…You know. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line. And, only slightly less well-known, never ever speak of the fans in less than complimentary terms…because it will live forever online…or something like that. But I’ll get to that in a moment. First…
Hey there Major League Baseball, you great big sweetie. Don’t think for one second that I didn’t notice and appreciate your thoughtful Valentine, having position players start reporting on February 14th. We fans have enjoyed live video of actual baseball players on the field, in uniform, getting ready for the season all over MLBN and our favorite sports sites ever since. Hitting and pitching and live player interviews, oh my! It’s the best thing ever! …well, the best thing since October at any rate. See boys and girls, even if our teams appear to have a funny way of showing it at times, baseball really does love us back. 😉
Of course, the return of players to ball fields and the happy increase in player interviews that inevitably follows does also lead to an increase in player gaffes. For truly it seems as if no Spring Training is complete without several players contracting a case of foot in mouth disease. Among the most recently afflicted is one of our newest Angels, Josh Hamilton.
“It’s one of those things where Texas, especially Dallas, has always been a football town. So the good with the bad is they’re (the fans) supportive, but they also got a little spoiled, at the same time, pretty quickly. You can understand like a really true, true baseball town — and there are true baseball fans in Texas — but it’s not a true baseball town.”
Yikes. So…um…I can’t understand how Texas fans took offense at that, can you? 😉 Seriously though, this isn’t pick on Josh Hamilton day for me. He’s not the first player and I doubt he’ll be the last to say something controversial well before Opening Day, and anyone watching the interview rather than just reading cold words on a page can see that Hamilton’s intentions with these comments were not malicious. He wasn’t trash talking, he was making his own honest observations in response to reporter questions.
In fact, I even agree with Hamilton…up to a point. Now hold on a second there Rangers fans before you get angry with me. In my opinion, Hamilton would be equally correct if he’d the same thing about Southern California fans, whether we’re calling them Los Angeles or Orange Country. Much like Texas, we also have great baseball fans in Southern California, but I wouldn’t call any of our towns baseball towns…and I do believe that by not including Anaheim or the greater OC/LA area in the list of “great baseball towns” that Hamilton gave in his attempt at a rebuttal, he was indicating as much himself.
Look, I spent the three day weekend hanging out with my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. They were taking a week’s vacation from their Boston home to warm up on the West Coast. We spent a fair bit of time talking about baseball — Hey, Seth and I are getting ready for a Spring Training trip; my nephew Henry has been enjoying Little League and is very excited about a great baseball camp his Boy Scout troop attended with PawSox players that culminated in a sleepover on the field; Henry’s annoyed with the Red Sox; I was trying with little success to pound out a blog post; the subject came up a lot. Anyway, just listening to my sister-in-law, Laura, and the kids talk, I was impressed once again with how much Boston is a real baseball town. Laura is a Los Angeles transplant and she is continually surprised at how much the average person in Boston knows about the Red Sox both past and current, by how many games they watch, by how frequently games and personnel moves are discussed. Compared to her experiences in Los Angeles, it’s night and day.
And while I’m certainly not complaining, in all honesty I can’t say the same thing about anywhere in Southern California, even if I were to somehow combine Dodgers fans and Angels fans together in my mind as if they were together rooting en masse for some sort of super Freeway Team, LOL! The Angels and the Dodgers both have great fans. Diehard fans. Fans who absolutely bleed their respective team’s colors. I interact with some of these amazing fans on a regular basis on Twitter and on the blogs…but half of the reason I started blogging and turned to the internet is because, when I’m not at a game, I don’t encounter many baseball fans in my daily life. Only once have I worked in a department where there were more baseball fans than not, and that was split evenly between Dodgers and Angels fans. Usually it’s me, myself and I. And in that one case, our department was unusual for the company.
