Tagged: Seth

The Year of the of the Mystery Team?

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

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

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

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

 

*     *     *     *     *

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

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

Musings on Baseball and Wine – Hey, It’s January. What Do You Want? ;)

All work and no baseball makes Kristen a sad girl…a most unacceptable state of affairs if you ask Kristen, I can tell you that. Lacking the ability to add baseball to the equation, clearly it was time to mix in a little playtime. It’s a three day weekend, so naturally Seth and I lit out for Cambria and Paso Robles the second we were both off work and packed up on Friday night. Yeah, it was a 4 and half hour drive starting at 8 p.m. So what? Brown footed loons are naturally nocturnal…and diurnal and crepuscular for that matter, whichever natural activity cycle is apt to lead to greater work productivity and/or a good time. We’re adaptable like that. Anyway, as we noted walking around town this morning, the Cambria/Paso Robles/long weekend/random weekend thing has been our thing for as long as there has been an us. Some years, I think we use the house more than his parents do…other years I know we do.

And after this many years of coming up here to California’s Central Coast wine county, I can tell you that that natural cycles of baseball and California wine mirror each other in so many different ways it’s a wonder they aren’t more closely associated than the more traditional pairing of baseball and beer. Just to name a few:

  • In California, wine’s biggest event, its Fall Classic if you will, is the Harvest and crush (literally what it sounds like) which occurs in October. And, much like in baseball, you really want to get it over with before you hit November if at all possible.
  • While wine blending, bottling and selling can occur all year long depending on what varietals a winery offers, the majority of the blending, the tinkering with the 25 man roster if you will, occurs in February and March and again in the early summer months.
  • Rookie wines can be excellent right out of the bottle, or take several years of aging and conditioning before they really show their stuff, and the aging almost always improves the end result.
  • Some winemakers rely on their own farm system, growing the majority of their own grapes. Others rely on the farm systems of their colleagues. Trades and outright “free agency” purchases are common.
  • Many amateur aficionados think they know almost as much as or ever better than the professionals…and a lot of them have blogs. 😉
  • Both the aficionados and the professional raters rely on often obscure numbers and statistics that are not necessarily what the actual wine makers, being more of a by taste, gut instinct and experience sort, rely on when putting together the finished product.
  • And then, there is the fickle finger of fate thing. Just as really promising rookies may fail to live up to their potential or excellent ballplayers suffer career ending injuries, sometimes nature says “nope, I don’t think so” in the form of a drought, or quite the opposite, or any number of other minor disasters and the grapes just don’t live up to their potential either.

This last bit really speaks to what’s happening in Paso Robles and I would imagine the rest of California’s winery regions this year. California didn’t really have much of a summer in 2011. And, while consistent balmy mid 70’s weather is wonderful for tourism and fantastic fodder for any number of movies, it absolutely sucks for grapes which need hot days and cool breezes at night in order to fully develop the sugars that eventually ferment into the delicious nectar we enjoy. That kind of weather was in short supply this off season, much like free-agent starting pitchers of quality.

And, much like baseball teams with said starting pitchers, wineries tried different things to insure victory, from leaving the grapes on the vines an extra long time, risking catastrophic rain storms, to stripping the leaves off to give the gapes the full benefit of the sun, risking malnourishment and, should the heat wave finally come, scorched grapes. Just as in baseball, some wineries lucked out and some did not (the Angels clearly falling in the former category here). And it’s safe to say that in both worlds a lot of teams/wineries have rebuilding years ahead of them. But here’s the thing about rebuilding years in wine or in baseball that a lot of folks forget. Rebuilding necessities can lead to unexpected levels of creativity and take us in directions we never thought we could go. And, every now and then, this leads to an even better result than anyone could have possibly imagined. I can’t wait to see how the fruits of 2011 and early 2012 work out for everyone, on the field and in my glass. Cheers!

He Just Wasn’t That Into Them. How About a Change of Scenery?

If it seems as though I compare all things baseball to all things relationship a lot, that would be because A) I do, and B) the analogy absolutely works! Hey, it’s not like I made this up. I mean, how happy were you as young person the first time you made it past first base on a date? Not so much the first time you struck out with a cutie in public, right? Or, take the amazing t-shirt a friend of mine got after the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which proclaimed “I saved second base!” Honestly, it would be weirder to try and separate the concepts.

