I think it’s safe to assume that, much like Crash Davis, Mike Scioscia believes in opening his presents on Christmas Morning not Christmas Eve, because he sure doesn’t reveal so much as a peep about the final 25-man roster or the starting rotation until after the final out of the Angels final Spring Training game. As for Scioscia’s feelings on good scotch, the hanging curve ball, the self-indulgence of Susan Sontag novels and any of the rest of the famous movie speech? Well, the evidence is somewhat less conclusive. I’ll leave you all to speculate. Regardless, the Angels pitched, hit and fielded their way through their final 2012 Spring Training game this afternoon – finishing with a win, no less! – and Scioscia revealed the details fans have been craving for weeks and, in some case, then some shortly after.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2012 Angels…for now…Oh, come on? What kind of Opening Week Angels Roster/Rotation would this be without a question mark or two?:
Angels 2012 Starting Rotation (Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!):
- Jered Weaver
- Dan Haren
- Ervin Santana
- C.J. Wilson
- ?? Hey, remember what I said about those question marks! We don’t absolutely need a 5th starter until the 15th. Why announce these things early? See post introduction. 😉 Most likely this will be either Garrett Richards or Jerome Williams. Personally, I liked the look of Williams better than Richards last season. But Williams is recovering from a strain and Richards is no longer a rookie, so who knows?
Relievers (and here we largely pause our yay-age in exchange for some resigned sighing. This could either go really well or…yeah):
- Scott Downs (Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!)
- LaTroy Hawkins (I have hopes that this coulld be a yay)
- Kevin Jepsen (The jury will without its verdict until more evidence is presented)
- Jason Isringhausen (Ummm…)
- Hisanori Takahashi (Er…..)
- Rich Thompson (Probably, mostly Yay!)
- Jordan Walden (I have hopes that this could be a yay too)
Catchers (Yay! They hit above .212!):
- Chris Iannetta
- Bobby Wilson
- …just messin’ with ya there. For the first time in a few seasons, Scioscia is starting out with only the traditional two catchers on the 25-man roster.
Infielders (Yay!! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!):
- Alexi Amarista (Good for you kid! You had a heck of a Spring Training!)
- Erick Aybar
- Alberto Callaspo
- Maicer Izturis
- Howie Kendrick
- Kendrys Morales (Hey, infielder is what the article I read said, but we all know it’s going to be a looooooong time before Kendrys does any fielding if, in fact, he does do any fielding this season. This is our DH and a damned fine one at that. Yaaaaaaay!!!)
- Albert Pujols (You know, what’s his name. The new guy. I’ve heard he can hit and field a little. 😉 )
- Mark Trumbo
- Bobby Abreu (Allegedly. At least, outfielder is what the article I read said but, ugh. I saw him play left last night and, I love you Bobby, but oh. Hell. No.
- Peter Bourjos
- Torii Hunter
- Vernon Wells
As Spring Training draws to a close the 25 man roster is beginning to take more shape. Jason Isringhausen’s up, Mike Trout’s down and Bobby Abreu is? Well? Ummm? Now that is the uncomfortable question of the Spring, now isn’t it?
Mike Trout, to the surprise of many is headed back down to the AAA for the time being. When Spring Training began, I had hoped for a different outcome. My current dream Angels outfield has Trout and Peter Bourjos in it together. But Mike Trout missed most of Spring Training and was not his normal self for the rest of it following a nasty bout with the flu that to all reports left him physically drained and 15 pounds lighter. Go figure – getting the flu isn’t any easier or more fun when you’re a professional athlete. So, as much as I’d like to see Trout up with the major league club this season, I can’t argue with the idea of leaving him in AAA to heal up and get back into the swing of things. He is only 20 years old after all. No need to rush these things and, besides, I can’t imagine the Angels waiting all the way until September call ups to bring him back up again.
And it looks like the Angels’ bullpen certainly will not lack for a veteran presence in 2012. The team welcomed Jason Isringhausen to the 25 man roster this week. Do I love the move? Do I hate it? Eh, with Michael Kohn and Bobby Cassevah sidelined with injuries right now, we have the room. I’ll reserve love it or hate it judgment until we see which era of his considerable experience Isringhausen is channeling this season, a good year, or?? Yeah.
Which brings us to Bobby. Bobby. Bobby, baby. Bobby, bubbi. Angel, I’ve got something to tell you… I detested Company, actually, but lately that snippet of recurring refrain keeps popping into my head every time Abreu’s name comes up in the news and I think it’s because, like the character in the play, there is a big obvious change that needs to happen in his life that he is fighting tooth and nail…to the annoyance of everyone.
