Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Hot Stove Edition! This is the first in what we hope will be an occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Between two Giants World Series wins in three years (sorry Matt ;) ), the AL West making quite the exciting splash in September 2012 and the ensuing Postseason, and recent shrewd personnel moves throughout the AL and NL West, MLB’s attention sure seems to be packing up and heading west these days. Matt and I are both incredibly excited by this development and especially by all of the attention recent Hot Stove moves have brought to my Angels and his Dodgers. So we thought that we would share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? Nah, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!
For this edition, we have posed six questions prompted our teams’ offseason activities and the ensuing fan and media commentary, to be answered on both of our blogs. We hope you enjoy this freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snarky ones), please ask away:
Which of your team’s offseason moves do you think was the strongest?
Kristen says: I imagine everyone is expecting me to say Josh Hamilton here. Hamilton was a huge signing and should be a boon to the team, combining with Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo to make the Angels offense a formidable one indeed (at least on paper — I am very careful about how excited I allow myself to get before the teams actually take the field when, as any longtime baseball fan can tell you, anything can happen). However, I actually think the Angels strongest move was the most recent — the trade for Jason Vargas. As a player, Hamilton is definitely on another level than Vargas and will probably contribute more to the team directly. But trading for Vargas set the rest of the Angels roster in ways that will benefit the entire team and make Hamilton’s talents that much more effective. In addition to providing another reliable, workhorse arm to a starting rotation that needed exactly that, the Kendrys Morales for Vargas trade ensured that the Angels do not have to make less advantageous trades to get said arm. They no longer have to worry about trading the more versatile slugger Mark Trumbo, whose bat has the potential to be more explosive in the lineup with Hamilton. They no longer have to worry about trading Peter Bourjos, who can instead be the gold glove caliber centerfield anchor between Hamilton and Trout in what should be a truly scary Angels outfield — oh, and having Bourjos and Trout tear up the base paths together won’t hurt either.
Matt says: As important Pitching was this off-season I’m not going to say it was Zach Greinke or Ryu. I think the strongest was Mark McGwire as the Dodgers hitting coach. The Dodgers had issues with getting hits and runs in games and that hurt the Dodgers playoff chances. Look at what Mark did as hitting coach with the Cardinals. They were pretty much in the top ten in Runs, Batting Avg, and OPB. For a Dodger Team with Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford that’s going to be huge help for them.
What, if anything, do you think your team still needs to do?
Matt says: I still think the Dodgers need to address the Bullpen and bench. Dodgers lack a LHP out the pen. Scott Elbert is still out, Paco Rodriguez isn’t really ready for a full stent like that, and missed the chance at resigning Randy Choate. The only thing the Dodgers did for the bullpen was resign Brandon League. They have Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang out there on the trade block so maybe they trade them for Bullpen help. Bench wise I believe the Dodgers have to address getting a 4th Outfielder because lets be honest Yasnel Puig isn’t really ready quite yet. They traded for Skip Shoemaker which help but a 1st/3rd Baseman off the bench along with a 4th Outfield will really help.
Kristen says: Well, if we were asking these questions earlier in the week, I would have said that the Angels need another starting pitcher in bold, italicized, all caps, 24 point font. But, thank you Santas Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno, that seems to be taken care of – see previous response. Instead I’m going to enter complete fairy tale land here (Well, it is Christmas after all — might as well wish big!) and say that I think the Angels need to move Vernon Wells, even if it means eating almost all of that huge contract. Nothing against Wells himself — he has been a smiling example of good attitude, trying hard to improve at the plate and gracefully moving wherever the team asked him to, including the bench. But this acquisition just hasn’t work out, and that’s putting it mildly. I would love it if any of the, quite frankly, trade porn rumors surrounding one team or another showing interest in Wells worked out…even if the deal is for practically nothing! The Angels would seriously benefit from having the room on the 25-man roster and I think Wells himself would benefit from the chances offered by that supposed panacea, the change of scenery.
Now that we know what you want your team to do, what do you think they will do? Any trade/move/signing predictions?
Kristen says: I think that, with the Vargas trade, the Angels are pretty much done. I suppose that you might hear about a smaller move here or there — one lesser known bullpen pitcher or non-top minor league prospect for another, but other than that they’re done making deals for the offseason. Although, if Jerry Dipoto chooses to see this as a challenge — because of course the Angels read my blog ;) — and moves Vernon Wells just to spite my prediction, I certainly wouldn’t mind being wrong.
Matt says: I think the Dodgers will end up Trading Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano along with Dee Gordon for a Left Hand Arm out the bullpen. Theres been rumors about Andre Ethier being traded but I don’t see that happening at all. As far as signings go I believe the Dodgers will look into the Market for a Outfielder or Corner position player off the bench but at the same time I think they’re done.
There is A LOT of money being spent in LA/OC these days. A LOT OF IT! Does your team’s payroll size or amount being spent worry you at all?
Matt says: To be honest yes it does. With the amount of money being put into the Dodgers I would hope winning comes with it. You can’t buy wins or world series and playing Yankee ball can only work when done right. I fear of the Dodgers being like the Red Soxs. All the money being spent and no playoff apperance or anything. Not only that but the fear of Contracts back loading up to where the Dodgers can’t do anything in the future but the Dodgers said they have deep pockets and a new 2 Billion dollar TV deal is coming in soon so we shall see what happens but I can’t say it doesn’t worry me or isn’t in the back of my mind. Everyone tries to play Yankee Ball but the only way that works is if you get the players that fit and generate wins.
Kristen says: Absolutely. Spending this much money should scare anyone. Every player, no matter how talented, is a risk. No one wants to see it happen but any player has the potential to age, slump, lose their swing/pitching location/etc., fail to mesh with a given team and (God forbid) get injured. And when you’ve spent outrageous sums of money acquiring that player, the end result of any such occurrence is devastating because suddenly you’re priced out of just eating that paycheck one way or another to move the player off your roster. And if this happens on several such deals? Yeah, say hello to a nice block of ever-so-much-fun-for-the-whole-team-family “rebuilding” seasons. No. Thank. You!
