…You know. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line. And, only slightly less well-known, never ever speak of the fans in less than complimentary terms…because it will live forever online…or something like that. But I’ll get to that in a moment. First…
Hey there Major League Baseball, you great big sweetie. Don’t think for one second that I didn’t notice and appreciate your thoughtful Valentine, having position players start reporting on February 14th. We fans have enjoyed live video of actual baseball players on the field, in uniform, getting ready for the season all over MLBN and our favorite sports sites ever since. Hitting and pitching and live player interviews, oh my! It’s the best thing ever! …well, the best thing since October at any rate. See boys and girls, even if our teams appear to have a funny way of showing it at times, baseball really does love us back. 😉
Of course, the return of players to ball fields and the happy increase in player interviews that inevitably follows does also lead to an increase in player gaffes. For truly it seems as if no Spring Training is complete without several players contracting a case of foot in mouth disease. Among the most recently afflicted is one of our newest Angels, Josh Hamilton.
“It’s one of those things where Texas, especially Dallas, has always been a football town. So the good with the bad is they’re (the fans) supportive, but they also got a little spoiled, at the same time, pretty quickly. You can understand like a really true, true baseball town — and there are true baseball fans in Texas — but it’s not a true baseball town.”
Yikes. So…um…I can’t understand how Texas fans took offense at that, can you? 😉 Seriously though, this isn’t pick on Josh Hamilton day for me. He’s not the first player and I doubt he’ll be the last to say something controversial well before Opening Day, and anyone watching the interview rather than just reading cold words on a page can see that Hamilton’s intentions with these comments were not malicious. He wasn’t trash talking, he was making his own honest observations in response to reporter questions.
In fact, I even agree with Hamilton…up to a point. Now hold on a second there Rangers fans before you get angry with me. In my opinion, Hamilton would be equally correct if he’d the same thing about Southern California fans, whether we’re calling them Los Angeles or Orange Country. Much like Texas, we also have great baseball fans in Southern California, but I wouldn’t call any of our towns baseball towns…and I do believe that by not including Anaheim or the greater OC/LA area in the list of “great baseball towns” that Hamilton gave in his attempt at a rebuttal, he was indicating as much himself.
Look, I spent the three day weekend hanging out with my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. They were taking a week’s vacation from their Boston home to warm up on the West Coast. We spent a fair bit of time talking about baseball — Hey, Seth and I are getting ready for a Spring Training trip; my nephew Henry has been enjoying Little League and is very excited about a great baseball camp his Boy Scout troop attended with PawSox players that culminated in a sleepover on the field; Henry’s annoyed with the Red Sox; I was trying with little success to pound out a blog post; the subject came up a lot. Anyway, just listening to my sister-in-law, Laura, and the kids talk, I was impressed once again with how much Boston is a real baseball town. Laura is a Los Angeles transplant and she is continually surprised at how much the average person in Boston knows about the Red Sox both past and current, by how many games they watch, by how frequently games and personnel moves are discussed. Compared to her experiences in Los Angeles, it’s night and day.
And while I’m certainly not complaining, in all honesty I can’t say the same thing about anywhere in Southern California, even if I were to somehow combine Dodgers fans and Angels fans together in my mind as if they were together rooting en masse for some sort of super Freeway Team, LOL! The Angels and the Dodgers both have great fans. Diehard fans. Fans who absolutely bleed their respective team’s colors. I interact with some of these amazing fans on a regular basis on Twitter and on the blogs…but half of the reason I started blogging and turned to the internet is because, when I’m not at a game, I don’t encounter many baseball fans in my daily life. Only once have I worked in a department where there were more baseball fans than not, and that was split evenly between Dodgers and Angels fans. Usually it’s me, myself and I. And in that one case, our department was unusual for the company.
When Seth worked a few miles from the Big A, he worked with a couple of diehard Angels fans (one of whom sweetly gave us season tickets on a regular basis) but their department was unusual for the building and whenever the company’s stadium seats were offered, it was the same handful of people asking for them every time. During the season, unlike what I hear about Boston, you can’t just walk into any bar in either county and expect the baseball game to be on. Some bars yes, and I make it a point to find and frequent those bars, but not every bar. It is common to have to “fight” basketball and football fans for the TV at points where the seasons overlap and, in my experience, it’s common for basketball and/or football to win out based on majority opinion. In fact, if anything, I would say that L.A. at least is a basketball town. Lakers. Blah.