As for Company, I might have liked it better if I hadn’t sat through six performances of it in one week, all of them featuring two roles so badly overacted that they unintentionally over emphasized the terribly self absorbed nature of so many of the characters. What can I say, too many friends in the Spring main stage that year, too many more friends who hadn’t seen them do their thing yet and way too many, impossible to politely turn down comped tickets. Ah, college!
As for Bobby, I know I’d like the situation better if he were accepting it with a little more grace. He is not an everyday player anymore, not in the field anyway. Whenever we put him out there for any length of time, it goes badly. While I am really sorry to say it, he just plain can’t move the way he used to in the outfield – even though, surprisingly, he can on the base paths and that is a joy and a half to watch – and when he gets frustrated by this, he throws the ball away once or twice a game. I get it in the sense that I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for a player of his former caliber with his career stats to have his body missing what his mind and instincts are so strongly willing it to do by just that much. And when Bobby isn’t playing in the field every day, his mighty bat gets pretty darned quiet which does mean there isn’t a whole lot of workable room on the roster for him.
The comments Bobby made to the Venezuelan press about doubting Mike Scioscia’s word that he would see 400 at bats in 2012 were inappropriate no matter when he made them…but they weren’t incorrect. Unless something radical happens to the roster and Bobby improves at the plate, I don’t see him getting those at bats either. So Bobby’s here but, if our big bat, good clubhouse guy, occasional right fielder can’t play right field, isn’t doing so hot at the plate and is no longer a good clubhouse guy over the whole thing, I think it would be best for all concerned, including Bobby, if he were not here anymore. It’s too bad that contract makes him so hard to move – thanks Tony! And even with the pissy attitude of late, I hate writing that. Bobby was great for the Phillies, great for the Yankees and one of my favorite players to watch on the Angels in his first year and change with the team. Like I said at the beginning, very uncomfortable all around.
With this week’s news that the Angels have reached one-year deals, avoiding arbitration with both Eric Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, the team appears to be mostly set for the season. Although, I don’t think anyone would mind another reliable arm for the bullpen, should it just happen to present itself and, you know, except for the “will they be ready or won’t they” injury situations with Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. Hey, you can’t have everything, right? …except, perhaps, when Jerry Dipoto is starting off his Haloed tenure with a bang, so we’ll see. *whistles softly*
At any rate, traditionally this is the time to start predicting lineups, rotations and such. But, let’s be honest. Being an Angels fan adds a certain layer – or, like 10! – of, shall we say, complexity to this age old pastime. Oh, I can predict the starting rotation with ease and a fair bit of certainty: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana and Jerome Williams. And don’t think I didn’t all kinds of delicious little shivers up and down my arms typing that list of names just now. The 2012 starting rotation rocks. Hard. But moving past that and on to predicting the lineup? That’s another story. This is, after all, a Mike Scioscia team, she types with affection.
The boys at Hot Stove proposed this starting lineup shortly after Albert Pujols was signed:
And as lineups go, it makes a certain amount of sense. But it has two major flaws. 1) Relegating Trumbo to a part time DH role (What a waste! At that point, trade him.) and, even more importantly, 2) it only allows for 4 different variations. Four…Amateurs! 😉
First, let’s consider the leadoff spot. Sosh will never stick to just one leadoff man. Yes, Aybar will fill that role frequently no doubt, but expect to see Peter Bourjos and Macier Izturis (provided he isn’t eventually part of trade for say, a bullpen arm, just to pull something completely out of thin air) in the leadoff spot a fair number of times as well. And then there will be those really random days, when Sosh is either feeling extra spicy or he thinks the guys need a kick in the pants. On those days we might find Howie Kendrick, Mike Trout or even Alberto Callaspo striding to the plate ahead of everyone else. You just never know with Scioscia.
Then there’s the cleanup spot. Albert Pujols is clearly the logical choice. But sometimes Scioscia likes to mix things up and bat the toughest slugger in the 5th spot. At that point you might see Trumbo or Morales take a turn batting 4th. And should the offense start to enter any lengthy slumps (Which you won’t do in 2012, right guys? Right?) expect to see some downright crazy things take place with the cleanup spot. In 2011 Maicer batted 4th in, I believe, two games.
