Ah, November. From a baseball standpoint, this is easily the sleepiest month of all. Sure it seems promising when you enter the month, what with free agency decisions, awards announcements and all. But then, reality hits. Potential free agents are either woo’d back by their current team or they become free agents aaaaaaaaaand nothing happens. Nothing. We talk. We speculate. Teams and players make noises. And nothing really happens until December and the Winter Meetings…or so. Okay, and in some big name cases, or so, or so.
And the awards? Well, they are fun and it is exciting when one of your favorites wins, or at least fodder for debate when they do not. However, as a fan, I find both the excitement and the occasional outrage to be largely ephemeral at least in terms of a baseball fix. I find out who won. I think Yay! Right on! Really? Or even WTF? And then I move on, baseball jones still fully present and accounted for.
Now, none of this is intended as a complaint. I understand why very little happens in terms of personnel decisions in November and the fact that the awards are no kind of baseball fix at all does not make them any less important. However, these facts do serve to explain how one might get so caught up in other things that, pulling a thoroughly random example completely out of thin air, a normally avid blogger might let her posts lapse for the better part of two weeks. Not buying it? *sigh* Yeah, didn’t think so. Well, tough. My assessment of November’s comparative lack of baseball fix-ly goodness stands. 😉
In terms of my Angels, well, to be honest I’m more than a bit annoyed with the front office right now and that probably also has a bit to do with my recent online scarcity. Although I suppose it makes for a more interesting blog, I don’t really like to rant. I prefer to cheer and praise and make up goofy noun-and-verb-repurposed-as-adjective mash ups of joy and excitement. But, alas, instead all I’ve got is a great big jumble of rantyness…
So, am I surprised that the Angels let Torii Hunter reach free agency without a contract offer? Not entirely, at least not after all of the noises the front office has been making about money. But am I disappointed? Oh, yes. Devastatingly so. Also, I think the decision was a big mistake. No, I don’t expect Torii to have as big a year in 2013 as he did in 2012 – 2012 was a career year. But I think 2012 makes it very clearly that Torii has found a way to stay healthy well into his 30s and to switch up his batting and fielding style to take advantage of the considerable skill sets he has in his 30s rather than still trying to play with the skill sets he had in his 20s.Plus, Torii’s skills as a clubhouse leader and a mentor to the younger players on the team are too important to just let go. I would never advocate keeping a player just because they’re a clubhouse leader, but when your clubhouse leader still plays like Torii plays, give the man a contract already. I think that some decisions can’t be made just with one’s wallet, which brings me to…
I hate to keep beating up on Vernon Wells, because he tries his ass off, keeps a great attitude and sense of humor through it all, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. Plus, he didn’t create this situation. However, the fact remains that he has never worked out on the Angels and the idea of Wells in the outfield over Torii (or, in truth, over Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos or anyone else if the Angels had kept Torii) just makes me even more livid with Tony Reagins’ initial trade decision and with the front office’s refusal to just take the salary hit – and yes, it’s a _huge hit – call the trade the failure it is and part company. Heading into the offseason, the rumor was that if the Angels couldn’t offload Wells’ contract there was no way they could extend a contract to Torii. Granted, it’s not my pocketbook and I have no idea how much additional cash Arte Moreno can afford to dedicate to the team payroll, but to me this just seems like wrongheaded thinking. Wells is hardly the only or even the biggest thing wrong with the Angels but, barring something extremely unforeseen happing, continuing to keep and play Wells over other players in never going to yield a different result than it already has. Yes, this trade was an incredibly costly mistake but sometimes it takes spending even more money to fix a costly mistake and this is one of those cases. The team should have kept Torii.
