Tagged: Rookies

An Angels Season Highlights Review – Don’t Leave 2011 Without It

So, 2011 is drawing to a close and it is my tradition to take a few moments and write up my top Angels Baseball moments for the 2011 season. It should be noted that, as this blog is now just over a year old, tradition means I am doing it for the second time. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? …But I digress. These are not the Angels only highlights for the season or even necessarily the ones that folks who get paid to analyze this kind of stuff would point out. There are enough articles about that floating around out there already. No, these are the highlights, both Angels and personal, that made my baseball season, in no particular order:

Jered Weaver! Both the season he had – which, were it not for Verlander’s even more amazing season would have easily been a Cy Young season – and the fact that he signed a contract with the Angels through 2016. I loved every minute I spent watching this homegrown dynamo on the mound and look forward to many more in the seasons to come.

Being Wrong. Yes, sometimes being wrong is a great thing and I am thrilled that I was wrong to have worried about Mark Trumbo taking over at first base. My concerns were based on his rookie call-up outings and the issues he had getting into position for plays during Spring Training. But the AL Rookie of the Year runner up worked hard to improve quickly at first and was a bright spot in an offense that was otherwise anything but. None of this guarantees that Trumbo will also be good at third base, but he has more than earned my interest in seeing what he can do in yet another new position.

Ervin Santana’s No Hitter. A former on one season then wild as all get out the next pitcher, Santana showed he has gained considerable consistency following up on his excellent 2010 season with another quality season, and how! The no hitter was merely the most obvious indicator of thischange, but what an indicator it was.

Dan Haren’s 1 hit shutout. And we were there!! Having a full season with Haren on the team would have been a highlight in and of itself, but getting to see this game, live and in person, with a great view of every nasty pitch going over the plate was absolute baseball magic.

Young Angels’ feats. I said it many times throughout the regular season, the Angels rookies and practically rookies made my season. Whether it was watching Peter Bourjos’ dramatic plays in center, Tyler Chatwood’s development on the mound or Mark Trumbo slowly make opposing pitchers start to take notice, the Angels “kids” made the game a lot of fun to watch and gave me significant hope for future seasons.

Personal Game Attendance at an All-Time High! So I tallied it up and we went to 22 games this season, two of which were the Angels/A’s double header. Wow! So. Ummmm…Hon, when you read this, remember how that fact of that being absolutely (Wonderfully!) crazy is tempered by my folks and your boss giving us tickets. 😉 Being at the game so often gave us the chance to catch a lot of season highlights. Bourjos’ first home run of the season. Trumbo’s first big league homerun. A couple of flying Bourjos catches. An I can’t believe he caught that Torii Hunter catch…and that was just during the Haren 1-hit shutout game, no kidding. There was even more than that over the course of the other 21 games. I only hope that tickets are not so expensive this season that we have difficulties getting to the game. I don’t have to go to 22 games (Though I will never turn it down!) but if I don’t get to the ballpark every couple of weeks or so, crankiness is likly to ensue. 🙂

Travelling for Baseball. Seth and I have talked about eventually seeing a game in every Major League stadium for years, but it has also been years since we’ve been able to do any real travelling. This season we finally got started on our plans and while we may have started small we started well, travelling up to the Bay Area to visit with friends and watch games at the Coliseum and AT&T Park. So. Much. Fun! This coming season, the way things look, I think we may only be able to make it down to Petco Park in San Diego, which is local but still progress.

And last but not least…I hesitate to include this winter’s signings only because at the moment Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson have not had the opportunity to take a single swing or deliver a single pitch for the Angels. We suspect they will be strong, difference making additions to the team but while it’s all still just on paper, it’s only highly probable, not actual. But I will add this to my list: last year at this time I was writing about Hot Stove Grief (Hey, this is a serious disorder. Wipe that smirk off your face!) and feeling like the front office was just phoning it in. Today I feel like the front office is really working to put the best team on the field they possibly can and I am hopeful and excited for the season to begin. What a difference a few months make!

The Angels May Still Have Problems, But A Mendoza Line Hittin’ Catcher Ain’t One…

Amazing how quickly they update the uniforms in these online pics. Behold the power of the Adobe Creative Suite...or whatever.

