A lot has gone on in baseball the last couple of days. I’d love to explain it all, but there is no time. Let me sum up.
Erick Aybar. Gold Glove winner. Congratulations! I have to say, that was a little unexpected. Pleasantly so, don’t get me wrong. He’s got the glove. He’s got the arm. He’s got that oh my God! ability to turn two when he shouldn’t even have been able to turn one with where he had to go to get the ball. He just also has that oh my God! ability to completely forget what to do with the ball a couple of games a season. That was the source of my surprise, not any lack of ability. I will say this though, because I know there are a lot of naysayers out there griping about Aybar winning the Gold Glove. Who votes on the award? Managers and coaches. Managers and coaches who apparently routinely drool over Aybar because folks keep offering to trade us for him. And I think that had a lot do with the voting. Not statistics, traditional, saber or otherwise, but what the coaches and managers saw with their own eyes.
And can I just tell you how happy I was to see not one, not two but four Angels make it to the top three for Gold Glove consideration? And with real shots a winning, too, unlike last season. I think that under the old format, Peter Bourjos might have won or come in a close 4th. And I think that Dan Haren should have won, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, this is one more reminder that while 2011 was not everything we hoped it would be, it was still forward progress over 2010.
As far as the Dodgers three Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger Awards go, I have to say, I was almost as excited to hear that as I was to hear about Aybar. As bad as some of us think our teams need good news? The Dodgers needed it more. A lot more. And Frank McCourt finally realizing that he needed to sell the Dodgers? Yaaaaaaaaaaay!! But, “I believe it is in the best interests of our organization, our loyal fans and the community at large.”? Really Frank? Wow. What a brilliant conclusion. However did you come to it? And what took you so f’n long you selfish asshat! Perhaps he finally noticed all of trick-or-treaters in his neighborhood this season clad in traditional Los Angeles “Frank McCourt as an evil, delusional, lifeforce sucking demon” costumes?
Not unexpected at all, however? No Angels were nominated for the Sliver Slugger Award. I know. You are all shocked, right? It’s okay. Maybe Dipoto can help us fix that for next season…or, you know, Mark Trumbo. I hope, I hope, I hope. And there’s always the possibility Kendrys Morales will be back…and in playing shape…and pick up where he left off with his bat…soon enough in the season to make a difference…and…and…hey! It could totally happen. This is baseball. Much like a team coming from 10 games behind in the Wild Card Race to win the World Series, anything is possible.
Then there’s the free agent free for all about to take off. Talk about stress…for other fans that is. As far as Angels free agents go, forget stressing over it. Joel Pineiro? Scott Kazmir? Fernando Rodney? Please, that right there is a recipe for stress relief. *clink, clink, clink* I would like to propose a toast to our soon to be departed free agent signing failures. Gentlemen, may you richly enjoy your new homes, far, far from Anaheim. And, while I wish you all well, if you suddenly have a Mike Napoli like transformation, especially one that helps knock us out of the post season that I then have to hear about. All. October. Long. Please understand that I’m going to take it poorly. Slainte!
And then there’s the Cubs! But this is long enough already. I will leave that for folks far more up on all things National League than I to discuss.
You all know the feeling. You have a really long day at work (or school), or even an outright bad day. You come home and all you want to do is relax in front of a good game, preferably cuddled up with your honey, and cheer. But, alas, this time it’s not a good game. And somehow the day is just that much more deflating for it. This has been the story of my last week and change.
I am in the final stages of a huge project and I’ve been working 12 hour days during the week and eight to ten hour days on the weekend to get it done. It’s a great project and I am thrilled to be involved but these have been long days, days in which I hoped to help the the last few hours of work (or, you know, the first few hours of the weekends work) feel less like work by completing them in front of a good game. Instead, I got last week’s not-the-series-we-wanted-it-to-be against the White Sox, followed by the weekend’s not-the-series-we-wanted-it-to-be against the Rangers and then this latest mini really-not-the-series-we-wanted-it-to-be against the A’s. Sure there were a few high points, but they were buried in a mound of blah. And it just didn’t pay to be an Angels starter this weekend. Come on Angels, haven’t you considered my needs in all of this? 😉
This evening, as you might have inferred from the score, was especially terrible. Shut out 14 – 0. Ouch. The Angels had no pitching. No bats. And I swear someone rubbed butter in a few of the gloves just to see what would happen. MST3K-ing our way through Transformers II this Saturday? An excellent strategy for turning a bad, bad movie into a really fun evening and a nostalgic nod to the bad movie Fridays of our college years. MST3K-ing our way through an Angels game, on the other hand? That’s a last resort coping mechanism I would prefer not to employ again. But, desperate times, my friends. Desperate times.
