Tagged: Peter Bourjos

Acquiring Jason Vargas, Keeping (and Playing?!) Peter Bourjos and Other Things that Make this Blogger Giddy Happy

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. So, these two Dirt Bags walk out to the mound and…and…well, suddenly I’m a much happier Angels fan, that’s what. No, no punch line. Just that. See, early yesterday I started writing a post that was quite ranty (about the need for another starting pitcher, a good one this time) and involved a great deal of begging and pleading (please, please don’t trade either Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos to accomplish this). I don’t like writing begging, pleading rants at all and I liked both the state of the starting rotation and the, seemingly likely, prospect of trading Bourjos and/or Trumbo with or without additional prospects in order to correct the situation even less.

But instead, thanks to Santas Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno, I get to write about the Angels trading Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for Jason Vargas instead (another Long Beach State baseball team alum, joining fellow Dirt Bag Jered Weaver in the rotation). What’s not to like about that? Yes, the Angels and, indeed, this Angels fan will absolutely miss Kendrys in the lineup and I even think that he will improve a bit more this season as he moves further and further away from his last surgery. However, I think that with the addition of Josh Hamilton, we will miss Kendrys a lot less than we would miss the more versatile Trumbo. In addition to slugging, Trumbo can cover both corner outfield positions, first base and – yes I’m going to say it, quiet you – if he actually gets practice time during Spring Training this season there is even the possibility of him covering third. Hey, it could happen.

And — and this is a huge and in my book, more of an AND, really – Trumbo can now spend most of his time in the now vacated designated hitter’s position allowing for a regular outfield featuring Mike Trout and Hamilton in the corners and Bourjos playing an even better centerfield than Trout. Yes, you read that correctly, an even better centerfield than Trout – Bourjos is alternately just as fast and faster depending on the task in question, tends to run better routes and has a stronger arm. And watching Trout and Bourjos dominate the outfield together on the rare occasions I’ve gotten to see it is one of my current favorite delights in baseball…adding Hamilton to that mix? Every day or very nearly so? Um, yeah, I’ll be in my bunk.

But Bourjos can’t hit, whine the naysayers. Correct, he can’t hit…when he’s only getting one or two innings of playing time a week as he was in 2012 or during his first half season in the majors. When Bourjos has a full season of regular playing time however, well we only have a one season sample size for this but, while he started out slow to be sure in 2011, Bourjos hit .271 with a .765 OPS (a decidedly speed enhanced figure, and yay for that) and 12 homeruns for the season. I for one would really like to see what the kid can do with another full season of regular playing time and it sure sounds like Dipoto and Mike Scioscia would like to see that as well. Yo ho, yo ho, it’s a lightning fast Angels lineup for me!

Um, hey, blogger lady? Sorry to interrupt and all but so far you’ve talked about every single aspect of this Vargas trade except Vargas himself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Patience. There was a reason for that. In my opinion this deal is every bit as important to the Angels for it allowed the team to do in terms of bolstering defense while maintaining offense as for what it did for the starting rotation. However, when it comes to the starting rotation, the Angels just moved from having an Ace, a positive and three question marks to having an Ace, two positives and Scioscia’s choice of the two most promising question marks out of the three. Is it perfect? No. But it is a lot better. And, with this outfield and this offense, on paper at least it all looks pretty darned good. The same can also be said of Vargas himself. Yes, that 4.35 career ERA looks a little scary. But I think this is a case where the numbers don’t really reflect the reality of Vargas’s pitching. Vargas has pitched better than that 4.35 ERA for three of his four seasons – the most recent three – with Seattle. And last season he was good for 14 wins…with Seattle’s outfield and Seattle’s offense. Wait’ll he gets a load of ours!

 

We Interrupt this Sleepy November for an Angels Baseball Rant

Ah, November. From a baseball standpoint, this is easily the sleepiest month of all. Sure it seems promising when you enter the month, what with free agency decisions, awards announcements and all. But then, reality hits. Potential free agents are either woo’d back by their current team or they become free agents aaaaaaaaaand nothing happens. Nothing. We talk. We speculate. Teams and players make noises. And nothing really happens until December and the Winter Meetings…or so. Okay, and in some big name cases, or so, or so.

And the awards? Well, they are fun and it is exciting when one of your favorites wins, or at least fodder for debate when they do not. However, as a fan, I find both the excitement and the occasional outrage to be largely ephemeral at least in terms of a baseball fix. I find out who won. I think Yay! Right on! Really? Or even WTF? And then I move on, baseball jones still fully present and accounted for.

