Tagged: Tigers

Cardinals and Tigers and Moneyball, Oh My!

I’m still enjoying the post season immensely and I’m rooting hard for the Cardinals and the Tigers to win tonight. Rooting for the Tigers and the Cardinals? Could it be that what I really want out of all of this is epic trash talk on Red State Blue State? While that interpretation of the facts certainly makes for an entertaining story, it is not an accurate statement. Hmmm…could there be a better segue for my review of Moneyball? I think not:

So I saw Moneyball a few days back (Didn’t we all?) and, eh, I didn’t love it, but I did like it. Look, when not stressed beyond capacity I read voraciously, have done so all my life. Given the number of movies based on books out there, the vast majority of them quite loosely indeed, this means I either had to stop watching movies or learn pretty early on to view movies as a completely separate entity from books.  …And from history actually because for every cinematic crime against literature, there are at least three against history. Yes, I was a history major. Why do you ask? 😉

Looking at Moneyball strictly as a movie, I thought it was good. Enjoyable. A little overlong in parts – namely the Brad Pitt moping, and worrying and moping some more parts. Some of the scenes with Brad Pitt’s family were forced and trite. On the other hand, the acting was excellent, some of the dialog was genuinely stirring and the story was appealing. I love underdogs. I love upsets. Heck, I was rooting for the movie A’s by the end of it. From a story telling standpoint, especially knowing that Aaron Sorkin was one of the final script writers, I felt it was missing a big, gorgeous, eloquent mini-speech about baseball or two. Also, once the decision was made to concentrate on the 2002 major league team rather than the draft class the book actually focused on, I wish they had also decided to incorporate more of the players’ background stories as presented in the book – especially when given the choice between including 20 extra minutes of Brad Pitt brooding in a car or 10 minutes each of the story behind Chad Bradford’s unusual even for a submariner style and Scott Hatteberg’s need to socialize. A little sarcastic dialog from a 1st base conversation or two would have been a nice way to break up the montages.

So I enjoyed Moneyball as a movie, but what about as a cinematic glimpse of baseball history? Well it wasn’t that at all, actually. Notice I refer to Brad Pitt as Brad Pitt above, not Billy Beane? That’s because the characters in Moneyball were just that, characters in a fictional movie, loosely based on something that actually happened and, truth be told, a loose interpretation of the book as well. The mischaracterizations and inaccuracies were pretty epic. The movie completely forgets to mention non-Moneyball players, even though a Cy Young performance from Barry Zito and an MVP performance from Miguel Tejada might have contributed to the A’s 2002 success, you know, maybe just a little, along with strong performances from the rest of the non-Chad Bradford pitching staff and other returning A’s players. And as for the Moneyball stuff, Carlos Pena wasn’t traded to force Art Howe to play Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg was already playing more games than not as a DH because, yes, he didn’t just walk a lot, he could actually hit. He also grew into a decent fielding first baseman. And I could go on and on. All of these creative licenses were clearly taken with the intent to make Moneyball into a better story. And, in that sense, I believe that the creative team behind the movie succeeded. But what happens when we change the truth to make it a better story, especially so much of the truth? Exactly.

Okay, so it was entertaining but took creative license to the extreme with the history. So what about all of the folks who don’t know any of the history behind the movie? Are they going to start running around quoting Moneyball as fact? I don’t really see this happening to any degree that should concern. Look, here’s the thing with movies. They rarely if ever get it right and when they do the authenticity usually lies more in the feelings than the actual facts. And for a movie based on history, touting “based on a true story” in the ad campaign means roughly the same thing as using the author’s name in the title of a movie adapted from a book – what appears on screen bears only passing resemblance to the source material. And I think that most savvy movie goers understand this.

What’s that you say? The typical movie goer may not be savvy? Maybe these anecdotes will quell a few fears:

A few weeks ago, a casual baseball fan friend of mine told me about this great looking movie he just saw a preview for, Moneyball. After describing the gist of the plot he had gleaned from the preview he said, But here’s the weird thing. Did you know that they’re using the Oakland A’s for this movie? I mean, using the Cleveland Indians made sense in Major League. But I can’t figure out why anyone would want to use the Oakland A’s for a feel good comeback story movie. My apologies to A’s fans everywhere. These were my friend’s words, not mine. But I relate them here to demonstrate that some folks with more distance from the game than we lot kind of gloss over the “based on a true story” angle and just assume the whole thing is fiction.

