Results tagged ‘ Alberto Callaspo ’

Angels of Catan, a Holiday Induced Hot Stove Mash Up

Once we got the house put back to rights after Thanksgiving, Seth and I spent most of the weekend playing strategy games with headlines on MLBN and Bloomberg playing in the background…as you do, when you’re a couple of geeks who have decided that all of the responsible chores you had planned for the long weekend just really don’t sound appealing. So instead of plastering and painting the bathroom, we played a lot of Settlers of Catan among other things.

Oh, hey look. Blue won! ;) Settlers of Catan, November 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Settlers of Catan is a continually variable resources management game. Think of it as Sid Meier’s Civilization unplugged. You shuffle the tiles and their numerical dice role assignments that make up the playing board at the beginning of every game, so rarely are any two games the same. Your goal is to get enough resources to build cities and other things that are worth points, oh and to keep your buddy from doing so. But in order to do this you have to trade with your buddy a lot because there is always a key resource or two you can’t access on your own.

Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like another fun game. But isn’t this supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, a baseball blog? Oh. You again. Hey, I brought it back around to baseball the last time I went on a strategy game tangent. Just work with me for a minute here. I’m getting to that part!

So, as I was saying. *glares over her shoulder at the peanut gallery* There we were playing Catan. Making trades. Listening to MLBN and hearing about trades though nothing earth shattering. And, well, my brain tends to make weird connections between completely disparate things.

You’re telling me! Quiet, you.

Ahem. All the trading just started to seem hilariously parallel, especially the AA and AAA outfielders I’ve never heard of that some teams seem to be stockpiling. In Catan, if you’ve pissed off your buddy so much by thwarting him that he won’t trade with you (or you’re close to winning which we refer to as being “Cuba”) you have an option of stockpiling 4 of some useless resource and trading it “off the island” with the deck for one of something you actually need. So, how many no name minor league outfielders does it take to build a major league closer? Or a clutch hitting third basemen? Or anyone we would actually like to hear about…and by we, I mean I because, well, I’m baseball news selfish like that. But more than lightbulb-esque jokes about minor league players, my strange baseball/Settlers of Catan juxtaposition lead to an oddly accurate illustration of the Angels current player situation.

See, it totally relates. Well, it’s about bloody time!!

Here it is, presented for your gaming pleasure, just in time for the holidays, Major League Baseball Players of Catan: The Angels Expansion! Hey, they have every other theme and expansion under the sun for Catan, why not? Anyway, looking at my goofy creation and the board the Angels have been clearly playing with for the last couple of seasons, I think the problem is readily apparent, don’t you?:

This is the way our board looks? Now it all makes sense! MLB Players of Catan, Angels Expansion, November 2011. Concept, artwork and photo by This is a very simple game...

I mean if my dice roll options for hitting looked like that, you better bet I’d shuffle up the game board at the nearest opportunity. Strong starting pitching options with a few holes. Good and bad bullpen options based, seemingly, on a roll of the dice. Good fielding and throwing. Some speed. Some strong hitting for average but also some really poor hitting for average and almost no power hitting at all. I keep hearing all kinds of trade and signing rumors about the Angels, as we all do about our teams this time of year, but nothing that I like at all so far.

Catan, for real or as an illustration of the relative talents of Angels personnel, is all about balance and trying hard to compensate for lack of balance when it invariably occurs. Only rarely is pumping up one strength to the neglect of some or all of the others a good strategy. There is no shooting the moon, in baseball or in Catan. And, let’s be honest here, even teams with a lot of money still don’t have infinite money. Balance and prioritization are essential.

