Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Angels Work Out the Kinks at Chavez Ravine and We Take Ourselves Out to the Ballgame

Tuesday evening was clear in Los Angeles. Clear, balmy and gorgeous. Perfect weather for a ball game! As we headed out to Dodger Stadium for game two of the traditional Freeway Series before the regular season begins, I was filled with nostalgia. I remember bouncing around my parents’ house with my sister, waiting for our dad to come home from work so we could head out for the Freeway Series. This was long before Interleague Play, back when this was the only time each season that my father’s Dodgers would play his father’s – and now my – Angels, and we tried to attend one of the games each year. I remember Dodger ball caps and Mom making sure we packed our jackets. I remember keeping score in the pages in the program with my loopy, little girls’ handwriting and I can almost taste the salty, sweet combination of rollo candy bar pieces and ballpark peanuts I preferred back in the day – clearly this blogger was a fiend for salted caramel long before it became a thing. See, Mom and Dad weren’t big on us eating candy bars – smart Mom and Dad! – but on game nights, my sister and I each got to pick out one from 7-11 to enjoy during the game.

And it was in this frame of mind, jonesing hard for a live baseball game, and smiling with happy memories, that we arrived in Chavez Ravine. The view from historic Dodgers Stadium is stunning. From the vista over Downtown Los Angeles on the 110 freeway side of the parking lot, to the view of the mountains behind the centerfield wall, to gates of the stadium itself, it is nonstop pretty.

Say what you will about Los Angeles, on a clear day the view of the Downtown skyline is gorgeous! Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And the view past the stadium is gorgeous...of one can tear one's eyes from the green glory that is a baseball diamond, that is. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Reserved Section entrance at the top of Dodger Stadium. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Relishing the feeling of just being at the ballpark – and the view from my stylists’ season seats in the second row of the upper deck right behind the plate! – I took a few photos of the warm ups while the light was still good. It is not surprising to see Dodgers and Angels hanging out chatting before the game. How many players have moved along the 5 freeway switching the red hat for the blue one or vice versa? How many sets of brothers have we had playing against one another in these match ups? Exactly.

Juan Uribe, Juan Rivera, Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols chat before the game. It appears as if Aybar is echoing my own sentiments: Dude, Juan! If you'd hit and played like this for us, we'd never have done that deal with the Jays. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I sure wish they gave Torii Hunter a microphone all the time like they did during 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Whatever he's saying, he's amusing Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Vernon Wells and even has Albert Pujols looking over from his stretches. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dodgers Catcher A.J. Ellis and Starting Pitcher Aaron Harang make their way in from the bullpen. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Catcher Bobby Wilson and Starting Pitcher Ervin Santana, that dynamic no hitter duo, arrive from the bullpen. The game's about to begin! Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And so it begins...even at an exhibition game, Albert Pujols attracts a healthy crowd of autograph seekers and the man certainly seems as gracious as gracious could be, fulfilling as many requests as possible with a smile on his face. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Of course, then the Dodgers took the field and they read the lineups. Albert Pujols at first. Ervin Santana on the mound with his trusty catcher Bobby Wilson. Good, good. All very good. Alberto Callaspo at third, Erick Aybar at short, Torii Hunter in right. Very good. Bobby Abreu in left, Vernon Wells in center and Maicer Iztuis at second??? Okay, so we’re playing with the B+ team today. Ho hum. And, sad to say, I knew this was going to be one of those Spring Training games where we didn’t push very hard just from that fact alone. I’m not saying the B+ team can’t win games, just that in an exhibition game starting with the B+ team on the field (no Fleet Pete in center, no white hot Kendrick and Trumbo bats in the lineup in and around Pujols’) when you know that, as the innings progress, we’re going to switch to the B, B- and C+ teams for practice? Exactly.

Alberto Callaspo sells a ball that wasn't really _that_ much of a ball. Perhaps his morning meeting report was on U.C. Irvine's Drama Department? Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Great seats, Sue. I love this front and center vantage! Now I have my own photo of Ervin Santana's game face without looking online for one. Sanatana is clearly season ready and pitched a good game. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Tony Gwynn is a blur diving back for first base as Albert Pujols readies himself for the pick off. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Matt Kemp swiiiiiiiings and misses as Bobby Wilson reaches for the ball. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game... (Seth)

Would that his pitches crossed the plate Tueday with as much precision as his windup - It was not a good night for Hisanori Takahashi and, because this is still Spring Training, they left him out there to work his way through it way, way too long. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Oh well. Being at the ballpark is seldom if ever a bad time. The group of season ticket holders around my stylist’s seats is really nice. We told them not to mock Sue too hard over our red hats as she had already given me plenty of grief over them and that got some laughs. They all greeted one another with a cheery “Happy New Year!” in honor of the new season. I love it! And there were a few a great plays to enjoy even as parts of the complete A team languished in the dugout.

