Writers are often purported to be an angsty bunch, pouring out the prose most effectively in a fit of anger or sadness. But not I. Words flow from my fingers through the keyboard most easily when I’m in a good mood and this blog is no exception. I don’t want to yell at my Angels, I want to cheer for and celebrate them. Now, is this more a factor of there being little truth to the stereotype about writers or of the fact of my being a hack, I cannot say. 😉 But I can tell you that I’d far rather continue writing the post I started in a fit of baseball fan euphoria on Sunday than anything “inspired” by last night’s game against the Rangers…but, don’t worry. You know me. I’ll bring it back around eventually.
Oh what a difference a series or even a game can make in the mood of the baseball fan! Especially when that series finds my previously slumping Angels sweeping the Tigers, scary offensive lineup and all! You would think that, as a lifelong baseball fan, I would thoroughly grok the whole 162 game season concept and not get so worked up over a series or even a week here or there. But, in truth, I think that’s only possibly for the more casual fan, the fan who skims the box scores far more often than they find the time to sit down and watch a game. Because, when you watch most of those 162 games, the no less true for being so very clichéd concept of this being a marathon not a sprint, becomes strictly academic in the face of the fact that you are living the season game by game. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t even take a series to provoke a completely disproportionate to the sample size at hand move to despair or jubilation. Especially this early in the season, sometimes just a game will do it. I certainly found myself embracing an impractical surge of optimism after watching the Angels’ walk off win against the Astros from the Big A two Saturdays ago. And a game like last night’s game against the Rangers, a game which laid bare all of the Angels flaws over the course of nine innings – see, I told you I’d bring this back around! – would have eaten at me, planting nagging doubts about the season, even in June or July.
Thus, last post I was desperately searching for a reason to stay optimistic and this weekend I was trying to temper my optimism with sane practicality and with only limited success…until last night. After the first game against the Rangers, the stark reminder of the Angels flaws did temper that optimism, but it didn’t kill it. Yes, I know the Angels are far from out of the woods yet in terms of the standings…yes, even this early in the season and I will remind anyone who says ‘no it’s too early to worry at all’ to look at last season. Yes, the starting rotation is a real problem, especially for the duration of Jered Weaver’s DL stint, and the bullpen is worse. And, yes, there is an awful lot riding on a potentially brilliant but frustratingly streaky offense. But the weekend’s sweep of the Tigers did at least show us what an Angels team with a fully functioning offense can do when the different components of the pitching staff combine for at least a passable performance, and what that team can do is win! Now, when the offense takes a while to come online, or is scoring but still strands too many runners in scoring position while any aspect of the pitching outright self destructs? Well, hang on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, this season could get a little interesting by all appropriately Hoban Washburne definitions of the word.
So those are the realistic concerns from the past week and change, but what about the happier observations?:
- Is there anything hotter in baseball than your team’s walk off win? I mean, seriously. Is there anything more, dear lord, ‘Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?,’ I think I need several moments to recover and quite possibly a cigarette, hotter in baseball than a walk off win…especially one you witness live? No. Quite simply, there is not, as I was reminded from our seats at the Big A two Saturdays ago and again just this past Sunday.
- When the offense is clicking it can and will pick up even so-so pitching…and the offense is heating up. Okay, Josh Hamilton needs to catch the warming trend and we’d like Mike Trout to steal more again, but for the most part they’re starting to look really good more games than not.
- Promising youth explosion! If we had to have so many injuries early on – and, let’s face it, we’d all prefer that the Angels did not, but here we are – then at least the team has found two legitimate gems in the form of Garrett Richards and Luis “Lucho” Jimenez. When he last joined the Big League team, Richards had promising stuff but little seasoning. Returning from more time in the minors with a lot more polish, the youngster still has some work to do, but has nevertheless been one of the brighter spots in the rotation. And Lucho, replacing the ailing Alberto Callaspo, is simply a revelation. Good instincts, good hands, serious athleticism, some speed and no small amount of pop in his bat, not to mention an attitude with just the right amount of cockiness and an infectious grin. I find myself hoping that Lucho is Callaspo’s permanent replacement and I’m one of the fans usually counted among Callaspo supporters.