I do not want C.J. Wilson, one of the more consistent rumors. Not only do I not like the fact that the converted reliever slowed down earlier this season than last, but I think that it would be throwing entirely too much money at something that is already mostly a strength. We have a hole and a half, if you will, in our starting rotation. But we only have one power bat in our lineup…unless Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales come back in typical shape, but notice I’m not counting on that. I might have liked the David Ortiz rumor. Say what you will about the Fenway toybox, he always kills it in Anaheim, unlike Vernon Wells which probably should have been a clue, but I digress… But we have such a glut of big contract lame duck bats, at least going by 2011’s numbers, in the DH spot that I can’t see a way for the team to get rid of so, really, what’s the point?

So far, the rumor I like the most is Aramis Ramirez, but that one isn’t perfect either even when you ignore his fits of bad attitude for the sake of argument. More power at third base would be really nice. Really, really nice. But people forget that Alberto Callaspo may not be flashy but he hit consistently for average all season long, our highest batting average in 2011 in fact. And while I would like some power, if we replace Callaspo, we would then need to make up his batting average somewhere else in the lineup somehow. How about a power hitting catcher…or, even, an average hitting catcher? Clearly the slumping bats need to step it up big time or be replaced. But is that possible? It’s a puzzle. A Catan worthy puzzle. Mike Scioscia has said he likes playing Civilzation. I wonder if Jerry Dipoto likes resources management strategy games? Because like it or not, he’s got a pretty tricky one ahead of him.

Do You Believe in Magic? …and Not So Much: Reflections on Last Week and a Season of Growth for the Angels

Baseball last week was bittersweet for me. We enjoyed a night at the ballpark Monday! But it was our last night at the ballpark of the season and the Angels lost, sounding the absolute final death knell in their post season hopes. But a little more sweet was added to temper the bitter Wednesday night when we all witnessed pure magic! An evening of baseball so amazing it can only be described with a Yogi Berra quote – it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over. My condolences to Red Sox and Braves fans, it’s not about rooting against your teams, it’s about loving the magic of a come from behind upset to begin with and then witnessing two within breaths of one another. Wow!

Maicer Izturis and Peter Bourjos warm up before the bottom of the 1st inning. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So, as for Monday night’s game? Well, it was a heartbreaker of game, an at that point expected heartbreak I quickly recovered from, but still. So many miscues and missed opportunities!

After sending one sailing into right field, Alberto Callaspo takes a moment to remind himself that Howie Kendrick is several inches shorter than Mark Trumbo. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I loved Mike Napoli as an Angel. I'm thrilled he's having a great season but when he faces the Angels, this is how I prefer to see him - slinking back to the dugout after striking out. I only wish we'd seen this more often. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I absolutely miss Darren Oliver from the Angels bullpen. Not going to arbitration with him at the end of 2009 was a dumb decision in my opinion. He's a class act and I wish him well, but darned if I don't prefer seeing him walk off the mound defeated when he gos up against us. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And that is not how I prefer to remember my season, especially when I had so much fun with the Angels for most of it…frequently frustrating fun as I have fully documented on these virtual pages, LOL, but fun even so. So imagine my delight when I reviewed the photos I took that evening and discovered a lot of smiling, fun shots of my favorite ballplayers that I think show off the great personality of the team as a whole. Instantly my goofy brain imagined strange scenarios and back stories for each of the photos because, really, I prefer to remember the season as fun:   

Mike Trout appears to be jawing at Mike Napoli on 1st. "Seriously. You call _that_ a pick off attempt." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dino Ebel talks with Mike Trout at 3rd. "You're kidding!!" "'Fraid not Mike. The whole dugout dared you to touch Beltre's head. Better do it. You don't want Weave to post your phone number again." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter and Michael Young laugh over something at 2nd during a pitching change. "They really dared him to touch Beltre's head?! Oh, this is going to be funny Torii!" Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre and Mike Trout at 3rd. "I know all about the bet, Kid. Don't even think about it!!" ...and yet, Trout's still thinking about it. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre keeps Alberto Callaspo at 3rd. "Not you too 'Berto! Look, I already told the kid don't even think about it..." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar during a pitching change. Could the two short stops be talkin' shop? "He he, yeah. The old empty glove tag at second. I'm tellin' ya. Coco falls for it and slides every time." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All silliness aside, walking back to our car after the game Monday night, Seth and I rehashed the misses and mistakes. What if the Angels had played the first inning smoothly? What if they hadn’t stranded so many runners? What if, what if, what if. Seth declared that ‘what if’ was a metaphor for the whole season, though he said it wistfully and with some affection, not in anger. I agreed with him at the time, but the more I think about, the more I decided that Howie Kendrick’s last at bat was a better metaphor for the season.

