Mention the Angels 2012 bullpen to a group of fans and you’ll get quite the array of reactions. Cringing. Anger. Shaking fists. Tears. Laughter…of the crazed sort, mind you. And, occasionally, nostalgia. (After all, fans did dub the bullpen of 1970s, the Arson Squad because, when called upon, they tended to have the opposite effect of putting out the fire…and that’s putting it mildly.) And those reactions are absolutely justified. Despite a few bright spots and clutch performances, the Angels 2012 bullpen had 22 blown saves to their…um…credit, tying the Red Sox for the most in the AL. Suffice to say, heading into the offseason, bullpen help needed to be one of Jerry Dipoto’s top priorities.
Dipoto and the Angels took a positive step Wednesday in signing Ryan Madson. Assuming he returns to his usual quality form following recovery from Tommy John surgery, having Madson’s strong arm in the 8th or 9th inning should improve the Angels ability to hold leads. This deal is potentially a great start towards fixing the bullpen for the 2013 season and, fortunately, Dipoto seems to see it that way too, hinting that he has a few more bullpen plans up his sleeves during the interviews surrounding Madson’s signing.
Cautiously pleased though I was with the deal, it didn’t do a whole lot to ease the tension I’ve been feeling about the Angels roster since Dipoto started letting players go. Despite the disappointment of 2012, I just didn’t think the Angels needed that much work. So many of 2012’s woes – Albert Pujols’ painfully slow start, back troubles hobbling Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, injuries and slumps and tigers and bears, oh my! – seemed like such random, one-time only streaks of terrible luck that, in my mind, the 2012 Angels should have treated the offseason much like the 2011 Braves did, as a chance to rest, heal, recover and not do anything drastic from a personnel standpoint. In my mind, the Angels just needed to fix the bullpen, sign Zack Greinke, lose Ervin Santana (because his awesomely nasty vs. “just a bit outside” pitching mood swings aren’t swinging nearly often enough or well enough to the positive end of the spectrum to justify putting up with the negative these days) keep almost everyone else, smile and wait for pitchers and catchers to report.
Getting rid of Torii Hunter and Dan Haren (whose bad year was truly uncharacteristic and, I think, won’t be a repeat occurrence in 2013) left me with feelings of deep unease and a sense of “where do we go from here?” I understand that the idea is to save enough money to sign Zack Greinke but that just seems like an awful lot of eggs in one highly expensive and only possibly attainable basket. I mean, even if the Dipoto is successful in landing Greinke, what about the rest of the starting rotation and the hole-ridden offense?
Trading Jordan Walden to the Braves for Tommy Hanson on Friday helped me feel a bit better. Hey, the Angels now have a for-certain 3-man rotation with one potential 4th that doesn’t scare the hell out of me – Jerome Williams. Progress! I liked Walden but he really doesn’t seem to have the temperament to maintain control and get outs once batters start hitting him…and then the pre-glasses Wild Thing emerges and things get a little scary. I think the addition of Madson is a safer bet. As for Hanson, I’m a little concerned about his back issues last season, and less concerned about his shoulder issues two season ago which seem to have healed. Basically, between that and the velocity drop offset by the increasingly nasty delivery, it feels like the Angels traded for Dan Haren’s younger, more economical self. But Haren worked out very well indeed for the Angels for the better part of two seasons so I am cautiously optimistic about this deal.
Now the team just needs another starter (Greinke, hopefully. If that won’t absolutely break the bank.), to fill at least one key hole in the starting lineup, oh, and adding a little bit more stabilization in the bullpen couldn’t hurt either. No problem, right? Yeah, there went that breathing easier thing again. Yes, I know, I know. It’s only December 3rd. The Winter Meetings are just getting started Monday morning and there’s a lot of offseason left — a lot, a lot even. Anything is possible…but the pickings are slimmer this year and I just can’t shake the feeling that we created too many holes to fill in an attempt to land one key piece that would have only just filled or offset the preexisting holes anyway. Oh well, bring on the Winter Meetings.