And, really, that’s only the beginning. Torii’s natural place in the lineup is batting 3rd. But when he has an off week or two, expect to see him moved to batting 2nd…at which point he is likely to change his walkup song to Movin’ On Up again because, is there anyone who has more fun during a game than Torii? As much sure, but more? Nah, didn’t think so.
You can be sure that Trout and Bourjos will play in the same game many times throughout the season. And, in addition to taking the leadoff role some of the time, Bourjos will probably bat 2nd a few times as well. And the minute Trout comes into his own at the plate, Chris Iannetta is likely to see some time in the 9th spot – it’s an Angels catchers’ tradition, after all. Alberto Callaspo consistently has one of the highest batting averages on the team. He’s sure to spend some time batting 2nd or 3rd. And what of Bobby Abreu? So far I haven’t heard any noise about trading him. If he’s still with the team come Opening Day, I’m sure there will be several lineup variations featuring him at DH too…
…And this? This is just what I have come up with typing darn near stream of consciousness for a few minutes. Imagine what Scioscia will come up with given an entire season to plot and plan? That said, is any of this constant lineup shifting effective? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. On the average, I’d say it’s probably neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. It’s just Scioscia’s thing. And we fans gripe about it when the team is losing and joke about it with affection when the team is winning. Either way, I’ll not be attempting to diagram all of that variation into one master lineup, slash marks or not, thank you very much. 🙂
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.
Once we got the house put back to rights after Thanksgiving, Seth and I spent most of the weekend playing strategy games with headlines on MLBN and Bloomberg playing in the background…as you do, when you’re a couple of geeks who have decided that all of the responsible chores you had planned for the long weekend just really don’t sound appealing. So instead of plastering and painting the bathroom, we played a lot of Settlers of Catan among other things.
For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Settlers of Catan is a continually variable resources management game. Think of it as Sid Meier’s Civilization unplugged. You shuffle the tiles and their numerical dice role assignments that make up the playing board at the beginning of every game, so rarely are any two games the same. Your goal is to get enough resources to build cities and other things that are worth points, oh and to keep your buddy from doing so. But in order to do this you have to trade with your buddy a lot because there is always a key resource or two you can’t access on your own.
Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like another fun game. But isn’t this supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, a baseball blog? Oh. You again. Hey, I brought it back around to baseball the last time I went on a strategy game tangent. Just work with me for a minute here. I’m getting to that part!
So, as I was saying. *glares over her shoulder at the peanut gallery* There we were playing Catan. Making trades. Listening to MLBN and hearing about trades though nothing earth shattering. And, well, my brain tends to make weird connections between completely disparate things.
You’re telling me! Quiet, you.
Ahem. All the trading just started to seem hilariously parallel, especially the AA and AAA outfielders I’ve never heard of that some teams seem to be stockpiling. In Catan, if you’ve pissed off your buddy so much by thwarting him that he won’t trade with you (or you’re close to winning which we refer to as being “Cuba”) you have an option of stockpiling 4 of some useless resource and trading it “off the island” with the deck for one of something you actually need. So, how many no name minor league outfielders does it take to build a major league closer? Or a clutch hitting third basemen? Or anyone we would actually like to hear about…and by we, I mean I because, well, I’m baseball news selfish like that. But more than lightbulb-esque jokes about minor league players, my strange baseball/Settlers of Catan juxtaposition lead to an oddly accurate illustration of the Angels current player situation.
See, it totally relates. Well, it’s about bloody time!!
Here it is, presented for your gaming pleasure, just in time for the holidays, Major League Baseball Players of Catan: The Angels Expansion! Hey, they have every other theme and expansion under the sun for Catan, why not? Anyway, looking at my goofy creation and the board the Angels have been clearly playing with for the last couple of seasons, I think the problem is readily apparent, don’t you?:
I mean if my dice roll options for hitting looked like that, you better bet I’d shuffle up the game board at the nearest opportunity. Strong starting pitching options with a few holes. Good and bad bullpen options based, seemingly, on a roll of the dice. Good fielding and throwing. Some speed. Some strong hitting for average but also some really poor hitting for average and almost no power hitting at all. I keep hearing all kinds of trade and signing rumors about the Angels, as we all do about our teams this time of year, but nothing that I like at all so far.
Catan, for real or as an illustration of the relative talents of Angels personnel, is all about balance and trying hard to compensate for lack of balance when it invariably occurs. Only rarely is pumping up one strength to the neglect of some or all of the others a good strategy. There is no shooting the moon, in baseball or in Catan. And, let’s be honest here, even teams with a lot of money still don’t have infinite money. Balance and prioritization are essential.