Last minute fill in Howie Kendrick needs a little work on his first baseman's small talk skills, apparently. "Aw man! Elvis, you kicked up dirt all over my pants." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bottom of the 9th, two outs, one on base and the Angels are down by one. Were this the scenario back in 2009, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would get a double and the runner would score from first or on the very next at bat and my comeback kid Angels would have pulled it off again. Were this scenario last season, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would pop up or strike out, ending the game. Watching it all play out this season, I realized that I had absolutely no idea if Howie would be able to pull it off or not. With the 2011 Angels, you just never knew. And if that was sometimes frustrating, it was also sometimes amazing – a definite improvement over the previous season and an indication of growth in the right direction, giving me hope for 2012.

Michael Young and Elvis Andrus react as Mike Trout reaches second on an Erick Aybar wallk in the 6th. The Angels have bases loaded for the first time this game. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Look, 2011 was a season where there were darned few easy wins for the Angels. There were numerous contributing factors. Season long questions, first about the five spot in the starting rotation, then the four spot, then the five and back to the four and eventually both. Veteran bats failing at the same time rookie bats were learning. Not getting Kendrys back at first as expected – though in hindsight, they should have planned on that from the start – threw everyone for a loop and although Mark Trumbo became the first baseman for the team and how, there were the to-be-expected growing pains all season especially in April and May. Injuries, several of them to Torii Hunter which contributed in part to the bats situation. Cleanup spot by committee on a team with no natural cleanup spot hitter…which lead to a bunch of guys who are really excellent gap hitters, swinging for the fences and whiffing or popping out. (Trumbo is the cleanup hitter of the future in my opinion, but it was too early this season.) Then there was the bullpen. There was noticeable improvement over 2010 but, still, pick a day. They could be absolutely fantastic or the arson squad part deux. And, of course, the closer situation. From veteran closer gone bad to baby closer with flashes of brilliance amidst growing pains, that was another constant struggle this season.

It was already a tense enough interlude to be the climax of a musical's act 1 and then, during a pitching change, Bobby Abreu, Erick Aybar and Alfredo Griffen apparently decided to strike the appropriate poses to seal the deal. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All in all, the Angels won a lot of games but, for all of the reasons above and more, it was a grind to win almost every single one and I think that, quite simply, by the time we got to September the Angels were tired. Oh, in spirit they were willing and eager enough to get to the post season, witness the string of near comebacks. But I think that physically they were just too tired to take that next leap and carry themselves into the post season. And if they had made to the post season, I don’t think they would have made it past the first round, especially with the news that Mark Trumbo had been playing with a stress fracture in his foot for the last several games and was out. This isn’t a complaint at all, it’s an observation. I think they played their hearts out but, well, teams that are still capable of contending at the end, like the 2011 Rays, dig in harder to win even more when they find out that other teams in the race have lost. Teams that are just too tired to get there, like the 2011 Angels, collapse in relief to catch their breaths when they find out that other teams in the race have lost.

