# Math Is Hard, Let’s Go to the Angels Game! + Rootin’ for the Enemy and Beware of Hitchhiking Mantises

I’m a freak, I admit it. I loved math in school. Algebra, geometry, trig, calc, it all appealed. I was even working on a math minor in college until multiple variable calculus. Trippy stuff that. Once I stopped being able to see what the shapes were doing in my head. *tap, tap* I’m out. But I still enjoy it. Problem solving. Statistics. Wonderful stuff! But this elimination number math? Yuck! That’s an entirely different story.

Clearly Jered Weaver, Jeff Mathis and Dan Haren aren't overly fond of this whole elimination number math thing either. Angels vs. A's, May 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Oh I am familiar with it. Between my Dodger fan childhood and my Angels fan adulthood, I have _plenty_ of experience with elimination number math, I’m afraid, and just enough experience with magic number math to know that I significantly prefer that…then again, don’t we all? The Angels have certainly spoiled me more years than not this past decade but, especially with last season’s refresher course, I’m not too rusty to torture myself with endless “what if” elimination number math scenarios. Tom Godwin had the Cold Equations. I call these the Desperate Equations.

Could it happen this way?:

If the Rangers lose one and the Angels win two, and the Rangers lose one and then another one, and another two and the Angels win one and then another two and two more…

Or, maybe, could it happen this way?:

If the Red Sox lose one, and lose one more, and the Rays lose two, and the Red Sox lose one and the Rays lose two more, and the Angels win four…

So, one plus one plus two plus one… Hmmmm….anyone else overcome with an irrational desire to watch Clue? 😉

Say what crazy Angels blogger lady?! One plus two plus one plus what? Run that math by us one more time. Angels vs. A's, May 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All equations point to the fact that the Angels still have a chance. But with another loss to their record, and especially if they continue committing those kind of errors, it’s a thin wisp of a chance, even after this evening’s win. If they win just about every game left. If the Rangers or the Red Sox and the Rays start losing, a lot. If. If. If…suffice to say, it’s pretty darned iffy. But stranger things have happened.

I still have hope. I am practical and this is far from my first September rodeo, but I have hope. And I have tickets to Friday night’s game against the A’s and Monday night’s game against the Rangers. One way or the other, however these equations work themselves out, I want to enjoy watching my team play as much as possible. After all, whether it starts at the end of October or September, it’s a long, cold, baseball-less winter. Gotta gorge yourself while the game’s in season…and if the solution to either of the equations works out to a be Red, Halo’d October, I want to be there to see it.

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And sadly, as part of the Desperate Equations, I find myself once again rooting for the Yankees. The AL West is so…well…the AL West that this happens once or twice a season out of necessity. The enemy of my enemy is…still really distasteful to root for truth be told but, much like when I rooted for the Red Sox against the Rangers a few weeks ago, it has be done.

However, it amuses me to no end that Red Sox fans are rooting for the Yankees along with me at the moment. Red Sox fans, you’re a little newer at this rooting for the enemy thing than some of the rest of us, so I offer you the following advice from another favorite movie:

The shame is like the pain. You only feel it once.

And that is absolutely…not true. But the shame and the pain do get a little be better each time. Enjoy. 😉

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On a more humorous note, when Seth and I stopped for gas on the way out of town this weekend, we noticed we had a hitchhiker on the pedal of my bike:

Hitchhiking Mantis says, "Take me to your LoMo!" Cambria Trip, September 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

We tried to coax the little guy off, but he was so stubborn he would have none of it. And he had two broken back legs so we figured we would just let him be. Maybe the wind would give him enough of a lift to fly away when we took off. But no, the next morning when we went to unload our bikes for our morning ride, some 245 miles away, he was still in the truck bed and very much alive. This time he let us move him to the grass. Maybe he was hoping to catch some sort of wounded mantis transport for Florida? It was like the Incredible Journey in search of LoMo.

# Angels Take Two Against the Yankees! …Oh. Yeah. And That Play Too.

Peter Bourjos dropped the ball and then made a truly terrible throw. Oh no! Head for the hills! The sky is falling! The world is coming to an end! The Angels are finished! And, and, there’s no Santa Clause either!

