Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Freeway Series Edition! This is the fourth in what we hope will be an occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Between two Giants World Series wins in three years (sorry Matt 😉 ), the AL West making quite the exciting splash in September 2012 and the ensuing Postseason, and recent shrewd personnel moves throughout the AL and NL West, MLB’s attention sure seems to be packing up and heading west these days. Despite the Dodgers and Angels terrible 2013 starts, Matt and I are both incredibly excited by this development want to share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? Nah, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!
For this edition, we have posed six Angels and Dodgers oriented questions to be answered on both of our blogs prompted by the first two months of the 2013 season and the Freeway Series that begins today. We hope you enjoy this continuing freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snarky ones), please ask away:
So, the 2013 Dodgers and Angels. Hmmm…how can I put this delicately? What the hell happened??
Kristen says: While I love SABR and all of the increased attention even the average fan pays to statistics and analysis these days, the drawback is that no one is satisfied until they have a specific, detailed answer to performance questions these days and, I’m sorry, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. I mean, if there were a specific, detailed answer to the question of the Angels slower than molasses in a blizzard start to the season, don’t you think the problem would have been quickly solvable? In a nutshell, I think this was a perfect storm for the Angels. Heading into the season, player transactions were very tightly concentrated on beefing up the offense, and very much at the expense of the quality of the Angels starting rotation while virtually ignoring the bullpen. I was already queasy over the idea of assuming the offense would always pick up the pitching and then Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance with a series of injuries taking out the only ace in the Angels pitching staff, turning the starting rotation and bullpen into personnel revolving doors, removing key set up pieces from the lineup and hampering the starts of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton – severely, in the case of Pujols. Does that fully explain the Angels start? Perhaps not for everyone, but when you throw in the added pressure of not living up to sky high expectations as each new calamity occurred, it explains things for me…not that I’ve been obsessing over this since Opening Day or anything…*whistles innocently*
Matt says: Well with the Dodgers I am still trying to figure out what is going on. This season hasn’t been the start we all expected for them. To be fair Injuries has hit the Dodgers pretty good but that’s no excuse. Between issues with batting with RISP, Bullpen meltdowns, and mismanagement in games the Dodgers have found themselves in a good hole.
Be honest. Do you think the Dodgers/Angels’ issues are fixable? How fixable? And what would it take at this point for you as a fan to call the season a success?
Matt says: Yes I do believe it is but that’s up to the Manager. Switch up the line up to where it’s more effective to get runs, Make better bullpen decisions and not put the same guys who keep blowing the game in. As far as what will make this season successful? Winning and getting back to the Playoffs is what will save this season. At the start all the expectations were going to be on but missing the playoffs after spending on the Starting Pitching and making changes will be a disapointment. They have to get it in gear ASAP.
Kristen says: Well, don’t look now but the Angels offense is back online, the pitchers are performing well enough and then some, and the guys have quite a nice little winning streak going on heading into the Freeway Series. And the cherry on top? Ace Jered Weaver is coming off the DL and scheduled to pitch on Wednesday…the game I have tickets for. Score! If this level of play continues, then I will count the Angels season a success, no matter what the standings say at the end. It’s not that I don’t care about making the playoffs, I very much do. And I’m not counting the Angels out at all. If they keep playing like this, anything is possible especially with two wild card opportunities. No, I’m just acknowledging the fact that when a team digs themselves this deep of a hole to start the season, they are no longer fully in control of their own destiny – final standings are as much a matter of the other teams having off days as your team having good ones, something that we as baseball fans know you can hope for all you want but never, ever count on.
There have been talk/rumors of Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia possibly getting fired. Do you believe it’s time for them to go or should they even take blame?
Kristen says: Nope. Never. You will not see me calling for Sosh’s head over this. Not going to happen. I may cringe over his bullpen management from time to time…er…all the time and yes, there have been and will always be instances of mismanagement. But I really think that as fans we have a tendency to point to the handful of mismanaged plays and ignore the rest of the game. Besides, injuries aren’t the manager’s fault. Personnel changes are not the manager’s fault. And somehow, despite all of the setbacks, the Angels are climbing back into this race and I think that that speaks volumes for the players’ grit, of course, but also for Sosh’s ability to keep them together even through the rough times.
Matt says: I’m going to be straight up with Mattingly. From the looks of this he isn’t the right fit for the Dodgers. He has mismanaged games on his part and at times shows lack of fire but as of late he is starting to pick up that fire and take action. Benching Ethier and Kemp as well as calling out the team is a start right there. Now should he take blame. Yes but not ALL of it. Blame has to go around to everyone on their part. Mattingly has messed up on his part and it’s going to cost him his job at some point.
