Tagged: Red Sox

The Year of the of the Mystery Team?

Way to go Tigers, coming out of nowhere to land the big free agent bat! That was almost…well…Angelic. 😉  …Ooooh. Kay. And reminiscent of many other teams in other seasons too. But this is an Angels blog. I’ve kind of got this slant going on. And with that slant I have to say, I don’t know which outcome of the deal amuses me more, the fact that this move keeps Prince Fielder out of the AL West? Or the thought that with Migueal Cabrera moving to third base according to today’s reports, Angels fans are likely to see a lot more of Justin Verlander’s “That’s bushleague!” scowl? Pssssst…Angels players bunt. Often and generally very well. Pass it on.

In all seriousness though, I do like the way this offseason is turning out and the role this deal played in it. The Tigers and the Rangers, both already strong teams, were able to make improvements without outright dominating. The Tigers filled the potentially devastating void left by Victor Martinez’ season ending injury in a way that also bumped up their offense. The Rangers did not further bump up an offense that was already pretty much the scariest in the AL, but they did improve their starting rotation. Yes, I know Darvish is unproven, but I just can’t imagine a pitching acquisition that Nolan Ryan approved of so highly turning into a flaming failure.

And the Angels? The Angels made sure they can compete, adding power to a lineup in serious need of just such an infusion and restoring their starting rotation to the promise it had at the beginning of the 2011 season. Remember, for all that our pitching was impressive last season it was primarily spots one through three that did the impressing. The four and five spots were a rotating mixed bag of frequent awfulness speckled with the occasional gem. Other teams patched potential problem spots too. I like the Yankees pitching additions…all the more because they’re both pitchers the Angels hit. I find it interesting and potentially beneficial that the Red Sox have gone out of their way to add good clubhouse guys into the mix with their All Stars. Don’t worry, I’m not going to beat a dead, repeatedly reanimated as a zombie and then beaten dead again and again and again, Bostonian horse here. But suffice it to say, I think this may prove to be a more powerful strategy than folks are currently giving it credit for.

And no, this isn’t me being some sort of Mary Sue saying, Yay, everyone is equal now. Let’s get out there, give the other team a big hug, and don’t bother keeping score.  This is me, the passionate baseball fan saying, I see a lot of well matched, hard fought, competitive as all get out, great baseball games on the horizon in 2012, and that prospect makes me downright giddy. Spring training, you slacker. What’s taking you so long to get here? Come on, pick up the pace already!

 

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So, I’ve been less than present in the MLBlogs community for the past week now and probably will continue to be so for a few days yet…or not, who can say. No, I’m not one of the bloggers packing it in. And I didn’t finally go off the deep end from some sort of baseball depravation induced psychosis. Heck, I would prefer that. I lost a close friend Sunday. The guy both Seth and thought of as brother. The third of our goofy Three Musketeers band of degenerates. He was only a little older than me, which is to say way, way too young…as if there were a good age for this. He’d been in the hospital all last week and devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My friend – the best bad influence a girl could have, as I called him with fondness – was, among other things, the gent who taught me how to play blackjack. Not the rules, but how to really play – strategies, calculating probabilities, fearlessness. But as anyone who has ever spent serious time at the tables knows, no matter how well you work the probabilities, sometimes the cards just don’t fall in your favor and you need to do something different to change your luck. I haven’t been able to put pen to paper in days. Not for work. Not for blogging. Not for nothing. But today, I made myself bang out this post in response to news that genuinely excited me, in an attempt to “change my luck” by doing a few “normal” things. To quote Marcellus Wallace, I am pretty f-ing far from okay. But I think I am moving closer to a place where I am better able to honor his life with memories that bring smiles rather than floods of tears.

Mythbusters: The Angels Baseball Edition

Baseball reality is so often legendary that it shouldn’t be surprising when the opposite occurs and baseball myths, oft repeated, begin to take on an aura of reality. As an Angels fan, there were two such recent myths that caught my attention more than any others, as they were repeated throughout the regular season, the post season and on into November. Both myths “explain” Mike Napoli’s rising star post trade from the Angels.