Come on all you gloom and doomers. Yes, you really do sound that silly. The Angels just won the series against the Yankees, something we haven’t been able to do all season. And they won it with two days of stellar pitching and three days of offense each of which on it’s own could have been the entire offensive output for a whole series earlier in the season. And – and this is a huge and! – we kept pace with the Rangers in the standings over the weekend.

Yes, the boys were awfully close to sweeping and gaining yet another game on the Rangers and that makes the error especially disappointing, but let’s put this in perspective. A brilliant young centerfielder who has been one of the highlights of the season for so many of us this year, had a really bad day defensively…and it wasn’t even the whole day, though I am aware this play wasn’t the only gaff, just the biggest. That’s all that happened. 99.99% of the time he would have made the catch. Yesterday he didn’t. But he took responsibility for it to in the clubhouse without any drama, so hat’s off Peter. That’s the Angels way! Suffice to say, this is not the end of the world. The sky is not falling. The Angels are far from finished. And this error is not even solely responsible for the loss, even though the offense didn’t have three entire innings afterwards to score one more run and at least tie it up again…Oh. Wait. They did.

Okay, so that part about Santa Clause not being real? That was true but, I mean, you knew that already. Right? …Right? Oooops. *face palm* Um, you there. The rather young fellow in the back there who’s crying? Yeah, you. Sorry kid! Better go call your mom. Anyway, moving right along…

This series the Angels faced the Yankees while the Rangers faced the A’s whom they have owned all season. Gaining a game on the Rangers over the weekend was very unlikely. Keeping pace with them over the weekend given those two matchups was quite an accomplishment. Now we’re in Oakland for three days with one of my favorite lineups this evening and Jerome Williams and Jered Weaver headed for the mound Tuesday and Wednesday and the Rangers are headed to Cleveland. Remember how I’ve been saying September is going to be a two steps forward, one step back again kind of a month? The Angels took one step forward and another step right back over the weekend and this week they’re going to take that second step forward!!

# Mistakes Can Be Costly. Let’s Try to Be Accurate in Our Work.

I was eight years old when I caught gymnastics fever. It was the summer of 1984. Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. Mary Lou Retton was America’s sweetheart. And NBC must have re-aired the Nadia movie 10 times that summer. My sister and I begged and pleaded so, of course, my parents let us start lessons. The first gym wasn’t what we expected. They never let us do any real tricks, we couldn’t use the whole beam, only the part over the giant fluffy mat and we vaulted onto a large upholstered box. However they had large pit full of foam squares, just like in the Nadia movie, and a lot of the kids taking classes there were “Industry,” including the younger siblings of a then rising sitcoms and afterschool specials star with a child-of-hippies first name and a state capitol for a last name, so you’d better bet classes were expensive.

Eventually we switched to youth classes at the local community college. No Nadia pit “full of bouncy things” but plenty of encouragement to try difficult tricks at a reasonable price. And the gym in which the classes were held announced it’s more serious work ethic when you walked in the door with a large poster of a young gymnast in the middle of a giant swing on the uneven bars with her toes just brushing the floor, a major points deduction, and the saying I used for my headline: Mistakes Can Be Costly. Let’s Try to Be Accurate in Our Work.

Watching the Angels play this season, this poster comes to mind fairly often. Mind you, the team is doing well in many ways and they’re only two games out of first, even with the last two losses. But when the Angels do lose, all too often, they’ve really beat themselves with some sort of costly mistake. Walking batters, sometimes several in a row. Errors on what would have been the third out. Meatball pitches. Base running gaffes. Swinging for the fences to the point of detriment when a nice hard knock into the gap would suffice. Mental vacations at inopportune fielding moments…I could go on, but you get the general idea.