One more uncomfortable question: What do you think about emergency/closed door team meetings — players only or otherwise? Are they ever effective or do they just feed the drama?
Matt says: You know about those meetings I actually really like them. You have time to really air out whatever issues their are and talk about what you have to do as a team to get it going in the right direction. The Media will always make it more than what it needs to be but they are an effective way to talk as a team to get things going in a positive spin.
Kristen says: I think that, like any other tool, closed door meetings can be useful at times, useless at others and downright detrimental at others. I think a team meeting certainly can turn things around and, when such things become necessary, I do love it when the players show enough passion, initiative and team spirit to take ownership and have their own meeting. Here’s the thing though. Back in the day, fans would never hear about a closed door meeting or certainly not about every closed door meeting. Now we hear about every single one, often as they’re happening. Frequently we even hear what was said at the meetings – pretty contrary to the point of ‘closed door’ don’t you think? This is the part I don’t think it healthy. It adds to the drama and it also leads to the tail wagging the dog. When things start to go downhill, everyone expects a closed door meeting creating external pressure for the meeting to happen, rather than the meeting just occurring or not occurring naturally in keeping with the rhythms and chemistry of that particular team.
With the new schedule and league realignment, rivalry matchups including the Freeway Series have shrunk from 6 games to 4 for the season. Do you like this development or is it messing too much with tradition, albeit a relatively recent tradition?
Kristen says: I love the Freeway Series and the rivalry fan energy that both surrounds it at the ballparks and spills over into our work and social lives for a few days. I’m really going to miss that lasting for two full series and, to be honest, a shorter more compacted Freeway Series cuts into my ability to attend one game at each stadium, a mini-tradition Seth and I have enjoyed for a few years. But, at the same time, I get the necessity of trimming down the rivalry matchups under the new schedule. I also understand how awkward and underwhelming two series’ worth of rivalry matchups were under the old schedule for teams/fan bases who had no natural rival and were stuck with 6 games against an, in essence, MLB manufactured and assigned rival. So, while I’m disappointed for Angels and Dodgers fans, I get that this was the best course of action.
Matt says: Well I ALWAYS have enjoyed the freeways series. To be honest I don’t have an issue with the series being 4 games because you have 2 in LA then right then another 2 in Anaheim. So more of a 4 game series home and home. I know this will eventually end up being a Opening Day match up soon with the realignment so 4 games isn’t bad. Though I did like the 6 game format.
Make your predictions now. Which team will win the Freeway Series and with what record?
Matt says: With what I have seen from the Dodgers they for some reason can’t get it together. Against St Louis they were shut out where they didn’t even show up and Yesterday where errors took them out of the game. This series starts off with Greinke and Ryu so it’s not pitching that I am worried about but the lack of offense. With that said I see this series going 2-2. Dodgers taking one in LA and one in Anaheim but with the Dodgers I really don’t know what to expect out of them at times especially with a hot Angels team coming into Dodger Stadium.
Kristen says: The Angels are hot right now and, since the start of interleague play, have owned the NL, including the Dodgers. I predict the Angels will win 3 out 4.
Meet the Bloggers Bonus Question: Do you enjoy the Freeway Series and, if so, what is your first/best Freeway Series memory?
Kristen says: I can’t pick out one specific, favorite memory – there are just too many! But the thing I love the most about the Freeway Series and the warm, fuzzy sense of family tradition I get from it. Growing up, my family primarily rooted for the Dodgers, but the Angels were Grandpa’s team, so I always knew both teams and loved watching them play each other. And, coming from such a Freeway family, as it were, my parents always took my sister and I to at least one Freeway Series game. There was no interleague play when I was a child so the Freeway Series was a pre-season exhibition. This meant that the Freeway Series was frequently my first live baseball game after the long winter without, adding to the specialness of the occasion.
Matt says: Theres so many favorite memories and moments from this series. I enjoy the Freeway Series because it’s two teams that’s close to each other clashing. As far as my favorite/best Freeway Series memory wellll theres so many that I can’t pin point on one. Mine would have to be my first trip to Angels Stadium in 2009. The night before Juan Rivera (Angels player at the time) hit a walk off Home Run. This night Jarred and Jeff Weaver pitched against each other. The Dodgers won that night but what made it memorible was that it was my Very First Freeway Series that I witnessed (The First of Many).
So, Kristen. How was the ballgame?
Oh, it was nice. Fun. You know. They threw the ball, caught the ball and hit the ball. Couple of good plays. Just another Halo victory, as the announcers say. Oh…yeah…there was one other thing…
OMG!!! OMG!!! Jered Weaver threw a no hitter!!! And it was one of the most amazing things I have seen in my entire life. He was so on, he made it look effortless. I am still bouncing with excitement as I type this hours later and might quite possibly still be cheering were it not for the fact that I am hoarse from all of the cheering I did at the game – my neighbors are grateful and they don’t even know it, he he. Congratulations, Jered! This was beyond well deserved!!!