Napoli: Texas Ranger. Yup. That one's going to hurt for a while, I think. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Myth 1: Of course Mike Napoli blossomed under the Rangers, the guy just needed to get some real playing time.

I actually fell victim to this myth myself for a little while. It certainly sounds plausible. And it’s been repeated so often that it really started to seem like Naps got a lot more playing time with the Rangers…until I started thinking about all of the games I attended where Napoli played. Hmmm…so I looked up some real numbers.

In 2011, for the Texas Rangers, Mike Napoli had: 369 at bats in 113 games and played a position in 96 games, 61 at catcher and 35 at first base.

In 2010, for the Angels, Mike Napoli had: 453 at bats in 140 games and played a position in 126 games, 59 at catcher and 67 at first base, significantly more playing time than he enjoyed with Texas in 2011.

In 2009, for the Angels, Mike Napoli had: 382 at bats in 114 games and played a position in 96 games, all of them at catcher, roughly the same amount of playing time as he enjoyed with Texas in 2011.

Prior to 2009, Mike Napoli did experience less playing time, making an appearance in 78 games in 2008, 75 in 2007 and 99 in 2006. But for the two season prior to his trade, Naps saw as much or playing time in Anaheim as he saw in Arlington.

As the Mythbuster boys would say, I call this myth busted.

Myth 2: Mike Scioscia is too hard on catchers.

I only have anecdotal evidence against this myth, but I feel it’s significant. While I have no doubt that Mike Scioscia is hard on catchers, I question the implication that this is universally detrimental. Yes, Mike Napoli played better for the Rangers and the current crop of catchers all need improvements in different ways but, come on, two out of three Molina brothers can’t be wrong, right? Especially when the third isn’t so much a dissenting vote as not included in the sample size. So, apparently, some catchers do just fine under Sosh. Myth busted.

Mike Napoli, showing off those improved defensive catching skills with Bobby Abreu at bat. Oh well. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And the reality?

Okay, if it wasn’t more playing time and Mike Scioscia isn’t a crippling influence on catchers, then why did Mike Napoli have so much stronger a season in 2011 than in 2010 or 2009? Well, in part, I would never underestimate the power of batting in the middle of that crazy good Texas lineup. Do they have a weak spot in their lineup? Because we sure never saw one. Talk about protection!

But, more than that, I suppose the greatest myth of all is that past performance is a guarantee of future performance, especially once you change any of the variables: new team, new manager, new coaches, new lineup, new clubhouse culture and so on. Some players in this situation adapt immediately and pick up right where they left off, give or take a little benefit/detriment from combining their talents with those of their new teammates. Adrian Gonzalez and Adrian Beltre, for example. Some players experience a (hopefully temporary?) set back in their new digs and perform well below expectations. Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells, for example. And others absolutely shine, like our current example Mike Napoli.

In Naps particular case, I think there is a slight, skewed truth to Myth #2. It’s not that Mike Scioscia is too hard on catchers, but that way in which Mike Scioscia handles catchers, be it hard or not, simply didn’t work for Mike Napoli, much like a particular teacher might be just the ticket for one student but ineffective at best for their siblings. So, significant lineup protection? New manager with whom he clicked better? Perhaps even added drive to prove himself after being traded twice in less than a week? Take your pick, but I think it’s a combination of all of these reasons and perhaps a few more. Interesting food for thought as Hot Stove heats up and GMs begin to throw large sums of money about banking, quite literally, on past performances.

Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax. Of World Series and Princes. Why Boston Fans are Boiling Mad and Dirty Laundry Rinses.

World Series Here They Come
Cardinals and Rangers it is! It may not be the World Series matchup I was envisioning at any point this season, but if the LDS and LCS were any indication, this should be a fun series. So I’ll be rooting for the Cardinals then. It’s petty, to be sure. But I just can’t root for the team that took the AL-West. The Rangers absolutely deserve to be where they are. They have one of the scariest line-ups in baseball and have played lights out all season long. But, call it sour grapes, call it immaturity as a fan, darned if I can bring myself to root for them. That said, if the Cardinals want to beat these guys and end the season as World Series champions, as I hope they will, their starting rotation needs to be more consistent. I don’t think you’re going to be able to give up three homeruns to the Rangers in the first two innings and still pull off a win. Although, crazy, amazing things have been happening for the last month or so. And a come from behind, spoiler of a team that inspires Tony La Russa to disturbing acts of cuteness – Who knew he had it in him? – might just be able to do anything.

