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!
Were you aware that, in addition to being MLB “berth” month, September is both National Wine Month and National Bourbon Month? Whether or not this is coincidence, I can’t help but feel it’s appropriate…unlike some of those other special monthly designations like National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Month (thanks, but weren’t we all aware of alcohol in college, like extremely aware) and National Pork Month (I’m not entirely certain if this is more of a food thing or an offshoot of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness thing but I was hesitant to see what the internets would tell me if I looked it up. You understand, I’m sure.) I can really get behind this September last month of baseball/alcohol appreciation tie-in thing. Suitable for comfort or celebrations, alcohol pairs wonderfully with all of your September needs. But I digress…
So, the Angels lost to the A’s and now have a big old E next to their name in the AL West, the last team to fall prey to the dreaded E, though time zone bias did play a role in that. After the loss to the Jays especially, I was expecting this eventually. I am even glad it happened early enough to avoid having to watch Texas celebrate on our infield when I go to the game on Monday, but that doesn’t mean I am happy about it in general, you understand. Even so, Friday night was a good night at the ballpark if for no other reason than aren’t they always?
Fresh off a start on three days’ rest, Jered Weaver was a little overly strong in the first inning, giving up a homerun to Jemile Weeks in the first at bat and hitting Josh Willingham before settling down for six scoreless innings. Really, with 3 runs, only two of them earned, on 6 hits and 0 walks with 8 strikeouts? Weaver pitched well enough to win.
The bullpen, shown here largely in goofier relaxed moments, was solid too with Rich Thompson coming in to record the last two outs in two batters in the 9th.
Sadly, Gio Gonzales was on and, as usual, largely incomprehensible to the Angels while our bats remained…Inert? Immobile? Stuck in customs? Whatever the reason, the team only cobbled together three hits while stranding 10 guys on base, only one of whom (outside of Torii’s solo homerun) actually made it all the way to third. You don’t win ballgames that way, especially against the A’s who, regardless of what their record says this season, can and will make a team pay for mistakes…mistakes like our boneheaded fielding error in the 8th, for example.*face palm*
I was disappointed with the loss to be sure, but accepted what was, at this point in the season, inevitable. I reminded myself that I had enjoyed a lot of the season, had enjoyed this evening out at the ballpark and that the Angels still had a small shot at clenching the wild card. And so I began to watch the final Friday Night Fireworks post game show of the season only somewhat deflated. And I was fine. Really adult about all of it. It’s only baseball, right? …right up until the bouncy Beach Boys soundtrack ended and the next wave of beautiful fireworks launched to the tune of Train’s Calling All Angels. Then the distinct explosions of glittering color blurred into an impressionist knock off of blue and red swirled with green, purple and yellow as tears welled up in my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks.
I am not proud of this fact. I am 35 years old and this was a baseball season, one of many near playoff misses I have witnessed in my lifetime. But…there was a wonderful quote that prefaced the broadcast of the 2010 All Star Game in Anaheim. I have searched and searched today, trying to find the exact quote, but the Interwebs have failed me. The gist of the quote is that baseball is a child’s game and when we watch the game we do so through a child’s eyes and with a child’s glee and so, for the span of a game, can remember however briefly the wonder and innocence of being a child. Baseball always fills me with a child’s excitement and glee, so looking back on last night I think it’s only appropriate that, for a few moments, it filled me with a child’s disappointment, raw and unencumbered by any need to put on a brave face and act the adult.
Ten minutes later and on into today, I have prospective and am back to disappointed but not crushed. Still, for those of us who do embody the quote I can’t find when around this pastime we adore, I think it’s important to embrace and acknowledge this side of ourselves. Even if it means admitting that all too often there absolutely is crying in baseball, this is also the side that allows us to experience unrestrained and darned near unreasonable joy over the feats of 25 men we don’t know on a field of grass, clay and chalk. The side of us that allows us to, for example, cheer again the very next day after a division elimination while we return to torturing ourselves with Wild Card elimination number math. I think it’s the child side balanced with the adult that allows me to laugh when I am happy and search for reasons to laugh even harder when I am disappointed or upset. To that end, I give you the rest of the photos I have selected from the game, all photos that made me laugh for one reason or another:
And, hey, good news this evening! A stronger Angels performance earned a victory while the Red Sox lost to the Yankees…and the Rays won too but what can you do? The Angels also announced their team awards. Congratulations to Jered Weaver for winning the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year award and to Mark Trumbo for the team M.V.P. award – neither a surprise and both extremely well deserved!! So, onward to the last four games of the season and hopefully the last four wins of the season. I am all for the Angels finishing the season as strong as they can whether that means a miracle Wild Card Playoff berth or just a final record that’s that much better.
And a September Simon Says is pretty much what I expected for the Angels push to catch up with those wily Rangers in this season’s wild, wild, a wee bit wilder than usual in fact, AL West. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss was frustrating. All those errors! Ugh! But Monday night’s win, with the Angels’ bats rising to the occasion to pick up Dan Haren, was glorious and this evening’s come from behind win was exhilarating, if a bit more exciting than strictly necessary. And, with Texas unable to do much against the pitching firm of Shields and Price – love that fan cave bit! – the Angels have gained one precious game on them, shrinking Texas’ lead to a mere 2.5 games.
