Time to light that halo up, Halloween style. Forget the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It’s the 2011 AL West MVG – Most Valuable Gourd!
First thing’s first. Congratulations to the Cardinals! From ten games out of the Wild Card Race to World Series Champions, it was an inspiring comeback worthy of a classic baseball movie. Bravo and well deserved!
More importantly from my perspective though, the Angels did announce Jerry Dipoto as our new General Manager…as, you know, we might have guessed from all of the announcements announcing that the Angels could not in fact announce this move until after World Series was over. (Sorry, but as a sometime media and PR wonk, I love that kind of inspired work around the rules!). Oh, I know there has been a lot of talk since Tony Reagins’ departure about Kim Ng, which had me intrigued, and Andrew Friedman, which had me outright salivating even though I knew it wasn’t going to happen. But when it comes to personnel decisions and the Angels, reading speculation about it in the press, short of a very official sounding “unofficial” precursor to an announcement that is, is one of the biggest guarantees you can get that it isn’t going to happen.
If loose lips sink ships and one could logically infer that the inverse of this old school saying is true as well, the entire United States Navy could happily float on the closed lips of the Angels front office…with plenty of room for complex practice maneuvers and future growth. Besides, Andrew Friedman? Please. I don’t think you could separate him from Tampa Bay with a crowbar right now let alone for any money, especially after the miracle the Rays pulled off this season aided by his efforts on the personnel front.
So, now that the decision’s been made? Well, only time will tell but so far I’m happy about it. Dipoto is exactly what the Angels talked about bringing in when they first announced Reagins’ resignation, young, fresh and brand new to the GM position. For that reason, I only know what I have read about Dipoto in the last few days and what he said during the press conference. But I like what I’ve learned so far, especially his history in the Diamond Backs organization as Director of Scouting and Player Personnel and later as Interim General Manager. I think we can all agree that Arizona has made some excellent personnel decisions these last few seasons.
I liked what he had to say during the press conference about the Angels just needing a few key tweaks in the right direction rather than a complete overhaul, because the last I thing I want is for all of last season’s promising rookies to become this off season’s trade fodder for a string of great-for-the-next-two-seasons-and-then-blaaaah players. I like that Dipoto doesn’t align himself rigidly with either straight old school personnel theories or sabermetrics theories, but talks instead about an effective balance using ideas from all schools of thought. I liked hearing him talk about exploring all avenues for player acquisition including Latin America and Japan. And I love the fact that Dipoto’s passion for the game seems to be the first thing colleagues and teammates mention when describing him. Yes, all of this is talking a good game and talking and executing a good game do not always go hand in hand. But Dipoto has talked a sufficiently good game that I am intrigued and hopeful to see how he executes his game over the next several seasons.
The only thing I didn’t like was how obvious it became during the press conference that the rumors of Mike Scioscia’s supposed status as the “real GM behind a puppet GM” have grown wildly out of hand. When both Mike Scioscia and Arte Moreno feel a need to comment on and deny such speculation and Dipoto has to answer questions about his ability to work with Scioscia while still having his own voice heard, it’s all more than a little ridiculous. Please people! I love me some Mike Scioscia. He was one of my favorite Dodgers and one of the biggest reasons I switched camps to the other end of the 5 freeway all those years ago. But we’re talking about a man who routinely devises upwards of 125 different lineups for 162 games. With that level of…um…shall we say attention to detail?…can you imagine how much time he must put in before each game strategizing and such? Now can you imagine how much time a person with that level of “attention to detail” would spend studying, planning and executing trades, signings and the like? Now please remember that there are still only 24 hours in a day and that he has to spend some of them sleeping. Does Scioscia as some sort of puppet master GM still seem like a sound theory to you? Didn’t think so.
Welcome to the Angels organization Jerry Dipoto! May you live up to the good game you’ve talked so far.
Game 6 was…Wow! Just wow! It was so amazingly, excitingly, excruciatingly edge of your seat suspensefully, fantastically awesome that I simply cannot find the right adjectives to describe it. So I’m throwing any that come even remotely close out there in one large jumble, hoping that sum of the parts hits closer to the mark. I guess what I’m saying is that this isn’t really my description of last night’s game, it’s a tribute.😉
David Freese stands at the plate in the bottom of the 9th, with the Cardinals down by two, and the Rangers one strike away from becoming World Series champions for the first time in their franchise history. That moment, so full of potential for either heroics or disappointment, when the outcome can go either way and everything is riding on one pitch and one swing? That moment was microcosm for everything I love about this game, regardless of who is playing…and that moment happened two more times in the same game!!