Prince Fielder
I am tired of hearing the about the supposed inevitability of Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee this winter spoken in the sad, hushed tones usually reserved for a terminal cancer diagnosis. “Oh, woe is us! If only there were something anyone could do.” No one passed a law decreeing this must be so. I don’t even recall a petition. And it’s not prophecy. No watery tart rose from a movie set in Python-esque fashion to extend the legendary bat ex-sluggingcalibur to a couple of gits standing there with coconut shells (or would that be peanut shells in this baseball version?). There is something someone can do about it. Prince Fielder can decide to accept the offer Milwaukee is certain to extend and stay.

Strange tractor beam like market forces do not just snatch free agents up and move them from team to team against their will. Free agents make decisions. And as far as decisions go, it’s not as if Prince Fielder is going to be asked to choose between untold riches and a modest living wherein if he saves wisely someday he might be able to send one of his kids to college. He will be asked to choose between millions and even more millions. That said, there is nothing evil or wrong with choosing even more millions. This is a personal, long term career decision and money is an extremely compelling, understandable argument. However, athletes do make decisions for personal reasons too. It’s not as if that just isn’t done. Cliff Lee prefers to play in Philly, even if they weren’t the highest bidder. Jered Weaver preferred not to test the free agent market because he already knew where he wanted to spend his career and didn’t want to haggle indefinitely. So, if Prince Fielder really doesn’t want to leave the Brewers, he doesn’t have to. He can choose to stay. And if he does choose to leave for a higher bidder it will be because there is something he wanted more than he wanted to stay with the Brewers and that’s all there is to that. Not an inevitable tragedy, just a career decision…and one that despite all of the speculation, Fielder has not actually made yet, or at least not made public.

Boston Dirty Laundry
I find what happened in Boston disturbing. No, not the collapse. Not even the finger pointing. A certain amount of that is only to be expected after such a disappointment. No, it was the anonymous, public and extremely personal nature of the finger pointing in the Boston Globe article. The tales of bad attitudes, slacking work ethics, drinking and a manager’s marital and alleged medicinal woes? Back in the day, this is the kind of stuff you would only hear about years later when someone involved decided to spice up a memoir with a few tell alls, if you ever heard about it at all.

And there’s a reason for that: it’s completely unproductive. Airing this sort dirty laundry so very publically doesn’t help a team. It doesn’t help the fans. And it doesn’t help a front office fix problems and move forward. And the anonymous source(s) who provided the dirt know that. No one is going to turn around six months from now and say, “You know what the turning point was? It was that article. It really helped everyone sit down together as a team and pledge to work harder together for a better 2012.” And it bothers me that someone who is close enough to a team to have this kind of information (allegedly – anonymous sources and all that.) would, instead of using it in some productive way, choose to use it to strike out at a team for their own reasons (which, depending on who you think the source(s) is, could be any number of things). The reason I bring this up is not to beat up on Boston. I don’t think this is a uniquely Boston thing at all. But when it comes to this sort of information, I do think that sometimes the old ways are best. Save it for the memoir, when it no longer matters if it’s productive or not anymore and you have to have the guts to put your name on it.

Do You Believe in Magic? …and Not So Much: Reflections on Last Week and a Season of Growth for the Angels

Baseball last week was bittersweet for me. We enjoyed a night at the ballpark Monday! But it was our last night at the ballpark of the season and the Angels lost, sounding the absolute final death knell in their post season hopes. But a little more sweet was added to temper the bitter Wednesday night when we all witnessed pure magic! An evening of baseball so amazing it can only be described with a Yogi Berra quote – it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over. My condolences to Red Sox and Braves fans, it’s not about rooting against your teams, it’s about loving the magic of a come from behind upset to begin with and then witnessing two within breaths of one another. Wow!