And the non baseball fan’s perspective? I was chatting with a good friend a few months back who grasps the concept of baseball and goes to the occasional Dodger game when tickets fall into his hands as they are wont to do from time to time if you live and work in Los Angeles County, but who would not describe himself as even a casual fan. I mentioned enjoying chatting and snarking with a couple of Tigers fans at the Big A on 4th of July. He gave me a really confused look that typically means, “Explain?” So I explained that the Angels were playing the Tigers that night. He repeated the confused look and I gave him one of my own. I mean, what more could one explain?

(Close your eyes Michael David.) I am sorry to say that he then asked The Tigers? That’s not a team I’m familiar with? Okay, this is a very smart man. And he’s up on current events and popular culture. And he grew up in Maryland and went to a few games at Camden Yards as a child so this isn’t some sort of weird west coast bias thing. Apparently if you aren’t really a baseball fan, any team that isn’t the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, your local team(s) or a few isolated others, then that team could be a completely fictional movie team for all that you know…and seeing as fictional movie team comes pretty close to describing the 2002 Oakland A’s as depicted in the film Moneyball, maybe in this case that’s a good thing.

So, if this movie still hath offended think but this and all is…well…if not outright mended, perhaps a bit more in perspective. Those who are close to baseball know how weak and idle this particular theme was from a historical standpoint and those who are not close to the game are very likely to think it’s fiction for a completely different reason. And as for the folks who believe it to be gospel…well…they probably believe almost everything the movies tell them anyway, like the Da Vinci Code is word for word real…and that the 300 Spartans went to war in nothing but teeny, tiny leather speedos…and, and that Nicolas Cage has a broad acting range and can deftly insert himself into the leading role – and accent! – in any action movie.

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Notice that I reviewed Moneyball without ever once offering my opinion on Moneyball philosophy and/or sabermetrics? Yeah, I thought I’d be a little different. Besides, there is enough fodder there to declare Moneyball an entertaining movie but a bad “based on a true story” without ever touching sabermetrics. However, for the record, I think that sabermetric stats are one of many great tools available for assessing baseball players but they are just that, only one tool in the belt. I also think that traditional stats, paying attention to a player’s intangibles and also just plain old gut feel, instinct and observation are important tools for assessing baseball players. I think that it makes the most sense for baseball teams to use every tool available. Completely ignoring any of the tools in favor of one particular tool might work on an occasional player by player basis. But you can’t build a team that way…nor, if you read Michael Lewis’ original book was he initially theorizing that you could. He…a…got a little carried away there by the end of the book and strayed from his own premise. But I’ve got a whole post about that back in the archives if you’re really interested in reading my thoughts on the book.

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?

How Do You Enjoy the Post Season When Your Team Doesn’t Have a Post Season? + Really Josh Hamilton?

 

I answered one facet of this question in one of my very first blog posts, wherein I talked about choosing a team to adopt for the postseason. But that is only one aspect of the answer. For some folks the entire answer is a simple, you don’t. But that just doesn’t work for me. The stakes are too high, the players too good and the action too exciting to ignore…besides, this is the last small slice of baseball we get to enjoy before the cold lonely baseball-less months of late fall and winter begin.

So, how do you enjoy the post season when your team doesn’t have a post season? For me the answer is eagerly, excitedly and with a sense of fun, but also distractedly and with a sense of detachment. Witness, I am watching the games, as many as we can when so many of them start while we are at work, but our kitchen is clean. Our bills are filed. When the game is one the east coast and starts early for us, dinners are more elaborate than slapped together sandwiches. (Okay, we ate sandwiches for dinner this evening, but they involved left over pork loan, brie, sautéed apples and onions and a chipotle peach jelly. They were absolutely not slapped together. 😉 ) The laundry is not only folded but — gasp! — put away. Both my husband and I are more willing to pick up a few mid-week groceries on our way home from the office instead of trying to cram the trip into a lunch break while crossing our fingers that no one swipes them from the office fridge. For better or worse, these things are simply a lot less true during the regular season…even more so during an Angels post season.