Here’s the thing though – I think that more and more teams are going to need to come to terms with this level of spending as we go on. Teams are wisely locking up their talent before they hit free agency with greater frequency, leaving smaller free agency pools for teams in a buying mode to fight over. Nothing against Zack Greinke — he’s one hell of a pitcher and I wish the Angels had been able to keep him — but do you really think he would have garnered this impressive a contact if the Giants, Phillies and Angels had allowed Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and Jered Weaver to hit the free agency market in 2013 as scheduled? And Greinke is just the latest example of this phenomenon. And, of course, when quality players are making those kinds of dollars you know that marquee players will command even more from their current team or on the FA market (Holy Staggering Albert Pujols Contract, Batman!!). The end result is that, while the Dodgers and Angels may seem to be leading the charge at the moment, more and more teams will be joining in that charge out of necessity over the next several seasons — as a trend this is both kind of exciting and very scary.
The MLBN analysts seem to think that the Dodgers and Angels offseason moves are all about one upping each other. Do you think there is any truth to this? How do you feel about that?
Kristen says: To quote Annie Savoy, “Baseball may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth, and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.” Or, from the owners’ perspectives it’s also a business. I’m sure Arte Moreno and Magic Johnson and partners do consider things like Los Angeles/Orange County market share when they’re making decisions about advertising, overall ballpark experience and the price of parking, beer, etc. But I highly doubt that this thinking extends to personnel decisions. Competitive teams that win games and reach the Postseason make fans happy and draw them to the ballpark. In order to do that, it’s far more important to be competitive within one’s own division than with an interleague rival as I’m sure all owners and GMs involved are well aware. I can see why the timing of some of the Angels and Dodgers free agency signings lead to the comments in question on MLBN, but I think that both the signings and their timing had little to do with Freeway Series rivalry. Yes, the Angels wanted Zack Greinke and so did the Dodgers. But at least half a dozen other teams also seriously wanted Greinke. He was the best free agent starting pitcher on the market this season. Once the Dodgers signed Greinke, I’m not surprised that the Hamilton signing followed so quickly on its heels. Suddenly the Angels had a lot less pokers in the big money free agents fire and could just concentrate their efforts on Hamilton.
Matt says: You know that’s an interesting question. I honestly don’t think it’s one upping at all and theres two reasons for that. 1- The Dodgers and Angels are filling needs that prevented them from making the playoffs. Thing was it just so happen the Angels signed Hamilton in the heat of the Dodgers making serious moves. 2- The Angels turned out to be the mystery team that was after Hamilton and got him just like last year with Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson So they’ve done this before. People predicted the Dodgers having money to throw at Free Agents before Off-Season. I don’t believe it’s one upping at all but It has caught the attention of the National Media so I like the westcoast attention the Baseball Media is giving.
Now on to something really important – the annual LA/OC billboard war. Which team do you think will have the most/best billboards plastered all over town?
Matt says: Hahaha It was a year ago when the Angels had billboards all over LA/OC until the Dodgers got new owners. I believe it’ll be fairly even. In the OC you have Albert Pujols, Jarred Weaver, Josh Hamilton, and Mike Trout where in LA you have Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Adrian Gonzalez. I believe the Dodgers will have them posted all over L.A. knowing Magic and his promoting of the Dodger brand and the Angels will do a lot of marking themselves as well. It’ll be interesting to see.
Kristen says: *snerk* The “billboard wars” always make me smile and laugh. I take the 605 freeway to work. Most seasons that freeway is littered with Dodgers billboards heading south and Angels billboards heading north as if both teams were making a concerted effort to convert their rival fan base. Honestly, the arrival of the billboards is one of my favorite So Cal signs of spring. Last season at the height of all of the Frank McCourt ick in L.A., the Angels rather dominated the local billboard space and, as much as I like seeing red everywhere I look, it just wasn’t nearly as much fun as when it’s a “battle.” (Yes, mine is a long and boring commute and I take my simple pleasures where I can. Why do you ask?) However, between Arte Moreno (who made his fortune in advertising and billboards, don’cha know) and Magic Johnson (who also seems to have an admirable grasp of the importance of good marketing) I am sure both that teams will being trying to convert us all once again this season — looking forward to it, in fact!
Acquiring Jason Vargas, Keeping (and Playing?!) Peter Bourjos and Other Things that Make this Blogger Giddy Happy
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. So, these two Dirt Bags walk out to the mound and…and…well, suddenly I’m a much happier Angels fan, that’s what. No, no punch line. Just that. See, early yesterday I started writing a post that was quite ranty (about the need for another starting pitcher, a good one this time) and involved a great deal of begging and pleading (please, please don’t trade either Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos to accomplish this). I don’t like writing begging, pleading rants at all and I liked both the state of the starting rotation and the, seemingly likely, prospect of trading Bourjos and/or Trumbo with or without additional prospects in order to correct the situation even less.
But instead, thanks to Santas Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno, I get to write about the Angels trading Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for Jason Vargas instead (another Long Beach State baseball team alum, joining fellow Dirt Bag Jered Weaver in the rotation). What’s not to like about that? Yes, the Angels and, indeed, this Angels fan will absolutely miss Kendrys in the lineup and I even think that he will improve a bit more this season as he moves further and further away from his last surgery. However, I think that with the addition of Josh Hamilton, we will miss Kendrys a lot less than we would miss the more versatile Trumbo. In addition to slugging, Trumbo can cover both corner outfield positions, first base and – yes I’m going to say it, quiet you – if he actually gets practice time during Spring Training this season there is even the possibility of him covering third. Hey, it could happen.