Now, none of this is intended as a complaint. I understand why very little happens in terms of personnel decisions in November and the fact that the awards are no kind of baseball fix at all does not make them any less important. However, these facts do serve to explain how one might get so caught up in other things that, pulling a thoroughly random example completely out of thin air, a normally avid blogger might let her posts lapse for the better part of two weeks. Not buying it? *sigh* Yeah, didn’t think so. Well, tough. My assessment of November’s comparative lack of baseball fix-ly goodness stands. 😉

In terms of my Angels, well, to be honest I’m more than a bit annoyed with the front office right now and that probably also has a bit to do with my recent online scarcity. Although I suppose it makes for a more interesting blog, I don’t really like to rant. I prefer to cheer and praise and make up goofy noun-and-verb-repurposed-as-adjective mash ups of joy and excitement. But, alas, instead all I’ve got is a great big jumble of rantyness…

So, am I surprised that the Angels let Torii Hunter reach free agency without a contract offer? Not entirely, at least not after all of the noises the front office has been making about money. But am I disappointed? Oh, yes. Devastatingly so. Also, I think the decision was a big mistake. No, I don’t expect Torii to have as big a year in 2013 as he did in 2012 – 2012 was a career year. But I think 2012 makes it very clearly that Torii has found a way to stay healthy well into his 30s and to switch up his batting and fielding style to take advantage of the considerable skill sets he has in his 30s rather than still trying to play with the skill sets he had in his 20s.Plus, Torii’s skills as a clubhouse leader and a mentor to the younger players on the team are too important to just let go. I would never advocate keeping a player just because they’re a clubhouse leader, but when your clubhouse leader still plays like Torii plays, give the man a contract already. I think that some decisions can’t be made just with one’s wallet, which brings me to…

I hate to keep beating up on Vernon Wells, because he tries his ass off, keeps a great attitude and sense of humor through it all, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. Plus, he didn’t create this situation. However, the fact remains that he has never worked out on the Angels and the idea of Wells in the outfield over Torii (or, in truth, over Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos or anyone else if the Angels had kept Torii) just makes me even more livid with Tony Reagins’ initial trade decision and with the front office’s refusal to just take the salary hit – and yes, it’s a _huge hit – call the trade the failure it is and part company. Heading into the offseason, the rumor was that if the Angels couldn’t offload Wells’ contract there was no way they could extend a contract to Torii. Granted, it’s not my pocketbook and I have no idea how much additional cash Arte Moreno can afford to dedicate to the team payroll, but to me this just seems like wrongheaded thinking. Wells is hardly the only or even the biggest thing wrong with the Angels but, barring something extremely unforeseen happing, continuing to keep and play Wells over other players in never going to yield a different result than it already has. Yes, this trade was an incredibly costly mistake but sometimes it takes spending even more money to fix a costly mistake and this is one of those cases. The team should have kept Torii.

Anyway, I think that’s quite enough ranting for one post, don’t you? Tune in in a day or two to read my next rant – hint, this one’s about the Angels pitching personnel situation – and for my official congratulations to Mike Trout on his AL Rookie of the Year Award win tomorrow. 😉

Zack Greinke? Cool. Now Can the Trade Talk Craziness Die Down, Please?

I’ve never really cared for the last few days leading up to the July 31st trade deadline. Oh I know they’re supposed to be exciting, filled with stimulating fan trade speculation, debates and the thrilling sense of possibility for teams in the post season running or close to it. But while I enjoy the discussion and debates, and I’m not immune to the sense of possibility, for me it’s always tainted with faint traces of an impending sense of doom. Perhaps it’s a lingering hangover from some of the crazier – because they weren’t all crazy – deals Tony Reagins used to pull this time of year. Perhaps it’s just the intense degree to which I hate parting with favorite players I’ve grown attached to, and I know that if you’re going to get someone good, well then, you’d better give up someone good.

Either way, it seems to me that buying and selling teams alike are just as likely, and perhaps more so, to do themselves harm as good this time of year. Think about it. What kind of decisions do we make when our need is great, the options are far from plentiful and the asking price is predictably obscene? Sometimes desperation and opportunity lead to brilliance but more often…uh huh. Exactly. Yes, GMs typically do a better job than you or I in such situations, but the comparison still has merit. For every Rangers scoring Cliff Lee tale there is an Angels “scoring” Scott Kazmir story, or much, much worse.

No this doesn’t mean that I’m arguing against all trade deadline wheeling and dealing or even that I wish the Angels would abstain from it. It just means that when it comes to thoughts of trade discussions surrounding my team, I spend most of the last few days of July in a state of hmmmm…how shall we say? Cautiously optimistic worry? Hopeful panic? Serene terror? Yeah, any those will do. Flip a coin. And this season in particular I don’t want to give up the most obvious trading chips – Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger, etc. – and I don’t like a lot of the options being discussed, especially when those options are discussed in terms of some or *gasp!* all of the Angels most obvious trading chips.

So, imagine how wonderful it felt to finally exhale and feel my heart rate return to normal ranges when it was announced this afternoon that the Angels landed Zack Greinke. And that the price for these coveted riches was infield prospect Jean Segura (who is excellent but blocked by Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, much like Alexi Amarista before him) and two AA pitching prospects, instead of the frequently discussed Bourjos, Conger, Santana and half the farm. Oh yeah, it felt that good.