- Even in our sketchy bullpen there are a few standouts. Scott Downs is Downs again. Jerome Williams is a confidence inspiring sight taking the mound in long relief and recent call up Michael Roth sure impressed in his Angels debut…in fact, one wonders why we haven’t seen him since. (Editor’s Note: Ah, that would be because apparently Roth is temporarily joining the starting rotation beginning tonight. I’m awfully excited to watch that. It’s only the Rangers, kid, and Yu Darvish. No pressure. 😉 )
- Our outfield!! Trout, Peter Bourjos and Hamilton. I cannot get enough of the great plays from these three guys. And Bourjos haters? You go right on hating because, let’s face it that’s what you’re going to do anyway despite anything I say or, you know, logic. But don’t look now, Bourjos is hitting. Well!! And he’s getting on base too. Once Hamilton settles in at the plate, this trio will be unstoppable.
And that’s basically the long and the short of it. Which Angels tendencies will have more of an impact on the standings by season’s end? Well it really is too soon to tell, no matter how I feel on a game by game basis. But I have more optimism than I did when last I checked in and that, dear reader, is seriously something…something I for one needed badly.
In their last 5 games, the Angels have:
- Scored 46 runs!
- Allowed the opposing team to score 44 runs.
- Hit 15 home runs!
- Allowed the opposing team to hit 10 home runs.
- Struck out 30 batters!
- Were struck out 48 times.
- Came from behind to tie or pull into the lead so many times, they reminded me of the 2009 Angels who were among the league leaders in that regard.
- Blew the lead so frequently that none of those comebacks amounted to anything.
- Beat the division leading Rangers 2 times, one of which was more of a good old-fashioned shellacking.
- Lost to the division leading Rangers 2 times and the White Sox once, just for good measure.
- Left 40 guys on base.
- Went to the bullpen 16 times – 4 times apiece in the last three games.
- Moved out of 3rd place (yay!) to tie the A’s for 2nd.
- Shot past the A’s to a 2nd place that was just 3 games out of 1st place.
- Sank right back into 3rd place one game further out of 1st than they started.
- Brought me to my feet cheering repeatedly.
- Sat me right back down again in exasperation complete with loud expletives and an annoyed fist bump on the table for good measure repeatedly.
Wow! There is an inordinate amount of both !!! and #$@! in that list. Come to think of it, I suppose this is true in different ways both for Angels fans and for fans of the opposition. So what on Earth are we supposed to make of a crazy, simultaneously hot and cold, brilliant upside, scary downside team like this? I would say that the Angels really need to get key players back off the DL in top form, or top August form at any rate, and figure out what’s broken with the starting rotation and fix it. This list just illustrates what those who have been watching the games already know – so many important pieces, essential to having a shot at the post season are already present, accounted for and how in the way the Angels are playing right now.
However, the sick and amazing bullpen of a few weeks ago has become a sick and ailing bullpen in the absence of Scott Downs. As much as Andrew Romine looks like he can fill a big league short stop’s shoes in a few seasons, the defense and the base paths are both missing Erick Aybar. Recent, blessedly brief, stints with various strains for Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo did the lineup no favors. And the starting rotation is kind of, sort of, maybe just starting to come together…maybe. But Dan Haren did push back another start due to back issues. (On the one hand, way to go Danny for admitting you’re hurting and taking the steps you need to fix it. On the other hand, ouch. We need him back strong and we need him back now.) Ervin Santana is restricted to three innings until he can get his head straight. And Zack Greinke, if the small sample size of the last two starts are any indication, is still working through his home vs. road issues, though I do admire a pitcher who toughs out a bad few innings and finishes strong.