Anyway, I think that’s quite enough ranting for one post, don’t you? Tune in in a day or two to read my next rant – hint, this one’s about the Angels pitching personnel situation – and for my official congratulations to Mike Trout on his AL Rookie of the Year Award win tomorrow. 😉
Two posts in one day? I know! September really does do crazy things to us baseball fans. In the last post I discussed the latest game and with this post I ask you to take a step into the Not-Really-So-Way Back Machine all the way back – not really that far back – to Wednesday night’s game. Yes, an Angels walk off win against the Mariners. And can I just tell you how much more fun it is to write about that game after Friday night’s win than it was when I started writing it after Thursday’s ick? Because Thursday’s game was a maddening, error filled, flaccid offense, overly generous bullpen kind of a loss that actually had me singing the chorus of Build Me Up Buttercup while writing this post and I shouldn’t have to tell you how wrong that is. (Buttercup is pure evil, a 7th inning stretch crime against Angels fans and players alike.) Friday’s win, on the other hand, was all sunshine, lollipops, single admission double headers, lit halos, kisses from my husband, good bourbon, flourless chocolate cake, three day weekends, glasses of petite verdot and everything else that is awesomely wonderful I can possibly think of, much like Wednesday’s game…
Barring the so remote as to be nonexistent chance of playoff tickets falling into my lap, Wednesday night was my last game for 2012 and what a game it was!! Everyone did whatever was needed to win. Of course, it was not C.J. Wilson’s best outing – I know, now there’s a second half shocker! But, in this case, not his best outing was much better than C.J.’s last two and you could see him really reaching deep and trying to help the team but willing a quality start into existence. A for effort and, when it comes to both baseball and life, that means a lot in my book. So, when I say everyone did whatever was needed to win, I’m including C.J. in that, though I think that all of us, including C.J., hope that his marks for execution are higher next season.
But I digress… Back to everyone did whatever was necessary to win. The bullpen. Was. Awesome!! Repeat. The bullpen. Was. Awesome!! And the Angels sure were grateful for their oh-so-necessary help. In a season where the bullpen has been alternately an asset and a detriment, and I’ve been whining as loudly as anyone when they resemble to Arson Squad of old, I feel it is absolutely imperative to shout it out to the interwebs whenever the bullpen rocks it, and oh boy did they rock it!
Yes, there are holes in the Angels lineup, have been all season – though mostly not the same holes all season it should be noted. But this game even the guys who are struggling busted their asses to do as many little things as possible to keep the game alive and their efforts were effective – which, in this often unkind game we all love, we all know is not always the case. Their efforts combined with those from players on a hot streak made all the difference.
Part of the reason that starting to write this after Thursday’s completely avoidable loss is that my throat was still raw and scratchy from cheering the Angels to victory just the night before. (And I actually had a slight bruise on my palm from smacking the concrete ledge in front of me in celebration of a few great plays, because my clumsiness literally knows no bounds. Doh!) One of the biggest reasons my throat was sore was all of the cheering and “Keep Torii!” shouting I was doing as Mr. Torii Clutch Hunter got it done again and again. And, let me just tell you, soothing hot tea has never tasted so good. It was the tea and honey of victory! 😉
…And then Torii Hunter’s walk off single. The crowd went wild. The players erupted from the dugout to celebrate. It was the perfect cap to the perfect game to end my season at the ballpark on. And if the celebration was a little overly playoff like, I say so what. Hey, if a team has to play playoff intensity and quality baseball from here on out with playoff berth stakes both in and out of their control occurring every moment, then I say playoff like celebrations are only fitting. For every win even if they feel like it. And no, I don’t think this is too many photos to post from my last game of the season. Why do you ask? 😉
Suffice to say, if Thursday’s team shows up in Texas and Seattle, we’re hosed. End of season. But if the team of Wednesday’s and Friday’s games continues to show up, then anything and every wonderful thing is possible. You know what? I think they can do it! Go Angels!