All teams have these moments, make these mistakes. But, for whatever reason, timing is not on the Angels side this season and when mistakes are made, they quickly prove costly with even greater frequency than normal. And just what can a team do to prevent this situation? Nothing, other than work harder to keep the mistakes in check. This is why I love this particular poster so much that it has stayed with me all these years. It doesn’t yell, or point fingers and it doesn’t suggest for a second that anyone can live an errorless existence. It just states a simple fact, mistakes can be costly, and suggests a valuable action plan. I’ve already seen improvements in the Angels play this season. If they can avoid more of the costly errors, mental and otherwise, in the next few weeks, I expect they will still be playing in October.

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So, were there any high points we can take away from the series in the Bronx? Yes, indeedy. Dan Haren for one. He pitched most of a great game (Bringing in Fernando Rodney against Jeter with two on and two out was a moronic decision. Coaching staff, see previous conversation about mental errors.) and was an excellent mentor to young Garrett Richards, chatting him up and keeping him positive after his first game. Richards himself. Yes, he had a terrible first inning and a terrible fourth inning. But the kid fresh up from AA making his major league debut in the Bronx also pitched two 1, 2, 3 innings and a third near 1, 2, 3, inning (except for that little solo homerun thing, D’oh), striking out Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the process. Was it an awe inspiring debut? No, but I do think the kid shows promise. Tyler Chatwood’s debut was much the same and he was another bright spot in this series.

Angels bats were a frequent high point – Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis, and Mark Trumbo all hit well throughout the series and others had hits. If only they could have hit consistently with runners in scoring position throughout the series, this could have been a different post. But at least the fought back this series. No, we scored our three runs in the first two innings and couldn’t possibly score any more until tomorrow. That was a positive…that and two homeruns off Mariano Rivera. Hey, we take our giggles were we can. 😉   Angels fielding was also stellar this series and errorless, except for that one really, really big one…see previous conversation. *sigh*

# The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey Begins

While the Angels grounds crew plows up the entire diamond for a series of U2 concerts and then puts everything back the way it was again, the Angels will spend two weeks circling the country in pursuit of truth, justice and the baseball way…Okay, really just in pursuit of a whole lot of Ws, but didn’t it sound more poetic the other way? Anyway back to the travel part. Affectionately – by which I mean sarcastically and with no small amount of annoyance – dubbed the Four Corners Trip by Mike Scioscia and crew, this road trip will take the Angels to the four corners of the continental United States, more or less. Once they conclude their current series in Seattle, the Angels will fly to New York to play the Mets, after which they will fly to Florida to play the Marlins and then right back home again to play the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. That’s a journey of just over 8,000 miles.

The Angels "Four Corners Road Trip" takes the team on an 8,000 mile trek across the United States and back again both vertically and horizontally, as helpfully illustrated by our oh-so-creative kitchen table and Ticket to Ride visual aid...Yes, you would be correct. This trip will take the Angels nowhere near Berlin. 😉 Photo by This is a very simple game...

Now the length of the road trip does come courtesy of the U2 concert. But the craziness of the broad spectrum of destinations comes courtesy of Major League baseball. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just fly out the East Coast and play more Eastern Division teams while the Angels were already out there than flying all over hell and gone? Perhaps they could have played the Yankees and the Rays on either side of the Interleague match-ups? Or maybe this would have been a better time to head for Boston or Baltimore. Heck, even stopping in Kansas City on the way out to the east coast, rather than having the Royals fly to California would have made more sense.

And this isn’t even the only crazy road trip the Angels have scheduled in 2011. In Oakland right after the All-Star break for three days, Monday off, just three days at home to play the Rangers and then out to Baltimore with no day off to play the Orioles before heading back home by way of Detroit to play the Twins in Anaheim, anyone? The Four Corners Trip is merely the craziest of the bunch.

I realize that every team has crazy schedule situations this season and if by some miracle a team escapes such oddities, don’t worry, MLB will get to you next year. I also realize that there is a certain amount of scheduling craziness inherent in being a Western Division team, where no two in-league opponents exist within the same 100 mile radius. Florida teams have a similar problem.  And no amount of proper prior planning is going to completely fix that.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia is one of the proponents of expanding the post season to include two wild card teams in each league. I myself am not a fan of the idea. However, Scioscia keeps talking about making the post season extension feasible without pushing play back out into November by scheduling the regular season more efficiently. Avoiding having so many bizarre road trip situations, like the one described above, which Scioscia said looked like Kindergarteners designed it, would allow MLB to shave off a few rest days here and there, shortening the regular season in a sane fashion without actually cutting out any games. If MLB makes an effort to take some of the stupid end of the crazy spectrum out of the away schedules, I would like that _so_ much that I might find it in my heart to tolerate additional wild card teams…eventually. Just no more of this 15 teams in both leagues realignment talk, okay. Now _that’s_crazy…not to mention contrary to having moved the Brewers to the National League in the first place.

