I turned on my TV this morning and — hip, hip and ten thousand huzzahs! — there were men playing baseball! Live! Right there on the prettiest green grass you even did see…well, since October at least. Oh, it was glorious! And then I got to listen to the Angels game on the radio! I tell you, hearing Terry Smith’s voice calling a game, complete with all the old, familiar names and phrases, after the long, long winter without? It was a veritable symphony to these offseason ears.
It was almost enough to make up for the sheer horror of dealing with Ticketmaster this morning when Angels individual game tickets went on sale…Ah, Ticketmaster. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the fees…er…ways. I loathe thee to the depth and breadth and height Of your soulless reach into every event in sight For the never ending fees and tolls and charges… I loathe thee to the level of every event’s Monopolized need to use your stupid, inefficient, outrageously priced, services…
Ummm…yeah. I won’t bore you with the rest. It’s mostly loud swearing from that point on anyway…loud swearing punctuated by the sound of throwing things hard enough to soundly strike walls. Sort of a Beat thing. And angry, improvised Victorian/Beat poetry fusion thing. Oh yeah. I’m bringing it back. But I digress…
Back to Spring Training games! Okay, okay. So the Angels lost. Badly. To the Cubs. Eh, it isn’t officially Spring Training at all until the Angels have been clobbered by at least one team you might not think had it in them. And, I know, all manner of outfielders need to work on communication, the infield fielding is suspect and the pitchers need to work on, well, everything. Angel ERAs are pretty much double (digits that is) or nothing after today. Heck, even Stephen Strasburg looked like his control is rusty during the Nationals/Mets game…of course, the look of sheer terror on the young Met batter’s face when he realized this was laugh out loud funny and one of the highlights of my morning.
But, even so, glorious I say! All of this is part of the charm of Spring Training. The players are working to ready themselves for the season and we get to see a glimpse inside the process, warts and all. I really wouldn’t worry about any issues unless they continue to be issues with no sign of improvement in late March. Be they every so rusty, gaffe ridden and filled with unknown faces, Spring Training games are still baseball. And, quite simply, there’s no game like baseball!
Oh, I know that after two weeks or so of this, I will grow bored of Spring Training games for all of the same reasons I just listed as charming and a few others besides and begin Jones-ing hard for the regular season to start. I might even whine about it on this blog. Might But the fact of the matter remains that with the start of Spring Training games, Opening Day just isn’t that far away, I have tickets to the Angels home opener (and a few more games so far, besides), and my Angels are on TV tomorrow. This is a great weekend.
Just before 5 p.m., feeding time for our baseball addiction, Seth and I crept down the mountain from the Yosemite cabin to catch the game at a truly delicious barbecue joint in Oakhurst. We have meals to cook at the cabin, despite the lack of stove, and things we want to do in the evenings that preclude a 90 minute round trip just to find an available television, so we knew we were only going to catch one more game this vacation and, as it turned out, we picked a fun one. I chose this evening’s game because I wanted to see a great pitchers’ duel and just hoped that Barry Zito would hold up his end of the bargain by building on his heroic NLCS outing. I never expected that a pitchers’ duel would fail to materialize because Justin Verlander was having an off night. But, you know what? Those cheesy Postseason commercials really are true: you can’t script October.
Usually I don’t enjoy a blowout as much as a close game, even when the winning team is the team I’m rooting for, but who could possibly call themselves a baseball fan and not enjoy Pablo Sandoval’s three homerun game? …Well…okay, fine…Tigers fans get a pass on this one. 😉 Sandoval is now only the fourth player to hit three home runs in a Postseason game. Talk about complete and utter Panda-monium in the Bay Area! Also, I think that this one-sided score doesn’t really tell the whole story. From what I saw, yes, the Tigers absolutely gave up when Verlander got shelled, but they also recovered and tried valiantly to get back in the game at the end there, it was just too little, too late. The end result was a dazzling display of highlight reel worthy diving and leaping defensive plays on both sides. With the Tigers showing strong signs of life at the end to the point that the Giants blew through three relievers to get the last three outs, tomorrow’s game could be a different story. But, a story with a similar Giants ending or one more to the Tigers liking, who can say. See previous comment about commercial cliches, scripting and October.