And — and this is a huge and in my book, more of an AND, really – Trumbo can now spend most of his time in the now vacated designated hitter’s position allowing for a regular outfield featuring Mike Trout and Hamilton in the corners and Bourjos playing an even better centerfield than Trout. Yes, you read that correctly, an even better centerfield than Trout – Bourjos is alternately just as fast and faster depending on the task in question, tends to run better routes and has a stronger arm. And watching Trout and Bourjos dominate the outfield together on the rare occasions I’ve gotten to see it is one of my current favorite delights in baseball…adding Hamilton to that mix? Every day or very nearly so? Um, yeah, I’ll be in my bunk.
But Bourjos can’t hit, whine the naysayers. Correct, he can’t hit…when he’s only getting one or two innings of playing time a week as he was in 2012 or during his first half season in the majors. When Bourjos has a full season of regular playing time however, well we only have a one season sample size for this but, while he started out slow to be sure in 2011, Bourjos hit .271 with a .765 OPS (a decidedly speed enhanced figure, and yay for that) and 12 homeruns for the season. I for one would really like to see what the kid can do with another full season of regular playing time and it sure sounds like Dipoto and Mike Scioscia would like to see that as well. Yo ho, yo ho, it’s a lightning fast Angels lineup for me!
Um, hey, blogger lady? Sorry to interrupt and all but so far you’ve talked about every single aspect of this Vargas trade except Vargas himself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Patience. There was a reason for that. In my opinion this deal is every bit as important to the Angels for it allowed the team to do in terms of bolstering defense while maintaining offense as for what it did for the starting rotation. However, when it comes to the starting rotation, the Angels just moved from having an Ace, a positive and three question marks to having an Ace, two positives and Scioscia’s choice of the two most promising question marks out of the three. Is it perfect? No. But it is a lot better. And, with this outfield and this offense, on paper at least it all looks pretty darned good. The same can also be said of Vargas himself. Yes, that 4.35 career ERA looks a little scary. But I think this is a case where the numbers don’t really reflect the reality of Vargas’s pitching. Vargas has pitched better than that 4.35 ERA for three of his four seasons – the most recent three – with Seattle. And last season he was good for 14 wins…with Seattle’s outfield and Seattle’s offense. Wait’ll he gets a load of ours!
Hello all. Rumors of my blogging demise have been greatly exaggerated! …Well, just exaggerated at any rate. But it was seriously touch and go there for a while. We’re talking nearly Brazil, Tuttle eaten by great cascades of paperwork, here. And I’m the one that created all of the paperwork! But I digress…
So the Angels went out and signed Josh Hamilton! And just how busy was I with my months’ long hell project for work in the middle of all of this delicious Hot Stove madness? Busy enough that I didn’t find out until Seth called me that morning on a break — Seth does not generally have to break Angels news to me. Busy enough that the ensuing conversation went something like this:Seth: So did you hear the news about Josh Hamilton? Me: *typing* No. Did he sign today or something? That’s early. Seth: Yeah, he’ll be wearing red in 2013. Me: *still typing* Red? *pause in thought while still typing* So is he staying with the Rangers after all, then? Or did the Red Sox nab him? Seth: *laughing* Noooo. He’ll be wearing our red. The Angels signed him. Me: *abruptly stops typing* *begins making largely unintelligible noises that it’s safe to assume denote shock and excitement* Seth: *affectionately laughs at me*
So, the Angels went out and signed Josh Hamilton!!! *happy dance*
…and I had no clue until about an hour after it happened. Yeah, so what does that make me? Exactly. A big damn dork, sir. Well, since Thursday I have completed my hell project, caught back up on holiday obligations and vacillated emotions on the Hamilton signing between variations on elated, excited and giddy, and cautious, concerned and nervous. But you know what, I’ve settled on giddy. I think excitement is the way to go. So, why the conundrum in the first place? After all, he is a five-five time All Star, former MVP, regular play of the week making, routine topper of one or more AL batting stat charts.
*pauses happy dance for discussion and logic* Well, I’m not particularly bothered by the contract. It’s less than the ridiculous from any team’s perspective 7 to 10 years he was supposedly originally seeking and the Angels were planning on spending serious money one way (Zack Greinke) or another (any of the other high priced names bandied about in Halos news circles) this offseason. Spending it on a 31-year-old whose name is regularly listed among the best players in the game and who hits .285 with 43 homers in a year where his team is mad at him for sloughing it? Well, let’s just say that if colossal sums of money are going to be spent anyway, I think there are far worse ways they can be spent.
And, no, I’m not concerned about the “obvious” thing. Yes, Hamilton’s past issues with drugs and alcohol are well documented along with his two public relapses as a Texas Ranger. To my eye, Hamilton has his life well under control in this area. Look, there’s a reason the proper term for people who deal with addiction issues is recovering not recovered. There is always the potential for relapse, even for those who are far further removed from their addictive behaviors than Hamilton and have attained decades of sobriety. But the fact that Hamilton has kept his relapses to one evening in each instance of behavior that would only qualify as a kind-of-wild Saturday night for a lot of single baseball players who don’t have issues with addiction, before climbing right back up on the wagon with renewed dedication to his sobriety tells me that no team should worry about ramifications from drug or alcohol use. Yes, there are temptations aplenty in Los Angeles but those temptations are present in every city fielding a Major League Baseball team, including Arlington, along with most towns that do not. I don’t think this is a legitimate concern.