Ah, November. From a baseball standpoint, this is easily the sleepiest month of all. Sure it seems promising when you enter the month, what with free agency decisions, awards announcements and all. But then, reality hits. Potential free agents are either woo’d back by their current team or they become free agents aaaaaaaaaand nothing happens. Nothing. We talk. We speculate. Teams and players make noises. And nothing really happens until December and the Winter Meetings…or so. Okay, and in some big name cases, or so, or so.
And the awards? Well, they are fun and it is exciting when one of your favorites wins, or at least fodder for debate when they do not. However, as a fan, I find both the excitement and the occasional outrage to be largely ephemeral at least in terms of a baseball fix. I find out who won. I think Yay! Right on! Really? Or even WTF? And then I move on, baseball jones still fully present and accounted for.
Now, none of this is intended as a complaint. I understand why very little happens in terms of personnel decisions in November and the fact that the awards are no kind of baseball fix at all does not make them any less important. However, these facts do serve to explain how one might get so caught up in other things that, pulling a thoroughly random example completely out of thin air, a normally avid blogger might let her posts lapse for the better part of two weeks. Not buying it? *sigh* Yeah, didn’t think so. Well, tough. My assessment of November’s comparative lack of baseball fix-ly goodness stands. 😉
In terms of my Angels, well, to be honest I’m more than a bit annoyed with the front office right now and that probably also has a bit to do with my recent online scarcity. Although I suppose it makes for a more interesting blog, I don’t really like to rant. I prefer to cheer and praise and make up goofy noun-and-verb-repurposed-as-adjective mash ups of joy and excitement. But, alas, instead all I’ve got is a great big jumble of rantyness…
So, am I surprised that the Angels let Torii Hunter reach free agency without a contract offer? Not entirely, at least not after all of the noises the front office has been making about money. But am I disappointed? Oh, yes. Devastatingly so. Also, I think the decision was a big mistake. No, I don’t expect Torii to have as big a year in 2013 as he did in 2012 – 2012 was a career year. But I think 2012 makes it very clearly that Torii has found a way to stay healthy well into his 30s and to switch up his batting and fielding style to take advantage of the considerable skill sets he has in his 30s rather than still trying to play with the skill sets he had in his 20s.Plus, Torii’s skills as a clubhouse leader and a mentor to the younger players on the team are too important to just let go. I would never advocate keeping a player just because they’re a clubhouse leader, but when your clubhouse leader still plays like Torii plays, give the man a contract already. I think that some decisions can’t be made just with one’s wallet, which brings me to…
I hate to keep beating up on Vernon Wells, because he tries his ass off, keeps a great attitude and sense of humor through it all, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. Plus, he didn’t create this situation. However, the fact remains that he has never worked out on the Angels and the idea of Wells in the outfield over Torii (or, in truth, over Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos or anyone else if the Angels had kept Torii) just makes me even more livid with Tony Reagins’ initial trade decision and with the front office’s refusal to just take the salary hit – and yes, it’s a _huge hit – call the trade the failure it is and part company. Heading into the offseason, the rumor was that if the Angels couldn’t offload Wells’ contract there was no way they could extend a contract to Torii. Granted, it’s not my pocketbook and I have no idea how much additional cash Arte Moreno can afford to dedicate to the team payroll, but to me this just seems like wrongheaded thinking. Wells is hardly the only or even the biggest thing wrong with the Angels but, barring something extremely unforeseen happing, continuing to keep and play Wells over other players in never going to yield a different result than it already has. Yes, this trade was an incredibly costly mistake but sometimes it takes spending even more money to fix a costly mistake and this is one of those cases. The team should have kept Torii.
