Pitchers and Catchers report today!! Okay, granted with a few exceptions. But, still, pitchers and catchers report today. *happy dance* I know, I know. To the baseball fan, it’s ‘Play ball!’ that’s the truly wonderful phrase, the phrase we all rank highly on any list of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. ‘Pitchers and catchers report!’ just doesn’t have the same impact…most of the time. Today, however, ‘pitchers and catchers report’ means that the long, looooooong winter without baseball is over. It means that players will begin throwing baseballs, conducting drills and preparing for the main event, Opening Day, any moment now. It means that spring training ‘play ball’s will soon ring out loud and clear across Florida and Arizona and that official, regular season ‘play ball’s are not far behind. So why don’t you just take a moment, let that phrase roll off your tongue again and really savor it this time. Pitchers and catchers report! Today is sounds absolutely gorgeous, doesn’t it?
In honor of this beautiful day — my personal first day of Spring regardless of what the calendar says — I have decided to finally share my “resolutions” for the 2013 Angels, resolutions that I think the team should keep in order to help make their high potential for a fantastic 2013 season a reality. Hey, I know these sorts of things are traditionally done in January but what the heck. I missed that with my little blogging break and I might argue that today is the start of the baseball year anyway:
- Health is a common resolution, right? So let’s start there. Obviously no one ever wants to get injured or sick and Angels players are a tough bunch, often playing while injured. But when you look at the issues the team has had the last several seasons — with the offense, the bullpen, the starting rotation — the need to work around injuries and illnesses has played a significant role in each of those issues. So, as much as injuries are absolutely just a part of the game, play hard and with joy and passion but, while you’re doing that don’t forget to do all of your stretches/take up yoga or Pilates/ lift from the correct position/don’t hit the wall unless you have a shot at making the play/avoid walking into toe breaking brick patios/take your vitamins/whatever it takes to stay healthy. (And, hey, as I write this I am recovering sloooowly from the ick that’s going around my office and wishing desperately that I’d taken my own advice, so there you go. Healthy >>>>>>>>>>>>>not healthy.)
- Along the same theme as health, I would really love to see all aspects of the Angels’ game working at the same time. Last season, it seemed like the offense found their stride only to have the starting rotation hit a rough patch. Then the starting rotation would right themselves for a few games only to have the bullpen fall apart. Mind you, despite these issues, the team still won 89 games. So it stands to reason that if the Angels can really get on a role in 2013 with all of their strengths working at the same time, this could be really special season!
- Free Peter Bourjos! Picture it, an outfield with Bourjos in center flanked by Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout truly is one amazing centerfielder, but Bourjos is even faster, runs even better routes and has a similarly golden glove (and, seriously, if both of these kids don’t get actual, for real Gold Glove awards in the plural sooner rather than later in their careers, that will be a crime). So, putting the two of them in the outfield together?!! Plus Hamilton?! I get goose bumps just thinking about it. And let’s just quit it with all of that Bourjos can’t hit talk, shall we. Yes, last year, coming into the game sporadically, often in the middle or at the end of the game, sometimes with weeks in between at bats, his batting average was terrible. But when given a full season to play the year before that, he may have started out slow but he finished with a more than respectable .271. Is a .271 average really higher than we should expect from Bourjos in a normal season like some say? Perhaps. But instead of continuing to speculate, why don’t we find out, really find out…you know, by leaving him in for more than a handful of games at a stretch. Look, even if Bourjos’ normal batting average turns out to be like .250, that’s a lot better than 2012’s alternative of Vernon Wells.
- Accomplish the above ^^ without losing Mark Trumbo’s bat. Barring any scary slumps — which means, Mark, stay out of the Home Run Derby unless you can do it without f-ing up your swing, ‘kay? — Trumbo should be a lineup constant, primarily in the role of DH but also as an occasional substitute outfielder, as needed.
- Hey, Sosh, fewer lineups, please. Now I understand that having multiple starting lineups for specific occasions can serve a useful purpose, as can shaking things up from time to time. And I do realize that giving up having 100+ lineups for 162 games is probably harder for you than quitting cigarettes is for most people. So I’m not asking you to go cold turkey and pick just one lineup to stick with for the rest of the season. But how about choosing one basic lineup with a small handful of situation specific variations — for example the ideal infield and outfield for Angels fly ball pitchers, the ideal infield and outfield for Angels groundball pitchers, and whatever? And, hey, maybe you could stick with each situation’s lineup for a while to really see if it works instead of switching them up at the drop of a hat? Hmmmm…What’s that you say? Probably not? Yeah, I thought as much. But hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying.