…First, a brief digression for the sake of the uninitiated:
MST3K (n) – Mystery Science Theatre 3000. a cult American comedy series featuring a human and his robot sidekicks living on a space station, forced by an evil scientist to watch a series of bad Sci-Fi C and D movies for research. The audience watches the so-bad-it’s-laughable movie with the series characters, who are depicted as silhouettes at the bottom of the screen and provide a hilarious running narrative to that episode’s feature.
MST3K (v) – the act of improving any less than desirable spectacle by providing your own snarky, ideally hilarious, running commentary to the events in question. MST3K-ing is best when indulged in by a moderate sized group of quick wits, though it only outright requires two.
And now we return you to your originally scheduled MLBlogs programming…
So, my question for the team (Of course, they read this blog and take my comments very seriously. Why do you ask? 😉 ) is this. Are you done now? With the botched plays, the WTF base running, the broken clutch at the plate, the wasted great starts, the self-destructing bullpen and all of the unnecessary “excitement” between outs two and three? Every team has off games and every team experiences minor slumps over the course of the season. So, are you done with that now? Are you ready to put it all behind you and play great baseball again? This season you have already shown that you can hit, you have great gloves and boy can you pitch and, this last week notwithstanding, all in the same game even. I love you guys like crazy and will keep watching no matter what you do, but I think we’d all have a lot more fun if you wrapped up this slumping thing and moved on from it like I know you can…oh, and someone give Jordan Walden a hug please, because boy did he look like he needed one after Monday night’s game.
* * * * *
So, about Kendrys Morales. He got a second opinion on the broken ankle. He will have additional surgery soon and be out for the rest of the season. And my reaction? I’m thrilled. Yes, you read that right. Between the plateau, the setbacks and the pain he it sounds like he was continuing to experience, I had serious concerns about scar tissue and his ability to return to playing in any kind of good condition. I want Kendrys back and playing now as much as anyone, but I want him to have a career playing like he used to even more. I would rather do without him for the rest of the season, than bring him back too early and risk killing his career.
The Angels announced their initial 25-man roster late this evening, following a 5 – 1 win over the Dodgers in their final preseason game. I say initial because, of course, there will be considerable roster shifting in April and possibly into early May as Scott Downs, Kendrys Morales, Joel Pineiro and Reggie Willits come off of the 15-day DL. So, for now, the 2011 Angels are:
Jered Weaver (RHP)
Dan Haren (RHP)
Ervin Santana (RHP)
Scott Kazmir (LHP)
Jason Bulger (RHP)
Kevin Jepsen (RHP)
Michael Kohn (RHP)
Fernando Rodney (RHP)
Hisanori Takahashi (LHP)
Rich Thompson (RHP)
Jordan Walden (RHP)
Trevor Bell (RHP), Matt Palmer (RHP), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP), and infielder Andrew Romine were optioned back to AAA Salt Lake.
Not a whole lot of surprises there. Okay, I was a little surprised to see Hank Conger stay on the roster. I figured he would stay in AAA so he could get work in every day. But I don’t know who I would have kept up instead, this may change when they need roster space for guys coming off the DL and, besides, carrying three catchers is becoming a Mike Scioscia tradition. Given his hot streak since the surgery, I wish they found a way to keep Palmer up. I know Bulger is out of options, but he didn’t have a very good spring, or late summer for that matter… I’m pleased to see Chris Pettit getting another shot after missing all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery. I don’t know how long that experiment will last once guys start coming off the DL but we’ll see.
I’m excited! Yes, I pretty much knew who would make the cut, especially given the limiting injuries. Even so, just seeing the official roster really drives home the fact that Opening Day is Thursday! And I’m hopeful. We may have platoons at both of our infield corners indefinitely, but today it doesn’t bother me. So far it seems to be working, better than I expected. And if Trumbo’s bat holds up during the regular season, I think the first base platoon will be resolved quickly, even if Kendrys isn’t able to come back full time any time soon.
I’m so ready for Thursday. We have Weaver on the mound, the triple centerfield patrolling the outfield and a couple of guys whose bats really, really love Kauffman Stadium. Bring on the Royals. Play ball!!
The saying from my title is from a pun-ny billboard advertising a Chumash casino off the 101 on the way up to California’s Central Coast wine country. I thought it was clever and it made me smile thinking, more like only 11 days until win country. Baseball season is just around the corner! As you can probably guess from this introduction, Seth and I spent the weekend on the Central Coast for the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival, our it-fit-the-budget-better-than-SpringTraining March trip. Wine, parties under a patio in the rain, eclectic conversation (We went into this great little used bookstore. But when you stepped inside it was really huge, like a TARDIS, for the win.) and, even without Spring Training, plenty of baseball talk. It was a great weekend.