Anyway, I think that’s quite enough ranting for one post, don’t you? Tune in in a day or two to read my next rant – hint, this one’s about the Angels pitching personnel situation – and for my official congratulations to Mike Trout on his AL Rookie of the Year Award win tomorrow. 😉
Ah, Hollywood teen flicks. Is there a more important repository of accurate truths and life lessons for our youth anywhere? …Okay, after the internet, that is? And if there is one truth they have showed us over and over again, it’s the steps the new guy in school must take to become a success:
- He must lose tragically/get the crap beaten out of him/have his sensitive little heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces or, preferably, some combination of the above. (Or, you know, fail to make the playoffs two years running while losing the AL West Division Title to the Rangers – okay, Dipoto wasn’t here for this but it still counts. It sets the stage.)
- Through pluckiness, guile and his overall superior character (read, lots and lots of money) he must overcome this set back, rise above the bullies/the cliquey in crowd/all of the mean nasty people who told him he couldn’t do it (Every big spending, clever maneuvering team in any given post season) in order to win the ultimate prize, acceptance (or, you know, Albert Pujols).
- And, along the way, win the heart of the prettiest girl in school (most eligible starting pitcher) away from the biggest bully (top division rivals, the two years running AL Champion Rangers).
- The wisdom of Hollywood also tells us that catchy soundtracks, clever catch phrases, blockbuster budgets and a cast of side character to provide rare moments of wisdom and lots and lots of comic relief have a vague but crucial role to play in all of this. (Hey, baseball has music for every occasion, a popular culture influencing language all its own, don’t even get me started on the budgets and a cast of characters fit to rival that of even a good Hollywood movie, so the analogy stands you hear?)
Based on this important metric Jerry Dipoto is clearly a smashing success! Oh, and the high, and growing higher by the moment, esteem in which Angels fans everywhere now hold him is a pretty good metric too. 😉
So the Angels sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. And don’t think I haven’t been itching to post about this all day!! But there was that work thing, and deadlines in two different time zones so it started early. But, finally, a late afternoon lunch and I can post at last! I went on record in a couple of places as being against the rumors of both of these deals but now that they have become reality I have to say I am pleased…and, for the purposes of today’s post, pleased shall be defined as bouncing all over the house with a big stupid grin on my face. Both are expensive, long term deals, the Pujols deal understandably considerably more so than the Wilson deal. And, based on the Angels old spending habits, I assumed that if we landed either player that deal would be the Angels’ only real deal of the offseason when we have quite a few more holes to fill, thank you very much.
The fact that, between Arte Moreno increasing the budget considerably and Dipoto’s wheeling and dealing, the Angels signed both Pujols and Wilson in addition to putting a potentially nice patch on our catching woes with the Chris Iannetta trade and signing another reliable seeming arm for our bullpen in LaTroy Hawkins? Well, consider my biggest concern laid to rest and then some.
I still have a few other concerns, though they are comparatively minor:
- 10 years is a loooooong contract for a 31-year old, even for a guy known as the Machine. I am certain Pujols will be great for five of those years and possibly longer. And being in the AL with the DH helps but…well…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there I suppose.
- Adjustment periods for Pujols and Wilson, both of whom were one-team players before today. This isn’t a huge concern for me. And there may not be an adjustment period, but I would caution fans not to panic if it takes a month or so for either guy (or both) to really get into the swing of things.
- What about Mark Trumbo? We have a log jam at 1st now. While I don’t doubt for a second that Pujols is a better hitter than Trumbo, I really want to find a way to keep Trumbo in the lineup. It does us very little good to swap our one slugging bat in the lineup for a harder slugging bat. Even with Albert’s considerable prowess we need multiple slugging bats in the lineup. I hope the Angels explore the idea they’ve expressed a lot this offseason of Trumbo at third. I know he wasn’t a good third base his first year in the minors but look at how quickly the analytical, note taking player improved from being kind of bad at first to being pretty darned good. I think this could be a good move.