Am I completely thrilled with the deal? No. I worry about Greinke. While I think that, in many ways, the Angels will be a good match for working with his anxiety issues and he’s certainly a great pitcher, I lost a lot of respect for Greinke when he gave up in Kansas City because he didn’t like the way the season was going, admitted it and couldn’t seem to understand why folks got so mad about it. And then there’s his little pitching in away games issue. Also, I think that unless Greinke signs a lengthier contact preventing him from going free agent at the end of this season, this was a more expensive deal than I would have liked, even without giving up Bourjos, et al. However, in the larger context of trade deadline deals, notoriously desperate and expensive as they are, this deal really is pretty good. Ever since our magical December 2011, we Angels fans have referred to GM Jerry Dipoto as the JeDi Master and, if Greinke performs to his capabilities as an Angel and especially if we keep him, Dipoto has proven once again that he is just that.

As much as I am happy with this deal – with the caveats and concerns mentioned above – I am even happier that it means a lot of this Angels crazy talk can die down now, because I was getting seriously twitchy for awhile there. I did not want James Shields, another pitcher out of Tampa Bay going through a rough patch. Yes, Shields is way more talented than Kazmir but still, I worry. And I did not and do not like Francisco Liriano for the Angels. I can’t see how he would be much of an upgrade from Ervin Santana. He’s plenty wild and crazy himself. Yeah, I know. After a while I was starting to sounding downright Suessical with my “do not likes” and “do not wants,” even to my own ears. Hmmm…

I do not care if he hits a ton
I do not care if his contract’s far from done.
While I actually like green eggs and ham,
I did not want that lazy, pouting HanRam.
(So, thank you Dodgers for taking him right off the table early. Best of luck to you!)

You laugh, but just try having all of this goofiness in your head. Oh well, I will be better now that deal is done and as close to sane as I ever get about Angels baseball come August 1st. Welcome to the Angels Zack Greinke. Hopefully this is the beginning of a beautifully mutually beneficial partnership.

Interleague Wrapup + Angels Take 2 of 3 in the Freeway Series, Part II

As I mentioned just before the Freeway Series, part one, I had the opportunity to crash Matt’s Think Blue Weekly PodCast for the Freeway Series episode. At the end of the Podcast, Matt, his podcast partner and I all made predictions about the Freeway Series outcome. My prediction? The Angels will take the series 4 to 2 and, would you look at that? 😉 Actually, if we had not been so pressed for time at the end, I was also going to predict that the Angels would drop one game at each stadium (yup and, sadly, I attended both of them) and that those games would be the one pitched by Santana (yup, though not for the reason I expected) and the one pitched by Garrett Richards (well, we can’t be right about everything. Richards wound up pitching two Freeway Series games because of a few starting rotation oddities, earned wins in both appearances and looked pretty darned convincing while doing it).

Ervin Santana was lights out after a few initial hits, striking out 10. It was sad to see him take the loss. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But the most important prediction of all was that it was going to be a fun series and, indeed, it was, the highlight of another Angels dominate interleague season and continued Freeway Series bragging rights. Sorry Dodgers! …except, you know, not really. 😉

Erick Aybar gets back to the bag quickly ad James Loney prepares for the pickoff attempt. Aybar had a good game, going 2 for 3 with the Angels only RBI. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Anyway, here are a few important Angels trends that either emerged or intensified during Interleague:

Mike Trout is a beast! No. You’re not listening to me. Mike Trout. Is. A. Beast!! Seriously, even more so than we already knew. Called up on April 28th, Trout took off running – very, very fast indeed – coming into his own almost immediately. Then somehow during interleague play, he played even better. The 20-year old rookie lead all AL players during this time with 30 hits, 21 runs scored and 15 stolen bases, dropping onto the AL batting average leaders list like a bomb in 2nd place on the first day that he qualified. He has since moved into first place just above Paul Konerko. So, in response to that weird Bleacher Report ‘hey, could the Dodgers trade for Mike Trout’ talk over the weekend, I sincerely hope that I speak for Jerry Dipoto when I say, ‘that’s a clown question, Bro, now excuse me while I laugh uproariously.’ (Editor’s Note: Thank you, Bryce Harper, for gifting us all with this decidedly not cliché gem. I hope you keep your spirited way with words throughout your career.)

Mike Trout gives himself a quiet little fist bump at first after a basehit. He attacks this game with a joy and exuberance that are a pleasure to watch. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout and Torii Hunter warm up in between innings. Any outfield where Torii is the slow guy has got to be great! Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The starting rotation is taking the rotation part of their name a little too literally for anyone’s tastes, but it’s all working. Jered Weaver is back off the DL and looked great in his first outing. Ervin Santana had a few rough at bats at the beginning of his last outing, then got mean and delivered a 10 strikeout gem that should have won him the game. Unfortunately, Jerome Williams was hospitalized with breathing problems after his last outing and went on the 15 day DL. Although it sounds like Williams is ready to come back roughly as soon as he is eligible, this still could have been a disaster without Garrett Richards stepping in to fill his shoes. Like I said, it’s an overly rotating rotation, but it’s working.