Woah, Woah, Woah. What’s with all this Giants Stuff?
Okay, okay. I know what you all must be thinking, reading my last few posts. Is this an Angels blog or some sort of weird hybrid Giants/Nationals/Orioles blog heavier on the west coast bias than on the east? Have the Angels finally driven this blogger so crazy that she’s lost all focus? Now that’s just crazy talk. Of course this is an Angels blog. But this is October, the Angels almost-an-October never quite materialized, and I will be damned if I spend the month mourning the lack of Angels to such a degree that I miss out on the LAST FEW WEEKS OF BASEBALL before the looooong wintery time without.
Even as a huge fan of the game, it’s so much more fun to root for someone than just to watch with no skin in the game, so once the Angels are out of the running, I pick other teams to root for. Borrowed skin, as it were. No, this isn’t being a bandwagon fan. Bandwagon fans hop on that bandwagon in good times and pretend they’re diehards from way back before jumping right off again in bad times. No bandwagon fans here. I am simply shamelessly loving the one I am with, namely your team, for a week or two or however long they last in the postseason because I can’t be with the one I want…and I have absolutely no problem explaining that. …Also, yes, my father did raise me with an appreciation for the classics and generally excellent taste in music. Why do you ask? 😉
This postseason my adopt a team philosophy has lead me to root for the Nationals – because they’d never been to the World Series as Expos or Nationals and I like rooting for a lovable underdog – the Orioles – because of their long World Series drought, see previous discussion of the Nationals – the A’s – because they had a fun team this season despite the fact that I almost never root for another AL West team also I couldn’t very well break tradition now and root for the Yankees – the Tigers – see previous conversation about the A’s – and the Giants because of family ties…
Our Blogger Heroine’s Strange Origins
…Long story shortened, I am the lone living Red sheep (my grandfather was a diehard Angels fan) in a family split on both my mother’s and my father’s sides between the Dodgers fan base and the Giants. Oddly enough, this means I grew up with a weird affection for both teams. But Kristen, how can you like both teams? Don’t you know about the Dodgers/Giants rivalry? Hello, did you not just read the previous two sentences? I have family on both sides of the rivalry…family who share food across the table at holiday gatherings…holiday gatherings that take place in the months following the baseball postseason. Savvy?
Such passion, while often contentious, is also contagious so, as improbable and downright wrong as this sounds, I have both an affection and a respect for the Dodgers and the Giants that still pales in comparison to my diehard passion for the Angels. I follow the Dodgers and the Giants out of the corner of my eye while I’m watching the Angels all season. I know the players on both teams and generally wish them both well. If either the Dodgers or the Giants makes it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, then I’m rooting for that team. If both of them ever make it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, well then I’ll probably root for the Dodgers – my immediate family are the Dodgers fans, so I grew up going to games in Chavez Ravine – and try to lay low on FaceBook when the cousins start trash talking. So, you see, it doesn’t matter that I felt nothing particularly for or against the Reds, that I generally like the Cardinals, and that I think the Tigers have a pretty fun team this season. This Giants rooting thing was as inevitable as it is fun and strictly relegated to an Angel-less October.
Wow, it has been one hell of a Postseason so far. Barring one’s own team making it to October, a baseball fan couldn’t ask for a better gift than watching all four Division Series going to five games complete with extra innings, walk off wins, taut pitching duels and plenty of derring-do in the field and at the plate. I only wish I had a little more time to take it all in. Ugh. It’s not as if I’m glad the Angels aren’t in the Postseason this year, but if I have to spend this many late hours on a work project in October, let’s just say I’m glad it happens to coincide with a year the Angels aren’t in the playoffs. Because, seriously, if it was the Angels I was only able to watch with part of my distracted attention, my coworkers would be significantly less than thrilled with me right now. Hell hath no grumpiness like a fan denied, and all that. Anyway, couple of thoughts on the Postseason so far.