Paso Robles is a wonderfully casual place. There is wine, very good wine even, aplenty. But the winemakers have the perfect fun attitude about their craft and for festival weekends, they throw great laid back parties featuring pairings like wine and street tacos, Pinot and paella, or wine with Santa Maria style barbeque or sliders. It’s common to have winery parties centered around MLB playoffs or, this weekend, around college basketball games. It’s anything but stuffy, which is why I always have so much fun up there. And, seriously, for a town located about as far away from professional baseball as you can get in the state of California, there sure are a lot of baseball fans in Paso.
This trip I ran into an unusual number of Angels fans too. The winemaker’s wife who went to Villa Park high school in Orange County with Bert Blyleven and Bob Boone’s sons. The casual fans up from Orange County for a visit (Vernon Wells, who?). Dissecting the starting rotation and the Kaz question over a Methuselah – a six liter bottle of wine, truly awesome in its absolute absurdity – of a lovely meritage blend. The local who literally tugged on my sleeve at another event after noticing my jacket. So do you think they’re going to make it this year? Ah, the eternal question.
We also made a special trip to Rio Seco, the baseball winery, hoping for a spring training tie-in. Former minor league pitcher, retired scout and winemaker Tom Hinkle and friends were actually at Spring Training though. No matter, the wine was great as usual, from the Grand Slam and the MVP to the “futures” barrel tasting. Hinkles’ wife and daughter, who run the winery alongside him, are as knowledgeable and hospitable hosts as one could ask for…and they told me that Tom thinks the Angels made some good decisions in the offseason and are ready for a great year. *huge grin* Hey, come for the wine, stay for the season predictions. Rio Seco is hosting a summer kickoff wine and seafood event in June, and Seth and I are planning to make the trip back up again at that point. I jokingly asked if they would have the game on, and my wonderful hostess replied, Here? Are you kidding, we’ll probably have several of the games on, before noting “big Angels fans” next to our names on the guest list. I have a feeling that will be a great party.
In Angels news this weekend, It’s official, Kendrys Morales will start the season on the 15 day DL. (Yes, Kendrys. Apparently they mucked up his name on his original visa, which is more common than you’d think) I am disappointed but I am also relieved. He’s hitting. He’s fielding. But it sounds like his ability to run at the level required to play hasn’t improved much since Spring Training started and now there is a problem with his big toe and narrow cleats – injuries to your feet and ankles suck. They take forever to heal and complications as they heal are common. So, suffice to say. Slow down. Heal fully. Come back strong and ready to enjoy a productive career.
But the rest of you Angels, please, stop trying to be trendy. Just because so many of the cool kids are going on the DL this spring doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Trumbo, Pineiro, Bourjos, I’m looking at you. All joking aside, Pineiro’s sholder strain concerns me. Bourjos is back playing after hip tightness. Trumbo is due back any day now from groin tightness but no word on Pineiro since he was pulled from the minor league game he was pitching in today. I’m glad the team is taking precautionary measures with minor injuries and such during Spring Training, but let’s be careful not to need the precautionary measures in the first place, shall we?
Funny news from today’s game? Scioscia was thrown out for arguing that a third out tag had beat the runner scoring. If this were the regular season I might feel more outrage or annoyance – it does sound like the ump was a little overzealous – than amusement but, seriously, who gets thrown out of the game in Spring Training? Too funny!
Your fielders successful in whatever they do,
May your rookies play well, and your veterans all shine,
Except, of course, for when your teams are playing mine. 😉
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone out there in the ‘Sphere!
It is definitely spring in California! We have a couple more rainy days coming up in the forecast – and we still need that rain even after last month’s deluge, so no complaints here – but the temperatures are slowly trending upwards. With the occasionally 70s weather and the beginning of daylight saving time it’s finally starting to feel like Opening Day is less than two weeks away!
Catching snippets of games here and there – there hasn’t been an Angels game on TV since the 8th – I have been thrilled to see that our bats are continuing to wake up. I actually went to lunch on Tuesday just in time to catch that great 4th inning against the Padres. Torri homered. Vernon Wells homered off the very next pitch. (By the way, I like this one-upmanship, gentlemen. Please keep this up in the regular season.) Then Howie got a hit, Aybar struck out and Mark Trumbo homered again. Nice! And almost everyone else is hitting too. There are now a lot of averages at or over .300 and I am much happier.
