February 2011

Passion Is Passion

We interrupt this Angels blog to discuss…football? Well, it was Super Bowl Sunday after all. I am not a big football fan. I have nothing against it at all. I understand the rules. I appreciate the strategies, it just doesn’t hold my attention for more than a game or two a year. I don’t even have a specific team I root for casually. And yet, every year, I enjoy the Super Bowl, especially if Seth and I are invited to a Super Bowl party. I’d say this is strange but, judging from the hype and the overflowing parking lot at our local Costco, a lot of folks who don’t normally follow football climb on board the band wagon for the big game.

This year my boss threw a Super Bowl party and invited the whole department along with our spouses and significant others. Pretty cool boss, yes? Anyway, I wound up rooting for the Packers because it’s more fun if you actually root for someone, the majority of party goers were Packers Fans, I do not like Ben Roethlisberger and it’s been longer since the Packers won – the usual kind of silly reasons a non-fan uses in such situations to avoid actually saying eni meni mini mo.

Here’s the thing though, and it happens every year, even when the game just isn’t all that fantastic – neither team is my team and the game isn’t even my sport, but I still get swept up in the passion and the cheering. It’s an any port in a storm response really. It’s February. I haven’t cheered for a baseball game in three months and now I find myself in a room full of passionate sports fans. I know it’s only a temporary substitute but it’s impossible not to get caught up in the joy of a shared fan experience even though, for me, it’s only a borrowed fan experience. Passion is passion after all and, while I do not share a passion for football, I think all sports fans can appreciate one another’s passion.

Thinking about this for the blog also made me realize both how much I enjoy the shared fan experience and how little I get of it, even during a typical baseball season. Seth and I usually watch Angels games at home, which is a lot of fun but certainly lacks a big cheering crowd. Going to 16 games in 2010 was unusual and something we may or may not be able to repeat in 2011 – I got some ticket steals last year and friends with season seats handed us the tickets a fair bit. Apparently, I need to find a good Angels bar to watch a couple of games at this year.

More Random Angels, etc. Thoughts & Headlines

Thank you to all of you who drop by to read my blog and comment. I made the top 50 again, which is something I didn’t really except to accomplish at all and certainly not so soon after starting the blog. I really enjoy the conversation with you all, on my blog and on your blogs. You have helped make this offseason a lot more palatable. :)

Orioles & Vlad Reach a Deal
I like Vlad Guerrero and wanted to see him get a good gig this year. I was thrilled to see that Vlad and the Orioles reached a deal today – $8 million for one season, apparently. Barring injuries, I think this is a good deal for both Vlad and for the Orioles. The Orioles were strong and building momentum at the end of last season and if they carry that over into 2011, Baltimore could be a fun place for Vlad to play and I think that having his bat in the lineup and his presence in the clubhouse can only be beneficial for the Orioles…and I’m not exactly sorry to see him out of the AL West either. While I miss him in the Angels lineup, I’m glad it worked out this way. It’s tricky and awkward to bring players back once they’re gone and, while there are certainly examples of times it has worked out well, bruised egos and bad attitudes coming from any number of directions can cause enough harm to outweigh any benefit to the decision. I am usually not in favor of it.

Angels aim to recapture road swagger
I was happy to see this article. Last season the Worst Road Trip Ever (in my mind it is spelled out in bold, title case just like that) where the Angels went 2 and 8 through Detroit, Boston and Seattle was one of the first indications that 2010 was not going to be a normal season. The Angels are traditionally a great road team and when that’s not working, nothing else seems to work either. Getting back to that, getting their swagger back as Torii Hunter says in the article, would help set a great tone for 2011. I realize that knowing a thing needs to be done and talking about doing it are both very different things from actually doing it. But I am happy to see the discussion anyway. It’s a start and it’s good to know that everyone acknowledges the issue and is on the same page.

MLB Network
It’s been fun having the MLB Network this offseason. It was not available as part of our TV package for the longest time and then it just appeared on the menu last season sometime in July. A Cal Ripken Jr. interview from last year here, a couple of episodes of the Top 10 Right Now there (I’m better at guessing the top 5 than my husband, bwa’ha ha). It helps with the offseason impatience when Spring Training is right there around the corner except I’m not going again this year anyway so baseball is actually still a couple of months away. Granted I’ve been enjoying it a little too much in the wee hours of the morning lately, but if one is suffering from insomnia anyway, well, it sure beats infomercials and old Law and Order reruns.