- Stay healthy.
- Players who tend to swing between off years and on years, I really hope to be cheering for the best version of you, so to speak, in 2013. For example, I really want to see the 2012 Kevin Jepsen again, or even a continuing, positive evolution of him. Because 2012 Jepsen was a revelation, pulling all of the occasional glimpses of skilled reliever we’d seen in previous seasons into a solid, reliable reliever who saved the Angels bacon a lot. Among my other biggest wishes in the category? I want to see the .300 + hitting Albert Pujols, the bone-spur free, kick ass version of C.J. Wilson, and I want to see “amazing feats of baseball awesomeness” Josh Hamilton, not the “caffeine ailments and special eye issues uniquely related to blue eyed folks” Josh Hamilton…because I’ve got a pair of baby blues of my own, Josh, and I call shenanigans on you there. 😉
- Another common resolution is to try new places/styles/foods/fill in the blank with a sense of adventure instead of fear. For the Angels, I think this specifically refers to new opposing pitchers. Facing a new pitcher should a be a light hearted adventure filled with all kinds of fun games, like home run derby and “how many bases can I steal?” not the sort of fear and over thinking that makes rookie pitchers look like Cy Young candidates.
- Fans and players alike: prepare for a full year of Mike Trout magic!!! But at the same time, let’s keep the same attitude of wonder and amazement we had in 2012 instead of heaping all of the expectations of last year’s stellar season on his young, albeit strong and capable, shoulders. I have not a doubt in my mind but what every year with Trout is going to be something special, but keeping some sort of running game by game comparison of last season’s home run totals and on base percentages with this season’s creates a stupid kind of pressure and is just going to drive everyone crazy…especially if you tend to do this out loud and while sitting next to me at the Big A. I’m just sayin’. 😉
- Oh, and last but certainly not least, the best resolution of all, again for fans and players alike: let’s have fun with the 2013 season! That, and did I mention stay healthy?
And, with that, I’m going to cease my giddy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day bouncing around the house and go back to getting some serious work done. *boingy, boingy, boingy* *sigh* Okay, apparently I’m going to continue my giddy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day bouncing around the house while getting some serious work done. 2013 is going to be amazing, I can just feel it!
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:
[The Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer] claimed to produce the widest possible range of drinks personally matched to the tastes and metabolism of whoever cared to use it. When put to the test, however, it invariably produced a plastic cup filled with a liquid which was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. – Douglas Adams, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe
If you think about it, once you get past the excitement and spectacle of actual, live ballplayers doing their thing on a real baseball diamond during that first broadcast game, Spring Training bears a strong resemblance to Arthur Dent’s doomed quest to get the machine to produce the perfect cuppa…or even a halfway decent cuppa. The end result is something which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike baseball. Spring Training is practice and working through the rust. It’s a try out and a breaking in, a stretching out, loosening up and learning to play together. Spring Training is a lot of different things, all of them important but, as much as I find myself longing for it in January as a more palatable alternative to nothing, it is not baseball, not really. It’s more like proto-baseball. The real thing is a few days off yet.
The annual Freeway Series exhibition games back at home in Anaheim and Los Angeles, however, are almost an exception to this rule. Yes, the ghosts of September Call-ups future are still playing, most of the starters are flipped out before the 8th inning, and there are a few odd rules – in this case that a full nine innings, no more, no less will be played. (Ten shalt thou not play, neither play thou eight and one half, excepting that thou then proceed to nine. Eleven is right out…*snerk*) But even so, the games are played on the Angels and Dodgers Regular Season turf, at night. And they typically draw an approximation of a Regular Season crowd. This is closer to real baseball. And with the longstanding rivalry between the two teams – much like siblings who probably really love each other…deep, deep down…probably – adding a certain passion lacking in your typical ST game, this is closer still to real baseball and a tradition I have seldom missed since I was a child.