And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that the same is true for the environs surrounding Arlington, expect in their case it’s football, not basketball that’s front and center. Yet, I don’t think anyone would accuse Rangers fans of lacking passion for their team – I certainly would never accuse them of such and Hamilton’s comments didn’t either. So there you have it, great baseball fans. Not a “real” baseball town. That said, of course Rangers fans are pissed. I would be too if the cleat were on the other foot, so to speak. In fact, I remember when John Lackey dissed Angels fans during his first Spring Training with the Red Sox. I can’t remember the exact language, but he said something very similar to what Hamilton has said, that Anaheim is not as great a baseball town as Boston. And at the time I was livid. How dare he?! But I’m much more mature about the whole thing now, of course. So, John, how’d that work out for you? 😉 …okay, okay. More mature, but not yet actually mature.
Now, Lackey also accused Angels fans of not supporting him, which was not true and quite offensive. And, if you move past the ‘not a true baseball town’ part of the comment, the point of Hamilton’s entire quote is that those real baseball fans in Texas won’t boo him when he returns to play in Arlington in Angels red, only ‘not true’ baseball fans will boo him. Ummm…yeah. This part would also be not true — especially after this Hamilton interview! — and probably is quite offensive to his former fan base. But I digress because that isn’t the aspect of his comments people are griping on.
Look, I know we fans seem like contradictory creatures and, well, some of us are. We’re always complaining that we want the players to say something real during interviews instead of just spouting the usual clichés and then the minute that something real turns out to be a bit controversial, some of us whine about that…a lot. But that isn’t what this is. I would far rather hear players speak their mind — even when I don’t agree with them! — than the usual, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ ‘We just have to play them one game at a time.’ Blah blah. Blah blah. Blah blah. However, while players are speaking their minds I would just caution them to remember that speaking about the fans in anything less than complementary tones really is one of the classic blunders. You can’t win. Really. You can’t. Even when you’re right. Perhaps especially when you’re right. Isn’t that right, Chris Perez? 😉 And just so long as players understand that going in and make their own decisions accordingly, we’re all good.
So, in the meantime, how does one recover from an acute case of well publicized foot in mouth disease? I only ask (rhetorically) because, maybe, in our current situation…well…it could prove to be useful information. Well, it’s very simple, one need only keep one’s mouth shut against the possibility of relapses or appearances of new symptoms and wait for the next afflicted player to open his mouth and pull all of the attention his way with a few poorly considered words. And with that, we say thank you, Octavio Dotel — or, at least, so it would appear — and move on. 😉
So, everyone’s getting really excited about the first Regular Season games starting in just a few hours, right? I mean, we’re all getting up extra early, with elaborate brunch, beer and calling in late to work plans so we can watch the games, right? *crickets* Yeah, that about sums it up. While I like the idea of exhibition games in Japan and other countries, I think that having the Mariners and A’s play two regular season games there is just ho hum. The timing will always be awkward, both in terms of fitting the games into the Regular Season calendar and in terms of the games themselves taking place at a time when the teams’ U.S. fans can easily watch. For this reason, I doubt MLB will ever get teams that are predicted to contend to participate and so what we’re left with is just blah. Two games stuck in a weird sort of baseball limbo. They count towards the regular season record, so they’re not quite exhibition games. But most folks aren’t paying any attention and the games are occurring completely outside the Regular Season calendar, well before the official Opening Day on April 4th, so it’s almost as if they aren’t really Regular Season games either, leaving me for one wondering, Why bother?