I wish it were different but I have a hard time being anything more than a little disappointed by it. I have watched a lot of So Cal baseball in my life, brilliant seasons, terrible seasons and everything in between, and I have to say that this was not a season that folks should get depressed over. This was a growing season that gives next season some promise. And, now, as we continue enjoying what so far has been a pretty fun post season – as fun as it can be without an Angels presence! – I will conclude this post with a few heartwarming thoughts for next season:

Mike Trout takes another mighty swing at the plate. This at bat lead to an RBI single. I have a feeling that I will have many photos of Trout making good things happen for the Angels with his bat in the seasons to come and that is a definite silver lining to the 2011 season. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren pitches from the stretch. Poor Danny, if only that first inning hadn't happened. Hopefully with more seasoned rookie bats and an uninjured Torii Hunter in 2012, Haren and his rotation mates will have a lot more run support and such things won't matter as much. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Fernando Rodney chats with the Rangers bullpen. Well, they do say that when you're about to lose your job, networking is key. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

This last photo really struck a chord with me. Taken during the warm-up just before the top of the 9th, immediately after Mike Trout struck out looking, it appears to me that Peter Bourjos is consoling Trout a little bit. Who knows what they were actually saying to one another. For all I know, Trout was making sure his cleats are tied and Bourjos is laughing him or they weren’t even talking at all. But my photo, my interpretation – so consoling it is. And I think, as such, it’s a good message for everyone. Take heart Angels fans, they’ll get ‘em next season!

Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout move into position at the beginning of the inning. "Cheer up Rookie. Next season is going to be awesome!" And indeed it will be. I just know it! Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Wild Card Wednesday. Pinch Yourself, Did That Just Happen Thursday. And Now Termination Friday?

“We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.” – Bob Slydell (no, not that Bob, the other Bob) 

This is but one of many scenes in Office Space that is hilarious and at the same time so very, very true…which makes it just a little bit painful, which in turn makes it infinitely more funny. That human nature. Kind of a sick bastard, ain’t he? The mortgage industry, of course takes this several steps further. Friday isn’t just the day employees receive, as an old boss of my husband’s used to say, an invitation to the world, Friday is also the day banks fail, a fact which became all too apparent in bad old days of ’07, ’08 and ’09.

Imagine my colleagues and I at about 1:30 or so every Friday, just after the markets closed, scanning the headlines on Bloomberg and CNN to see who received a knock on the door from the FDIC this week, like so many baseball players on a cold streak eager to see how many guys were worse off and headed straight for the Mendoza line. And, oh yes, after the FDIC came calling on us, we performed this weekly ritual all the more attentively and with a great deal more snark. This was less a matter of schadenfruede running rampant, mind you, than one of absolute terror and paranoia channeled into research, gallow’s humor and a seemingly endless stream of Tom Lehrer parodies…as you do.

Usually Major League Baseball bears about as much resemblance to corporate life in any of its variations as the Metro Goldwyn Lion does to Calvin Coolidge, but watching MLBN today, I have to wonder. Terry Francona and Tony Reagins? Interesting. Have the Bobs been doing some consulting work? I mean, of course, in both cases this is being billed as “they stepped down” and also in somewhat differing reports as a mutual or collective decision but, really, any PR team worth their pay will try and get everyone involved to adopt that party line as soon as possible, so you just never know.

The whole thing was very interesting for me, because I was expecting the news about Francona, even though I don’t think he deserved it after what he has meant to Boston. But never in a million years was I expecting the news about Reagins, even though I think he did deserve it. The Angels tend to be a lot more warm and fuzzy with their front office staff over the last decade or so than they used to be, and more so than is good for them as a general rule. Maybe they were listening when Reagins was booed during the Jered Weaver contract press conference? Because try as Victor Rojas might to cover it up with a joke, they weren’t shouting “Tooooony, Toooooony” and it wasn’t funny.

So Francona is off to, one would assume, if not bigger and better things at least big and good things and Tony is…still employed with the Angels but as Assistant to Club Chairman Dennis Kuhl. I think this is fitting. Tony Reagins clearly loves the Angels and he’s tried to do right by the team just with very mixed results as a GM, Dr. Tony and Mr. Reagins as it were.

