Holy Angels Lineup, Batman! They hit! They steal! They knock in runs! And they score and score and score again! I am so happy with the Angels offense right now that I am beaming as I type this. I hope this carries over into the regular season and grows! It sure looks Albert Pujols was the missing piece this lineup puzzle needed because all of the good pieces we had going last season are now working in conjunction with one another to create multiple, multiple run innings instead of little tiny offensive outbursts. They look almost as good as the starting rotation – and that ‘almost’ reflects more on the high bar set by the starting rotation than anything else. Speaking of which, I’ll bet that as pleased as the fans are, the run support starved starting rotation is even more so.
That sticky third base question…seems to be a lot less sticky than folks were predicting actually. We have now seen Mark Trumbo play third base and it worked out pretty darned well. He played the grounders hit his way well, including one that took a nasty hop. He made a great diving catch. In all of the discussion about the possibility of Trumbo at third, his arm was never once in doubt…even so, it was really nice to see that this assessment was accurate. And he did all of this while enjoying a good day at the plate which included his first Trumbomb of Spring Training. It’s only Spring Training. It was a very small sample size. But I actually think this could work. The stats and logic behind Clubhouse Confidential’s much more dire predictions a few weeks back did seem to make an unfortunate amount of sense. But people had the same predictions for Trumbo at first base last season with the same logic and, while he was certainly no Gold Glover, he turned out to be a competent, reliable first baseman who kept improving all season. I was hoping he would demonstrate the same caliber as a third baseman and, after watching him, I think that’s exactly what we can expect.
Those crazy MLB video game commercials. MLB 2K12? MLB 12 the Show? Which is better? I certainly couldn’t say. I don’t play video games much and when I do I tend to gravitate back to something old school like Gauntlet or Heretic. But I do know that the commercials for both MLB video game franchises are usually something special and this year is no exception. Justin Verlander’s Randy Johnson impersonation in the MLB 2K12 commercial has me laughing out loud every time. It almost makes up for his attempts at comedy on Conan O’Brien. As for the other? Granted, it’s not that hard to make me cry these days, but a video game commercial? ‘Fraid so. That darned Cubs Win! MLB 12 the Show commercial actually made me tear up…er…makes me tear up. He’s just so sad at the end! (Of course, we all know who they tried to get to be in that commercial and that’s just plain mean.) Suffice to say, both ads were very well done.
Don’t forget your towel. According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a towel is “about the most massively useful” item you can bring on any journey, local, interstellar, or somewhere in between. Apparently David Price agrees to disagree with the vaunted Guide on this front. Don’t panic, David, you are not alone. Many of us suffer bizarre abuse at the hands of seemingly innocuous inanimate objects. I have a friend who threw out her back showing her daughter how to put on nylons. I have another friend who received a scar from a Rock Band guitar pretty much just as she was just walking by – we refer to this as her Rock Band stage diving scar, by the way. And there’s a good tip for you. If you can’t somehow make the inanimate object injury sound less silly, go for making it sound epic instead.
As for me? Doors are my personal bete noir. Car doors. House doors. Cupboard doors. Heck, even door jams. They all attack me and bruise my arms and legs on a regular basis. See, you are far from alone. Though I must admit, it is nice for the rest of us to be reminded yet again that even Major League baseball players can suffer from occasional bouts of klutziness too…and that that the rest of us only have to answer to the mockery of our friends and family, not the national media. Of course, as a woman, attending a small liberal arts college and having the only honest answer to “Where on Earth did you get that bruise?” be, “I ran into a door.” was more than a little awkward too, as you might imagine.
I was very excited to see the “fully” mic’d game between the Indians and the D-Backs today, even though Seth and I had been joking about the Observer Effect all week – the idea that you can’t really observe a thing without somehow changing it. I figured the players would be very conscious of the microphones and that that would kill a lot of their chatter, but I was hoping for a little taste of the banter on the field. Yeah, not so much. The players were so self conscious – and/or were barraged with reminders to watch their *#!% mouth, grannie back home could hear every word they said – that they didn’t say much of anything that wasn’t of a strictly business nature…or maybe it was the game itself that subdued them? Today the role of Captain Obvious was played by Kirk Gibson: We just aren’t doing many things well today.
Still, it was an interesting experiment and we did hear and few worthwhile, useful and even entertaining things:
- Hearing the base coaches talk to their runners. Even already understanding many of the strategies, hearing how these talks actually work was very cool. Steve Smith was especially good at this and his conversation with Shin Soo Choo following the line drive that had him hitting the decks was hilarious.
- The umpires. By and large I think they were the most comfortable with the microphones and, while at times a few of them were playing for the back row, we heard reasonably natural sounding banter and job talk. It was interesting to see how much they just chat with players and coaches in between innings and sometimes in between plays.
- So, can the players hear the fans? If the sounds from this game are any indication, oh boy can they! …or at least those fans seated closest to the field. And those whiney little kids begging for a ball sounded obnoxious from where I sat. Not all of the kids by any means, just those ones.