And with that, I leave you with *sniff, sniff* the last of my silly moments photos from the 2012 season:
This end of the regular season prep, ball park therapy is great and all, but I have to say that my second session was significantly less satisfying than my first. Eight innings of solid pitching love from Zack Greinke went sadly unrequited by the Angels offense and were outright spurned by the bullpen in the 9th. It was deflating. (No, worries though, subsequent Angels victories have buoyed my spirits, but I’ll get to that. 🙂 )
Now, I didn’t expect the Angels to sweep the Rangers by any means. I was fairly certain they‘d win the first game with Jered Weaver on the mound. But, to be honest, I rather expected the Angels would lose Wednesday night’s game. Of course all of my jokes about CJ Wilson being the Arlinington Candidate are just that, but the facts of the matter are he’s rarely been good for much of the second half and he hasn’t been good against the Rangers this season. I did, however, think the Angels had a real chance to take the series on Thursday and, as it turns out, they did have chance. They just didn’t seize that chance, as attested to even more strongly by the long line of 0’s peppered with a few 1s and one 2 in the hit column than Ernesto Frieri’s errant pitch turned nifty souvenir for some “lucky” fan in fair territory in the 9th. Like I said, deflating…until the White Sox series!!
I know, I know, it’s only two wins and the Angels now have a long, long, looooooooong shot ahead of them to earn a wild card berth. But that would be practicality and rationality speaking. I think all diehard baseball fans are just a little bit crazy to begin with and only become more so when the post season is still a faint hope. To wit, one win against the Rangers and I was hopeful. Two straight losses against the Rangers and I believed that those faint notes I was hearing in the distance were the fabled fat lady going through her warm up scales…
…But one solid Angels victory against the White Sox (with way more than the mere requisite pieces of flair in my estimation!) and I start thinking dreamy eyed Angels happy thoughts again. You know, all the Angels have to do is sweep the White Sox and then it would just like winning both the Sox and Rangers series, right? I mean, the White Sox are only in first place in their division with a few players having career years. Pshaw, how hard could that be? Then Baltimore won today and I started hearing those scales again only to have hope return when the A’s lost. Now with a second Angels victory, I’m back to dreamy thoughts of a sweep…hey it could happen. Jered Weaver is on the mound tomorrow.
And then? Okay, now I will be rational. The Angels really can’t afford to lose more than one or two more games before the end of the season and the A’s have to lose a lot more than that. The Angels have to stop filling the bases up with no outs only to strand every runner at the end of the inning. The starters and bullpen need to need to be spot on. No more base running gaffes. No more fielding gaffes. Practically speaking, the Angels need to play playoff baseball now and for the rest of the season however long that may be. Possible? Oh hell yes. Probable? We shall see. Fun? Absolutely! More ball park therapy, please. Stat!
And, in the meantime, enjoy a few more pics from the ballgame on Thursday:
Rather than dwelling on a significantly less than stellar game in this post, I would prefer to share a cute fan story. (Besides, Weaver’s on the mound tonight, so I’m sure tonight will be much better!) Cut back to December of this past offseason. My husband Seth and I were talking a lot of baseball. Oh, we do that during the season too, but we tend to talk about it even more when there’s no actual baseball to be had. Neither of us had been keen on the idea of the Angels signing Albert Pujols when it was just so much chatter and speculation because, while he is an amazing player, we were concerned about what that huge contract would do to the team long term. Once the deal actually happened, and news went public about the Angels new deal with Fox, however, we were ecstatic. That was like having your cake and eating it too. But then the Mark Trumbo trade talk started and it sounded serious…
It wasn’t a matter of not wanting Pujols on the team and it certainly wasn’t a matter of thinking Trumbo should play first instead of Pujols. I mean, come on. We’re talking about Albert Pujols. Of course we wanted Pujols to play 1st. My point, argued quite loudly and passionately even if it was only to a room consisting of just Seth and I and our two giant cats, was that if offense has been a problem – and ooooh we all know it had been a problem – no matter how big a bat you just signed, the idea of trading away one of the only other productive bats in the lineup is ludicrous. A functional offense requires several big, productive bats so, somehow, you need to find a place in the lineup for all of those bats.