So, thank you Dr. Tony, with all of my Angels loving heart for the Jered Weaver extended contact. For Dan Haren. For Scott Downs. For Mark Teixeira, who was a brilliant rental signing it’s just too bad we couldn’t keep. And for Torii Hunter. And, in truth, for Alberto Callaspo who has quietly lead the team in batting average ever since. But for all the rest? For Scott Kazmir. For Fernando Rodney. For trading Mike Napoli (you can have Juan Rivera) for Vernon Wells for crying out loud? I tried to be pretty Pollyanna about that one because it’s not like I had a choice, but sheesh! For not being aggressive enough to really have a shot ai Teixeira…or any strong bats during this last off season…or, no offense to Callaspo but, a star third baseman with the cleanup bat we desperately needed at that time. For all of this large downside, I thank you for leaving, Mr. Reagins, with all of my Angels loving heart.

So, where do we go from here? I confess I am not exactly up on available GM candidates and the Angels have indicated they’re looking for someone young and untried anyway. Here’s hoping this winds up being more of a Dr. Tony, the deal ninja, style decision than a Mr. Reagins style decision.  And one way or the other, I hope they fix the Angels’ glitch.

Editor’s Note: So I am a bit behind on my posts. Work really piled on the projects this week and sometimes it’s all so much writing that I don’t have two coherent thoughts left amidst the jumble to string together for the blog. But have no fear, TIAVSG was born during the offseason by the barely glowing embers of a recently kindled Hot Stove, and this blog will surely continue though the post season and the off season…pics from my last game of the season and wrap up thoughts on the Angels season coming soon…Hey, come November and December especially, a girl’s gotta do something to keep the offseason blues away.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. It’s a September Simon Says to the Season Finish, Folks!

And a September Simon Says is pretty much what I expected for the Angels push to catch up with those wily Rangers in this season’s wild, wild, a wee bit wilder than usual in fact, AL West. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss was frustrating. All those errors! Ugh! But Monday night’s win, with the Angels’ bats rising to the occasion to pick up Dan Haren, was glorious and this evening’s come from behind win was exhilarating, if a bit more exciting than strictly necessary. And, with Texas unable to do much against the pitching firm of Shields and Price – love that fan cave bit! – the Angels have gained one precious game on them, shrinking Texas’ lead to a mere 2.5 games.

Torii Hunter warms up in right field. Torii had an uncharacteristically rough first two innings in right but pulled himself out of the error cycle and more than made up for it with spectacular plays the rest of the game...would that Aybar, Callaspo and Izturis could say the same the next evening. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

September is still young and I predict a lot more Simon Says-style steps forward and back in the standings before all is said and done. So hang on to your hats and glasses, Angels fans. I think this rollercoaster of a season is going to come down to the last three games when the Angels and Rangers clash in Anaheim, don’t you? In the mean time, what better place is there to soak in all the excitement of the closest division race of the season than the Big A? (Sorry New York and Boston. Yes, I am aware that your division race is closer, and that the end result is extremely important to you, but for the rest of us? It’s not that big a deal. We already know you’re both going to the playoffs.) Of course, I won’t be able to attend as many games as I want to this month, but I plan on heading out to the ballgame as often as my wallet and a very understanding boss will allow. Seth and I started with Monday’s game.

To the victors go the high fives! Jeff Mathis, Jered Weaver, Vernon Wells, Alberto Callaspo and Bobby Wilson greet the infield after the last out. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

As I mentioned, this was not Dan Haren’s best night by any means. But like the veteran workhorse he is, he battled and kept the Angels in the game. And, like Jered Weaver in his equally turbulent Saturday start, this guy has lost pretty so many times this season, he deserved to be able to win ugly this time. It didn’t hurt that he was facing off against a rookie and that the Angels graciously decided not to make this rookie look like Cy Young award winner. ;)

Dan Haren pitching from the stretch, as he did frequently this game. It was not Haren's best outting but he still toughed and gritted his way tto a win with a little run support from his friends. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Rookie Anthony Vasquez' 3rd start could have gone better. It also could have gone worse. Let's call this appearance inconclusive. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

In both team’s cases, the relievers actually fared better than the starters. Kudos to Bobby Cassevah and Hisanori Takehashi for maintaining the lead. And while I certainly haven’t spoken with either reliever, somehow I am sure that in return they say kudos to the Angels offense for not handing them yet another one-run lead.