Maicer Izturis and Peter Bourjos warm up before the bottom of the 1st inning. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So, as for Monday night’s game? Well, it was a heartbreaker of game, an at that point expected heartbreak I quickly recovered from, but still. So many miscues and missed opportunities!

After sending one sailing into right field, Alberto Callaspo takes a moment to remind himself that Howie Kendrick is several inches shorter than Mark Trumbo. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I loved Mike Napoli as an Angel. I'm thrilled he's having a great season but when he faces the Angels, this is how I prefer to see him - slinking back to the dugout after striking out. I only wish we'd seen this more often. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I absolutely miss Darren Oliver from the Angels bullpen. Not going to arbitration with him at the end of 2009 was a dumb decision in my opinion. He's a class act and I wish him well, but darned if I don't prefer seeing him walk off the mound defeated when he gos up against us. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And that is not how I prefer to remember my season, especially when I had so much fun with the Angels for most of it…frequently frustrating fun as I have fully documented on these virtual pages, LOL, but fun even so. So imagine my delight when I reviewed the photos I took that evening and discovered a lot of smiling, fun shots of my favorite ballplayers that I think show off the great personality of the team as a whole. Instantly my goofy brain imagined strange scenarios and back stories for each of the photos because, really, I prefer to remember the season as fun:   

Mike Trout appears to be jawing at Mike Napoli on 1st. "Seriously. You call _that_ a pick off attempt." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dino Ebel talks with Mike Trout at 3rd. "You're kidding!!" "'Fraid not Mike. The whole dugout dared you to touch Beltre's head. Better do it. You don't want Weave to post your phone number again." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter and Michael Young laugh over something at 2nd during a pitching change. "They really dared him to touch Beltre's head?! Oh, this is going to be funny Torii!" Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre and Mike Trout at 3rd. "I know all about the bet, Kid. Don't even think about it!!" ...and yet, Trout's still thinking about it. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre keeps Alberto Callaspo at 3rd. "Not you too 'Berto! Look, I already told the kid don't even think about it..." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar during a pitching change. Could the two short stops be talkin' shop? "He he, yeah. The old empty glove tag at second. I'm tellin' ya. Coco falls for it and slides every time." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All silliness aside, walking back to our car after the game Monday night, Seth and I rehashed the misses and mistakes. What if the Angels had played the first inning smoothly? What if they hadn’t stranded so many runners? What if, what if, what if. Seth declared that ‘what if’ was a metaphor for the whole season, though he said it wistfully and with some affection, not in anger. I agreed with him at the time, but the more I think about, the more I decided that Howie Kendrick’s last at bat was a better metaphor for the season.

Last minute fill in Howie Kendrick needs a little work on his first baseman's small talk skills, apparently. "Aw man! Elvis, you kicked up dirt all over my pants." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bottom of the 9th, two outs, one on base and the Angels are down by one. Were this the scenario back in 2009, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would get a double and the runner would score from first or on the very next at bat and my comeback kid Angels would have pulled it off again. Were this scenario last season, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would pop up or strike out, ending the game. Watching it all play out this season, I realized that I had absolutely no idea if Howie would be able to pull it off or not. With the 2011 Angels, you just never knew. And if that was sometimes frustrating, it was also sometimes amazing – a definite improvement over the previous season and an indication of growth in the right direction, giving me hope for 2012.

Michael Young and Elvis Andrus react as Mike Trout reaches second on an Erick Aybar wallk in the 6th. The Angels have bases loaded for the first time this game. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Look, 2011 was a season where there were darned few easy wins for the Angels. There were numerous contributing factors. Season long questions, first about the five spot in the starting rotation, then the four spot, then the five and back to the four and eventually both. Veteran bats failing at the same time rookie bats were learning. Not getting Kendrys back at first as expected – though in hindsight, they should have planned on that from the start – threw everyone for a loop and although Mark Trumbo became the first baseman for the team and how, there were the to-be-expected growing pains all season especially in April and May. Injuries, several of them to Torii Hunter which contributed in part to the bats situation. Cleanup spot by committee on a team with no natural cleanup spot hitter…which lead to a bunch of guys who are really excellent gap hitters, swinging for the fences and whiffing or popping out. (Trumbo is the cleanup hitter of the future in my opinion, but it was too early this season.) Then there was the bullpen. There was noticeable improvement over 2010 but, still, pick a day. They could be absolutely fantastic or the arson squad part deux. And, of course, the closer situation. From veteran closer gone bad to baby closer with flashes of brilliance amidst growing pains, that was another constant struggle this season.