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The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey, Stop #1: Seattle. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Two Ws in Seattle

However, as much as I am griping about the travel involved in the Four Corners trip, I have no complaints about the trip itself. So far the Angels are wearing it very well. They took two against Seattle including Jered Weavers’ complete game shutout this evening. Wins for Weaver and Dan Haren in the same spin through the rotation. Angels bats striking early and often, including multiple hits for Bobby Abreu and Howie Kendrick whose bats are on fire and two homeruns by Vernon Wells in Monday’s game. Spot on fielding. Heads up base running. A clutch bullpen. Oh yeah! Sure there are still a few things to work on, but keep it up boys. You’re playing like Angels!

And with those two wins, the Angels gain two games on Seattle, of course, but also one on Texas to whom those nice, helpful Yankee boys administered a beating this evening. Well, nice and helpful this evening anyway. What’s not to like?!

The Continuing Saga of Kaz

Scott Kazmir had yet another rough start in Salt Lake City this evening. He lasted 1.2 innings and is on the hook for six earned runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batsman. I don’t report this gleefully. I am sorry he hasn’t made any improvements at all and seems to be backsliding even further after such a solid career with the Rays. However this evening current Angels GM Tony Reagins and former Angels GM Bill Stoneman were in attendance at the Bees game, taking stock of Kaz’ performance. I expect we will hear a final decision soon. It’s more than time to stop prolonging the agony.

Scott Kazmir one year ago this week, warming up in the visitors’ bullpen at Dodgers Stadium. I am sorry to say that this is one of the last games where I remember him pitching well. Photo by This is a very simple game…(Seth)

# Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Lose to the Yankees. Sometimes it Rains…All in One Weekend

Well, if the Angels had to lose two close games to the Yankees, at least it happened while I was out of town. It’s so much easier to stay detached you only check in with one of the games on your phone from time to time. You’re a lot less invested and barely notice all of the runners stranded in scoring position when you’re merely regaling your husband with your own rendition of the game day play by play ob the way back down the coast.

Seriously, when you can’t watch the game on TV, or hear your announcers’ commentary on the radio, you really only notice the good stuff – Bobby’s hitting streak, Trumbo’s homerun, Fleet Pete doing his thing, the fact that Howie’s back. All of the bad stuff – the missed scoring opportunities, the botched plays, the Yankees homeruns – barely even registers.  …You know, except for the part where I’m totally lying. April or September, squeaker or blow out, glued to the action before you on the field from the first pitch or just catching the score the next morning, losses always sting…especially when they seem to be coming in streaks.

It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s only June. It’s just two losses. And all of the other clichés which, of course, are clichés for a reason. Yes, we’re only four games out of first and it’s just the beginning of June. Anything is still possible and I believe that this team can turn things around but it’s disheartening to be back under .500 on June 5th…and to have the AL West standings finally spread out by more than two games and be in third place and four games out. Absolutely fixable, but completely frustrating even so.

Anyway. Me? Out of town again? So soon? Well, that at least that’s more fun to write about than griping about the Angels. This weekend is the reason I was not going to go up to the wine festival last weekend until the Am Gen Tour was coming through and I decided that practicality and responsibility are really terribly overrated concepts. So this weekend, we were back up in Paso Robles for the Seafood and Sangria Summer Kickoff Party at Rio Seco, the baseball winery.