Bobby Cassevah took over for Haren in the 7th and pitched a 1, 2, 3 inning with two strikeouts. Suffice to say Bobby Cassevah is growing on me, and quickly. He gets extra points in my book for walking up to Hank Jr.'s A Country Boy Can Survive. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Closer Cesar Jiminez took the mound amidst a rare flurry of Angels fan heckling. As he warmed up the entire left field pavillion let out a loud, soprano "Whooooooop" every time he pitched the ball and a "Woooooooooo" eevery time the catcher returned it. No matter how they timed their throws, the crowd matched them. It was funny mostly because you never hear stuff like that at the Big A. One wonders if he had a "special" moment with the fans that prompted it. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

For the Angels offense truly was the key to this game. It was a thing of beauty! You couldn’t keep them off the base paths, a trend that absolutely must continue this month if they’re going to catch the Rangers. I say that it’s all well and good to rest a few bats here and there but, unlike Tuesday’s game, multiple bats should not be rested at the same time and when say Howie or Trout is sitting out the game, if his replacement isn’t getting it done in the field or at the plate they should be replaced in inning three or four, not inning nine. How about it Sosh, what do you say?

Vernon Wells takes a swing while Mark Trumbo leads off 3rd. Josh Bard is catching. Wells and Trumbo both homered this game. Mark's well-timed 26th Trumbomb was a two-run affair in the first inning tto give the Angels an early lead. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter one pitch prior to knocking Peter Bourjos (who leads off 3rd) in with a triple. A now healthy Torii is swinging the bat much better than the Torii of the chronically bruised ribs from the first half of the season. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos looks downright pissed standing on first base after a walk in the 3rd. Was he mad he got walked? Did I just catch him in a rare non-sunny moment for no particular reason? Was Mariners' first baseman Adam Kennedy talkin' trash? Only Fleet Pete can say. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

On second thought, maybe Adam Kennedy was talking trash because Howie Kendrick doesn't look any happier in this meeting of former team mates...maybe Jeff Mathis owes Kennedy rent money and he's bugging the other players to collect? Totally kidding of course. ;) Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The future is now! Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Watching these rookies (and near rookie) come up to the big leagues and into their own while breathing new life into the veteran players has made my season. Seeing Trout and Bourjos in the same outfield a year early makes me giddy every time I their names in the lineup. And between the Trumbomb, Trumbo and Bourjos’ doubles and Bourjos and Trout’s speed everywhere, all three players had an excellent night.

The future is now! Mike Trout takes a mighty swing while Mark Trumbo leads off 3rd. I can't wait for a whole season of these two and the rest of the Angels rookie stars in the same lineup! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trout did miss robbing a Seattle homerun that several of the fans thought he should have caught. From my vantage less than 30 feet away, he would have had to dive into the 4th row to catch the ball. He’s good, but that wasn’t happening. Besides, as Seth and I joked afterwards, judging from the number of hits I get on this blog for “Peter Bourjos Butt,” “Mike Trout Butt” and even “(insert name of Angels rookie of choice here) naked” when there ain’t no booty shots here to be found (so you know that number of actual searches using these terms is exponentially larger), I think it’s safe to say that the young women (and likely some of the young men) of Orange County have…um…shall we say…caught Angels rookie fever. If young Trout were to sail into the stands, they might try to keep him for a souvenir.