Jered Weaver hams it up a little in the dugout early in the game, while Andrew Romine hams it up a lot on the rail and Jerome Williams just looks ready to be back. (We’re ready for you to be back too!) Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels bats are hot, hot, hot…except when they’re not. When they’re not, other things don’t click well either and the team has a hard time winning. Fortunately, the downswings through spells of cooling bats seem to take a lot less time to recover from these days before someone – Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, etc. – gets hot again and brings the rest of the offense back online with them.

Albert Pujols with a gorgous swing. Angels vs. Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Torii Hunter whiffs for strike three. I include this picture not to mock one of my favorite players after a rough game, but because you can see the disappointment on his face. He was as frustrated as the fans. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Oh the errors, when they happen they happen in groups. The Angels have several players getting limited playing time at the moment and when they come in, not shockingly there are some issues with rust and errors. Peter Bourjos seems to be able to do this right, bounding around the outfield, running down every ball in site like a happy puppy whose owners finally let him really run, in those late innings and occasional games where he gets a start. Though, even in the case of Bourjos, there’s a little bit of rust on that fine arm. Anyway, this situation is partly to blame for Maicer Izturis’ errors in the Saturday game. Why Sciosia didn’t stick with Alberto Callaspo who had a great game on Friday makes little sense to me. I am absolutely not advocating a return to the ever varying, magic 8 ball, lineup, but it would be nice if something could be done to keep the utility guys ready to come in and play off the bench. Food for thought as we move into July.

The bullpen not only wasn’t scary, they were good. Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Latroy Hawkins were already good. But now Frieri and Downs have the best combined ERA for any pitching duo currently in the majors (with the requisite number of innings pitched, yada, yada, yada). But it isn’t just those three stalwarts. Hisanori Takahashi, Jason Isringhausen and Jordan Walden all delivered consistent solid innings as well, a trend which could make all the difference in the months ahead.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Angels are still 4.5 games behind Texas in the AL West. (Though, hey, at least for the moment they’re 1st in the running for the 2nd Wild Card spot.) Now, 4.5 games may seem like it’s still a lot, but here’s this thing, even if you aren’t buying the ‘we’re only just getting to the All Star Break’ argument, the Angels still have 12 games left against Rangers including, per recent tradition, the last three of the season. Suddenly, 4.5 games doesn’t seem like much, does it?

And now we conclude our time here on this post with, Fun With Captions! (In my mind, that has a Pigs in Space worthy bit of theme music heraldng it, just so you know. 😉 ):

Todd Coffey…um…reviews the signs with his bullpen mates. Hmmm…do you think this might end the scourge of the dreaded kiss cam? Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I had no idea how may facial expressions Albert Pujols goes through on the basepaths until he became an Angel. Going clockwise from top left we have Bored Albert, Fish Lips Albert (Hey, Trout mania is in full effect!), Game Face Albert and Bubble Blowing Albert. I did not get any photos of Smack Talking Albert this game, but that is also funny. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. All photos by This is a very simple game…

Dodgers meeting on the mound. A.J. Ellis: “*cough, cough* Um, you do realize we’re having this meeting over Erick Aybar, right?” Juan Uribe: “Really? Aw shit…” Okay, so he isn’t usually exacty a slugger, but Aybar did feast off Dodgers pithign this Freeway Series and, indeed, knocked in out only run on this at bat. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo at bat with A.J. Ellis catching. I think the look on Trumbo’s face is the baseball equivalent of an exasperated ‘Mom!’, sort of a, ‘Sosh! Yeah, yeah I got it. Hit the ball hard.’ Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Albert Pujols says, ‘Juuuuuust a bit inside’, either that or he’s getting some sore of strange Rally Squirrel flashback. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels vs. Rangers Series II – No Aspirin Necessary This Time, Only Celebrations!!

Hey, better late than never, right?

So, when last the Angels played the Rangers I wrote that their one victory answered the question of “Can the Angels compete with the Rangers?’ in the affirmative but that the massive beating the team took for the rest of the series left us with a new question, ‘will the Angels compete with the Rangers?’ Well, I am happy to be able to write that this series left not a doubt in my mind on either count. The Angels can and will compete with the Rangers in 2012!