…Or is it? Oh, I don’t mean are the Angels still keeping Jeff Mathis. Jerry Dipoto made his first personnel move as the Angels manager on Wednesday, trading rookie pitcher Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies for catcher Chris Iannetta and, by all accounts, one of his next moves will be to non-tender Jeff Mathis and I am beyond okay with this. I think Mathis is a good guy and the pitchers love him. And he is rather good at take down plays at the plate. But there are also all of the mental errors in throw down situations and, ugh, that batting average. Yes, Mathis has a pretty swing to be sure but, after this many seasons, I’ve stopped waiting for the pretty swing to become a productive swing and just reflexively cringe whenever the guy steps into the batter’s box.

Suffice to say, I’m not going to miss Mathis much and would be thrilled to get an actual bat in the catcher’s position. And, initially, I was quite seduced by Iannetta’s lifetime .238 average and typical double digit season homeruns numbers…okay, so they’re just barely double digit and .238 isn’t that great a batting average for anyone who isn’t a catcher but compared to the lifetime .197 average and “he holds the record for most home runs…hit on opening day…on his birthday” stats that I’m used to? Please, that there is a hitting dynamo.

…But then I slowed down my ridiculous happy dance and began to think, hmmm. Rockies player. Batting in the land where balls hit with a stick fly freely into the upper deck and pitchers fear to tread. What are this guy’s road splits like? Ugly, as it turns out. Looking up to Mathis’ .197 most seasons, in fact. And the happy dance is slowing down. Sllloooooooowing down. And we’re stopping now. Well, yuck. And by yuck I really mean something that rhymes with yuck and has more of a Van Halen album title-ish vibe to it, but this is a family blog, or something like that.

I’m not crying foul on this trade yet. Maybe I’ve just been scarred by Vernon Wells’ last season and the home/away splits that preceded it. Maybe Iannetta’s splits have more to do with really feeling comfortable with the home crowd, the home clubhouse, home cooking, home anything but the Earth’s yellow sun like properties that Coors Field has on the would-be Superman bats of hitters ranging anywhere from mediocre to awesome. Maybe?? Or, maybe my pessimistic thoughts are more akin to realistic thoughts in this case.

In an interview today on Clubhouse Confidential Jerry Dipoto was asked about this very thing and chose the more optimistic interpretation of the splits. On the one hand, of course he would, he just made the deal! On the other hand, he did work for the Rockies and has some insight into the players. Then again, when asked what primary characteristic sold him on Ianetta, Dipoto said, He walks. A lot. Okay. So, what then? Iannetta is the Italian demi-god of walks?

Tyler Chatwood and Jeff Mathis, both of whom had seen better games at this point. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Anyway, National League folks, or anyone else who knows a lot more about this player than I, lay it on me. What do you think of this acquisition?

And as for the trading away Tyler Chatwood, I don’t mind it terribly. I thought he was good, poised beyond his tender years, and showed promise as a bottom half of the rotation starter. I was less than thrilled with his strikeout to walk ratio and with how early and how well and thoroughly he sputtered out during his rookie season. I know that it will take another season to determine if that’s indicative of a long term flaw or just rookie stretching out and growing pains, but I still don’t view trading him as a bad thing, not that I would have minded keeping him either. Of course, if the Rockies turn around and trade him to the Rangers tomorrow and Chatty proceeds to take revenge on the team who scorned him by having a career year and sitting our asses down one by one all season long, I may revise my opinion somewhat.

Scarred, who? Me? 😉

The Long, Dark Time Without Baseball, Day 9

Day. Nine. Nine days without baseball. Nine! That’s two entire days longer than a week! Recent studies question the canonical stages of grief based on the, very sound if you ask me, notion that we all grieve in such different ways that assigning set stages, even with the understanding that people may progress through them differently, is ludicrous. Besides, I’m not entirely certain that they would have applied to grief from baseball loss anyway.