It was pouring rain for much of the weekend so the summer kickoff took place indoors, but the evening was a lot of fun. The Hinkle family were gracious hosts as always. This was a mostly locals crowd but they made sure we felt right at home – the older daughter who we usually chat with in the tasting room even asked how the Angels were doing. They remember their baseball and baseball fans here. The food was excellent. I now have several great ideas for sangria later in the summer, including one with the MVP reserve, apples and berries. More please! And the party favors were half cases of wine – the Grand Slam Cab/Syrah blend no less, ensuring that the party will continue at several Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels evenings at our house later this summer. We had a nice time hearing some of the local gossip and all about the Giants – central coast California is absolutely not Angels country. They’re disappointed about Buster Posey but not exactly calling for Scott Cousins’ head or any rule changes in Paso Robles. Bruce Bochy take note…and a lesson or four.

# Jered Weaver Collects His 7th Win + I’m in a Paso Robles State of Mind

I am very careful in my work and take pride in not making many mistakes. But when I do make them, they tend to all occur at once. A mini slump, if you will. Today was one of those days. Mistake 1 begat Mistake 2 and it’s more public sister, Mistake 3. I owned up to them and put out the resulting fires. But it’s good that we’re driving to Paso Robles for the weekend as I typed this because, honestly, somtimes to get out of the head space that causes a cycle of mistakes to perpetuate like that, you just have to get out of town…

…Or come home again! The Angels broke up their own cycle of mistakes this evening with a much needed win over the Yankees, a win made all the more important by the fact that it was finally win #7 for Jered Weaver. So, was it a brilliant, awe-inspiring performance? Did the Angels, resplendent in their earliest years throwback jerseys complete with the original interlocking LA ball cap, strike fear into the hearts of the Yankees with their dominance at the plate? Um, no. Not really.

It was a lot of the same actually. The team hit well, especially Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, but continued to struggle with runners in scoring position. The fielding was tight but neither Weaver nor the Yankee’s Ivan Nova had a great start, though Weaver settled into his groove by the third inning, giving the team five additional strong innings and eight strikeouts. So, not an amazing performance, but the Angels battled through, held the Yankees to two runs for five innings and stubborned out a victory!

Besides, a W is a W and I could not have been more thrilled by the victory – for the team, for Weaver and for Angels fans. In fact, we were just outside of Santa Barbara when the Angels won the game and when my husband read me the last pitch – using the pitch by pitch on Gameday, because our ability to pick up the broadcast cacked it in Ventura – I let out such a loud whoop that we both started cracking jokes about the perils of loud cheering in the friendly confines of a Pontiac G6. So what do you say we do it again tomorrow? Sadly, Dan Haren will miss the first scheduled start of his career but we have Ervin Santana on the mound and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Hmmm…time to start a cycle of winning? Yes, please.

On another note, this amused the heck out of me, so I figured I’d share. I believe I have mentioned before that the majority of my friends are not baseball people? The following statement from our weekly Wednesday gathering at the pub, illustrates this fact better than I ever could. The “lights out” Giants/Cardinals game was on the TV over the bar, Brian Wilson strides out to the mound in all of his Brian Wilson-y glory and my friend asks with a tone of shocked disdain, “Who the hell is that and why is he wearing a fake beard?” A quick glance around the table shows that she was not alone in her question.

Really? Just in case we needed another definition: Baseball people may or may not fear the beard, but they are at least aware of it.

# Royally Flushed…and Yet, Still Not My Grandfather’s Angels

What a difference a few days makes. Shutout by the Royals on Wednesday and shutout for seven of nine innings on Tuesday. Blast and damn. < broken record > The Angels hit in both games, just not with runners in scoring position. </ broken record > Heck, we even managed to load up the bases twice today, once with no outs, and have no runs to show for it. No, Scott Downs should not have given up the homerun today and Joel Pineiro should not have given up five in the third yesterday. But the offense needs to stop putting our starters and relievers in a position where they have three or less, often less, runs to work with, especially when we can and have done much better.

Six runs on Sunday, ten on Monday, three on Tuesday and none today. I really don’t want to have to come up with a “Tanana and Ryan, then two days of cryin’” like slogan for the 2011 offense, thank you very much, but that’s certainly the way things looked in May. Okay, now </ broken record >.