The game is about to begin. C.J. Wilson and Bobby Wilson (or Wilson squared) head to the field from the bullpen. C.J. had spots of brilliance but still seems to get heavy stagefright around the Rangers. Fortunately, the Angels seemed to have the same effect on Yu. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Okay, so the Angels didn’t look so hot on Sunday. I blame that on some serious celebrating the night before. Oh, I don’t have any factual evidence to support my theory but let’s just say that some of them sure seemed to be reacting to that sun in the time honored fashion of the moderately hung over. As for the Mariners series, well it’s been hit and miss but the Angels are still showing a lot of fight, an essential characteristic for future wins and, indeed, a hallmark of the Texas series. The Angels aren’t letting many opposing runs go unanswered these days and it is fun to watch.

I simply cannot say enough good things about Ernesto Frieri. Things got a little wild for him this game. Ernasty is shown here staring Mike Napoli back to 1st because he actually gave up his first hit in an Angels uniform. Then the Angels defense gave him extra batters to face. But he still pulled off the save and I just adore his excited, lovin’ life attitude about his time so far with the Angels. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Saturday night was an odd game. Neither starting pitcher was dealing, neither team went wild with the bats and neither team avoided a few serious fielding flubs. In the end, it came down to Angels base running and Angels fielding in the sense of the team being a well oiled turning two machine. Also, the Angels’ errors seemed to come at less crucial times…and no one decided to begin pouting to an umpire with no thought of completing a play, just sayin’. And can I just say that it was downright giddy making to see the first three guys in the lineup – Mike Trout (who is Superman by the way, check it out), Alberto Callaspo and Albert Pujols – hitting the ball, getting on base, causing chaos on the basepaths and generally doing exactly what the first three guys in any lineup are supposed to do. Was it a pretty win? No, not by any means. But it was a win and honestly it was darned fun game to watch.

Oh yeah, it was also Cowboy Hat Night at the Big A and, while I still think they kind of look like stripper hats, the cowboy hats were a success. I just wish the head of promotions had given a better reason for this promotion than ‘a lot of our fans like country music…’ like…oh…gee…I don’t know. Maybe _The_ Cowboy. (Oh and note the Trout Reel Me In sign, LOL) Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As for my photos, I’m getting a little tired of the same old, same old guys taking a monster swing, guys diving back to the bag and guys making a catch photos. So to switch it up a bit, for this game I am only using photos that made me smile or even laugh. Enjoy!

Everything _is_ bigger in Texas…or at least the rookie hazing is. The traditional pink backpack is cowgirl cutie themed though, really, that is but a minor accessory to the whole ensemble. Who is this young man? Well, I don’t know the Rangers bullpen well enough to name him, so let’s just go with ‘a very good sport.’ Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I was amused flipping through the pics after the game. Albert Pujols is talking to Alfredo Griffin but it’s Naps who cracked me up. Mike Napoli is fisheyeing Albert with Warner Brothers cartoon worthy exaggeration. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Friday night, Mike Napoli and Erick Aybar had a few little tiffs and it appears that on Saturday during this pitching change, Howie Kendrick felt the need to come over and referee. Indeed it does look a little heated. Naps looks like “The Hell you say?!” During a later pitching change that also saw Naps on 2nd, more Angels came over and all parties left the conversation laughing, so I assume all is well now. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout stage whispers to Dino Ebel for clarification, and badly I might add. I tell you, these kids, these kids today. They can remember 5 million twitter acronyms, but not the GD signs. 😉 Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Lot of errors and questionable plays this game, many of them starring Elvis Andrus and it looks like several parties may have been pointing that out during this meeting on the mound. That’s okay guys, we understand. We have our own short stop who waffles betweeen gold and tinfoil glove play. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Dave Murphy during a pitching change. And just what were the Rangers outfielders laughing at? I kid you not, they were watching the Rally Monkey. The Angels had jut debuted a Good, the Bad and the Rally Monkey, Rally Monkey video to tie in with Cowboy Hat day. It was pretty funny stuff. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Sadly this is the very end of Yorvit Torrealba’s literally hopping mad tirade wherein he channeled his inner Tasmanian Devil and whirled all around the plate. But I was simply laughing too hard to snap any usable pics before this one. Okay, fine. Trout looked safe from where I sat, but looking at the videos later he may have been out so Torrealba may have had reason to squack but, hey, at least he made it entertaining. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Another one I was laughing too hard to really capture. For whatever reason, Albert Pujols took exaggerated aim at Adrian Beltre’s behind and mimed kicking him. Here both players are cracking up as Beltre makes an exaggerated point of moving away. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

During the 7th inning, Josh Hamilton lost control of his bat and it went flying like an Olympic hammer throw into the dugout suites with great force. Check out Ernesto Frieri’s priceless reaction from the bullpen. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter during one of several pitching changes. I don’t know what Trouty was saying but judging from the expressions it may have both funny and kind of wrong. Angels vs. Rangers, June 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels, In and Out of Focus this Season + Final Thoughts on the San Diego Trip

Focus. It’s essential, both for winning the game at hand and for reaching the post season. Completely out of sorts after the last three games, on Tuesday morning I was going to argue that Angels had hopelessly lost all focus.