When Seth worked a few miles from the Big A, he worked with a couple of diehard Angels fans (one of whom sweetly gave us season tickets on a regular basis) but their department was unusual for the building and whenever the company’s stadium seats were offered, it was the same handful of people asking for them every time. During the season, unlike what I hear about Boston, you can’t just walk into any bar in either county and expect the baseball game to be on. Some bars yes, and I make it a point to find and frequent those bars, but not every bar. It is common to have to “fight” basketball and football fans for the TV at points where the seasons overlap and, in my experience, it’s common for basketball and/or football to win out based on majority opinion. In fact, if anything, I would say that L.A. at least is a basketball town. Lakers. Blah.
And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that the same is true for the environs surrounding Arlington, expect in their case it’s football, not basketball that’s front and center. Yet, I don’t think anyone would accuse Rangers fans of lacking passion for their team – I certainly would never accuse them of such and Hamilton’s comments didn’t either. So there you have it, great baseball fans. Not a “real” baseball town. That said, of course Rangers fans are pissed. I would be too if the cleat were on the other foot, so to speak. In fact, I remember when John Lackey dissed Angels fans during his first Spring Training with the Red Sox. I can’t remember the exact language, but he said something very similar to what Hamilton has said, that Anaheim is not as great a baseball town as Boston. And at the time I was livid. How dare he?! But I’m much more mature about the whole thing now, of course. So, John, how’d that work out for you? 😉 …okay, okay. More mature, but not yet actually mature.
Now, Lackey also accused Angels fans of not supporting him, which was not true and quite offensive. And, if you move past the ‘not a true baseball town’ part of the comment, the point of Hamilton’s entire quote is that those real baseball fans in Texas won’t boo him when he returns to play in Arlington in Angels red, only ‘not true’ baseball fans will boo him. Ummm…yeah. This part would also be not true — especially after this Hamilton interview! — and probably is quite offensive to his former fan base. But I digress because that isn’t the aspect of his comments people are griping on.
Look, I know we fans seem like contradictory creatures and, well, some of us are. We’re always complaining that we want the players to say something real during interviews instead of just spouting the usual clichés and then the minute that something real turns out to be a bit controversial, some of us whine about that…a lot. But that isn’t what this is. I would far rather hear players speak their mind — even when I don’t agree with them! — than the usual, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ ‘We just have to play them one game at a time.’ Blah blah. Blah blah. Blah blah. However, while players are speaking their minds I would just caution them to remember that speaking about the fans in anything less than complementary tones really is one of the classic blunders. You can’t win. Really. You can’t. Even when you’re right. Perhaps especially when you’re right. Isn’t that right, Chris Perez? 😉 And just so long as players understand that going in and make their own decisions accordingly, we’re all good.
So, in the meantime, how does one recover from an acute case of well publicized foot in mouth disease? I only ask (rhetorically) because, maybe, in our current situation…well…it could prove to be useful information. Well, it’s very simple, one need only keep one’s mouth shut against the possibility of relapses or appearances of new symptoms and wait for the next afflicted player to open his mouth and pull all of the attention his way with a few poorly considered words. And with that, we say thank you, Octavio Dotel — or, at least, so it would appear — and move on. 😉
Hello blogosphere, it’s been a few weeks…a completely unintended borderline hibernation, in fact. Anyway, as a result of the time off, my brain is a jumble of what to blog about first…especially because the Angels have had quite the quiet January, a very good thing really, considering the team is basically set at this point. So, here goes:
I adored the interview with Joan Jett on Hot Stove last Friday. I’ve always loved her music and I had a vague idea that she’s an O’s fan, but I had no idea exactly how much of a kick ass baseball fan she is until the interview. I giggled and cheered when she said, perfectly mater of factly, that she keeps an iPad on stage, open to the MLB Gameday Ap when she tours during baseball season. *flashes the universal sign for ‘rock on’ with genuine enthusiasm* It’s always nice to hear how absolutely not alone I am in being unable to refrain from checking…okay, being all but glued to…the Gameday Ap at wholly inappropriate times.