I do finding it amusing though that the timing for these analogies is often opposite. I mean, right now, just as millions of men and women everywhere are resolving not to date Mr. or Ms. Right in 2012, or to stop dating their friends’ castoffs, baseball teams are leaping to the contrary conclusion that these are fine ideas. This isn’t a pot/kettle situation. Vernon Wells in 2011. Fernando Rodney in 2010. Scott Kazmir in 2009. I could go on but, really, what’s the point? As an Angels fan, suffice to say, I know from whence I speak.

Trying to look at it from the teams’ perspectives, I get it. At least, I think I do. I mean, we’ve all been there right? You think the Angels just didn’t understand Fernando Rodney. Not the way you can, Rays. They nagged him way too much about his control and all of those walks without spending enough time appreciating the speed of his fastball and the rakish angle of his ball cap. If only the Angels had taken more time to praise him and shower him with applause, you know, like they back when the relationship was fresh, things might have been different.

And what about Carlos Zambrano? I know Marlins, I know. Clearly he and the Cubs had severe compatibility issues. Sure the making up part was epic every. Single. Time. But all of the volatile spats that lead to the making up? And their increasing frequency coupled with little to no making up? This wasn’t a case of opposites attracting, they weren’t even speaking the same language. It will be different with you, right Marlins? Signing Carlos will be like getting to marry your best friend, right? Near perfect compatibility.

And for the rest of you out there joining me in a collective WTF – hey, I can see that face you’re making! – just remember, it always looks different when your friend is the one rationalizing a bad decision then when you’re the one doing it. And, really, who are we to point fingers? Sometimes these things work out, crazy as they may seem at the time…right? My husband and I made all of our friends make those faces when we started dating and we’re heading toward our second decade together…though examples of this working out are far more prevalent among humans than among baseball teams, I think. Still, good luck Rays, Marlins and everyone else in this position. Maybe it really will be different with you…

“Have fun storming the castle, Boys!” “Do you think they’ll make it?” “It’ll take a miracle…”

Miami, the Life of the Winter Meeting Party + Baseball Fever, Catch it from Someone You Love!

So, how about those winter meetings? The agenda could be duller than a long Friday night in folding laundry and they would still seem pretty darned exciting at this point, mostly thanks to Florida…er…I mean Miami. Miami at the moment reminds me of that lightweight drinker who has overindulged beyond their usual prudent amount and suddenly finds themselves the life of the party. You’re thrilled that they have acquired a few missing pieces…er…learned that they do in fact love tequila. You want them to be competitive again…that is, to have a great time. But you can see the potential for hangover growing by the minute and if it hits this one is going to be uh-uh-gly…er…oh, wait. Nevermind. That one works for both analogies. 😉

And, while we’re on the party analogy, has anyone seen our escort? He brought us that lovely tropical drink – something catcher? – a little while ago and then left to get us another, but we can’t seem to see him in the crowd at the moment. Oh well, no matter. We’re feeling happy – no complaints. This is an awfully fun party and I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually with a big swingin’ bat or two (If there is no such drink, I swear I will make one up with spice infused bourbon to get some nice wood notes and other tasties!) or maybe even a pitcher of something. Oh, we can wait for that and even enjoy the waiting.

Editor’s Note/Update: Ummm…not so sure about some of the current rumored beverage offerings. I enjoy rum and Texas tea…but not in those quntities/for those contracts. Yikes!

*     *     *     *     *

My husband and I often joke that baseball fever is, how shall we say? Ah yes, a social disease. (Gee Officer Krupke!) It’s the only explanation for the speed with which two sworn non baseball fan friends acquired the disease once they started dating a baseball fan and the wondrous virulence of their lasting symptoms. It also explains why all of our other friends, non baseball fans in committed relationships with one another, will never catch the fever. Hey, baseball fans out there in love with non baseball fans. Wouldn’t it be great if it actually worked that way?