Fortunately, I’m a moody writer in the reverse of tradition – I hate writing when I’m in a bad mood – so I had Tuesday’s gem to remind me that the prognosis is far from hopeless before I posted. The Angels have lost focus, it’s true, and for several seasons now if we’re being honest. But, they are working to regain their focus and we saw some of the fruits of that effort last night. Still, I think that Mike Scioscia’s comments after Monday’s game are correct. When you get mired in problems this deep, you aren’t going to fix them overnight. And, while my out of focus image is a pun-ny visual I also think it’s an apt analogy. As you focus the lens on a camera, your view bounces from terrible, to good, to blurry again, and back through good directly to bad a few more times until finally it’s just right.

The Angels aren’t fully focused yet and, while I hope Tuesday was the beginning of a fun winning streak, especially with Weaver on the mound today, I also imagine we’re in for a few more shifts through frustrating play before they do achieve complete focus. Batting averages are going up, or starting to go up again as the case may be. The bullpen’s been looking downright good lately. Situational hitting…is still a work in progress. Even when we win, LOBster is still far too much in season for anyone’s tastes. But the team’s overall record is improving – three steps forward, two steps back but, still, improvement. Much like focusing the camera, some of the interim results may give you a headache watching them, but ultimately we seem to be headed in a better direction.

And, once the Angels have finished focusing, what will the picture look like for late September? I know what we all want it to be but, honestly, I don’t think you can ever have more than a hopeful idea until you actually get there even in seasons where the team is doing well. Besides, I think focusing so hard on the end of the season before it even really began is the underlying reason the Angels got so very out of focus to begin with. Focus on the end of May first and then worry about June and so on. Although the end of the season is no longer as far away as any of us would like, it still really is a long way off yet.

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Diego Edition: Part 2

After Sunday’s all too costly game – wishing both Vernon Wells and Ryan Langerhans full and speedy recoveries! – I didn’t have the heart to post about the end of our San Diego trip. But a one hit shutout does a lot to improve one’s outlook on things and scanning through my photos I was reminded of all of the positive things we fans can focus on right now while the team is getting it together. Hey, last season I was the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels Baseball, best get back to it, right?

1) Starting Pitching, of course. So there have been a few issues getting started, but ultimately the staff is strong top to bottom as they reminded us this week – Weaver more than bounced back from Texas on Friday. Haren looked much healthier and definitely pitched to win, as did Santana and Williams. (And can you believe we have a guy this good as our 5th starter? The more I watch his calm presence on the mound, the more I adore him). And then there was C.J. last night. ‘Nuff said. If the rest of the team is willing, clearly our starters can get us there.

Jered Weaver gives Dan Haren a high five before the game begins. I love that the pitching staff seems like such a mutually supportive, cohesive unit. You can also see a bearded Peter Bourjos fist bumping with Jim Butcher (and Alberto Callaspo’s arm) in the foreground. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

2) The kids. I simply can’t say enough good things about what Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout bring to this team – and Trout especially was on fire at the plate throughout this series. While I absolutely did not want it to come about because of injuries, especially injuries like these, I am eager to see if, with playing time, Peter Bourjos can bounce back to last season’s batting average. If he can, having the combined dynamic speed and talent of Trout and Bourjos in the outfield and terrorizing the base paths is certainly cause for celebration, no Pollyannas required.

Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout swing in the on deck circle before first pitch. If Bourjos can pick things back up at the plate, I would love this photo to be a vision of the number one and two spots in our lineup for seasons to come. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo appears to be asking Peter Bourjos for a race during warm ups. Trumbo is not exactly a slow guy, but even at a jog Bourjos had him beat effortlessly. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

3) Kudos to the Bullpen. They’ve been looking pretty darned good lately, no? I think the shifts and changes have ultimately been good for the team. I’m thrilled with the addition of Ernesto Frieri to the pen. To a man, the relievers appear to be making whatever adjustments and corrections they can to help keep us in the game and the improvement has not gone unnoticed.

Jordan Walden pauses his warm as he and the rest of the relievers watch the tense game. He’s been looking more accurate and more confident on the mound lately. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Alexi Amarista warms up between innings at second. It was bittersweet to lose this kid even for the addition of Frieri, especially when one of his first acts as a Padre is to contribute so heavily to an Angels butt kicking. However, I am thrilled to see him playing everyday. He was ready and unlikely to get that opportunity in Anaheim. Best wishes for a great career Alexi! Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As for the game itself, it was a tough loss, but largely because leading up to that point the game was so good – a two run tie until the bottom of the 7th and the Angels fought hard to get on top again. There were frustrating wasted opportunities at the plate – though certainly not from Eric Aybar! What a game he had! But defensively the team was amazing and that catch of Trout’s to keep us in the game? Wow! I just wish it had ended differently.