I do not want C.J. Wilson, one of the more consistent rumors. Not only do I not like the fact that the converted reliever slowed down earlier this season than last, but I think that it would be throwing entirely too much money at something that is already mostly a strength. We have a hole and a half, if you will, in our starting rotation. But we only have one power bat in our lineup…unless Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales come back in typical shape, but notice I’m not counting on that. I might have liked the David Ortiz rumor. Say what you will about the Fenway toybox, he always kills it in Anaheim, unlike Vernon Wells which probably should have been a clue, but I digress… But we have such a glut of big contract lame duck bats, at least going by 2011’s numbers, in the DH spot that I can’t see a way for the team to get rid of so, really, what’s the point?
So far, the rumor I like the most is Aramis Ramirez, but that one isn’t perfect either even when you ignore his fits of bad attitude for the sake of argument. More power at third base would be really nice. Really, really nice. But people forget that Alberto Callaspo may not be flashy but he hit consistently for average all season long, our highest batting average in 2011 in fact. And while I would like some power, if we replace Callaspo, we would then need to make up his batting average somewhere else in the lineup somehow. How about a power hitting catcher…or, even, an average hitting catcher? Clearly the slumping bats need to step it up big time or be replaced. But is that possible? It’s a puzzle. A Catan worthy puzzle. Mike Scioscia has said he likes playing Civilzation. I wonder if Jerry Dipoto likes resources management strategy games? Because like it or not, he’s got a pretty tricky one ahead of him.
Baseball reality is so often legendary that it shouldn’t be surprising when the opposite occurs and baseball myths, oft repeated, begin to take on an aura of reality. As an Angels fan, there were two such recent myths that caught my attention more than any others, as they were repeated throughout the regular season, the post season and on into November. Both myths “explain” Mike Napoli’s rising star post trade from the Angels.
Myth 1: Of course Mike Napoli blossomed under the Rangers, the guy just needed to get some real playing time.
I actually fell victim to this myth myself for a little while. It certainly sounds plausible. And it’s been repeated so often that it really started to seem like Naps got a lot more playing time with the Rangers…until I started thinking about all of the games I attended where Napoli played. Hmmm…so I looked up some real numbers.
In 2011, for the Texas Rangers, Mike Napoli had: 369 at bats in 113 games and played a position in 96 games, 61 at catcher and 35 at first base.
In 2010, for the Angels, Mike Napoli had: 453 at bats in 140 games and played a position in 126 games, 59 at catcher and 67 at first base, significantly more playing time than he enjoyed with Texas in 2011.
In 2009, for the Angels, Mike Napoli had: 382 at bats in 114 games and played a position in 96 games, all of them at catcher, roughly the same amount of playing time as he enjoyed with Texas in 2011.
Prior to 2009, Mike Napoli did experience less playing time, making an appearance in 78 games in 2008, 75 in 2007 and 99 in 2006. But for the two season prior to his trade, Naps saw as much or playing time in Anaheim as he saw in Arlington.
As the Mythbuster boys would say, I call this myth busted.
Myth 2: Mike Scioscia is too hard on catchers.
I only have anecdotal evidence against this myth, but I feel it’s significant. While I have no doubt that Mike Scioscia is hard on catchers, I question the implication that this is universally detrimental. Yes, Mike Napoli played better for the Rangers and the current crop of catchers all need improvements in different ways but, come on, two out of three Molina brothers can’t be wrong, right? Especially when the third isn’t so much a dissenting vote as not included in the sample size. So, apparently, some catchers do just fine under Sosh. Myth busted.
And the reality?
Okay, if it wasn’t more playing time and Mike Scioscia isn’t a crippling influence on catchers, then why did Mike Napoli have so much stronger a season in 2011 than in 2010 or 2009? Well, in part, I would never underestimate the power of batting in the middle of that crazy good Texas lineup. Do they have a weak spot in their lineup? Because we sure never saw one. Talk about protection!
But, more than that, I suppose the greatest myth of all is that past performance is a guarantee of future performance, especially once you change any of the variables: new team, new manager, new coaches, new lineup, new clubhouse culture and so on. Some players in this situation adapt immediately and pick up right where they left off, give or take a little benefit/detriment from combining their talents with those of their new teammates. Adrian Gonzalez and Adrian Beltre, for example. Some players experience a (hopefully temporary?) set back in their new digs and perform well below expectations. Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells, for example. And others absolutely shine, like our current example Mike Napoli.
