Spring Training is but a few days old and the MLB reporters, probably just as bored and jonesing for real baseball news during the winter as the lot of us, are eagerly taking in every detail and flooding the newspapers and websites with articles, much to my delight. The only downside to this? All of the dire Kendry Morales speculation. It was pretty much a given it would start as soon as he reported to Spring Training. According to reports throughout the winter, he resumed light baseball activities in December and began light jogging about a month ago. This is excellent, hopeful progress but it never sounded like Kendry would show up in perfect, healed condition ready to go full bore on day one of Spring Training. Depending on how quickly the doctors clear him to start running at full speed again, it sounds to me like he could make the Opening Day roster but this isn’t a definite.
Suffice to say, I was prepared to have this news confirmed, and it has been in several articles now, but even when expected, it’s still disappointing. The about face in the reporters’ tone from a cheerful one midway through the post season to extremely cautious now just tells me that on some level they’re big baseball fans too. They were hopeful and rooting for the guy over the winter and are little disheartened now and all of that comes through in the tone of the prose, even when they don’t intend it to. In the articles, Kendry himself sounds a little down about it but reading between the lines, I think things still sound hopeful. He’s hitting very well and feeling no pain (yay!) but says it still feels tight and unflexible and he can’t run with more than 1/2 speed right now. I actually know that one, to a much lesser extent. I have spent the last year finally properly rehabbing a knee I damaged repeatedly in my youth and again as an adult (the last time racing up hills on my bike with clips on my shoes – it was great…until it wasn’t) and I remember the stiffness and inflexibility seeming insurmountable until all of the sudden, and quicker than I would have thought, things improved by leaps and bounds. I hope the experience is comparable because, if so, Kendry could be in playing shape by Opening Day or soon after.
If not, well, I don’t really want to think about that right now, with our best first base substitute reporting for Spring Training in Surprise, AZ, this week instead of Tempe. Howie Kendrick was not my favorite substitute first baseman last season by a long shot, but I think he’s the best temporary option, unless Mark Trumbo has improved a lot over the winter and this I doubt. Then Callaspo could play third and Maicer could play second, as long as he stays healthy. It could work, but I hate to start out the season with a duct taped infield, even if it’s only for the first month.
Reading the rest of the news, several other Angels apparently spent the winter in various forms of surgery and rehabilitation. I was aware Erick Aybar had surgery to repair the knee damaged when Casey McGee busted up the double play back in June. He sounds excited by his progress and I hope that between fixing the knee and no longer dealing with the pressure of batting leadoff, he is able to return to his 2009 form. But Matt Palmer was a surprise. While continuing conditioning workouts this winter after the surgery on his clavicle last season, he discovered he would need knee surgery as well. Apparently they rebuilt him. Better. Stronger. Faster. And Palmer feels the end result has improved his range and delivery considerably. Yay! That’s the kind of news I like to hear! Pitching Coach Mike Butcher was another surprise but, again, with a positive ending. He had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his thyroid gland over the winter. All reports say the surgery was successful and Butcher is on the mend, though not attending the first few days of Spring Training. I wish him a full and speedy recovery.
So, do all of the winter improvements and repairs mean a stronger Angels team or another season of duct tape solutions and cobbled together Franken-infields? Time will tell but I actually believe it’s the former. One thing is for certain, one way or the other I’m in for a lot of news about it in the coming days and that is already a huge improvement over the offseason.
Of course, if the baseball PTB happen to be listening and in a favorable mood, it is my birthday tomorrow (Wednesday), so when I return from an evening of pints and pub trivia, I would really like some good Kendry news from Wednesday’s workouts…and, you know, a long stream of Kendry improvement news through the rest of Spring Training leading to a strong Opening Day start? Okay. I’m asking a lot. But you have to admit, as wishes go, it’s pretty unselfish for being just a tiny bit selfish. That should count for something…right? 😉
Angels pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training today!!! They have their first warm-up tomorrow, along with 11 other teams in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. The hint of baseball is in the air again! And, really, could anyone ask for a better Valentine than that? I’m not really a Valentine’s Day kind of girl but, with the moved-up Spring Training schedule adding new meaning to the date, I might come to appreciate it after all!
Suddenly baseball articles are dominating the L.A. Times and the O.C. Register again, spring training games begin in a matter of weeks, Opening Day doesn’t seem quite so far away and all is right with world…okay, all is far from right with the world, but it’s just that much closer to right and I will take what I can get.
According to tweets from the first day back (that I read on Halos Heaven…I don’t have a Twitter account) catcher Bobby Wilson worked out like a man on a mission this offseason and lost 34 pounds. I think this is exciting. He caught a few really good games last season and has a strong but inconsistent bat. If he’s trying for a Nick Swisher like transformation in 2011, I am all for it. Based on last year’s performances, all three candidates for catcher have different important components of the necessary skill set for the position. Competition for the catcher’s position, spurring each player to improve areas of weakness, can only be a good thing for the team right now.
