November 2010

The First Saturday Without Baseball

It’s the first Saturday without a baseball game since the season began in early April. Actually, it’s been even one weekend longer for me – my husband and I, impatient and giddy for the season to begin as always, went to the Angels/Dodgers exhibition game on the first Saturday of April, the day before the season officially began. *fond reminiscing sigh* A Kendry Morales grand slam homerun, oh how we missed him for most of this year, but I digress…

This is usually the time, the first weekend I go without, that it finally really hits me – no baseball for the next five months. Oh, intellectually I understood this back on Monday night. When I stood up in my living room and cheered as Nelson Cruz took that last swing and missed, I knew that was it, the last play until Opening Day 2011. But knowing something intellectually and really feeling at are two completely different things.

Nothing really feels over the day after the World Series. There are all the player interviews, the talk show and broadcast news articles, everyone is talking about it work, on FaceBook, the blogs, etc. Baseball still feels very present. Cut to Wednesday and it’s more of the same, plus the added fun of videos from the victory parade. (The company I work for has a school right on the parade route, and they sent us fantastic photos of the students enjoying the parade, an unexpected perk.) By Thursday, baseball was starting to seem a little absent but, hey, Thursday is often a travel, day right? Thursdays without baseball are a little more normal. Come Friday my heart was starting to feel what my head had been telling it all along, but it was still very easy to rationalize things. There was no baseball last Friday either – post season travel day, right?

Which brings us to today. No baseball this morning. No baseball this afternoon. And, here we are with the clock creeping towards 6 p.m., when normally I could at least tune the radio to the pre-game show for the latest possible start to an Angels home game and…no baseball. Yes, I really get it now – no baseball until March 31st. *sigh*

Oh well, this is really all for the best. Players need a chance to rest, heal, or work out issues in the off season leagues. Teams need time to regroup and make some changes…some of our teams with more urgency than others (Arte Moreno, I’m looking at you). Besides, can you imagine trying to schedule the holidays around the baseball schedule? My parents and in laws may look at the frequent peeks I take of the game on my blackberry with a kind of slightly annoyed affection during a Memorial Day barbeque, but I have a feeling that pendulum would swing well away from affection if I repeated this behavior during Thanksgiving dinner or at any of our myriad of Christmas functions. Besides, we have plenty to look forward to: awards announcements, free agent signings, trades and, oh yeah, only 99 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training!

Texas Won’t Pick Up Vlad’s Option! What, Are They Crazy? ;)

Earlier this year someone made the comment on AM 830 that the amount of money Texas shelled out for Vlad Guerrero was a lot like the middle class couple who buys a million dollar home in a sketchy economy with the thought that they’re just going to declare bankruptcy anyway so it’s not like they’ll have to keep making the large payments on an investment that could go either way. (I wish I could remember who said it, because this made me crack up on my morning commute and I like to give credit where credit is due, but I can’t remember.) And, ignoring the disparaging overtones, I think this is an apt comparison in many ways. With so much talent already on the team, no post season titles to their credit and a frightening financial future, Texas had nothing to lose this year betting big on Vlad. The Angels thought they had too much to lose to offer even more money to someone who appeared to be winding down.

I know that claiming “I knew Vlad was going to come back and have a great season in 2010″ was a popular Angels fan pastime this year online and on the radio, but complaining about Vlad’s performance was an equally popular pastime in 2009, so I can’t help but think that a lot of these people are indulging in a little revisionist history. Both the Angels’ and Rangers’ decisions made sense to me at the time. As it turned out, Texas’ bet was a smart one and Vlad had one hell of a great season. I like Vlad a lot. He’s had an amazing career and was one of the all time great Angels. I was really happy for him, watching him come back from last season and put together such great season (except for occasional at bats where he destroyed the Angels, natch). But I do not believe he would have had the same season if the Angels had offered more money and resigned him. Having something to prove is an extremely powerful motivator, even to the already talented and motivated.

Cut to the end of 2010, and suddenly the now financially sound American League Champion Texas Rangers have a lot more to lose. (And I am happy for them, by the way.) Now they are in a similar position to the one the Angels were in last year. Vlad had a great season but it was lopsided towards the first half. He was certainly winding down towards the end and, in the post season, really showed that his aging damaged knees are a defensive liability. In light of today’s changed circumstances, exercising a $9 million option for next season no longer looks like a great decision. Poof, free agent. Texas may still sign Vlad, but they don’t want to pay $9 million to keep him and aren’t afraid to risk losing him to avoid that.

I understand where Texas’ management is coming but I would be lying if I said I’m not amused that, after Texas fans scoffed at the Angels for not offering Vlad as much money as they could to keep him, the Rangers are in essence doing the same thing. It’s more than a little vindicating. Of course, if Vlad does go to another team, and finds that above and beyond motivation again, I fully expect to see a similar post to this one on a Rangers blog about this time next year. Whatever happens, I wish Vlad all the best and hope he can scratch out a few more great seasons on a team that makes him happy.

Mixed Reviews on the World Series?!

Congratulations Giants and Giants fans! And, what a game! That was the quintessential pivotal World Series game kids act out when they pretend. Bottom of the ninth, the hot closer of the post season takes the mound, facing the heart of the opposing team’s line up and plows through the first three guys to save a two run squeaker, following six innings of an epic pitcher’s duel. Seriously, what a game!