The future is now! Peter Bourjos in center and Mike Trout in left warm up in between innings. This is but one sneak preview of the 2012 season!! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mariners outfielders Mike Carp and Trayvon Robinson warm up between innings. The Angels are not the only team hoping to benefit from a youth uprising. Both young players have looked very good, at least against the Angels. Can an influx of young blood help lead the Mariners to a winning season in 2012? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. Personally, now that we’ve knocked them to elimination, I would love to see the Mariners start an amazing winning streak immediately. You know, really take their bad season agressions out on the Rangers…hey, a girl can dream.

Trayvon Robinson and Mike Carp warm up in between innings. You can see Ichiro in the background. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trayvon Robinson leads off 2nd while Erick Aybar and Mark Trumbo prepare for the pitch. Aybar had a great night Monday. It just goes to prove that we need Howie Kendrick in the game as often as possible. Aybar between Callaspo and Izurtis is one error prone little dude. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And now for something completely silly…the Angels wonderfully goofy production staff has started airing short Q&A’s with the players on improbable topics in between innings. This evening’s fodder? ‘How many Jersey Shore kids can you name?’ and ‘Team Edward or Team Jacob?’ Needless to say, these are hardworking professional baseball players, not pre-teen girls. In most cases they didn’t even understand the questions, with humorous results. Ervin Santana’s expression shown below was the funniest, but Joel Pineiro with his “Is that the show with that chick that looks like a poodle?” had the best answer. Though Torii was pretty funny too. He scoffed at Twilight (though he did know what it was – he has teenagers after all) and said they should be asking him about “man” movies. When the reporter obliged and asked what his favorite action movie was, he was so taken aback that he sputtered and laughed at himself because he could not think of a single one.

Ervin Santana appears perplexed by the question. Don't worry Ervin, many of us join you in a collective WTF?! over Twilight. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, let us not forget, rookie call-ups mean more rookie backpacks:

Mariners rookie relief pitchers display their backpack badges of rookie hazing. The Dora the Explorer and the cute kitty backpacks are pretty much par for the MLB course these days but the R2D2 backpack absolutely rocks! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Labor Day Weekend Brain Drippings – Angels Baseball and Otherwise

  1. From a baseball standpoint, Saturday and Sunday were as heartening as Friday was disappointing. Outside of baseball, the whole weekend rocked. I didn’t bring a single project home from work this weekend. Go team, me! Okay, I work from home for half the week so, technically, I didn’t bring a single project out of my computer bag for the weekend, but you get the general idea.
  2. Jered Weaver, fresh off the plane from his grandfather’s funeral in Oregon (My sincere condolences on your loss. Losing a grandparent is extremely difficult and the bruise on your heart may fade, but never leaves.) worked his heart out on the mound for five innings on Saturday but his control was, understandably, far from his usual precision. It was a thing of beauty to see the rest of the team, offense, defense and bullpen alike, pick him up and get Jered the win. It was an ugly win to be sure, but the guy’s had so many pretty losses that he more than deserved this.
  3. Food Truck Wars alumni Nom Nom Truck, Grill ‘Em All and the Grilled Cheese Truck too? Believe the hype, they really are worth spending 45 minutes in line. They fact that in doing so we also contributed to a fundraiser for the local high school band? Pretty cool way to kill a Saturday afternoon.
  4. Joel Pineiro looked amazingly like…well…Joel Pineiro on Sunday and I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to see that. My hat’s off to him for working his way through his troubles with such a good attitude and I hope this is a sign that his rough times are over.
  5. Holy Angels offense, Batman! Torii and Aybar and Trumbombs. Oh. My! Not to mention hard, clutch knocks from Bourjos, Callaspo, Conger and Wells! Keep it up, gentlemen. This is how we win ballgames.
  6. With 25 homeruns to his name, Mark Trumbo is getting closer to matching and perhaps surpassing Tim Salmon’s franchise rookie homerun record of 31 from 1993. Whether or not he gets there, that’s pretty darned slick. Go Trumbo!
  7. As distasteful as it was, I actually rooted for the Red Sox this weekend…which is probably why they lost. Stinky Red Sox. Hmmm. Do you think they know that my love was merely a matter of temporary convenience? *nods* It’s the only rational explanation. ;)
  8. While my husband tends to see the Aybar as half Gilligan (serious props to True Grich for the all too often spot-on nickname), I tend to see the Aybar as half highlight reel. But there’s no denying he could go either way in a given game. Flip a coin.
  9. Midnight Vineyards Malbec is an excellent tater tots wine…yeah, I cracked up typing that too, hear me out. Inspired by our food truck adventures, we made gourmet burgers on Sunday, topped with blue cheese, mounds of sautéed mushrooms and a veritable tossed salad of baby greens, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette. We paired it with tater tots accompanied by curry ketchup and siricha ketchup dipping sauces. So this was a wine worthy meal…that also happened to prove the truth of the initial statement.
  10. I’m going to the game on Monday! It’s the perfect way to cap off the last weekend of summer. And I wound up getting field box seats so cheaply, I’m almost embarrassed. Thanks guys, but this better just be just a holiday weekend vacation thing, because although my last post is still true and this will take work and luck, we’re still in this!