- C.J. Wilson’s longevity. Wilson is a former reliever stretched out into a starter and, as such, he faded early in his first year as a fulltime starter…but then he faded even earlier the next season. Foreboding pattern or an aberration of the sort you often get with small sample sizes? Well now that he’s not pitching in Texas I sure hope it’s the latter! Fortunate mitigating circumstances: the weather and stadium dimensions are a lot kinder to pitchers in Anaheim and Wilson is closer to family here, which may be beneficial.
But then I think of our starting rotation to be with three legitimate aces and Ervin Santana and of our lineup with Albert Pujols in it (not to mention the wonderful teaching presence Pujols provides for our rookies) and all I can do is continue bouncing around the house, occasionally pumping my fits and cheering. And the fact of the matter is I like both players. I like their attitude and the way they play the game. I like how Wilson handled the press conferences today in a classy way that paid appropriate respect to both the team that raised him and the team that just adopted him. Yes, Wilson can be a bit of a trash talker, but I’ve always liked the fire and wit behind his comments even when I didn’t appreciate them being directed at my team and, well, I love that traditional aspect of the game. I’ll be interested to watch how Pujols handles his press conferences that are sure to come.
So, yes, even with reservations both laid to rest and lingering, I am excited by these deals. After earning two World Series berths in as many seasons, the Rangers are still tough, still absolutely frightening in the lineup department and still the team to beat. But with these Angels moves, forget the division race. I feel we have ourselves an honest to goodness, hotly contested division battle coming and I for one cannot wait!
So, how about those winter meetings? The agenda could be duller than a long Friday night in folding laundry and they would still seem pretty darned exciting at this point, mostly thanks to Florida…er…I mean Miami. Miami at the moment reminds me of that lightweight drinker who has overindulged beyond their usual prudent amount and suddenly finds themselves the life of the party. You’re thrilled that they have acquired a few missing pieces…er…learned that they do in fact love tequila. You want them to be competitive again…that is, to have a great time. But you can see the potential for hangover growing by the minute and if it hits this one is going to be uh-uh-gly…er…oh, wait. Nevermind. That one works for both analogies. 😉
And, while we’re on the party analogy, has anyone seen our escort? He brought us that lovely tropical drink – something catcher? – a little while ago and then left to get us another, but we can’t seem to see him in the crowd at the moment. Oh well, no matter. We’re feeling happy – no complaints. This is an awfully fun party and I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually with a big swingin’ bat or two (If there is no such drink, I swear I will make one up with spice infused bourbon to get some nice wood notes and other tasties!) or maybe even a pitcher of something. Oh, we can wait for that and even enjoy the waiting.
Editor’s Note/Update: Ummm…not so sure about some of the current rumored beverage offerings. I enjoy rum and Texas tea…but not in those quntities/for those contracts. Yikes!
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My husband and I often joke that baseball fever is, how shall we say? Ah yes, a social disease. (Gee Officer Krupke!) It’s the only explanation for the speed with which two sworn non baseball fan friends acquired the disease once they started dating a baseball fan and the wondrous virulence of their lasting symptoms. It also explains why all of our other friends, non baseball fans in committed relationships with one another, will never catch the fever. Hey, baseball fans out there in love with non baseball fans. Wouldn’t it be great if it actually worked that way?
Anyway, my husband is a great baseball fan. But the true fanaticism is a newer thing, something that grew parallel to my returning fanaticism when my own baseball fever joyfully relapsed after way too long a remission. I like to think I helped him a little bit with that. He already definitely knew the rules and some of the strategies, players and such. But I got to teach him the finer points, or at least be there when he picked them up on his own and it’s been an incredibly fun journey. He is not as big a dork as I am, yet, but he’s getting there.
Coming home from work the other day, I walked in on him ranting at Hot Stove. That’s not an intangible. You can absolutely measure that. It’s called Wins. Above. Replacement. He snarked and tossed the remote on the sofa in amused disgust.
Wow, I laughed appreciatively. Look at you!
Seth paused, looked at me, laughed and said. It’s a social disease.