Dan Haren requests a full demonstration of the progress Peter Bourjos is making in his walk. Better, but it looks like Torii Hunter has a little more work ahead of him. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

"And this one time. At Angels Camp. I heard an Ostrich came to the morning meeting..." Whatever story Peter Bourjos is telling, it's clear he has Mark Trumbo and the other guys' full attention. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

What do you want, it was a weird little exhibition game. They played nine full innings even though the Dodgers had already won, just like the day before when the Angels had already won, because that’s what the managers wanted. The Dodgers were even nice enough to let the pinch hitting Kendrys Morales bat a second time, calling him the DH that time which so funny over the National League speakers. That’s why I say, as much as this is a rivalry, it’s a relatively sibling like one. Eventually we saw more of the A team come back out to join the rookies, though I must say in a Regular Season game I would prefer to have both Trumbo and Pujols’ bats in the lineup rather than having Trumbo replace Pujols.

At first base in the 9th, Mark Trumbo and Dodgers prospect Tim Federowicz move with the pitch. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Our bullpen hero! Scott Downs prepares to put out the fire. Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Loss and all, it was still a fun evening and a nice little tide me over until Friday’s season opener. And while I do love Angels Stadium more, we certainly don’t have anything like this view:

Say what you will about the beauty of the Downtown L.A. skyline, but at night it's even better! Angels at Dodgers, Exhibition Game, April 4, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Calling All Angels, or at Least the 2012 25-Man Roster!

I think it’s safe to assume that, much like Crash Davis, Mike Scioscia believes in opening his presents on Christmas Morning not Christmas Eve, because he sure doesn’t reveal so much as a peep about the final 25-man roster or the starting rotation until after the final out of the Angels final Spring Training game. As for Scioscia’s feelings on good scotch, the hanging curve ball, the self-indulgence of Susan Sontag novels and any of the rest of the famous movie speech? Well, the evidence is somewhat less conclusive. I’ll leave you all to speculate. Regardless, the Angels pitched, hit and fielded their way through their final 2012 Spring Training game this afternoon – finishing with a win, no less! – and Scioscia revealed the details fans have been craving for weeks and, in some case, then some shortly after.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2012 Angels…for now…Oh, come on? What kind of Opening Week Angels Roster/Rotation would this be without a question mark or two?:

 

Angels 2012 Starting Rotation (Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!):

  1. Jered Weaver
  2. Dan Haren
  3. Ervin Santana
  4. C.J. Wilson
  5. ?? Hey, remember what I said about those question marks! We don’t absolutely need a 5th starter until the 15th. Why announce these things early? See post introduction. ;) Most likely this will be either Garrett Richards or Jerome Williams. Personally, I liked the look of Williams better than Richards last season. But Williams is recovering from a strain and Richards is no longer a rookie, so who knows?

Relievers (and here we largely pause our yay-age in exchange for some resigned sighing. This could either go really well or…yeah):

  • Scott Downs (Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!)
  • LaTroy Hawkins (I have hopes that this coulld be a yay)
  • Kevin Jepsen (The jury will without its verdict until more evidence is presented)
  • Jason Isringhausen (Ummm…)
  • Hisanori Takahashi (Er…..)
  • Rich Thompson (Probably, mostly Yay!)
  • Jordan Walden (I have hopes that this could be a yay too)

 

Catchers (Yay! They hit above .212!):

  • Chris Iannetta
  • Bobby Wilson
  • …just messin’ with ya there. For the first time in a few seasons, Scioscia is starting out with only the traditional two catchers on the 25-man roster.

 

Infielders (Yay!! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!):

  • Alexi Amarista (Good for you kid! You had a heck of a Spring Training!)
  • Erick Aybar
  • Alberto Callaspo
  • Maicer Izturis
  • Howie Kendrick
  • Kendrys Morales (Hey, infielder is what the article I read said, but we all know it’s going to be a looooooong time before Kendrys does any fielding if, in fact, he does do any fielding this season. This is our DH and a damned fine one at that. Yaaaaaaay!!!)
  • Albert Pujols (You know, what’s his name. The new guy. I’ve heard he can hit and field a little. ;) )
  • Mark Trumbo

 

Outfielders (Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!):

  • Bobby Abreu (Allegedly. At least, outfielder is what the article I read said but, ugh. I saw him play left last night and, I love you Bobby, but oh. Hell. No.
  • Peter Bourjos
  • Torii Hunter
  • Vernon Wells

 

 

A Loony Musical Interlude in between Angels Spring Training Matchups

So, LeAnne Rimes has this song…

Yes, sometimes I like my country a little pop-py. Don’t judge me. ;)

Ahem. So LeAnne Rimes has this song called Big Deal. It’s a catchy little tune about a young lady who dumped a guy a while back and, while she’s 99.999…% over him at this point, she’s still plenty miffed that her best friend has started dating him and won’t shut up about how amazing he is. So the young lady is encouraging her friend, perfectly politely of course, to adopt a more tactful topic of conversation…right now.