Erick Aybar is a blur diving back to first. He went 4 for 4, was a homerun shy of the cycle, and brilliant distraction on the basepaths. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Albert Pujols catches a the throw and Will Venable is out, despite pouring on the speed. Defense was definitley not our issue Saturday. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

You can see how tense the game was at the end from the dugout. Albert Pujols, Vernon Wells, C.J. Wilson and all of the rest are transfixed on the field. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But it wasn’t all tensions and frowns. There were more joyful, playful moments – Pujols affectionately thwacking Amarista on the shoulder with his glove after the kid got a hit, for example. Or, Erick Aybar shown here goofing around with first baseman Yonder Alonso during a pitching change. Do you think they were assessing his chances of getting that homerun here? Because that would make anyone laugh. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And, a few more words about Petco itself – our seats were in the club section right behind home plate with a fantastic view of one gorgeous ballpark. A lot of the photos I’ve included in this post are warm up photos and that is largely because at Petco Park all of BP and the warm up sessions are easily viewable from the concourses at all levels and, for the most part, fans are allowed easy field section access until the end of batting practice, something that is only possible with the more open designs of the newer stadiums. I am absolutely against all of this moving to L.A. talk, but I certainly wouldn’t mind a few modernizing upgrades to the Big A in Anaheim.

Petco Park at night, a view from section 201. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels fans turned out for the series in droves, as you can tell from the sea of red behind the Angels dugout. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Something else I would like to point out is that I love the Padre’s sense of community. It was heartwarming to enjoy National Anthems played by a local school band on Friday and to have a local military color guard on Saturday.

The USS San Diego, the 4th U.S. Navy ship to bear San Diego’s name was comission Saturday morning, so the Padres honoed Sailors of the Year from the USS San Diego during a special ceremony before Saturday’s game. In a lovely touch, EM1 Nathan Burnett of the USS San Diego, who threw out the first pitch, was apparently drafted by the Angels before he chose to enlist in the navy. Classy all around Padres, seriously!Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

A military color guard for the National Anthem. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game….

Suffice to say it was a great a trip and I will jump at any chance I get to catch a game at Petco Park again.

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Deigo Edition: Part 1

Like many baseball fans, Seth and I have a goal to eventually enjoy a game at every major league baseball stadium and ideally some of the minor league stadiums as well. Economics and vacation time has thus far limited our progress to slow and local but, hey, progress is progress! Last season we took in a gloriously old-fashioned single admission double header at the Oakland Coliseum and experienced the Dodgers Giants rivalry at AT&T Park. This season we headed down the 5 freeway in the other direction and are currently enjoying the beginning of Interleague play as the Angels take on the Padres at Petco Park.

The Pet-Co Park scoreboard. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

A Word About Petco Park: Gorgeous!

Okay, when can I ever limit myself to one word? Add to that enjoyable, friendly and in general a first class baseball experience. Everywhere we went, our clearly not rooting from around these parts red attire prompted staff to smile and welcome us to the park, a nice touch we have never experienced before. We enjoyed nice conversations with friendly ushers during batting practice and the game – baseball fans everywhere love talking about their team, their stadium, their experiences and I love to listen. The fans in our section were equally lovely, despite the fact of the Angels winning. And with recent Padre Ernesto Frieri sitting right in front of us in an Angels uniform (Ah, our seats! I’ll get to those is a minute.) and the other half of that trade, Alexi Amarista playing second, we had plenty to talk about.

The Padres: Their bleachers are absolutely better than your bleachers. Their’s are a beach! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I love the Big A to pieces, but Anaheim take note: THIS is what a beer stand should look like. Stone! Ballast Point! Avery! Okay, so San Diego is the craft and micro brew capital of California, some would say the West, but it’s not like we don’t get some of this labels in L.A./Orange County and have some of our own too! 🙂 Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The stadium seats are designed for beauty as well as function. The view across the field is really pretty, especially at night, with different sections of seats designed to look like industrial buildings. And there really does not appear to be a bad seat in the house…as for our seats, see that guy in red blocking the shot? That’s Jordan Walden standing up. Our amazing seats were literally just behind the Angels bullpen. We could have shook hands with them across the aisle and wall, were we inclined to bother ballplayers during a game, which we are not. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The outfield is huge. HUGE! Definitely not a hitter’s ballpark. Mike Trout warms up in centerfield between innings. I still like Peter Bourjos a little better in centerfield – stronger arm, better routes, a little faster and more experience. But Trout is an asset wherever you put him – He’s that good! – his arm is getting stronger and his routes will improve with time. Still is an outfield with both of them (and Trumbo for now and later longterm!) too much to ask?? Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Batting Practice and Bullpen Sessions, Oh My!