Derek Jeter: I’m rooting against the Yankees, which shouldn’t really be a shock. I generally root against them. But that doesn’t mean I ever want players get hurt. It was shock and a half, seeing Derek Jeter fracture his ankle. It looked bad when he went down, then it almost looked like he was joking with Robinson Cano and I briefly thought he might be okay but then, *shudders* that look on his face and you had to know it was bad even before the diagnosis was in. Not the way anyone wants to end their season and certainly not the way any fan of the game wants to see any player, let alone one of the all-time greats, end their season. I wish Jeter a full and speedy recovery.
Drew Storen: I will lament bad plays and bad seasons in blog posts, but I could never boo an Angels player, no matter how bad the season. So I absolutely cannot understand the level of hate heaped on Drew Storen after his blown save in game five of the Nationals/Cardinals series. Yes, the blown save was terribly disappointing, especially with all four runs coming after the 2nd out, epsecially after such a magical season. But, as with most losses, this was a team loss. What of the other relievers that let the Nationals 6 -1 lead slowly slip into a close game in the 9th? What of the offense that went all but dormant after the 3rd inning? There is no one person to blame here and that’s baseball. Besides, even if there was, the Nationals had a great season, a season fans should be proud of. And, while I’m not going to tell you that baseball is only a game – because to those of us who love it, it is so much more than that – I will say that very few things in this world justify heaping that level of hate on a person and baseball is not one of them.
Bryce Harper: We as fans gripe when players practice their clichés with maddening dedication in their interactions with the media, so why do so many folks complain even louder when the occasional player or manager breaks the mold and actually speaks their mind? I laughed when Bryce Harper got sarcastic with the reporter. “You think so? Maybe you should be our hitting coach.” Hilarious. Look, the how do you feel questions are abysmally stupid questions – how do you think I feel?! – that must be asked, even so. Reporters can’t exactly write an entire article based on how the player appeared to feel and what the manager said about how the player feels. They need quotes directly from the player even when the answer is pretty obvious. Understanding this, however, doesn’t mean that I’m not going to appreciate the hell out of it with my laughter if, every once in a while, a player responds to such questions with the kind of sarcastic response I’ve certainly got in my head. If Harper responded to reporters like this in every interview, I’d go along with the brat assessment. But, as it is, I’m just going to be thankful for the occasional non-“it’s a marathon not a sprint” gems. They provide humor, the provide a bit of insight and you have to admit, the kid’s got a way with words.
And that’s all the thoughts fit to print from this old brain for now. Hopefully I will get a little more time to watch October baseball in the coming weeks and get a few more thoughts on the blog.
Congratulations to all of the teams who earned playoff berths and many thanks to all of the teams (even those like the Angels, Rays and Dodgers who didn’t quite make it) who helped make this playoff race such an exhilarating, every single game counts right down to the wire, experience. Yeah, I’m actually even gonna tip my glass to old Bud Selig for the change in playoff formats. I don’t compliment Bud very often for obvious reasons, and I did initially dread the format change, but if the end result that every season ends roughly like this, then that is one worthwhile format change! (We’ll talk about this evening’s crappy call and Wild Card Game under protest later after I’ve noodled over it a bit, as a former manager of mine used to say. But, in general, even with that, my *cringe* compliment still stands.)
Special congratulations to the Nationals and the Orioles for defying expectations and recent history all season long and to the A’s for what – seriously, all rivalries aside – was an absolutely epic comeback. While, of course, I wish the Angels had been able to push even harder in September and come back even farther to take the playoff berth in their place (or in the Rangers’), as a baseball fan, I just plain tip my glass to the A’s achievement as well. And I have one more glass tip – to Miguel Cabrera, and in his case let’s respectfully amend that to a hat tip, shall we. Yes, naturally I know all about the raging AL MVP debate right now and the season’s hot and heavy race for the batting title between Cabrera and our Angels’ hero, Mike Trout. But I want to set all that aside for a little while. The first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967? Wow! Seriously, wow! That is a big deal. Congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on an achievement that adds his to a very select and impressive list of names.