It was already a tense enough interlude to be the climax of a musical's act 1 and then, during a pitching change, Bobby Abreu, Erick Aybar and Alfredo Griffen apparently decided to strike the appropriate poses to seal the deal. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All in all, the Angels won a lot of games but, for all of the reasons above and more, it was a grind to win almost every single one and I think that, quite simply, by the time we got to September the Angels were tired. Oh, in spirit they were willing and eager enough to get to the post season, witness the string of near comebacks. But I think that physically they were just too tired to take that next leap and carry themselves into the post season. And if they had made to the post season, I don’t think they would have made it past the first round, especially with the news that Mark Trumbo had been playing with a stress fracture in his foot for the last several games and was out. This isn’t a complaint at all, it’s an observation. I think they played their hearts out but, well, teams that are still capable of contending at the end, like the 2011 Rays, dig in harder to win even more when they find out that other teams in the race have lost. Teams that are just too tired to get there, like the 2011 Angels, collapse in relief to catch their breaths when they find out that other teams in the race have lost.

I wish it were different but I have a hard time being anything more than a little disappointed by it. I have watched a lot of So Cal baseball in my life, brilliant seasons, terrible seasons and everything in between, and I have to say that this was not a season that folks should get depressed over. This was a growing season that gives next season some promise. And, now, as we continue enjoying what so far has been a pretty fun post season – as fun as it can be without an Angels presence! – I will conclude this post with a few heartwarming thoughts for next season:

Mike Trout takes another mighty swing at the plate. This at bat lead to an RBI single. I have a feeling that I will have many photos of Trout making good things happen for the Angels with his bat in the seasons to come and that is a definite silver lining to the 2011 season. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren pitches from the stretch. Poor Danny, if only that first inning hadn't happened. Hopefully with more seasoned rookie bats and an uninjured Torii Hunter in 2012, Haren and his rotation mates will have a lot more run support and such things won't matter as much. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Fernando Rodney chats with the Rangers bullpen. Well, they do say that when you're about to lose your job, networking is key. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

This last photo really struck a chord with me. Taken during the warm-up just before the top of the 9th, immediately after Mike Trout struck out looking, it appears to me that Peter Bourjos is consoling Trout a little bit. Who knows what they were actually saying to one another. For all I know, Trout was making sure his cleats are tied and Bourjos is laughing him or they weren’t even talking at all. But my photo, my interpretation – so consoling it is. And I think, as such, it’s a good message for everyone. Take heart Angels fans, they’ll get ‘em next season!

Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout move into position at the beginning of the inning. "Cheer up Rookie. Next season is going to be awesome!" And indeed it will be. I just know it! Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Wild Card Wednesday. Pinch Yourself, Did That Just Happen Thursday. And Now Termination Friday?

“We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.” – Bob Slydell (no, not that Bob, the other Bob) 

This is but one of many scenes in Office Space that is hilarious and at the same time so very, very true…which makes it just a little bit painful, which in turn makes it infinitely more funny. That human nature. Kind of a sick bastard, ain’t he? The mortgage industry, of course takes this several steps further. Friday isn’t just the day employees receive, as an old boss of my husband’s used to say, an invitation to the world, Friday is also the day banks fail, a fact which became all too apparent in bad old days of ’07, ’08 and ’09.

Imagine my colleagues and I at about 1:30 or so every Friday, just after the markets closed, scanning the headlines on Bloomberg and CNN to see who received a knock on the door from the FDIC this week, like so many baseball players on a cold streak eager to see how many guys were worse off and headed straight for the Mendoza line. And, oh yes, after the FDIC came calling on us, we performed this weekly ritual all the more attentively and with a great deal more snark. This was less a matter of schadenfruede running rampant, mind you, than one of absolute terror and paranoia channeled into research, gallow’s humor and a seemingly endless stream of Tom Lehrer parodies…as you do.