The L.A. Times blog reported that Jered Weaver arrived at Spring Training with a great attitude, has no hard feelings after the arbitration hearing and says he would still love to play for the Angels for a long time. Granted, this is the kind of thing a good sport is supposed to say when things don’t go their way regardless of actual feelings on the matter, but I am choosing to take these comments at face value. The same article reported that long term contract discussions with Weaver have halted until next winter. I actually like this. Once Spring Training starts, I want everyone concentrating on 2011 and not worrying about 2012 contacts and beyond.
Suffice to say, the L.A. Times made me a lot happier than reading the O.C. Register’s Blog Post “Arbitration Loses Usually Lead to Divorce“ did. Apparently if you look back at the last five years, only Mariano Rivera and Wandy Rodriguez have remained with the team they lost to in arbitration once they reached free agency eligibility. Ouch. Oh…yeah…but…well…in the immortal words of the great Charlie Brown, tell your statistics to shut up! All jokes aside, it was a good blog post and I’m aware that the arbitration decision doesn’t make for a great situation, but I’m just not going to spend all season worrying about it. Future Blithescribe can worry about Weaver’s contract and Kendry Morales’ too next winter.
Looking at the amount of Spring Training news posted on the blogs from journalists’ and players’ twitter accounts, I think I may need to finally break down and get a twitter account. I have avoided it for the longest time because most of the tweets I see auto-posted to FaceBook and Livejournal aren’t interesting to me. I know that eventually someone is going to ask me to work with Twitter in a professional capacity – I switch hats between communications, marketing, PR and fundraising, but I’m basically a corporate writer/communications specialist – so I should probably dive in and get used to the ins and outs of it on my own, but I’ve been dragging my feet. If there’s fun baseball information on Twitter, however, maybe that’s just the prod I need to join.
In the mean time, it’s finally Spring Training!!! And I am in such a bouncy, giddy good mood, it isn’t even funny. I hope the coming days find all of you in the same state of mind. 🙂
The Angels “won” their arbitration case with Jered Weaver today. The Angels Ace and 2010 Strike Out Leader was seeking $8.8 million and the Angels offered $7.365 million. Call me crazy, but this doesn’t really seem like winning to me. The Angels want to keep Weaver in Anaheim – I know I want the Angels to keep Weaver in Anaheim! They began initial long term contract negotiations with him earlier this month. I didn’t really expect a long term contract to materialize this offseason. I know. I know. How could Weaver and the Angels ignore my “it’s almost my birthday” argument? Oh well, as compelling as that argument was, Weaver does have one more arbitration eligible year before he is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2012 season. I imagine making a deal now seemed too soon from Weaver’s perspective for him to be able to command the salary he is going to want from his next long term contract.
However, you would think, especially after there was so much conflict and ego bruising surrounding Weaver’s initial contract signing, that the Angels would want to throw him a bone now, if for no other reason than to earn goodwill this early on in the proceedings. Seriously, what’s $1.435 million to a Major League Baseball team? Especially this offseason and after the 2010 season Weaver had? Especially when the Angels got off comparatively easy with several of the other players’ contracts? I don’t think it was too much to ask at all.
I’m not really upset about this, more disappointed than anything. And, I’m not saying that “winning” this arbitration case chips anything in stone with Weaver other than the amount of this season’s contract. I just think there’s a time when taking a hard line is an advantage and a time when it might actually be detrimental and this has the potential to be the latter. I loved Lyle Spencer’s article on the arbitration case outcome. He doesn’t come out and say he thinks the Angels acted unwisely – it is a news piece after all. But the article states the outcome and then goes on to sing Weaver’s praises for the next 10 column inches or so. Well played.
Admittedly, I’ve only started paying attention to the details of contracts, arbitration and such in the last few years. I hated this side of the game as a kid when, typically, I didn’t want business and money to cloud my pure enjoyment of the game. I grudgingly accepted this side of the game as an adult when I started paying attention to baseball again and became really interested as the fervor of my fandom increased and I started working in finance, go figure. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m interested in the financial aspects of team decisions but would not yet claim to be knowledgeable. So if I’m looking at this the wrong way, please let me know. In this case I’d actually find it comforting :).
Michael Young? No, thanks. None for me please.
So Michael Young has had all he can stand and he can’t stands no more and he’s asked to be traded. I can’t say that blame him really, not that I blame the Rangers either. The team is making good deals but I can only imagine what went through Young’s mind when they signed Mike Napoli after he had already agreed to move to DH for Adrian Beltre…the All-State Insurance commercial with Mayhem as the distraught, dumped teenaged girl, however, does come to mind. It sounds to me like he’s headed for the Rockies. Of course, the being the media’s front runner hasn’t meant a whole lot this offseason, so you just never know and there are other teams – and other teams fans – who want him badly.