The other thing I would take from this Jekyll and Hyde list is that the Angels season future is unclear. I know that a lot of folks saying it’s over now, that this Rangers series was the “the moment” and the Angels blew it. But I don’t buy that. Oh, I believe in momentum, but I also think that trying to pick out what “the moment” is in any season as it’s happening is impossible. It’s a little too much like writing history as it happens. Oh, plenty of people do write history as it happens and I can tell you as a history major that historians do value such analysis…but as primary source documents not as their intended purpose. The 2012 season is moving quickly. But we do have two solid months of baseball left and, for the Angels, much of that baseball will be played in the AL West. If they can get some guys back or start playing around their absence with more grace, well, anything is still possible.
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).
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. 😉
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.)
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.
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.
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. 😉 ):
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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:
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!!
In no particular order:
- Newflash, watching the Angels win is far, far better than the alternative and this week has certainly offered sufficient evidence of both outcomes to prove that theory.
- I think our offense has narcolepsy. They’re awake, they’re awake! Nope, they’re down for the count again. Hey, they’re awake! Whooops, not any more. But overall I do think they’re getting better.
- Oh yeah, and Albert Pujols hit his first homerun in an Angels uniform today and we were…sitting in our living room watching it on TV. 😉 Had you going there for a minute didn’t I? But seriously, I am glad he hit it. I am thrilled that he got that monkey of the decidedly non rally variety off of his back. Now, hopefully everyone can stop fixating on the homeruns, especially Albert, and he can just get back to hitting his game. The rest will come…as long as he stops pressing like he was again on the very next at bat.
- On a semi related frivolous note, I suppose that now, even though he is absolutely not superstitious and shaving the goatee off had nothing to do with trying to change his luck, *nods – uh huh, we believe you Albert ;)* we’ll be seeing a lot more of clean shaven Albert.
- The Angels’ dugout reaction to the homerun was the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. In case you missed it, they didn’t just give Pujols the silent treatment. The entire dugout, players, coaches, assistants, everyone, left the dugout and went back into the tunnel so that Albert was greeted with a ghost town after crossing the plate. He cracked up and ran into the tunnel after them and they all boiled out together, laughing, clapping him on the back and high fiving everyone in sight. It was beautiful, hilarious and touching! You are all great teammates!!
- These Blue Jays? They’re pretty darned tough. The first pitch swinging – especially the connecting part – was really throwing our pichers off and those outfield arms are sick!
- What the heck was up with that Tim Welke call at first in the Rockies/Dodgers game? All I know is that all of those terrible old jokes about women and parallel parking must forever cease because rearranging the to match a punch line of “because Tim Welke says three feet away is that same thing as on the bag” would be much funnier.
- This was a terrible week for injuries. Obviously the most poignant was Mariano Rivera. Watching him tear up while talking to reporters about missing the season made me tear up. I don’t think it’s possible to be a baseball fan and not love and respect Mariano. My heart goes out to the Yankees family and I was so glad to hear that he will not retire because of the injury but plans to rehab for a return in 2013 instead.
- It’s not nearly as serious or sad as Mariano, but the Angels temporarily lost the only two relievers who don’t scare me on a regular basis to injury within the span of three pitches in the 9th inning today. Scott Downs injured his knee dodging a one out single and then LaTroy Hawkins broke a finger fielding the comebacker turned into game winning double play during the very next at bat.
- So, um, given the previous point, the next few series might be a little interesting, hopefully in the sense of enthralling and intriguing as opposed to the Hoban Washburne definition of ‘Oh my god, oh my god, we’re all going to die.” My solution? *Adopts her best Lumbergh impression* Jered, Danny, Ervin? We’re gonna need you to come back in and pitch in the 8th inning, okay. Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, we’re also gonna need you to go ahead and keep pitching in the 9th, too…” Seriously, it may be the only solution!
- No, I’m sure plenty of perfectly normal people mix that many references together in one thought. Why do you ask?