Usually Major League Baseball bears about as much resemblance to corporate life in any of its variations as the Metro Goldwyn Lion does to Calvin Coolidge, but watching MLBN today, I have to wonder. Terry Francona and Tony Reagins? Interesting. Have the Bobs been doing some consulting work? I mean, of course, in both cases this is being billed as “they stepped down” and also in somewhat differing reports as a mutual or collective decision but, really, any PR team worth their pay will try and get everyone involved to adopt that party line as soon as possible, so you just never know.

The whole thing was very interesting for me, because I was expecting the news about Francona, even though I don’t think he deserved it after what he has meant to Boston. But never in a million years was I expecting the news about Reagins, even though I think he did deserve it. The Angels tend to be a lot more warm and fuzzy with their front office staff over the last decade or so than they used to be, and more so than is good for them as a general rule. Maybe they were listening when Reagins was booed during the Jered Weaver contract press conference? Because try as Victor Rojas might to cover it up with a joke, they weren’t shouting “Tooooony, Toooooony” and it wasn’t funny.

So Francona is off to, one would assume, if not bigger and better things at least big and good things and Tony is…still employed with the Angels but as Assistant to Club Chairman Dennis Kuhl. I think this is fitting. Tony Reagins clearly loves the Angels and he’s tried to do right by the team just with very mixed results as a GM, Dr. Tony and Mr. Reagins as it were.

So, thank you Dr. Tony, with all of my Angels loving heart for the Jered Weaver extended contact. For Dan Haren. For Scott Downs. For Mark Teixeira, who was a brilliant rental signing it’s just too bad we couldn’t keep. And for Torii Hunter. And, in truth, for Alberto Callaspo who has quietly lead the team in batting average ever since. But for all the rest? For Scott Kazmir. For Fernando Rodney. For trading Mike Napoli (you can have Juan Rivera) for Vernon Wells for crying out loud? I tried to be pretty Pollyanna about that one because it’s not like I had a choice, but sheesh! For not being aggressive enough to really have a shot ai Teixeira…or any strong bats during this last off season…or, no offense to Callaspo but, a star third baseman with the cleanup bat we desperately needed at that time. For all of this large downside, I thank you for leaving, Mr. Reagins, with all of my Angels loving heart.

So, where do we go from here? I confess I am not exactly up on available GM candidates and the Angels have indicated they’re looking for someone young and untried anyway. Here’s hoping this winds up being more of a Dr. Tony, the deal ninja, style decision than a Mr. Reagins style decision.  And one way or the other, I hope they fix the Angels’ glitch.

Editor’s Note: So I am a bit behind on my posts. Work really piled on the projects this week and sometimes it’s all so much writing that I don’t have two coherent thoughts left amidst the jumble to string together for the blog. But have no fear, TIAVSG was born during the offseason by the barely glowing embers of a recently kindled Hot Stove, and this blog will surely continue though the post season and the off season…pics from my last game of the season and wrap up thoughts on the Angels season coming soon…Hey, come November and December especially, a girl’s gotta do something to keep the offseason blues away.

E Is for Errors, Elimination and Exasperation…But the Angels Got Better

Were you aware that, in addition to being MLB “berth” month, September is both National Wine Month and National Bourbon Month? Whether or not this is coincidence, I can’t help but feel it’s appropriate…unlike some of those other special monthly designations like National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Month (thanks, but weren’t we all aware of alcohol in college, like extremely aware) and National Pork Month (I’m not entirely certain if this is more of a food thing or an offshoot of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness thing but I was hesitant to see what the internets would tell me if I looked it up. You understand, I’m sure.) I can really get behind this September last month of baseball/alcohol appreciation tie-in thing. Suitable for comfort or celebrations, alcohol pairs wonderfully with all of your September needs. But I digress…

A few of my favorite things! - with shout outs to Paso Port, Chronic Cellars, Mitchella Winery, Barrel 27, Bodega de Edgar and Cypher Winery because you are all amazing and more people should try your libations.