Regardless I think it’s safe to say that what I am experiencing right now is denial, channel surfing for a substitute and then trying to behave as though that substitute were the real thing. The MLB All-Stars vs. Taiwan games. The Arizona Fall League. Heck, I’m even watching the darned awards shows on MLBN, something I would not normally be inclined to do. La la la! Look it’s still baseball. La la la…except, really, it’s not. Well, not the same anyway. *sigh*

I tried to get excited over the MLB All-Stars in Taiwan, really I did. They featured a great bunch of players and Erick Aybar, Trevor Bell, Rich Thompson and the rest of the Angels players made a strong showing for their team, but when it came right down to it, the games were only so so.

Mark Trumbo says see ya! Catcher Miguel Olivo and Plate Umpire Todd Tichenor pause to watch it go. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

As for the awards shows and the like, I love that Mark Trumbo won the Player’s Choice Award for AL Rookie of the Year. I’m thrilled that players all over the league saw in Trumbo the same amazing things that Angels and Angels fans have been seeing in him all season. On base percentage be damned, the kid is doing great things with his bat and with his glove. But in the end an awards show isn’t a baseball game. It’s more like a visual aid for a press release about baseball with a few fun, extended interviews included.

And the AFL Rising Stars Game? Mike Trout is clearly tired and probably should get some rest before spring training or, as I said to crack up Seth, Awww, the poor little guy’s all tuckered out. And it was a boring blow out of a game with the kind of play one would expect from rising stars who are a mix of fresh from rookie ball young players and recent rookie call-ups. No offense to the kids, but in the end I turned it off thinking I could probably get a better baseball fix watching Major League. I did. Even if it was edited in truly silly ways for basic cable.

Eh, I suppose I really am being a bit of a baby about this. I mean, existing without baseball will get easier as fall and winter wear on and Spring Training isn’t that far away, right? I mean it’s only, what? 70-ish…? *reaches for calendar* 80-something…? *begins counting on calendar* 90, 91…?! La la la! I resolve to stop counting and be in denial about this too! La la la.

*     *     *     *     *

On an even sillier note, if anything finally drives me from my denial it may very well be the weather. It just doesn’t winter-rainstorm-downpour in Southern California during baseball season once you get past April. Yet it was coming down hard all day Friday and all evening as we watched the game in Taiwan. Yes, rain in Southern California. Look! Photographic evidence from my very own porch:

It's really starting to come down. View from my porch, November 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Of course then, Southern California being what it is, the weather got all gorgeous again the very next day, though when the rainy season starts in earnest this can take several days 🙂 :

Ah, gorgeous again! View from my porch, November 5, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But it is raining again today. Really, really.

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...

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. It’s a September Simon Says to the Season Finish, Folks!

And a September Simon Says is pretty much what I expected for the Angels push to catch up with those wily Rangers in this season’s wild, wild, a wee bit wilder than usual in fact, AL West. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss was frustrating. All those errors! Ugh! But Monday night’s win, with the Angels’ bats rising to the occasion to pick up Dan Haren, was glorious and this evening’s come from behind win was exhilarating, if a bit more exciting than strictly necessary. And, with Texas unable to do much against the pitching firm of Shields and Price – love that fan cave bit! – the Angels have gained one precious game on them, shrinking Texas’ lead to a mere 2.5 games.

Torii Hunter warms up in right field. Torii had an uncharacteristically rough first two innings in right but pulled himself out of the error cycle and more than made up for it with spectacular plays the rest of the game...would that Aybar, Callaspo and Izturis could say the same the next evening. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

September is still young and I predict a lot more Simon Says-style steps forward and back in the standings before all is said and done. So hang on to your hats and glasses, Angels fans. I think this rollercoaster of a season is going to come down to the last three games when the Angels and Rangers clash in Anaheim, don’t you? In the mean time, what better place is there to soak in all the excitement of the closest division race of the season than the Big A? (Sorry New York and Boston. Yes, I am aware that your division race is closer, and that the end result is extremely important to you, but for the rest of us? It’s not that big a deal. We already know you’re both going to the playoffs.) Of course, I won’t be able to attend as many games as I want to this month, but I plan on heading out to the ballgame as often as my wallet and a very understanding boss will allow. Seth and I started with Monday’s game.