Of course, I was not happy to see that the injury bug, which seems unusually prevalent this Spring Training, struck the Angels too. Scott Downs broke his big toe and will start the season on the DL and Mark Trumbo sat out part of today with groin tightness, though that move was only precautionary. Speaking of the DL, If Kendry Morales isn’t healthy enough to start playing in this week, he will start the season there as well. As much as I want him with the team for the whole season, I really want Kendry and the Angels to take this slow. March 20th, this Sunday, is his drop dead date, as we say in Marketing. If he can’t play in that game, he won’t be ready for Opening Day. He just started running base to base though and I don’t want him to play before his body can handle it. Suffice to say I’ll be listening to Sunday’s game with even more interest than usual – that one’s not televised either.
Even with the bad news, it’s hard not to be excited with the regular season just around the corner. And one week from Sunday, I get to go see live baseball! We have tickets to the exhibition game against the Padres at the Big A on the 27th and to Angels Fanfest that morning. Yes, Fanfest is back after a three year absence, and I am really looking forward to it. I’ve never actually been able to smell the grass from the stands, even from the front row, but the crack of the bat, the sound of the ball smacking leather? It’s. Almost. Time!
My latest big project at work is updating and rewriting our entire course catalog and student handbook…in a little over a week. In the words of the late great Douglas Adams, I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by! Seriously though, I am a professional. I have everything planned and moving along on schedule, from the legal requirements review, to all of the rewriting, to the occasional panic attack over the deadline. And they said all of that late night paper writing in college wouldn’t be useful in the real world. Ha! (All joking aside though, I love my job and this is a pretty cool assignment, if a little intense.)
Needless to say, I am just a wee bit catalog and course description focused at the moment and Spring Training is all about learning and practicing, so you can see how they might start to jumble together a little in my brain. Watching the games and reading the articles coming out of Arizona, I think I can make a pretty good guess about a few of the spring session catalog’s course offerings at Mike Scioscia’s LAAU:
365. Advanced Astronomy: Okay, so only Mark Trumbo is actually putting the ball into orbit this spring (and Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood once each) which is a little worrying but many key players are getting high marks with Trumbo, Bobby Wilson, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo and Jeff Mathis (Really? Cool!) are all hitting over .300…still, after last season, I won’t consider this course successful until more of the starting lineup names are on this list.
342. Physics of Linear and Non Linear Trajectories: The starting rotation is…coming along. They started slow. They’re easing into it. I’ve seen great stuff and silly mistakes. The last appearances were better than the first. For the most part, their 2011 ST stats are comparable to or better than their ST stats in ’10 and ’09. Eh, it’s not great, but I’m just not worried here (except about the 5 spot). To my eye it looks like the rust is coming off on schedule.
450. Fahrenheit 451 and the Art of Closing the Game: Bullpen pitchers are often referred to as firemen. But what happens when your firemen occasionally accelerate or actually start the fires themselves? A lot of offseason dollars were spent wrestling with this “philosophical” delimma and at ST midterms the grades are all over the place. Many of the pitchers the Angels will look toward for relief are making good grades, including Scott Downs, Jordan Walden, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takashi and Michael Kohn. As for the actual closer? Love Ray Bradbury though I do, Fernando Rodney needs to find some different reading material, stat…as does everyone who has been playing in the 8th and 9th innings for the last few games, ouch.
405. Field Biology: Quite the bell curve going on here. The starting outfield is A’s across the board. Howie and Erick Aybar are looking good at 2nd and short. A nice fight to set the curve at catcher looks promising. The corner infield positions, however, are cause for concern. Trumbo is working admirably hard to overcome a needs improvement at first, which is good because we may need him in April. But third? We’ll see how the final exams play out. As to the kids? The 8th and 9th innings lately are making me think the kids are not alright…at least, not yet.
201. Basic Anatomy (prerequisite for all students intending to declare pre-med): It is often said that the true indicator of a successful spring training is having all of your players make it to the regular season in good condition. So far, the Angels are passing with a B+, which we will elevate to an A as soon as Kendry Morales makes up last semister’s incomplete.
And what of Mike Scioscia’s special core seminars and colloquia, the ice-breaking, team-building and often hilarious “research assignments” he doles out to rookies and veterans alike for morning meeting presentation? Well, sadly Ostrich Wrangling 101 does not appear to be among the course offerings for 2011. However, the following classes are moving right along towards ST midterms:
204. Social Networking: When young Mike Trout ostensibly broke the rookies should not speak until spoken to rule, Jared Weaver took it upon himself to encourage the lad to share his gift for socializing with the fans instead…by posting his phone number on the scoreboard during a spring training game with an invitation to fans to “call Mike Trout with all of your baseball questions.”