- Jason Kipnis cracked me up. I get the impression that only some of the singing was intentional, like maybe he often sings to himself in the infield and wasn’t thinking about the mic at first. He looked genuinely uncomfortable when caught, but then did not hesitate to ham it up. And go Adele, making it on to more players frequent play lists – or so one would infer – than I would have thought possible.
- With all of the mics, the sounds of the ball smacking gloves and flying off the bat were a lot closer to the sounds of actually being there at the game. Granted, I can usually hear these things reasonably well during Angels home broadcasts, but this was better.
- While I have no doubt the managers also held back a lot because of the mics, there were a few great Kirk Gibson and Manny Acta one liners, like the Gibby quote I mention above.
- Although the players dialed down the banter to near mute, as the game played out they became more and more comfortable with their usual business talk, and that was in and of itself educational. They’re better at it, obviously, but in calling the ball, calling the plays and encouraging teammates, they don’t sound too terribly different from baseball and softball players of all ages playing the game at any level.
I would love to hear what the players really say to one another on the field. In fact, if I could choose a mutant super power it might be some sort of controllable mutant hearing – hey it would be useful in business too! But, barring a bite from a radioactive owl, I don’t see that happening any time soon. And I certainly don’t want to change the way they communicate with one another for anything more than the occasional exhibition game. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to continue making up conversations for them like I did last season:
Spring Training has sprung and with an array of early news beginning to trickle out of the camps, I had a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my brain, none of which was really a post in and of itself – much like a kid at the Lego store. Ooo, shiny! …Ooooo, shinier!! …Oooooooooo…you get the general idea. Instead of trying to force too much concentration to interfere with all of the excitement, here are some of the things that are pleasing, concerning, amusing, and annoying me right now:
- They’re all there now, in Arizona – okay and in Florida too. Actual ballplayers running actual drills! Live baseball footage on MLBN, even if it’s only batting practice, bullpen sessions and drills, makes me a very happy girl.
- Peter Bourjos says that the hip he was rehabbing over the winter feels 100%…but it’s a bone bruise and he’ll still most likely have surgery after the season is over. Ummm…so why didn’t he take care of this this offseason? Apparently, he didn’t get the MRI until around Thanksgiving so there wasn’t enough time. Ummm…okay. I think. So those rumors that Bourjos is actually part golden retriever? Hip issues certainly aren’t doing a lot to dispel them, kid. All joking aside, I am crossing my fingers that he stays as close to whatever approximates 100% for ballplayers throughout the season. I want Mike Trout to join Bourjos in the outfield ASAP, not come up to replace him during a DL stint.
- Live games start this Saturday and Angels individual game tickets go on sale this Saturday. That makes this Saturday kind of like Christmas…well…until Opening Day and then that’s even more like Christmas…until a game comes along where I have particularly good seats and it’s a particularly exciting game and then that’s more like… Hey, they say we’re supposed to keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year, right? 😉
- Mark Trumbo took a line drive to the face – as you do when you’re learning a new position – but doesn’t want to have the doc take a look at his nose. My husband will laugh uproariously at me when he reads this, but you have doctors on staff for a reason, right? Your foot? Bourjos’ hip? Go see the doc, you know, just in case. But way to really go for it at third! And way to be flexible and roll with the changes.
- C.J. Wilson is really growing on me. I think Terry Smith asked him the perfect questions this afternoon to draw out his love of baseball in addition to his love of his extra-curricular activities. I thoroughly appreciated what he had to say about baseball, about loving the challenge, living for the competition and his gratitude for his adult successes after a childhood of never being the big, highly athletic kid. Very cool stuff. Hearing that, I am reassured that he does have his mind on the game and am leaning back towards, he’s so well rounded. Isn’t that cool! And, hey, a writing major. I did not know that, but gotta love those crazy writing types…especially when they finish a season with more than 200 strikeouts.
- When did “effort” become a verb on MLBN, as in ‘I efforted that,’ ‘we’re in the process of efforting that’? I first noticed Greg Amsinger using it last week and now it seems to be a thing. Okay, the English language, cobbled together, mismatched, uneven, patchwork quilt of a thing that it is, lends itself well to a certain fluidity. And I love words. I love playing with them with even more – I know, you are all shocked! – and I frequently find myself applauding the creative prose of sports announcers. But, efforting? No please. Stop it right now.
- It’s February 29th. Happy Birthday, Frederic! Still nose to the grindstone on that apprenticeship? 😉
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. 🙂
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.
24 days without baseball. By this point my mind finally understands that baseball season is over. This isn’t an inordinately lengthy All-Star break or some sort of weird mid-season hiatus. There is no more baseball until spring. My mind understands, but it still does not accept.