To the victors go the high fives! Jeff Mathis, Jered Weaver, Vernon Wells, Alberto Callaspo and Bobby Wilson greet the infield after the last out. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

As I mentioned, this was not Dan Haren’s best night by any means. But like the veteran workhorse he is, he battled and kept the Angels in the game. And, like Jered Weaver in his equally turbulent Saturday start, this guy has lost pretty so many times this season, he deserved to be able to win ugly this time. It didn’t hurt that he was facing off against a rookie and that the Angels graciously decided not to make this rookie look like Cy Young award winner. 😉

Dan Haren pitching from the stretch, as he did frequently this game. It was not Haren's best outting but he still toughed and gritted his way tto a win with a little run support from his friends. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Rookie Anthony Vasquez' 3rd start could have gone better. It also could have gone worse. Let's call this appearance inconclusive. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

In both team’s cases, the relievers actually fared better than the starters. Kudos to Bobby Cassevah and Hisanori Takehashi for maintaining the lead. And while I certainly haven’t spoken with either reliever, somehow I am sure that in return they say kudos to the Angels offense for not handing them yet another one-run lead.

Bobby Cassevah took over for Haren in the 7th and pitched a 1, 2, 3 inning with two strikeouts. Suffice to say Bobby Cassevah is growing on me, and quickly. He gets extra points in my book for walking up to Hank Jr.'s A Country Boy Can Survive. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Closer Cesar Jiminez took the mound amidst a rare flurry of Angels fan heckling. As he warmed up the entire left field pavillion let out a loud, soprano "Whooooooop" every time he pitched the ball and a "Woooooooooo" eevery time the catcher returned it. No matter how they timed their throws, the crowd matched them. It was funny mostly because you never hear stuff like that at the Big A. One wonders if he had a "special" moment with the fans that prompted it. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

For the Angels offense truly was the key to this game. It was a thing of beauty! You couldn’t keep them off the base paths, a trend that absolutely must continue this month if they’re going to catch the Rangers. I say that it’s all well and good to rest a few bats here and there but, unlike Tuesday’s game, multiple bats should not be rested at the same time and when say Howie or Trout is sitting out the game, if his replacement isn’t getting it done in the field or at the plate they should be replaced in inning three or four, not inning nine. How about it Sosh, what do you say?

Vernon Wells takes a swing while Mark Trumbo leads off 3rd. Josh Bard is catching. Wells and Trumbo both homered this game. Mark's well-timed 26th Trumbomb was a two-run affair in the first inning tto give the Angels an early lead. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter one pitch prior to knocking Peter Bourjos (who leads off 3rd) in with a triple. A now healthy Torii is swinging the bat much better than the Torii of the chronically bruised ribs from the first half of the season. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos looks downright pissed standing on first base after a walk in the 3rd. Was he mad he got walked? Did I just catch him in a rare non-sunny moment for no particular reason? Was Mariners' first baseman Adam Kennedy talkin' trash? Only Fleet Pete can say. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

On second thought, maybe Adam Kennedy was talking trash because Howie Kendrick doesn't look any happier in this meeting of former team mates...maybe Jeff Mathis owes Kennedy rent money and he's bugging the other players to collect? Totally kidding of course. 😉 Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The future is now! Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Watching these rookies (and near rookie) come up to the big leagues and into their own while breathing new life into the veteran players has made my season. Seeing Trout and Bourjos in the same outfield a year early makes me giddy every time I their names in the lineup. And between the Trumbomb, Trumbo and Bourjos’ doubles and Bourjos and Trout’s speed everywhere, all three players had an excellent night.

The future is now! Mike Trout takes a mighty swing while Mark Trumbo leads off 3rd. I can't wait for a whole season of these two and the rest of the Angels rookie stars in the same lineup! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trout did miss robbing a Seattle homerun that several of the fans thought he should have caught. From my vantage less than 30 feet away, he would have had to dive into the 4th row to catch the ball. He’s good, but that wasn’t happening. Besides, as Seth and I joked afterwards, judging from the number of hits I get on this blog for “Peter Bourjos Butt,” “Mike Trout Butt” and even “(insert name of Angels rookie of choice here) naked” when there ain’t no booty shots here to be found (so you know that number of actual searches using these terms is exponentially larger), I think it’s safe to say that the young women (and likely some of the young men) of Orange County have…um…shall we say…caught Angels rookie fever. If young Trout were to sail into the stands, they might try to keep him for a souvenir.