I’ll tell you what is exciting though, Magic Johnson buying the Dodgers. Ding Dong, the McCourts are gone. The wicked McCourts are gone! Yes, I root for the Halo’d ones down in Anaheim, but I’m an L.A. girl raised going to games in Chavez Ravine by a Dodger lovin’ family. As long as we aren’t specifically in the middle of a Freeway Series, I will always have a soft spot for the boys in blue. Besides, I like to think that baseball fans everywhere were rooting for the Dodgers to come out on top of all this – Come on Giants fan cousins of mine, you know you were rooting for them too…come on. Hey. That’s not the gesture you really want to be making. Seriously, knock that off right now or I’m telling your mom. See, that’s much better. Don’t you feel better now? Ummm…never mind. 😉
Anyway, moving right along…Magic Johnson is a shrewd businessman who has managed to create businesses that are simultaneously good for the community, good for local sports and entertainment, and also profitable. And for those of you who don’t have a lot of experience with business and politics in L.A., trust me, that’s no easy feat. Plus, Magic Johnson has been an L.A. guy by choice since his retirement. I see him as the kind of owner who will cultivate a good team on the field (and it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of good players to work with already), while pleasing fans and leaving the important traditions intact. At least, this is what I hope will happen…even though I still hope they lose every single Freeway Series game. Hey, Dodgers soft spot, Angels heart. My goodwill is extensive, but not boundless. 😉
Which brings me to news even more exciting than that: Kendrys is hitting over .600 since his Spring Training debut and continues to see regular playing time, and I saw my first lit Halo of 2012 driving through Anaheim the other night. Okay, so it’s only a lit exhibition Halo, but still. Lit. Halo! The Regular Season – the real Regular Season – is so close I can taste it!
Well, the Mariners started workouts this weekend at any rate. But everyone else’s pitchers and catchers are reporting this coming weekend, the Angels on Sunday. Yay! Yay! Only 16 more days until they start playing live baseball! Okay, it will be rusty, working the kinks out, preseason, completely unofficial live baseball but I think we can all agree that after several months of nada, live is the only important word in that sentence…for a few weeks at least, until we grow tired of it and beg for the regular season to begin. But, for the time being, I’ll just sit here bouncing in my chair. The Angels have not released their Spring Training broadcast schedule yet, but I can figure some of it out based on the Dodgers posted broadcast schedule and, wow, live Angels baseball is on the horizon. The prospect makes me giddy. *boingy boingy, boingy*
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So, remember what I was saying about this being the Hot Stove year of the mystery team? Did anyone see Oakland coming on the Yoenis Cespedes deal? Seriously, anyone? Way to go Oakland! Um…I mean…I know we’re rivals and all that, a rivalry I especially enjoy I might add, and I really want the Angels to beat you soundly every single time our two teams meet, but how about the AL West this season? It’s really nice to be an oft discussed, and with respect no less, division again. It’s been an exciting offseason and I see even more exciting results coming this season. Thank you for continuing the crazy streak of key signings. I mean, seriously. AL East who? They still play baseball out there? 😉 And on the NL East front, I’m sure “AL West” is now a four letter word as far as the Miami Marlins are concerned.
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The Angels need a Truck Day! I mean, of course they do have one in the sense that there are trucks that staff must pack full of all of the necessary Spring Training goodies and at some point these trucks do leave the Big A bound for Tempe, AZ. Some fans may even be aware of the date and show up to see the trucks off for all I know. But this is the extent of any Angels Truck Day and that’s only if that last part is anything more than theoretical. I know that I live in L.A. instead of Orange County but, really, if there were a big celebration to see the trucks off, I would have heard something. And a big celebration is what I want – crowds of fans gathering to cheer the end of the offseason, speeches from VIPs, a sort of Angels state of the union if you will, open gift shops with some of the newer 2011 items that haven’t officially debuted yet on sale early and, heck maybe even an opportunity to taste that first ballpark hot dog of the year.
You know, I want what a lot of other teams have. Is that too much to wish for? Oh, and while we’re at it, a multiple day extravaganza of a Fan Fest would be nice too, you know, like other teams have. And, and…basically I wish this was more of a baseball town. Yes, we have two teams in close proximity in the general Los Angeles/Orange County/west end of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties area both of whom routinely fill, nearly sell out or outright sell out, the considerable number of seats in their large stadiums…well, both of them, when folks aren’t justifiably livid with the McCourts that is. But ticket sales do not a baseball town make, at least not on their own. Crazy passionate bleeding team colors fans make a town a baseball town. And while I would argue that the Angels and the Dodgers boast just as many crazy passionate bleeding team colors fans as the next team (check out the blogs if you have any doubt), we just don’t seem to get credit for that.