Anyway, last night Seth and I watched the Giants/Rangers game. Ho Hum. But nothing else was on. Certainly not the Kendrys Morales batting cleanup behind Albert Pujols because Kendrys is looking that good game that I actually wanted to be watching even though it’s only a Spring Training game but couldn’t be watching because none of the stupid networks were airing it…*pauses to take a deep breath…finally*…not that I’m bitter about it or anything even though he hit a home run. *pauses to breathe again* ;) And we capped it off with the Rangers edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

Mike Napoli was heavily featured in this MLBN preseason rundown, naturally, and, also naturally, we kept watching because we both like the guy. He was a great Angel and one of those players you wish all the best…just much, much further away than Texas in an ideal world. It was enjoyable and yet not so enjoyable at the same time and, as Dan Plesac and the Rangers began laying on the Napoli accolades thicker and thicker I was eventually moved to begin singing LeAnn’s catchy ditty: Yeah, you call yourself a friend, but you just keep rubbing it in. Big Deal. So what!…

Seth began cracking up almost immediately and took up the refrain: Who cares! You just got lucky that’s all. It was. Shut up! I swear…

But here we paused and looked at each other giggling, unsure of how to go on because the “candle light and long stem roses nd how you’re falling head over heels, in love…”of the next line, unlike its predecessors, hardly fit Mike Napoli and the Rangers.

Seth: If I hear another word about…?

Me: If I hear another word about…?

Seth: If I hear another word about…?

Ah hah! Inspiration. Me: …about catching right and grand slam home runs and…and…

Seth, grinning: and…? And…and World Series MVP! So what. Big deal! 

And by that point we were both laughing too hard to extemporize any further…and to follow the thread of the rest of the analysis truth be told. Anyway, we both thought we were pretty darned funny…perhaps the Friday night wine ritual helped that sentiment along a bit, but it still seemed worth sharing, especially this weekend. With Rangers/Angels match ups both today and tomorrow, I am sure the Napoli trade and his stellar 2011 season couples with the Angels anemic 2011 offense will be rehashed ad nauseum along with both teams’ offseason acquisition exploits.

Besides, the song, both the original lyrics and our little reworking of them, fits my feelings on the situation perfectly. I’m over the Mike Napoli trade. I am. I didn’t want him traded away, but it’s not like fans have any choice in the matter, and it’s not like he played like this for the Angels anyway. (And don’t bring up playing time. He actually had significantly more playing time for the Angels in 2010 than he did for the Rangers in 2011. The whole playing time thing is a myth.) Don’t get me wrong, last season was painful in bold 48 pt. font italic all caps covered in sparkles, just for good measure…awful, Twilight Vampirey sparkles. *shudders*

…But trading Mathis and acquiring a catcher that seems capable of hitting above the Mendoza line has helped a lot. Retooling the offense has helped even more. I’m absolutely not saying, ‘Who needs Mike Napoli?’ But I am saying, it’s over and done with. I have moved on. I really like the team we have now and I am at peace with the whole trade ick. But, much like the main subject of LeAnn’s song, that doesn’t mean I will ever enjoy hearing the announcers, the press and everyone else go on and on. And on. And on about the whole thing.

Follow the Bouncing Baseball Fan, Kendrys Morales is Back!

He’s back! He’s back! Kendrys Morales is back! And he looked pretty darned good too, with a single in his first at bat in an Angels’ uniform since Memorial Weekend, 2010 and another in his third at bat. He’s running. He’s sliding!! And all in more or less regular form. I tell you, it brought a tear to my eye…okay more than one.

Yes, taking photos of my television set is probably more than a little lame. But, is that lineup not a thing of beauty? Angels vs. Royals Spring Training on Fox Sports West, March 22, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Flushed, cheering and bouncing around the room from excitement, I posted something similarly gushy on FaceBook. And what stupendous outpouring of love did I receive for this momentous announcement? Pray tell, how many ‘hell yeahs!’ and ‘Right ons!’ exactly? *crickets* That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Nothin’ but *crickets* I say this with extreme affection, but baseball philistines the lot of them. ;)  And this, in a nutshell, is why I blog. Whoever you root for, you’ve been there before. You all get why this news is so amazing!

I haven’t posted a whole lot about Kendrys lately. I haven’t been documenting his progress religiously in this blog and I’ve avoided making impassioned predictions about his ability to return. And, trust me, it’s not because I haven’t been tracking his progress since his second surgery with keen interest. And it’s not because I haven’t been hoping that he could make it back to the roster this season with all of my little old baseball lovin’ heart. No, it’s just that I’m a practical person and, while I do tend toward optimism, it’s a cautious, guarded sort of optimism.

