Once we got the house put back to rights after Thanksgiving, Seth and I spent most of the weekend playing strategy games with headlines on MLBN and Bloomberg playing in the background…as you do, when you’re a couple of geeks who have decided that all of the responsible chores you had planned for the long weekend just really don’t sound appealing. So instead of plastering and painting the bathroom, we played a lot of Settlers of Catan among other things.
For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Settlers of Catan is a continually variable resources management game. Think of it as Sid Meier’s Civilization unplugged. You shuffle the tiles and their numerical dice role assignments that make up the playing board at the beginning of every game, so rarely are any two games the same. Your goal is to get enough resources to build cities and other things that are worth points, oh and to keep your buddy from doing so. But in order to do this you have to trade with your buddy a lot because there is always a key resource or two you can’t access on your own.
Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like another fun game. But isn’t this supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, a baseball blog? Oh. You again. Hey, I brought it back around to baseball the last time I went on a strategy game tangent. Just work with me for a minute here. I’m getting to that part!
So, as I was saying. *glares over her shoulder at the peanut gallery* There we were playing Catan. Making trades. Listening to MLBN and hearing about trades though nothing earth shattering. And, well, my brain tends to make weird connections between completely disparate things.
You’re telling me! Quiet, you.
Ahem. All the trading just started to seem hilariously parallel, especially the AA and AAA outfielders I’ve never heard of that some teams seem to be stockpiling. In Catan, if you’ve pissed off your buddy so much by thwarting him that he won’t trade with you (or you’re close to winning which we refer to as being “Cuba”) you have an option of stockpiling 4 of some useless resource and trading it “off the island” with the deck for one of something you actually need. So, how many no name minor league outfielders does it take to build a major league closer? Or a clutch hitting third basemen? Or anyone we would actually like to hear about…and by we, I mean I because, well, I’m baseball news selfish like that. But more than lightbulb-esque jokes about minor league players, my strange baseball/Settlers of Catan juxtaposition lead to an oddly accurate illustration of the Angels current player situation.
See, it totally relates. Well, it’s about bloody time!!
Here it is, presented for your gaming pleasure, just in time for the holidays, Major League Baseball Players of Catan: The Angels Expansion! Hey, they have every other theme and expansion under the sun for Catan, why not? Anyway, looking at my goofy creation and the board the Angels have been clearly playing with for the last couple of seasons, I think the problem is readily apparent, don’t you?:
I mean if my dice roll options for hitting looked like that, you better bet I’d shuffle up the game board at the nearest opportunity. Strong starting pitching options with a few holes. Good and bad bullpen options based, seemingly, on a roll of the dice. Good fielding and throwing. Some speed. Some strong hitting for average but also some really poor hitting for average and almost no power hitting at all. I keep hearing all kinds of trade and signing rumors about the Angels, as we all do about our teams this time of year, but nothing that I like at all so far.
Catan, for real or as an illustration of the relative talents of Angels personnel, is all about balance and trying hard to compensate for lack of balance when it invariably occurs. Only rarely is pumping up one strength to the neglect of some or all of the others a good strategy. There is no shooting the moon, in baseball or in Catan. And, let’s be honest here, even teams with a lot of money still don’t have infinite money. Balance and prioritization are essential.
I do not want C.J. Wilson, one of the more consistent rumors. Not only do I not like the fact that the converted reliever slowed down earlier this season than last, but I think that it would be throwing entirely too much money at something that is already mostly a strength. We have a hole and a half, if you will, in our starting rotation. But we only have one power bat in our lineup…unless Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales come back in typical shape, but notice I’m not counting on that. I might have liked the David Ortiz rumor. Say what you will about the Fenway toybox, he always kills it in Anaheim, unlike Vernon Wells which probably should have been a clue, but I digress… But we have such a glut of big contract lame duck bats, at least going by 2011’s numbers, in the DH spot that I can’t see a way for the team to get rid of so, really, what’s the point?
So far, the rumor I like the most is Aramis Ramirez, but that one isn’t perfect either even when you ignore his fits of bad attitude for the sake of argument. More power at third base would be really nice. Really, really nice. But people forget that Alberto Callaspo may not be flashy but he hit consistently for average all season long, our highest batting average in 2011 in fact. And while I would like some power, if we replace Callaspo, we would then need to make up his batting average somewhere else in the lineup somehow. How about a power hitting catcher…or, even, an average hitting catcher? Clearly the slumping bats need to step it up big time or be replaced. But is that possible? It’s a puzzle. A Catan worthy puzzle. Mike Scioscia has said he likes playing Civilzation. I wonder if Jerry Dipoto likes resources management strategy games? Because like it or not, he’s got a pretty tricky one ahead of him.
Cooking is magic, holiday cooking especially so. You start out with piles of basic ingredients, many of which frankly don’t seem like they will play well together. You chop, mix, sauté, caramelize, roast, bake and so on…
…and eventually something truly amazing and greater than the sum of its parts emerges. Kind of like a baseball team, no? Or, at least, every season we certainly hope that this will be the case.
So, as I was doing my fair share of the chopping, sautéing and so forth…
…it occurred to me that there is another baseball/Thanksgiving parallel. Yes, there is a baseball parallel for everything. Sometimes several. It’s baseball. It’s magic like that. Why do you ask? Anyway, as I was saying, there are a lot of folks whose efforts go into putting that delicious Thanksgiving meal on the table, each with their own talents and assigned tasks.
But, unless you’re one of them, you have little to no idea what steps go into the process, how long it’s going to take and what tasty goodness is going to emerge from the kitchen until it’s placed on the table in front of you. All you know is that they’re in there working at that hot stove, so to speak, and eventually something has to emerge from the kitchen…or from your local pizza parlor, I suppose, if all of those kitchen efforts end in disaster. All you can do is wait, hope and salivate…and can I just say that on the baseball side of this parallel, salivating for some news, any news, especially for weeks on end is really undignified…um…yes, I’m speaking metaphorically…of course I am…*nods*
At any rate, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there in the blogosphere…coming at the end of the day for the Americans and a month late for the Canadians, of course but, hey, it’s the thought that counts.
24 days without baseball. By this point my mind finally understands that baseball season is over. This isn’t an inordinately lengthy All-Star break or some sort of weird mid-season hiatus. There is no more baseball until spring. My mind understands, but it still does not accept.
Evenings are the hardest. During the day, I am working, just as I do during the season, and sometimes have time to catch Hot Stove or read other news over lunch. That’s not so very different, really. But in the evenings, when all of the have tos are over and it’s time to settle down and relax…eeek, there is just so much extra time now! I have a few non-baseball shows I like. Top Shot is over for the season, but Castle is fun with a lot of good quips about writing and sly book and movie references. I am infatuated with Grimm right now. It’s quirky and clever. Hell on Wheels is so far a more than adequate westerns fix in a sadly post-Deadwood world. And there are a few others. Food Network and the like. But that’s, what? An hour every other evening or so? Occasionally a little more? My mind is temporarily satisfied, then the brief distraction is over, it grows restless and the impatient channel surfing begins in search of a fix that simply does not exist:
Not baseball. *click*
Not baseball. *click*
Ah, MLBN, my hero! Except…is this a highlight show or countdown or Hot Stove/Intentional Talk/etc. episode I’ve already seen? As the offseason drags on, increasingly the answer is yes. *sigh* *click*
Not baseball. *click*
Not baseball. *click*
“Reality” TV crap. Definitely. Not. Baseball. *shudders* *click*
Not baseball. *click*
And so on. What on Earth do people do with all of this extra time?! I’ve filled it with movies. I’ve filled it with books. Two weeks ago, I filled several evenings making pickles. This week Seth and I are filling the time scouring our house from top to bottom and cooking, cooking, cooking. We host Thanksgiving for our combined families each year (just the two of us and both sets of parents this year though) and we enjoy making it a completely from scratch affair. But that’s this week and before. Whatever will I do next week? 24 days without baseball and it’s clear this blogger needs more offseason hobbies, stat.
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Funny story of the week…okay, of my week at least:
My Pilates instructor is a heck of a nice lady and an excellent instructor, especially from the standpoint of sports and dance conditioning or physical therapy. Her husband is a baseball fanatic, while she knows little to nothing about the sport. It’s just not her thing. To illustrate this point, she told us about a chat with her husband a few years back.
He had asked about two of her clients, a husband and wife, whom she giving private lessons to at the time. And she told him: Oh yeah, Mark used to play baseball. I think their last name is McGwire? He has a lot of Cardinals stuff. I mean a lot. Have you heard of him?
Needless to say, yes, her husband had heard of him.
I burst out laughing all over again just typing this at the thought of what her husband’s expression must have looked like. For the foreseeable future, “He has a lot of Cardinals stuff” is Seth’s and my favorite way of saying someone missed the point.
When I started college, Occidental had just concluded the grand but brief scheduling experiment known as trimesters, basically a tweaked quarter system still in use at some schools. Mine was the first class to start under the “return to semesters” schedule. The reasons given for the switch were, as is typical in these situations, either the exact same reasons given for the initial switch to trimesters or arguments once used against semesters now touted as virtues. With typical Oxy snark, upperclassmen made t-shirts to illustrate this phenomena in hilarious fashion with a chart depicting the arguments for trimesters on one side, culled from the letters sent to siblings and acquaintances on campus during the time of that switch, and the arguments for semesters on the other side, culled from the letter they received prior to the switch. If I felt like digging deeply enough in the back of our dresser, I would probably find that my husband still has his t-shirt! Anyway, for some odd reason I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week. *glares daggers at Bud Selig* I wonder why?
I do not like the impending realignment. Do. Not. Like. I do not think it will ruin baseball or anything drastic like that. I am still going watch easily 150 or so of the Angels’ 162 games plus a number of other random games every season and I will still enjoy them. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s abysmally stupid to have argued passionately in favor of one thing only to switch the argument on its ear not 15 years later. To wit, ‘We must put up with the small inconvenience of unequal divisions in order to avoid the unimaginable horrors of Interleague play nearly every day and other scheduling nightmares that would occur from having two 15 team leagues!’ becomes ‘We must switch to two 15 team leagues and put up with the small inconvenience of expanded Interleague play nearly every day in order to avoid the unimaginable horrors of unequal divisions.’
It’s not the 15 teams in each league I object to so much, that at least fixes the stupidity having four teams in the AL West and six in the NL Central, it’s the expanded Interleague play (in addition to the revisionist history arguing style going on here). Look, I may be one of the few folks in the blogosphere that actually enjoys Interleague play, but even I would prefer to see it less often and certainly don’t want to see it several times a week, all season long. If we can’t fix the AL West/NL Central situation by adding two completely new teams to the AL – my personal little pipe dream that’s never going to happen – I would rather fix the scheduling difficulties that come from two odd numbered leagues by capitalizing on that other “scheduling nightmare” that Selig adamantly didn’t want all the way back in the late 90s: double headers.
Think about it. Interleague play can remain intact and unexpanded in the middle of the season, thus eating up a few of the near daily odd-man-out in each league situations while scheduling several four-game series with planned single admission double headers for every team can eat up the rest. I know that the players union hates double headers, but if MLB wants something that will solve scheduling woes and really attract fans, double headers are the way to go. A single admission double header brought numbers that could actually be deemed crowds rather than a mere crowd to the Coliseum last season. I saw it with my very own eyes. Now that’s power!
And as for the rest? An additional Wild Card in each league? I didn’t like the first Wild Card additions, but it grew on me. I don’t really like this one either. I guess I’m a curmudgeon before my time when it comes to change in baseball. But if adding an additional Wild Card race makes the end of the next season half as entertaining as the end of this one, it might grow on me too. The Astros making the switch from the NL Central to the AL West? Meh. Returning the Brewers to the AL and switching one of the AL Central teams to the West might have made more sense, given that it would simply be undoing that which was already done. However, I think that wouud require Mr. Selig to admit he is reversing his argument completely and, much like my college administration, I think he’s trying to avoid that as much as possible. Hmmm…do I still know anyone with access to a silk screen press?
And while I am already waxing Suess-ical with all of these do not likes, I do not like Jerry Dipoto’s reported “serious interest” in C.J. Wilson. Not in a box, not with a fox. Not over twitter, not with a dash of bitters. I do not like it. Not one bit. Overpaying free agents may be the new black, but if the Angels are going to grossly overpay a free agent, how about one that swings a bat for power…and, call me crazy, actually makes contact resulting in something other than an out(s) on a regular basis.
Of course the 2011 AL Cy Young Award went to Justin Verlander and of course it was unanimous. Congratulations and a hearty well deserved to him! For the voting to have gone any other way would have been a crime. Verlander was just plain that dominant this season. However I was quite pleased to see Jered Weaver so solidly in second place in the voting. I think that in most other years Weaver’s 2011 performance would have earned him the Cy Young and was thrilled to see him get a subtle bit of recognition for his efforts. Next season, if he can stay away from the flu, who knows what he might accomplish! And I do have to note that I am equally pleased to be among the very few teams that actually handed Verlander a loss this season. The season may have ended with more of a whimper than anything else for the Angels but the team definitely had its moments.
Second proved to be an ongoing theme for Angels this season, with Mark Trumbo also finishing in second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Rookie of the Year wasn’t nearly so cut and dried as the Cy Young competition this season with many strong rookies in contention. Congratulations to Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays. He is one of several players I would have been pleased to see win this honor. While I certainly think Mark Trumbo was equally worthy, I did expect his lower on base percentage would keep him from actually taking home the award…though that certainly didn’t stop the players who faced Trumbo this season from recognizing his difference making bat and the work he’s put in at first.
* * * * *
That old hot stove is starting its pre-boil routine with a few unexpected quick deal bubbles rising here and there. And, of course, with the GMs meeting this week it certainly adds to the feeling that we’re all waiting. Quietly. Holding our breath. For some. Large. Important. Announcement…that in reality probably isn’t coming any time soon. Oh well, even though most years they don’t tell us much of anything, the GM meetings always intrigue me. I understand that the format is probably just like the baseball version of any number of other industry conferences, which is to say more than a little dull, but in my mind I always want to make them absolutely fascinating. Like the basic conference format should echo the passion and excitement of the subject matter. I mean, this is baseball after all! Or maybe it’s just that after attending so many dull business conferences in the mortgage industry and when I worked in fundraising, I want to live vicariously though someone, even if it’s only in my own head.
So, what do you think the GM meetings are like? More like this:
Don’t let the cute pajamas fool you. Slumber party politics are often the most vicious.
With the rumors and red herrings that sometimes come out of these meetings, it’s clear some sort of fantasy is going on. Maybe it’s more like Rick’s Café Americain with all manner of secret deals, illicit gambling and other hijinks going on just barely undetected and Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder playing the part of letters of transit…yeah. Yeah! We’ll go with that one.
Day. Nine. Nine days without baseball. Nine! That’s two entire days longer than a week! Recent studies question the canonical stages of grief based on the, very sound if you ask me, notion that we all grieve in such different ways that assigning set stages, even with the understanding that people may progress through them differently, is ludicrous. Besides, I’m not entirely certain that they would have applied to grief from baseball loss anyway.
Regardless I think it’s safe to say that what I am experiencing right now is denial, channel surfing for a substitute and then trying to behave as though that substitute were the real thing. The MLB All-Stars vs. Taiwan games. The Arizona Fall League. Heck, I’m even watching the darned awards shows on MLBN, something I would not normally be inclined to do. La la la! Look it’s still baseball. La la la…except, really, it’s not. Well, not the same anyway. *sigh*
I tried to get excited over the MLB All-Stars in Taiwan, really I did. They featured a great bunch of players and Erick Aybar, Trevor Bell, Rich Thompson and the rest of the Angels players made a strong showing for their team, but when it came right down to it, the games were only so so.
As for the awards shows and the like, I love that Mark Trumbo won the Player’s Choice Award for AL Rookie of the Year. I’m thrilled that players all over the league saw in Trumbo the same amazing things that Angels and Angels fans have been seeing in him all season. On base percentage be damned, the kid is doing great things with his bat and with his glove. But in the end an awards show isn’t a baseball game. It’s more like a visual aid for a press release about baseball with a few fun, extended interviews included.
And the AFL Rising Stars Game? Mike Trout is clearly tired and probably should get some rest before spring training or, as I said to crack up Seth, Awww, the poor little guy’s all tuckered out. And it was a boring blow out of a game with the kind of play one would expect from rising stars who are a mix of fresh from rookie ball young players and recent rookie call-ups. No offense to the kids, but in the end I turned it off thinking I could probably get a better baseball fix watching Major League. I did. Even if it was edited in truly silly ways for basic cable.
Eh, I suppose I really am being a bit of a baby about this. I mean, existing without baseball will get easier as fall and winter wear on and Spring Training isn’t that far away, right? I mean it’s only, what? 70-ish…? *reaches for calendar* 80-something…? *begins counting on calendar* 90, 91…?! La la la! I resolve to stop counting and be in denial about this too! La la la.
* * * * *
On an even sillier note, if anything finally drives me from my denial it may very well be the weather. It just doesn’t winter-rainstorm-downpour in Southern California during baseball season once you get past April. Yet it was coming down hard all day Friday and all evening as we watched the game in Taiwan. Yes, rain in Southern California. Look! Photographic evidence from my very own porch:
Of course then, Southern California being what it is, the weather got all gorgeous again the very next day, though when the rainy season starts in earnest this can take several days :
But it is raining again today. Really, really.
A lot has gone on in baseball the last couple of days. I’d love to explain it all, but there is no time. Let me sum up.
Erick Aybar. Gold Glove winner. Congratulations! I have to say, that was a little unexpected. Pleasantly so, don’t get me wrong. He’s got the glove. He’s got the arm. He’s got that oh my God! ability to turn two when he shouldn’t even have been able to turn one with where he had to go to get the ball. He just also has that oh my God! ability to completely forget what to do with the ball a couple of games a season. That was the source of my surprise, not any lack of ability. I will say this though, because I know there are a lot of naysayers out there griping about Aybar winning the Gold Glove. Who votes on the award? Managers and coaches. Managers and coaches who apparently routinely drool over Aybar because folks keep offering to trade us for him. And I think that had a lot do with the voting. Not statistics, traditional, saber or otherwise, but what the coaches and managers saw with their own eyes.
And can I just tell you how happy I was to see not one, not two but four Angels make it to the top three for Gold Glove consideration? And with real shots a winning, too, unlike last season. I think that under the old format, Peter Bourjos might have won or come in a close 4th. And I think that Dan Haren should have won, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, this is one more reminder that while 2011 was not everything we hoped it would be, it was still forward progress over 2010.
As far as the Dodgers three Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger Awards go, I have to say, I was almost as excited to hear that as I was to hear about Aybar. As bad as some of us think our teams need good news? The Dodgers needed it more. A lot more. And Frank McCourt finally realizing that he needed to sell the Dodgers? Yaaaaaaaaaaay!! But, “I believe it is in the best interests of our organization, our loyal fans and the community at large.”? Really Frank? Wow. What a brilliant conclusion. However did you come to it? And what took you so f’n long you selfish asshat! Perhaps he finally noticed all of trick-or-treaters in his neighborhood this season clad in traditional Los Angeles “Frank McCourt as an evil, delusional, lifeforce sucking demon” costumes?
Not unexpected at all, however? No Angels were nominated for the Sliver Slugger Award. I know. You are all shocked, right? It’s okay. Maybe Dipoto can help us fix that for next season…or, you know, Mark Trumbo. I hope, I hope, I hope. And there’s always the possibility Kendrys Morales will be back…and in playing shape…and pick up where he left off with his bat…soon enough in the season to make a difference…and…and…hey! It could totally happen. This is baseball. Much like a team coming from 10 games behind in the Wild Card Race to win the World Series, anything is possible.
Then there’s the free agent free for all about to take off. Talk about stress…for other fans that is. As far as Angels free agents go, forget stressing over it. Joel Pineiro? Scott Kazmir? Fernando Rodney? Please, that right there is a recipe for stress relief. *clink, clink, clink* I would like to propose a toast to our soon to be departed free agent signing failures. Gentlemen, may you richly enjoy your new homes, far, far from Anaheim. And, while I wish you all well, if you suddenly have a Mike Napoli like transformation, especially one that helps knock us out of the post season that I then have to hear about. All. October. Long. Please understand that I’m going to take it poorly. Slainte!
And then there’s the Cubs! But this is long enough already. I will leave that for folks far more up on all things National League than I to discuss.