- Completely off topic, but you’re used to that from me by now – I saw The Avengers this afternoon after the game and it rocks all socks, stripy and/or otherwise, everywhere. No worries, there will be no spoilers here. But let me just say that I have been jonesing for The Avengers movie ever since the teaser end of Iron Man before Samuel L. Jackson uttered word one, standing there in the unmistakable Nick Fury eye patch with all of my Heinlein reading, Star Wars loving, Hitchhiker’s quoting, former comics devouring, pair of 10-D carrying geek girl’s heart. So the bar was high and I still think the movie turned out to be everything a comic book action movie should be.
- I’m on Twitter now. Yep, I finally broke down and decided that ‘everyone else is doing it’ was as good an excuse as any. I’ve found some of you so far. If you like tweeting with fellow bloggers, please come find me at @SimpleGame. 🙂
When last we encountered our heroine, her Angels were mired in distress, largely of their own causing, and she was more than mildly annoyed with the situation. I believe the term livid was bandied about? So she did what anyone who is that mad at a loved one should do – she stepped away until she could approach the situation more rationally. Specifically, she said she would avoid watching the Angels play for the duration of the weekend while she was biking, wining, snapping photos and generally goofing around on the Central Coast…
…Yeah, any guesses as to how long that lasted? Mmmm hmmmm…uh huh…well, then…I see…Okay, all of you who said first pitch on Saturday greatly underestimate the depth of my anger. Those of you who said first pitch on Monday greatly overestimate the strength of my will power. And as for those of you who said the beginning of the third inning on Saturday? Well, you know me pretty darned well and it’s not your fault that you didn’t know that my in laws’ place has no television and no internet connection sufficient for, say, streaming baseball games. We know. We’ve tried. The middle of the 5th on Saturday. That’s when my resolve broke and we watched the game.
We were picking up amazing barbeque from the Main Street Grill – seriously, you can tell when the tri tip and brisket are ready each day from two blocks away when the perpetual heavenly aroma of the smoke shifts from a wood smell, to that of wood and meat to that of beautifully cooked meat. Yum! …but I digress. As I said, we were picking up barbeque to take with us, when Seth noticed that the game was already on in the dining room, in the 5th inning and that the Angels were actually winning. Yeah, I know. Already on TV. In Giants country with a heavy dash of A’s! What are the odds? Clearly this was meant to be. 😉 We might as well eat here, Seth suggested, as the guy at the register laughed at us good naturedly. We could probably watch the rest of the game by the time we’re done. Can we say ‘enabler’? Also, ‘awesome’!
I’m glad we changed our minds. It was a good game, though the offense still needs a lot of work. And I am equally glad we really were too busy to watch the game on Sunday (Yuck!!!) but not Monday night’s game. (Overly exciting in the 8th but, still, yay!!!) Suffice to say, I may get mad from time to time, but I’m in it for the long haul and I have a handful of hastily snatched up cheap tickets to prove it, because I plan to be there as the Angels turn this around…a lengthy process I think just may have started already. We’ll see.
Besides, the Angels released Bobby Abreu and brought up Mike Trout! You’ve all seen my posts about Bobby. I appreciated his efforts for the team in ’09 and ’10, I admire his career and, quite frankly, I like the guy, but this was a move that needed to be made. Bobby can’t contribute on the field anymore and his bat hasn’t been helping much either. With Trout, we have a lot of possibility. Is he the answer? Absolutely not. The answer to the Angels woes is a lot more complicated than anything one 20 year old top prospect can solve. But bringing Trout up is a great start as is moving Jordan Walden out of the closer’s spot until he can regain some control. I think that crafty and reliable Scott Downs is an excellent temp or even temp to perm if it comes to that. Now, I’ve never been one to desire a gift gesture as a form of apology after an argument. But if the Angels were intending to offer one even so, this is an excellent start to getting the team back on the right track and oh, so much better than any old roses. Now can we just put all of our big bats in the lineup at one time, already? Pretty please with some of that wonderful Central Coast barbeque on top?
