New Flash: the Angels are having an absolutely miserable season! Oh, so I take it you’ve heard that already, then? Right. You must be one of those not living under a rock kind of people. Yeah, yeah. I suppose that would explain your having an internet connection and all that.
Anyway, so where was I? Oh, yeah. Angels. Miserable season. Right. Which, you know, does tend to create some pretty miserable fans. Beyond miserable in many cases. My case, for instance. And, sufficiently so I might add, that I have noticed many changes in my behavior towards the game over that which I tend to exhibit during good or even meh Angels seasons. For example:
I find that I’m watching QuickPitch and Sports Center a lot less. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that my desire to watch QuickPitch, Sports Center and the like and, indeed, even to watch the Angels’ own post game show or listen to Angels Rant…er…Talk…er…oh never mind, Rant is far more accurate and understandable this season…is directly proportional to how well the Angels did on any given night. And the team is currently 55 and 68, so I’ll just leave the connection of those particular dots in your more than capable hands.
On those occasions when I actually do watch QuickPitch/Sports Center/Intentional Talk/MLB Tonight/Name Your Poison of Choice, I absolutely dread when it comes time to talk about the Angels. Because, even when they win, you know that the analysts and commentators still have to put the game in the context of the Angels’ overall season…and then those all the more cringe worthy for being so very spot on words pour forth. Disappointment…Catastrophe…Underperformance…Injuries…Errors…blah blah blah. We know already, okay? We know. Oh, how we know. *Sighs and shakes her head* Can’t you maybe just, I don’t know, relate the final score, say “And the Angels…” then sigh, shrug and move on? I mean, why continue to beat a dead horse.
I find myself experiencing irrational annoyance over any Angels wins that occur when I’m not watching. Seth and I watch a truly sick amount of Angels baseball. In the course of any given season, we easily catch 140 or so of the games on TV, from the ballpark, on the radio or online when no other option is available. But there is just no way we can catch every single game. Weekday day games? East coast weeknight games? We catch some of them, but there is this work thing, you know. And we both kind of have to do it. Damn that Morty and Bill, insisting on being paid and all that. Anyway, in a normal season, if the Angels win and I’m not watching, I cheer and catch any should not be missed highlights on MLBN or online. This season, however? It’s not that I don’t appreciate the win, but even so I actually find myself with thoughts like this: “Those, fuckers! I suffer through watching how many crappy games and they finally decide to play like a major league baseball team for a game or two and don’t even have the decency to do it when I can watch them?!!” Yeah. Um. Hey, remember I did say irrational. After all, Fan does come from fanatic, not from some word that means calm, reasonable individual.
Ads are frequently annoying, and the Angels ads simply have never been funny enough to avoid this description. However, this season I find that the Angels ads annoy me more than usual. “It’s time for Angels baseball!” No kidding! You think? I mean, it’s practically September. It sure is time for the team to start playing Angels baseball already. Any day now guys. Any. Day. Now.
Facing “bad” teams is no longer the source of relaxation and enjoyment it once was, indeed quite the opposite. For, while one of the glories of baseball is that on any given game day the worst team in the league can defy all expectations and beat the pants off of the best team in the league, this is an unlikely scenario. When your team, however, is also among the worst teams in the league facing “bad” teams is suddenly just as dicey a proposition as facing any other team. Yet, there is still that part of me that thinks of my team as a “good” team because, hey, they have been before, by golly. So all of the humiliation of struggling to beat or – Gasp! — losing to a “bad” team is still there, only now it’s oh so much more likely an outcome. Baseball fans of teams who don’t have you nodding along with this post, trust me. The end result of this situation? Yeah, it’s even less fun than it sounds.
I almost — almost mind you! – find myself wishing the season away. And for me, this is the ultimate sacrilege as a baseball fan. And, while I will always love my Angels through suck and through win, I can’t help but hate them just a little for this. A bad day at the ballpark is still better than a good day almost anywhere else. But having so very many bad days? With no end in sight? Well that actually does the unthinkable – it sucks some of the excitement right out of that day at the ballpark.
It’s only one season. Maybe next year. Blah. Blah. Blah. *sigh*
Well looky there Lou Brown, the Angels have themselves an honest to goodness winning streak going on! And while, yes, it has happened before in 2013 — twice before to be precise, not that we fans have been counting or obsessing or agonizing over it or anything *nods* — at a five games and counting it is, in fact, the longest winning streak the Angels have managed this season, but two whole games no less. Now, a five game winning streak may indeed be a little short for a Storm Trooper, so to speak, and normal-season-Angels-Fan-Kristen is absolutely rolling her eyes at this 2013 season version of me but, to be honest, I am just way too giddy happy to care.