Yes, of course, I am disappointed my Angels didn’t make it to the Postseason, but they took too long to gell as a team, losing too many games along the way, and even though their play in the 2nd half was inspired, they were flat out outplayed by the A’s. And you know what? Fie on all of this failed season talk from the analysts. That’s baseball. Sometimes you get outplayed. Yes, the Angels spent a metric F ton of money on the team this season, but since when does money guarantee success? Big payrolls and big free agent signings don’t work out – or, as in the Angels case, don’t work out right away – all the time. Besides, the Angels had a lot of be proud of this season with a no hitter and an epic, record breaking rookie season both high on that list. (And, if you’re of a mind, you can check out what else I had to say on this very subject on L.A. Angels Insider.) I tip my glass to the Angels twice – once in mourning for the season that wasn’t, and once in pride for the season that was!
Yes, I do read the fabled wisdom that is the internets. I am aware that Angels fans are rumored to be some of the whiniest, most “it’s always someone else’s fault,” overly entitled fans out there and I do understand that if you read it on the internet it absolutely must be true and all that. 😉 Well, fie on all of that too – and since when are there rules for such things anyway and who gets to write them I ask? 😉 The Angels were outplayed. I am disappointed but far from devastated. I offer my sincere congratulations to all of those who did the outplaying. (More tips of the glass…yes, the Postseason demands quite a few tips of one’s glass. It’s excellent practice for the offseason which requires even more to get through. Why do you ask?) And I promise to regale the lot of you with all of my hopes, plans and general armchair GMing for the Angels 2013 throughout the fall and winter. You have been warned. 😉
The Angels swept the Nationals and, oh yeah, we went to a baseball game on Monday! Work has been plentiful, all consuming, fun and, occasionally, FUn this week – I came home from Monday’s game and moved a project along until 2am, that kind of fun. Between that and the games I suddenly looked up, it’s Thursday already and I haven’t posted my photos. Oh well…
Our seats for Monday night’s game were just to the foul side of the foul pole down the first base line, in the second row. Prime visitor’s section this. And, indeed, we set in front of and behind two families of Nationals fans vacationing in Los Angeles and next to a Phillies fan and his young daughters who were here on one of the middle stops of a larger baseball tour vacation. They had just come from Seattle and were headed out to Arizona then Texas. So jealous! When everyone has the right attitude, visiting fans can be a kick to enjoy the game with and all parties involved in this particular case were really nice and a lot of fun to chat/snark with.
Bobby Abreu leads off of second. Being on the field level, these seats were excellent for catching glimpses of personality on the field, some of which I got on camera. As you can see, Bobby is a talker on the base paths, especially at second base. He always wears a huge smile and gestures broadly with his hands so it is unclear for the most part if he’s goofing around, talking trash, just shooting the breeze or what. Probably a little of columns A, B and C. What little I catch of it on TV is pretty darned funny…and of course he has 13 stolen bases (not bad for one of the few ballplayers left who are older than me :)) so perhaps this is all part of his strategy. Get ‘em laughing, then break for third?
Vernon Wells at bat. These seats were not, however, the best for views or photos of the plate. The first base umpire is always in the way. That’s okay. Ssometimes I enjoy having a closer vantage of the outfield and plays at second. Wells is continuing to heat up in June. He hit a single this at bat, which eventually lead to a run and then went four for five on Tuesday with a crucial two-run homerun. And Angels fans are starting to respond. Both developments are very welcome indeed.
Catcher Bobby Wilson and Pitching Coach Mike Butcher meet with Ervin Santana on the mound. Santana got off to an uneven start, giving up homeruns in the 2nd and 4th, but settled into a good rhythm after that. He lasted eight innings and on the Angels, starters don’t pitch in the 9th inning unless they’re pitching a shutout or something equally spectacular, so that’s pretty darned good.