I do, however, have a small concern about Hamilton’s playing time, namely that he has only played in more than 133 games two seasons in his Major League career. Now the fact that the primary reason for Hamilton’s numerous DL stints is because he plays hard does balance this drawback heavily in my opinion, but it’s still there. I also have concerns about Hamilton’s attitude, but only on occasion. Look, by all accounts, Hamilton is a great clubhouse guy. In interviews he comes across as affable, warmly chatty, humorous and caring. He’s an unselfish fielder, no matter where he’s moved in the outfield during a game. And his charitable activities are impressive. I believe him to be a genuinely nice guy. But there are times…strange Monster induced eye ailments keeping him out of games…throwing a coach under the bus after breaking an arm attempting to slide home…seeming to give up those last few weeks in Texas…when this big, talented, joyful kid of a baseball player seems more like a pouty brat. This isn’t a deal breaking concern from my perspective. I don’t expect it to come up very often in Hamilton’s relationship with the Angels as it didn’t in his relationship with the Rangers and, as mentioned before, his overall stats are still a plus during such times. However, it is clear to me that when Hamilton is unhappy there are repercussions on the job. Just something for Angels fans to keep in mind, along with the whiffing slumps that can and do come with such a free swinging style, while we’re doing our happy dances.
So, there you have it. There are a few drawbacks to this deal to keep in mind and the Angels still need to do something more with the starting rotation – Please Santa Jerry, please!! But the prospect of Hamilton’s bat in the lineup protecting Albert Pujols, or protected by Pujols (and, all things being Scioscia, probably both before season’s end) coming soon on the heels of Mike Trout turning a hard hit single into a triple, a bunt into a double or some other feat of amazement, makes me positively gleeful. Unexpectedly having too many outfielders is a potentially useful problem for the Angels to have depending on how it’s handled. And this was the first weekend in forever that I didn’t bring any work home with me. On the whole, I’d say it’s all rather giddy making. *resumes happy dance with exuberance*
Mention the Angels 2012 bullpen to a group of fans and you’ll get quite the array of reactions. Cringing. Anger. Shaking fists. Tears. Laughter…of the crazed sort, mind you. And, occasionally, nostalgia. (After all, fans did dub the bullpen of 1970s, the Arson Squad because, when called upon, they tended to have the opposite effect of putting out the fire…and that’s putting it mildly.) And those reactions are absolutely justified. Despite a few bright spots and clutch performances, the Angels 2012 bullpen had 22 blown saves to their…um…credit, tying the Red Sox for the most in the AL. Suffice to say, heading into the offseason, bullpen help needed to be one of Jerry Dipoto’s top priorities.
Dipoto and the Angels took a positive step Wednesday in signing Ryan Madson. Assuming he returns to his usual quality form following recovery from Tommy John surgery, having Madson’s strong arm in the 8th or 9th inning should improve the Angels ability to hold leads. This deal is potentially a great start towards fixing the bullpen for the 2013 season and, fortunately, Dipoto seems to see it that way too, hinting that he has a few more bullpen plans up his sleeves during the interviews surrounding Madson’s signing.
Cautiously pleased though I was with the deal, it didn’t do a whole lot to ease the tension I’ve been feeling about the Angels roster since Dipoto started letting players go. Despite the disappointment of 2012, I just didn’t think the Angels needed that much work. So many of 2012’s woes – Albert Pujols’ painfully slow start, back troubles hobbling Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, injuries and slumps and tigers and bears, oh my! – seemed like such random, one-time only streaks of terrible luck that, in my mind, the 2012 Angels should have treated the offseason much like the 2011 Braves did, as a chance to rest, heal, recover and not do anything drastic from a personnel standpoint. In my mind, the Angels just needed to fix the bullpen, sign Zack Greinke, lose Ervin Santana (because his awesomely nasty vs. “just a bit outside” pitching mood swings aren’t swinging nearly often enough or well enough to the positive end of the spectrum to justify putting up with the negative these days) keep almost everyone else, smile and wait for pitchers and catchers to report.
Getting rid of Torii Hunter and Dan Haren (whose bad year was truly uncharacteristic and, I think, won’t be a repeat occurrence in 2013) left me with feelings of deep unease and a sense of “where do we go from here?” I understand that the idea is to save enough money to sign Zack Greinke but that just seems like an awful lot of eggs in one highly expensive and only possibly attainable basket. I mean, even if the Dipoto is successful in landing Greinke, what about the rest of the starting rotation and the hole-ridden offense?
Trading Jordan Walden to the Braves for Tommy Hanson on Friday helped me feel a bit better. Hey, the Angels now have a for-certain 3-man rotation with one potential 4th that doesn’t scare the hell out of me – Jerome Williams. Progress! I liked Walden but he really doesn’t seem to have the temperament to maintain control and get outs once batters start hitting him…and then the pre-glasses Wild Thing emerges and things get a little scary. I think the addition of Madson is a safer bet. As for Hanson, I’m a little concerned about his back issues last season, and less concerned about his shoulder issues two season ago which seem to have healed. Basically, between that and the velocity drop offset by the increasingly nasty delivery, it feels like the Angels traded for Dan Haren’s younger, more economical self. But Haren worked out very well indeed for the Angels for the better part of two seasons so I am cautiously optimistic about this deal.
Now the team just needs another starter (Greinke, hopefully. If that won’t absolutely break the bank.), to fill at least one key hole in the starting lineup, oh, and adding a little bit more stabilization in the bullpen couldn’t hurt either. No problem, right? Yeah, there went that breathing easier thing again. Yes, I know, I know. It’s only December 3rd. The Winter Meetings are just getting started Monday morning and there’s a lot of offseason left — a lot, a lot even. Anything is possible…but the pickings are slimmer this year and I just can’t shake the feeling that we created too many holes to fill in an attempt to land one key piece that would have only just filled or offset the preexisting holes anyway. Oh well, bring on the Winter Meetings.
Hello Blogosphere. I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday! For the last eight years or so Seth and I have hosted Thanksgiving so that we can celebrate with both our families at once – that and to show off the kind of cooking chops we seldom have the opportunity to flaunt all in one meal outside of holiday scenarios. This year, however, my mother wanted to host Thanksgiving for the combined family and it was actually lovely to have the night before mostly off and then head to my parents’ house for Mom and Dad’s good cooking. It was kind of like being a kid again…well, some kind of precocious (read, obnoxious) foodie kid with a cranberry, polenta crusted tart in tow, at any rate.