Watching the Angels play Tuesday and Wednesday against the Mariners in particular was downright exhilarating. The offense was absolutely raking, starters Jerome Williams and C.J. Wilson were dealing, the fielding was spectacular and the bullpen was everything you could possibly want them to be. Things were a little uglier yesterday, especially in terms of bullpen performance, but the team kept it together with strengths picking up the slack for weaknesses. In short, this was the Angels baseball we fans have been aching to see, the kind of Angels baseball that we just knew was lurking out there…somewhere…despite the numerous failed search party attempts and the increasingly hopeless expressions on the faces of the park rangers coordinating their efforts. So, does this mean hope is restored and all is suddenly right with our Halo’d little world? Hardly. Only five games and all that. But it is a start and I sure do hope the guys can keep playing like this because, well, this late into May it may or may be enough to lead to anything meaningful in terms of standings, but it sure would be a lot of fun to watch. And baseball that’s this fun to watch is no small thing.
So, in the middle of this Angels streak business, the team managed to remind MLB fans everywhere of another important fact: this Mike Trout kid? He’s pretty darned good at baseball. In the midst of an alleged sophomore slump, the prodigy is hitting just over .300 with 10 homeruns, a third of the way towards equaling last season’s total. Yes, he got off to a bit of a slow start, but this is only the kid’s first full season in the majors. We really have no pattern of behavior to compare this season’s progression to. Oh, and then there was the little matter of that hitting for the cycle thing on Tuesday. You may have heard or read about somewhere. I think a few of the local publications might have picked it up. 😉
And here I had been thinking that all of this season’s Mike Trout hype was a little embarrassingly over the top, possibly to the point of being detrimental. You know, the bobble head give away. The pint glass give away. The front office created daily Trout Farm cheering section out in left field, complete with themed shirt giveaways. The Subway commercial. All of the appearances in MLB commercials. Taken on their own, each of these things made me smile broadly…well, except for the Trout Farm. I have a pet peeve against such things being created by the Marketing Department. Naturally occurring and fan driven is infinitely cooler. But that can be the subject of another blog post…and I digress.
Anyway, individually these promotions and hype are neat, fun for the fans and certainly well deserved by Trout. But, the sum total of the hype on the shoulders of a 21 year old kid this early in his career? In the beginning I just felt queasy about the potential for pressure and harm, especially when Trout was warming up into the season slowly. But watching him play as amazingly as…well…as Mike Trout? I still think it all may be a little too much, but not out of worry for Trout mid you. I just think that the Angels driven components make us look a little overeager and unused to having such young talent on the team. However, in the grand scheme of things, although I may shake my head and role my eyes over it a little from time to time, I’m okay with all of it and having fun with most of it. And Mike Trout? Well, attention, no attention or anything in between, clearly the kid is going to be just fine. We don’t call him SuperTrout and Troutstanding for nothing!
To paraphrase Lou Brown, easily one of the best fictional baseball coaches ever to grace the cinematic Majors: OK, we won a game Saturday. And we won Sunday. That’s called “two in a row”. And if we win again tomorrow, that’s called a “winning streak.” It has happened before!
Now, clearly, quoting the infinitely quotable Major League in reference to the 2013 Angels is hardly an original thought and I’m not even the first to sling this particular gem around this week. However, I would dearly love to be one of the last because, much like Lou Brown in his follow up comments to this bit of awesomeness, I would like to believe that the Angels are heating up. Really, I would. But this season?? Always there is the Big B…what a Buttercup!
Let me ‘splain (and, you know, see if I can throw in any more random movie references from the depths of my crazed brain while I’m at it!). Towards the end of the sad, sad debacle that was Wednesday night’s pitching implosion, abandon all hope…no, no, wait, here comes the Angels offense!…Nope, just kidding, more LOBsters than a large seafood chain could handle…Waaaaaiiiit, just kidding again, check out that offense!!…*facepalm* Nevermind, more LOBsters…emotional whiplash of a game, I tweeted, ‘This is such a buttercup game. And the Angels have just buttercupped all over the buttercupping thing. Blah.’ And, you know what? Even though the Angels have a proto-winning streak going on here – potentially their third of the season, talk about *facepalm*! – that sentiment actually sums up the whole season so far for me. Because, yes, I was in part being cute and trying to interject some much needed levity into the situation by using the name of the Angels’ much hated – at least by, let’s call it, all fans in their right mind; the rest of you are highly suspect – 7th inning stretch ditty as a stand in for the long, drawn out f-bomb that most of us were feeling at that point. However, my word choice meant so much more as well. Let us review the lyrics of the song, shall we?:Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin’ You know that I have from the start So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don’t break my heart
Forget all of the perfectly rational, ‘who in the hell thought that this song would be an appropriate rooting-for-the-home-team-at-a-sporting-event song and would they please turn their marketing card in…right now!’ thoughts you’re having at this moment because, sadly, this season they’re beside the point. Thus far the 2013 Angels are the Buttercup Angels — always building us up, just to let us down again for another inning, another game, another streak, of the ‘you don’t want one’ kind. Offense starts coming back. Starting pitching blows a herd of goats. Starting pitching gets it done. Offense goes to sleep and/or the Angels bullpen decides to go all “flashback” on us and turns Arson Squad. Sweep the Tigers. Lose the next 5 – yes, count them, 5! – series. And so on, and so forth. So this proto-streak? I want it to be the real thing. Dear God I want it to be the real thing and the start of something great, but I just…I just don’t know.
