New Flash: the Angels are having an absolutely miserable season! Oh, so I take it you’ve heard that already, then? Right. You must be one of those not living under a rock kind of people. Yeah, yeah. I suppose that would explain your having an internet connection and all that.
Anyway, so where was I? Oh, yeah. Angels. Miserable season. Right. Which, you know, does tend to create some pretty miserable fans. Beyond miserable in many cases. My case, for instance. And, sufficiently so I might add, that I have noticed many changes in my behavior towards the game over that which I tend to exhibit during good or even meh Angels seasons. For example:
I find that I’m watching QuickPitch and Sports Center a lot less. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that my desire to watch QuickPitch, Sports Center and the like and, indeed, even to watch the Angels’ own post game show or listen to Angels Rant…er…Talk…er…oh never mind, Rant is far more accurate and understandable this season…is directly proportional to how well the Angels did on any given night. And the team is currently 55 and 68, so I’ll just leave the connection of those particular dots in your more than capable hands.
On those occasions when I actually do watch QuickPitch/Sports Center/Intentional Talk/MLB Tonight/Name Your Poison of Choice, I absolutely dread when it comes time to talk about the Angels. Because, even when they win, you know that the analysts and commentators still have to put the game in the context of the Angels’ overall season…and then those all the more cringe worthy for being so very spot on words pour forth. Disappointment…Catastrophe…Underperformance…Injuries…Errors…blah blah blah. We know already, okay? We know. Oh, how we know. *Sighs and shakes her head* Can’t you maybe just, I don’t know, relate the final score, say “And the Angels…” then sigh, shrug and move on? I mean, why continue to beat a dead horse.
I find myself experiencing irrational annoyance over any Angels wins that occur when I’m not watching. Seth and I watch a truly sick amount of Angels baseball. In the course of any given season, we easily catch 140 or so of the games on TV, from the ballpark, on the radio or online when no other option is available. But there is just no way we can catch every single game. Weekday day games? East coast weeknight games? We catch some of them, but there is this work thing, you know. And we both kind of have to do it. Damn that Morty and Bill, insisting on being paid and all that. Anyway, in a normal season, if the Angels win and I’m not watching, I cheer and catch any should not be missed highlights on MLBN or online. This season, however? It’s not that I don’t appreciate the win, but even so I actually find myself with thoughts like this: “Those, fuckers! I suffer through watching how many crappy games and they finally decide to play like a major league baseball team for a game or two and don’t even have the decency to do it when I can watch them?!!” Yeah. Um. Hey, remember I did say irrational. After all, Fan does come from fanatic, not from some word that means calm, reasonable individual.
Ads are frequently annoying, and the Angels ads simply have never been funny enough to avoid this description. However, this season I find that the Angels ads annoy me more than usual. “It’s time for Angels baseball!” No kidding! You think? I mean, it’s practically September. It sure is time for the team to start playing Angels baseball already. Any day now guys. Any. Day. Now.
Facing “bad” teams is no longer the source of relaxation and enjoyment it once was, indeed quite the opposite. For, while one of the glories of baseball is that on any given game day the worst team in the league can defy all expectations and beat the pants off of the best team in the league, this is an unlikely scenario. When your team, however, is also among the worst teams in the league facing “bad” teams is suddenly just as dicey a proposition as facing any other team. Yet, there is still that part of me that thinks of my team as a “good” team because, hey, they have been before, by golly. So all of the humiliation of struggling to beat or – Gasp! — losing to a “bad” team is still there, only now it’s oh so much more likely an outcome. Baseball fans of teams who don’t have you nodding along with this post, trust me. The end result of this situation? Yeah, it’s even less fun than it sounds.
I almost — almost mind you! – find myself wishing the season away. And for me, this is the ultimate sacrilege as a baseball fan. And, while I will always love my Angels through suck and through win, I can’t help but hate them just a little for this. A bad day at the ballpark is still better than a good day almost anywhere else. But having so very many bad days? With no end in sight? Well that actually does the unthinkable – it sucks some of the excitement right out of that day at the ballpark.