September is still young and I predict a lot more Simon Says-style steps forward and back in the standings before all is said and done. So hang on to your hats and glasses, Angels fans. I think this rollercoaster of a season is going to come down to the last three games when the Angels and Rangers clash in Anaheim, don’t you? In the mean time, what better place is there to soak in all the excitement of the closest division race of the season than the Big A? (Sorry New York and Boston. Yes, I am aware that your division race is closer, and that the end result is extremely important to you, but for the rest of us? It’s not that big a deal. We already know you’re both going to the playoffs.) Of course, I won’t be able to attend as many games as I want to this month, but I plan on heading out to the ballgame as often as my wallet and a very understanding boss will allow. Seth and I started with Monday’s game.
As I mentioned, this was not Dan Haren’s best night by any means. But like the veteran workhorse he is, he battled and kept the Angels in the game. And, like Jered Weaver in his equally turbulent Saturday start, this guy has lost pretty so many times this season, he deserved to be able to win ugly this time. It didn’t hurt that he was facing off against a rookie and that the Angels graciously decided not to make this rookie look like Cy Young award winner.
In both team’s cases, the relievers actually fared better than the starters. Kudos to Bobby Cassevah and Hisanori Takehashi for maintaining the lead. And while I certainly haven’t spoken with either reliever, somehow I am sure that in return they say kudos to the Angels offense for not handing them yet another one-run lead.
For the Angels offense truly was the key to this game. It was a thing of beauty! You couldn’t keep them off the base paths, a trend that absolutely must continue this month if they’re going to catch the Rangers. I say that it’s all well and good to rest a few bats here and there but, unlike Tuesday’s game, multiple bats should not be rested at the same time and when say Howie or Trout is sitting out the game, if his replacement isn’t getting it done in the field or at the plate they should be replaced in inning three or four, not inning nine. How about it Sosh, what do you say?
The future is now! Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Watching these rookies (and near rookie) come up to the big leagues and into their own while breathing new life into the veteran players has made my season. Seeing Trout and Bourjos in the same outfield a year early makes me giddy every time I their names in the lineup. And between the Trumbomb, Trumbo and Bourjos’ doubles and Bourjos and Trout’s speed everywhere, all three players had an excellent night.
Trout did miss robbing a Seattle homerun that several of the fans thought he should have caught. From my vantage less than 30 feet away, he would have had to dive into the 4th row to catch the ball. He’s good, but that wasn’t happening. Besides, as Seth and I joked afterwards, judging from the number of hits I get on this blog for “Peter Bourjos Butt,” “Mike Trout Butt” and even “(insert name of Angels rookie of choice here) naked” when there ain’t no booty shots here to be found (so you know that number of actual searches using these terms is exponentially larger), I think it’s safe to say that the young women (and likely some of the young men) of Orange County have…um…shall we say…caught Angels rookie fever. If young Trout were to sail into the stands, they might try to keep him for a souvenir.
Mariners outfielders Mike Carp and Trayvon Robinson warm up between innings. The Angels are not the only team hoping to benefit from a youth uprising. Both young players have looked very good, at least against the Angels. Can an influx of young blood help lead the Mariners to a winning season in 2012? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. Personally, now that we’ve knocked them to elimination, I would love to see the Mariners start an amazing winning streak immediately. You know, really take their bad season agressions out on the Rangers…hey, a girl can dream.
And now for something completely silly…the Angels wonderfully goofy production staff has started airing short Q&A’s with the players on improbable topics in between innings. This evening’s fodder? ‘How many Jersey Shore kids can you name?’ and ‘Team Edward or Team Jacob?’ Needless to say, these are hardworking professional baseball players, not pre-teen girls. In most cases they didn’t even understand the questions, with humorous results. Ervin Santana’s expression shown below was the funniest, but Joel Pineiro with his “Is that the show with that chick that looks like a poodle?” had the best answer. Though Torii was pretty funny too. He scoffed at Twilight (though he did know what it was – he has teenagers after all) and said they should be asking him about “man” movies. When the reporter obliged and asked what his favorite action movie was, he was so taken aback that he sputtered and laughed at himself because he could not think of a single one.
And, let us not forget, rookie call-ups mean more rookie backpacks:
Weaver Pitches 7 Shutout Innings to lead the Angels to their 6th Victory While the Ink Dries on His Brand, Spanking New Contract
We were not going to go to a game this week. Yes, we had originally planned on going to Tuesday night’s game, but then the unexpected trip to Yosemite came up and it just seemed like too many things…Until Jered Weaver’s press conference. I think Weaver got a great deal from the Angels. But at the same time, I am as touched as everyone else that he didn’t wait to shop around as a free agent, potentially leaving significant dollars on the table to stay with the organization he grew up with.
Listening to the press conference on the radio at lunch on Tuesday and hearing Weaver say, with warmth and tears in his voice, ‘I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else but here,’ ‘How much more money do you really need?’ and ‘Watching all of the Angels alumni return to throw out first pitches for the 50th, I want to be part of that brotherhood.’ I was thrilled. I was proud. I was moved. Heck, I even shed a few tears myself. There’s just something about tough guys being moved to tears that causes a few of my own to roll down my face in sympathy. And suddenly, I really wanted to go the game on Wednesday and be part of the crowd cheering our admiration and thank yous when Weaver took the mound for his next start. I can’t imagine sharing that with my non baseball fan friends. It’s not like I know the guy, or much of anything about him outside of baseball. So I know they wouldn’t understand needing to go to the game at that point in the slightest. But at the same time, I’m certain you all get it.
Reason #3,987,542 (give or take, it’s a really long list!) my husband is the best ever? When I texted that I after listening to the press conference I wanted to go Wednesday’s game after all. Could we go if I could find cheap tickets? He responded almost instantly with a ‘Yes, please.’ He was listening to the press conference too. So, many, many thanks to the Angels fans who decided to part with club level seats for $10 each. Were it not for the generosity and/or last minute changes in plans of fans such as yourself, I would sit at home a lot more often than I do.
So, long story somewhat truncated, we got to see the Angels mini-sweep the White Sox (I just can’t think of a two game series as a full series, sorry!), winning their sixth game in a row. The whole evening was perfect. We even got to the game in time to check out some of the warm ups which with our jobs and So Cal traffic, never happens:
The Angels bats went on a terror and guys found ways to get and base and score in a welcome trend I hope to see continue into the fall:
We saw seven Jered Weaver shutout innings followed by shutout innings from Bobby Cassevash and Fernando Rodney – note, he isn’t coming in when it counts. Smart. Very smart:
And I got to see one iteration of my dream Peter Bourjos/Mike Trout outfield live and in person for an entire inning once Trout pinch hit for Vernon Wells in the 8th. Trout promptly knocked the ball into left field for his first big league pinch hit. So many firsts! *sniffles* Our baby’s growing up so fast! :
From our vantage, we even caught random goofiness in the bullpens…or, invoking the Roger Rabbit Only When it’s Funny Clause, chose to infer random goofiness:
And then, there was this. I hate the kiss cam. In fact, I think it’s so stupid and pointless that until you all set me straight, I assumed it was a uniquely So Cal thing. We So Cal folk seem to need our beach balls and other lame distractions at perfectly good baseball games *rolls eyes* so it made a disturbing sort of sense. However, this season cheeky humor has arrived at the Big A. Finally, the sound guys have caught up with the times and play sarcastic music and sound effects when the visiting team strikes out, has a meeting on the mound…you know, like other teams do. In keeping with this sense of fun, the camera folks have continued their goofiness with the Kiss Cam’s last victims each evening from where they left off with the Indians Bullpen back in April. The visitor’s bullpen is a common target, as is the visitor’s dugout – an injured Evan Longoria blowing kisses at the camera from his perch on the rail was a high point. But announcers, programmers and sound crew from visiting and home team alike aren’t guaranteed a pass either. By now, this is a sufficiently well known prank that the victims usually play along, increasing the humor value considerably. The White Sox bullpen was no exception:
And, of course, all’s well that ends well. Light that baby up! Hey, Shakespeare wrote it…except, you know, for that Angels-centric part there…and now you can read it on the Internets, so it absolutely has to be true:
Now, let’s do it again, but in Texas shall we? I am so excited for this series! Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver are both even pitching on short rest to help get it done. Clearly the Angels are feeling extra competitive and I love it!
The 2011 Angels can’t score to save their lives and they can’t hit when it counts. Veteran bats have only come alive in alternating streaks all season – much like Torii Hunter’s slumbering bat waking with a vengeance into his current 15-game hitting streak – and the rookies and the gap hitters are pretty much carrying the line-up. The problem with that is that we can get guys on base, but we can’t bring them home, facts I haven’t shied away from mentioning all season.
And yet, the Angels have been in the thick of the division race, winning series and beating top teams all season long pretty much on the strength of their pitching and fielding alone. Two weeks ago, we were a mere game out of first place! So what happens when the pitching inevitably falters for a few games? Last week happens, with the disastrous road trip to Toronto and the Bronx. And if the fielding gets lax too? Well, then you have what could have been a season making series against the Texas Rangers turn into what we’ve seen on the field instead the last few days – something that could very well be season breaking if the Angels don’t pull it together and play their hearts out from tonight on through the rest of the season.
Another end result is that I, consummate baseball optimist, constant cheerleader and the self-proclaimed Pollyanna of Angels baseball actually started to despair for a few minutes Tuesday night. Tuesday was my husband’s birthday and his boss gave him the company seats, the OMG! company seats, on the field, in the first section on the dangerous side of the home plate screens, 10 rows back from the action. Awesome boss, yes? But sitting there, seemingly inches from the field, watching Erick Aybar lazily glance at the second playable line drive in as many innings shoot uncontested into the outfield for extra bases, in a game where our young starter was clearly struggling and needed all the backup he could get, I thought, “Well, that’s it then. If the Angels have just given up, the season is over.”
In fact, I think I waited this long to post our photos from the game, indeed anything about the Rangers series, in the hopes that Wednesday would give me something more cheerful to talk about. No dice. At least the lollygagging fielding was over by Wednesday, but not the gaffs. Balls were being thrown all kinds of places that weren’t anywhere near a glove. Erick Aybar decided to make an effort again for us Wednesday, but alternated between not being able to keep balls in his glove and not being able to get them out in time to actually throw them – which given the throwing situation might, in hindsight, have been a blessing in disguise, I don’t know – all night. Santana pitched a great game, but with the usual insufficient run support, and now with insufficient defense, it’s no surprise we lost.
So, are we done? The commentators all seem to think so. This was an important series, no doubt about it. We could be. If we can pull tonight off, we’re still six games out of first place in mid-August and that’s a tall order. But I did say my moment of despair was brief and, like it’s underlying message, I’m not giving up unless the Angels have given up…and even then I probably won’t give up unless winning becomes a mathematical impossibility, not a mere improbability, an impossibility. I’m stubborn like that. Monday and Tuesday notwithstanding, I don’t think the Angels have given up. Wednesday they still played badly but there were improvements – our pitching was back on track and the defense was at least hustling. And, here’s the thing. We were only one game out of first two weeks ago with only a handful of head to head games against the Rangers under our belt. We have seven more coming up including tonight. So, come on Angels, this division just got a whole lot tougher, but it’s still winnable.
So, tonight and going forward through August and September, we need to see a lot less of this – big bats taking knocking our pitching for extra bases -:
And a lot more of this, namely Angels in scoring position who then actually score and Angels on the base paths who just earned RBIs. And, I know I’m being extra, extra demanding here, but how about in several of the innings leading up to the 9th inning too?:
We need to start hitting pitchers who are hittable, and not right into double plays either. Derek Holland pitched a good game, but he was hittable:
No more injuries please!!! Everyone stay healthy:
It’s unfair to but so much pressure on our starting pitching, but that’s just the way things are this season, especially with the #4 spot in the rotation in such a state of flux, the rest of the rotation needs to be lights out as often as possible. With Garrett Richards unfortunately timed injury, they’re reinstating Joel Pineiro as a starter…oooooh boy. I just don’t know about that one. Prove me wrong, okay Joel? And the bullpen needs to be equally spot on. So why did we send this guy back to AAA?:
And why do we keep putting this guy in, in crucial situations? Tuesday was fine. Fernando Rodney pitches best when we’re already behind and don’t want to fall further behind, but I still don’t like seeing him take the mound:
And the fielding needs to be error free and full of hustle:
Forgive me comissioner, for I have sinned. It’s been three weeks since my last Angels’ Stadium session…Hey, church of baseball and all that.
Yes, Seth and I had our fair share of baseball on vacation, but it had been three weeks since we last visited the Big A. For this reason, and just plain not wanting to waste tickets, we arrived at the game on Tuesday night. Even though he had a loan customer right at closing, I was writing on deadline and the copy wasn’t flowing, and we both left work about 15 minutes before first pitch. Even though I was worried I would spend the whole game with attempts to describe open enrollment and systems migrations creatively percolating ineffectively in my brain. Even though the game was flying so quickly we arrived in the bottom of the 4th inning…ouch! Even though, I was still going to have to get on the computer and write some more when we got home.
Here’s the funny thing about all of those worries and even thoughs, they tend to vanish once I walk inside a ballpark. For me it starts with the excitement of the fans as you walk through the gates, especially the younger children who are literally bouncing and wiggling with excitement. But the best part of that initial “I’m at the ballpark!” sensation is the first glimpse of the field from the concourse. The perfect green of the grass, the deep red of the clay and the bustle of the players, moving with the crack of the bat, all lit so brightly that it almost seems unreal, like a movie set. Gorgeous! Yes, I did have to write until after midnight when I got home, but getting to take in even the last five innings of the game was completely worth it, and I knew that the minute I saw the diamond peeking at us over the rows of field seats.
Mark Trumbo takes a swing (no, not that swing, but a good looking swing even so). Immediately after seeing that gorgeous green, Mark Trumbo blasted a Trumbomb an estimated 457 feet into centerfield. You know, just in case we had any lingering doubts about our decision to head for the ballpark. We cheered and whooped with packs of Angels fans along the concourse as we headed for our seats. And can I just say how much fun it is to hear the folks at MLBN picking up the term Trumbomb from Angels fans and giving this young man some well deserved recognition.
Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (to the left) said. Grin away, Mark! That was homerun number 20. He has a serious shot at beating Tim Salmon’s club rookie homerun record of 31.
Sunset over the Angels scoreboard. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was also a beautiful night and just the right temperature for an evening out at the ballpark.
Ervin Santana had another dominant outing on the mound. It wasn’t a no-hitter. He started out a little wild, walking the first batter, Denard Span, on four pitches. And I was getting antsy listening on the radio on my way down to Anaheim. But Santana quickly got everything under control, eventually delivering a complete game, five to one win.
“Well, I figured I would throw strikes and you guys would provide error-less defensive backup.” Of course, I have no idea what Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar really said out there, and I’m sure that whatever it was it was it was much more strategic, but my inner imp of the perverse must speculate. Bobby Wilson had a strong game on both sides of the plate. I was sorry to see Hank Conger go back to AAA, though I think it’s probably for the best in terms of playing time and Hank getting his swing back. But getting to see Bobby play more and have the chance to shine is a nice consolation. Bobby and Jeff Mathis are supposed to split the catching duties at least until September call-ups.
Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. I always enjoy watching Duensing pitch – especially when we’re hitting him! His delivery, with that high pointed toe kick, is like a ballet dancer – all grace, control and strength. I don’t think he pitched badly so much as the Angels just had his number this time out…which was refreshing after last season, let me tell you.
Torii Hunter takes a strong swing. Not to be outdone, Mr. Hunter took one deep for a solo homerun in the very next inning. I like this kind of competition. Come on guys, everyone try to keep up with Trumbo!
The team congratulates Torii Hunter after his homerun! Can I just tell you how weird it was to see Bench Coach Rob Picciolo setting at Mike Scioscia’s desk? Or rather at the desk where Mike Scioscia sometimes hovers briefly while he wanders from the rail to the bench and back again? Scioscia is not protesting the one-game suspension meted out in response to Sunday’s Tigers game firewoks, and served his sentence inmmediately, missing this game. On the way to the game I teased Seth that of course we knew the Angels would win this one. Scioscia’s bench coaches always have a perfect record.
Dan Haren and Jered Weaver have a long chat in the dugout. They were laughing earlier in the inning, though they look serious here. I wish Haren had talked Weave out of appealing the suspension, if they even discussed it. I think appealing the decision is just more posturing. He isn’t going to get to duck missing one start and it would be a lot better for the team if Weave missed this weekend’s start against the Mariners instead of a later start against the much tougher Blue Jays or our pesky division rivals the Rangers, just one game ahead of us at the moment.
Joe Mauer at bat and out at first. I’m not going to lie, I have a soft spot for the Twins. Playing the Twins is like playing old friends…old friends that you really want to beat handily, of course. I like a lot of the players on the team. I usually wind up rooting for them in the post season when they outlast the Angels, etc. It was nice to see Mauer playing again, and as catcher too at that. He even got a hit, though I was only pleased for that after the game and only then because it didn’t lead to any runs.
Such a first baseman! By which I mean both of them, of course. Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reaches first, offering strong anecdotal evidence in support of the Chatty Cathy/First Baseman stereotype. The friendly conversation to total game face in a split second conversion always amuses me.
Cuddyer chats with Erick Aybar when he reaches second too. Yes, this is the same inning. Okay, so Cuddyer is clearly the chattier Cathy, but he’s been a first baseman longer. He knows more people. Give Trumbo time.
Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar hang out in the dugout during an Angels at bat. This photo amuses me for two reasons. First, this particular perch seems to be a coveted spot that almost always goes to the pitchers, but for whatever reason the position players got it this game. And two, Jeff Mathis appears to be either giving or receiving hitting advice…no offense Jeff, but I really hope it was the latter.
Vernon Wells is out at first in the 8th inning. Wells had a fine game. He went two for three, walked and scored a run. But I liked the way this photo turned out the best, so there it is.
And as for this evening’s debacle? After four bad starts, I am officially worried that Joel Pineiro has lost hissinker ball to an extant that may be hard to recover from this season…and don’t think my Kaz scars have healed sufficiently that I’m not jumping to dark thoughts about his abilities next season as well. However, as the title of this post suggests, I don’t want to talk about that right now.
First things first – Welcome back from the All Star Break in style Angels!!! Okay, okay. So the Angels’ All Star Break lasted a little longer than that of most other teams…pretty much until Wednesday, round about the 3rd inning actually. But after a crazy comeback win against the Rangers Wednesday and shutting the Rangers out on Thursday, I think I can cut the Angels some slack. After all, who among us hasn’t experienced “vacation lag”? I know I’m experiencing it this week!
So, about that vacation. We wrapped up the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with a visit to the beautiful and luxurious AT&T Park on Monday night to take in the Giants vs. Dodgers game. And if I was late enough to the game that I missed first pitch, so were all of these fine folks. Hmmm…I think L.A. has been unjustly maligned on this point :
Late for the game? How does this happen on vacation? We went for a bike ride late Monday morning on the Marsh Creek trail in Pittsburgh, CA, along marshes and canals off of San Francisco Bay. It was so beautiful and fun that we didn’t hit the car again until 24 miles and a few hours later. So much for catching batting practice, but darned if we didn’t have a blast:
AT&T Park is gorgeous, from the front gates to the seating areas to the view out over the right field all to the tops of ships in McCovey Cove.:
My college friend and his partner, Giants fans, both, accompanied us to the game and clued us in to some of AT&T Park’s finer details. For example, I had no idea that the grates in right field are open to the public walk that runs between the stadium and McCovey Cove. Fans strolling by are invited to stand and watch some of the game free of charge. Very cool:
There is not a bad seat in the house, certainly not our second row seats in the club section just above left field – vacations are for splurges after all! And there are lots of fan friendly touches in the seating sections. Club section ushers politely only allow fans past the doors to their seats in between plays and at bats, so seated fans don’t miss a pitch. In the outfield “bleachers” there are wide, lower concourses in front of the seats, so fans can pass by without blocking anyone’s view.:
If the Coliseum is no frills, AT&T Park is all frills possible. The food is phenomenal and there is quite a diverse selection. And in the club section, there are full bars with actual bartenders! I ordered an Irish coffee to keep the chill away in the later innings, and the bartender wisely never touched the Bailey’s while preparing my drink. Eureka!
Though I was amused to note that for all its frills, AT&T Park is still a mixed use facility. Note that from this vantage, in a different uniform, Cody Ross could be playing goalie:
Being on vacation, I was really out of the loop on trade news. Imagine my surprise, when this friendly face appeared on the Jumbotron in Dodger Blue. Welcome back to sunny Southern California, Juan, and best of luck to you!
When you’re not really cheering for either side, a competitive game is the most fun to watch, and this game was better than the 5 to 0 shutout score would lead one to believe. The Dodgers made a couple of really good plays and had several strong hits, but just couldn’t string any of it together long enough to get on the board. The Giants played very well throughout.:
So with all of this wonderfulness, were there any drawbacks AT&T Park? Just one actually, and it really surprised me. I love Giants fans. I went to the Bay Area to stay with and attend the game with two of them. I have rabid Giants fans in my family. I attended playoff parties with scores of them in Paso Robles and count several in their number as friends but, oh my goodness, when they all get together in one large group at AT&T Park, an awful lot of them choose to be dicks. In the club section for crying out loud! Not in the “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious but can’t name more than a handful of players on the team” section. Now I don’t know where the “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious but can’t name more than a handful of players on the team” section is at AT&T Park, but they must have one. All ballparks have one. We certainly do.
I am not some delicate flower that cannot cope with heckling. Hello, how much time do I spend at the ballpark? Cheering. Heckling. Being passionate for your team. All are very important, traditional parts of the game for home fans and visiting fans alike. But isn’t it supposed to stay in the stands? In my experience at the Big A with rival fans and walking through Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum in Angels gear, the concourse, the bathrooms, the food stands, the ticket lines, etc, are all neutral ground, free from any of the fan on fan heckling that may or may not be going on in the seats.
Not so at AT&T Park. Walking through the concourse on the club level, past the carving station, the full bar and other wonders, Seth turned to me with a huge smile and said, Wow, this makes the club level in Anaheim look pretty plain. And he’s right. I love the Big A, but it is nowhere near this luxurious. A random Giants fan heard us and said loudly, that’s because the Angels suck as his friends all nodded and laughed and it wasn’t friendly laughter. Really? We weren’t even talking to him. “Not when they play the Giants…not in 2002.” Well that wasn’t nearly as funny, apparently, and the group of them quickly dispersed.
Random jerks and an isolated incident, right? Well, not for the Dodgers fans in attendance. I saw three separate instances of lone Dodger fans being heckled, and not in a “we’re friends who came together and are giving each other grief” way either, by small groups of Giants fans while we walked to our seats. I saw more instances later. On the concourse! On the club level!! For all I know, this goes on in reverse at Dodgers stadium, outside of the aforementioned “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious…” section. But the impression I got is that some Giants fans are wearing their new World Series title a lot more gracefully than others.
I’m not saying that the Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown mean kids “We’re number one! We’re number one!” vibe ruined my trip to the ball park. I had an amazing time. What I am saying is that amenities are lovely, frills make any experience that much more special, and given the chance to return to AT&T Park again as a baseball fan with no real ties to either team, as I did on this occasion, I would do so in a heartbeat. But as for attending a game as an out of town fan of the visiting team? I’d take the Coliseum over AT&T Park any day.
Of course, I would have dearly loved to amend Ernie Banks’ famous quote to let’s win two for this post but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not in the double header and not even in the series. Ouch. Seriously, did you see Sunday’s score?! Ouch!
With the Angels entering the All Star Break on such a roll, we didn’t really want to break just then. And then coming back from the break to Peter Bourjos moving from day to day status to the DL until the 23rd and Vernon Wells too ill to start? Suffice to say, it was not a recipe for success. However, it was not a guaranteed disaster either, despite the eventual outcome. No, the Angels old “friends”, lack of RISP and difficulty getting the third out, played a large roll here too. Whatever is going on, the Angels need to get it together by Tuesday, because Texas is coming to town and we can’t lose any more series in our division right now or things just went from hard to really darned difficult in a hurry.
But back to that double header part. Single admission. Double header. On Saturday in Oakland. Who could resist the old fashioned allure of a draw like that? Not this girl. Saturday I was at the Coliseum bright and early with my husband and a good friend from college, ready to continue the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with 18 innings of baseball…which turned into 19 by the end. It was a great day at the ballpark indeed. The weather was mild, our seats were excellent and we were seated in good company with just enough red nearby to not feel like we were cheering alone.
First, a note about the A’s ballpark. I heard horror stories before I headed up here and I have to say that’s really not fair. No one is ever going to put the Coliseum on their list of top 10 ballparks. It’s a no frills, mixed use facility, but those are the only problems with it. The park was clean, the seats were comfortable, most seats appear to have a good view of the field and we bought black and tans for only $8.25. Suffice to say no frills was far from uncomfortable. The no frills part does mean there weren’t a lot of unique regional specialities in the food court but we enjoyed polish sausage rolls, corn dogs and nachos – hey, it was a doule header. Nine hours at the ballpark. Don’t judge me. And even though the drawbacks of a mixed use facility are odd shaped seating and fields and still being able to see the lines from the previous week’s soccer match on the field, it’s still a baseball field, the most gorgeous shade of green in the world:
Besides, in Oakland, instances of the wave were blessedly few and far between and no one, seriously no one, bounced stupid beach balls around the stadium. Angels fans, take note. Please! Also, I don’t know what the players think of them, but as a fan I really liked seeing the old fashioned, on the field, open bullpens and dugouts for a change:
I took advantage of those on the field bullpens when I bought our tickets – on the field, 12 rows behind the mound in the Angels’ bullpen. It was a lot of fun to see the bullpen warmups up close:
It was also a lot of fun to have a good vantage for so many of the serious warm-ups, hanging out and general goofing around that goes on before a game. I’ve included more photos of that than game photos this time because, well, they’re fun and I don’t often have the opportunity:
And, of course, the games weren’t without their fair share of derring do. Jered Weaver was, well, Jered Weaver. Ervin Santana was shakey but kept it together. The bullpen was great. We had great hits, notably from Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and – yay! -from Mike Trout. We made some great plays too. With a few less stranded runners in the second game, who knows?:
If only the Angels had won the second game, it would have been a perfect day…and I’m sorry to say that as good a time as I had, I am not a good enough sport to have left the ballpark in perfectly high spirits after losing the second game. One great win, a near win and an amazing time at a double header should have been enough…but they weren’t quite, not for a perfectly gleeful mood. I still had a lot of fun, mind you. But it’s hard not to feel just a little but deflated even so. The A’s, or better yet the Angels, have to, have to, have to do this again next season. Have to!
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Outside of baseball, coming up to the Bay Area and hanging out with friends from college has a lovely feel of both fun in the here and now and nostalgia to it. I was definitely ready to start the rest of my life and move on from college once it was over, but those were four very fun years. Getting the band back together, as it were, for a few nights of fun however does remind me of a few things I miss, like the ability to spend long periods of time just hanging out…and that wonderful sense of possibility you feel when you know you’re smart and willing to work your butt off and life has yet to hand you any real beat downs…well, that, and the ability to be fully functional after three hours of sleep and 1/3 or so of a 1/5 of something tasty.
Next Post: the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza concludes with a trip to AT&T Park for a Giants vs. Dodgers game.
Sweeping the Mariners in a four game series was a most fitting way for the Angels to head into the All Star Break. After all, it was series win over the Mariners at the beginning of the epic Four Corners Road Trip that helped June’s struggling Angels turn it around and embark on a 19 and 6 streak. During the Angels reign of terror through the National League and back again, bats were discovered, starting pitchers delivered gems, bullpen pitchers delivered holds and saves a plenty and a talented nineteen-year old number one prospect made his Angels debut. I attended Saturday’s nine to three victory and hd a blast watching our guys do their thing and the kid fitting right in…you know, with all of the other Angels kids.
Yes, with Peter Bourjos’ unfortunate hamstring strain late in Thursday’s game, Trout-mas came early to Anaheim this year. No, Mike Trout did not knock two grandslam homeruns in his first game or singlehandedly field every single ball that made it to the grass as the increasingly outrageous hype surrounding this talented young man might have lead one to believe. But what he did do was get a hit and an RBI in his second game in the show. Show off his speed on the base paths and in the outfield. He did display a rookie’s hesitancy on several plays, which is to be expected, but more than made up for it with one highlight reel, game saving catch and several other catches of varying difficulty and generally charm the heck out of Angels fans everywhere with the joy he takes in the game and his pleasure at just being called up.
So what is my assessment of the lad? I am really pleased. I think he’s extremely talented and a stellar future corner outfielder. Corner outfielder? What’s that you say? Yep. You read that right. Trout can fly and dive and catch but no more so than our current future Gold Glove centerfielder (if not this season then soon) Peter Bourjos. And Bourjos has a strong, sure arm while Trout…well he doesn’t have Johnny Damon’s arm or anything, but baring some serious improvement, it isn’t strong enough for centerfield. Still, the thought of an outfield in 2012 or 2013 with Bourjos in center and Trout in left gives me goosebumps thinking of all the extra base hits they will rob. And although he didn’t really get piece of one this series, Trout has more of an extra base hits bat than Bourjos so they will complement one another nicely in that regard as well…as they blaze around the basepaths forcing errors left and right. To wax Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom-ish for a moment: My God, it will be beautiful!
But for this season, once Bourjos is back in shape, I like our existing outfield with players who have already ironed out their communications issues and work as a unit. I also think Trout’s bat is going to take the same amount of time to warm up as our other rookies’ did, and would rather the team deal with that at the beginning of next season rather than the middle of this one…and hopefully for Trout, the vets won’t make him walk up to Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA next time. Too funny!
But back to Saturday’s game. Now that’s a homerun swing! I lucked out and happened to snap the photo right as Torii hit his first of what would be two homeruns for the evening.
Michael Pineda was every bit as formidable as his reputation states. He sat down six Angels in a row to complete the first two innings.
And I think that might have been the story of the game, were it not for our secret weapon: Rookies who had faced Pineda in the minor leagues just last season! Mark Trumbo said hey, I know how to hit this guy and got the Angels off to a nice start in the 3rd with a single. He would also homer in the 8th.
Hank Conger also knew Pineda and stood his ground against Pineda unafraid and worked the count into a walk. Then Mike Trout got his first base hit, a sacrifice he beat out with his speed, and his first RBI and Trumbo scored.
…Setting the stage for Torii’s first homerun of the evening.
Joel Pineiro pitched a pretty good game. He had a strong start and overcame a shaky 5th inning to deliver seven innings with seven strike outs and only one walk…he did allow ten hits, but the infield and outfield had his back. The Angels took off scoring runs again in the bottom of the 5th and the tide never came close to turning again.
Here are a few other snapshots from the game. Erick Aybar tries to sell an attempted pick off of Greg Halman to the umpire. Don’t worry, the ump didn’t blow this one. Chalk it up to Erick’s poor acting chops…or, you know, the ball sitting there on the grass two feet behind him.
Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout during an Angels at bat. Bourjos is still day to day but it sounds like he should be well enough to play after the All Star Break.
Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. “Coach, if I see fireworks come out of the rockpile one more time…”
Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate. This was a good photo of Hank Conger maneuvering behind the plate.
Trumbo decides to make the play himself. Yoooou’re out!
The Angels bullpen heads for the clubhouse after the game. Hmmm…looks like it was Jordan Walden’s turn for the Cookie Monster backpack.
And now? Well, it’s good to be busy at work and headed up to the Bay Area because otherwise I’d be awfully mopey for baseball this week. I love seeing the right players named to the All Star Teams because it is an honor and it tickles them, but I seldom get really pumped for the All Star Game itself.
Saturday, country singer Dierks Bentley and his band helped the Big A get a little bit Sideways following a killer 9 to 3 victory over the Mariners for the second concert in the Angels 50th Anniversary Summer Concert Series. Of course I went to the game too, and that was even more fun than the concert, but it was faster to write about the concert first…so stay tuned for the game/series/sweep! notes, same bat station, same bat blog…or something like that…but enough of that. Back to the concert.
The grounds crew move the stage into position and the is stage firmly in place behind second base and ready to rock and roll…er…with country flair?…well, I think country rocks just as hard as my rock and roll faves anyway, so you get the general idea. Anyway, when I was choosing tickets for this game, I was having a hard time picturing how the stage would be set up and didn’t find a lot of help online. So, Angels fans or anyone else planning on taking in one of the other concert offerings this summer, take a look at the pics below and think of the favorite places in your price range from which to view Aybar or Kendrick diving for a ball on the grass just behind second base.
Dierks Bentley and his bad move out to the stage. Hey, it was almost as cool as Downs or Walden making an entry from the bullpen.
Dierks Bentley rocks out with his guitar and invites a fan to “come a little closer.” I liked Dierks Bentley before this concert. My husband turned me on to country about the time we got married and Bentley is one of many acts I have come to love for his clever, oft sarcastic lyrics, rich voice and rocking guitar. But hearing the band perform live, I love them all the more – especially after the bluegrass rendition of U2’s Pride they performed in honor of our grounds crew and their herculean efforts to prepare the Big A for and rehab it from the U2 concert last month.
Angels players enjoy the concert! Interested Angels and their families watched the concert from in front of the dugout. It was nice to see the guys enjoying themselves one game away from ending a fantastic home stand. I have identified Angels players where I could, but some of these guys could be staff or Mariners players joining their friends. (There are no intentional shots of family members here.) Show me a headshot of any of the Angels in uniform and I can tell you who it is, but in street clothes I freely admit that I can’t identify most them. Sadly, I would be the fan who couldn’t recognize some of her favorite Angels if she accidentally sat next to them in a bar…until they spoke that is. That’s just how my memory works. I once sat in front of Martin Sheen at a performance of Death of a Salesman and had no idea it was him until he spoke.
Closer shots of the bass and fiddle players. I am a sucker for instruments beyond the typical “Rock Band” set up of guitar, bass guitar, drums and keyboard. The Barenaked Ladies bass. Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murpheys bagpipes. Boingo’s horn section and “rumba phones”. Jethro Tull’s “heavy metal” flute. I adore them all! So is it any wonder I started liking country music largely for the fiddles, banjos and bass?
The band takes a “huddle” post concert. All told, Bentley and band gave us nearly an hour of great music. The set list was as follows: Feel That Fire, Every Mile a Memory, Am I the Only One, Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go), Trying to Stop Your Leaving, Settle for a Slowdown, Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do, Up on the Ridge, How Am I Doin’, Pride (In the Name of Love), Come a Little Closer, Sideways, What Was I Thinkin’. And, let me tell you, jotting that down at the concert gave me pleasant flashbacks to my college days, noting the set lists for Nine Inch Nails and the last Boingo Halloween concert to post on Occidental College’s usenet group for my less fortunate friends to enjoy. How’s that for the way back machine, ladies and gents?
All told, I give the summer concert series a huge thumbs up. It was a lot of fun to cap off the win rocking out in the stands with other fans. The music was great and the sound was even decent considering the sheer amount of cement involved in stadium concerts. The Angels grounds crew and special events staff did an amazing job getting the concert set up quickly after the game and Bentley and his band absolutely did not disappoint. And they were so gracious and charming. Bentley repeatedly praised the Angels organization, grounds crew and players. He admired the fans’ tailgating expertise and kept telling us how tickled he was to be performing in a well lit stadium where he could see all of us. Apparently he’s a real baseball fan too and roots for the D-Backs.
I have but one small complaint. I have extremely eclectic taste in music. I was raised on classic rock. I went through a hair band and metal phase. I came of age during the alternative and grunge movements. I love, love, love punk, especially with bag pipes. I really like country music from the traditional to the poppy. I like ska, jazz, blues, surf rock, rockabilly, big band, Dixieland, Irish folk music, classical, some hip-hop, funk and pop, and the list goes on. And yet, there was only one out of the four concerts I wanted to attend. Granted, I really wanted to attend this one, but I anticipated drooling over at least two or three of the four. But even if that were to be the case every year from here on out, I would still vote for continuing the concert series promotion long after the anniversary. Way to go Angels!