Just a random shot of the Angels bullpens. The bullpens at the Big A are terraced, which is a little unusual. The Angels bullpen on the lowest “step” in the front. And if you look at the photo you can see the Nationals in the visitor’s bullpen one step up and behind the home bullpen. Starting another “step” above the visitor’s bullpen you have the Left Field Pavilion seats. In this bullpen shot you can see Angels relievers Michael Kohn (standing up), Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takashi’s translator, Hisanori Takashi and Jordan Walden kneeling down and…what? Praying? Vomiting? Spitting sunflower seeds? Catching a few ZZZs? Probably the real answer isn’t nearly as funny so I’m going to go with one of mine.
The Nationals brought the Racing Presidents with them to Anaheim for the series. So was this a) an incredibly stupid idea, b) a fine example of Interleague sharing of baseball cultures and traditions, or c) I really hate Interleague and fail to see how these two comments are mutually exclusive? You make the call. I initially thought the idea was kind of dumb, only because this is the Nationals’ tradition and it’s the Angels ballpark. But it was kind of fun to see and it provided a between innings icebreaker with the Nationals fans around us. I took the opportunity to ask, so, what’s the deal with Teddy? He’s really never won? I mostly knew the answer, but it was fun hearing all about the goofy, fun tradition from fans. We’d been talking a little between innings before that, but talked a lot more often after: relievers we love/who make us cringe, hitters who are starting to do better than their batting average indicates, overinflated contracts…it turns out Angels fans and Nationals fans have a frightening amount in common.
Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty meet with Pitcher John Lannan on the mound. All was going well for Lannan and the game was tied 2 to 2 until the Angels started hitting in the 6th. The Angels scored their third run shortly after this meeting and then Lannan was pulled. I love the photo because of the facial expressions and body language. I can only imagine the conversation that went with it. McCatty: Alright then, how are we going to get out of this? Lannan: Well, gee I don’t know Coach. I thought maybe I’d throw some strikes and get him out.
Mark Trumbo grows impatient during the meeting on the mound – again, with being able to catch glimpses of personality from these seats. Mark Trumbo is usually as professional in demeanor as a veteran so I was amused to see him visibly impatient at another break in this already lengthy at bat, with his cheeks puffed out like an exasperated little kid. Very cute actually. He ground into a double play this at bat, but was pretty solid at the plate this series. His average is creeping back up again and he is the American League’s rookie homerun leader with 13. Coincidentally, the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa is the Rookie Major League homerun leader.
The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during the subsequent pitching change. ‘Damn Werth, you have lots of friends over here too. You’re a real popular guy in Anaheim.’ Suffice to say, Angels fans were heckling Werth all night, which isn’t surprising. There are a few folks I see regularly in this section and the left most corner of the right field MVP section (Season ticket holders? Maybe, maybe not.) who heckle pretty much everyone, occasionally even our own players. Whether or not that was the topic of the outfielders’ conversation, I’m sure Werth is used to it by now.
Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells joke after Peter snags a fly ball to end the inning. The outfield chemistry is shaping up much better as the months role by. This is very helpful, especially with various assorted centerfielders, corner outfielders turned DH and the occasional second baseman flopping roles in the outfield on a regular basis to accommodate injuries, Interleague and random acts of lineup juggling.
Yes that is Torii Hunter right in front of me in right field. The news report prior to Monday’s game was that Torii took batting and fielding practice Monday and looked good enough to return soon, possibly as soon a Wednesday. Imagine our delight when they brought him in as an unexpected substitution in the top of the 8th inning. The whole crowd erupted and we went especially crazy in the seats around right field with our welcome backs.
Jorda Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Unfortunately this would prove to be another blown save for Walden, his third in a row, when he gave up a two-out homerun to Danny Espinosa. The young Nationals fan in front of us turned around and informed me “Blown Save”. Thanks kid, I kind of figured that one out on my own. No liner notes needed. So, am I worried about Walden? No. Not at all. When I started advocating making the rookie our closer, I knew there would be some growing pains. This is a kid who had every intention of being a starter and never thought about the closer’s role until it turned out he had quite the aptitude for it this season. So far, he has 18 saves (including last night’s) which is respectable. And when he does blow it, instead of crumbling, Walden is right back in the game to get the next batter. Monday night when he gave up the homerun, he threw the next pitch for a called strike and then coaxed the batter into a ground out to end the inning. And he was right back in the game on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead on the line and got the save. That says something to me. We will probably witness a few more growing pains this season, but I have no doubts that Jordan Walden is our closer.