Evenings are the hardest. During the day, I am working, just as I do during the season, and sometimes have time to catch Hot Stove or read other news over lunch. That’s not so very different, really. But in the evenings, when all of the have tos are over and it’s time to settle down and relax…eeek, there is just so much extra time now! I have a few non-baseball shows I like. Top Shot is over for the season, but Castle is fun with a lot of good quips about writing and sly book and movie references. I am infatuated with Grimm right now. It’s quirky and clever. Hell on Wheels is so far a more than adequate westerns fix in a sadly post-Deadwood world. And there are a few others. Food Network and the like. But that’s, what? An hour every other evening or so? Occasionally a little more? My mind is temporarily satisfied, then the brief distraction is over, it grows restless and the impatient channel surfing begins in search of a fix that simply does not exist:
Not baseball. *click*
Not baseball. *click*
Ah, MLBN, my hero! Except…is this a highlight show or countdown or Hot Stove/Intentional Talk/etc. episode I’ve already seen? As the offseason drags on, increasingly the answer is yes. *sigh* *click*
Not baseball. *click*
Not baseball. *click*
“Reality” TV crap. Definitely. Not. Baseball. *shudders* *click*
Not baseball. *click*
And so on. What on Earth do people do with all of this extra time?! I’ve filled it with movies. I’ve filled it with books. Two weeks ago, I filled several evenings making pickles. This week Seth and I are filling the time scouring our house from top to bottom and cooking, cooking, cooking. We host Thanksgiving for our combined families each year (just the two of us and both sets of parents this year though) and we enjoy making it a completely from scratch affair. But that’s this week and before. Whatever will I do next week? 24 days without baseball and it’s clear this blogger needs more offseason hobbies, stat.
* * * * *
Funny story of the week…okay, of my week at least:
My Pilates instructor is a heck of a nice lady and an excellent instructor, especially from the standpoint of sports and dance conditioning or physical therapy. Her husband is a baseball fanatic, while she knows little to nothing about the sport. It’s just not her thing. To illustrate this point, she told us about a chat with her husband a few years back.
He had asked about two of her clients, a husband and wife, whom she giving private lessons to at the time. And she told him: Oh yeah, Mark used to play baseball. I think their last name is McGwire? He has a lot of Cardinals stuff. I mean a lot. Have you heard of him?
Needless to say, yes, her husband had heard of him.
I burst out laughing all over again just typing this at the thought of what her husband’s expression must have looked like. For the foreseeable future, “He has a lot of Cardinals stuff” is Seth’s and my favorite way of saying someone missed the point.
Day. Nine. Nine days without baseball. Nine! That’s two entire days longer than a week! Recent studies question the canonical stages of grief based on the, very sound if you ask me, notion that we all grieve in such different ways that assigning set stages, even with the understanding that people may progress through them differently, is ludicrous. Besides, I’m not entirely certain that they would have applied to grief from baseball loss anyway.
Regardless I think it’s safe to say that what I am experiencing right now is denial, channel surfing for a substitute and then trying to behave as though that substitute were the real thing. The MLB All-Stars vs. Taiwan games. The Arizona Fall League. Heck, I’m even watching the darned awards shows on MLBN, something I would not normally be inclined to do. La la la! Look it’s still baseball. La la la…except, really, it’s not. Well, not the same anyway. *sigh*
I tried to get excited over the MLB All-Stars in Taiwan, really I did. They featured a great bunch of players and Erick Aybar, Trevor Bell, Rich Thompson and the rest of the Angels players made a strong showing for their team, but when it came right down to it, the games were only so so.
As for the awards shows and the like, I love that Mark Trumbo won the Player’s Choice Award for AL Rookie of the Year. I’m thrilled that players all over the league saw in Trumbo the same amazing things that Angels and Angels fans have been seeing in him all season. On base percentage be damned, the kid is doing great things with his bat and with his glove. But in the end an awards show isn’t a baseball game. It’s more like a visual aid for a press release about baseball with a few fun, extended interviews included.
And the AFL Rising Stars Game? Mike Trout is clearly tired and probably should get some rest before spring training or, as I said to crack up Seth, Awww, the poor little guy’s all tuckered out. And it was a boring blow out of a game with the kind of play one would expect from rising stars who are a mix of fresh from rookie ball young players and recent rookie call-ups. No offense to the kids, but in the end I turned it off thinking I could probably get a better baseball fix watching Major League. I did. Even if it was edited in truly silly ways for basic cable.
Eh, I suppose I really am being a bit of a baby about this. I mean, existing without baseball will get easier as fall and winter wear on and Spring Training isn’t that far away, right? I mean it’s only, what? 70-ish…? *reaches for calendar* 80-something…? *begins counting on calendar* 90, 91…?! La la la! I resolve to stop counting and be in denial about this too! La la la.
* * * * *
On an even sillier note, if anything finally drives me from my denial it may very well be the weather. It just doesn’t winter-rainstorm-downpour in Southern California during baseball season once you get past April. Yet it was coming down hard all day Friday and all evening as we watched the game in Taiwan. Yes, rain in Southern California. Look! Photographic evidence from my very own porch:
Of course then, Southern California being what it is, the weather got all gorgeous again the very next day, though when the rainy season starts in earnest this can take several days 🙂 :
But it is raining again today. Really, really.