So the answer is, you enjoy the post season much the same as you would otherwise, but with a passion that is purely generic in nature. Oh, many of the teams in the current post season excite me and there have been several truly great games so far to be sure. But I can tear my eyes away from the screen for a little while for even mundane chores…and I do. That would never happen with the Angels, but I can’t think of a single other team that would inspire adopted passion on the same magnitude. The only teams that come close for me are family teams.

If the Angels were out but the Dodgers, my childhood team and the team half my family roots for, were in? I know could summon a fair bit of passion. Not the same as for the Angels by any means but passion even so. When the Giants, the team whose orange and black colors the other half of my family bleeds, made the series, it wasn’t even the same as the Dodgers would have been, but it was in fact more special than the current post season’s offerings. That’s it…and those two teams still aren’t even close. So, I will continue to hoot and holler and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, but I think the kitchen won’t have any problems staying clean.

Oh, and for the record, my answer to the “who am I rooting for part of the question” is not as cut and dried as it was last season. My favorite non-Angels teams heading into the post season were the D-Backs, the Brewers and the Rays… *sigh* I wanted badly for the Rays to be able to go further, but what they accomplished was nothing short of miraculous and a joy to behold. So, I have been rooting for the D-Backs (though I won’t mind if the Brewers win instead…I do like them too), the Rays, the Cards and the Tigers. I will narrow it down further, of course, after the ALDS and then again for the World Series.

I’d love the D-Backs to take it all, because I adore Joe Saunders — and I miss him even though I wholeheartedly approved of the Dan Haren trade — and because Kirk Gibson was a childhood hero whom I still admire. Ryan Roberts grand slam against the Dodgers, where he paid homage to Gibby’s famous homerun as a Dodger with arm pumps down the first base line? Chills. Absolute chills. But I could find myself happily rooting for one of the other teams I mentioned should the D-Backs not make it past Friday. Because when you’re strictly a for the month of October, adopted fan, switching allegiances based on who won and any number of other frivolous reasons is not only acceptable, it’s darned necessary. 🙂

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As several media sources reported, just before Tuesday’s game Josh Hamilton was asked about the success in a Rangers uniform of Vlad Guerrero last season and Mike Napoli this season. A leading question to be sure, but still…

Hamilton’s response? “I think we’re going to look at who we can get from the Angels next year.” Ouch. But whatever obnoxious truth there may be in that statement, nice Josh. Way to stay classy. Especially considering that the Rangers dropped Vlad like a hot potato the second they could no longer say ‘Who cares how much money we spend?! We’re filing for bankruptcy!’

Hey Josh, chances are Fernando Rodney is going to be available next season. Likely for a bargain price. Since the Rangers are so excellent at finding diamonds in the Angels rough, I suggest they dive on that grenade. With gusto!

A Melange of Weekend Thoughts About the Angels and Otherwise

Trade deadlines. Unexpected fireworks at the Sunday Angels, Tigers game. And an anniversary. It’s been quite the full weekend. Too full to cram everything into one coherent post so, in no particular order, here are some of the things on my mind:

  • I am pleased the Angels didn’t make a move before the non-waiver trade deadline. We could certainly use a reliable bat, but I didn’t see anyone would really help the Angels sufficiently enough to justify what it would cost us to land him. No trading the rookies!! Or the near rookies for that matter!
  • The announcers on the national broadcasts, be it ESPN or Fox, are terrible and one of the back-handed perks of being a smaller market team is not having to deal with them very often. On the flip side of this equation, hearing someone new drool in surprise over Peter Bourjos’ speed in the outfield, Mark Trumbo’s bat, Howie Kendrick’s clutch glove and the like never gets old.
  • If he had to get tossed, I wish Jered Weaver had gotten himself tossed one inning earlier because that finally got the offense awake and fired up enough to score some runs. With one more inning, who knows what could have happened.
  • About Weaver getting tossed. Usually the amount of trash talk that goes on during a game is entertaining and probably helps guys keep a competitive edge. When it gets carried away, however, I feel the urge to knock heads together and tell everyone involved to grow up and just play baseball. This should have been over and done with after Weaver barked at Magglio Ordonez (who likely was just waiting to see if it was fair) and he came by the mound a few innings later for a little chat. But then things had to get even more stupid. Carlos Guillen was no more waiting to make sure the ball was fair than Weaver accidentally let the ball slip at Alex Avila’s head. Enough already!
  • Of course, I finally sat down with the game just in time for the real blowup in the 7th inning and had to catch up on the preliminaries leading up to it after the fact. Seth and I have been trying to get in extra long bike rides every other Sunday or so, today we tackled the San Gabriel River Trail…all of it. 38.9 miles from the trail head one long block above our house in Azusa down the river all the way to the ocean in Seal Beach. It was absolutely awesome!! But grueling enough that I didn’t have it in me to tack on one last mile’s tour around the parking lot after we left the trail to make it an even 40. Today, my jurisdiction ended right here, when the trail did. Next time.
  • In his post game interview today, Justin Verlander referred to Erik Aybar’s bunt “attempt” in the 8th inning as bush league.  No, sweetheart, that wasn’t bush league. Your throw to first? Now that was bush league. I’m sorry, but I have never understood the “unwritten rule” against busting up a no-hitter with a bunt. Is the team being no hit supposed to just roll over and let the opposing pitcher have the no hitter? Hell no. That cheapens the whole concept. A baseball team should continue trying to win, no hitter or not, by whatever means they have at their disposal. And if you are a Cy Young candidate caliber pitcher in the middle of a no hitter, and a guy who routinely leads the league in bunt singles comes up to bat, and you aren’t prepared for him to do just that, is that really something you want to admit to in public, let alone gripe about? Truly it defies logic.
  • Nothing in the above rant is meant to take away from Verlander’s amazing pitching performance. His fastball was faster in the 8th inning than it was in the 4th and every bit as accurate! There is a reason he has garnered all of the accolades he has this season, he’s earned every single one. I put Jered Weaver in the same category. However on Sunday Verlander was the better pitcher and Weaver let himself get rattled a little too easily, provoked or not.
  • Mike Trout shared the outfield with Peter Bourjos on Wednesday for Santana’s No Hitter and then pinch hit for Bobby Abreu on Friday…and hasn’t played since. I don’t think this, the not playing much part, is the usual plan for 19 year old prospects with promise and for good reason. Trout needs to play almost every day. So if we’re not going to play him a few times a week in more than a pinch hitter role – and I do understand that our outfield is crowded and Trout has a few things to work on – then send him down to AAA until September.
  • And last, but certainly not least, a personal note to my wonderful husband where I know he will read it: Happy 12th Anniversary! From the first date that adamantly was not a date at all – until it absolutely was! – to now, hands down, this is the best. Sumer fling. Ever! And we’re just getting started. 🙂

What do you do when the game just plain sucks?

Because in the course of any season, regardless of how well your team is or is not doing, it’s going to happen. Several times. Well, if you’re me and it’s the Angels doing the sucking, you just keep right on watching. Call it misplaced optimism. Call it “fan”aticism carried to masochistic degree. Call it a factor of being raised on SoCal baseball where, truly, more so that for any other teams in the majors there is no lead so large that every now and then it can’t be overcome…or given up for that matter. Call it whatever you like, but if I’ve started watching the game, be it at the ballpark or on the television, even on delay, then I’m going to finish it — root, root, root for my guys or at least show solidarity by sitting tight through the evening death watch, as it were.

Fortunately, this evening I accidentally saw the end of the game. Not knowing the end of an east coast game while you’re waiting for your husband to come home to start said game on delay when you blog…and read everyone else’s blogs…and watch MLB tonight…and, and, and, you get the general idea…on the night your team decides to blow goats two days after pitching a no-hitter? It’s not possible. Seth knew the outcome before he got home too. I won’t give up on a train wreck once it’s started, but I also don’t believe that fandom demands seeking one out when I already know the gorey depths and bloody extent of the of the carnage.