It’s only one season. Maybe next year. Blah. Blah. Blah. *sigh*
There’s a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is merely the absence of success. Any fool can achieve failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of epic proportions. A fiasco is a folk tale told to other’s to make other people feel more alive because it didn’t happen to them. ~ Drew Baylor, from Elizabethtown
Oh my goodness, we’ve got ourselves a natural disaster. ~ Crash Davis, from Bull Durham
I’m sure that at this point you think I must have chosen these quotes to illustrate the Angels 2013 season. I mean, let us review the facts, shall we? Angels blog. Angels fan blogger. It’s July and the Angels are still 3 games under .500. And, that in and of itself, is sadly a vast improvement in the midst of a season that can be classified at best as disappointing. How could I have chosen these quotes for any purpose other than to represent the Angels 2013 season?
Well, not so fast actually. When I originally started writing this post, in the middle of the Angels eventual sweep by the Pittsburg Pirates…okay. Yes. That was more than a week ago. What can I say? Writer’s block, she is quite the stone plated B and being absolutely livid with one’s team doesn’t do a whole lot to alleviate the situation…that, and, when you only seem to be capable of eking out a few sentences at any given time, the writing you need to do for work comes first. Those are the rules. But I digress…
When I originally started writing this post, in the middle of the Angels eventual sweep by the Pittsburg Pirates, I picked those quotes out specifically because they’re the sort of quotes I imagined everyone else would apply to the Angels, but I disagreed…sarcastically, naturally. Because, yes, being 33 and 42 on June 22nd was horrendous. But, seriously? Fiasco? Natural Disaster? No. Anyone actually watching the Angels play could tell you that these terms sounded far too interesting and entertaining, even within their negative context, to describe the lackadaisical, half-hearted, completely lacking any fight whatsoever, Angels play interspersed with all too few splashes of brilliance we fans were suffering through.
Well, happily many things have changed since then. I stand by my assessment that those quotes don’t really apply to the 2013 Angels…and now with 85% less sarcasm! The Angels won a few more, lost a few less and then went streaking for seven games and counting! Yes, the team still has its problems – not the least of which is the fact that they’re still under .500. No, this streak is no guarantee about the direction the team will take for the rest of the season. And, no I am certainly not leaving my calendar free for the entire month of October in anticipation or anything…well…er…at least not to any greater degree than usual. Hey, fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. And Angels blogging baseball geeks gotta watch as much of the playoffs as they can. 😉
But, here’s the thing. I really don’t care about any of that at the moment. Watching the Angels play right now is fun. Big offensive innings are fun. Sweeping teams instead of getting swept is a blast. Brilliant plays in the field like the one Mark Trumbo initiated yesterday make me stand up in the middle of my living room and cheer, giddy little kid happy. And watching the team win while playing actual, honest to goodness Angels baseball? Well that’s a veritable barrel of rally monkeys, that is. No, this isn’t the season any of us wanted. And I’m still not ready to apologize for my words in my last post – though I’m waiting guys; make me eat crow and I’ll be a happy woman. But at the moment this is at least an Angels season I want to watch and, for a while there, that’s something I didn’t think I was going to get to say. You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes just getting to see a lit halo for several nights in row is what you need.
Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Freeway Series Edition! This is the fourth in what we hope will be an occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Between two Giants World Series wins in three years (sorry Matt 😉 ), the AL West making quite the exciting splash in September 2012 and the ensuing Postseason, and recent shrewd personnel moves throughout the AL and NL West, MLB’s attention sure seems to be packing up and heading west these days. Despite the Dodgers and Angels terrible 2013 starts, Matt and I are both incredibly excited by this development want to share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? Nah, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!
For this edition, we have posed six Angels and Dodgers oriented questions to be answered on both of our blogs prompted by the first two months of the 2013 season and the Freeway Series that begins today. We hope you enjoy this continuing freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snarky ones), please ask away:
So, the 2013 Dodgers and Angels. Hmmm…how can I put this delicately? What the hell happened??