It is nice to go home sometimes and just catch up with everyone. We talked a lot about work. Family. Politics. You know, the usual. Oh and, of course, a bit of baseball. My father said that he is fed up with professional sports these days…followed by the pause for comedic effect, the merrily twinkling eyes and the affectionate, “that’s why I root for the Dodgers.” This followed by some more serious Dodgers roster talk (not yet knowing of the impending TV deal, of course), similar Angels talk, a lot of good natured ribbing at the expense of both teams and more than a little head shaking over our two So Cal teams. See, I come by my outlook on the game honestly.
Among our baseball topics – Mike Trout. I was a little surprised to find out that my dad was paying attention to Trout’s season because he’s very busy and doesn’t always pay attention to AL doings. But, then again, Trout was quite a story in 2012 and he is every bit the sort of player my father adores – a good kid playing the game extremely well and playing it the right way. So, of course, if two folks are discussing Mike Trout in late November you know what had to come up don’t you? Da dum…….da dum…da dum da dum da dum da dum…da da da DUM! But of course, the AL MVP vote. What else? And if you think for one second that I’m going to use this holiday conversation snippet as an excuse for a very delayed post about my thoughts on the AL MVP vote, well I have one thing to say to you: Thank you. Clearly you’ve been reading this blog for a while. ;)
No worries, though. This is absolutely not a bitter fest. Yes, I thought Mike Trout should have won MVP. That’s how I would have voted were I in the baseball writers’ shoes. But I am neither shocked nor upset over the outcome. Here’s the thing, both Trout and Miguel Cabrera had stellar seasons – MVP level stellar seasons. I happen to feel that a player like Trout who excelled across the board at offense, defense, speed and any other skills test you want to throw his way is more valuable to his team than a player who only beats him out in terms of offense but, at the same time, I cannot deny that being the first player to win the triple crown in 45 years is a highly compelling argument. Both guys carried their team at various points. Both guys were clutch. Both guys hit milestones during the season. The Tigers made it to the playoffs, but the Angels had a better record in a stronger division. Cabrera’s booming bat lead the Tigers to victory in September as the While Sox collapsed. Trout’s bat slumped in September but he still lead the Angels to victory with his speed and his glove while the A’s simply could not lose. As I said, I liked Trout for MVP, but both candidates were excellent choices and I’m certainly not going to complain about Cabrera winning the honor.
I do, however, have a complaint about the way the discussion and debate were framed, both leading up to the AL MVP vote and since the winners were announced. I really dislike the fact that so many people writing/talking/arguing about this subject just blast the other side for the paragraph after paragraph as if the opposing candidate were unworthy even of nomination until the final few sentences when they toss in a sheepish, ‘oh, by the way, [the other guy] had a pretty good year too.’ And I outright hate all of the “Miguel Cabrera is an old school, old stats candidate whose contributions must be judged with your eyes, while Mike Trout is a new stats, SABR candidate whose contributions must be judged one paper” idiocy. Ummmm…have you seen Mike Trout play?? If you need paper to judge that, well that’s your business but I wouldn’t admit something like that in public. ;) And as for Cabrera, his offense looks good whether we’re using old stats or new. This isn’t a new stats vs. old stats argument. It’s that same “better offense vs. strong offense/better defense/better speed combination” phrased in terms of stats and on that debate, agree or agree to disagree, the baseball writers have spoken…for the 2012 season at any rate.
So, congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on winning MVP, one more on a nice list of 2012 accomplishments and, well, congratulations to Mike Trout too while we’re at it. Earning 2nd place in the AL MVP voting in one’s rookie season is hardly an accomplishment to sneeze at and the kid has his own, equally well deserved, long list of 2012 accomplishments.
Oh, before I sign off though, I do have one more Trout related rant…this offseason it seems that few MLBN and online discussions of the awards, the Angels 2012 season or Mike Trout can go by without snark, tsk tsking and/or contemptuous sighs over the Angels’ “terrible decision” not to bring Trout to the bigs right out of Spring Training “for whatever reason.” Baseball analysts (and various and sundry bloggers…and Chris Rose), would you quit harping on this subject and just do a little quick research already. Trout was so sick during Spring Training that he lost something like 10 pounds and barely had a Spring Training to speak of, then got well only to suffer through a bout of tendonitis in his shoulder. Had the Angels brought him up in April, under those conditions, it would hardly have been a recipe for Trout success and might well have been a recipe for injury or illness disaster. Whether you want to look at it as the Angels looking out for the player or looking out for their investment (and I tend to assume it’s a little of both and there’s not a thing wrong with that), the decision was a good one. And I say that even as a fan who suffered though that terrible, awful, no good, very bad, oh how I even hate bringing it up again, April. < /rant >
The unconscious redirection of feelings about one object or entity toward another.
Thus, my desire to take all of my tiger stuffed animals (of which I have more than a few. I had a childhood love of them and then went to Oxy, whose mascot is – yes, you guessed it – the tiger.) and pose them underneath an overturned clothes basket “cage” for photos to post on MLBlogs was not, in fact, brilliant, it was merely transference. Transference of my anger with the Angels front office for failing to re-sign Torii Hunter over to the Tigers who successfully signed him this week. And, thus, the lack of photos of stuffed tigers, posed in makeshift cages or otherwise, in this blog post is a real sign of maturity and deep thought on my part, and not a sign of laziness over the realization that the tigers are all in box in the garage in a hard to reach place. Uh huh. Exactly. *nods*
Because, all joking aside, I am not really mad at the Tigers. No, really. I’m not. Torii Hunter the Tiger is going to take some serious getting used to (and, indeed, it took me a few days of reeling to simply get to the point where I could write this post) but I am glad that, if the Angels front office had to be stupid, at least Torii landed somewhere he seems to want to be. The man deserves to keep playing, the Tigers were smart to snap him up, and I understand that Angels made an economic decision here. As much as I still fully embrace the romance of that game, I am not so wrapped up in it that I mistake anything that happens in terms of player transactions in the modern game for a question of loyalty versus betrayal.