So, yeah. That was the first no hitter I’ve ever seen in person, a thought I heard echoed by many, most of whom are older than I and have therefore seen a great deal more live baseball, as the jubilant crowd lingered, mingled and eventually meandered their way out. It was just so magical that I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave. I know I had to pry myself away from the rails. So, now I am going to try to string together a few coherent thoughts about the game and the Angels beyond just exclaiming Wow!! over and over again, but I can’t make any promises on that front. As I said before, I’m pretty giddy.
So, as you may have heard a place or two…or ten…thousand, the Angels had a rough April. Enough pieces were there for a winning team, but those pieces just weren’t working together or at the same time. The team desperately needed not just a spark, but several sparks in rapid succession, sufficient to get a fire a going. So, starting Friday, the team makes several needed changes. Spark. Last night Jerome Williams pitched a gem, a complete game, three-hit shutout. Spark! And the offense started to pick up – Hello Torii ‘Homerun’ Hunter and Howie ‘one double shy of the cycle’ Kendrick! Spark!!
Then Jered Weaver takes the mound and flat out deals – 9 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 9 strikeouts and 1 walk. He threw 77 of his 121 pitches for strikes. Spark! Spark!! Spark!!!
And to top it all off, finally gifted with a lineup that simultaneously contained all of the teams’ best hitters, the Angels offense just went to town. Nine runs on 15 hits?! Baseballs were flying over the wall, zinging into the outfield, sneaking through the infield. It was a sight to behold. Spark! SPARK! Whooooosh. Conflagration? I hope so. We’ll find out this series when we face the Blue Jays.
Yes, we could look at sweeping the Twins as just the Angels beating up on a team that had an even worse April than we did. The Angels just did what they were supposed to do, big deal – except that in this case it is. The Angels did what they were supposed to do, which means that all of those sparks are starting to catch fire. Hip hip and ten thousand huzzahs. Keep it going boys and soon everyone’s going to catch on fire. So, Dan Haren. Weaver one upped Williams. You’re a competitive fellow. How about it? Care to try for the one up like you did last season? It could be fun!
So back to this whole no hitter thing. Being there was almost indescribable, but I’ll try. The crowd was sparse. Way too sparse for my tastes. Blame the aforementioned April woes combined with a weeknight game on a night that really looked like the morning’s rain might resume at any moment despite what the weather reports said. But by the fifth inning this small crowd was so excited, so invested in every pitch, that the feeling was absolutely electric and it filled the stadium.
Everyone knew what was going on. Ball players like to say they never look at the scoreboard but the fans make no such pretenses. And we all kept looking at each other, giving thumbs up and high fives. Bouncing up and down. Cheering. Pumping our fists and banging on the empty seats. All jumping out of our skins to shout out loud that which tradition forbids us from so much as whispering before the outcome of the final pitch…well, except for these two obnoxious ladies who from the 6th inning on would not shut up with the “Catch it Torii, catch it. Don’t spoil the no hitter!” “Way to go Pete, you saved the no hitter!” and so on. Look, I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t believe that saying no hitter during a no hitter, unless of course the person you’re saying it to is the pitcher in question, will have any impact on the game. But there are some traditions you just don’t break, and this is one of them. For the most part, they were simply ignored. And after that final out, the crowd went nuts chanting “Weaver, Weaver!” and jumping up and down.
And can I just say how heartwarming it was to see our hometown hero who made it clear in no uncertain terms last season that he loves this team as much as we do, accomplish so much at home in front of friends and family! Watching him exchange emotional hugs with his parents and then sweep his new bride – who has a great name, by the way, even though she spells it funny 😉 – up into an embrace before the press conferences began? This was a slice of what baseball used to be.
* * * * *
And the absolute icing on the evening’s seriously delectable cake was our seats. Some season ticket holder with a very exclusive location just couldn’t make the game this evening – bet they’re kicking themselves now, don’t you? – and put their tickets up for sale online. I really will never be able to thank them enough because not only were Seth and I there for this amazing game, we watched it from the front row of the Knothole Club, the Club level restaurant in right field just to the “It’s outta here!” side of the foul pole. The view? The service? The food? Amazing! This game made its own ballpark experience. We would have enjoyed ourselves in even the cheapest of cheap seats. But having the rare opportunity to enjoy such luxurious surroundings and a perfectly unobstructed view of the magic on the mound made it even better.