Given my reaction to last night’s game, it was really odd to read the comments on my FaceBook page and listen to my coworkers griping about it this morning, and not because they’re Rangers fans either…and only five among the dozens are Dodgers fans ;). “Wow, I feel like the baseball season didn’t end this year, it fizzled.” and “Rangers and Giants? Wasn’t that the little league World Series?” and “With these teams, I just couldn’t bring myself to care.” were among my “favorite” comments. Really people? Were we watching the same post season?

I have read enough of all of your blogs to know that these sentiments no more describe everyone’s feelings than they do mine. However, the television ratings certainly indicate that a lot of casual baseball fans do feel this way and that annoyed me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but today’s complainers are the same people who, in my experience, would be griping “Not again! How unfair!” if we had enjoyed a Yankees/Phillies match up instead. (And, if a few plays had gone a different way, we would have. Both the Yankees and the Phillies played great ball this year.) I know this to be true because, prior to the conclusions of the NLCS and the ALCS, the complainers in my hearing were already engaging in a little anticipatory “Not again! How unfair!” griping – not that this is any more fair or reality based a complaint than the others.

Clearly, the casual baseball fans in my general vicinity do not know what would entertain them. All snark aside though, this helped me realize that enjoying baseball for baseball’s sake takes context. You have to know the teams and the players involved in order to appreciate the strategies and stories within each game. Diehard fans always have context. Casual fans may or may not have context, depending on the match up. And, the most casual of fans must always have a very broad, surface context provided for them – it’s a subway/freeway series, one or both of the teams is one of the most storied franchises in baseball, one of the teams involved experienced a recent tragedy that made national headlines, etc. Given this, it’s no wonder my complainers didn’t enjoy the Series. If the only context they have is the broad, surface context, they can never appreciate a World Series like this one and aren’t really giving other World Series match ups the appreciation they deserve either. As if we didn’t know this already, it really is so much more fun to be a fan!

Enjoying the Postseason When Your Team Doesn’t Have a Postseason

I am a happily spoiled fan and, more often than not, I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of rooting for the Angels for at least part of the post season since I came back to baseball (long story, see my bio for the Reader’s Digest version). Not this year, of course *sigh*, but more often than not. If or when the Angels don’t make it to the next level of play, I usually “adopt” the team I like the most players on to root for because it’s October. The League Division Series. The League Championship Series! The World Series!! The last little bit of Major League Baseball that has to tide us over all the way until April!!! How can I not watch? And what fun would it be just to watch if I wasn’t rooting for someone? Couldn’t do it and not much fun at all, that’s for sure.

This season I adopted the Giants, to the endless delight of all of my Giants fanatic extended family and more than a little groaning from my immediate family who are, now and forever, citizens of Dodgertown. Yes, I am quite the odd woman out around the Thanksgiving table with this bunch, but I digress. While the postseason would obviously be a lot more fun if the Angels were in the thick of things, it has still been a lot of fun. Watching this Giants team feels very familiar to an Angels fan. Giants fans actually gave this combination of serious skill, occasional gaffes and luck on both sides of the spectrum a name – the Torture. Though Angels fans have not been as creative, I think we all get it, perhaps more than any other team’s fan base could.

The thing is, when it isn’t really your team you’re rooting for, it may be a lot of fun, but the same passion just isn’t there. I’m rooting for the Giants. I really am. I want them to win, but if the game is on too late (we watch it on delay because of our work schedules), I have very little problem stopping the DVR, checking the final box scores and going to bed. That would never happen with the Angels except under extremely extenuating circumstances during normal league play, let alone during the postseason. With only borrowed skin in the game, as it were, I can completely admire Josh Hamilton’s amazing diving catch last night in the second inning for the thing of beauty it was, without the deep growl I would usually add when he does this against us. It’s just different.

But, when your team doesn’t have a post season, what’s a girl to do? Watch basketball? *cue uproarious laughter* I think not. So, go Giants…for one to three more games, anyway.

This is a very simple game…

You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. Of course, if you are a baseball fan, you know that this hilarious line from Bull Durham is neither true nor meant to be taken as truth. Baseball has a simple basic premise, but the strategies, stats, rule nuances, different skill sets involved, and even the variations from ballpark to ballpark give the game a nearly epic complexity. No matter how well you know the game, no matter how many amazing things you have seen on the field, several dozen times a season you are going to see something that makes your jaw drop and causes you to jump up and down and scream with joy or outrage. Baseball is passion and infinite possibility – no matter what the stats and analysts say, on any given game day, any team can beat any other team. And that is why I love this game!

 

So why blog? I am a baseball fan with very few baseball friends. My husband and I are huge fans of the Angels and baseball in general, but few others in our circle can tell a double from a double play…and their eyes all tend to glaze over at the mere mention of a line drive or stolen base. I came to MLBlogs looking for great baseball talk and, seriously, you all hit the ball out of the park in that regard. I decided to start my own MLBlog to continue the conversation…or, rather, to pick up my end of it. I’ve been more of a reader than a commenter. The 2010 post season is nearly over – which was a good thing for the Angels actually; they definitely need some regrouping time – so I figure this is the perfect time for my own spring training. Let’s see if I can get this blog up and running smoothly in time for the 2011 season.

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