…But, no lie. I still think the Angels screwed the pooch on this decision. And it is for that reason, not because Torii was my favorite Angel, though he was (albeit on a long list), that I am livid with the front office right now. I think that keeping such an important clubhouse leader who is also a crucial bat in our lineup and presence to be reckoned with in the outfield should have been more than just a money decision. I think that throwing all of our eggs into one highly sought after basket like Zack Greinke, is dicey at best. And I think that, even if the Angels land Zack Greinke now, 3/5 of a scary good starting rotation combined with a lineup that once again has a crucial hole in it with no solution in sight sure doesn’t sound like it will look any better on the field than it does on paper. So, yeah, grumpy as hell right now.
But enough about that. Torii, thank you for every wonderful thing that you did in an Angels uniform. The robbed home runs. Your team first mentality. That sweet, sweet swing. Your “don’t even think about rounding third” arm. Your clubhouse presence and effective mentorship. Your humor and your wonderful way with us fans. I wish you well with the Tigers…just not too well against the Angels, you know. ;)
…aaaaaand, I still have lots to talk about, what with awards decisions and starting rotation decisions, and…and…well, okay, it’s November so I suppose it isn’t really that long a list, but still. However, it’s no joke when I say it took me a couple of days to get to the point where I could write about Torii and I figured this deserved its own post. So, stay tuned…
Ah, November. From a baseball standpoint, this is easily the sleepiest month of all. Sure it seems promising when you enter the month, what with free agency decisions, awards announcements and all. But then, reality hits. Potential free agents are either woo’d back by their current team or they become free agents aaaaaaaaaand nothing happens. Nothing. We talk. We speculate. Teams and players make noises. And nothing really happens until December and the Winter Meetings…or so. Okay, and in some big name cases, or so, or so.
And the awards? Well, they are fun and it is exciting when one of your favorites wins, or at least fodder for debate when they do not. However, as a fan, I find both the excitement and the occasional outrage to be largely ephemeral at least in terms of a baseball fix. I find out who won. I think Yay! Right on! Really? Or even WTF? And then I move on, baseball jones still fully present and accounted for.
Now, none of this is intended as a complaint. I understand why very little happens in terms of personnel decisions in November and the fact that the awards are no kind of baseball fix at all does not make them any less important. However, these facts do serve to explain how one might get so caught up in other things that, pulling a thoroughly random example completely out of thin air, a normally avid blogger might let her posts lapse for the better part of two weeks. Not buying it? *sigh* Yeah, didn’t think so. Well, tough. My assessment of November’s comparative lack of baseball fix-ly goodness stands. ;)
In terms of my Angels, well, to be honest I’m more than a bit annoyed with the front office right now and that probably also has a bit to do with my recent online scarcity. Although I suppose it makes for a more interesting blog, I don’t really like to rant. I prefer to cheer and praise and make up goofy noun-and-verb-repurposed-as-adjective mash ups of joy and excitement. But, alas, instead all I’ve got is a great big jumble of rantyness…
So, am I surprised that the Angels let Torii Hunter reach free agency without a contract offer? Not entirely, at least not after all of the noises the front office has been making about money. But am I disappointed? Oh, yes. Devastatingly so. Also, I think the decision was a big mistake. No, I don’t expect Torii to have as big a year in 2013 as he did in 2012 – 2012 was a career year. But I think 2012 makes it very clearly that Torii has found a way to stay healthy well into his 30s and to switch up his batting and fielding style to take advantage of the considerable skill sets he has in his 30s rather than still trying to play with the skill sets he had in his 20s.Plus, Torii’s skills as a clubhouse leader and a mentor to the younger players on the team are too important to just let go. I would never advocate keeping a player just because they’re a clubhouse leader, but when your clubhouse leader still plays like Torii plays, give the man a contract already. I think that some decisions can’t be made just with one’s wallet, which brings me to…
I hate to keep beating up on Vernon Wells, because he tries his ass off, keeps a great attitude and sense of humor through it all, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. Plus, he didn’t create this situation. However, the fact remains that he has never worked out on the Angels and the idea of Wells in the outfield over Torii (or, in truth, over Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos or anyone else if the Angels had kept Torii) just makes me even more livid with Tony Reagins’ initial trade decision and with the front office’s refusal to just take the salary hit – and yes, it’s a _huge hit – call the trade the failure it is and part company. Heading into the offseason, the rumor was that if the Angels couldn’t offload Wells’ contract there was no way they could extend a contract to Torii. Granted, it’s not my pocketbook and I have no idea how much additional cash Arte Moreno can afford to dedicate to the team payroll, but to me this just seems like wrongheaded thinking. Wells is hardly the only or even the biggest thing wrong with the Angels but, barring something extremely unforeseen happing, continuing to keep and play Wells over other players in never going to yield a different result than it already has. Yes, this trade was an incredibly costly mistake but sometimes it takes spending even more money to fix a costly mistake and this is one of those cases. The team should have kept Torii.
Anyway, I think that’s quite enough ranting for one post, don’t you? Tune in in a day or two to read my next rant – hint, this one’s about the Angels pitching personnel situation – and for my official congratulations to Mike Trout on his AL Rookie of the Year Award win tomorrow. ;)
News Flash! There is precious little, if any, justice in this world. Oh. Yeah. That not exactly news to anyone. Okay. This just in! MLB Awards are often political and don’t always go to the most deserving player. Yeah, you’re right. Not exactly earth shattering either. Okay, we’ll just go with this, even though I’m sure news has already travelled fast: Mike Trout didn’t win the Gold Glove for AL Centerfielders.