* * * * *

On a personal note, I am off on a whirlwind one-day turn around trip to Las Vegas tomorrow for my little sister’s wedding. I’ve mentioned her in the blog a few times. She’s marrying a great guy who loves her very much and only has one major flaw, as near as I can tell: he’s not a baseball fan. He’s a NASCAR guy. Consequently, my bleeding Dodger Blue sister is becoming a NASCAR girl. Oh well :). Congratulations Sis! I wish you every happiness. Just try not to drift so far to the NASCAR side of things that we can’t text our way through the playoff games again the next time SoCal is doubly represented.

Funny story about my sister: she ignored my Angels fandom for a few years, then accepted it but with an odd certainty that if I ever had to choose, I would root for the Dodgers…right up until the Freeway Series last year. Seth (my husband) and I went to the Saturday night game at Dodger Stadium. My sister and I exchanged texts off and on during batting practice:

My Sister: You’re at the game! I’m so jealous!
My Sister (this text following right on the heels of the previous text): Wait…what are you wearing??
Me: Clothes.
My Sister: No, what _color_ are you wearing, smart ***?
Me: *bats eyes innocently* Red of course.
My sister: (long string of cartoon swear words)
My sister (next text after a pause of at least 15 minutes): I suppose you’ve got to support your team, Sis, good for you. Just stay away from the left field bleachers in that color.

Slow News Week Headline Round-Up: Angels, etc.

This is what happens when I leave my book at home, assuming I have no time for a lunch break and then realize that I absolutely require a lunch break as a mental break from all of the writing…I spend the time reading the news and writing for my blog. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Actually, switching writing gears is sometimes relaxing. But I digress…Scary financial and global news eventually gave way to baseball headlines, with the following really catching my attention:

Angels May Call on Creative Approach to Closing
This MLB headline was the first that caught my eye and, unfortunately, my initial reaction was to laugh. My second was to snark on Facebook “By creative, do they mean effective? Because, after last season, an effective closer would be creative!” This led to an online “therapy session” with my Dodger fan cousins about our respective teams’ closing woes. (The Giants fan cousins were smart enough to realize that we didn’t want to hear a peep out of them and stayed away from this status update, thus positive family relations remain intact.) Of course, what the article actually meant was bullpen by committee with Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden and possibly occasionally Hisanori Takahashi sharing closing duties as needed.

On the surface, this certainly is not creative used as an unusual synonym for effective. However, I hope that it is code for grooming Walden for the closer’s role without putting too much pressure on the kid too early. Walden showed poise, promise and blazing speed last season in several really difficult games and I am eager to see what he can do over the course of a whole season. Our closer woes were a big topic of conversation in the Right Field Pavilion last season, one of those ongoing debates where even the ushers and the vendors weigh in and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of this development…okay, who am I kidding? I just can’t wait to go to a game!

MLB Overview 2011: Adrian Beltre and All 30 Teams’ Most Unpredictable Hitter
Another headline that caught my eye was this offering from the Bleacher Report. Some of their choices are spot on, others are apt to be controversial. I don’t know enough about every team’s lineup to say whether I think all of the Bleacher Report’s choices are good (especially when we get to the NL East – but that’s going to change after Interleague 2011, I’m sure). However, I think they hit the nail on the head with the Angels. No, the Bleacher Report did not use this as one more opportunity to pick on a certain recent acquisition, they selected Kendry Morales instead. Kendry was not selected for any prior issues at the plate but for the big question that’s certainly on every Angels fan’s mind: is he going to come back as strong and reliable as he was before the broken leg. Because an Angels lineup with a reliable, power hitting Kendry batting in the five spot is a thing of beauty and a lineup without his bat is…well…the sort of lineup that allows Jered Weaver to pitch a one-run game that the Angels still lose. Yeah, you all saw 2010.