But if you’re about to throw the B word at me, you just zip your lip right there. There is no bandwagon. There never was. Seth and I are bleeding red fans who have nothing to jump off of. We love this team, even if this season, like oh so many in the not so distant past, it’s a heavily frustrated, profanity laced, shouting kind of love. We’re still watching every game we can on TV. We’re still buying tickets to the Big A though, being less excited, we’ll probably attend closer to 15 games than our customary 20 – 25. It’s just the focus that has shifted. In another tweet this week, I confessed to fellow Angels fans that, even though it makes me feel like a bad fan, at this point I’m just hoping for the team to straighten up enough that they’re at least fun to watch play again…you know *cue hope and optimism yet again* like the last two games were! Anything more than that seems so farfetched that I just can’t bring my brain to contemplate it without the Angels themselves providing significantly more incentive. But the minute they do? (And, so help me, I can feel it starting already.) Well, I’ll let them build me up once more, praying the whole way that, this time? This time it’s real, and they don’t let me down…again.
(Cross posted with edits from L.A. Angels Insider. I don’t do a lot of cross posting, but this one fit the bill for both blogs.)
Angels fans woke up yesterday morning to the incredible news that the team will send, not one, not two, but four deserving players to Kansas City for the 2012 All Star Game: Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Trumbo will also lend his increasingly legendary bat to the Home Run Derby and fans still have the chance to send a fifth Angel to Kansas City! Ernesto Frieri is one of five American League players on the ballot for the Final Vote which concludes this Thursday, July 5th. Take that East Coast bias!
Of course, despite Angels fans’ best efforts, none of the honored players were selected in the fan vote. We have the players vote and managerial selection to thank for these well deserved recognitions. Now, obviously fans don’t vote for pitchers and the two most deserving Angels position players this season were each a bit of an odd case. Trout wasn’t called up until April 28th and consequently wasn’t included on the ballot. Trumbo was included on the ballot but as a third baseman, a position at which he only received eight starts none of which, admittedly, were of All Star caliber, unlike his mighty bat and starts in the outfield. But let’s be honest here, even in a season with completely normal circumstances for the highest performing players, can Angels fans ever rely on the fan vote to give their favorite team a fair chance?
Let’s talk about the fan vote. I vividly remember voting for All Stars as a child at Dodgers stadium. (Yes, you read that correctly. I was raised as a Dodger fan. But with time, adulthood and intensive ballpark therapy, I got better. ;)) All Star ballots were placed on all of the seats and my sister and I would run around in between innings, picking up every unclaimed ballot in our section (after the 4th inning, of course – you know, Dodgers game) so we could vote for every Dodger candidate as many times as possible. I also did the same thing for the Angels players on the AL side of the ballot. My grandfather, whom I adored, was a diehard Angels fan going back to the minor league Angels in the PCL days, so the initial seeds for my eventual love of this team were planted early.
As much as this is kind of an adorable story when we’re talking about a couple of passionate, very young fans in pigtails, it’s also an illustration of exactly what is wrong with the fan vote. How many adult fans approach the All Star Vote with any greater thought or analysis than my sister and I did when we were six and nine? Not nearly enough. Much like my sister and I as children, all too many fans vote for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back. Casual fans vote in droves for uniforms from either the Yankees, who literally have the most recognized sports brand in the word, or from any team that has recently burst into the extremely short memory of the public consciousness, usually with a recent World Series appearance.
This is not to say that the fan vote never makes appropriate selections. Deserving All Stars start every year. But among the deserving there are just as many controversies. Is Mike Napoli, currently batting .238, really the best catcher in the American League right now? Hasn’t Derek Jeter gotten in a few years recently based far more on that fact that he is a walking, talking baseball legend and deservedly so, rather than his current year’s performance? And so on. Not to mention the fact that the fan vote invites ballot stuffing with even less subtlety than the infamous Tammeny Hall political machine of old. While the players vote and managers’ selections are not immune to snubs either, participants seem better able to put away pettier considerations and make more of the right choices.