Oh my God, the Angels are 3 and 6. Sound the alarm! Hit the panic button! Towels, people? Where are the towels?! The last time this happened was 2010 and we all know how that season ended, right?. 3rd place. Below .500. Unemployed, in Greenland. Except…the last time we went 3 and 6 to start before 2010 was 2002 and we all know how that season ended, right? Wild card berth. World Series Champions. Bragging rights and brand new jewelry!
So, which is it then, should we be panicking or celebrating? Neither, of course. The sample size is far too small. My point is simply that it’s only been nine games. We have at least 153 left to go. Heck, the entire summer will arrive, be initially celebrated, celebrated some more, get way too hot, begin to annoy us, begin to cool off and fade into fall long before we reach the end of that. Anything can happen in amount of time.
Fear not, the winning will come. How much winning? Will it be enough? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. They’ve got to play the games. I can tell you this much, however:
Small sample size or not, the following things are making me very happy indeed:
- Offensive support from the catcher’s position, and how! I can’t tell you how happy I am to not have mentally prepare for an automatic out every time I see the catcher taking practice swings on deck.
- Our bats can come from behind. Okay, so we’re still working on the ‘then not falling behind again and still losing part’, but still. I don’t know about anyone else, but for the last two years, if the Angels fell behind by so much as one run I had to fight to keep from thinking ‘It’s all over now.’ And I hated myself for it, but I also understood the limitations of our offense. Now the offense hits, runs and scores and, even though there some bats that really need to come online ASAP, I feel like falling behind doesn’t have to be an automatic loss anymore.
- A few more of our bats – the fact that Mark Trumbo seems to hit solidly, with no need for adjustment whether he’s DHing or playing 3rd. The fact that Howie Kendrick is turning into a regular beast.
I don’t care that it’s only been nine games, the following things are seriously pissing me off:
- The bullpen or, more specifically, the fact that we’re still cringing over the bullpen. It was shaky in 2009. It was downright scary in 2010. Efforts to improve it in 2011 were mixed at best and for some unknown reason the powers that be decided to hire another veteran lefty – Isringhausen – for 2012 after hiring two such bullpen arms for 2011 had such hot – Downs, yay! – and cold – Takahashi, flip a coin and don’t you dare leave him in too long – results. And, guess what? The bullpen is still scary. Shocking, that.
- We still don’t have a solid 5th starter? Really? Again, it’s been a while on this one.
- Too many options or, more specifically, the need to use them all. This isn’t P.E. Everyone does not need to play. Yes, Bobby was hitting better, but I hate what he does to the outfield. We go from having Gold Glove experience on either side of a young Gold Glover to be whose speed makes up for the few steps they’ve lost on their range, to having no range in left field over emphasizing the steps all three parties have lost off their range and an outfield with so many holes, I keep expecting the Muppets prairie dogs to make a musical appearance.
Eh, we have 153 games left to go. Don’t panic, these things will sort themselves out:
- The completely set portion of our starting rotation. Yes we’ve seen some shaky pitches and a few of our fearless hurlers have been downright shelled. But we’ve also seen some stellar performances in these very few nine games too. These four guys are absolutely fine. And once we get past a bit of dead arm and rust, they’re going to make some of the issues with the 2012 team seem far less apparent.
- Albert Pujols. He will hit. Remember all of the huffing and puffing and gnashing of teeth in April last season in St Louis? Sometimes he takes a while to get into his groove. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy all those great pitches Howie is getting in the mean time.