305. Trickle Down Economic Theory: So, apparently, Vernon Wells has a rather large contract. Were any of you aware of this? I’m not sure the news has covered this particular detail. At any rate, Wells has been nominated to take the rookies out to dinner and Scioscia has stuck him with the tab after several team meals. Clearly this is a popular course. Sign up early.
515. Artisan Leather Craftsmanship: (this is my favorite by the way) minor league pitchers Matt Meyer and Ryan Chaffee have been assigned a special project, designing a catcher’s glove and fielder’s mitt from scratch and then using them during batting practice. Reporters and players tell us the gloves are still in the prototype stage.
The Angels appear to be excelling at some of these classes and in need of a few visits to the campus learning center for others. As we all know, the specific marks you get in school don’t have much of an impact on your overall performance once you enter the “real world” so we’ll have to wait until May or so before we really know the results of all of that schooling. It will be interesting to see who has learned their lessons…and how jealously Mike Trout guards his new cell phone number.
With a few more, significantly less than stellar, spring training games under our belt, Angels fans have learned several new things. For example, ouch, those Rangers guys sure can hit! Oh. Wait. We knew that already. I’d blame the loss on the kids – the Angels were playing with a mostly minor league squad that day – but it was really the homeruns that killed us and the first two – of four! – were off of regular pitchers and enough on their own to ensure a loss. At least Dan Haren was mad at himself about the homerun hit off him. A little anger can be motivating and spring training is the time to get motivated and shake off the rust.
But, Mark Trumbo can also hit! A line drive Wednesday and another bomb Thursday. It’s great to see he’s getting used to Major League pitching! Especially because Kendry Morales’ progress sounds steady but very slow. Kendry’s unlikely to be ready to play any time soon. Based on the fact that Trumbo has seen the most playing time of any Angel so far and all of it at first, I think it’s safe to assume that he’s Scioscia’s primary first base back-up plan. Trumbo’s still mixing a lot of clumsy plays in with the good ones, but with his bat coming around I’m softening up on this idea lot. Keep practicing hard and taking notes, kid, and this might just work out!
Torii Hunter found his bat today. Jeff Mathis and Howie Kendrick continue to find theirs while Brandon Wood temporarily misplaced his on the bus or something. And if any real conclusions could be drawn from this small sample size, I’d be dangerous. 😉
Ervin Santana may be the most unfortunately die hard Star Trek fan ever – convinced that in odd numbered years he’s supposed to suck. Yes, melodrama for humor’s sake is a perfectly reasonable coping mechanism. Why do you ask? I’m not actually panicking. I know it’s his first outing. I know he’s working on a new pitch. I know it’s just one spring training game. I know I still would have liked it a lot better if he’d nailed it.
Mike Napoli is a pretty classy guy and is handling the inevitable interview questions about the trade as well as anyone could ask. He’s being truthful – he appreciates the trade because it means he’s likely to get more playing time – while speaking well of both his former team and his new one. I still don’t like seeing him in another uniform but I wish him well and this takes a little bit of the sting out of the “just business” side of baseball.
Spring training doesn’t count for anything more than a means of everyone getting their work in and preparing for the regular season. Spring training records do not necessarily give any indication of how the team will look in the coming season. But boy do we scrutinize every pitch, swing and play anyway. It’s kind of like the initial stages of a new relationship. You know it’s going to take a while to get to know the person, so you try to keep your attitude light and casual. But every interaction still takes on exaggerated meaning as you try to figure out, does this have the potential for just an okay couple of dates, a really fun fling or something longer and more meaningful? Something that might even keep you cheering all the way through October?
Angels great Garret Anderson announced his retirement on Tuesday after 17 years in the majors, 15 of them with the Halos. A key member of the 2002 World Series winning team, Anderson still holds numerous Angels franchise hitting records including those for hits, extra base hits, runs and RBIs. I will always remember him for his clutch performances both at the plate and in the field and for that gorgeous, graceful swing, one of the most beautiful swings in the game.
Watching him struggle on the Dodgers last year was hard. Seeing him fumble two hard hit balls against the left field fence at the Big A during the Freeway series was harder. I’m sure retirement was a difficult decision but I think it was time. I understand and applaud the drive to try and push out one more year and then another and another, but I really like to see the players retire while their peak years are still a lot fresher in the fans’ minds than the rough years at the end. My hat’s off to you Garret Anderson. Congratulations on your retirement. (For a great Garret Anderson tribute with wonderful personal stories, please visit fellow Angels’ blogger Mo’s Angels.)