I’m sure that, by now, everyone has seen the second trailer for 42 but just in case…
I cannot tell you how excited I am for this movie. Wow! The trailer looks so good, that it literally gives me goose bumps of anticipation. I can’t wait! On another note, what does is say about me that the perfectly real crack of the ball on that bat at the end is absolutely music to my offseason ears? You know, other than nutcase? In all seriousness, I think that sound is good therapy for the offseason blues. Until someone either invents a “Crack O’the Bat” white noise generator for baseball fans, or Spring Training games start airing, I recommend watching the trailer every few days…and I know that only some of you are judging me right now while the rest are nodding right along. 😉
So, as I mentioned, I hadn’t planned on hibernating for any length of time this offseason. But, sadly, I’m coming to find that Januarys may just find me mopey and unproductive for the foreseeable future. One year ago my husband and I lost our best friend, Chet. I assumed that the anniversary of his death wouldn’t hit me so hard, but I was reminded once again that there really is no timetable for mourning. However, it is infinitely better to mourn than to forget and sharing good memories definitely takes the raw edge off. As it happens, a few of the many happy memories that have been getting us through this time are centered around the Angels. One of the last times we three hung out together before Chet started to get really sick was at the Angels’ Labor Day game against the Mariners.
Chet hadn’t been to a baseball game since he was a kid and he really enjoyed being back in a ballpark. The weather was perfect. It was a good game that ended with a lit halo and the outfield featured my then favorite Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter combo and Chet was really taken with the athleticism of Torii and the youngsters and with Mark Trumbo’s bat. He asked shrewd questions about the players and the mixed bag of a season. At one point, Trout came flying into the stands just a few rows in front of our left field field box seats and, after we all oohed and ahhed over the near catch, Chet added a hearty, “Ladies, you need a fishing license to keep a Trout that big” to our usual joking about how balls flying into the stands might make fine souvenirs but the ever present crowd of sign waving Trout/Bourjos/Trumbo admirers still needed to give the outfielders back.
Another memory that makes me smile from that game — there were two very good looking young women, one of them definitely my friend’s type, sitting a few rows in front of us one section over and I noticed him noticing them a few times in between innings. When they got up at one point with all signs pointing toward a beer run, Chet donned a pair of sunglasses to watch them more closely with such subtlety and smoothness — seriously, there are not enough Os in smooth to describe the skill of this maneuver — that I would have never picked up on what he was really doing, were it not for one detail…the sun had been down for about an inning at this point, a fact I pointed out once the ladies were well out of earshot. I will always remember Chet’s wonderful laugh in response — he had such a great laugh and this is the memory where I can most hear it loud and clear! — and the half sheepish, half mischievous smile on his face. However, I do wish he’d taken me up on my suggestion that we clearly needed more beer at that point. 😉
Anyway, Chet had a good enough time that for the small remaining part of the season he watched Angels baseball on TV and called or texted us to chat about the games, ask questions and argue over minutiae, you know, as you do. Baseball on TV is such an economical, feel good way to get your entertainment with plenty of substance for your brain to chew on that he got sucked back in, which is oddly and appropriately parallel to how Seth and I got back in to baseball years before. I will always wish I had more time with Chet. As another friend observed when a bunch of us got together to toast his memory on the actual anniversary, ‘However long you knew Chet, however much time you spent together, none of us got enough time.’ But I will always be grateful to that silly, attended completely on a whim, Angels game for giving us just one more reason to hang out, to chat, to build the kind of memories that make you smile and laugh.
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?
Way to go Tigers, coming out of nowhere to land the big free agent bat! That was almost…well…Angelic. 😉 …Ooooh. Kay. And reminiscent of many other teams in other seasons too. But this is an Angels blog. I’ve kind of got this slant going on. And with that slant I have to say, I don’t know which outcome of the deal amuses me more, the fact that this move keeps Prince Fielder out of the AL West? Or the thought that with Migueal Cabrera moving to third base according to today’s reports, Angels fans are likely to see a lot more of Justin Verlander’s “That’s bushleague!” scowl? Pssssst…Angels players bunt. Often and generally very well. Pass it on.