In Naps particular case, I think there is a slight, skewed truth to Myth #2. It’s not that Mike Scioscia is too hard on catchers, but that way in which Mike Scioscia handles catchers, be it hard or not, simply didn’t work for Mike Napoli, much like a particular teacher might be just the ticket for one student but ineffective at best for their siblings. So, significant lineup protection? New manager with whom he clicked better? Perhaps even added drive to prove himself after being traded twice in less than a week? Take your pick, but I think it’s a combination of all of these reasons and perhaps a few more. Interesting food for thought as Hot Stove heats up and GMs begin to throw large sums of money about banking, quite literally, on past performances.
First thing’s first. Congratulations to the Cardinals! From ten games out of the Wild Card Race to World Series Champions, it was an inspiring comeback worthy of a classic baseball movie. Bravo and well deserved!
More importantly from my perspective though, the Angels did announce Jerry Dipoto as our new General Manager…as, you know, we might have guessed from all of the announcements announcing that the Angels could not in fact announce this move until after World Series was over. (Sorry, but as a sometime media and PR wonk, I love that kind of inspired work around the rules!). Oh, I know there has been a lot of talk since Tony Reagins’ departure about Kim Ng, which had me intrigued, and Andrew Friedman, which had me outright salivating even though I knew it wasn’t going to happen. But when it comes to personnel decisions and the Angels, reading speculation about it in the press, short of a very official sounding “unofficial” precursor to an announcement that is, is one of the biggest guarantees you can get that it isn’t going to happen.
If loose lips sink ships and one could logically infer that the inverse of this old school saying is true as well, the entire United States Navy could happily float on the closed lips of the Angels front office…with plenty of room for complex practice maneuvers and future growth. Besides, Andrew Friedman? Please. I don’t think you could separate him from Tampa Bay with a crowbar right now let alone for any money, especially after the miracle the Rays pulled off this season aided by his efforts on the personnel front.
So, now that the decision’s been made? Well, only time will tell but so far I’m happy about it. Dipoto is exactly what the Angels talked about bringing in when they first announced Reagins’ resignation, young, fresh and brand new to the GM position. For that reason, I only know what I have read about Dipoto in the last few days and what he said during the press conference. But I like what I’ve learned so far, especially his history in the Diamond Backs organization as Director of Scouting and Player Personnel and later as Interim General Manager. I think we can all agree that Arizona has made some excellent personnel decisions these last few seasons.
I liked what he had to say during the press conference about the Angels just needing a few key tweaks in the right direction rather than a complete overhaul, because the last I thing I want is for all of last season’s promising rookies to become this off season’s trade fodder for a string of great-for-the-next-two-seasons-and-then-blaaaah players. I like that Dipoto doesn’t align himself rigidly with either straight old school personnel theories or sabermetrics theories, but talks instead about an effective balance using ideas from all schools of thought. I liked hearing him talk about exploring all avenues for player acquisition including Latin America and Japan. And I love the fact that Dipoto’s passion for the game seems to be the first thing colleagues and teammates mention when describing him. Yes, all of this is talking a good game and talking and executing a good game do not always go hand in hand. But Dipoto has talked a sufficiently good game that I am intrigued and hopeful to see how he executes his game over the next several seasons.
The only thing I didn’t like was how obvious it became during the press conference that the rumors of Mike Scioscia’s supposed status as the “real GM behind a puppet GM” have grown wildly out of hand. When both Mike Scioscia and Arte Moreno feel a need to comment on and deny such speculation and Dipoto has to answer questions about his ability to work with Scioscia while still having his own voice heard, it’s all more than a little ridiculous. Please people! I love me some Mike Scioscia. He was one of my favorite Dodgers and one of the biggest reasons I switched camps to the other end of the 5 freeway all those years ago. But we’re talking about a man who routinely devises upwards of 125 different lineups for 162 games. With that level of…um…shall we say attention to detail?…can you imagine how much time he must put in before each game strategizing and such? Now can you imagine how much time a person with that level of “attention to detail” would spend studying, planning and executing trades, signings and the like? Now please remember that there are still only 24 hours in a day and that he has to spend some of them sleeping. Does Scioscia as some sort of puppet master GM still seem like a sound theory to you? Didn’t think so.
Welcome to the Angels organization Jerry Dipoto! May you live up to the good game you’ve talked so far.