After last season’s disappointment, hoping and rooting for Kendrys to play again and then the setbacks, the second surgery, and another season on the DL, I had to take all of the reports this offseason of his impending 2012 return with several cups of salt – forget those measly grains. Foot and ankle injuries are terrible. Even when they heal, scar tissue can prevent the injured foot from ever working properly again, from ever functioning without a great deal of pain again. And that’s just for those of us who expect normal things of our bodies. For a professional athlete who requires so much more strength and dexterity from his body? Yeah, it’s just that much harder.

Yep, more photos of my television set. But, but, it's Kendrys Morales at the plate!! And that's the swing that resulted in his first hit. So. Very. Cool! Angels vs. Royals Spring Training on Fox Sports West, March 22, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So I promised myself that I wasn’t going to get excited about Kendrys until I saw him stride up to the plate, bat in hand, in a regular season game. And I meant it. No, seriously. I promised. Not until the regular seas…yeah, and that all flew out the window today watching that perfectly quirky, half pigeon-toed batting stance. You know the one. Yeah! And then the foot twist and the kick when he swings. And the sound the ball makes when it flies off his bat?! It was exactly like the old Kendrys…okay, with some rust. But you can see the old Kendrys not too far underneath the rust. Promise now thoroughly defenestrated, I can’t stop thinking about a regular season lineup with Kendrys batting 4th right behind Albert Pujols. A prediction? Why, yes. I think it’s absolutely going to happen and I couldn’t be more excited.

Weekend Gourmet, Wine Festival and Angels Blogger Spring Training?

A belated Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from the Emerald Isle!…

View of Paso Robes farmland taken from West Highway 46 looking out towards a completely mist shourded Morro Bay. The rock? I can't see it, but who cares with all this pretty. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Yeah, I wish. ;) Though as not-Ireland places for a St. Patrick’s weekend getaway go, Paso Robles, CA is plenty nice enough. And although the particular shades of green in this landscape are all wrong for Ireland, it is still quite lovely and the mist and rain were at least accurate. So what’s a diehard Angels fan like me doing in a place like Paso Robles when there are games going on Arizona, you ask?

Well, with Pujols-mania bringing folks out to Tempe in droves, hotel stays and such suddenly got more expensive and harder to book, so we decided to wait and go to Spring Training another year. Oh well, I was a little sad but that does mean more money for the regular season ticket budget, which certainly makes up for missing out…and, besides, it’s the Zinfandel Festival which means I just spent a lovely weekend going through my own little baseball blogger’s Spring Training, which came none too soon if you ask me. Between Albert Pujols heating up the lineup, the rest of the bats following right long, the starting rotation looking great and even more formidable with the addition of C.J. Wilson, and what is looking more and more like the very real possibility of Kendrys Morales returning to the 25-man roster, this could be a very special season in the making. A blogger’s got to prepare. Training and drills are a must.

Okay, training and drills. Fine, you say. But at a wine festival? Of course at a wine festival! Where else could I get all of this practice and prep in? Take photos, for example. If you read this blog last season – first off thank you! – you know I like to take photos when I go to Angels games so that I can pepper my posts with photos that are as much mine as the commentary. Well, taking baseball game photos can be tricky. There’s a lot of action. Your subjects are constantly on the move, sometimes in unpredictable ways. It’s all too easy for the rusty blogger to end up with a large collection of photos like this one, which I like to call Not-So-Still life with Aybar:

A blurry, bad Erick Aybar rounding first base photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. White Sox, May 10, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or even this one. Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos were both well in frame and in focus when I started to take the photo…:

A blurry, bad Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos warming up photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. Mariners, September 5, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

You’ve got to warm up for tricky action shots. Practicing on things that don’t move but require a lot of detail and focus can be helpful, like this vineyard (I love the gnalred, wintery vines and the  lines created by the three distinct fields with vines running at three different angles):

Views like this are why I say if I could find a way to make money up here, I would absolutely move to Paso Robles. Anyone need a mortgage banking, copy writing couple? We would probably be fair hats at catering and he brews excellent beer! March 16, 2012, Red Soles Winery property. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or this gorgeous tasting room:

Shale Oak Winery's absolutely gorgeous eco-friendly tasting room. Grab a glass of something bold and fruity and head for the fire pits on the patio. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Then you can move on to some simple action subjects, like these Paso Robles wild turkeys:

Why did these Paso Robles wild turkeys cross the field? Duh, to get to road of course. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I say a simple action shot because, although this is an impressive little dominance display here, with a lot of action going on, turkeys (the real ones with feathers at any rate) don’t generally muck up photos by adjusting themselves. Still, although no Spring Training can ever replicate the real thing I think I have gotten enough “innings” in with the camera to be ready for the regular season.