The future is now! Peter Bourjos in center and Mike Trout in left warm up in between innings. This is but one sneak preview of the 2012 season!! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mariners outfielders Mike Carp and Trayvon Robinson warm up between innings. The Angels are not the only team hoping to benefit from a youth uprising. Both young players have looked very good, at least against the Angels. Can an influx of young blood help lead the Mariners to a winning season in 2012? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. Personally, now that we’ve knocked them to elimination, I would love to see the Mariners start an amazing winning streak immediately. You know, really take their bad season agressions out on the Rangers…hey, a girl can dream.

Trayvon Robinson and Mike Carp warm up in between innings. You can see Ichiro in the background. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trayvon Robinson leads off 2nd while Erick Aybar and Mark Trumbo prepare for the pitch. Aybar had a great night Monday. It just goes to prove that we need Howie Kendrick in the game as often as possible. Aybar between Callaspo and Izurtis is one error prone little dude. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And now for something completely silly…the Angels wonderfully goofy production staff has started airing short Q&A’s with the players on improbable topics in between innings. This evening’s fodder? ‘How many Jersey Shore kids can you name?’ and ‘Team Edward or Team Jacob?’ Needless to say, these are hardworking professional baseball players, not pre-teen girls. In most cases they didn’t even understand the questions, with humorous results. Ervin Santana’s expression shown below was the funniest, but Joel Pineiro with his “Is that the show with that chick that looks like a poodle?” had the best answer. Though Torii was pretty funny too. He scoffed at Twilight (though he did know what it was – he has teenagers after all) and said they should be asking him about “man” movies. When the reporter obliged and asked what his favorite action movie was, he was so taken aback that he sputtered and laughed at himself because he could not think of a single one.

Ervin Santana appears perplexed by the question. Don't worry Ervin, many of us join you in a collective WTF?! over Twilight. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, let us not forget, rookie call-ups mean more rookie backpacks:

Mariners rookie relief pitchers display their backpack badges of rookie hazing. The Dora the Explorer and the cute kitty backpacks are pretty much par for the MLB course these days but the R2D2 backpack absolutely rocks! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Keep Him In Coach. We Need Him to Play.

Hel-lo gor-geous bats! Where have you been all my season? Well, looking at the stats for the last few games, they’ve been in AA Arkansas with Mike Trout. Check this out:

The Angels have played ten games since Mike Trout was recalled from the minors and in that time they are 5 and 0 in games where Trout has started and 2 and 3 in games where Trout did not play or entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning. And one of those losses? That would be Friday night against Texas. Upon entering the game in the 8th inning, Trout continued a rally begun by Howie Kendrick. His hit moved Howie into position to score on Mark Trumbo’s line drive single and set the stage for Russell Branyan’s three run homer. Imagine what could have been if Trout had started the game?

No, I’m not saying Mike Trout is the chosen one, a one man offense here to single handedly save the Angels. But I do think he is proving himself to be the missing spark this team needs. It’s not that the Angels don’t have any bats, it’s that we don’t have enough bats and that there are far too many dead spots, all but guaranteed outs, dotted through the lineup in between them. How many times have we watched a mini rally start only to die without a single man scoring? Or bases loaded with one out turning into one measly run followed by someone grounding into a double play? This happens to every team, but it happens to the Angels so often that we’ve grown to expect it every inning this season. How excited do we Angels fans get when the team scores just four runs? ‘Nuff said.

Mike Trout waits in the hole in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But what if we had just one more clutch bat in between our existing bats, someone to keep the offensive outburst going once Macier or Bourjos or Howie starts it? Someone to knock Torii Hunter in when he gets on base? Heck, just one more guy not grounding into an inning ending double play? Well, we’d have our sweep of the Orioles, or last night, or our win against Texas on Saturday, or what Friday night against Texas very easily could have been if we’d had just one more clutch bat in the game a few innings earlier.