Now when it comes to our shared baseball fandom, both Seth and I are passionate Angels fans but I’m usually the loud, ranty, speech giving one. Seth isn’t an overly reserved fan by any means. He yells and cheers. He understands, appreciates, and loves. But he does not, strictly speaking, rant…usually. And he does not normally latch passionately on to a specific, favorite player. I tend to reel off a list of about six to twelve Angels when asked about my favorite current player and Seth has a similar, somewhat but not completely overlapping list. So imagine my surprise when Seth literally stood up and passionately declared:
“If they trade that kid, after everything he did for us last season…*indignantly incredulous pause*…if they trade that kid, I am going to buy his first All Star Game jersey – of which there will be many!! – and wear it to every. Single. Angels game. We go to.”
Oh, really? (Not to mention, ‘Oh my! Crash…’ 😉 ) Yeah, I literally applauded him when he finished. It was beautiful! So, when July rolled around and Mark Trumbo, still every inch an Angel thank you very much, made his first All Star Game, you know what I had to do, right? Exactly! August 16th was Seth’s birthday and when he unwrapped my present he found a bright blue, All Star Game 2012 batting practice jersey with the number 44 and Trumbo on the back. I wish I’d taken a photo of his smile, but I was too busy enjoying the ensuing bear hug.
Folks out there in long term relationships? I am sure you will nod and smile right along with me when I say that no matter how much you love your S.O. and no matter how well you know them, you are not going to ace every present you give them. I mean, come on, every birthday present? Every Christmas present? Every anniversary/just because/whatever else you celebrate with gifts present? Even if you are an absolutely brilliant gift giver, some of them are bound to be only so so and one or two will even outright bomb. But this birthday? Oh yeah. I aced it! 😉
“I love winning, man. I fucking love winning. You know what I’m sayin’? It’s like, better than losing!”
…because truly there is an appropriate Bull Durham quote for just about every situation in baseball and in life and that little gem is my quote for today for obvious reasons. Coming off of an awful weekend at the end of a terrible week, Angels players and fans alike badly needed last night’s victory over the Indians and, if my sigh of relief was any indication, the whole of the Angels family slept a lot more relaxed last night than they have in days. Why was this win so cathartic? Well, let us review.
It was the week so bad even Jered Weaver couldn’t salvage a win!!!
Doesn’t that sound like it should be the tag line from an episode of the Twilight Zone? Trust me, I was at Sunday’s game and that description is apt. It wasn’t horror movie scary – my understanding is that that would better describe Saturday’s game during which, in hind sight, I am glad I was busy – but it was disturbing and surreal down to the umpires’ calls.
In a nutshell, Jered Weaver had a bad day. Big deal. It’s bound to happen a handful of times in any given season. And it wasn’t even that bad of a day, if you think about it. He gave up three runs. Okay, for Weaver, that’s a pretty bad day because usually any team getting more than one off him should consider it their lucky day. But, still. Three runs. This was a quality start, a winnable game…unless, of course, your team had to beg, borrow and steal just to get one run. Can’t win if you don’t score. And then the Bullpen, who had performed admirably in a string of games leading up to this point, gave up another run just to add insult to injury.
So, Weaver suffered only his second loss of the season. The loss would not even be worth noting beyond that fact if it wasn’t a mid August game in the middle of an Angels slump fit to give any fan pause…if it wasn’t for the fact that poor Angels pitching had been contributing to team losses at an alarming rate including throughout the week leading up to this game and then the team turned around and squandered a quality start…if not for the fact that fans could watch the division and wild card race distances growing with each game. But it was all of those things, oh and then the Angels turned around and did pretty much the same thing on Monday with C.J. Wilson on the mound. Ugh!