So, what do you do when the game just plain sucks? Either in lieu of watching it or after it’s over?

Change the channel.  Yep. Pick up that remote and put something else on. Depending on your personality, another game might be just the ticket, or it might drive you into greater fits of depression. Sometimes something completely different is a better idea. Watch a movie. Drool over Food Network. Catch up on some of the April and May episodes of favorite TV series you abandoned on the DVR once the baseball season started. One word of advice, though. Watching SportsCenter, Quick Pitch, or the like immediately after your team choked and hearing the talking heads not just speak ill of the dead, but trash talk the corpse during the autopsy isn’t therapy. It’s the sports fan equivalent of drunk dialing an ex-lover while you’re still raw from a recent break up. Sure, you think you’re going to achieve some measure of closure, but no. It’s a trap.   …or so I’ve heard…

Go to the Movies. Get out of the house and lose yourself in someone else’s story for a few hours. After Joel Pinero’s Post Oakland Debacle, Debacle Part II: This Time it’s in Cleveland, we went to go see Captain Abs…er…America. *Sigh.* Is this geek girl heaven? No ma’am. It’s just the first preview for the Avengers movie in 2012. *Sigh again* Really, Captain America was fun, and it had a neat, knowing WWII recruitment poster come to life look to it, but it was worth it for that preview alone.

Sadly, sometimes stronger measures in this arena are required. Cheesy, cheesier, so bad it’s good, and occasionally even just plain bad movies have their uses. Yes, there was a game so bad a few weeks ago that we actually went to see Transformers III. Our rationalizations? Let someone else pay for the air conditioning for a few hours. Pretty explosions in 3-D are therapeutic. And, really, the game might look better in comparison. We were mostly right.

Curl Up with a Good Book. If you’re not a fan of the printed word, no worries. Some people juggle geese and all that. But if you are, this is an excellent strategy. Brain vacation! Cruise around in Crowley’s ill fated Bentley or Harry Dresden’s blue beetle. Visit Middle Earth or 221B Baker Street. Attend Woland’s Walpurgis Night Midnight Ball. And return to reality when your desire to punch walls over the game has receded to mere annoyance.

Ummm…it’s called alcohol. Feeling the need for something a bit more mind-numbing than my previous suggestions? The main benefit of this time honored coping strategy is that you don’t have to wait until after the game to begin self-medicating. Wine. Beer. Bourbon. Vodka. Be the reason the rum is gone. Heck, get fancy and do catastrophe themed shots like flaming drambuie. And it’s versatile too! If your team starts to rally, your spirit drenched activities can flip the switch from wake to celebratory revels faster than Peter Bourjos goes from first to home plate. And if you haven’t had the pleasure of watching the lad this season, that’s pretty damn fast.

Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more. Personally, I think this should be a frequent go-to post game strategy regardless of the score. A great pick me up after a terrible game. A fantastic celebration after a good game. It’s the little black dress of cope-age.

Blog. Put fingers to key board and rant, whine and snark away. Oh, come on. You know you were going to do it anyway. Why not get all of the ranting out of the way during or immediately after the game when it has the most direct therapeutic value. If raw emotions – or perhaps having, ahem, combined this option with one of the others – adversely affect the quality of your prose, it’s not like you actually have to post it. Of course, that’s never stopped me before. 😉

And if none of this is effective, well, you know you’re going to get right back on that horse with the next game to cheer again. How can you not? Your cure is only a win away. And your relapse? Well, best not to talk about that. But you might as well keep this list handy, you know, just in case.

4th of July Win and Nothing But Angels Fireworks Ever Since

Mariano Rivera gracefully bows out of the All-Star Game due to injury and fire balling rookie closer Jordan Walden is named to the AL team in Rivera’s place, joining his equally deserving teammates Jered Weaver and Howie Kendrick. Yay! Peter Bourjos injures his hamstring. Oh no!! (Ouch! It didn’t look season ending or anything but it sure looked painful.) And Angels #1 prospect, 19-year old Mike Trout gets called up from AA to take Bourjos’ place for a few days. Yay!?! The Angels were only a game out of first. Yay! The Angels were tied for first. Yay!!! The Angels are a game out of first again. Eh. Wow, get busy and take a few days away from blogging and the whole world changes!