I may be in the minority, but I don’t want him for the Angels. He’s a stand up, team player kind of guy and I would love to have a bat like his in the lineup. But defensively he’s no better and possibly not quite as good as what we’ve already – which is not to say that the Angels third base options couldn’t use some defensive improvement. For me, Young’s bat alone doesn’t justify the players we would have to give up -and then face again, and again and again in Texas – to get him. Another team could make the trade and be happier and better for it, but I just don’t think the Angels are the right fit.
Young Catchers Trend Continues in 2011
MLB.com had a great article today about the large group of talented young catchers who should see some major league playing time next year. It was nice to see that the Angel’s Hank Conger prominently mentioned and frequently quoted. Conger impressed me behind the plate last season. If he can find his bat against major league pitching this season and find it quickly, he could really go places. Conger was even one of four catchers included in the photo when the article was highlighted on MLB’s front page this morning, before the news lit up with speculation about Pujols and Young. The photo was actually a montage of four tall, skinny photos, one of each catcher in a different crouch or catching position. Of course, when I was trying to explain this to my husband this evening, what I came up with was that it looked very Charlie’s Angels, actually, but with photos instead of silhouettes and mitts instead of guns. Sadly this was apt and he knew exactly what article I was talking about from this description. We both laughed a lot.
Why must all of the fun events happen during the week?
The Angels open house? All of the press conferences? And now the Inland Empire 66ers Affiliation Celebration – celebrating the Angels new advanced A affiliation? (Basically, the Angels and Dodgers traded advanced A teams in the offseason.) I actually do get why so many of these things take place during the week but I would love to be able to go to one or two of them. Oh well, that’s one of the many beauties of baseball. There is always next season.
This is what happens when I leave my book at home, assuming I have no time for a lunch break and then realize that I absolutely require a lunch break as a mental break from all of the writing…I spend the time reading the news and writing for my blog. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Actually, switching writing gears is sometimes relaxing. But I digress…Scary financial and global news eventually gave way to baseball headlines, with the following really catching my attention:
Angels May Call on Creative Approach to Closing
This MLB headline was the first that caught my eye and, unfortunately, my initial reaction was to laugh. My second was to snark on Facebook “By creative, do they mean effective? Because, after last season, an effective closer would be creative!” This led to an online “therapy session” with my Dodger fan cousins about our respective teams’ closing woes. (The Giants fan cousins were smart enough to realize that we didn’t want to hear a peep out of them and stayed away from this status update, thus positive family relations remain intact.) Of course, what the article actually meant was bullpen by committee with Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden and possibly occasionally Hisanori Takahashi sharing closing duties as needed.
On the surface, this certainly is not creative used as an unusual synonym for effective. However, I hope that it is code for grooming Walden for the closer’s role without putting too much pressure on the kid too early. Walden showed poise, promise and blazing speed last season in several really difficult games and I am eager to see what he can do over the course of a whole season. Our closer woes were a big topic of conversation in the Right Field Pavilion last season, one of those ongoing debates where even the ushers and the vendors weigh in and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of this development…okay, who am I kidding? I just can’t wait to go to a game!
MLB Overview 2011: Adrian Beltre and All 30 Teams’ Most Unpredictable Hitter
Another headline that caught my eye was this offering from the Bleacher Report. Some of their choices are spot on, others are apt to be controversial. I don’t know enough about every team’s lineup to say whether I think all of the Bleacher Report’s choices are good (especially when we get to the NL East – but that’s going to change after Interleague 2011, I’m sure). However, I think they hit the nail on the head with the Angels. No, the Bleacher Report did not use this as one more opportunity to pick on a certain recent acquisition, they selected Kendry Morales instead. Kendry was not selected for any prior issues at the plate but for the big question that’s certainly on every Angels fan’s mind: is he going to come back as strong and reliable as he was before the broken leg. Because an Angels lineup with a reliable, power hitting Kendry batting in the five spot is a thing of beauty and a lineup without his bat is…well…the sort of lineup that allows Jered Weaver to pitch a one-run game that the Angels still lose. Yeah, you all saw 2010.
While this was interesting, it really wasn’t news and it certainly wasn’t the news I went looking for:
How are long term contract negotiations going with Jered Weaver? Absolutely swimmingly, of course and the contract will be signed by the time pitchers and catchers report…right? Right? Yeah, it’s never really that easy, is it?
Are we really looking for a leadoff man or are we going to platoon with what we have? This is a topic of some discussion on Angels blogs. Given the options out there, I could really go either way on this one. I’m not overly thrilled with a leadoff platoon but, then again, I’m not overly thrilled with any of the options that have been bantered about.
Is Vlad going to get a job already? I know he’s talking to the Orioles right now but that contract doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I actually think this is a good fit for all concerned. With Vlad’s mighty bat protecting Markakis and company in the lineup, if the Orioles pick up where they left off at the end of the 2010 season, they could seriously be spoilers in the AL East (and other places) and who knows? But Vlad needs to accept the fact that’s he’s no longer an outfielder, at least no more than every once in a while, and negotiate accordingly.