As for the rest of my blogger’s Spring Training? Well, I got to study plenty of tasty treats in preparation for my Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels nights, like this glorious roast pork panini and sundried tomato salad from Farmstand 46. They call it The Goat:

If you're ever passing through Paso Robles, Farmstand 46 is a must! Behold The Goat, a slow roated pork shoulder panini topped with pickled onions, salty gruyere and a homemade garlic aioi, accompanied by a sundried tomato salad and real macaroons. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…or the Zinfandel sliders, the tacos al pastor, the paella or any of the other deliciousness I was too busy nom-ing to take a photo of. Would I really make a roast pork panini or paella just for our Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels enjoyment? *laughs* Will Mike Scioscia change the Angels lineup a minimum of 60 times this season? Hell. Yes.

Speaking of Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels, what better place to stock up the old wine cellar than at Zin Fest? Yes, I think it’s going to be a beautiful season:

Part of this year's Zin Fest haul. As they say in Paso Robles, 'Sip. Swirl. Enjoy!' Don't mind if I do. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I even got my usual pre-season gabfest in with some of the Giants fans at the Barrel 27 pick-up party. Not surprisingly they are every bit as thrilled to be getting Buster Posey back as we are with the positive Kendrys outlook. Not to mention it was fun talking rookies and just barely not rookies with them. The Giants have some great younger players in the mix or soon to be in the mix too – one gent I was chatting with is particularly enamored with Baby Giraffe, Brandon Belt – so our two fan bases have some fun things in common.

So, I have my trusty camera at the ready, my Opening Day tickets in hand…er…inbox, plenty of wine options (seriously if I actually showed you the full collection of options, you would laugh at me!) and my typing fingers limber and warmed up. 19 days until Opening Day and I. Can’t. Wait!

Of Angelic Offenses, Hot Corners, Video Games and Towels: More Spring Training Thoughts

Holy Angels Lineup, Batman! They hit! They steal! They knock in runs! And they score and score and score again! I am so happy with the Angels offense right now that I am beaming as I type this. I hope this carries over into the regular season and grows! It sure looks Albert Pujols was the missing piece this lineup puzzle needed because all of the good pieces we had going last season are now working in conjunction with one another to create multiple, multiple run innings instead of little tiny offensive outbursts. They look almost as good as the starting rotation – and that ‘almost’ reflects more on the high bar set by the starting rotation than anything else. Speaking of which, I’ll bet that as pleased as the fans are, the run support starved starting rotation is even more so.

That sticky third base question…seems to be a lot less sticky than folks were predicting actually. We have now seen Mark Trumbo play third base and it worked out pretty darned well. He played the grounders hit his way well, including one that took a nasty hop. He made a great diving catch. In all of the discussion about the possibility of Trumbo at third, his arm was never once in doubt…even so, it was really nice to see that this assessment was accurate. And he did all of this while enjoying a good day at the plate which included his first Trumbomb of Spring Training. It’s only Spring Training. It was a very small sample size. But I actually think this could work. The stats and logic behind Clubhouse Confidential’s much more dire predictions a few weeks back did seem to make an unfortunate amount of sense. But people had the same predictions for Trumbo at first base last season with the same logic and, while he was certainly no Gold Glover, he turned out to be a competent, reliable first baseman who kept improving all season. I was hoping he would demonstrate the same caliber as a third baseman and, after watching him, I think that’s exactly what we can expect.

Those crazy MLB video game commercials. MLB 2K12? MLB 12 the Show? Which is better? I certainly couldn’t say. I don’t play video games much and when I do I tend to gravitate back to something old school like Gauntlet or Heretic. But I do know that the commercials for both MLB video game franchises are usually something special and this year is no exception. Justin Verlander’s Randy Johnson impersonation in the MLB 2K12 commercial has me laughing out loud every time. It almost makes up for his attempts at comedy on Conan O’Brien. As for the other? Granted, it’s not that hard to make me cry these days, but a video game commercial? ‘Fraid so. That darned Cubs Win! MLB 12 the Show commercial actually made me tear up…er…makes me tear up. He’s just so sad at the end! (Of course, we all know who they tried to get to be in that commercial and that’s just plain mean.) Suffice to say, both ads were very well done.

Don’t forget your towel. According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a towel is “about the most massively useful” item you can bring on any journey, local, interstellar, or somewhere in between. Apparently David Price agrees to disagree with the vaunted Guide on this front. Don’t panic, David, you are not alone. Many of us suffer bizarre abuse at the hands of seemingly innocuous inanimate objects. I have a friend who threw out her back showing her daughter how to put on nylons. I have another friend who received a scar from a Rock Band guitar pretty much just as she was just walking by – we refer to this as her Rock Band stage diving scar, by the way. And there’s a good tip for you. If you can’t somehow make the inanimate object injury sound less silly, go for making it sound epic instead.