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Tanana and Ryan, then two days of cryin’. This, of course, was the Angels own special version of the more famous “Spahn, then Sain, then pray for rain.” from back in the days when Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan lead the Angels four-man starting rotation. I can’t remember if I learned that one from life-long Angels fan grandfather or from any number of trivia and history books I devoured as a young lass. Either way, the Angels pre-game shows and Angels weekly continue to air snippets from the 50th Anniversary celebration documentary and are currently in the middle of the Tanana/Ryan era and I can’t help but think of my grandfather.

I’ve written of my grandfather’s Angels fandom on this blog before and of my own upbringing rooting for the Dodgers – and don’t think there wasn’t a small, or perhaps not so small, amount of youthful rebellion in my father choosing to root for the Dodgers over his father’s Angels…well, youthful rebellion and maybe Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale had a little bit to do with it too. Grandpa passed away a few years after the Dodgers won the Series in 1988, so he never saw my conversion to Angels fandom, though I bet he’d have been tickled by it.

If I close my eyes I can still hear the particular sound of the radio playing the baseball game on the floor next to Grandpa’s armchair in the dining room, punctuated with short bursts of an announcer’s voice growing excited over a play; an announcer’s voice that was both less melodic and more enthusiastic than that of Vin Scully, with whom I was more familiar. And I can hear the occasional sounds of my grandfather’s hand slapping the arm of his chair softly in approval as he kept one ear on the game throughout our visits.

It’s funny what you remember and funnier still what you inherit from family. The hand slap of approval, for example? My father does the same thing. I remember distinctly from childhood, on the few Sundays my Dad took time to watch a game, being able to tell you from pretty much any room in the house if the Dodgers, or USC or anyone playing Notre Dame was doing well by the deep, happy sounding thump of his hand against the coffee table or the arm of his chair. One. Two. Three. And then continuing louder and more insistent, like fans slapping the backs of seats at a game, if the action on the TV screen continued, eventually resulting in a whoop of joy and a resonant “All right!”

My father’s approval slap is significantly louder than Grandpa’s was. I think this has less to do with any difference in enthusiasm than it does with an understanding that slapping the chair arm too loudly in my grandparents’ house probably would have violated my grandmother’s sense of decorum with company over, even family company, and resulted in the radio’s banishment to the workshop in the garage. Much to my everlasting amusement, during a particularly good Angels game last season – hush you, there were a few – I paused mid cheer because I was suddenly overcome with these memories of Grandpa, Dad  and baseball and couldn’t think why…until I noticed my own right hand, poised to continue slapping the coffee table with enthusiasm. I don’t know when I started doing that. It was completely unconscious on my part. But it makes me smile to think that I have my mother’s laugh and my father’s – and his father’s – cheer.

And all of this remembering and recounting helps remind me that these 2011 Angels, frustrating though a few things have been this season, are not my grandfather’s Angels in the best possible way. It would have surprised and thrilled him to no end to root for a team that could smooth over some rough edges and contend, let alone one with such talent – five quality starters, a bullpen that can get the job done, gold glove winners in the outfield, and a bumper crop of talented rookies. Okay, he would have seen flickers of recognition in the lack of power displayed by the lineup thus far and the occasional wilder exploits of the bullpen, but only flickers. It’s June and these Angels are only two games out of first.

Perspective achieved. Rest up today guys and enjoy some home cooking, or whatever gets you ready to hit and play a great game. The Yankees are coming to town and we’ve got Weaver on the mound on Friday and Howie Kendrick returning to the lineup. Time to go win some ballgames!

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My fingers are crossed for Dan Haren! More blah Angels luck this week – he experienced a “tweak in his back” during Wednesday’s bullpen session significant enough to fall down. He will be evaluated tomorrow in order to determine if he will make his scheduled start on Saturday. If he has to sit the start out, this will be the first scheduled start Haren has ever missed…ever, as in entire career. He’s old school like that, one of the reasons I like him and love having him on the team so much. I want Haren to maintain his streak because I want this to be nothing and him to remain in top condition. But if this isn’t nothing, please, please, sit out a start or two to prevent worse issues down the line.