Anyway, my husband is a great baseball fan. But the true fanaticism is a newer thing, something that grew parallel to my returning fanaticism when my own baseball fever joyfully relapsed after way too long a remission. I like to think I helped him a little bit with that. He already definitely knew the rules and some of the strategies, players and such. But I got to teach him the finer points, or at least be there when he picked them up on his own and it’s been an incredibly fun journey. He is not as big a dork as I am, yet, but he’s getting there.

Coming home from work the other day, I walked in on him ranting at Hot Stove. That’s not an intangible. You can absolutely measure that. It’s called Wins. Above. Replacement. He snarked and tossed the remote on the sofa in amused disgust.

Wow, I laughed appreciatively. Look at you!

Seth paused, looked at me, laughed and said. It’s a social disease.

Amen!

Angels of Catan, a Holiday Induced Hot Stove Mash Up

Once we got the house put back to rights after Thanksgiving, Seth and I spent most of the weekend playing strategy games with headlines on MLBN and Bloomberg playing in the background…as you do, when you’re a couple of geeks who have decided that all of the responsible chores you had planned for the long weekend just really don’t sound appealing. So instead of plastering and painting the bathroom, we played a lot of Settlers of Catan among other things.

Oh, hey look. Blue won! 😉 Settlers of Catan, November 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Settlers of Catan is a continually variable resources management game. Think of it as Sid Meier’s Civilization unplugged. You shuffle the tiles and their numerical dice role assignments that make up the playing board at the beginning of every game, so rarely are any two games the same. Your goal is to get enough resources to build cities and other things that are worth points, oh and to keep your buddy from doing so. But in order to do this you have to trade with your buddy a lot because there is always a key resource or two you can’t access on your own.

Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like another fun game. But isn’t this supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, a baseball blog? Oh. You again. Hey, I brought it back around to baseball the last time I went on a strategy game tangent. Just work with me for a minute here. I’m getting to that part!

So, as I was saying. *glares over her shoulder at the peanut gallery* There we were playing Catan. Making trades. Listening to MLBN and hearing about trades though nothing earth shattering. And, well, my brain tends to make weird connections between completely disparate things.

You’re telling me! Quiet, you.

Ahem. All the trading just started to seem hilariously parallel, especially the AA and AAA outfielders I’ve never heard of that some teams seem to be stockpiling. In Catan, if you’ve pissed off your buddy so much by thwarting him that he won’t trade with you (or you’re close to winning which we refer to as being “Cuba”) you have an option of stockpiling 4 of some useless resource and trading it “off the island” with the deck for one of something you actually need. So, how many no name minor league outfielders does it take to build a major league closer? Or a clutch hitting third basemen? Or anyone we would actually like to hear about…and by we, I mean I because, well, I’m baseball news selfish like that. But more than lightbulb-esque jokes about minor league players, my strange baseball/Settlers of Catan juxtaposition lead to an oddly accurate illustration of the Angels current player situation.

See, it totally relates. Well, it’s about bloody time!!

Here it is, presented for your gaming pleasure, just in time for the holidays, Major League Baseball Players of Catan: The Angels Expansion! Hey, they have every other theme and expansion under the sun for Catan, why not? Anyway, looking at my goofy creation and the board the Angels have been clearly playing with for the last couple of seasons, I think the problem is readily apparent, don’t you?:

This is the way our board looks? Now it all makes sense! MLB Players of Catan, Angels Expansion, November 2011. Concept, artwork and photo by This is a very simple game...

I mean if my dice roll options for hitting looked like that, you better bet I’d shuffle up the game board at the nearest opportunity. Strong starting pitching options with a few holes. Good and bad bullpen options based, seemingly, on a roll of the dice. Good fielding and throwing. Some speed. Some strong hitting for average but also some really poor hitting for average and almost no power hitting at all. I keep hearing all kinds of trade and signing rumors about the Angels, as we all do about our teams this time of year, but nothing that I like at all so far.

Catan, for real or as an illustration of the relative talents of Angels personnel, is all about balance and trying hard to compensate for lack of balance when it invariably occurs. Only rarely is pumping up one strength to the neglect of some or all of the others a good strategy. There is no shooting the moon, in baseball or in Catan. And, let’s be honest here, even teams with a lot of money still don’t have infinite money. Balance and prioritization are essential.