Hey, it may not be precisely real, but it’s certainly fun. The Angels took the first game this evening and the first five innings or so were a pretty good game. Dan Haren looked sharp, so did the Dodgers starter Jamey Wright. A solid Trumbomb here, a spectacular Matt Kemp catch there. *shakes fist at Kemp* A good game…but there were the errors, and then the abrupt pitching changes on the Dodgers side, and before you know it the starters were being pulled for the kids, the score deficit grew and grew (as it most likely would not have during a Regular Season game), and that Spring Training game feel became inescapable. Oh well, so it’s only mostly like a Regular Season game. But we only have two more of these, which promise to be equally fun for most of the innings, and then the real games begin! *boingy, boingy, boingy*
As Spring Training draws to a close the 25 man roster is beginning to take more shape. Jason Isringhausen’s up, Mike Trout’s down and Bobby Abreu is? Well? Ummm? Now that is the uncomfortable question of the Spring, now isn’t it?
Mike Trout, to the surprise of many is headed back down to the AAA for the time being. When Spring Training began, I had hoped for a different outcome. My current dream Angels outfield has Trout and Peter Bourjos in it together. But Mike Trout missed most of Spring Training and was not his normal self for the rest of it following a nasty bout with the flu that to all reports left him physically drained and 15 pounds lighter. Go figure – getting the flu isn’t any easier or more fun when you’re a professional athlete. So, as much as I’d like to see Trout up with the major league club this season, I can’t argue with the idea of leaving him in AAA to heal up and get back into the swing of things. He is only 20 years old after all. No need to rush these things and, besides, I can’t imagine the Angels waiting all the way until September call ups to bring him back up again.
And it looks like the Angels’ bullpen certainly will not lack for a veteran presence in 2012. The team welcomed Jason Isringhausen to the 25 man roster this week. Do I love the move? Do I hate it? Eh, with Michael Kohn and Bobby Cassevah sidelined with injuries right now, we have the room. I’ll reserve love it or hate it judgment until we see which era of his considerable experience Isringhausen is channeling this season, a good year, or?? Yeah.
Which brings us to Bobby. Bobby. Bobby, baby. Bobby, bubbi. Angel, I’ve got something to tell you… I detested Company, actually, but lately that snippet of recurring refrain keeps popping into my head every time Abreu’s name comes up in the news and I think it’s because, like the character in the play, there is a big obvious change that needs to happen in his life that he is fighting tooth and nail…to the annoyance of everyone.
As for Company, I might have liked it better if I hadn’t sat through six performances of it in one week, all of them featuring two roles so badly overacted that they unintentionally over emphasized the terribly self absorbed nature of so many of the characters. What can I say, too many friends in the Spring main stage that year, too many more friends who hadn’t seen them do their thing yet and way too many, impossible to politely turn down comped tickets. Ah, college!
As for Bobby, I know I’d like the situation better if he were accepting it with a little more grace. He is not an everyday player anymore, not in the field anyway. Whenever we put him out there for any length of time, it goes badly. While I am really sorry to say it, he just plain can’t move the way he used to in the outfield – even though, surprisingly, he can on the base paths and that is a joy and a half to watch – and when he gets frustrated by this, he throws the ball away once or twice a game. I get it in the sense that I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for a player of his former caliber with his career stats to have his body missing what his mind and instincts are so strongly willing it to do by just that much. And when Bobby isn’t playing in the field every day, his mighty bat gets pretty darned quiet which does mean there isn’t a whole lot of workable room on the roster for him.
The comments Bobby made to the Venezuelan press about doubting Mike Scioscia’s word that he would see 400 at bats in 2012 were inappropriate no matter when he made them…but they weren’t incorrect. Unless something radical happens to the roster and Bobby improves at the plate, I don’t see him getting those at bats either. So Bobby’s here but, if our big bat, good clubhouse guy, occasional right fielder can’t play right field, isn’t doing so hot at the plate and is no longer a good clubhouse guy over the whole thing, I think it would be best for all concerned, including Bobby, if he were not here anymore. It’s too bad that contract makes him so hard to move – thanks Tony! And even with the pissy attitude of late, I hate writing that. Bobby was great for the Phillies, great for the Yankees and one of my favorite players to watch on the Angels in his first year and change with the team. Like I said at the beginning, very uncomfortable all around.