As for the rest? The jury’s still out for me. I could start adding it to any of the three lists above by the end of the month. We’ll just have to see. Of course, none of this makes starting the season 3 and 6 any happier or losing like this on a nationally televised game any less annoying when heading into the office Monday morning. Ugh! What’s a fan to do? Well, when all else fails, and the playing gets icky, the real fans go and buy more tickets I say! I now have tickets all squared away for our Interleague trip down to San Diego in May. I got great seats for Friday, right by the Angels bullpen. But it’s our Saturday seats that truly have me salivating and that made me feel a whole lot better this weekend. Of course, the fact that Padres are doing worse than we are didn’t exactly hurt me in this endeavor. Wait, the Padres record is still worse, right? *sigh of relief* LOL, relax! In this sort of situation, gallows’ humor isn’t merely to be expected, it’s highly encouraged.
Bring on the A’s.
Tuesday evening was clear in Los Angeles. Clear, balmy and gorgeous. Perfect weather for a ball game! As we headed out to Dodger Stadium for game two of the traditional Freeway Series before the regular season begins, I was filled with nostalgia. I remember bouncing around my parents’ house with my sister, waiting for our dad to come home from work so we could head out for the Freeway Series. This was long before Interleague Play, back when this was the only time each season that my father’s Dodgers would play his father’s – and now my – Angels, and we tried to attend one of the games each year. I remember Dodger ball caps and Mom making sure we packed our jackets. I remember keeping score in the pages in the program with my loopy, little girls’ handwriting and I can almost taste the salty, sweet combination of rollo candy bar pieces and ballpark peanuts I preferred back in the day – clearly this blogger was a fiend for salted caramel long before it became a thing. See, Mom and Dad weren’t big on us eating candy bars – smart Mom and Dad! – but on game nights, my sister and I each got to pick out one from 7-11 to enjoy during the game.
And it was in this frame of mind, jonesing hard for a live baseball game, and smiling with happy memories, that we arrived in Chavez Ravine. The view from historic Dodgers Stadium is stunning. From the vista over Downtown Los Angeles on the 110 freeway side of the parking lot, to the view of the mountains behind the centerfield wall, to gates of the stadium itself, it is nonstop pretty.
Relishing the feeling of just being at the ballpark – and the view from my stylists’ season seats in the second row of the upper deck right behind the plate! – I took a few photos of the warm ups while the light was still good. It is not surprising to see Dodgers and Angels hanging out chatting before the game. How many players have moved along the 5 freeway switching the red hat for the blue one or vice versa? How many sets of brothers have we had playing against one another in these match ups? Exactly.
Of course, then the Dodgers took the field and they read the lineups. Albert Pujols at first. Ervin Santana on the mound with his trusty catcher Bobby Wilson. Good, good. All very good. Alberto Callaspo at third, Erick Aybar at short, Torii Hunter in right. Very good. Bobby Abreu in left, Vernon Wells in center and Maicer Iztuis at second??? Okay, so we’re playing with the B+ team today. Ho hum. And, sad to say, I knew this was going to be one of those Spring Training games where we didn’t push very hard just from that fact alone. I’m not saying the B+ team can’t win games, just that in an exhibition game starting with the B+ team on the field (no Fleet Pete in center, no white hot Kendrick and Trumbo bats in the lineup in and around Pujols’) when you know that, as the innings progress, we’re going to switch to the B, B- and C+ teams for practice? Exactly.
Oh well. Being at the ballpark is seldom if ever a bad time. The group of season ticket holders around my stylist’s seats is really nice. We told them not to mock Sue too hard over our red hats as she had already given me plenty of grief over them and that got some laughs. They all greeted one another with a cheery “Happy New Year!” in honor of the new season. I love it! And there were a few a great plays to enjoy even as parts of the complete A team languished in the dugout.
What do you want, it was a weird little exhibition game. They played nine full innings even though the Dodgers had already won, just like the day before when the Angels had already won, because that’s what the managers wanted. The Dodgers were even nice enough to let the pinch hitting Kendrys Morales bat a second time, calling him the DH that time which so funny over the National League speakers. That’s why I say, as much as this is a rivalry, it’s a relatively sibling like one. Eventually we saw more of the A team come back out to join the rookies, though I must say in a Regular Season game I would prefer to have both Trumbo and Pujols’ bats in the lineup rather than having Trumbo replace Pujols.