Scott Downs pitches in the 10th as Howie Kendrick (who moved to first base in the 8th when Torii came in to the game) moves into position. I mentioned we were chatting about relievers with the Nationals fans? Well, Scott Downs is one of the few I never worry about. When I look over to the bullpen and see Downs warming up, with that distinctive haircut easily identifiable across the field, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, he has an off outing here and there, but by and large he comes in and gets it done and he has five wins for the season, as many as some teams’ starters, to prove it. Monday night and the rest of the Nationals series was no exception.
Brian Bixler stands on second flanked by second baseman Maicer Izturis and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Bixler reached 2nd on an uncharacteristic fielding error by Maicer. There were an annoying number of Angels fielding errors this series actually, but we recovered from all of them to sweep. I hope the errors are more an indication of tiredness from the epic Four Corners Road Trip than anything more trend setting, shall we say.
Peter Bourjos takes a long lead off third. I think it is safe to say that Bourjos has worked through his slump at the plate. He went four for five on Monday with one RBI and was a crucial component of the 10th inning rally, knocking a ground rules double into the stands mere feet from my seat, that put Callaspo in scoring position for Maicer Izturis’ walk-off single. Yes, when that happened I tapped the young Nationals fan in front of us on the shoulder and informed him “Walk off.” Fair’s fair right? Acutally, everyone was laughing both over the “Blown Save” and the “Walk Off.”
The Nationals signed Jayson Werth for a $126 million dollars over 7 years deal! On the day before the Winter Meetings begin! Holy out of the blue Hot Stove developments, Batman!
There I was, enjoying a leisurely late Sunday afternoon – the last game wrapped up at 3:30 this morning, don’t judge, LOL – putting the house back together from the evening’s festivities when I decided to quickly check out the Hot Stove blog to see if there happened to be any new pre-Winter Meeting rumors. It was unlikely, right, but I needed a distraction from the dishes. Boy was I in for a surprise.
The Nationals signing Jayson Werth potentially changes everything for the Angels. Everyone who had their sights set on Werth will now train them on Carl Crawford instead. Christmas certainly came early for the Crawford family – his price just went way up. This is also potentially an early present for Adrian Beltre and several of the other highly sought free agents. With so many teams’ Plan A off the table before the meetings even start, there is plenty of time for offers and counter offers on Plans B through D and so on. And the farther apart each deal happens, the harder it gets to sneak a contract signing in under the radar before five or six other teams dive into the fray. I don’t even remember the Nationals being mentioned in the list of Werth suitors. The Nationals GM is the new player transaction ninja, I think.
I wonder how this news went down as everyone arrived at the winter meetings today? Welcome to the Swan and Dolphin Resort. We hope you had a nice flight. Here is your meeting packet including your room reservations, the week’s iteniary, and agendas for tomorrow’s meetings. And oh, by the way, you might want to spend the next few hours fleshing out plans D through N because, while you were in the air, the Nationals just started the dominoes rolling in a completely different direction. Have a pleasant stay. I’m sure that isn’t how it actually happened, but the mental image amused me. In this day and age, all of the GMs probably knew the second the trade became official via electronic alert, a courtesy text or, you know, Twitter.
Oh yeah, and the White Sox signed Adam Dunn late Thursday and resigned A.J. Pierzynski on Friday, the Cardinals signed Lance Berkman on Saturday, the Yankees resigned Derek Jeter on Saturday and the Red Sox nearly lost out on their deal with the Padres for Adrian Gonzales Saturday only to lock it in today, which hopefully will take a little bit of the edge off of their quest for Crawford and/or to resign Beltre. That last development was announced a mere three hours ago. Has this been an inordinately busy early Hot Stove weekend or what? I can’t wait to see what news the next few days bring.