Kristen says: While I love SABR and all of the increased attention even the average fan pays to statistics and analysis these days, the drawback is that no one is satisfied until they have a specific, detailed answer to performance questions these days and, I’m sorry, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. I mean, if there were a specific, detailed answer to the question of the Angels slower than molasses in a blizzard start to the season, don’t you think the problem would have been quickly solvable? In a nutshell, I think this was a perfect storm for the Angels. Heading into the season, player transactions were very tightly concentrated on beefing up the offense, and very much at the expense of the quality of the Angels starting rotation while virtually ignoring the bullpen. I was already queasy over the idea of assuming the offense would always pick up the pitching and then Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance with a series of injuries taking out the only ace in the Angels pitching staff, turning the starting rotation and bullpen into personnel revolving doors, removing key set up pieces from the lineup and hampering the starts of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton – severely, in the case of Pujols. Does that fully explain the Angels start? Perhaps not for everyone, but when you throw in the added pressure of not living up to sky high expectations as each new calamity occurred, it explains things for me…not that I’ve been obsessing over this since Opening Day or anything…*whistles innocently*
Matt says: Well with the Dodgers I am still trying to figure out what is going on. This season hasn’t been the start we all expected for them. To be fair Injuries has hit the Dodgers pretty good but that’s no excuse. Between issues with batting with RISP, Bullpen meltdowns, and mismanagement in games the Dodgers have found themselves in a good hole.
Be honest. Do you think the Dodgers/Angels’ issues are fixable? How fixable? And what would it take at this point for you as a fan to call the season a success?
Matt says: Yes I do believe it is but that’s up to the Manager. Switch up the line up to where it’s more effective to get runs, Make better bullpen decisions and not put the same guys who keep blowing the game in. As far as what will make this season successful? Winning and getting back to the Playoffs is what will save this season. At the start all the expectations were going to be on but missing the playoffs after spending on the Starting Pitching and making changes will be a disapointment. They have to get it in gear ASAP.
Kristen says: Well, don’t look now but the Angels offense is back online, the pitchers are performing well enough and then some, and the guys have quite a nice little winning streak going on heading into the Freeway Series. And the cherry on top? Ace Jered Weaver is coming off the DL and scheduled to pitch on Wednesday…the game I have tickets for. Score! If this level of play continues, then I will count the Angels season a success, no matter what the standings say at the end. It’s not that I don’t care about making the playoffs, I very much do. And I’m not counting the Angels out at all. If they keep playing like this, anything is possible especially with two wild card opportunities. No, I’m just acknowledging the fact that when a team digs themselves this deep of a hole to start the season, they are no longer fully in control of their own destiny – final standings are as much a matter of the other teams having off days as your team having good ones, something that we as baseball fans know you can hope for all you want but never, ever count on.
There have been talk/rumors of Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia possibly getting fired. Do you believe it’s time for them to go or should they even take blame?
Kristen says: Nope. Never. You will not see me calling for Sosh’s head over this. Not going to happen. I may cringe over his bullpen management from time to time…er…all the time and yes, there have been and will always be instances of mismanagement. But I really think that as fans we have a tendency to point to the handful of mismanaged plays and ignore the rest of the game. Besides, injuries aren’t the manager’s fault. Personnel changes are not the manager’s fault. And somehow, despite all of the setbacks, the Angels are climbing back into this race and I think that that speaks volumes for the players’ grit, of course, but also for Sosh’s ability to keep them together even through the rough times.
Matt says: I’m going to be straight up with Mattingly. From the looks of this he isn’t the right fit for the Dodgers. He has mismanaged games on his part and at times shows lack of fire but as of late he is starting to pick up that fire and take action. Benching Ethier and Kemp as well as calling out the team is a start right there. Now should he take blame. Yes but not ALL of it. Blame has to go around to everyone on their part. Mattingly has messed up on his part and it’s going to cost him his job at some point.
One more uncomfortable question: What do you think about emergency/closed door team meetings — players only or otherwise? Are they ever effective or do they just feed the drama?
Matt says: You know about those meetings I actually really like them. You have time to really air out whatever issues their are and talk about what you have to do as a team to get it going in the right direction. The Media will always make it more than what it needs to be but they are an effective way to talk as a team to get things going in a positive spin.