Forget the box score. Five errors and 15 different pitchers? Stats like that almost make this sound like a game neither team wanted to win badly enough rather than the 11 innings of bare knuckled brawl for the final lead that it was. No box score is ever going to completely convey a game like this anyway. But I suspect that in a few seasons, MLBN will revise their 20 Greatest Games of the Last 50 Years and when they do, this game is sure to be on that list.
And I will say this. Anyone who was not excited by last night’s game (and there were a few such killjoys on my FaceBook last night) should seriously check their pulse, because if that didn’t move you, it’s entirely possible you don’t have one. And with Halloween drawing near…well…you just can’t be too careful about these things. Beware of zombies, and all that.😉
And there’s still one more game to go!
* * * * * *
And in Angels news…
Baseball organizations are starting to announce their annual awards and the Sporting News has named our Mark Trumbo AL Rookie of the Year!
I am so pleased! Mark Trumbo meant everything to the Angels this season. He may have started off slow, but he grew into a difference making bat in a lineup desperately in need of one. Trumbo’s 29 homeruns were the most hit by an AL rookie in well more than a decade and just shy of the franchise rookie record. I wonder what he might have done if it weren’t for the stress fracture discovered in his foot during the last weekend of the regular season. To be honest, I’m actually a little anxious for an injury update on that front. It should be a routine injury that keeps him out of Winter Ball and no more but, well, we have terrible luck with first basemen’s feet these days and I’d hate to lose this rising star for any amount of time.
I don’t know where Trumbo will finish in the race for the Hank Aaron Rookie of the Year award. There is some stiff competition in the AL this season, so much so that I was pleased to see Trumbo get recognition on any front, even though he is more than deserving. But this analytical, slugging first baseman, who literally takes notes to work from on every pitcher and hitter we face, is sure to just keep on getting better. And, regardless of how the voting goes, I expect his name will be on a lot more lips next season.
* * * * * *
Oh, and apparently we have a GM. The unofficial announcement, announcing the fact the Angels can’t announce their hiring of the Arizona D-Backs Jerry Dipoto during the World Series but will hold a news conference on Saturday “regarding the GM position” just, you know, for no particular reason hit the news today. Hmmm, I am not certain exactly what I think of this yet but basically feel positive about it. …That and I am overcome with the desire to reread Catch-22…you now, for no particular reason.
For the last few years Seth and I have spent the second to last weekend of every October in Cambria and Paso Robles for the Wine Alliance’s Harvest Festival. Sadly, the Angels have either been out of it by this point or never in it to begin with so taking a trip away hasn’t been a tough decision. What will we do next year or in 2013 if the Angels are still in the thick of things? Well, suffice to say that is a conundrum I would love to have! It’ not like we’d have hotel reservations to cancel. We stay at his folks’ place. Yes, I know how lucky I am!
Random thoughts from the weekend:
1) Taking a trip up here in the middle of the post season doesn’t have to mean sacrifice for the baseball fan. There is usually someplace great to watch the game, a winery throwing a baseball party, like the one we attended last year, a local you hit it off with tipping you off to an open party somewhere, or something. Sights like this are not uncommon. Best. License. Plate. Ever…okay…maybe not ever, but still:
2) Things are not always what they seem. I figured I’d get my tips on where to watch the game this weekend from the baseball winery. No dice. Because of the too mild weather, harvest is still going on instead of just finished and all of their biggest baseball fans are out working. No, I got my best tips – and excellent wine! – from the gentleman at the Pithy Little Wine Company, nestled in a gorgeous boutique looking tasting room in downtown. And thank you, good Sir, excellent tips they were.
3) There have been less bad calls this post season than I remember from other post seasons, but they’re still there.
4) I said it before and I’ll say it again, I miss having a Molina brother behind the plate.
5) Every time I sit down to watch Albert Pujols play I think, nah, he can’t quite live up to the hype no matter how good he is…only to be reminded a few plays later that, no, really, he is that good.
6) Even injured, Josh Hamilton is almost that good. St Louis fan walking into the bar for the first time in the 6th inning: What happened? How did Texas score that last run? Me: Josh Hamilton happened. St. Louis fan: Say no more.
7) Sitting down at the bar to watch the game, wherein you are rooting for St. Louis as your borrowed team, behind this sight is not as daunting as you might think. Hey, at least you know they’re all baseball fans and not going to start whining about wanting to change the station to football!:
8) Catching a ball I can understand. I would never lean out over the rail to catch a ball, even if I don’t agree with it, on some level I understand why someone might do this in the heat of the moment. But throwing a ball onto the field? Seriously? I can’t understand it at all. Kudos to the Rangers ushers for kicking him out…not that I expected anything less.
9) Cheese and wine pairing is wonderful. Small bites and wine even better. BBQ and wine pairing rocks. But a bacon and wine pairing is the best of all. Yes, bacon and wine. And I assure you, it was even better than it sounds, especially the wild boar bacon paired with rich cabernet. Yum! And it’s even better when you meet another baseball fan couple up from Los Angeles for the festival weekend. A Cubbie and a Red Sox fan – proof that two long standing curses (one broken and then some) can cancel one another out into a happy marriage.
10) I wished Mike Napoli all the best with the Rangers when he got traded and I meant it. But I have to confess, hearing the entire stadium chant Nap-o-li, Nap-o-li when he comes up to bat with runners in scoring position and seeing all of the signs that talk about how clutch he is makes me feel a little ill. Why couldn’t you have done some of that for us, Mike? I know you didn’t have as many opportunities, but you did have opportunities.
11) Regarding the previous bullet, I don’t know where this sort of October pettiness is coming from. I haven’t always been this childish about losing. They say adversity breeds character. Well, apparently, baseball “adversity” breeds the wrong kind of character in me. *sigh*
12) For a game where the final score was so darned uneven, it sure didn’t seem uneven in the middle. I swear Texas was on the verge of catching up every time they came up to the plate.
13) Cambria is small and internet access at the house is always sketchy and, in fact, non existent this weekend, but there are worse things. Spending the afternoon like this up the street at Moonstone Cellars, one of the wineries with free Wi-Fi while we plot our dinner and game viewing strategy (no TV at the house either), doesn’t suck. Tempranillo. Yuuuuuum!:
From the first two outs (*sigh* I want a Molina brother behind the plate again! And, wow! It’s a flying Super Carpenter!) Game 1 did not disappoint. I find that while I have less team specific passion for the game when I don’t have a team in the mix, if the game is a good one my overall baseball fan passion is still thoroughly indulged. And, hey, my temporarily-adopted-strictly-for-the-month-of-October team won! Keep it going Cardinals!
But as much as I enjoyed this game, it only served to underscore the fact that there is someone I am missing. Missing terribly. We take a lot of breaks in our relationship, and this is just one more scheduled break, so I shouldn’t be so mopey about it. But it…well…it’s just that baseball is so much our thing that it’s impossible to enjoy a game like this without feeling like something is missing.
It doesn’t help that everywhere I turn these last few weeks there are the inevitable relationship reminders:
When I turn on the TV:
When I do the laundry:
When I leave for work in the morning:
Heck, even when I pay my bills!:
You’re on my car:
You’re in my living room:
Apparently you’re even still lurking in my husband’s pockets:
Oh Angels baseball! I’m used to the long winters apart but why’d you have to leave me so early two years in a row?! I understand. I do. You need to rest. Regroup. Recover. Think about something completely non-baseball related for awhile.
I know it will be different in the spring. You’ll be more attentive. More involved and into the relationship with me and all of the other women and men in your life for the entire season. And we won’t, any of us, have to take a relationship break until the end of October!!
It’s okay, Angels Baseball. You don’t have to respond. We all know this is what you want too.😉
Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax. Of World Series and Princes. Why Boston Fans are Boiling Mad and Dirty Laundry Rinses.
World Series Here They Come
Cardinals and Rangers it is! It may not be the World Series matchup I was envisioning at any point this season, but if the LDS and LCS were any indication, this should be a fun series. So I’ll be rooting for the Cardinals then. It’s petty, to be sure. But I just can’t root for the team that took the AL-West. The Rangers absolutely deserve to be where they are. They have one of the scariest line-ups in baseball and have played lights out all season long. But, call it sour grapes, call it immaturity as a fan, darned if I can bring myself to root for them. That said, if the Cardinals want to beat these guys and end the season as World Series champions, as I hope they will, their starting rotation needs to be more consistent. I don’t think you’re going to be able to give up three homeruns to the Rangers in the first two innings and still pull off a win. Although, crazy, amazing things have been happening for the last month or so. And a come from behind, spoiler of a team that inspires Tony La Russa to disturbing acts of cuteness – Who knew he had it in him? – might just be able to do anything.
I am tired of hearing the about the supposed inevitability of Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee this winter spoken in the sad, hushed tones usually reserved for a terminal cancer diagnosis. “Oh, woe is us! If only there were something anyone could do.” No one passed a law decreeing this must be so. I don’t even recall a petition. And it’s not prophecy. No watery tart rose from a movie set in Python-esque fashion to extend the legendary bat ex-sluggingcalibur to a couple of gits standing there with coconut shells (or would that be peanut shells in this baseball version?). There is something someone can do about it. Prince Fielder can decide to accept the offer Milwaukee is certain to extend and stay.
Strange tractor beam like market forces do not just snatch free agents up and move them from team to team against their will. Free agents make decisions. And as far as decisions go, it’s not as if Prince Fielder is going to be asked to choose between untold riches and a modest living wherein if he saves wisely someday he might be able to send one of his kids to college. He will be asked to choose between millions and even more millions. That said, there is nothing evil or wrong with choosing even more millions. This is a personal, long term career decision and money is an extremely compelling, understandable argument. However, athletes do make decisions for personal reasons too. It’s not as if that just isn’t done. Cliff Lee prefers to play in Philly, even if they weren’t the highest bidder. Jered Weaver preferred not to test the free agent market because he already knew where he wanted to spend his career and didn’t want to haggle indefinitely. So, if Prince Fielder really doesn’t want to leave the Brewers, he doesn’t have to. He can choose to stay. And if he does choose to leave for a higher bidder it will be because there is something he wanted more than he wanted to stay with the Brewers and that’s all there is to that. Not an inevitable tragedy, just a career decision…and one that despite all of the speculation, Fielder has not actually made yet, or at least not made public.
Boston Dirty Laundry
I find what happened in Boston disturbing. No, not the collapse. Not even the finger pointing. A certain amount of that is only to be expected after such a disappointment. No, it was the anonymous, public and extremely personal nature of the finger pointing in the Boston Globe article. The tales of bad attitudes, slacking work ethics, drinking and a manager’s marital and alleged medicinal woes? Back in the day, this is the kind of stuff you would only hear about years later when someone involved decided to spice up a memoir with a few tell alls, if you ever heard about it at all.
And there’s a reason for that: it’s completely unproductive. Airing this sort dirty laundry so very publically doesn’t help a team. It doesn’t help the fans. And it doesn’t help a front office fix problems and move forward. And the anonymous source(s) who provided the dirt know that. No one is going to turn around six months from now and say, “You know what the turning point was? It was that article. It really helped everyone sit down together as a team and pledge to work harder together for a better 2012.” And it bothers me that someone who is close enough to a team to have this kind of information (allegedly – anonymous sources and all that.) would, instead of using it in some productive way, choose to use it to strike out at a team for their own reasons (which, depending on who you think the source(s) is, could be any number of things). The reason I bring this up is not to beat up on Boston. I don’t think this is a uniquely Boston thing at all. But when it comes to this sort of information, I do think that sometimes the old ways are best. Save it for the memoir, when it no longer matters if it’s productive or not anymore and you have to have the guts to put your name on it.
I’m still enjoying the post season immensely and I’m rooting hard for the Cardinals and the Tigers to win tonight. Rooting for the Tigers and the Cardinals? Could it be that what I really want out of all of this is epic trash talk on Red State Blue State? While that interpretation of the facts certainly makes for an entertaining story, it is not an accurate statement. Hmmm…could there be a better segue for my review of Moneyball? I think not:
So I saw Moneyball a few days back (Didn’t we all?) and, eh, I didn’t love it, but I did like it. Look, when not stressed beyond capacity I read voraciously, have done so all my life. Given the number of movies based on books out there, the vast majority of them quite loosely indeed, this means I either had to stop watching movies or learn pretty early on to view movies as a completely separate entity from books. …And from history actually because for every cinematic crime against literature, there are at least three against history. Yes, I was a history major. Why do you ask?😉
Looking at Moneyball strictly as a movie, I thought it was good. Enjoyable. A little overlong in parts – namely the Brad Pitt moping, and worrying and moping some more parts. Some of the scenes with Brad Pitt’s family were forced and trite. On the other hand, the acting was excellent, some of the dialog was genuinely stirring and the story was appealing. I love underdogs. I love upsets. Heck, I was rooting for the movie A’s by the end of it. From a story telling standpoint, especially knowing that Aaron Sorkin was one of the final script writers, I felt it was missing a big, gorgeous, eloquent mini-speech about baseball or two. Also, once the decision was made to concentrate on the 2002 major league team rather than the draft class the book actually focused on, I wish they had also decided to incorporate more of the players’ background stories as presented in the book – especially when given the choice between including 20 extra minutes of Brad Pitt brooding in a car or 10 minutes each of the story behind Chad Bradford’s unusual even for a submariner style and Scott Hatteberg’s need to socialize. A little sarcastic dialog from a 1st base conversation or two would have been a nice way to break up the montages.
So I enjoyed Moneyball as a movie, but what about as a cinematic glimpse of baseball history? Well it wasn’t that at all, actually. Notice I refer to Brad Pitt as Brad Pitt above, not Billy Beane? That’s because the characters in Moneyball were just that, characters in a fictional movie, loosely based on something that actually happened and, truth be told, a loose interpretation of the book as well. The mischaracterizations and inaccuracies were pretty epic. The movie completely forgets to mention non-Moneyball players, even though a Cy Young performance from Barry Zito and an MVP performance from Miguel Tejada might have contributed to the A’s 2002 success, you know, maybe just a little, along with strong performances from the rest of the non-Chad Bradford pitching staff and other returning A’s players. And as for the Moneyball stuff, Carlos Pena wasn’t traded to force Art Howe to play Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg was already playing more games than not as a DH because, yes, he didn’t just walk a lot, he could actually hit. He also grew into a decent fielding first baseman. And I could go on and on. All of these creative licenses were clearly taken with the intent to make Moneyball into a better story. And, in that sense, I believe that the creative team behind the movie succeeded. But what happens when we change the truth to make it a better story, especially so much of the truth? Exactly.
Okay, so it was entertaining but took creative license to the extreme with the history. So what about all of the folks who don’t know any of the history behind the movie? Are they going to start running around quoting Moneyball as fact? I don’t really see this happening to any degree that should concern. Look, here’s the thing with movies. They rarely if ever get it right and when they do the authenticity usually lies more in the feelings than the actual facts. And for a movie based on history, touting “based on a true story” in the ad campaign means roughly the same thing as using the author’s name in the title of a movie adapted from a book – what appears on screen bears only passing resemblance to the source material. And I think that most savvy movie goers understand this.
What’s that you say? The typical movie goer may not be savvy? Maybe these anecdotes will quell a few fears:
A few weeks ago, a casual baseball fan friend of mine told me about this great looking movie he just saw a preview for, Moneyball. After describing the gist of the plot he had gleaned from the preview he said, But here’s the weird thing. Did you know that they’re using the Oakland A’s for this movie? I mean, using the Cleveland Indians made sense in Major League. But I can’t figure out why anyone would want to use the Oakland A’s for a feel good comeback story movie. My apologies to A’s fans everywhere. These were my friend’s words, not mine. But I relate them here to demonstrate that some folks with more distance from the game than we lot kind of gloss over the “based on a true story” angle and just assume the whole thing is fiction.
And the non baseball fan’s perspective? I was chatting with a good friend a few months back who grasps the concept of baseball and goes to the occasional Dodger game when tickets fall into his hands as they are wont to do from time to time if you live and work in Los Angeles County, but who would not describe himself as even a casual fan. I mentioned enjoying chatting and snarking with a couple of Tigers fans at the Big A on 4th of July. He gave me a really confused look that typically means, “Explain?” So I explained that the Angels were playing the Tigers that night. He repeated the confused look and I gave him one of my own. I mean, what more could one explain?
(Close your eyes Michael David.) I am sorry to say that he then asked The Tigers? That’s not a team I’m familiar with? Okay, this is a very smart man. And he’s up on current events and popular culture. And he grew up in Maryland and went to a few games at Camden Yards as a child so this isn’t some sort of weird west coast bias thing. Apparently if you aren’t really a baseball fan, any team that isn’t the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, your local team(s) or a few isolated others, then that team could be a completely fictional movie team for all that you know…and seeing as fictional movie team comes pretty close to describing the 2002 Oakland A’s as depicted in the film Moneyball, maybe in this case that’s a good thing.
So, if this movie still hath offended think but this and all is…well…if not outright mended, perhaps a bit more in perspective. Those who are close to baseball know how weak and idle this particular theme was from a historical standpoint and those who are not close to the game are very likely to think it’s fiction for a completely different reason. And as for the folks who believe it to be gospel…well…they probably believe almost everything the movies tell them anyway, like the Da Vinci Code is word for word real…and that the 300 Spartans went to war in nothing but teeny, tiny leather speedos…and, and that Nicolas Cage has a broad acting range and can deftly insert himself into the leading role – and accent! – in any action movie.
* * * * *
Notice that I reviewed Moneyball without ever once offering my opinion on Moneyball philosophy and/or sabermetrics? Yeah, I thought I’d be a little different. Besides, there is enough fodder there to declare Moneyball an entertaining movie but a bad “based on a true story” without ever touching sabermetrics. However, for the record, I think that sabermetric stats are one of many great tools available for assessing baseball players but they are just that, only one tool in the belt. I also think that traditional stats, paying attention to a player’s intangibles and also just plain old gut feel, instinct and observation are important tools for assessing baseball players. I think that it makes the most sense for baseball teams to use every tool available. Completely ignoring any of the tools in favor of one particular tool might work on an occasional player by player basis. But you can’t build a team that way…nor, if you read Michael Lewis’ original book was he initially theorizing that you could. He…a…got a little carried away there by the end of the book and strayed from his own premise. But I’ve got a whole post about that back in the archives if you’re really interested in reading my thoughts on the book.
I know, I know. It doesn’t sound the same without the Angels at all. But what’s a fan to do? Ignore the post season? Go into deep mourning every Friday night? I think not. So consider this Friday Gourmet: the Post Season Edition. And I have to say, even though I was sorely missing the Angels, having two excellent games for my viewing pleasure did make for a most enjoyable Friday. How cool is it that three of the four LDS match-ups went to Game 5 and all four match-ups were decided by 1 run? Pretty darned cool and extremely exciting. Suffice to say, this post season we’ve seen some good, close matchups.
I’ll admit it. I started my Friday a little early and snuck in the last two innings of the D-Backs game while I finished up a few things for work…hey, I also finally shut down the work laptop at home on Thursday just shy of midnight, so I think they still came out of this with the majority of my attention.😉 What a good game! I wanted the D-Backs to win. But it was so close and everyone played so well, that they should certainly go home with their heads held high and rest up for next season when I have no doubt they’ll pick up right where they left off. (Though hopefully a rebuilt Dodgers team with spanking new owners will give them a run for their money and wind up in the top spot. Sorry Gibby. That’s just the way it works with me.) And, in the meantime, Congratulations to the Brewers! At the same time I was sorry to see the D-Backs lose, I was also pleased to see these guys win. Hey, it’s the post season. That’s allowed.
As for the Cardinals/Phillies game? That was one heck of taut pitcher’s duel. Both teams were on and it really could have gone either way. It was very exciting! I am sorry to say that I didn’t have the appropriate appreciation for Chris Carpenter before watching this game. Consider my eyes opened. He and Halliday were very well matched. Oh to be a fly on the wall during their planned fishing trip this off season. The game was so good, in fact, that Seth had to jokingly remind me not to wait to time the dinner by smoke detector twice. In my rushing back and forth between the kitchen and the TV, I’d failed to notice the timer going off. (Given the option to watch a big game live I hate, HATE, to pause it for longer than one could logically catch back up during a commercial break if I can help it.) You laugh, dear reader, but timing a meal by smoke detector has happened to both of us before. Only when cooking under extenuating distracting circumstances, mind you, such as during a game. …Oh, okay. Or when blackening fish or chicken. But, seriously. Searing blackening spice encrusted meat is really just a culinary game of chicken with the smoke detector anyway, so I don’t think that should count.😉
Yeah, I was cooking a little towards the beginning of the game. It was Friday after all. I baked a spicy chili, cheddar bread and toasted up thick slices of it with turkey, thick slices tomato, slivers of onion and homemade cheddar garlic spread melted over the top. Paired with a gorgeous Muscat Canelli from Eberle it was really, really good if I do say so myself. Yes, paired with a sweet wine. Okay, you’re forgiven for making that face. You’ve probably only ever had sips of some ghastly sugar bomb like Beringer’s White Zinfandel or the like before. Trust me, it’s all about balance and a good sweet wine paired with something pungent and earthy like blue cheese or camembert, or with something spicy like Thai food or, say, a sandwich made with bread that includes a fair bit of fresh diced jalapeño, and it is a thing of beauty. And, hey, an evening in with good food, good wine a great game? It doesn’t get much better than that.
Would that this evening’s ALCS game had been as good. I would be willing to be that Verlander could have recovered his command given a few more innings in a row with no rain delay, but that may or may not have been enough. And then after the first rain delay it was C.J. Wilson’s turn to get a little sloppy, but not enough so for the Tigers to take the lead. Oh well. That’s only the first game. So, tomorrow. Bike ride. Minor chores. Then brunch eventually and a heck of a lot of baseball, possibly accompanied by the Tigers friendly Rio Seco wine. (Rio Seco’s winemaker played in the Tigers minor league system) Now, who the heck am I rooting for in the NLCS?? I like ‘em both and would enjoy seeing either in the World Series, so that is the question of the evening. Any thoughts?
I answered one facet of this question in one of my very first blog posts, wherein I talked about choosing a team to adopt for the postseason. But that is only one aspect of the answer. For some folks the entire answer is a simple, you don’t. But that just doesn’t work for me. The stakes are too high, the players too good and the action too exciting to ignore…besides, this is the last small slice of baseball we get to enjoy before the cold lonely baseball-less months of late fall and winter begin.
So, how do you enjoy the post season when your team doesn’t have a post season? For me the answer is eagerly, excitedly and with a sense of fun, but also distractedly and with a sense of detachment. Witness, I am watching the games, as many as we can when so many of them start while we are at work, but our kitchen is clean. Our bills are filed. When the game is one the east coast and starts early for us, dinners are more elaborate than slapped together sandwiches. (Okay, we ate sandwiches for dinner this evening, but they involved left over pork loan, brie, sautéed apples and onions and a chipotle peach jelly. They were absolutely not slapped together.😉 ) The laundry is not only folded but — gasp! — put away. Both my husband and I are more willing to pick up a few mid-week groceries on our way home from the office instead of trying to cram the trip into a lunch break while crossing our fingers that no one swipes them from the office fridge. For better or worse, these things are simply a lot less true during the regular season…even more so during an Angels post season.
So the answer is, you enjoy the post season much the same as you would otherwise, but with a passion that is purely generic in nature. Oh, many of the teams in the current post season excite me and there have been several truly great games so far to be sure. But I can tear my eyes away from the screen for a little while for even mundane chores…and I do. That would never happen with the Angels, but I can’t think of a single other team that would inspire adopted passion on the same magnitude. The only teams that come close for me are family teams.
If the Angels were out but the Dodgers, my childhood team and the team half my family roots for, were in? I know could summon a fair bit of passion. Not the same as for the Angels by any means but passion even so. When the Giants, the team whose orange and black colors the other half of my family bleeds, made the series, it wasn’t even the same as the Dodgers would have been, but it was in fact more special than the current post season’s offerings. That’s it…and those two teams still aren’t even close. So, I will continue to hoot and holler and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, but I think the kitchen won’t have any problems staying clean.
Oh, and for the record, my answer to the “who am I rooting for part of the question” is not as cut and dried as it was last season. My favorite non-Angels teams heading into the post season were the D-Backs, the Brewers and the Rays… *sigh* I wanted badly for the Rays to be able to go further, but what they accomplished was nothing short of miraculous and a joy to behold. So, I have been rooting for the D-Backs (though I won’t mind if the Brewers win instead…I do like them too), the Rays, the Cards and the Tigers. I will narrow it down further, of course, after the ALDS and then again for the World Series.
I’d love the D-Backs to take it all, because I adore Joe Saunders — and I miss him even though I wholeheartedly approved of the Dan Haren trade — and because Kirk Gibson was a childhood hero whom I still admire. Ryan Roberts grand slam against the Dodgers, where he paid homage to Gibby’s famous homerun as a Dodger with arm pumps down the first base line? Chills. Absolute chills. But I could find myself happily rooting for one of the other teams I mentioned should the D-Backs not make it past Friday. Because when you’re strictly a for the month of October, adopted fan, switching allegiances based on who won and any number of other frivolous reasons is not only acceptable, it’s darned necessary.
* * * * *
As several media sources reported, just before Tuesday’s game Josh Hamilton was asked about the success in a Rangers uniform of Vlad Guerrero last season and Mike Napoli this season. A leading question to be sure, but still…
Hamilton’s response? “I think we’re going to look at who we can get from the Angels next year.” Ouch. But whatever obnoxious truth there may be in that statement, nice Josh. Way to stay classy. Especially considering that the Rangers dropped Vlad like a hot potato the second they could no longer say ‘Who cares how much money we spend?! We’re filing for bankruptcy!’
Hey Josh, chances are Fernando Rodney is going to be available next season. Likely for a bargain price. Since the Rangers are so excellent at finding diamonds in the Angels rough, I suggest they dive on that grenade. With gusto!
Do You Believe in Magic? …and Not So Much: Reflections on Last Week and a Season of Growth for the Angels
Baseball last week was bittersweet for me. We enjoyed a night at the ballpark Monday! But it was our last night at the ballpark of the season and the Angels lost, sounding the absolute final death knell in their post season hopes. But a little more sweet was added to temper the bitter Wednesday night when we all witnessed pure magic! An evening of baseball so amazing it can only be described with a Yogi Berra quote – it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over. My condolences to Red Sox and Braves fans, it’s not about rooting against your teams, it’s about loving the magic of a come from behind upset to begin with and then witnessing two within breaths of one another. Wow!
So, as for Monday night’s game? Well, it was a heartbreaker of game, an at that point expected heartbreak I quickly recovered from, but still. So many miscues and missed opportunities!
And that is not how I prefer to remember my season, especially when I had so much fun with the Angels for most of it…frequently frustrating fun as I have fully documented on these virtual pages, LOL, but fun even so. So imagine my delight when I reviewed the photos I took that evening and discovered a lot of smiling, fun shots of my favorite ballplayers that I think show off the great personality of the team as a whole. Instantly my goofy brain imagined strange scenarios and back stories for each of the photos because, really, I prefer to remember the season as fun:
All silliness aside, walking back to our car after the game Monday night, Seth and I rehashed the misses and mistakes. What if the Angels had played the first inning smoothly? What if they hadn’t stranded so many runners? What if, what if, what if. Seth declared that ‘what if’ was a metaphor for the whole season, though he said it wistfully and with some affection, not in anger. I agreed with him at the time, but the more I think about, the more I decided that Howie Kendrick’s last at bat was a better metaphor for the season.
Bottom of the 9th, two outs, one on base and the Angels are down by one. Were this the scenario back in 2009, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would get a double and the runner would score from first or on the very next at bat and my comeback kid Angels would have pulled it off again. Were this scenario last season, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would pop up or strike out, ending the game. Watching it all play out this season, I realized that I had absolutely no idea if Howie would be able to pull it off or not. With the 2011 Angels, you just never knew. And if that was sometimes frustrating, it was also sometimes amazing – a definite improvement over the previous season and an indication of growth in the right direction, giving me hope for 2012.
Look, 2011 was a season where there were darned few easy wins for the Angels. There were numerous contributing factors. Season long questions, first about the five spot in the starting rotation, then the four spot, then the five and back to the four and eventually both. Veteran bats failing at the same time rookie bats were learning. Not getting Kendrys back at first as expected – though in hindsight, they should have planned on that from the start – threw everyone for a loop and although Mark Trumbo became the first baseman for the team and how, there were the to-be-expected growing pains all season especially in April and May. Injuries, several of them to Torii Hunter which contributed in part to the bats situation. Cleanup spot by committee on a team with no natural cleanup spot hitter…which lead to a bunch of guys who are really excellent gap hitters, swinging for the fences and whiffing or popping out. (Trumbo is the cleanup hitter of the future in my opinion, but it was too early this season.) Then there was the bullpen. There was noticeable improvement over 2010 but, still, pick a day. They could be absolutely fantastic or the arson squad part deux. And, of course, the closer situation. From veteran closer gone bad to baby closer with flashes of brilliance amidst growing pains, that was another constant struggle this season.
All in all, the Angels won a lot of games but, for all of the reasons above and more, it was a grind to win almost every single one and I think that, quite simply, by the time we got to September the Angels were tired. Oh, in spirit they were willing and eager enough to get to the post season, witness the string of near comebacks. But I think that physically they were just too tired to take that next leap and carry themselves into the post season. And if they had made to the post season, I don’t think they would have made it past the first round, especially with the news that Mark Trumbo had been playing with a stress fracture in his foot for the last several games and was out. This isn’t a complaint at all, it’s an observation. I think they played their hearts out but, well, teams that are still capable of contending at the end, like the 2011 Rays, dig in harder to win even more when they find out that other teams in the race have lost. Teams that are just too tired to get there, like the 2011 Angels, collapse in relief to catch their breaths when they find out that other teams in the race have lost.
I wish it were different but I have a hard time being anything more than a little disappointed by it. I have watched a lot of So Cal baseball in my life, brilliant seasons, terrible seasons and everything in between, and I have to say that this was not a season that folks should get depressed over. This was a growing season that gives next season some promise. And, now, as we continue enjoying what so far has been a pretty fun post season – as fun as it can be without an Angels presence! – I will conclude this post with a few heartwarming thoughts for next season:
This last photo really struck a chord with me. Taken during the warm-up just before the top of the 9th, immediately after Mike Trout struck out looking, it appears to me that Peter Bourjos is consoling Trout a little bit. Who knows what they were actually saying to one another. For all I know, Trout was making sure his cleats are tied and Bourjos is laughing him or they weren’t even talking at all. But my photo, my interpretation – so consoling it is. And I think, as such, it’s a good message for everyone. Take heart Angels fans, they’ll get ‘em next season!