So, it was a week and a weekend so bad that many Angels fans declared the season over in frustration. I left the game Sunday tweeting something to the effect of ‘I have never declared a season over until making the post season becomes a mathematical impossibility and I’m not about to start now’, and I stand by that. However improbable it may seem, I have hope unless it becomes literally mathematically impossible. So with that context, imagine my joy at seeing everything working right for the Angels last night, even with a few bobbles. Zack Greinke looked great. And if he gave up one too many runs for a quality start, no matter, the offense and some great fielding picked him up and even offset a scary bullpen moment from the usually reliable LaTroy Hawkins. In fact, it was probably more cathartic for fans to see a win that happened with a few mishaps because it was starting to feel like the Angels couldn’t win unless they had near perfection on their side. True, it’s only one win. However, the way the team looked making it happen I see much more of that in the Angels future. Which brings us back to my post’s opening quote…because…well…seriously, could anyone capture the feeling better than Nuke LaLoosh did? I think not!
So, on that note, let me leave you with a few photos that will make you smile…well, they make me smile 🙂 :
In their last 5 games, the Angels have:
- Scored 46 runs!
- Allowed the opposing team to score 44 runs.
- Hit 15 home runs!
- Allowed the opposing team to hit 10 home runs.
- Struck out 30 batters!
- Were struck out 48 times.
- Came from behind to tie or pull into the lead so many times, they reminded me of the 2009 Angels who were among the league leaders in that regard.
- Blew the lead so frequently that none of those comebacks amounted to anything.
- Beat the division leading Rangers 2 times, one of which was more of a good old-fashioned shellacking.
- Lost to the division leading Rangers 2 times and the White Sox once, just for good measure.
- Left 40 guys on base.
- Went to the bullpen 16 times – 4 times apiece in the last three games.
- Moved out of 3rd place (yay!) to tie the A’s for 2nd.
- Shot past the A’s to a 2nd place that was just 3 games out of 1st place.
- Sank right back into 3rd place one game further out of 1st than they started.
- Brought me to my feet cheering repeatedly.
- Sat me right back down again in exasperation complete with loud expletives and an annoyed fist bump on the table for good measure repeatedly.
Wow! There is an inordinate amount of both !!! and #$@! in that list. Come to think of it, I suppose this is true in different ways both for Angels fans and for fans of the opposition. So what on Earth are we supposed to make of a crazy, simultaneously hot and cold, brilliant upside, scary downside team like this? I would say that the Angels really need to get key players back off the DL in top form, or top August form at any rate, and figure out what’s broken with the starting rotation and fix it. This list just illustrates what those who have been watching the games already know – so many important pieces, essential to having a shot at the post season are already present, accounted for and how in the way the Angels are playing right now.
However, the sick and amazing bullpen of a few weeks ago has become a sick and ailing bullpen in the absence of Scott Downs. As much as Andrew Romine looks like he can fill a big league short stop’s shoes in a few seasons, the defense and the base paths are both missing Erick Aybar. Recent, blessedly brief, stints with various strains for Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo did the lineup no favors. And the starting rotation is kind of, sort of, maybe just starting to come together…maybe. But Dan Haren did push back another start due to back issues. (On the one hand, way to go Danny for admitting you’re hurting and taking the steps you need to fix it. On the other hand, ouch. We need him back strong and we need him back now.) Ervin Santana is restricted to three innings until he can get his head straight. And Zack Greinke, if the small sample size of the last two starts are any indication, is still working through his home vs. road issues, though I do admire a pitcher who toughs out a bad few innings and finishes strong.
The other thing I would take from this Jekyll and Hyde list is that the Angels season future is unclear. I know that a lot of folks saying it’s over now, that this Rangers series was the “the moment” and the Angels blew it. But I don’t buy that. Oh, I believe in momentum, but I also think that trying to pick out what “the moment” is in any season as it’s happening is impossible. It’s a little too much like writing history as it happens. Oh, plenty of people do write history as it happens and I can tell you as a history major that historians do value such analysis…but as primary source documents not as their intended purpose. The 2012 season is moving quickly. But we do have two solid months of baseball left and, for the Angels, much of that baseball will be played in the AL West. If they can get some guys back or start playing around their absence with more grace, well, anything is still possible.