Oh well, that’s okay. I’m sure the winner had, you know, less errors, a better WAR and a higher fielding percentage than Mike Trout…ummmmmmm…yeah. Never mind. Look, sour grapes aside, none of this is meant as a diss of winner Adam Jones. He also had a very good year. A great year even. But was it, I ask you, a Trout year? No, no it was not. In fact, that should be a new measure of fielding greatness and/or just plain overall awesomeness from now on – the Trout year. “Well, he had a great career in Center and his WAR was high but what does that translate to in Trout years?”
Oh well, I suppose this is an odd sort of balancing of the scales after Erick Aybar won the Gold Glove with more errors than either of the other two finalists last season. When it comes to MLB Awards, in any given season there’s plenty of WTF to go around.
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Congratulations to the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants! But I do have to say, as an unaffiliated fan rooting for a borrowed team, that was one boring World Series. Deadly boring in fact. Oh, I watched it and I was pleased to have four more games before we begrudgingly usher in the dread long winter without. But wouldn’t it have been better to have 6 or 7 games to tide us through till Spring Training? If you were to say I was spoiled by the sheer nail biting amazingness of 2011’s close, hard fought duel to the finish, you’d be absolutely right. But that doesn’t make it wrong to have hoped for the Tigers to take the lead once – nay, several times – before Game 4. Sweeps are only fun for the fans of the team doing the sweeping…and even then, I’m not so sure.
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It’s early yet, but we’ve still had a bit of Angels contract news. The team extended Chris Iannetta’s contract, which pleases me greatly. They also put Bobby Wilson out on Waivers and he was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays, who are apparently trying to collect the whole tradable set of Angels cast off catchers. I know Wilson wasn’t an All Star, headline grabbing catcher, but he was a more than serviceable backstop who busted his ass to do right by the team in general and Angels pitchers in particular. He always played whatever role was asked of him with a great attitude and a smile on his face and I don’t think that gets as much recognition as it should.
I’m not questioning Jerry Dipoto’s decision to part ways with Wilson. It does make a lot of sense to finally create enough room for Hank Conger to move up to the Bigs full time. But what I am saying is that I noticed Bobby Wilson’s efforts and contributions, noticed and appreciated them. I enjoyed rooting for him as an Angel and now I wish him all the best as a Jay or wherever they trade him to…even if it’s Texas. *grumble, grumble, Texas, grumble, grumble*
While I certainly have a myriad of hopes for other Angels personnel decisions, at the moment I’m primarily focused on the fate of free agent Torii Hunter. First and foremost, he’s my favorite Angel – on a long list of favorites, mind you, but still – and as a very close second, in case you weren’t watching last season, he absolutely kicked ass. While I doubt his 2013 numbers will match his 2012 numbers, I’m sure they’ll still be very good indeed, not to mention all of the mentoring he provides, shaping the Angels of the future. So, Jerry? Torii? Just so we’re clear, I have all of my fingers, toes and anything else I can think of to cross, crossed hoping for news that Torii Hunter stays an Angel in 2013. Got it? Eeeeeeexcellent!
Just before 5 p.m., feeding time for our baseball addiction, Seth and I crept down the mountain from the Yosemite cabin to catch the game at a truly delicious barbecue joint in Oakhurst. We have meals to cook at the cabin, despite the lack of stove, and things we want to do in the evenings that preclude a 90 minute round trip just to find an available television, so we knew we were only going to catch one more game this vacation and, as it turned out, we picked a fun one. I chose this evening’s game because I wanted to see a great pitchers’ duel and just hoped that Barry Zito would hold up his end of the bargain by building on his heroic NLCS outing. I never expected that a pitchers’ duel would fail to materialize because Justin Verlander was having an off night. But, you know what? Those cheesy Postseason commercials really are true: you can’t script October.
Usually I don’t enjoy a blowout as much as a close game, even when the winning team is the team I’m rooting for, but who could possibly call themselves a baseball fan and not enjoy Pablo Sandoval’s three homerun game? …Well…okay, fine…Tigers fans get a pass on this one. ;) Sandoval is now only the fourth player to hit three home runs in a Postseason game. Talk about complete and utter Panda-monium in the Bay Area! Also, I think that this one-sided score doesn’t really tell the whole story. From what I saw, yes, the Tigers absolutely gave up when Verlander got shelled, but they also recovered and tried valiantly to get back in the game at the end there, it was just too little, too late. The end result was a dazzling display of highlight reel worthy diving and leaping defensive plays on both sides. With the Tigers showing strong signs of life at the end to the point that the Giants blew through three relievers to get the last three outs, tomorrow’s game could be a different story. But, a story with a similar Giants ending or one more to the Tigers liking, who can say. See previous comment about commercial cliches, scripting and October.
Woah, Woah, Woah. What’s with all this Giants Stuff?
Okay, okay. I know what you all must be thinking, reading my last few posts. Is this an Angels blog or some sort of weird hybrid Giants/Nationals/Orioles blog heavier on the west coast bias than on the east? Have the Angels finally driven this blogger so crazy that she’s lost all focus? Now that’s just crazy talk. Of course this is an Angels blog. But this is October, the Angels almost-an-October never quite materialized, and I will be damned if I spend the month mourning the lack of Angels to such a degree that I miss out on the LAST FEW WEEKS OF BASEBALL before the looooong wintery time without.