As for me? Doors are my personal bete noir. Car doors. House doors. Cupboard doors. Heck, even door jams. They all attack me and bruise my arms and legs on a regular basis. See, you are far from alone. Though I must admit, it is nice for the rest of us to be reminded yet again that even Major League baseball players can suffer from occasional bouts of klutziness too…and that that the rest of us only have to answer to the mockery of our friends and family, not the national media. Of course, as a woman, attending a small liberal arts college and having the only honest answer to “Where on Earth did you get that bruise?” be, “I ran into a door.” was more than a little awkward too, as you might imagine.

The Crack of the Bat! The Slap of the Glove! The Long Uncomfortable Silence of the Error?

Okay, so it’s only Spring Training. The sights and sounds of the game are never going to be the same in Spring Training as they are when the real deal begins. Still, after so many long days without, they sound pretty darned musical to me. So, after two entire Angels games, one of which only aired on the radio and one we watched this evening via that faithful friend of the working stiff, the DVR, I have a few thoughts.

 

It’s only Spring Training. And believe you me, if it were going badly I would absolutely be emphasizing how much Spring Training games don’t really mean anything, a fact I don’t forget just because things are going well. However, it makes me really happy to see:

  • Albert Pujols and that gorgeous swing looking good from the first at bat.
  • C.J. Wilson looking like he’s in season shape already or pretty darn close to it.
  • The regular infielders doing their regular season thing in the field and at the plate.
  • One possible incarnation of the outfield doing their regular season thing in the field and at the plate.
  • Alberto Callaspo belting the ball and playing his position with an “Ahem. I’m still here!” swagger and chip on his shoulder.
  • Angels infielders turning two in March with a decidedly May kind of ease and precision. Have you ever noticed that the sound of the ball slapping the glove during a solid 6-4-3 or 4-6-3 is just a little different than it sounds during any other play? Three fast, solid thunks in precisely measured succession. It’s a lovely sound!
  • Power from the catcher’s position!! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Spring Training ball parks. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. I have now seen current Angels catchers look like they actually know what they are doing in the batter’s box in two back to back games. And after last season? Yeah, that’s a big deal.
  • Angels ball players looking relaxed, rejuvenated, and very at ease with one another…until they start talking about the coming season and then there is a fire in their eyes. Love that!

Meh. It’s only Spring Training:

  • Oh my word, the errors. With every team, in every game. Balls zinging out of gloves. Sailing lazily past gloves. Dropping softly at the outfielders’ feet… Throws going into the outfield. The backstop. The dugout. The stands… And some of the pitching and hitting? Ugh. Yes, this is why we have Spring Training but it is also why Spring Training will never be as good as the regular season.
  • I’m not particularly impressed with most of the Angels kids so far. Not last season’s rookies or Mike Trout who spent a fair bit of time in the Bigs last year. I think my appreciation of their efforts and the breath of fresh air they bring has been thoroughly documented on these virtual pages. No, I mean the younger prospects. I really like Alexi Amarista whose gutsy, athletic, maximum effort style of play in a diminutive package reminds a bit of Dustin Pedroia. And I like Andrew Romine who has demonstrated great instincts and a gift for pulling plays out of thin air in the past. Other than that, I don’t see anything that impressive yet…of course, I wasn’t that impressed with Tyler Chatwood last Spring Training, so I can’t claim to have the best eye for the subtle nuances of a rookie-to-be’s performance.
  • The usual: No one stays in the game for very long, even when they’re doing well. Small stadiums make for quiet games. Even the announcers…heck, even the sound and picture quality seem to be in training right along with the players.

 

We got to watch baseball. Real, current – if not precisely live – baseball over dinner for four days running now. And this evening my husband looked from the game to me with a very contented smile, all of the strain of the day gone from his face, and sighed. This is a nice evening, he said. It’s great to have the back game on. I couldn’t agree more…and that part needs no Spring Training specific header. That part is universal.

Of Valentines, Billboards and the Machine

Driving down the 605 freeway to work today, what wondrous sight should greet my none-too-thrilled-to-be-office-bound-on-such-a-gorgeous-day eyes but this stupendous new billboard! What a lovely Valentine for the fans! Okay, so I actually telecommute three days a week so this billboard could have been up since last Wednesday night and I would have been none the wiser. But I saw it for the first time today, so I’m going with ‘lovely Valentine.’ Besides, this billboard is so much less ephemeral than roses, doesn’t require one to make reservations or deal with crowds and won’t take up valuable bed real estate unlike a teddy bear or other stuffed animal. It’s perfect! ;)

 

Angels 2012 season billboard on the 605 S just north of the 10 freeway. February 14, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 

There are several of these billboards along my commute, a small series of them apparently, because another one a little further down the way had the same design but said “Now Playing” with the Angels logo for the A again. Passing the first one made me giddy with the reminder of the approaching baseball season. Passing the second one made me smile a little wider still. Passing the third one made me swell with pride over my team…and then frown a little as I started to question the whole ad campaign. Are we really only advertising Albert Pujols this season? Seriously?