In all seriousness though, I do like the way this offseason is turning out and the role this deal played in it. The Tigers and the Rangers, both already strong teams, were able to make improvements without outright dominating. The Tigers filled the potentially devastating void left by Victor Martinez’ season ending injury in a way that also bumped up their offense. The Rangers did not further bump up an offense that was already pretty much the scariest in the AL, but they did improve their starting rotation. Yes, I know Darvish is unproven, but I just can’t imagine a pitching acquisition that Nolan Ryan approved of so highly turning into a flaming failure.
And the Angels? The Angels made sure they can compete, adding power to a lineup in serious need of just such an infusion and restoring their starting rotation to the promise it had at the beginning of the 2011 season. Remember, for all that our pitching was impressive last season it was primarily spots one through three that did the impressing. The four and five spots were a rotating mixed bag of frequent awfulness speckled with the occasional gem. Other teams patched potential problem spots too. I like the Yankees pitching additions…all the more because they’re both pitchers the Angels hit. I find it interesting and potentially beneficial that the Red Sox have gone out of their way to add good clubhouse guys into the mix with their All Stars. Don’t worry, I’m not going to beat a dead, repeatedly reanimated as a zombie and then beaten dead again and again and again, Bostonian horse here. But suffice it to say, I think this may prove to be a more powerful strategy than folks are currently giving it credit for.
And no, this isn’t me being some sort of Mary Sue saying, Yay, everyone is equal now. Let’s get out there, give the other team a big hug, and don’t bother keeping score. This is me, the passionate baseball fan saying, I see a lot of well matched, hard fought, competitive as all get out, great baseball games on the horizon in 2012, and that prospect makes me downright giddy. Spring training, you slacker. What’s taking you so long to get here? Come on, pick up the pace already!
* * * * *
So, I’ve been less than present in the MLBlogs community for the past week now and probably will continue to be so for a few days yet…or not, who can say. No, I’m not one of the bloggers packing it in. And I didn’t finally go off the deep end from some sort of baseball depravation induced psychosis. Heck, I would prefer that. I lost a close friend Sunday. The guy both Seth and thought of as brother. The third of our goofy Three Musketeers band of degenerates. He was only a little older than me, which is to say way, way too young…as if there were a good age for this. He’d been in the hospital all last week and devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it.
My friend – the best bad influence a girl could have, as I called him with fondness – was, among other things, the gent who taught me how to play blackjack. Not the rules, but how to really play – strategies, calculating probabilities, fearlessness. But as anyone who has ever spent serious time at the tables knows, no matter how well you work the probabilities, sometimes the cards just don’t fall in your favor and you need to do something different to change your luck. I haven’t been able to put pen to paper in days. Not for work. Not for blogging. Not for nothing. But today, I made myself bang out this post in response to news that genuinely excited me, in an attempt to “change my luck” by doing a few “normal” things. To quote Marcellus Wallace, I am pretty f-ing far from okay. But I think I am moving closer to a place where I am better able to honor his life with memories that bring smiles rather than floods of tears.
Ah, Hollywood teen flicks. Is there a more important repository of accurate truths and life lessons for our youth anywhere? …Okay, after the internet, that is? And if there is one truth they have showed us over and over again, it’s the steps the new guy in school must take to become a success:
- He must lose tragically/get the crap beaten out of him/have his sensitive little heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces or, preferably, some combination of the above. (Or, you know, fail to make the playoffs two years running while losing the AL West Division Title to the Rangers – okay, Dipoto wasn’t here for this but it still counts. It sets the stage.)
- Through pluckiness, guile and his overall superior character (read, lots and lots of money) he must overcome this set back, rise above the bullies/the cliquey in crowd/all of the mean nasty people who told him he couldn’t do it (Every big spending, clever maneuvering team in any given post season) in order to win the ultimate prize, acceptance (or, you know, Albert Pujols).
- And, along the way, win the heart of the prettiest girl in school (most eligible starting pitcher) away from the biggest bully (top division rivals, the two years running AL Champion Rangers).