Well, as excited as I am about Trout debuting – and I wish him one heck of a great game tonight! – I understand this is a temporary move until Bourjos is back on his wing-shoed feet and I think that’s probably for the best, unless he just takes off on a tear that is. Trout is 19, after all, and the outfield is really clicking the way it is. So while we wait for this excitement to unfold in a few moments, I’m going to wade back into blogging – after four days off, the horror! 😉 – by posting my photos from the 4th of July game against the Tigers.

Yes, I went to the ballgame again. *big, huge grin* As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am in the middle of a borderline embarrassment of baseball riches in terms of game tickets right now. We have tickets to tomorrow’s game and Dierks Bentley concert. And, no, Dierks is not the only one that wants to have some fun tonight…er…tomorrow night. And then, next weekend we will enjoy our Bay Area baseball extravaganza. Crazy fun!

Catcher Jeff Mathis and the evening’s starter Joel Pineiro warm up in left field right in front of our seats. I am developing a wallet healthy love for the first row of the upper deck but nothing beats field seats, in my opinion, when you can find someone willing to part with them cheaply. This 4th of July, the stadium was packed, almost as packed as during the Freeway Series earlier in the weekend, and the fans were fantastic. We happened to be sitting near a lot of Tigers fans, all of them pretty cool. Most were on vacation but the couple in our row just moved to Southern California last week. Their new diehard Angels fan neighbor brought them to the game to welcome them to California and give them a taste of home at the same time. All three individuals were really, really nice and I adore their story. Now that’s being neighborly:

Catcher Jeff Mathis and starting pitcher Joel Pineiro warm up in left field before the game as the flag bearers move into position. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ah the dreaded, and ever hilarious rookie reliever backpacks! We caught the Tigers heading toward the pen at the beginning of the game but couldn’t get a good shot of the Angels rookies until after the game. Apparently the Tigers prefer pink Hello Kitty for their small dose of rookie humiliation while they Angels go for the slightly more dignified blue. Hey, the Cookie Monster backpack Bobby Cassevah is sporting is actually pretty cool. And, yes, that is our All Star closer modeling the Tinkerbell backpack. Excellent sports all, really, and at least neither team played the Beiber card. I don’t know why all of the baseball hazing traditions amuse me so, but they do:

A Tigers rookie reliever sports the dreaded pink Hello Kitty backpack. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Bobby "Cookie Monster" Cassevah and Jordan "Tinkerbell" Walden sport the rookie hazing backpacks on their way out of the bullpen. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu greet Victor Martinez before the game begins. I like baseball players to be fiercely competitive once the game begins, but I enjoy seeing player fraternization before the game. I like the idea that a lot of the guys are friends outside of the game across team lines. And from what I have seen before Angels games Torii, Bobby and Erick Aybar have friends on every single team in the majors. Besides, aren’t the truly competitive more apt to go all out when competing against friends than just random folks they know in passing?:

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu greet the Tigers Victor Martinez before the game. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Like all MLB teams who played at home on Monday, the Angels had special extended pre-game festivities in honor of the 4th of July. I love spending the 4th at a baseball game. It’s a wonderful celebration of so many of the things about our country that are great. Last year, after the 4th of July Angels game, my husband told me that was the most fun he had ever had on the 4th of July. And that says a lot because he’s an Eagle Scout who spent a lot of great 4ths backpacking and kayaking in truly gorgeous parts of the country:

A military color guard before the National Anthem. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

A flag covers the outfield during the Star Spangled Banner. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The "Spirit of Ronad Reagan" a Boeing C-17 flies over the scoreboard after the National Anthem. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joel Pineiro took the mound for the Angels and pitched a great game – one run on five hits and three walks. Pineiro only had one strike out, but the sinkerball appeared to be sinking which was a good sign. This has been tricky for Pineiro this season, largely because of injuries I feel. So less hits, less walks, no homeruns and only one run. Pineiro is definitely getting back on a good track:

Joel Piniero on the mound. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Tigers pitcher Charlie Furbush takes the mound in his Major League debut. (And don’t think I didn’t giggle a little when I typed that. Sometimes I’m still 12.) Regardless of the score, Furbush showed promise. He was not easily flustered and he didn’t make very many mistakes…the Angels were just able to take advantage of each mistake he did make, a nice change for a team so often baffled by debuting pitchers:

Rookie Charlie Furbush takes the mound for the Tigers. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter “welcomes” Charlie Furbush to the big leagues, knocking a pitch into the bullpens for a one-run homerun. Vernon Wells also went yard in this game and the Angels offense was generally nice and present:

Torii Hunter on the verge of "welcoming" Charlie Furbush to the big leagues. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Goofy shenanigans in the Bullpen in the second inning. While I would love to know who said what that had Trevor Bell playing “hear no evil”, that will never happen. So I will have to content myself with this wonderfully silly photo:

Reliever Trevor Bell hears no evil as the bullpen gets up to some shenanigans...oh to be a fly on the wall. 🙂 Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third as Erick Aybar takes a swing in the 3rd inning. This shot immediately preceded one of the odder occurrences of the game. The umps charged Furbush with a balk and awarded Bourjos home plate. Personally, I hate the balk call. I have no problem with pitchers being a little deceptive and think that the call is never enforced consistently among the umpires anyway. But, hey, we’ll take the run. Bourjos was on a mission this inning. He had just stolen second and third easily and was bound and determined to score even without the balk call:

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third as Erick Aybar takes a swing. Bourjos would score on a balk on the next pitch. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo moves to catch the throw down in the 4th as Jhonny Peralta moves back to first base. Peralta was a little tricky for Pineiro, accounting for two of the five hits as well as, on this hit, the Tigers only RBI.

Mark Trumbo moves to recieve the throw down as Jhonny Peralta moves back to the bag. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Peter Bourjos makes another great catch. What, can’t you tell its Fleet Pete? 😉 No, this isn’t the highlight reel game changing catch in the 6th. That photo looks even worse. But it was another good catch. I am crossing my fingers and hoping Bourjos heals quickly and thoroughly because he is something to watch in center and his bat has been great lately too. No, the reason the photo is blurry isn’t because Fleet Pete moves too fast…though I suppose that if I’d thought this through a little better I could have passed it off that way. 😉 No, basically, getting good action shots from a distance with powerful zoom is a little like firing a rifle. You have to have excellent breathing control. In fact, again much like a rifle, it’s best if you can hold your breath, hold your body perfectly still and lightly press the shutter button. I am pretty good at this for most plays, but when it comes to amazing catches and also double plays, I get way too excited to hold my breath and keep still:

Peter Bourjos makes another dynamite catch in center...what, you can't tell it's him? 😉 Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo successfully steals second in the 6th, sliding under second baseman Ryan Raburn’s tag. Trumbo has joked in several interviews that he is “not as fast as the other kids” and he’s not…when you’re talking about Bourjos. But all jokes aside, Trumbo can move and he’s a smart base runner:

Mark Trumbo slides under second baseman Ryan Raburn's tag. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels fans stand as reliever Michael Kohn goes for the final out of the game. See, Southern California fans can be passionate! We (or rather they, not my husband and certainly not I) may spend way too much time playing with stupid beach balls in the stands, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care. Kohn did a great job in a non-close situation, getting the last three outs while handily preventing the game from becoming a close situation. And, yes, the Kohn puns are pretty much boundless at the Big A. You Kohn do it! InKohnceivable! Koooooohhhhhhnnnnnnn! And so on. Seriously, fans have scores of them:

Michael Kohn prepares to strike out Alex Avila, the game's last out. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, of course, what would 4th of July be without a heavy dose of simulated rockets’ red glare? If the Angels had kept the fireworks show in the same location as last season’s display, our seats would have been some of the best in the house. As it was we had the foul pole in the way, but the fireworks show was still pretty darned cool. This season the 4th wasn’t a get away day for the Angels so the team, the office staff and their families were able to come sit out on the infield in front of the Angels dugout and enjoy the show with the fans. It sounds silly, but it was cute to catch a glimpse of our tough players just being “dad”. I think it would have been disrespectful to take photos of that, especially for a blog. However, Seth took some great shots of the fireworks show itself and this was the best one:

Fourth of July fireworks over the scoreboard. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Random Thoughts on an Angels Off Day

Extra Innings
It could be my memory playing tricks on me, but the number of extra innings games played out so far this season seems unusually high, considering it’s only April 14th. The Angels alone have already played in three extra innings game and we’re set to play the White Sox this weekend who have already played in five extra innings games. At the moment, the Angels extra innings record (2-1) is better than the White Sox (2-3) but the Angels’ one loss was the only extra innings game where they were the visitors. So what does this mean for the weekend? Will the Angels and White Sox mutual flair for the dramatic cancel one another out so the game lasts a mere nine innings? Or should we Angels and White Sox fans brace ourselves for a couple of 14th innings stretches and beyond? Hmmm, I wonder. Do they do a 21st inning stretch? 😉

Vernon Wells
Like a lot of Angels fans, I am disappointed that Vernon Wells didn’t come on board and instantly light the scoreboard on fire with the heat of his mighty bat. However, while I certainly didn’t expect him to be at 5 for 49 on April 14th, I wasn’t really counting on the other scenario either. I know that sometimes bats warm up right away and sometimes they take a while. I mean, Kevin Youkilis, Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez and Juan Uribe are all hitting at or below the Mendoza line at the moment. At the beginning of any season you can pick a list of similarly big hitting names with temporarily hibernating bats. Does anyone seriously believe these guys will stay batting that far below their career averages for the rest of the season? Didn’t think so. I’m not saying we can all expect Vernon Wells to bat .400 this season or anything like that, but the man’s career average is .278, so assuming anything less than a productive batting average for the season seems equally silly.

Booing him already, as some have done, is outright ridiculous to me. I loved Angles Live Radio Host Terry Smith’s response to a particularly annoying fan on this front. The fan called in berating Wells and how much we’re paying him for a batting average just above .100 and had already written the whole thing off as a failure. Smith sounded weary and annoyed with the caller’s argumentative tone and asked if he honestly thought that Wells’ batting average would not improve this season. The caller said he really didn’t believe Wells would improve his average and Smith responded in a deadpan voice. “Well then, you clearly don’t know very much about the game of baseball. But you got on the air this evening so I guess you should be proud of that.” Well said, Terry Smith, well said.

My thoughts? By all means, be disappointed Angels fans. It’s disappointing. But also cut the guy a little slack. It’s April 14th. Wait and see what he can do in a few more weeks. Oh, and ignore the stupid contract. It will drive you crazy and think about it – yes, it’s a ludicrous contract, but why should we care? Personally, unless I hear that the Angels are unable to spend money they need to spend to keep or obtain new players, that the other players are upset by the contract or Vernon Wells never makes it above the Mendoza line, I really don’t care how much they’re paying him.

Starting Rotation
I didn’t think I would be saying this when the season started but our starting rotation is a little scary right now. Certainly not Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. They’ve been amazing so far this season and show no signs of stopping. And Ervin Santana has been alternately good and a trooper, battling through a less than stellar start where his speed just wasn’t there to at least keep the Angels in the game for the bullpen and the bats to take over. Hey, some days are like that and there is a lot to be said for not crumbling and continuing to fight your way through it. It’s just that after Santana our rotation gets a little…um…improvisational.

Our number 4 and 5 starters are on the DL – where Kaz can stay indefinitely in my opinion barring miraculous improvement! – so the Angels have been using off days as a phantom start day and hosting a revolving door for the other spot. Tyler Chatwood is supposed to get his second major league start this Saturday but for the next vacant start, who knows? Matt Palmer again maybe? Chatwood showed a lot of the poise under pressure and ability to battle through a bad start that I just praised in Santana on Monday. Now that he’s gotten the obligatory Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid homerun and an extra one just for good measure out of his system, hopefully Saturday will be more like his later innings and Chatwood will prove a useful replacement.

Regardless, so far the season is going reasonably well and it’s been anything but dull. Occasional anxiety attacks interspersed between periods of contentment and even euphoria seldom are. 😉