Not that I’m complaining about featuring Pujols on billboards. I mean, he’s only the best or one of the best, depending on who you talk to, player in the game. And it’s not like he designed the ad campaign, or even requested such treatment. It’s just…well…we have other players too. Other wonderful players who are either already stars in their own right or on their way to becoming so. Guys who kept the team in contention last season right up until the end even though they ultimately fell short of the mark. You know, Jered Weaver. Dan Haren. Mr. Ervin “No hitter – I finally got that Cleveland beast off my back” Santana. Torii Hunter. And, heck, after last season Mark Trumbo. I’d like to see some of these guys on billboards too.

Of course, this is hardly unique to the Angels. Most teams who land a big free agency signing do the same thing. The whole Dodgers Mannywood campaign comes most immediately to my mind, perhaps because those billboards were in the same places on my commute as these new Angels billboards not so very long ago. And I am sure you all could provide me with quite an array of additional examples. But the fact that this is a common, traditional ad campaign style doesn’t make it a good one, in my opinion. To me the real story here isn’t just that Albert Pujols is an Angel now. For all that he is amazing, Pujols couldn’t be a baseball team of one if the rest of the team was ineffective. No, the real story is that Albert Pujols is donning an Angels uniform alongside our existing players, that he has the potential to take an already good team to the next level.

I would prefer to see several different individual player billboards – half of them Albert by all means, but the other half featuring a handful of others. Then, as you actually hit Anaheim, I would like to see a billboard or two with all of the featured players on it together. I think that billboard campaign would tell a more powerful story.  …Then again, what do I know about copy, design and marketing? Oh, yeah. Never mind. ;)

File This Under “Things That Aren’t Going to Get Old Any Time Soon”

As an Angels fan, I am used to not seeing my team on the national radar – sports news covers or features, popular culture, public awareness, generic poll via number of ball caps seen in random unexpected places, or otherwise. This is hardly a gripe – actually, I kind of like it – it’s just an observation. As I’ve mentioned before, I was raised a Dodger fan. And the Dodgers, while they aren’t the Yankees or, more recently, the Red Sox, are frequently on the national radar…not always for good reasons, sad to say, especially lately, but still, they’re there.

When you want to set a scene as being definitively in Los Angeles, you reference the Dodgers or show a glimpse of the stadium in a scan of the scenery. Dodgers Stadium isn’t as frequently filmed as the Hollywood sign, nor as oft destroyed in Hollywood natural disasters as the Capital Records building or those darned Angelyne signs, but it’s there never the less. (Yes, the Angels had top billing in that one movie but, seriously, I’m trying to forget that one. ;) Remember the Naked Gun, by all means, but please forget that other one…er…ones, apparently. I stand corrected. See comments below.) You are likely to see Dodgers caps in random places, ditto shirts and other paraphernalia. Yankees gear is more common, but you get the general idea. I grew up thinking this was normal attention for your average baseball team, even though fans of 25-ish other teams could have told me otherwise. Now I get it. Sightings of Angels on the cover of, the TV screen of, or head or back of anything or anyone becomes increasingly rare the further you get from the general Orange County/Los Angeles area. This is normal attention for your average baseball team. And as a direct result, any random Angels sighting – National news feature, gear seen in a movie, ball cap on the head of a random fan in, say, Olathe, Kansas, never fails to give me a giddy little thrill.

Needless to say, those giddy little thrills have been quite the frequent occurrence since, oh, say December 8th. Go figure. Signing two of the biggest free agent names in the same day will do that for a team. And the best part is, they aren’t getting any less giddy or thrilling as they continue to multiply. So, imagine my delight this morning in the doctor’s office, when I spied this bright, shiny treasure:

My Angels on the cover of ESPN. Yes, it was bright and shiny. I swear, it glowed like Excalibur in the Disney cartoon. Why do you ask? And, yes, I am probably the only baseball blogger who didn’t already know the Angels were on the cover. January has been quite the suck for me. But not knowing made the thrill just that much more giddy-making. No, I don’t see this getting old anytime soon. While I liked the homey feel of non-attention, I could certainly grow to appreciate attention.

Random Thoughts on the article itself:

  • Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar. Mind you, this is just a confirmation of my existing opinion of the guy, but, yeah. Total. Rockstar. However these signings turn out – and I certainly hope it’s a meets or exceeds expectations kind of scenario – he’s proven that he has the negotiating skills, brains, guts and personality to do well by the Angels for years to come.
  • It really is interesting how very normal typical player concerns are when they’re deciding which offer to accept. Yes, I do understand, it’s much more about the money than anyone is going to actually come out and say. But even when you boil that down, it’s typical job stuff. Compensation. Job security – length of contract and no-trade clauses. Will my family be happy? Will I get to do the specific job I like to do? Will I like my boss/coworkers? etc…
  • Except, of course, for C.J. Wilson whose pros and cons list was, between the screenwriting opportunities and possible sponsorship of his racing team, unique to say the least. Maybe it’s because I was hot and cold on the rumors that Angels were going after him in the first place? But whenever I watch or hear an interview with Wilson where he talks more about his – incredibly interesting, I’ll admit – hobbies than about baseball, I am torn between thinking “Wow, what an intriguing, well rounded guy” and “Nooo! He’s not Barry Zito. He’s not Barry Zito. He is. NOT. Barry Zito.”
  • The part that made me laugh? One call from Albert Pujols apparently pulled Arte Moreno away from a movie date with his wife. They were in the middle of watching Melancholia. Okay, I like arty, abstract movies but please tell me that Arte wasn’t thanking Albert in more ways than one as soon as he saw the mighty bat’s name displayed on his cell phone. Oh, darn. Whoops. Sorry, honey. I am so disappointed to miss this boring drivel…er…I mean stirring dialog, but I gotta take this.
  • Apparently a random woman reading ESPN magazine in a doctor’s office is still considered an oddity. I got a literal thumbs up from one gent when I picked up the magazine and several odd looks from other parties. Of course, the fact that I took a photo of the cover with my phone may have had something to do with that. I suppose that could be considered odd in some circles. ;)
  • Did I mention that Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar?

The Year of the of the Mystery Team?

Way to go Tigers, coming out of nowhere to land the big free agent bat! That was almost…well…Angelic. ;)  …Ooooh. Kay. And reminiscent of many other teams in other seasons too. But this is an Angels blog. I’ve kind of got this slant going on. And with that slant I have to say, I don’t know which outcome of the deal amuses me more, the fact that this move keeps Prince Fielder out of the AL West? Or the thought that with Migueal Cabrera moving to third base according to today’s reports, Angels fans are likely to see a lot more of Justin Verlander’s “That’s bushleague!” scowl? Pssssst…Angels players bunt. Often and generally very well. Pass it on.

In all seriousness though, I do like the way this offseason is turning out and the role this deal played in it. The Tigers and the Rangers, both already strong teams, were able to make improvements without outright dominating. The Tigers filled the potentially devastating void left by Victor Martinez’ season ending injury in a way that also bumped up their offense. The Rangers did not further bump up an offense that was already pretty much the scariest in the AL, but they did improve their starting rotation. Yes, I know Darvish is unproven, but I just can’t imagine a pitching acquisition that Nolan Ryan approved of so highly turning into a flaming failure.

And the Angels? The Angels made sure they can compete, adding power to a lineup in serious need of just such an infusion and restoring their starting rotation to the promise it had at the beginning of the 2011 season. Remember, for all that our pitching was impressive last season it was primarily spots one through three that did the impressing. The four and five spots were a rotating mixed bag of frequent awfulness speckled with the occasional gem. Other teams patched potential problem spots too. I like the Yankees pitching additions…all the more because they’re both pitchers the Angels hit. I find it interesting and potentially beneficial that the Red Sox have gone out of their way to add good clubhouse guys into the mix with their All Stars. Don’t worry, I’m not going to beat a dead, repeatedly reanimated as a zombie and then beaten dead again and again and again, Bostonian horse here. But suffice it to say, I think this may prove to be a more powerful strategy than folks are currently giving it credit for.

And no, this isn’t me being some sort of Mary Sue saying, Yay, everyone is equal now. Let’s get out there, give the other team a big hug, and don’t bother keeping score.  This is me, the passionate baseball fan saying, I see a lot of well matched, hard fought, competitive as all get out, great baseball games on the horizon in 2012, and that prospect makes me downright giddy. Spring training, you slacker. What’s taking you so long to get here? Come on, pick up the pace already!

 

*     *     *     *     *

So, I’ve been less than present in the MLBlogs community for the past week now and probably will continue to be so for a few days yet…or not, who can say. No, I’m not one of the bloggers packing it in. And I didn’t finally go off the deep end from some sort of baseball depravation induced psychosis. Heck, I would prefer that. I lost a close friend Sunday. The guy both Seth and thought of as brother. The third of our goofy Three Musketeers band of degenerates. He was only a little older than me, which is to say way, way too young…as if there were a good age for this. He’d been in the hospital all last week and devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My friend – the best bad influence a girl could have, as I called him with fondness – was, among other things, the gent who taught me how to play blackjack. Not the rules, but how to really play – strategies, calculating probabilities, fearlessness. But as anyone who has ever spent serious time at the tables knows, no matter how well you work the probabilities, sometimes the cards just don’t fall in your favor and you need to do something different to change your luck. I haven’t been able to put pen to paper in days. Not for work. Not for blogging. Not for nothing. But today, I made myself bang out this post in response to news that genuinely excited me, in an attempt to “change my luck” by doing a few “normal” things. To quote Marcellus Wallace, I am pretty f-ing far from okay. But I think I am moving closer to a place where I am better able to honor his life with memories that bring smiles rather than floods of tears.

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