Yes, Mike Trout is young, not even a month past 20. But he doesn’t seem overwhelmed in the slightest. In addition to his bat makes good decisions in the outfield, has a fantastic glove, runs great routes for the ball and, with his speed, is a perfect complement to Peter Bourjos in the outfield and a terror on the base paths. And the frightening part is, he’s still growing into his skill set and showing a lot of improvement, even just since his last trip up to the majors. His arm looks a little stronger and then there’s that bat! Trout returned to the majors with a .163 batting average – hey, he only played in a handful of games on either side of the All-Star Break and, like a lot of rookies, it took him a few at bats first to connect and then to stop hitting it right at people. After five additional full games in the majors and two single at-bat pinch hit appearances, Trout has dramatically increased his batting average to .246. Between that and two homeruns and five RBIs last night, making Trout the youngest Angel to have a two-homerun game, I think it’s safe to say he is no longer overly impressed by Major League pitching. What do you think?

So, this post was originally going to be a plea to Mike Scioscia to put Mike Trout back in the lineup tonight. Because, of course, he reads this blog and takes my opinions into careful consideration before making lineup decisions, why do you ask? 😉 But, much to my delight, they just posted the lineup and Trout is already there!!! And suddenly I am even more excited for this game. Go Angels!!

So, I was wondering instead…Sosh, pretty please, with zesty homemade marinara sauce and good imported parmesan on top, can we keep him in the lineup now??? He’ll be the offense’s new best fri-end. Thanks, ever so!

– An Angels Fan on the Edge of Her Seat

Weaver Pitches 7 Shutout Innings to lead the Angels to their 6th Victory While the Ink Dries on His Brand, Spanking New Contract

We were not going to go to a game this week. Yes, we had originally planned on going to Tuesday night’s game, but then the unexpected trip to Yosemite came up and it just seemed like too many things…Until Jered Weaver’s press conference. I think Weaver got a great deal from the Angels. But at the same time, I am as touched as everyone else that he didn’t wait to shop around as a free agent, potentially leaving significant dollars on the table to stay with the organization he grew up with.

Jered Weaver readies for his windup. Weaver took the mound to darn near a standing ovation in this, his first game post contract announcement. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Listening to the press conference on the radio at lunch on Tuesday and hearing Weaver say, with warmth and tears in his voice, ‘I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else but here,’ ‘How much more money do you really need?’ and ‘Watching all of the Angels alumni return to throw out first pitches for the 50th, I want to be part of that brotherhood.’ I was thrilled. I was proud. I was moved. Heck, I even shed a few tears myself. There’s just something about tough guys being moved to tears that causes a few of my own to roll down my face in sympathy. And suddenly, I really wanted to go the game on Wednesday and be part of the crowd cheering our admiration and thank yous when Weaver took the mound for his next start. I can’t imagine sharing that with my non baseball fan friends. It’s not like I know the guy, or much of anything about him outside of baseball. So I know they wouldn’t understand needing to go to the game at that point in the slightest. But at the same time, I’m certain you all get it. 🙂

Jeff Mathis helps Jered Weaver calm down early in the game. Weaver said later he had a hard time finding his arm slot initially, but obviously worked through it just fine. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Reason #3,987,542 (give or take, it’s a really long list!) my husband is the best ever? When I texted that I after listening to the press conference I wanted to go Wednesday’s game after all. Could we go if I could find cheap tickets? He responded almost instantly with a ‘Yes, please.’ He was listening to the press conference too. So, many, many thanks to the Angels fans who decided to part with club level seats for $10 each. Were it not for the generosity and/or last minute changes in plans of fans such as yourself, I would sit at home a lot more often than I do. 😉

So, long story somewhat truncated, we got to see the Angels mini-sweep the White Sox (I just can’t think of a two game series as a full series, sorry!), winning their sixth game in a row. The whole evening was perfect. We even got to the game in time to check out some of the warm ups which with our jobs and So Cal traffic, never happens:

Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis warms up with Jered Weaver before the game. Mathis had a pretty good game with a bases clearing double, a rare treat for him, and some timely pitcher whispering. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

White Sox rookie pitcher Zach Stewart warms up before the game. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels bats went on a terror and guys found ways to get and base and score in a welcome trend I hope to see continue into the fall:

Mark Trumbo goes briefly airborne diving back for the bag as Adam Dunn waits for the pickoff throw. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar is safe after an RBI single and Adam Dunn is...blowing a bubble? That'll do, Dohn-kay. That'll do. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

We saw seven Jered Weaver shutout innings followed by shutout innings from Bobby Cassevash and Fernando Rodney – note, he isn’t coming in when it counts. Smart. Very smart:

And, ste-ri-ike three! Bobby Cassevah has struck out Brent Lillibridge. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Ozzie Guillen is not amused. An 8th inning dugout shot. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And  I got to see one iteration of my dream Peter Bourjos/Mike Trout outfield live and in person for an entire inning once Trout pinch hit for Vernon Wells in the 8th. Trout promptly knocked the ball into left field for his first big league pinch hit. So many firsts! *sniffles* Our baby’s growing up so fast! ;):

The man, the myth, the socks! My no doubter favorite centerfielder this season, Peter Bourjos...apparently being attacked by gnats yet again. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout already looks very much at home in left field. My dream outfield is slowly coming to fruition! Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

From our vantage, we even caught random goofiness in the bullpens…or, invoking the Roger Rabbit Only When it’s Funny Clause, chose to infer random goofiness:

The White Sox Bullpen travels in style, setting up buffet table of reliever needs. I see snacks, towels, gatorade and coffee. No mere backpacking it for these guys. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels Bullpen was feeling especially relaxed this evening and no reliever more than Fernando Rodney, apparently. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Awww, the poor kid's all tuckered out. Actually Hank Conger was alternately stretching and sitting in the bullpen, but this photo definitely makes it look like I caught him napping. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

"Mike Rotch? I don't know. It's August. Lota rookies. Let me check." Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And then, there was this. I hate the kiss cam. In fact, I think it’s so stupid and pointless that until you all set me straight, I assumed it was a uniquely So Cal thing. We So Cal folk seem to need our beach balls and other lame distractions at perfectly good baseball games *rolls eyes* so it made a disturbing sort of sense. However, this season cheeky humor has arrived at the Big A. Finally, the sound guys have caught up with the times and play sarcastic music and sound effects when the visiting team strikes out, has a meeting on the mound…you know, like other teams do. In keeping with this sense of fun, the camera folks have continued their goofiness with the Kiss Cam’s last victims each evening from where they left off with the Indians Bullpen back in April. The visitor’s bullpen is a common target, as is the visitor’s dugout – an injured Evan Longoria blowing kisses at the camera from his perch on the rail was a high point. But announcers, programmers and sound crew from visiting and home team alike aren’t guaranteed a pass either. By now, this is a sufficiently well known prank that the victims usually play along, increasing the humor value considerably. The White Sox bullpen was no exception:

The dreaded Kiss Cam settles on its prey - White Sox relievers Matt Thornton and Josh Kinney. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Matt Thornton and Josh Kinney realize they have been captured in the Kiss Cam's wiley gaze. Kinney is willing to ham it up but Thornton initially tries the old "if I pretend i'm stretching and don't see them, maybe this will all just go away" trick. The Kiss Cam refuses to move on. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Realizing that the Kiss Cam is not going away, Kinny gets increasing insistant, to the point of miming poutiness, that Thornton join him in hamming it up for the crowd. Finally Thornton walks over and gives Kinney a hug and this is the bashful result.Hilarious! Excellent sports both!

And, of course, all’s well that ends well. Light that baby up! Hey, Shakespeare wrote it…except, you know, for that Angels-centric part there…and now you can read it on the Internets, so it absolutely has to be true:

Fireworks from the rockpile say the Angels win. Light that baby up. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Now, let’s do it again, but in Texas shall we? I am so excited for this series! Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver are both even pitching on short rest to help get it done. Clearly the Angels are feeling extra competitive and I love it!