Kristen says: I think that, like any other tool, closed door meetings can be useful at times, useless at others and downright detrimental at others. I think a team meeting certainly can turn things around and, when such things become necessary, I do love it when the players show enough passion, initiative and team spirit to take ownership and have their own meeting. Here’s the thing though. Back in the day, fans would never hear about a closed door meeting or certainly not about every closed door meeting. Now we hear about every single one, often as they’re happening. Frequently we even hear what was said at the meetings – pretty contrary to the point of ‘closed door’ don’t you think? This is the part I don’t think it healthy. It adds to the drama and it also leads to the tail wagging the dog. When things start to go downhill, everyone expects a closed door meeting creating external pressure for the meeting to happen, rather than the meeting just occurring or not occurring naturally in keeping with the rhythms and chemistry of that particular team.
With the new schedule and league realignment, rivalry matchups including the Freeway Series have shrunk from 6 games to 4 for the season. Do you like this development or is it messing too much with tradition, albeit a relatively recent tradition?
Kristen says: I love the Freeway Series and the rivalry fan energy that both surrounds it at the ballparks and spills over into our work and social lives for a few days. I’m really going to miss that lasting for two full series and, to be honest, a shorter more compacted Freeway Series cuts into my ability to attend one game at each stadium, a mini-tradition Seth and I have enjoyed for a few years. But, at the same time, I get the necessity of trimming down the rivalry matchups under the new schedule. I also understand how awkward and underwhelming two series’ worth of rivalry matchups were under the old schedule for teams/fan bases who had no natural rival and were stuck with 6 games against an, in essence, MLB manufactured and assigned rival. So, while I’m disappointed for Angels and Dodgers fans, I get that this was the best course of action.
Matt says: Well I ALWAYS have enjoyed the freeways series. To be honest I don’t have an issue with the series being 4 games because you have 2 in LA then right then another 2 in Anaheim. So more of a 4 game series home and home. I know this will eventually end up being a Opening Day match up soon with the realignment so 4 games isn’t bad. Though I did like the 6 game format.
Make your predictions now. Which team will win the Freeway Series and with what record?
Matt says: With what I have seen from the Dodgers they for some reason can’t get it together. Against St Louis they were shut out where they didn’t even show up and Yesterday where errors took them out of the game. This series starts off with Greinke and Ryu so it’s not pitching that I am worried about but the lack of offense. With that said I see this series going 2-2. Dodgers taking one in LA and one in Anaheim but with the Dodgers I really don’t know what to expect out of them at times especially with a hot Angels team coming into Dodger Stadium.
Kristen says: The Angels are hot right now and, since the start of interleague play, have owned the NL, including the Dodgers. I predict the Angels will win 3 out 4.
Meet the Bloggers Bonus Question: Do you enjoy the Freeway Series and, if so, what is your first/best Freeway Series memory?
Kristen says: I can’t pick out one specific, favorite memory – there are just too many! But the thing I love the most about the Freeway Series and the warm, fuzzy sense of family tradition I get from it. Growing up, my family primarily rooted for the Dodgers, but the Angels were Grandpa’s team, so I always knew both teams and loved watching them play each other. And, coming from such a Freeway family, as it were, my parents always took my sister and I to at least one Freeway Series game. There was no interleague play when I was a child so the Freeway Series was a pre-season exhibition. This meant that the Freeway Series was frequently my first live baseball game after the long winter without, adding to the specialness of the occasion.
Matt says: Theres so many favorite memories and moments from this series. I enjoy the Freeway Series because it’s two teams that’s close to each other clashing. As far as my favorite/best Freeway Series memory wellll theres so many that I can’t pin point on one. Mine would have to be my first trip to Angels Stadium in 2009. The night before Juan Rivera (Angels player at the time) hit a walk off Home Run. This night Jarred and Jeff Weaver pitched against each other. The Dodgers won that night but what made it memorible was that it was my Very First Freeway Series that I witnessed (The First of Many).
Well looky there Lou Brown, the Angels have themselves an honest to goodness winning streak going on! And while, yes, it has happened before in 2013 — twice before to be precise, not that we fans have been counting or obsessing or agonizing over it or anything *nods* — at a five games and counting it is, in fact, the longest winning streak the Angels have managed this season, but two whole games no less. Now, a five game winning streak may indeed be a little short for a Storm Trooper, so to speak, and normal-season-Angels-Fan-Kristen is absolutely rolling her eyes at this 2013 season version of me but, to be honest, I am just way too giddy happy to care.