- The wisdom of Hollywood also tells us that catchy soundtracks, clever catch phrases, blockbuster budgets and a cast of side character to provide rare moments of wisdom and lots and lots of comic relief have a vague but crucial role to play in all of this. (Hey, baseball has music for every occasion, a popular culture influencing language all its own, don’t even get me started on the budgets and a cast of characters fit to rival that of even a good Hollywood movie, so the analogy stands you hear?)
Based on this important metric Jerry Dipoto is clearly a smashing success! Oh, and the high, and growing higher by the moment, esteem in which Angels fans everywhere now hold him is a pretty good metric too. 😉
So the Angels sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. And don’t think I haven’t been itching to post about this all day!! But there was that work thing, and deadlines in two different time zones so it started early. But, finally, a late afternoon lunch and I can post at last! I went on record in a couple of places as being against the rumors of both of these deals but now that they have become reality I have to say I am pleased…and, for the purposes of today’s post, pleased shall be defined as bouncing all over the house with a big stupid grin on my face. Both are expensive, long term deals, the Pujols deal understandably considerably more so than the Wilson deal. And, based on the Angels old spending habits, I assumed that if we landed either player that deal would be the Angels’ only real deal of the offseason when we have quite a few more holes to fill, thank you very much.
The fact that, between Arte Moreno increasing the budget considerably and Dipoto’s wheeling and dealing, the Angels signed both Pujols and Wilson in addition to putting a potentially nice patch on our catching woes with the Chris Iannetta trade and signing another reliable seeming arm for our bullpen in LaTroy Hawkins? Well, consider my biggest concern laid to rest and then some.
I still have a few other concerns, though they are comparatively minor:
- 10 years is a loooooong contract for a 31-year old, even for a guy known as the Machine. I am certain Pujols will be great for five of those years and possibly longer. And being in the AL with the DH helps but…well…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there I suppose.
- Adjustment periods for Pujols and Wilson, both of whom were one-team players before today. This isn’t a huge concern for me. And there may not be an adjustment period, but I would caution fans not to panic if it takes a month or so for either guy (or both) to really get into the swing of things.
- What about Mark Trumbo? We have a log jam at 1st now. While I don’t doubt for a second that Pujols is a better hitter than Trumbo, I really want to find a way to keep Trumbo in the lineup. It does us very little good to swap our one slugging bat in the lineup for a harder slugging bat. Even with Albert’s considerable prowess we need multiple slugging bats in the lineup. I hope the Angels explore the idea they’ve expressed a lot this offseason of Trumbo at third. I know he wasn’t a good third base his first year in the minors but look at how quickly the analytical, note taking player improved from being kind of bad at first to being pretty darned good. I think this could be a good move.
- C.J. Wilson’s longevity. Wilson is a former reliever stretched out into a starter and, as such, he faded early in his first year as a fulltime starter…but then he faded even earlier the next season. Foreboding pattern or an aberration of the sort you often get with small sample sizes? Well now that he’s not pitching in Texas I sure hope it’s the latter! Fortunate mitigating circumstances: the weather and stadium dimensions are a lot kinder to pitchers in Anaheim and Wilson is closer to family here, which may be beneficial.
But then I think of our starting rotation to be with three legitimate aces and Ervin Santana and of our lineup with Albert Pujols in it (not to mention the wonderful teaching presence Pujols provides for our rookies) and all I can do is continue bouncing around the house, occasionally pumping my fits and cheering. And the fact of the matter is I like both players. I like their attitude and the way they play the game. I like how Wilson handled the press conferences today in a classy way that paid appropriate respect to both the team that raised him and the team that just adopted him. Yes, Wilson can be a bit of a trash talker, but I’ve always liked the fire and wit behind his comments even when I didn’t appreciate them being directed at my team and, well, I love that traditional aspect of the game. I’ll be interested to watch how Pujols handles his press conferences that are sure to come.
So, yes, even with reservations both laid to rest and lingering, I am excited by these deals. After earning two World Series berths in as many seasons, the Rangers are still tough, still absolutely frightening in the lineup department and still the team to beat. But with these Angels moves, forget the division race. I feel we have ourselves an honest to goodness, hotly contested division battle coming and I for one cannot wait!