Loss and all, it was still a fun evening and a nice little tide me over until Friday’s season opener. And while I do love Angels Stadium more, we certainly don’t have anything like this view:
“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.
I was eight years old when I caught gymnastics fever. It was the summer of 1984. Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. Mary Lou Retton was America’s sweetheart. And NBC must have re-aired the Nadia movie 10 times that summer. My sister and I begged and pleaded so, of course, my parents let us start lessons. The first gym wasn’t what we expected. They never let us do any real tricks, we couldn’t use the whole beam, only the part over the giant fluffy mat and we vaulted onto a large upholstered box. However they had large pit full of foam squares, just like in the Nadia movie, and a lot of the kids taking classes there were “Industry,” including the younger siblings of a then rising sitcoms and afterschool specials star with a child-of-hippies first name and a state capitol for a last name, so you’d better bet classes were expensive.
Eventually we switched to youth classes at the local community college. No Nadia pit “full of bouncy things” but plenty of encouragement to try difficult tricks at a reasonable price. And the gym in which the classes were held announced it’s more serious work ethic when you walked in the door with a large poster of a young gymnast in the middle of a giant swing on the uneven bars with her toes just brushing the floor, a major points deduction, and the saying I used for my headline: Mistakes Can Be Costly. Let’s Try to Be Accurate in Our Work.
Watching the Angels play this season, this poster comes to mind fairly often. Mind you, the team is doing well in many ways and they’re only two games out of first, even with the last two losses. But when the Angels do lose, all too often, they’ve really beat themselves with some sort of costly mistake. Walking batters, sometimes several in a row. Errors on what would have been the third out. Meatball pitches. Base running gaffes. Swinging for the fences to the point of detriment when a nice hard knock into the gap would suffice. Mental vacations at inopportune fielding moments…I could go on, but you get the general idea.
All teams have these moments, make these mistakes. But, for whatever reason, timing is not on the Angels side this season and when mistakes are made, they quickly prove costly with even greater frequency than normal. And just what can a team do to prevent this situation? Nothing, other than work harder to keep the mistakes in check. This is why I love this particular poster so much that it has stayed with me all these years. It doesn’t yell, or point fingers and it doesn’t suggest for a second that anyone can live an errorless existence. It just states a simple fact, mistakes can be costly, and suggests a valuable action plan. I’ve already seen improvements in the Angels play this season. If they can avoid more of the costly errors, mental and otherwise, in the next few weeks, I expect they will still be playing in October.
* * * * *
So, were there any high points we can take away from the series in the Bronx? Yes, indeedy. Dan Haren for one. He pitched most of a great game (Bringing in Fernando Rodney against Jeter with two on and two out was a moronic decision. Coaching staff, see previous conversation about mental errors.) and was an excellent mentor to young Garrett Richards, chatting him up and keeping him positive after his first game. Richards himself. Yes, he had a terrible first inning and a terrible fourth inning. But the kid fresh up from AA making his major league debut in the Bronx also pitched two 1, 2, 3 innings and a third near 1, 2, 3, inning (except for that little solo homerun thing, D’oh), striking out Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the process. Was it an awe inspiring debut? No, but I do think the kid shows promise. Tyler Chatwood’s debut was much the same and he was another bright spot in this series.
Angels bats were a frequent high point – Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis, and Mark Trumbo all hit well throughout the series and others had hits. If only they could have hit consistently with runners in scoring position throughout the series, this could have been a different post. But at least the fought back this series. No, we scored our three runs in the first two innings and couldn’t possibly score any more until tomorrow. That was a positive…that and two homeruns off Mariano Rivera. Hey, we take our giggles were we can. 😉 Angels fielding was also stellar this series and errorless, except for that one really, really big one…see previous conversation. *sigh*