Watching the Angels play Tuesday and Wednesday against the Mariners in particular was downright exhilarating. The offense was absolutely raking, starters Jerome Williams and C.J. Wilson were dealing, the fielding was spectacular and the bullpen was everything you could possibly want them to be. Things were a little uglier yesterday, especially in terms of bullpen performance, but the team kept it together with strengths picking up the slack for weaknesses. In short, this was the Angels baseball we fans have been aching to see, the kind of Angels baseball that we just knew was lurking out there…somewhere…despite the numerous failed search party attempts and the increasingly hopeless expressions on the faces of the park rangers coordinating their efforts. So, does this mean hope is restored and all is suddenly right with our Halo’d little world? Hardly. Only five games and all that. But it is a start and I sure do hope the guys can keep playing like this because, well, this late into May it may or may be enough to lead to anything meaningful in terms of standings, but it sure would be a lot of fun to watch. And baseball that’s this fun to watch is no small thing.
So, in the middle of this Angels streak business, the team managed to remind MLB fans everywhere of another important fact: this Mike Trout kid? He’s pretty darned good at baseball. In the midst of an alleged sophomore slump, the prodigy is hitting just over .300 with 10 homeruns, a third of the way towards equaling last season’s total. Yes, he got off to a bit of a slow start, but this is only the kid’s first full season in the majors. We really have no pattern of behavior to compare this season’s progression to. Oh, and then there was the little matter of that hitting for the cycle thing on Tuesday. You may have heard or read about somewhere. I think a few of the local publications might have picked it up. 😉
And here I had been thinking that all of this season’s Mike Trout hype was a little embarrassingly over the top, possibly to the point of being detrimental. You know, the bobble head give away. The pint glass give away. The front office created daily Trout Farm cheering section out in left field, complete with themed shirt giveaways. The Subway commercial. All of the appearances in MLB commercials. Taken on their own, each of these things made me smile broadly…well, except for the Trout Farm. I have a pet peeve against such things being created by the Marketing Department. Naturally occurring and fan driven is infinitely cooler. But that can be the subject of another blog post…and I digress.
Anyway, individually these promotions and hype are neat, fun for the fans and certainly well deserved by Trout. But, the sum total of the hype on the shoulders of a 21 year old kid this early in his career? In the beginning I just felt queasy about the potential for pressure and harm, especially when Trout was warming up into the season slowly. But watching him play as amazingly as…well…as Mike Trout? I still think it all may be a little too much, but not out of worry for Trout mid you. I just think that the Angels driven components make us look a little overeager and unused to having such young talent on the team. However, in the grand scheme of things, although I may shake my head and role my eyes over it a little from time to time, I’m okay with all of it and having fun with most of it. And Mike Trout? Well, attention, no attention or anything in between, clearly the kid is going to be just fine. We don’t call him SuperTrout and Troutstanding for nothing!
To paraphrase Lou Brown, easily one of the best fictional baseball coaches ever to grace the cinematic Majors: OK, we won a game Saturday. And we won Sunday. That’s called “two in a row”. And if we win again tomorrow, that’s called a “winning streak.” It has happened before!
Now, clearly, quoting the infinitely quotable Major League in reference to the 2013 Angels is hardly an original thought and I’m not even the first to sling this particular gem around this week. However, I would dearly love to be one of the last because, much like Lou Brown in his follow up comments to this bit of awesomeness, I would like to believe that the Angels are heating up. Really, I would. But this season?? Always there is the Big B…what a Buttercup!