What’s the best cure for the old “post All Star Break, my Angels have been playing in the Eastern Time Zone so I haven’t caught a game in more than a week and, oh by the way, they weren’t playing so hot” blues? Well, I don’t know about you, but heading down to the Big A the second the Angels got back in town to watch them beat their biggest division rival soundly worked for me! What a night, what a game! And what’s the best cure for the old “Rangers came back the next day and stomped all over the Angels” blues? I suggest having a selective short term memory – forget about Saturday’s game, relive Friday’s and hope for a better Sunday! So to that end…
All the way down the 57 freeway to the stadium on Friday night Seth and I kept hearing about a playoff atmosphere, and, to be honest, I mocked the radio more than a bit. A playoff atmosphere? Yes, the Angels were facing the Rangers, but for the first of the 13 games before seasons’ end and it’s only July. However, entering the gates it was clear that if the radio announcers were exaggerating, it wasn’t by much. I have never been to a playoff game — a deficiency I’d love the opportunity to correct this season! — but this was definitely close to what I imagine a playoffs atmosphere would feel like. The stadium was packed, the fans were pumped and, behold the icing on the cake, in an unannounced giveaway, the Angels were handing out ThunderStix:
As for the game? Well, this is how the serious playoff contending Angels play as opposed to that other team that shows up sometimes…sometimes, including Saturday. Jered Weaver set the tone early. He got the first batter out only to give up a home run to Elvis Andrus on the next at bat. But did he crumble? Hello, this is Jered Weaver we’re talking about. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the last time a Ranger crossed the plate that game. Weaver only really got into trouble one more time that game – bases loaded with one out in the 3rd and Josh Hamilton at the plate. But he got himself out of trouble by coaxing Hamilton into a double play. Inning over — hit the road Jack. 😉
The Angels bats were more than ready to follow Weaver’s dominant lead, getting the one run back in the first inning and following it with five more as the game progressed. The TnT boys went off with clutch, productive singles in the early innings and then in spectacular fashion in later innings. Mark Trumbo’s 6th inning TrumBomb was, in essence, a line drive turned run seeking missile over the centerfield fence, much like the hit that made Big Papi bounce up and down like a gleeful child during the Home Run Derby. Mike Trout followed his lead the next inning with an opposite field bomb of his own.
As impressive as TnT was, they shouldn’t completely overshadow the rest of the Angels offense. Albert Pujols, looking every inch the Albert of old, went 3 for 4, advancing runners and scoring a run of his own. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar brought in two runs a piece with clutch hits and a productive out. And so on. I really feel like when the offense is functioning this well as a unit, the Angels are one scary team! So how about we see some more of this offense this week, okay guys?
Much has been made of the Angels “BlowPen” this season, the new version of the “Arson Squad” of old, but I feel like after a very rough initial start, the acquisition of Ernesto Frieri and some oft discussed key moves, they’ve had more good days than bad. Kevin Jepsen, of all people, has returned from his DL stint in pretty good form. And while it will take a lot more quality relief outings for the Angels Family to stop holding our collective breaths when he takes the mound, he was effective again. Things got a little too exciting when Jason Isringhausen took the mound in the 9th, I guess just to let us all know we shouldn’t take a five run lead for granted…um…thanks? Yeah, no. But still, no runs, no foul. Light that baby up and enjoy the Friday Night Fireworks!
And so the moral of our story is: Hand out ThunderStix…er…I mean TnT Stix every home game for the rest of the season!!! Oh, yeah. And, you know, quality pitching starts and effectively thundering bats are probably a good idea too! 😉