and the lines created by the three distinct fields with vines running at three different angles):
Or this gorgeous tasting room:
Then you can move on to some simple action subjects, like these Paso Robles wild turkeys:
I say a simple action shot because, although this is an impressive little dominance display here, with a lot of action going on, turkeys (the real ones with feathers at any rate) don’t generally muck up photos by adjusting themselves. Still, although no Spring Training can ever replicate the real thing I think I have gotten enough “innings” in with the camera to be ready for the regular season.
As for the rest of my blogger’s Spring Training? Well, I got to study plenty of tasty treats in preparation for my Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels nights, like this glorious roast pork panini and sundried tomato salad from Farmstand 46. They call it The Goat:
…or the Zinfandel sliders, the tacos al pastor, the paella or any of the other deliciousness I was too busy nom-ing to take a photo of. Would I really make a roast pork panini or paella just for our Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels enjoyment? *laughs* Will Mike Scioscia change the Angels lineup a minimum of 60 times this season? Hell. Yes.
Speaking of Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels, what better place to stock up the old wine cellar than at Zin Fest? Yes, I think it’s going to be a beautiful season:
I even got my usual pre-season gabfest in with some of the Giants fans at the Barrel 27 pick-up party. Not surprisingly they are every bit as thrilled to be getting Buster Posey back as we are with the positive Kendrys outlook. Not to mention it was fun talking rookies and just barely not rookies with them. The Giants have some great younger players in the mix or soon to be in the mix too – one gent I was chatting with is particularly enamored with Baby Giraffe, Brandon Belt – so our two fan bases have some fun things in common.
So, I have my trusty camera at the ready, my Opening Day tickets in hand…er…inbox, plenty of wine options (seriously if I actually showed you the full collection of options, you would laugh at me!) and my typing fingers limber and warmed up. 19 days until Opening Day and I. Can’t. Wait!
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. 🙂
So, I’m back. I took the weekend off for fun and frivolity but I’m back now. What’d I miss? Regale me with wondrous baseball happenings. Catch me up on all the news. *crickets chirping* Oh. Yeah. Never mind. It’s still January. *sigh*
At least there is a little bit of news coming out of the Angels front office of varying degrees of happy. First, the truly happy making news. The Angels and Howard Kendrick reached an agreement on a four-year contract extension one year before Howard becomes a free agent. I am thrilled. I adore Howard Kendrick, Mr. HK-47 himself or, as I am prone to cheer at appropriate moments (of which there are many!): HK-47. When you absolutely, positively have to regain the lead, accept no substitutes.
Back in 2009, the Angels had to send Howard back to AAA for a little while to work on his swing. And work he did, returning to the majors with the beginnings of what has become a clutch, consistent bat with more than a bit of pop. Howard has also turned into a darned good second baseman, with the glove, arm and brains to be a full partner in all of the Angels daring double play do. He even has the willingness and ability to sub in at first and in the outfield when the Angels occasionally Franken-infield has the need. Not to mention he’s a class act and seems like an all around nice guy. In short, my kind of ballplayer and an excellent asset for the Angels, hopefully, for years to come.
As for the cautiously good news, Keandrys Morales has been cleared to begin running again. Now, this is roughly the point at which all of the wheels fell off of this particular wagon last season…along with the axels and, well, quite frankly several of floor boards too…and extended pain and lack of mobility from scar tissue forced him into a second surgery. So who knows if this really means he’s coming back. But, well, it’s still more positive to hear that he has been cleared to begin running than that he hasn’t, yes?
And how about the not so happy news? The Angels signed Jorge Cantu to a minor league contract, he of the third base experience and the sometime power, sometime Mendoza bat. No, it’s not that have anything against the signing itself, I am just concerned about what it might mean, namely that the Angels are more concerned than they are letting on about Mark Trumbo’s stress fractured foot. It sounds like the foot should be healed enough to being baseball workouts just in time for Spring Training, which is closer to the five months it sounds like the doctors had been quoting as typical for such an injury…but is nowhere near the two to three months Trumbo and the Angels had been hoping for. Personally, even with a bevy of personal trainers involved I thought that two to three months was wishful thinking, but I am a little worried that we’ve gone from that to apparently signing insurance in case he doesn’t heal in five. Tough break, indeed, kid. Suffice to say, if this fan’s best wishes had actual healing properties, you’d have been back on your feet and sprinting already.
Happy New Year!!
I hope everyone had a great time last night and I wish you all the best in 2012!
New Year’s Day is traditionally a day for proclaiming resolutions for the year to come…and the wee hours in between New Year’s Day and January 2nd work just as well in a year where New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday. I don’t know about you all but it just isn’t New Year’s for me until I get to flop in front of the Rose Parade on TV with a nice brunch and a flute or several of champagne. I am not usually one to make specific official resolutions for myself. A general try to grow and improve in life is sufficient. In 2011, the Angels certainly did grow and improve over their 2010 season and it was a pleasure to watch. But there is plenty of room for continued growth and improvement in 2012. If the Angels happen to be in a more traditional New Year’s resolutions state of mind, I can certainly suggest a few resolutions they would do well to make for the coming season:
- Most importantly, everyone stay healthy! Take care of those hamstrings. Mind those groin muscles. Don’t let the walls get the best of quite so many arguments. Oh, and that freak plate jumping accident may have been a once in a lifetime thing and all, but how about we don’t jump on the plate anyway.
- Enough with the GIDPs already. This is a good resolution for everyone but Torii, and now Albert, I’m mainly looking at you.
- Think before you steal. Seriously. Thinking caps on and fully functioning. Successful base stealing is thing of beauty to behold and an Angels baseball staple. Caught stealing? Not so much on either count.
- Stop swinging for the fences every at bat, especially if that’s not really your swing. Watching all of you, I know this was not done to showboat. You were trying to kick start the offense which is admirable. But, more often than not, a nice solid line drive into the gap helps just as much as a homerun and always more than popping out.
- No runners left behind in 2012! Raise that RISP and more RBIs! This was a 2011 resolution, and you all definitely improved in this regard but what the heck? There’s always room for more improvement right?
- In 2011, you resolved to make the 8th inning a little less unnecessarily exciting. For 2012, let’s resolve to do the same for the 9th inning, shall we? Extra innings are only fun when we were already coming from behind and, while it’s certainly sweet of you to think of them, this economy has already given the antacid industry enough of a boost.
- Leave any woes from last season in the past. Everyone starts the 2012 season with a clean slate!
- You brought a lot of the old swagger and sense of fun back in 2011 and it was wonderful. Keep it up, please.
- I love seeing how Angels veterans always help out the rookies and the newbies and how quickly the rookies and newbies fit right in and really look forward to seeing it all over again in 2012.
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.