My unscientific but credible theory on this subject is that our percentages get skewed and diluted by the sheer enormity of the total population out here. Yes, many baseball teams throughout the U.S. reside in populous counties, several of them in counties sufficiently populous to land on the top 15 most populous counties list according to the last census. However, the four California counties I just mentioned (L.A., Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside) plus San Diego to our immediate south make up one third of the top 15 most populous U.S. counties list. We have a lot of people out here, which I think means that we have just as many diehard fans, but significantly more casual fans and non fans (not that I’m complaining about them, enjoy the game however you like) than other places and the combined impression that creates is not one of a crowd that would appreciate, say for example, a Truck Day. Or, maybe it’s just So Cal’s notoriously too hip for the room attitude keeping us from having nice things yet again? 😉
As an Angels fan, I am used to not seeing my team on the national radar – sports news covers or features, popular culture, public awareness, generic poll via number of ball caps seen in random unexpected places, or otherwise. This is hardly a gripe – actually, I kind of like it – it’s just an observation. As I’ve mentioned before, I was raised a Dodger fan. And the Dodgers, while they aren’t the Yankees or, more recently, the Red Sox, are frequently on the national radar…not always for good reasons, sad to say, especially lately, but still, they’re there.
When you want to set a scene as being definitively in Los Angeles, you reference the Dodgers or show a glimpse of the stadium in a scan of the scenery. Dodgers Stadium isn’t as frequently filmed as the Hollywood sign, nor as oft destroyed in Hollywood natural disasters as the Capital Records building or those darned Angelyne signs, but it’s there never the less. (Yes, the Angels had top billing in that one movie but, seriously, I’m trying to forget that one. 😉 Remember the Naked Gun, by all means, but please forget that other one…er…ones, apparently. I stand corrected. See comments below.) You are likely to see Dodgers caps in random places, ditto shirts and other paraphernalia. Yankees gear is more common, but you get the general idea. I grew up thinking this was normal attention for your average baseball team, even though fans of 25-ish other teams could have told me otherwise. Now I get it. Sightings of Angels on the cover of, the TV screen of, or head or back of anything or anyone becomes increasingly rare the further you get from the general Orange County/Los Angeles area. This is normal attention for your average baseball team. And as a direct result, any random Angels sighting – National news feature, gear seen in a movie, ball cap on the head of a random fan in, say, Olathe, Kansas, never fails to give me a giddy little thrill.
Needless to say, those giddy little thrills have been quite the frequent occurrence since, oh, say December 8th. Go figure. Signing two of the biggest free agent names in the same day will do that for a team. And the best part is, they aren’t getting any less giddy or thrilling as they continue to multiply. So, imagine my delight this morning in the doctor’s office, when I spied this bright, shiny treasure:
My Angels on the cover of ESPN. Yes, it was bright and shiny. I swear, it glowed like Excalibur in the Disney cartoon. Why do you ask? And, yes, I am probably the only baseball blogger who didn’t already know the Angels were on the cover. January has been quite the suck for me. But not knowing made the thrill just that much more giddy-making. No, I don’t see this getting old anytime soon. While I liked the homey feel of non-attention, I could certainly grow to appreciate attention.
Random Thoughts on the article itself:
- Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar. Mind you, this is just a confirmation of my existing opinion of the guy, but, yeah. Total. Rockstar. However these signings turn out – and I certainly hope it’s a meets or exceeds expectations kind of scenario – he’s proven that he has the negotiating skills, brains, guts and personality to do well by the Angels for years to come.
- It really is interesting how very normal typical player concerns are when they’re deciding which offer to accept. Yes, I do understand, it’s much more about the money than anyone is going to actually come out and say. But even when you boil that down, it’s typical job stuff. Compensation. Job security – length of contract and no-trade clauses. Will my family be happy? Will I get to do the specific job I like to do? Will I like my boss/coworkers? etc…
- Except, of course, for C.J. Wilson whose pros and cons list was, between the screenwriting opportunities and possible sponsorship of his racing team, unique to say the least. Maybe it’s because I was hot and cold on the rumors that Angels were going after him in the first place? But whenever I watch or hear an interview with Wilson where he talks more about his – incredibly interesting, I’ll admit – hobbies than about baseball, I am torn between thinking “Wow, what an intriguing, well rounded guy” and “Nooo! He’s not Barry Zito. He’s not Barry Zito. He is. NOT. Barry Zito.”