Even as a huge fan of the game, it’s so much more fun to root for someone than just to watch with no skin in the game, so once the Angels are out of the running, I pick other teams to root for. Borrowed skin, as it were. No, this isn’t being a bandwagon fan. Bandwagon fans hop on that bandwagon in good times and pretend they’re diehards from way back before jumping right off again in bad times. No bandwagon fans here. I am simply shamelessly loving the one I am with, namely your team, for a week or two or however long they last in the postseason because I can’t be with the one I want…and I have absolutely no problem explaining that. …Also, yes, my father did raise me with an appreciation for the classics and generally excellent taste in music. Why do you ask? ;)
This postseason my adopt a team philosophy has lead me to root for the Nationals – because they’d never been to the World Series as Expos or Nationals and I like rooting for a lovable underdog – the Orioles – because of their long World Series drought, see previous discussion of the Nationals – the A’s – because they had a fun team this season despite the fact that I almost never root for another AL West team also I couldn’t very well break tradition now and root for the Yankees – the Tigers – see previous conversation about the A’s – and the Giants because of family ties…
Our Blogger Heroine’s Strange Origins
…Long story shortened, I am the lone living Red sheep (my grandfather was a diehard Angels fan) in a family split on both my mother’s and my father’s sides between the Dodgers fan base and the Giants. Oddly enough, this means I grew up with a weird affection for both teams. But Kristen, how can you like both teams? Don’t you know about the Dodgers/Giants rivalry? Hello, did you not just read the previous two sentences? I have family on both sides of the rivalry…family who share food across the table at holiday gatherings…holiday gatherings that take place in the months following the baseball postseason. Savvy?
Such passion, while often contentious, is also contagious so, as improbable and downright wrong as this sounds, I have both an affection and a respect for the Dodgers and the Giants that still pales in comparison to my diehard passion for the Angels. I follow the Dodgers and the Giants out of the corner of my eye while I’m watching the Angels all season. I know the players on both teams and generally wish them both well. If either the Dodgers or the Giants makes it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, then I’m rooting for that team. If both of them ever make it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, well then I’ll probably root for the Dodgers – my immediate family are the Dodgers fans, so I grew up going to games in Chavez Ravine – and try to lay low on FaceBook when the cousins start trash talking. So, you see, it doesn’t matter that I felt nothing particularly for or against the Reds, that I generally like the Cardinals, and that I think the Tigers have a pretty fun team this season. This Giants rooting thing was as inevitable as it is fun and strictly relegated to an Angel-less October.
Two baseball nuts. One week’s vacation. 4th week of October. Two glorious getaway destinations. Zero televisions. Whoa. What’s wrong with this picture? How ‘d that happen? Yes, I know. The 4th week of October is certainly an odd time for baseball fans to go on a week’s vacation, unless said vacation happens to involve following one’s team to various playoff destinations, I suppose. Yet, this is where we find ourselves. My husband’s industry requires everyone to take one week-long vacation each year and our’s was supposed to fall in midsummer, a decidedly less playoff-y time, followed by a long-ish weekend, this weekend, at the Paso Robles Harvest Festival we so adore. But work and family commitments prompted some pretty massive schedule adjusting and, so, here we are. I am not complaining at all – our vacation has been lovely so far! – just explaining how two baseball nuts wound up spending this of all weeks in two places – my inlaws’ Cambria house and their Yosemite cabin – with absolutely no televisions.
With the Angels sadly resting for the month of October, Seth and I figured, eh, missing a week of the playoffs isn’t that big a deal. We’ll be so busy, we won’t even notice we’re missing it, so let’s not bother trying to make plans to watch the games…and this would have been absolutely true if some of the games were on during the day. Night time, however, is a different story. Not a lot of biking, hiking and photo taking going on after the sun goes down. And so we found ourselves catching the NLCS Game 5 in a steakhouse bar in Oakhurst outside of Yosemite. Catching game 6 at the Chili’s in Paso Robles. And enjoying the fine hospitality of the Moonstone Bar and Grill for Game 7, where the food was infinitely better than Chili’s and the bartender did an admirable job of pacifying the Monday Night Football fans with two to three minutes check ins, so the rest of us could enjoy the game that really mattered. Bravo, good Sir, bravo! And all I can say about the game is holy outrageous comebacks, Batman! Congratulations to the NLCS Champion Giants who return from the brink of extension to win the series even better than the Cardinals.
Of course, even when Seth and I have been happily engrossed in purely vacation activities, baseball has a wonderful tendency to find us. Quick commiserations with transplanted Angels fans in the tasting room at Barrel 27 winery. Shooting the breeze with a transplanted Red Sox fan in the tasting room at Clavo Cellars – No worries, no trash talk involved. We all wisely stuck to the safe topics of shared annoyance with newer fans who weren’t around for the losing years and mutual dislike of a certain team in pinstripes. And then there was Chicago Ribs Night at Midnight Cellars.
Midnight Cellars was one of the first wineries Seth and I tasted at on our honeymoon back in 1999 and it was the first winery whose wine club we joined, ensuring many, many years of great wine and outstanding parties. Midnight is truly a family owned and operated winery. Every year for Harvest Festival, the family brings their native Chicago to California, with racks and racks of Carson’s ribs finished on Midnight’s BBQs complete with all of the fixings, live blues and more wine than any mere group of people could possibly consume – though we did put forth a valiant effort and at a minimum put a serious dent in the ribs supply. The end result is delicious, spirited, fun and, while I can’t speak to authenticity as I have yet to travel that far north, I can say that a surprising number of couples from the Chicago area, not all of them friends of the family, are drawn to California for this ribs night before they begin their wine country adventure.
Seth and I were seated at a table with two such couples, four friends enjoying a quick adults’ vacation away from the kids. One gent was asking Siri for the latest football scores on his cell phone. I mentioned I seldom follow football, but love baseball and he then asked how the Giants did last night because ‘I just can’t stand the thought of the Cardinals making it to the World Series again…’ Ah hah, Cubs fans! And they were pleased that we recognized them as such and knew about the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry. As usual, baseball proved to be an excellent icebreaker among fans and we had a lot of fun talking about all sorts of things peppered in between the wine, the ribs, the music, the ribs, the library wine, more ribs, the tequila shots (with the winemaker!!) and more ribs. And I have a feeling the foursome greeted Monday’s win with a little more wine to celebrate.
Anyway, quite the week “off” from baseball so far, wouldn’t you agree?