So, the Angels lost to the A’s and now have a big old E next to their name in the AL West, the last team to fall prey to the dreaded E, though time zone bias did play a role in that. After the loss to the Jays especially, I was expecting this eventually. I am even glad it happened early enough to avoid having to watch Texas celebrate on our infield when I go to the game on Monday, but that doesn’t mean I am happy about it in general, you understand. Even so, Friday night was a good night at the ballpark if for no other reason than aren’t they always?

Angels hangout on the dugout fence during their first inning at bat. Vernon Wells says, "Damn it Trout, I said _don't_ look. Gotta learn to be more subtle, rookie. Check out my trick with the bat."

Fresh off a start on three days’ rest, Jered Weaver was a little overly strong in the first inning, giving up a homerun to Jemile Weeks in the first at bat and hitting Josh Willingham before settling down for six scoreless innings. Really, with 3 runs, only two of them earned, on 6 hits and 0 walks with 8 strikeouts? Weaver pitched well enough to win.

At the beginning of each inning, just before his first pitch, Jered Weaver turns away from the mound and touches his toes twice, then turns to the mound and writes an N and an A in the dirt with his finger in memory of his friend Nick Adenhart... this sign of the kind heart within the bulldog exterior is one of many reasons Weaver will always be one of my favorite Angels. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jered Weaver begins his delivery. He pitched well enough to win if the Angels' bats hadn't been stuck in customs or some such. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The bullpen, shown here largely in goofier relaxed moments, was solid too with Rich Thompson coming in to record the last two outs in two batters in the 9th.

Rich Thompson joins the game in the 9th. Thompson walks up to Midnight Oil's "Dream World," a cute choice for our Aussie reliever. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

"What'cho talkin' about Chopper!" Rich Thompson indulges in the age old pastime of 'confuse-a-rookie' and judging from the look on Hank Conger's face, he's rather good at it. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Scott Downs chats with the bullpen coach and catcher. "I swear Downsy, his strike zone was *this* big!" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Sadly, Gio Gonzales was on and, as usual, largely incomprehensible to the Angels while our bats remained…Inert? Immobile? Stuck in customs? Whatever the reason, the team only cobbled together three hits while stranding 10 guys on base, only one of whom (outside of Torii’s solo homerun) actually made it all the way to third. You don’t win ballgames that way, especially against the A’s who, regardless of what their record says this season, can and will make a team pay for mistakes…mistakes like our boneheaded fielding error in the 8th, for example.*face palm*

And Gio Gonzalez was his usual A-game self and stymied the Angels yet again. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick takes a swing...sadly for naught. Howie was 0 for 4 for the night. But this season more often than not, HK47's bat had been a weapon indeed. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout takes a mighty practice swing...alas, Trout was yet aother 0-for this game. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

First baseman Mark Trumbo and runner Josh Willingham move with the ball off the bat...it was a foul. Trumbo had a much better ngiht defensively and was responsible for 2 of the Angels 3 hits. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game... (Seth)

I was disappointed with the loss to be sure, but accepted what was, at this point in the season, inevitable. I reminded myself that I had enjoyed a lot of the season, had enjoyed this evening out at the ballpark and that the Angels still had a small shot at clenching the wild card. And so I began to watch the final Friday Night Fireworks post game show of the season only somewhat deflated. And I was fine. Really adult about all of it. It’s only baseball, right? …right up until the bouncy Beach Boys soundtrack ended and the next wave of beautiful fireworks launched to the tune of Train’s Calling All Angels. Then the distinct explosions of glittering color blurred into an impressionist knock off of blue and red swirled with green, purple and yellow as tears welled up in my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks.

I am not proud of this fact. I am 35 years old and this was a baseball season, one of many near playoff misses I have witnessed in my lifetime. But…there was a wonderful quote that prefaced the broadcast of the 2010 All Star Game in Anaheim. I have searched and searched today, trying to find the exact quote, but the Interwebs have failed me. The gist of the quote is that baseball is a child’s game and when we watch the game we do so through a child’s eyes and with a child’s glee and so, for the span of a game, can remember however briefly the wonder and innocence of being a child. Baseball always fills me with a child’s excitement and glee, so looking back on last night I think it’s only appropriate that, for a few moments, it filled me with a child’s disappointment, raw and unencumbered by any need to put on a brave face and act the adult.