So, everyone’s getting really excited about the first Regular Season games starting in just a few hours, right? I mean, we’re all getting up extra early, with elaborate brunch, beer and calling in late to work plans so we can watch the games, right? *crickets* Yeah, that about sums it up. While I like the idea of exhibition games in Japan and other countries, I think that having the Mariners and A’s play two regular season games there is just ho hum. The timing will always be awkward, both in terms of fitting the games into the Regular Season calendar and in terms of the games themselves taking place at a time when the teams’ U.S. fans can easily watch. For this reason, I doubt MLB will ever get teams that are predicted to contend to participate and so what we’re left with is just blah. Two games stuck in a weird sort of baseball limbo. They count towards the regular season record, so they’re not quite exhibition games. But most folks aren’t paying any attention and the games are occurring completely outside the Regular Season calendar, well before the official Opening Day on April 4th, so it’s almost as if they aren’t really Regular Season games either, leaving me for one wondering, Why bother?
I’ll tell you what is exciting though, Magic Johnson buying the Dodgers. Ding Dong, the McCourts are gone. The wicked McCourts are gone! Yes, I root for the Halo’d ones down in Anaheim, but I’m an L.A. girl raised going to games in Chavez Ravine by a Dodger lovin’ family. As long as we aren’t specifically in the middle of a Freeway Series, I will always have a soft spot for the boys in blue. Besides, I like to think that baseball fans everywhere were rooting for the Dodgers to come out on top of all this – Come on Giants fan cousins of mine, you know you were rooting for them too…come on. Hey. That’s not the gesture you really want to be making. Seriously, knock that off right now or I’m telling your mom. See, that’s much better. Don’t you feel better now? Ummm…never mind. 😉
Anyway, moving right along…Magic Johnson is a shrewd businessman who has managed to create businesses that are simultaneously good for the community, good for local sports and entertainment, and also profitable. And for those of you who don’t have a lot of experience with business and politics in L.A., trust me, that’s no easy feat. Plus, Magic Johnson has been an L.A. guy by choice since his retirement. I see him as the kind of owner who will cultivate a good team on the field (and it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of good players to work with already), while pleasing fans and leaving the important traditions intact. At least, this is what I hope will happen…even though I still hope they lose every single Freeway Series game. Hey, Dodgers soft spot, Angels heart. My goodwill is extensive, but not boundless. 😉
Which brings me to news even more exciting than that: Kendrys is hitting over .600 since his Spring Training debut and continues to see regular playing time, and I saw my first lit Halo of 2012 driving through Anaheim the other night. Okay, so it’s only a lit exhibition Halo, but still. Lit. Halo! The Regular Season – the real Regular Season – is so close I can taste it!
So, LeAnne Rimes has this song…
Yes, sometimes I like my country a little pop-py. Don’t judge me. 😉
Ahem. So LeAnne Rimes has this song called Big Deal. It’s a catchy little tune about a young lady who dumped a guy a while back and, while she’s 99.999…% over him at this point, she’s still plenty miffed that her best friend has started dating him and won’t shut up about how amazing he is. So the young lady is encouraging her friend, perfectly politely of course, to adopt a more tactful topic of conversation…right now.
Anyway, last night Seth and I watched the Giants/Rangers game. Ho Hum. But nothing else was on. Certainly not the Kendrys Morales batting cleanup behind Albert Pujols because Kendrys is looking that good game that I actually wanted to be watching even though it’s only a Spring Training game but couldn’t be watching because none of the stupid networks were airing it…*pauses to take a deep breath…finally*…not that I’m bitter about it or anything even though he hit a home run. *pauses to breathe again* 😉 And we capped it off with the Rangers edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.
Mike Napoli was heavily featured in this MLBN preseason rundown, naturally, and, also naturally, we kept watching because we both like the guy. He was a great Angel and one of those players you wish all the best…just much, much further away than Texas in an ideal world. It was enjoyable and yet not so enjoyable at the same time and, as Dan Plesac and the Rangers began laying on the Napoli accolades thicker and thicker I was eventually moved to begin singing LeAnn’s catchy ditty: Yeah, you call yourself a friend, but you just keep rubbing it in. Big Deal. So what!…
Seth began cracking up almost immediately and took up the refrain: Who cares! You just got lucky that’s all. It was. Shut up! I swear…
But here we paused and looked at each other giggling, unsure of how to go on because the “candle light and long stem roses nd how you’re falling head over heels, in love…”of the next line, unlike its predecessors, hardly fit Mike Napoli and the Rangers.