My husband and I started dating back in 1996. This July we will have been married for 13 years, a number which makes me feel both swoony and kind of old at the same time…but mostly swoony because, well, he’s wonderful and infinitely swoon-worthy. 🙂 Anyway, the point of that is merely to say that when it comes to long term relationships, I do have a clue or two what I am talking about and I have to say that a fair bit of the “standard” relationship advice people give is actually pretty bad advice…at least as far as I’m concerned.
Take the whole “never go to bed angry” thing. When interpreted broadly as “don’t let things simmer and fester,” this is excellent advice. But taken literally? I think not. Sometimes the exact opposite is a better course of action. You both have to go to work in the morning. Work is essential for money with which to support your 99.999999% of the time blissful union. In other words, not staying up arguing it out, growing more tired, grumpy and probably petty by the moment and then carrying that over into work the next day is really better for you. Instead, I would advise that if an argument can’t be fixed right away, give each other some down time. Go to sleep a little angry and see how much better things look in the morning. (And they will if for no other reason than actually going to bed mad at someone you love sucks so bad that it tends to put problems in perspective.) Then continue the discussion after work, when the emotion has drained away and it can just be a discussion…
…which brings me to the Angels. I am angry. After the blown save? And then the other blown save? Oh, yeah, and the other blown save? And the just now, maybe waking up offense? And the one run losses? Yeah, on second thought, livid is probably a better word. And the Angels are apparently angry too – did you catch Torii’s coments to the media earlier this week? Well, good. With the way they’re playing they should be angry. Now, being angry doesn’t mean I don’t love my Angels. Far from it. If I didn’t love them, this couldn’t provoke such a response. But angry I am and this isn’t getting resolved any time soon, so…
Gentlemen, you have two day games this weekend and it just so happens that I have gone out of town for the weekend with plans to bike, explore, take photos and generally be nowhere near a television set, computer, radio or other means of catching those day games. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to stew apart and gain perspective…or, as I like to call it, two games in the win column. Let’s try to give Danny and Ervin each a win, shall we, and the rest of you some hits and then when you get back to California this anger we’re feeling will have resolved itself and we can all get back to the 99.9999% of the time part of the relationship.
Sound good? Great! See you at the ballpark in a few days.
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?
I have been absent from all things baseball for a few days, since shortly after things became their most exciting for my team. We had a death in the family, my cousin’s husband. I do not relate this detail here for sympathy – it is very sad, but we’ve all been there and then some. But it is the context of the story. I had planned to spend Saturday at the Big A taking in the spectacle of the press conference. At the time I made my plans it seemed very important, indeed. But once we received that call, well, you understand. I spent the day at the funeral instead without a second thought for the press conference and then it was difficult to collect these thoughts into something cohesive, but I think I have finally hit on what I want to say:
Baseball is magic.
Seriously. Magic. I know, I know. I say “magic” and instantly you start thinking any number of fanciful thoughts having little to do with a bat and a ball. Santa Claus? Disney? Perhaps the darker magic of the Brothers Grimm, pre-Disnification? Well, Santa Claus inspires a lot of seasonal fun for the kiddies. Disney can imbue a child-like sense of wonder in most of us. And those brothers Grimm (being very grim) certainly send the imagination some deliciously scary places. But baseball? Well, it’s the real deal. Magic plain and simple.
So much so in fact, that baseball is even more magical than the everyday OhMyGod!Wow!!DidThatJustHappen! magic that occurs on the field. Baseball is the thing my Dad and I can always banter about over email, no matter how stressful life has become. Ding, Dong the McCourt is Gone! Congratulations on the Pujols signing – this might put your guys over the top. As long as SciosciaMike can keep the pitchers away from beer and chicken, anything is possible, LOL. And suddenly we’re both smiling.
Baseball is the universal ice-breaker for catching up at extended family gatherings. Oh, sure, you have a clue what your scores of cousins are up to these days via FaceBook. But start talking about trades, awards and an Oh My God! World Series and suddenly everyone is lively, chatting warmly and laughing together like they’ve never spent much time apart.
Baseball is the comfortable thing we could discuss before and after the funeral, calming and soothing minds in between tears and hugs and sharing memories with my cousin and her daughters.
Baseball is the one guaranteed safe thing my sister and I can always talk about no matter how on the outs we may be. Another new lineup for SciosciaMike, really? So is Loney actually going to hit the ball this time? I don’t know, is Mathis? Touche.
See what I mean? Magic. The real deal.
Baseball is hardly life or death. It’s a game. A bit of fun. A distraction. It isn’t going to cure cancer or inspire world peace. And finally getting to savor that press conference off of the DVR didn’t make everything all better, not the recent family sadness, nor any of the other stressors I’ve been dealing with. But it made me smile. It relaxed me. It lifted my mood and put me in a better frame of mind to face the week. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.