Ten minutes later and on into today, I have prospective and am back to disappointed but not crushed. Still, for those of us who do embody the quote I can’t find when around this pastime we adore, I think it’s important to embrace and acknowledge this side of ourselves. Even if it means admitting that all too often there absolutely is crying in baseball, this is also the side that allows us to experience unrestrained and darned near unreasonable joy over the feats of 25 men we don’t know on a field of grass, clay and chalk. The side of us that allows us to, for example, cheer again the very next day after a division elimination while we return to torturing ourselves with Wild Card elimination number math. I think it’s the child side balanced with the adult that allows me to laugh when I am happy and search for reasons to laugh even harder when I am disappointed or upset. To that end, I give you the rest of the photos I have selected from the game, all photos that made me laugh for one reason or another:

First basemen crack me up. Mark "Chatty Cathy" Trumbo and Jemile Weeks exchange pleasantries at first. "Damn, that Weaver is nasty. So, Trumbo, what's a good steakhouse down here?" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter relax during a pitching change. Bourjos says, "Really Torii?!" while Trout is incredulous. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter relax during a pitching change. Now, Bourjos and Trout are both incredulous. "Come on Torii, you expect us to believe that?!" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Josh Willignham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus kick back during a pitching change. Coco says, "Hmmm...what about a steakhouse? Jemile said Trumbo told him about the great place in Brea." Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Beware of jazz hands! Peter Bourjos strikes a pose halfway bewteen Ichiro and Dancing with the Stars during a pre-inning warm up. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, hey, good news this evening! A stronger Angels performance earned a victory while the Red Sox lost to the Yankees…and the Rays won too but what can you do? The Angels also announced their team awards. Congratulations to Jered Weaver for winning the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year award and to Mark Trumbo for the team M.V.P. award – neither a surprise and both extremely well deserved!! So, onward to the last four games of the season and hopefully the last four wins of the season. I am all for the Angels finishing the season as strong as they can whether that means a miracle Wild Card Playoff berth or just a final record that’s that much better.

A Quick, Fun Vocabulary Lesson, Having Nothing Whatsoever To Do With Angels Baseball

English is a quirky, hodgepodge of a language. Words that sound quite similar can and frequently do have radically different meanings. Here at TIAVSG, we are all about education and the joy of learning. So allow me to explore this concept a little further with a completely random example. Clearly, this post has nothing whatsoever to do with Angels baseball and certainly nothing to do with Angels baseball over, say, their last road trip or last night or anything like that.

Exciting
Adjective
Producing great enthusiasm and eagerness; thrilling, exhilarating, stimulating 
 
Exasperating
Adjective
Intensely irritating; infuriating 

 

See how these two words sound deceptively similar with their identical beginnings and endings, yet are so different in their meaning that one would probably use them to describe opposite situations. Just in case, let’s try using them sentences, shall we, so their meaning is absolutely clear. Again, I have pulled these example sentences completely out of thin air. This post has nothing to do with Angels baseball. We’re all about education today.

Tie baseball games are exciting! Errors and bad plays are exasperating.

Hitting a homerun is exciting! Giving up a lead is exasperating.

Baseball games that go into extra innings are exciting! Baseball games that go into extra innings because of errors and bad plays are exasperating.

Getting a chance to move ahead in two sets of standings is extremely exciting!! Getting a chance to move ahead in two sets of standings and blowing it is extremely exasperating.

Hopefully these examples have been educational and clear up a few things about yet another quirky nuance of the English language for anyone who could benefit from the refresher…For example, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. What? Just because this post has nothing to do with the Angels doesn’t mean they can’t learn something from it. 

Although, now that I just happened to bring the Angels up – fancy that! – I am heading to the ballpark this evening which is always exciting, no matter where your team is in the standings. Here’s hoping that the Halos can make this game and the rest of the home stand, very exciting indeed!!

So, is one’s team having 0 control over their own destiny from this point forward because they don’t play any of the wild card teams again and only play Texas three times when they’re five games out with only six left to go, exciting or exasperating? A little of column A, a little of column B actually. Which column does it lean towards more heavily? Let me get back to you on that one in a few days.