While this was interesting, it really wasn’t news and it certainly wasn’t the news I went looking for:

How are long term contract negotiations going with Jered Weaver? Absolutely swimmingly, of course and the contract will be signed by the time pitchers and catchers report…right? Right? Yeah, it’s never really that easy, is it?

Are we really looking for a leadoff man or are we going to platoon with what we have? This is a topic of some discussion on Angels blogs. Given the options out there, I could really go either way on this one. I’m not overly thrilled with a leadoff platoon but, then again, I’m not overly thrilled with any of the options that have been bantered about.

Is Vlad going to get a job already? I know he’s talking to the Orioles right now but that contract doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I actually think this is a good fit for all concerned. With Vlad’s mighty bat protecting Markakis and company in the lineup, if the Orioles pick up where they left off at the end of the 2010 season, they could seriously be spoilers in the AL East (and other places) and who knows? But Vlad needs to accept the fact that’s he’s no longer an outfielder, at least no more than every once in a while, and negotiate accordingly.

MLB Network’s 16th Greatest Game & How the Twins Brought Work to a Halt

Monday nights are extra busy in my house so I have managed to miss the first four games in the MLB Channel’s 20 Greatest Games in the last 50 years series. But the stars aligned tonight and I caught the program on game #16 – the Twins/Tigers one game playoff to determine the 2009 AL Central champion. I was surprised that MLB.com chose such a recent game, but I remember that one very well and, indeed, what a game!

I “watched” that one, which is a completely different thing from watching a game. In 2009 I was still working in the Mortgage industry for a bank recently purchased from the FDIC. If you know anything about the Mortgage meltdown in Southern California, you can probably figure out which one I am talking about and if not, well, suffice to say I had more of a front row seat than I wanted for the whole thing.

Anyway, my department was full of Angels fans and a department both pumped for the game and divided on who to root for…divided over who would best serve the Angels by beating the Yankees in the playoffs, that is. The Twins never beat the Yankees in the post season but they were just so scrappy that it was hard for some of us, myself included, not to root for them. The rest were sure the Tigers had the best chance. The problem was that my department always worked really late, especially at that time, and this was a Midwest game so there was no way any of us were getting home to see any part of it.

So, I was sneaking peaks at the game on my Blackberry as I worked, per my habit in those days, and a couple of my colleagues were checking in from time to time to get the score, per their usual game day habit. The other baseball fans all had company Blackberries, you see, while I only had my personal Blackberry, and company Blackberries had all sports sites blocked. Everything was calm through the 3rd inning with the Tigers comfortably in the lead, but then the Twins started to catch up. Suddenly people are working less and less and checking in more and more and then my boss came striding out of his office and up to my cubicle…no worries, this was standard procedure as well. He just wanted to know the score and get a quick play by play on the last inning.

As you probably remember, it was a heck of a game. The Twins tied it up then, in the 9th, the Tigers pulled into the lead and the Twins tied it up again. By the time the game went into the 10th inning, all pretense of working was gone and everyone had switched to rooting for the Twins. We moved into one of the larger cubicles by playing off of the Minnesota pride of one of the generally non-baseball fan team members and were alternately biting our nails and yelling and cheering as the score seesawed from 4-4 to 5-5. Around the 11th inning, we became refresh monkeys – the 15 second auto refresh rate on the Gameday site was no longer sufficient. When the Twins pulled it off, it was a good thing we were the only team left in our wing because it sounded more like a sports bar than the headquarters of a mortgage bank…and then we went back to work. We repeated this routine for the east coast playoff games until the Yankees took the Angels out of the mix and it was a blast. (I don’t regret rooting for the Twins either, even as things turned out. I don’t think the Tigers could have stopped the 2009 Yankees either. That team was tight and seriously on a mission.)

I do not miss my old job. I worked with good people and had a great run of it but I don’t have the stomach to deal with the volatility of the Dread Pirate Mortgage Banking Industry anymore – Goodnight Blithescribe. Good work. Sleep well. We’ll most likely lay everyone off in the morning. I really love my newer job and I work with great people here too…they’re just more basketball and soccer fans. But sometimes I really do miss the baseball season camaraderie of a department full of Angels fans. However, the job change is part of the reason I started lurking on MLBlogs and eventually blogging myself. It’s funny how well things work out sometimes.

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