Unfortunately, MLB can’t do away with the fan vote all together. It’s an important tool for building casual fan interest in the All Star Game and in the second half of the season. As with any sport, there are a lot more casual MLB fans than diehards out there and all of our teams benefit when they come out to the ballpark frequently, catch the game on television regularly and spend as much money as possible. However, that doesn’t mean that MLB can’t change the All Star Game voting format as long as it remains compelling for the fans. With all schedule and format changes already in the works for next season, 2013 is the perfect time to change the format of the All Star Vote and reduce the impact of the fan vote.
Judging from voter turnout, fans enjoy the newer final vote process. Why not make the initial fan vote more like the final fan vote? For example, instead of voting for one player for each position, fans could vote for four players total with no restrictions on their selections. Fans can vote again in a longer format final vote, selecting another four players from an All Star Game manager selected list. In between the two fan votes, the player vote and managers’ selection process will have two more picks than usual (allowing non-fan dictated wiggle room to avoid some of the ‘there was no room him’ controversy) and managers will be allowed to determine their own starting line ups. Part of the fan draw will be tuning in to the All Star Game to see who has the honor of starting, as opposed to already knowing ahead of time. Perhaps a few hints can be given as the game approaches with starting pitchers announced a day or two ahead of time as a teaser.
Of course there will still be controversies. Opinions will always differ and some managers will always be better than others at picking the best players rather than just their own players. However I can’t help but think that, with recent examples of the benefit of home field advantage during the World Series fresh in everyone’s mind, a format that puts more of the All Star Game decisions in the hands of players and managers will lead to better choices. I’d suggest no longer having the All Star Game determine home field advantage for the World Series but, sadly, the likelihood of that even being considered is so inconceivable that it almost makes my voting format change suggestions look possible.
Driving down the 605 freeway to work today, what wondrous sight should greet my none-too-thrilled-to-be-office-bound-on-such-a-gorgeous-day eyes but this stupendous new billboard! What a lovely Valentine for the fans! Okay, so I actually telecommute three days a week so this billboard could have been up since last Wednesday night and I would have been none the wiser. But I saw it for the first time today, so I’m going with ‘lovely Valentine.’ Besides, this billboard is so much less ephemeral than roses, doesn’t require one to make reservations or deal with crowds and won’t take up valuable bed real estate unlike a teddy bear or other stuffed animal. It’s perfect! 😉
There are several of these billboards along my commute, a small series of them apparently, because another one a little further down the way had the same design but said “Now Playing” with the Angels logo for the A again. Passing the first one made me giddy with the reminder of the approaching baseball season. Passing the second one made me smile a little wider still. Passing the third one made me swell with pride over my team…and then frown a little as I started to question the whole ad campaign. Are we really only advertising Albert Pujols this season? Seriously?
Not that I’m complaining about featuring Pujols on billboards. I mean, he’s only the best or one of the best, depending on who you talk to, player in the game. And it’s not like he designed the ad campaign, or even requested such treatment. It’s just…well…we have other players too. Other wonderful players who are either already stars in their own right or on their way to becoming so. Guys who kept the team in contention last season right up until the end even though they ultimately fell short of the mark. You know, Jered Weaver. Dan Haren. Mr. Ervin “No hitter – I finally got that Cleveland beast off my back” Santana. Torii Hunter. And, heck, after last season Mark Trumbo. I’d like to see some of these guys on billboards too.
Of course, this is hardly unique to the Angels. Most teams who land a big free agency signing do the same thing. The whole Dodgers Mannywood campaign comes most immediately to my mind, perhaps because those billboards were in the same places on my commute as these new Angels billboards not so very long ago. And I am sure you all could provide me with quite an array of additional examples. But the fact that this is a common, traditional ad campaign style doesn’t make it a good one, in my opinion. To me the real story here isn’t just that Albert Pujols is an Angel now. For all that he is amazing, Pujols couldn’t be a baseball team of one if the rest of the team was ineffective. No, the real story is that Albert Pujols is donning an Angels uniform alongside our existing players, that he has the potential to take an already good team to the next level.
I would prefer to see several different individual player billboards – half of them Albert by all means, but the other half featuring a handful of others. Then, as you actually hit Anaheim, I would like to see a billboard or two with all of the featured players on it together. I think that billboard campaign would tell a more powerful story. …Then again, what do I know about copy, design and marketing? Oh, yeah. Never mind. 😉