Let me ‘splain (and, you know, see if I can throw in any more random movie references from the depths of my crazed brain while I’m at it!). Towards the end of the sad, sad debacle that was Wednesday night’s pitching implosion, abandon all hope…no, no, wait, here comes the Angels offense!…Nope, just kidding, more LOBsters than a large seafood chain could handle…Waaaaaiiiit, just kidding again, check out that offense!!…*facepalm* Nevermind, more LOBsters…emotional whiplash of a game, I tweeted, ‘This is such a buttercup game. And the Angels have just buttercupped all over the buttercupping thing. Blah.’ And, you know what? Even though the Angels have a proto-winning streak going on here – potentially their third of the season, talk about *facepalm*! – that sentiment actually sums up the whole season so far for me. Because, yes, I was in part being cute and trying to interject some much needed levity into the situation by using the name of the Angels’ much hated – at least by, let’s call it, all fans in their right mind; the rest of you are highly suspect – 7th inning stretch ditty as a stand in for the long, drawn out f-bomb that most of us were feeling at that point. However, my word choice meant so much more as well. Let us review the lyrics of the song, shall we?:Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin’ You know that I have from the start So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don’t break my heart
Forget all of the perfectly rational, ‘who in the hell thought that this song would be an appropriate rooting-for-the-home-team-at-a-sporting-event song and would they please turn their marketing card in…right now!’ thoughts you’re having at this moment because, sadly, this season they’re beside the point. Thus far the 2013 Angels are the Buttercup Angels — always building us up, just to let us down again for another inning, another game, another streak, of the ‘you don’t want one’ kind. Offense starts coming back. Starting pitching blows a herd of goats. Starting pitching gets it done. Offense goes to sleep and/or the Angels bullpen decides to go all “flashback” on us and turns Arson Squad. Sweep the Tigers. Lose the next 5 – yes, count them, 5! – series. And so on, and so forth. So this proto-streak? I want it to be the real thing. Dear God I want it to be the real thing and the start of something great, but I just…I just don’t know.
But if you’re about to throw the B word at me, you just zip your lip right there. There is no bandwagon. There never was. Seth and I are bleeding red fans who have nothing to jump off of. We love this team, even if this season, like oh so many in the not so distant past, it’s a heavily frustrated, profanity laced, shouting kind of love. We’re still watching every game we can on TV. We’re still buying tickets to the Big A though, being less excited, we’ll probably attend closer to 15 games than our customary 20 – 25. It’s just the focus that has shifted. In another tweet this week, I confessed to fellow Angels fans that, even though it makes me feel like a bad fan, at this point I’m just hoping for the team to straighten up enough that they’re at least fun to watch play again…you know *cue hope and optimism yet again* like the last two games were! Anything more than that seems so farfetched that I just can’t bring my brain to contemplate it without the Angels themselves providing significantly more incentive. But the minute they do? (And, so help me, I can feel it starting already.) Well, I’ll let them build me up once more, praying the whole way that, this time? This time it’s real, and they don’t let me down…again.
Writers are often purported to be an angsty bunch, pouring out the prose most effectively in a fit of anger or sadness. But not I. Words flow from my fingers through the keyboard most easily when I’m in a good mood and this blog is no exception. I don’t want to yell at my Angels, I want to cheer for and celebrate them. Now, is this more a factor of there being little truth to the stereotype about writers or of the fact of my being a hack, I cannot say. 😉 But I can tell you that I’d far rather continue writing the post I started in a fit of baseball fan euphoria on Sunday than anything “inspired” by last night’s game against the Rangers…but, don’t worry. You know me. I’ll bring it back around eventually.
Oh what a difference a series or even a game can make in the mood of the baseball fan! Especially when that series finds my previously slumping Angels sweeping the Tigers, scary offensive lineup and all! You would think that, as a lifelong baseball fan, I would thoroughly grok the whole 162 game season concept and not get so worked up over a series or even a week here or there. But, in truth, I think that’s only possibly for the more casual fan, the fan who skims the box scores far more often than they find the time to sit down and watch a game. Because, when you watch most of those 162 games, the no less true for being so very clichéd concept of this being a marathon not a sprint, becomes strictly academic in the face of the fact that you are living the season game by game. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t even take a series to provoke a completely disproportionate to the sample size at hand move to despair or jubilation. Especially this early in the season, sometimes just a game will do it. I certainly found myself embracing an impractical surge of optimism after watching the Angels’ walk off win against the Astros from the Big A two Saturdays ago. And a game like last night’s game against the Rangers, a game which laid bare all of the Angels flaws over the course of nine innings – see, I told you I’d bring this back around! – would have eaten at me, planting nagging doubts about the season, even in June or July.