Taking in batting practice is one of my favorite ways to start a ballgame experience and yet, even as often as we go to the ballpark, this treat is a rare one for us. Working hours being what they are, even on the weekend, and L.A./Orange County traffic being what it is, if we’re lucky we get to the game about 20 minutes before first pitch and if we’re not, we get there somewhere during the 1st inning. So it was a nice vacation luxury to walk through the gates shortly after they first opened. Petco Park was designed with wide concourses that have great views of the field for most of their stretch, so we roamed freely about from the outfield above the beach bleachers, to our bullpen adjacent seats to home plate and back.

Watching Jerome Williams take his bullpen session from a distance comparable to across a conference room table was easily the best thing about the pregame. It was fascinating to listen to Williams and Mike Butcher go over which pitches to throw and refine a few points here and there…that and watching the pitches zing by like 10 feet from my face. Wow! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Relief pitchers Jordan Walden and David Carpenter chat during batting practice. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick looked great during BP, smacking the ball deep into the outfield and he got a solid hit come game time too! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis talk in between turns at the plate during batting practice. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, About Interleague Play… 

Although it certainly isn’t the popular view, I actually enjoy and look forward to Interleague play. Maybe it’s because I was raised on the Dodgers and the National League. Maybe it’s because my team of choice has such a natural, longstanding and fun Interleague rival in the Dodgers? Or maybe it’s just that my personality is as slightly skewed from the norm in my baseball fandom as it is in everything else? Whatever it is, I look forward to seeing all of the unusual matchups Interleague play has to offer. Hello, odd visuals like the Angels playing against the storied ivy draped backdrop of Wrigley Field? How can that not be fun? Or, at least, that’s what I think. Besides, watching American League pitchers bat is a seasonal novelty I will never tire of and some guys surprise you:

Jered Weaver in the on deck circle. Such an AL pitcher! For his first at bat, he wasn’t really even taking practice swings so much as just playing with the bat like a little leaguer whose coach is about to tell him to quit daydreaming. It was very cute. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Jered Weaver leads off second…and it’s a goofy, I don’t do this very often lead off as well. Still, for all of his awkward appearance at the plate and on the base paths, Weaver did more than fine, walking and lining a nice hard single into left. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yes, there you have it folks: Big Bat Jered Weaver! …of course his average has since dropped to a mere .500. 😉 Starters, Weaver has set the bar high indeed but you’re used to this. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As if All of This Preamble Wasn’t Enough, the Game Rocked…

The Angels played well and that was especially nice to see after Thursday’s game against the White Sox. Yes, I know, the Padres are struggling but so are the Angels and the struggling Royals just swept the unstoppable Rangers so you never can tell how these matchups will turn out once you take them from paper to the field. I was proud of our guys! Jered Weaver looked great – and not just with his bat ;). Our bats were present and made that presence known. Our defense had more than moved on from Thursday’s gaffs – hey, who put that sun up there in the sky? *facepalm* – and the bullpen rocked. All that and a W – what more could a fan ask for?

Jered Weaver pitches from the stretch. Weaver pitched a great game with really only one bad inning and he managed to get out of that one giving up only one run. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout is a beast! He had 3 hits and 1 walk in 5 trips to the plate. I am loving having this talented rookie bat leadoff. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout reaches second base. It may look like he’s jawing at someone but with former teammate Alexi Amarista at 2nd, I think it more friendly banter. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo continued his hitting streak with a solid double driving in a run in the 5th inning and he looks great in right field, really comfortable. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The bullpen looked great! Scott Downs was, well, Scott Downs. Ernesto Frieri got a shot at closer and definitley impressed. Padres fans called out that he looked better in blue when Frieri took the mound in the 9th but, personally, I like him in red an awful lot. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Okay, Now That’s Funny! 

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I prefer my blog entries, my friends and, indeed, my baseball with a rollicking sense of humor, the more off kilter the better. I love baseball’s crazy prank traditions, overly complex and fabulously silly rookie hazing rituals, and the goofy things that stadium personnel do to the opposing team. This evening it was the Padres Jumbotron Angels player slides that had me cracking up:

At first it seemed sort of innocent. I noticed that all of Albert Pujols’ stats changed with each at bat but always pertained to homerun records he had with the Cardinals. But, because he’s had such a slow start this season, I figured what else were they going to say? Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Then I noticed this one and thought ‘Why go back to minor league stats and that’s a weird aside to bring up, Brandon Wood that is. It almost makes mentioning the honor seem sort of like a left-hand compli…ah hah! There’s a reason for that!’ And then I saw… Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

There was just no way to read these with a straight face at this point. But it got even better! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Okay, now they’re just f-ing with us! Well played, Padres Jumbotron programmers, well played. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Big A Jumbotron programmers can be funny too, just usually at the Angels expense. For example, when our pitchers load the bases with only one out or no outs, it’s not uncommon for the stat to tell us how rarely the batter hits into a double play or how prone he is to grand slams. Ummm…thanks guys?

Anyway, that concludes Part 1 of our excursion. We have great seats for today’s game too and I am really looking forward to it – Go Angels!!