I do not want C.J. Wilson, one of the more consistent rumors. Not only do I not like the fact that the converted reliever slowed down earlier this season than last, but I think that it would be throwing entirely too much money at something that is already mostly a strength. We have a hole and a half, if you will, in our starting rotation. But we only have one power bat in our lineup…unless Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales come back in typical shape, but notice I’m not counting on that. I might have liked the David Ortiz rumor. Say what you will about the Fenway toybox, he always kills it in Anaheim, unlike Vernon Wells which probably should have been a clue, but I digress… But we have such a glut of big contract lame duck bats, at least going by 2011’s numbers, in the DH spot that I can’t see a way for the team to get rid of so, really, what’s the point?

So far, the rumor I like the most is Aramis Ramirez, but that one isn’t perfect either even when you ignore his fits of bad attitude for the sake of argument. More power at third base would be really nice. Really, really nice. But people forget that Alberto Callaspo may not be flashy but he hit consistently for average all season long, our highest batting average in 2011 in fact. And while I would like some power, if we replace Callaspo, we would then need to make up his batting average somewhere else in the lineup somehow. How about a power hitting catcher…or, even, an average hitting catcher? Clearly the slumping bats need to step it up big time or be replaced. But is that possible? It’s a puzzle. A Catan worthy puzzle. Mike Scioscia has said he likes playing Civilzation. I wonder if Jerry Dipoto likes resources management strategy games? Because like it or not, he’s got a pretty tricky one ahead of him.

The Long, Dark Time Without Baseball, Day 24

24 days without baseball. By this point my mind finally understands that baseball season is over. This isn’t an inordinately lengthy All-Star break or some sort of weird mid-season hiatus. There is no more baseball until spring. My mind understands, but it still does not accept.

Evenings are the hardest. During the day, I am working, just as I do during the season, and sometimes have time to catch Hot Stove or read other news over lunch. That’s not so very different, really. But in the evenings, when all of the have tos are over and it’s time to settle down and relax…eeek, there is just so much extra time now! I have a few non-baseball shows I like. Top Shot is over for the season, but Castle is fun with a lot of good quips about writing and sly book and movie references. I am infatuated with Grimm right now. It’s quirky and clever. Hell on Wheels is so far a more than adequate westerns fix in a sadly post-Deadwood world. And there are a few others. Food Network and the like. But that’s, what? An hour every other evening or so? Occasionally a little more? My mind is temporarily satisfied, then the brief distraction is over, it grows restless and the impatient channel surfing begins in search of a fix that simply does not exist:

Not baseball. *click*

Not baseball. *click*

Ah, MLBN, my hero! Except…is this a highlight show or countdown or Hot Stove/Intentional Talk/etc. episode I’ve already seen? As the offseason drags on, increasingly the answer is yes. *sigh* *click*

Not baseball. *click*

Not baseball. *click*

“Reality” TV crap. Definitely. Not. Baseball. *shudders* *click*

Not baseball. *click*

And so on. What on Earth do people do with all of this extra time?! I’ve filled it with movies. I’ve filled it with books. Two weeks ago, I filled several evenings making pickles. This week Seth and I are filling the time scouring our house from top to bottom and cooking, cooking, cooking. We host Thanksgiving for our combined families each year (just the two of us and both sets of parents this year though) and we enjoy making it a completely from scratch affair. But that’s this week and before. Whatever will I do next week? 24 days without baseball and it’s clear this blogger needs more offseason hobbies, stat.

*     *     *     *     *

Funny story of the week…okay, of my week at least:

My Pilates instructor is a heck of a nice lady and an excellent instructor, especially from the standpoint of sports and dance conditioning or physical therapy. Her husband is a baseball fanatic, while she knows little to nothing about the sport. It’s just not her thing. To illustrate this point, she told us about a chat with her husband a few years back.

He had asked about two of her clients, a husband and wife, whom she giving private lessons to at the time. And she told him: Oh yeah, Mark used to play baseball. I think their last name is McGwire? He has a lot of Cardinals stuff. I mean a lot. Have you heard of him?