Thus, last post I was desperately searching for a reason to stay optimistic and this weekend I was trying to temper my optimism with sane practicality and with only limited success…until last night. After the first game against the Rangers, the stark reminder of the Angels flaws did temper that optimism, but it didn’t kill it. Yes, I know the Angels are far from out of the woods yet in terms of the standings…yes, even this early in the season and I will remind anyone who says ‘no it’s too early to worry at all’ to look at last season. Yes, the starting rotation is a real problem, especially for the duration of Jered Weaver’s DL stint, and the bullpen is worse. And, yes, there is an awful lot riding on a potentially brilliant but frustratingly streaky offense. But the weekend’s sweep of the Tigers did at least show us what an Angels team with a fully functioning offense can do when the different components of the pitching staff combine for at least a passable performance, and what that team can do is win! Now, when the offense takes a while to come online, or is scoring but still strands too many runners in scoring position while any aspect of the pitching outright self destructs? Well, hang on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, this season could get a little interesting by all appropriately Hoban Washburne definitions of the word.
So those are the realistic concerns from the past week and change, but what about the happier observations?:
- Is there anything hotter in baseball than your team’s walk off win? I mean, seriously. Is there anything more, dear lord, ‘Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?,’ I think I need several moments to recover and quite possibly a cigarette, hotter in baseball than a walk off win…especially one you witness live? No. Quite simply, there is not, as I was reminded from our seats at the Big A two Saturdays ago and again just this past Sunday.
- When the offense is clicking it can and will pick up even so-so pitching…and the offense is heating up. Okay, Josh Hamilton needs to catch the warming trend and we’d like Mike Trout to steal more again, but for the most part they’re starting to look really good more games than not.
- Promising youth explosion! If we had to have so many injuries early on – and, let’s face it, we’d all prefer that the Angels did not, but here we are – then at least the team has found two legitimate gems in the form of Garrett Richards and Luis “Lucho” Jimenez. When he last joined the Big League team, Richards had promising stuff but little seasoning. Returning from more time in the minors with a lot more polish, the youngster still has some work to do, but has nevertheless been one of the brighter spots in the rotation. And Lucho, replacing the ailing Alberto Callaspo, is simply a revelation. Good instincts, good hands, serious athleticism, some speed and no small amount of pop in his bat, not to mention an attitude with just the right amount of cockiness and an infectious grin. I find myself hoping that Lucho is Callaspo’s permanent replacement and I’m one of the fans usually counted among Callaspo supporters.
- Even in our sketchy bullpen there are a few standouts. Scott Downs is Downs again. Jerome Williams is a confidence inspiring sight taking the mound in long relief and recent call up Michael Roth sure impressed in his Angels debut…in fact, one wonders why we haven’t seen him since. (Editor’s Note: Ah, that would be because apparently Roth is temporarily joining the starting rotation beginning tonight. I’m awfully excited to watch that. It’s only the Rangers, kid, and Yu Darvish. No pressure. 😉 )
- Our outfield!! Trout, Peter Bourjos and Hamilton. I cannot get enough of the great plays from these three guys. And Bourjos haters? You go right on hating because, let’s face it that’s what you’re going to do anyway despite anything I say or, you know, logic. But don’t look now, Bourjos is hitting. Well!! And he’s getting on base too. Once Hamilton settles in at the plate, this trio will be unstoppable.
And that’s basically the long and the short of it. Which Angels tendencies will have more of an impact on the standings by season’s end? Well it really is too soon to tell, no matter how I feel on a game by game basis. But I have more optimism than I did when last I checked in and that, dear reader, is seriously something…something I for one needed badly.
Congratulations to Jered Weaver on his personal record – and, thus far, AL best – 20th win!!! I know “wins” is one of those pitching stats that really should be more or a team stat. A win says at least as much about the offense and the rest defense’s performance as it does about the pitcher’s performance. But if you have watched Weaver on the mound, any season really but especially these past two seasons, then you know what a dominant, nasty, deceptive, commanding thing of beauty a quality Weaver start is. Even when he doesn’t have his absolute best stuff, Weaver more than keeps the Angels in the game, the very definition of Ace if there ever was one. (And on those rare occasions where he tanks it, there are odd karaoke benefits. ;))
My point is simply this, depending on the pitcher, the team and the season, 20 wins could mean a dominant pitcher, a respectable pitcher supported by a dominant offense or any number of things in between. But in this case? We know Weaver absolutely rocked his 20 wins, and a more than a few of his losses and no decisions too.