- The part that made me laugh? One call from Albert Pujols apparently pulled Arte Moreno away from a movie date with his wife. They were in the middle of watching Melancholia. Okay, I like arty, abstract movies but please tell me that Arte wasn’t thanking Albert in more ways than one as soon as he saw the mighty bat’s name displayed on his cell phone. Oh, darn. Whoops. Sorry, honey. I am so disappointed to miss this boring drivel…er…I mean stirring dialog, but I gotta take this.
- Apparently a random woman reading ESPN magazine in a doctor’s office is still considered an oddity. I got a literal thumbs up from one gent when I picked up the magazine and several odd looks from other parties. Of course, the fact that I took a photo of the cover with my phone may have had something to do with that. I suppose that could be considered odd in some circles. 😉
- Did I mention that Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar?
At Pilates this evening, I enjoyed a quick chat with a White Sox fan. Last season I introduced her to the cheap ticket wonders of StubHub and gave her information about the Big A so she could see her guys play – she was concerned about our “scary” freeways – and we’ve been friendly ever since. As I was leaving the parking lot, a group of guys in Pirate caps, one of them quite old school, walked by. On the freeway drive home, the usual mixed bag of bumper stickers streamed by as speeds increased in the final fade of rush hour. In and among the honor roll proclamations, fading Obama/Biden stickers and occasionally humorous sayings was an eclectic array of baseball stickers – Dodgers, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. Nothing new here.
Los Angeles is not like other places. The billboard signage proclaims that this is Dodgertown and that is true to a certain extent. But a sufficient number of Angels fans call Los Angeles County home to warrant equal representation in the team gear sections of our local Targets and Costcos and the same is true in reverse with Dodger fans in neighboring Orange County, home to my Halos of the absurdly lengthy and geographically challenged name. I read as many of your blogs as I can find, and more and more each week as Spring Training brings more sleepy bloggers out of hibernation, so I know that two team towns are nothing special. But Los Angeles is a little more complicated than that.
In and among the Dodgers and Angels gear, you can usually find a fair bit of Yankees and Red Sox items. White Sox caps and shirts are becoming more common as well and, if the number of Cubs fan Chicago transplants I ran into in Orange County last year is any indication, I expect to start seeing the occasional Cubs logo on the sales racks in the next year or so. Native Angelenos like myself are rare, you see. In Los Angeles and, increasingly, Orange County seemingly everybody is from someplace else. And even among the natives, most of us are only native by a generation or two. My grandparents and their families all came out to California during the Dustbowl, which is very common story.
When it comes right down to it, this is one of the things I love most about living here – so many different people bringing pieces of their home to mine and mixing them together in new and different ways. I love that I can go out for authentic soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung (the only location outside of China), hit a jazz club hosting a band from New Orleans and then finish off the evening line dancing at a club opened up by Texas transplants who thought it might be fun and profitable to bring a little bit of home to Los Angeles. Authentic street tacos, a cheesesteak place opened up by a couple of guys who moved out here from Philly, New York style delis, a German deli where more people are speaking German and Polish than English on any given day, Kansas City style BBQ joints, all of these offerings are within easy driving distance of my house, and it’s amazing.
And the sea of different baseball caps? Dodger, Angels, Giants, Red Sox and Pirates at my office’s summer picnic alone. Enough nowadays that, seriously, if I were a kid, I’d give up playing “States” and play “MLB caps” instead. It’s just one more manifestation of what I think of as the real Los Angeles – Dodgertown yes, but kind of Everytown at the same time. I know that Los Angeles is far from the only big city to experience this phenomena, but I wonder if any other city sees their diversity carry over into their baseball cap offerings at non-ESPN type stores? I would definitely be interested in learning if this is so if any of you care to share.
I went to Costco on my lunch break this afternoon and did some of our grocery shopping with this post percolating in my mind. I decided it would be funny to take a picture of the souvenir baseball jersey rack so you could appreciate the wild mix of logos we tend to stock out here but, apparently it’s a little early for baseball still at Costco. However, serendipitously enough, when I walked out to my car this is the picture I was presented with. What are the odds? Well, around here? Fairly good, actually: