Farewell, Peter Bourjos. Best of luck in the National League. I really would have liked the Angels to know you longer.
Bourjos was one of my favorite Angels prospects and went on to become one of my favorite Angels of the last several seasons. I was thrilled to see him make it to the Big League team in 2010 and longed to see the day when he and Mike Trout would become a dynamic duo of speed, hot gloves and general all around awesomeness in the outfield and on the base paths.
Sadly, as everything turned out, I’m not exactly surprised to see him go. With an embarrassment of riches in the outfield and a litany of glaring needs for the 2014 season, one of the outfielders was bound to be traded. Bourjos’ name has only been mentioned as possible trade bait since the end of his first partial season with the Angels and with increasing frequency since the arrival of Trout who, as good as Bourjos is, is still by far the better player. And, perhaps even more foreshadowing of this trade, the dynamic duo I so hoped to see never fully materialized for more than a handful of games at a time for reasons which were largely beyond Bourjos’ control. Yes, Fleet Pete could have adapted to Major League pitching more quickly, but he also could have been given more of a chance. And the hip surgery and broken then reinjured wrist were just terrible luck and even worse timing.
So, now the Cardinals have a Gold Glove caliber outfielder, capable of terrorizing the opposition on the base paths, who could be better at the plate. And the Angels have a complete opposite of Gold Glove caliber third baseman, with six career stolen bases – the same number Bourjos had in 2013 – who could also be doing better at the plate. Um, yeah. I’m not surprised the Angels traded you Petey, but I am disappointed, especially that they couldn’t do you justice by getting more in return. Oh, and the Angels still need starting pitching. Desperately.
Yes, I know. There was another piece to this trade but frankly, I don’t feel like discussing it right now. And, yes, I know. The Angels did not need all of their outfielders but they did need a third baseman. And, yes, I know. You have to trade quality to get quality. But, tell me, is quality really what we got? You’ll find opinions on this all over the Internet this weekend but the fact of the matter is that this particular jury will remain out until we see which David Freese takes the field in 2014: the 2011 World Series MVP or 2013 Freese. And I must say, right now I’m feeling kind of like the Dad at the end of Shel Silverstein’s poem Smart. Because, yes Jerry, two is more than one. But somehow I think that was the wrong logic to apply to this situation.
So, a Trip-Off Obstruction, eh? That’s certainly, well, something. One might even say it sets a new standard…well…a new standard for post season game win oddities at any rate.
Look, for the record I think the obstruction call was the correct, by the rules call. Would Allen Craig have scored if he hadn’t tripped over Will Middlebrooks? Yes. Was Middlebrooks in the path of the runner, limbs flailing as he was trying to get up? Yes. Does intention ever have anything to do with an obstruction or interference call? No. But I don’t particularly want to rehash the whole thing here. As ever, this isn’t that kind of blog. I’ve read several fascinating in depth analyses of the play, the subsequent call and the intricacies of MLB’s rulebook on other blogs and news sites. There is no way I could possibly handle it any better than my peers and betters, so I see little point in being redundant by even trying.
Something that interests me more, if only for the fact that I haven’t seen anyone discussing it, is why, to the fan, we’re all so disappointed by the call even if we happen to agree with it. I mean, I agree with the call but I finished that game feeling decidedly blah and I’m kind of a stats and rules nerd. *pauses briefly to pelt her husband with a pillow for scoffing at the ‘kind of’ part of that phrase* I think it boils down to this: in baseball, we love our oddities. We adore firsts, onlies, one of the fews and near misses. We keep more detailed and incredibly situation specific stats that any other sport. We adore rules and technicalities and we absolutely live to argue. But even the most geeky, nerdy and pedantic among us backs all of that up with an intense passion. Seriously. Go watch reruns of the last season of Clubhouse Confidential if you don’t believe me. As proof goes, watching Bill James unexpectedly go completely fanboy over some of his player exceptions to sabermetric stats and seeing Brian Kenny initially flabbergasted and then unable to keep from joining in, is pretty much incontrovertible.
So, as I was saying…we love rules and technicalities, but do we want to see a game won on a technicality no matter how correct the call? No, absolutely not. Even in an average, regular season game a conclusion that passion and skill free would be kind of a letdown. And this is the World Series, a meeting of the best of the absolute best that both leagues have to offer. I mean, we all understand that every single World Series game can’t be the stuff of legends – we’ve all seen our share of dull and uninspired post season play. But so much about the World Series is frequently epic that we have certain expectations as fans. I mean, Doc’s no hitter. Gibby’s straight from the comic books walk off homerun. That absolutely amazing extra innings come back, re-come back, come back again, extravaganza of a Cardinals/Rangers game six. The Angels coming back from certain defeat in game six to win the whole thing in game sev…what? Did I ever promise any of you I wouldn’t Angels’ fangirl in these electronic pages? No. Exactly! Quite the opposite, in fact.
In this excitement filled environment, in which history has taught us to expect magnificent feats of baseball derring-do, anything less than a heated, closely contested match is already a serious letdown. So a strange fine print rules-based victory is especially anticlimactic…probably even for Cardinals’ fans, though they’ll still happily take it as they should. Now, does any of that mean that the umpires should have called the play differently? Well, should a World Series team slaughtering their opponents 12 to 0 in the 6th inning let the other guys score a little so that the fans get a more exciting game? Of course not, that would be beyond ridiculous…and so would be the umpires calling that play any differently just because it’s the World Series. Yes, it’s unsatisfying…so do the same thing you’d be doing if the scenario were any other unsatisfying conclusion to a World Series game – or any other game for that matter – and hope that the next one is better.
Of course, I can tell you one positive outcome of the obstruction call…no one’s continuing to beat a dead horse over that overturned call at second now, are they?
New Flash: the Angels are having an absolutely miserable season! Oh, so I take it you’ve heard that already, then? Right. You must be one of those not living under a rock kind of people. Yeah, yeah. I suppose that would explain your having an internet connection and all that.
Anyway, so where was I? Oh, yeah. Angels. Miserable season. Right. Which, you know, does tend to create some pretty miserable fans. Beyond miserable in many cases. My case, for instance. And, sufficiently so I might add, that I have noticed many changes in my behavior towards the game over that which I tend to exhibit during good or even meh Angels seasons. For example:
I find that I’m watching QuickPitch and Sports Center a lot less. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that my desire to watch QuickPitch, Sports Center and the like and, indeed, even to watch the Angels’ own post game show or listen to Angels Rant…er…Talk…er…oh never mind, Rant is far more accurate and understandable this season…is directly proportional to how well the Angels did on any given night. And the team is currently 55 and 68, so I’ll just leave the connection of those particular dots in your more than capable hands.
On those occasions when I actually do watch QuickPitch/Sports Center/Intentional Talk/MLB Tonight/Name Your Poison of Choice, I absolutely dread when it comes time to talk about the Angels. Because, even when they win, you know that the analysts and commentators still have to put the game in the context of the Angels’ overall season…and then those all the more cringe worthy for being so very spot on words pour forth. Disappointment…Catastrophe…Underperformance…Injuries…Errors…blah blah blah. We know already, okay? We know. Oh, how we know. *Sighs and shakes her head* Can’t you maybe just, I don’t know, relate the final score, say “And the Angels…” then sigh, shrug and move on? I mean, why continue to beat a dead horse.
I find myself experiencing irrational annoyance over any Angels wins that occur when I’m not watching. Seth and I watch a truly sick amount of Angels baseball. In the course of any given season, we easily catch 140 or so of the games on TV, from the ballpark, on the radio or online when no other option is available. But there is just no way we can catch every single game. Weekday day games? East coast weeknight games? We catch some of them, but there is this work thing, you know. And we both kind of have to do it. Damn that Morty and Bill, insisting on being paid and all that. Anyway, in a normal season, if the Angels win and I’m not watching, I cheer and catch any should not be missed highlights on MLBN or online. This season, however? It’s not that I don’t appreciate the win, but even so I actually find myself with thoughts like this: “Those, fuckers! I suffer through watching how many crappy games and they finally decide to play like a major league baseball team for a game or two and don’t even have the decency to do it when I can watch them?!!” Yeah. Um. Hey, remember I did say irrational. After all, Fan does come from fanatic, not from some word that means calm, reasonable individual.
Ads are frequently annoying, and the Angels ads simply have never been funny enough to avoid this description. However, this season I find that the Angels ads annoy me more than usual. “It’s time for Angels baseball!” No kidding! You think? I mean, it’s practically September. It sure is time for the team to start playing Angels baseball already. Any day now guys. Any. Day. Now.
Facing “bad” teams is no longer the source of relaxation and enjoyment it once was, indeed quite the opposite. For, while one of the glories of baseball is that on any given game day the worst team in the league can defy all expectations and beat the pants off of the best team in the league, this is an unlikely scenario. When your team, however, is also among the worst teams in the league facing “bad” teams is suddenly just as dicey a proposition as facing any other team. Yet, there is still that part of me that thinks of my team as a “good” team because, hey, they have been before, by golly. So all of the humiliation of struggling to beat or – Gasp! — losing to a “bad” team is still there, only now it’s oh so much more likely an outcome. Baseball fans of teams who don’t have you nodding along with this post, trust me. The end result of this situation? Yeah, it’s even less fun than it sounds.
I almost — almost mind you! – find myself wishing the season away. And for me, this is the ultimate sacrilege as a baseball fan. And, while I will always love my Angels through suck and through win, I can’t help but hate them just a little for this. A bad day at the ballpark is still better than a good day almost anywhere else. But having so very many bad days? With no end in sight? Well that actually does the unthinkable – it sucks some of the excitement right out of that day at the ballpark.
It’s only one season. Maybe next year. Blah. Blah. Blah. *sigh*
It’s been awfully hard to write about the Angels this season, largely because they’ve been…well…pretty awful, but not 100% of the time. And I do so hate to put up a thoroughly ranting post, no matter how well deserved, just as the team is in the middle of doing something unexpectedly good the next day. Hey, every fan’s just a little bit superstitious, right? (A truth that could have easily been included in Avenue Q, right alongside the Internet is for Porn and such.) And, I equally hate posting commentary filled with praise and slowly rekindling hope just as the team proceeds to dash those hopes by ending whatever modest streak they had going in spectacular fashion, yet again. I suppose I should try to analyze this mess but, while I like SABR just fine and was more than a bit of a math geek back in my school days, that doesn’t exactly make for my kind of writing. Besides, when I start thinking about the Angels 2013 season, instead of analysis, I find myself mired instead in the midst of so very many sad little what ifs…so, finally, I decided to just go with that.
The 2013 Angels: What if…
…The Angels’ Hot Stove pitching maneuvers didn’t remind me quite so much of Shel Silverstein’s poem Smart?
…Albert Pujols had been given or insisted upon (because I’m still not clear on who was the most stubborn in this case) a chance to really rest and heel his foot issues early on in the season…or had accepted/been assigned the DH role from the beginning.
…Jered Weaver landed a bit differently in Texas back in April and hadn’t broken his arm? Of course, broken arm or not, hitting the DL at that point might have been necessary anyway. He was having a rough time pitching and many speculated he was already injured.
Heck, what if at least half a dozen what ifs regarding injuries this season — step right on up and pick your favorite!
…The offense stranded just a few less guys on base each week…hit into just a few less double plays each week…fired on all cylinders a few more times each month.
…Angels fielding looked like…well, for lack of a better phrase…Angels fielding, real Angels fielding I mean, a few more times each month.
…Run support, quality starts and effective bullpen pitching weren’t such strangers from one another.
…Among Josh Hamilton’s many considerable talents, was more of an ability to take a pitch from time to time.
…Going to the bullpen made me think “roll a pair of 10Ds to see if bullpen self destructs” a little less often.
…The starting rotation didn’t make me think quite so often of Wayne Campbell’s gun rack…because, seriously, do two regularly functioning pitchers really necessitate anything quite so grand as a full rotation?
…I had an easier time writing angst/my ability to write about the Angels wasn’t so proportionally tied to the team doing something remotely approximating well. *snerk* Hey, then I might actually have had a consistent blog going this season.
…Waxing metaphorical on the current state of the Angels farm system didn’t have me looking more at post Dustbowl imagery than that of a thriving agricultural center.
…The team had played just a few more really good, fun to watch games each month because, let’s be honest here, they have actually managed to play a few like that here and there, a scant couple of which might even be described as epic.
What if. What if. What if. None of mine are colossal what ifs. Most are, in fact, quite small instances of what if this or that had happened just a little more or less often. Most of the bones of a contending team are in the clubhouse right now, so I can’t help but think that’s all it would have taken for this Angels team to at least be looking at .500 from more of a northern vantage point, possibly even to have realistic thoughts about an October. But neither the season not the players played out that way.
So, I leave you with one last what if, a what if that can’t help but pop into my mind during Angels seasons both good and bad. What if my grandfather, a lifelong, diehard Angels fan, were alive to see this year’s team and hear all of my what ifs today? I mean, this was a man who began his fandom attending and frequently sneaking into PCL Angels games during the Depression and who never failed to listen to the Major League incarnation of his beloved team on the radio in all the time that I knew him. Well, I definitely think he’d be shocked by recent contract expenditures though less so and certainly significantly less pleasantly so than he would be by that gorgeous World Series Trophy. I think he would be disappointed in this season, but I also think that, having lived through so many terrible seasons I could probably expect some comments to the effect that at least today’s fans have a real reason to hope for great things most seasons.
Now, do I feel that sharing this thought is supposed to make everything all better? That just because the Angels have quite the long history of seasons ranging from disappointing to god awful, somehow one more utterly terrible season is no big deal? Absolutely not. But the thought of this imagined lecture which I can almost hear in his voice, does give me some perspective and, if I’m to be honest, a bit of a smile – you know, memories of our grandfathers and all that. This season is terrible. Barring a miracle, it is also over. And that is disappointing on a scale that will no doubt have us all speaking of the team of 2013 in dark, bitter tones to our own grandchildren. But for all of that, it is just one season. And, unlike with the Angels teams of my grandfather’s day, once a few gaffes have been corrected and hamstringing contracts dealt with, a hopefully wiser front office will actually have the means to put together a contending team again. It may not be next season. It may not be the season after that – though I sure hope it doesn’t take that long. But it will happen. And that’s more than fans of Grandpa’s era could say with anything more than the most wishful of thinking.
There’s a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is merely the absence of success. Any fool can achieve failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of epic proportions. A fiasco is a folk tale told to other’s to make other people feel more alive because it didn’t happen to them. ~ Drew Baylor, from Elizabethtown
Oh my goodness, we’ve got ourselves a natural disaster. ~ Crash Davis, from Bull Durham
I’m sure that at this point you think I must have chosen these quotes to illustrate the Angels 2013 season. I mean, let us review the facts, shall we? Angels blog. Angels fan blogger. It’s July and the Angels are still 3 games under .500. And, that in and of itself, is sadly a vast improvement in the midst of a season that can be classified at best as disappointing. How could I have chosen these quotes for any purpose other than to represent the Angels 2013 season?
Well, not so fast actually. When I originally started writing this post, in the middle of the Angels eventual sweep by the Pittsburg Pirates…okay. Yes. That was more than a week ago. What can I say? Writer’s block, she is quite the stone plated B and being absolutely livid with one’s team doesn’t do a whole lot to alleviate the situation…that, and, when you only seem to be capable of eking out a few sentences at any given time, the writing you need to do for work comes first. Those are the rules. But I digress…
When I originally started writing this post, in the middle of the Angels eventual sweep by the Pittsburg Pirates, I picked those quotes out specifically because they’re the sort of quotes I imagined everyone else would apply to the Angels, but I disagreed…sarcastically, naturally. Because, yes, being 33 and 42 on June 22nd was horrendous. But, seriously? Fiasco? Natural Disaster? No. Anyone actually watching the Angels play could tell you that these terms sounded far too interesting and entertaining, even within their negative context, to describe the lackadaisical, half-hearted, completely lacking any fight whatsoever, Angels play interspersed with all too few splashes of brilliance we fans were suffering through.
Well, happily many things have changed since then. I stand by my assessment that those quotes don’t really apply to the 2013 Angels…and now with 85% less sarcasm! The Angels won a few more, lost a few less and then went streaking for seven games and counting! Yes, the team still has its problems – not the least of which is the fact that they’re still under .500. No, this streak is no guarantee about the direction the team will take for the rest of the season. And, no I am certainly not leaving my calendar free for the entire month of October in anticipation or anything…well…er…at least not to any greater degree than usual. Hey, fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. And Angels blogging baseball geeks gotta watch as much of the playoffs as they can.
But, here’s the thing. I really don’t care about any of that at the moment. Watching the Angels play right now is fun. Big offensive innings are fun. Sweeping teams instead of getting swept is a blast. Brilliant plays in the field like the one Mark Trumbo initiated yesterday make me stand up in the middle of my living room and cheer, giddy little kid happy. And watching the team win while playing actual, honest to goodness Angels baseball? Well that’s a veritable barrel of rally monkeys, that is. No, this isn’t the season any of us wanted. And I’m still not ready to apologize for my words in my last post – though I’m waiting guys; make me eat crow and I’ll be a happy woman. But at the moment this is at least an Angels season I want to watch and, for a while there, that’s something I didn’t think I was going to get to say. You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes just getting to see a lit halo for several nights in row is what you need.
Well looky there Lou Brown, the Angels have themselves an honest to goodness winning streak going on! And while, yes, it has happened before in 2013 – twice before to be precise, not that we fans have been counting or obsessing or agonizing over it or anything *nods* — at a five games and counting it is, in fact, the longest winning streak the Angels have managed this season, but two whole games no less. Now, a five game winning streak may indeed be a little short for a Storm Trooper, so to speak, and normal-season-Angels-Fan-Kristen is absolutely rolling her eyes at this 2013 season version of me but, to be honest, I am just way too giddy happy to care.
Watching the Angels play Tuesday and Wednesday against the Mariners in particular was downright exhilarating. The offense was absolutely raking, starters Jerome Williams and C.J. Wilson were dealing, the fielding was spectacular and the bullpen was everything you could possibly want them to be. Things were a little uglier yesterday, especially in terms of bullpen performance, but the team kept it together with strengths picking up the slack for weaknesses. In short, this was the Angels baseball we fans have been aching to see, the kind of Angels baseball that we just knew was lurking out there…somewhere…despite the numerous failed search party attempts and the increasingly hopeless expressions on the faces of the park rangers coordinating their efforts. So, does this mean hope is restored and all is suddenly right with our Halo’d little world? Hardly. Only five games and all that. But it is a start and I sure do hope the guys can keep playing like this because, well, this late into May it may or may be enough to lead to anything meaningful in terms of standings, but it sure would be a lot of fun to watch. And baseball that’s this fun to watch is no small thing.
So, in the middle of this Angels streak business, the team managed to remind MLB fans everywhere of another important fact: this Mike Trout kid? He’s pretty darned good at baseball. In the midst of an alleged sophomore slump, the prodigy is hitting just over .300 with 10 homeruns, a third of the way towards equaling last season’s total. Yes, he got off to a bit of a slow start, but this is only the kid’s first full season in the majors. We really have no pattern of behavior to compare this season’s progression to. Oh, and then there was the little matter of that hitting for the cycle thing on Tuesday. You may have heard or read about somewhere. I think a few of the local publications might have picked it up.
And here I had been thinking that all of this season’s Mike Trout hype was a little embarrassingly over the top, possibly to the point of being detrimental. You know, the bobble head give away. The pint glass give away. The front office created daily Trout Farm cheering section out in left field, complete with themed shirt giveaways. The Subway commercial. All of the appearances in MLB commercials. Taken on their own, each of these things made me smile broadly…well, except for the Trout Farm. I have a pet peeve against such things being created by the Marketing Department. Naturally occurring and fan driven is infinitely cooler. But that can be the subject of another blog post…and I digress.
Anyway, individually these promotions and hype are neat, fun for the fans and certainly well deserved by Trout. But, the sum total of the hype on the shoulders of a 21 year old kid this early in his career? In the beginning I just felt queasy about the potential for pressure and harm, especially when Trout was warming up into the season slowly. But watching him play as amazingly as…well…as Mike Trout? I still think it all may be a little too much, but not out of worry for Trout mid you. I just think that the Angels driven components make us look a little overeager and unused to having such young talent on the team. However, in the grand scheme of things, although I may shake my head and role my eyes over it a little from time to time, I’m okay with all of it and having fun with most of it. And Mike Trout? Well, attention, no attention or anything in between, clearly the kid is going to be just fine. We don’t call him SuperTrout and Troutstanding for nothing!
The 2013 Angels, or how I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept that Buttercup Might Be the Name of the Season
To paraphrase Lou Brown, easily one of the best fictional baseball coaches ever to grace the cinematic Majors: OK, we won a game Saturday. And we won Sunday. That’s called “two in a row”. And if we win again tomorrow, that’s called a “winning streak.” It has happened before!
Now, clearly, quoting the infinitely quotable Major League in reference to the 2013 Angels is hardly an original thought and I’m not even the first to sling this particular gem around this week. However, I would dearly love to be one of the last because, much like Lou Brown in his follow up comments to this bit of awesomeness, I would like to believe that the Angels are heating up. Really, I would. But this season?? Always there is the Big B…what a Buttercup!
Let me ‘splain (and, you know, see if I can throw in any more random movie references from the depths of my crazed brain while I’m at it!). Towards the end of the sad, sad debacle that was Wednesday night’s pitching implosion, abandon all hope…no, no, wait, here comes the Angels offense!…Nope, just kidding, more LOBsters than a large seafood chain could handle…Waaaaaiiiit, just kidding again, check out that offense!!…*facepalm* Nevermind, more LOBsters…emotional whiplash of a game, I tweeted, ‘This is such a buttercup game. And the Angels have just buttercupped all over the buttercupping thing. Blah.’ And, you know what? Even though the Angels have a proto-winning streak going on here – potentially their third of the season, talk about *facepalm*! – that sentiment actually sums up the whole season so far for me. Because, yes, I was in part being cute and trying to interject some much needed levity into the situation by using the name of the Angels’ much hated – at least by, let’s call it, all fans in their right mind; the rest of you are highly suspect – 7th inning stretch ditty as a stand in for the long, drawn out f-bomb that most of us were feeling at that point. However, my word choice meant so much more as well. Let us review the lyrics of the song, shall we?:Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin’ You know that I have from the start So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don’t break my heart
Forget all of the perfectly rational, ‘who in the hell thought that this song would be an appropriate rooting-for-the-home-team-at-a-sporting-event song and would they please turn their marketing card in…right now!’ thoughts you’re having at this moment because, sadly, this season they’re beside the point. Thus far the 2013 Angels are the Buttercup Angels — always building us up, just to let us down again for another inning, another game, another streak, of the ‘you don’t want one’ kind. Offense starts coming back. Starting pitching blows a herd of goats. Starting pitching gets it done. Offense goes to sleep and/or the Angels bullpen decides to go all “flashback” on us and turns Arson Squad. Sweep the Tigers. Lose the next 5 – yes, count them, 5! – series. And so on, and so forth. So this proto-streak? I want it to be the real thing. Dear God I want it to be the real thing and the start of something great, but I just…I just don’t know.
But if you’re about to throw the B word at me, you just zip your lip right there. There is no bandwagon. There never was. Seth and I are bleeding red fans who have nothing to jump off of. We love this team, even if this season, like oh so many in the not so distant past, it’s a heavily frustrated, profanity laced, shouting kind of love. We’re still watching every game we can on TV. We’re still buying tickets to the Big A though, being less excited, we’ll probably attend closer to 15 games than our customary 20 – 25. It’s just the focus that has shifted. In another tweet this week, I confessed to fellow Angels fans that, even though it makes me feel like a bad fan, at this point I’m just hoping for the team to straighten up enough that they’re at least fun to watch play again…you know *cue hope and optimism yet again* like the last two games were! Anything more than that seems so farfetched that I just can’t bring my brain to contemplate it without the Angels themselves providing significantly more incentive. But the minute they do? (And, so help me, I can feel it starting already.) Well, I’ll let them build me up once more, praying the whole way that, this time? This time it’s real, and they don’t let me down…again.
We baseball fans are a masochistic bunch. Oh, I’m not saying we that seek out pain, per se. I mean, who among us wouldn’t prefer a winning scenario for our team? But in those seasons where, despite our desires, the painful losses just keep piling up, we do tend stick around…and stick around…and stick around some more…and then some. Watching. Rooting, even if sometimes with more than a tinge of disappointed sarcasm. Hoping, even if at times, deep down, we suspect our hope is misplaced. In any other season, I might choose to call this fan behavior stubborn loyalty or even optimism, occasionally to the point of idiocy. But, this season? Yeah, I’m sticking with masochism. You’ve all had seasons like that, I’m sure, so the term stands.
The Angels started off badly in 2013 and, despite rare rays of hope temporarily piercing the gloom, it’s only gotten worse…and here I am, still watching. Yet, oddly enough, the first time I started really contemplating this whole fan masochism thing was in the final innings of the Angels terrible, horrible, no good, really fucking long, loss to the A’s on the 29th and 30th of May. That game was all kinds of ugly from the very beginning. For every wonderful thing, spot on thing the Angels did – Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo outright raking and hitting a bomb a piece, Jerome Williams long relief performance, plenty of 2-out derring-do – they committed at least 2 outright crimes against baseball – mass LOBster infestations, instances of crap fielding that would make a AA team blush and meatballs pitched to Brandon Moss.
Heading into extra innings as the visiting team, the deck is always a little stacked against you from the beginning. But this game? Honestly, I knew the Angels chances of pulling off a win were slim, owing to the evening and, eventually, morning’s ratio of shoddy play to good. And I knew that those chances grew slimmer with every inning as the mistakes piled on and more time on the field made one colossal, final mistake more and more likely. And, yet, still I watched and tweeted my support and sarcasm – because with me, even at the best of times, those are two are pretty inseparable concepts. Past 11 p.m. Past midnight. Past kissing my husband goodnight and heading back downstairs so I wouldn’t keep him awake with my cheers and shouting (he had an early meeting scheduled and is generally smarter than me about these things anyway). Past one in the morning all the way to the end of the game some 19 innings and six hours and 32 minutes after it started. And, here’s the thing. Remember how I said I was tweeting? Yeah, well, so were a lot of other Angels fans all the way through to the end. Several of them California transplants living in later time zones. Diehard Angels fans and complete and utter baseball masochists, the lot of us.
After that no less deflating for being more than somewhat likely defeat, I promised myself that I would take a little rest from the Angels and not watch the game the next night…er…later that night. I mean, a lady’s got to catch up on her sleep at some point, right? Apparently many of the other #AngelsFamily diehards who were awake right along with me through 19 innings decided the same thing…a fact of which we are all aware because, in a completely shocking, surprise…drumroll, please…yup, you guessed it…we were all watching the next game from the very first pitch until the end. Another game the Angels lost, I might add. Yeah, like I said. Baseball masochists, the lot of us.
And, here I am, still watching whenever possible, my membership in the league of masochistic baseball fans having become fully apparent to me round about the first pitch that Tuesday evening game after the 19 inning marathon. I asked Seth to text me updates while I was away at a work conference in Las Vegas this weekend, and he happily obliged…even though the team only went one for three. I came home as quickly as I could last night and this evening…to make sure I caught the losses. I will probably do the same for Thursday’s game…and this weekend’s and beyond. The Angels are my team. I am their fan. And, willingly or unwillingly, we baseball fans are a masochistic bunch.
And if, for the most part, I’m avoiding MLBN as opposed to my usual downright addiction to the daily lineup of whatever part of Intentional Talk/MLB Tonight/Quick Pitch/etc. my schedule allows me to catch? Well, maybe my baseball masochism does know a few bounds. Right now I just don’t want to hear the daily Angels post mortem. I mean, when a team with this much talent performs this badly — tying a clubhouse record for terrible starts no less! — it’s definitely news. Although, considering the questionable pitching situation the Angels had even before the injuries, I seriously have to ask just how shocking a news story it is but, by all means, carry on. I just don’t need to hear it right now. I already know how bad it is, thank you very much.
So, in the middle of all of this baseball masochism, am I also pessimistic? I don’t know how this works for others suffering from my condition, and perhaps a few of you could enlighten me, but for me the situation is dire beyond the point of either pessimism or of optimism. Right now, the Angels are like a family member who has contracted a terrible illness, something very serious but not life threatening, like those poor folks who’ve been in various stages of bedridden with this year’s flu for three weeks or more. In a situation like that, you really have to concentrate on the here and now, on getting the patient back up and on their feet, before you can even begin to worry about niceties like the work event next week, that great party they’re supposed to go to in two weekends, or the hiking vacation you have planned together next month. Right now, I can’t even think about June, July and so on for the Angels, let alone September and October. I’m still reeling from April and hoping the team can start playing to their capabilities before the rest of May drifts by in a sea of L’s and games below .500, as well. *sigh* Come on Angels, dazzle us.
Writers are often purported to be an angsty bunch, pouring out the prose most effectively in a fit of anger or sadness. But not I. Words flow from my fingers through the keyboard most easily when I’m in a good mood and this blog is no exception. I don’t want to yell at my Angels, I want to cheer for and celebrate them. Now, is this more a factor of there being little truth to the stereotype about writers or of the fact of my being a hack, I cannot say. ;) But I can tell you that I’d far rather continue writing the post I started in a fit of baseball fan euphoria on Sunday than anything “inspired” by last night’s game against the Rangers…but, don’t worry. You know me. I’ll bring it back around eventually.
Oh what a difference a series or even a game can make in the mood of the baseball fan! Especially when that series finds my previously slumping Angels sweeping the Tigers, scary offensive lineup and all! You would think that, as a lifelong baseball fan, I would thoroughly grok the whole 162 game season concept and not get so worked up over a series or even a week here or there. But, in truth, I think that’s only possibly for the more casual fan, the fan who skims the box scores far more often than they find the time to sit down and watch a game. Because, when you watch most of those 162 games, the no less true for being so very clichéd concept of this being a marathon not a sprint, becomes strictly academic in the face of the fact that you are living the season game by game. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t even take a series to provoke a completely disproportionate to the sample size at hand move to despair or jubilation. Especially this early in the season, sometimes just a game will do it. I certainly found myself embracing an impractical surge of optimism after watching the Angels’ walk off win against the Astros from the Big A two Saturdays ago. And a game like last night’s game against the Rangers, a game which laid bare all of the Angels flaws over the course of nine innings – see, I told you I’d bring this back around! – would have eaten at me, planting nagging doubts about the season, even in June or July.
Thus, last post I was desperately searching for a reason to stay optimistic and this weekend I was trying to temper my optimism with sane practicality and with only limited success…until last night. After the first game against the Rangers, the stark reminder of the Angels flaws did temper that optimism, but it didn’t kill it. Yes, I know the Angels are far from out of the woods yet in terms of the standings…yes, even this early in the season and I will remind anyone who says ‘no it’s too early to worry at all’ to look at last season. Yes, the starting rotation is a real problem, especially for the duration of Jered Weaver’s DL stint, and the bullpen is worse. And, yes, there is an awful lot riding on a potentially brilliant but frustratingly streaky offense. But the weekend’s sweep of the Tigers did at least show us what an Angels team with a fully functioning offense can do when the different components of the pitching staff combine for at least a passable performance, and what that team can do is win! Now, when the offense takes a while to come online, or is scoring but still strands too many runners in scoring position while any aspect of the pitching outright self destructs? Well, hang on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, this season could get a little interesting by all appropriately Hoban Washburne definitions of the word.
So those are the realistic concerns from the past week and change, but what about the happier observations?:
- Is there anything hotter in baseball than your team’s walk off win? I mean, seriously. Is there anything more, dear lord, ‘Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?,’ I think I need several moments to recover and quite possibly a cigarette, hotter in baseball than a walk off win…especially one you witness live? No. Quite simply, there is not, as I was reminded from our seats at the Big A two Saturdays ago and again just this past Sunday.
- When the offense is clicking it can and will pick up even so-so pitching…and the offense is heating up. Okay, Josh Hamilton needs to catch the warming trend and we’d like Mike Trout to steal more again, but for the most part they’re starting to look really good more games than not.
- Promising youth explosion! If we had to have so many injuries early on – and, let’s face it, we’d all prefer that the Angels did not, but here we are – then at least the team has found two legitimate gems in the form of Garrett Richards and Luis “Lucho” Jimenez. When he last joined the Big League team, Richards had promising stuff but little seasoning. Returning from more time in the minors with a lot more polish, the youngster still has some work to do, but has nevertheless been one of the brighter spots in the rotation. And Lucho, replacing the ailing Alberto Callaspo, is simply a revelation. Good instincts, good hands, serious athleticism, some speed and no small amount of pop in his bat, not to mention an attitude with just the right amount of cockiness and an infectious grin. I find myself hoping that Lucho is Callaspo’s permanent replacement and I’m one of the fans usually counted among Callaspo supporters.
- Even in our sketchy bullpen there are a few standouts. Scott Downs is Downs again. Jerome Williams is a confidence inspiring sight taking the mound in long relief and recent call up Michael Roth sure impressed in his Angels debut…in fact, one wonders why we haven’t seen him since. (Editor’s Note: Ah, that would be because apparently Roth is temporarily joining the starting rotation beginning tonight. I’m awfully excited to watch that. It’s only the Rangers, kid, and Yu Darvish. No pressure. ;) )
- Our outfield!! Trout, Peter Bourjos and Hamilton. I cannot get enough of the great plays from these three guys. And Bourjos haters? You go right on hating because, let’s face it that’s what you’re going to do anyway despite anything I say or, you know, logic. But don’t look now, Bourjos is hitting. Well!! And he’s getting on base too. Once Hamilton settles in at the plate, this trio will be unstoppable.
And that’s basically the long and the short of it. Which Angels tendencies will have more of an impact on the standings by season’s end? Well it really is too soon to tell, no matter how I feel on a game by game basis. But I have more optimism than I did when last I checked in and that, dear reader, is seriously something…something I for one needed badly.
Jerry Dipoto Deals the Undeal-able Contract and Other Therapeutic Baseball News for this Ailing Blogger
Vernon Wells is Yankee now. Um. Wow! If anything could drag me forth from my hacking, wheezing, non-blogging stupor it would definitely be this little bit of “I can’t believe he actually pulled that one off” Jerry Dipoto magic. Okay. So that was a week ago, give or take, which means that it actually took the Vernon Wells trade, some pretty impressive contract extension news and the end of spring training to drag me forth from my hacking, wheezing, non-blogging stupor, but who’s counting?
Basically, I spent most of the month of March almost but not quite coming down with the ick that’s been going around the office, just managed to feel truly good in time to go to spring training in Arizona and came back sick as a dog. Okay, at this point dogs might rightfully take offense as they would have behaved more sensibly. I was too busy at work to take sick days, so I decided to mind over matter – read, ignore and wallow in denial – my way through things and wound up with the worst case of bronchitis I’ve ever had. Smart, huh?
While my intelligence is certainly in doubt at this point, there is no denying that Jerry Dipoto is a frickin’ genius and well deserving of the enthusiastic whispers and croaks of excited approval I managed upon hearing the news. Vernon Wells has never worked out for the Angels. That much is clear. But at the same time, it’s not for lack of trying and Wells has handled an awkward for all concerned situation like a gentleman and a true team player. Whatever the Angels asked Wells to do, he did with grace, including switching positions, switching to part time status and ultimately riding the pine…everything the Angels asked him to do except, sadly, hit the ball. So, while I am glad to see Wells go, I am also glad to see him go somewhere. I like the guy, I respect him and ultimately I wish him a fresh start and a good season…of course, at the same time, I do not wish Wells a good season against Angels pitching and, as immature as it may be, I will never wish the Yankees as a whole a good season, so I suppose I’m sending awfully mixed messages here. Oh well. The term fan is derived from the word fanatic not from any sort of word containing terms like sensible and/or rational in the definition. Deal with it.
As for the impressive contract extensions, bravo to Buster Posey and Justin Verlander and their respective teams. I love decisions like this. As much as I might covet certain players for my Angels, in the end I love seeing players grow up with and stay with the team that drafted them. This growing trend of signing key players to contract extensions well before they hit free agency brings a little of the romance of the Golden Era back to the game, in a way that is actually fair to the players. I wholeheartedly approve. I am absolutely not wishing the season away — Heeeeellllllll no! — but it will be interesting to watch how this trend changes the Hot Stove season in the years to come as it completely restructures the free agency pool.
And, most importantly, tomorrow is Opening Day!! Okay, yes, it was fun watching the Astros beat the Rangers in a real game that actually counts, but this newer one-game teaser trailer to the season will never be Opening Day to me. Tomorrow is the real deal. And I say cheers to that!! And, when I’m feeling a lot better, I’ll even tip my glass. Right now it’s filled with tea and copious amounts of lemon juice and honey, which is very therapeutic but rather vile when you get right down to it, wholly inappropriate for any sort of toasting. So, verbal – whispered – cheers today and official cheers further down the line. I don’t care, tomorrow every team will respond to that most wonderful of phrases, ‘Play Ball!!’ so it’s all good!