Needless to say, yes, her husband had heard of him.

I burst out laughing all over again just typing this at the thought of what her husband’s expression must have looked like. For the foreseeable future, “He has a lot of Cardinals stuff” is Seth’s and my favorite way of saying someone missed the point.

Friday Gourmet, Wine and…Cardinals??

I know, I know. It doesn’t sound the same without the Angels at all. But what’s a fan to do? Ignore the post season? Go into deep mourning every Friday night? I think not. So consider this Friday Gourmet: the Post Season Edition. And I have to say, even though I was sorely missing the Angels, having two excellent games for my viewing pleasure did make for a most enjoyable Friday. How cool is it that three of the four LDS match-ups went to Game 5 and all four match-ups were decided by 1 run? Pretty darned cool and extremely exciting. Suffice to say, this post season we’ve seen some good, close matchups.

I’ll admit it. I started my Friday a little early and snuck in the last two innings of the D-Backs game while I finished up a few things for work…hey, I also finally shut down the work laptop at home on Thursday just shy of midnight, so I think they still came out of this with the majority of my attention. 😉 What a good game! I wanted the D-Backs to win. But it was so close and everyone played so well, that they should certainly go home with their heads held high and rest up for next season when I have no doubt they’ll pick up right where they left off. (Though hopefully a rebuilt Dodgers team with spanking new owners will give them a run for their money and wind up in the top spot. Sorry Gibby. That’s just the way it works with me.) And, in the meantime, Congratulations to the Brewers! At the same time I was sorry to see the D-Backs lose, I was also pleased to see these guys win. Hey, it’s the post season. That’s allowed.

As for the Cardinals/Phillies game? That was one heck of taut pitcher’s duel. Both teams were on and it really could have gone either way. It was very exciting! I am sorry to say that I didn’t have the appropriate appreciation for Chris Carpenter before watching this game. Consider my eyes opened. He and Halliday were very well matched. Oh to be a fly on the wall during their planned fishing trip this off season. The game was so good, in fact, that Seth had to jokingly remind me not to wait to time the dinner by smoke detector twice. In my rushing back and forth between the kitchen and the TV, I’d failed to notice the timer going off. (Given the option to watch a big game live I hate, HATE, to pause it for longer than one could logically catch back up during a commercial break if I can help it.) You laugh, dear reader, but timing a meal by smoke detector has happened to both of us before. Only when cooking under extenuating distracting circumstances, mind you, such as during a game. …Oh, okay. Or when blackening fish or chicken. But, seriously. Searing blackening spice encrusted meat is really just a culinary game of chicken with the smoke detector anyway, so I don’t think that should count. 😉

Yeah, I was cooking a little towards the beginning of the game. It was Friday after all. I baked a spicy chili, cheddar bread and toasted up thick slices of it with turkey, thick slices tomato, slivers of onion and homemade cheddar garlic spread melted over the top. Paired with a gorgeous Muscat Canelli from Eberle it was really, really good if I do say so myself. Yes, paired with a sweet wine. Okay, you’re forgiven for making that face. You’ve probably only ever had sips of some ghastly sugar bomb like Beringer’s White Zinfandel or the like before. Trust me, it’s all about balance and a good sweet wine paired with something pungent and earthy like blue cheese or camembert, or with something spicy like Thai food or, say, a sandwich made with bread that includes a fair bit of fresh diced jalapeño, and it is a thing of beauty. And, hey, an evening in with good food, good wine a great game? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Would that this evening’s ALCS game had been as good. I would be willing to be that Verlander could have recovered his command given a few more innings in a row with no rain delay, but that may or may not have been enough. And then after the first rain delay it was C.J. Wilson’s turn to get a little sloppy, but not enough so for the Tigers to take the lead. Oh well. That’s only the first game. So, tomorrow. Bike ride. Minor chores. Then brunch eventually and a heck of a lot of baseball, possibly accompanied by the Tigers friendly Rio Seco wine. (Rio Seco’s winemaker played in the Tigers minor league system) Now, who the heck am I rooting for in the NLCS?? I like ‘em both and would enjoy seeing either in the World Series, so that is the question of the evening. Any thoughts?