Seth: If I hear another word about…?
Me: If I hear another word about…?
Seth: If I hear another word about…?
Ah hah! Inspiration. Me: …about catching right and grand slam home runs and…and…
Seth, grinning: and…? And…and World Series MVP! So what. Big deal!
And by that point we were both laughing too hard to extemporize any further…and to follow the thread of the rest of the analysis truth be told. Anyway, we both thought we were pretty darned funny…perhaps the Friday night wine ritual helped that sentiment along a bit, but it still seemed worth sharing, especially this weekend. With Rangers/Angels match ups both today and tomorrow, I am sure the Napoli trade and his stellar 2011 season couples with the Angels anemic 2011 offense will be rehashed ad nauseum along with both teams’ offseason acquisition exploits.
Besides, the song, both the original lyrics and our little reworking of them, fits my feelings on the situation perfectly. I’m over the Mike Napoli trade. I am. I didn’t want him traded away, but it’s not like fans have any choice in the matter, and it’s not like he played like this for the Angels anyway. (And don’t bring up playing time. He actually had significantly more playing time for the Angels in 2010 than he did for the Rangers in 2011. The whole playing time thing is a myth.) Don’t get me wrong, last season was painful in bold 48 pt. font italic all caps covered in sparkles, just for good measure…awful, Twilight Vampirey sparkles. *shudders*
…But trading Mathis and acquiring a catcher that seems capable of hitting above the Mendoza line has helped a lot. Retooling the offense has helped even more. I’m absolutely not saying, ‘Who needs Mike Napoli?’ But I am saying, it’s over and done with. I have moved on. I really like the team we have now and I am at peace with the whole trade ick. But, much like the main subject of LeAnn’s song, that doesn’t mean I will ever enjoy hearing the announcers, the press and everyone else go on and on. And on. And on about the whole thing.
He’s back! He’s back! Kendrys Morales is back! And he looked pretty darned good too, with a single in his first at bat in an Angels’ uniform since Memorial Weekend, 2010 and another in his third at bat. He’s running. He’s sliding!! And all in more or less regular form. I tell you, it brought a tear to my eye…okay more than one.
Flushed, cheering and bouncing around the room from excitement, I posted something similarly gushy on FaceBook. And what stupendous outpouring of love did I receive for this momentous announcement? Pray tell, how many ‘hell yeahs!’ and ‘Right ons!’ exactly? *crickets* That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Nothin’ but *crickets* I say this with extreme affection, but baseball philistines the lot of them. 😉 And this, in a nutshell, is why I blog. Whoever you root for, you’ve been there before. You all get why this news is so amazing!
I haven’t posted a whole lot about Kendrys lately. I haven’t been documenting his progress religiously in this blog and I’ve avoided making impassioned predictions about his ability to return. And, trust me, it’s not because I haven’t been tracking his progress since his second surgery with keen interest. And it’s not because I haven’t been hoping that he could make it back to the roster this season with all of my little old baseball lovin’ heart. No, it’s just that I’m a practical person and, while I do tend toward optimism, it’s a cautious, guarded sort of optimism.
After last season’s disappointment, hoping and rooting for Kendrys to play again and then the setbacks, the second surgery, and another season on the DL, I had to take all of the reports this offseason of his impending 2012 return with several cups of salt – forget those measly grains. Foot and ankle injuries are terrible. Even when they heal, scar tissue can prevent the injured foot from ever working properly again, from ever functioning without a great deal of pain again. And that’s just for those of us who expect normal things of our bodies. For a professional athlete who requires so much more strength and dexterity from his body? Yeah, it’s just that much harder.
So I promised myself that I wasn’t going to get excited about Kendrys until I saw him stride up to the plate, bat in hand, in a regular season game. And I meant it. No, seriously. I promised. Not until the regular seas…yeah, and that all flew out the window today watching that perfectly quirky, half pigeon-toed batting stance. You know the one. Yeah! And then the foot twist and the kick when he swings. And the sound the ball makes when it flies off his bat?! It was exactly like the old Kendrys…okay, with some rust. But you can see the old Kendrys not too far underneath the rust. Promise now thoroughly defenestrated, I can’t stop thinking about a regular season lineup with Kendrys batting 4th right behind Albert Pujols. A prediction? Why, yes. I think it’s absolutely going to happen and I couldn’t be more excited.