Stomped by Texas for Three Games Straight, Is There Any Hope For Our Boys in Halos?

The 2011 Angels can’t score to save their lives and they can’t hit when it counts. Veteran bats have only come alive in alternating streaks all season – much like Torii Hunter’s slumbering bat waking with a vengeance into his current 15-game hitting streak – and the rookies and the gap hitters are pretty much carrying the line-up. The problem with that is that we can get guys on base, but we can’t bring them home, facts I haven’t shied away from mentioning all season.

Alberto Callaspo prepares to pop out while Bobby Abreu, in the on deck circle, takes practice swings before he grounds out. Callaspo's mini-slump is new. He has the second highest batting average on the team just behind Howie Kendrick. But Bobby's absentee bat has been one of several veteran disappointments on the team this season. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis prepares to strike out for the second time this evening as Peter Bourjos takes practice swings on deck. We're used to Mathis' sub Mendoza average by now, but it sure hurts when isn't the only automatic out in the lineup any more. Bourjos, on the other hand, went 2 for 4 with an RBI, one of the rookies tryign very hard to pick up the slack in the lineup. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And yet, the Angels have been in the thick of the division race, winning series and beating top teams all season long pretty much on the strength of their pitching and fielding alone. Two weeks ago, we were a mere game out of first place! So what happens when the pitching inevitably falters for a few games? Last week happens, with the disastrous road trip to Toronto and the Bronx. And if the fielding gets lax too? Well, then you have what could have been a season making series against the Texas Rangers turn into what we’ve seen on the field instead the last few days – something that could very well be season breaking if the Angels don’t pull it together and play their hearts out from tonight on through the rest of the season.

Pitching Coach Mike Butcher joins Tyler Chatwood and Jeff Mathis on the mound. It was clear from the first pitch that Chatty wasn't himself this evening. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Another end result is that I, consummate baseball optimist, constant cheerleader and the self-proclaimed Pollyanna of Angels baseball actually started to despair for a few minutes Tuesday night. Tuesday was my husband’s birthday and his boss gave him the company seats, the OMG! company seats, on the field, in the first section on the dangerous side of the home plate screens, 10 rows back from the action. Awesome boss, yes? But sitting there, seemingly inches from the field, watching Erick Aybar lazily glance at the second playable line drive in as many innings shoot uncontested into the outfield for extra bases, in a game where our young starter was clearly struggling and needed all the backup he could get, I thought, “Well, that’s it then. If the Angels have just given up, the season is over.”

Erick Aybar looks embarrassed, as well he should after his half assed fielding earlier, as he and former teammate Mike Napoli chat during a pitching change. What could they be saying to one another? Naps: It's okay Erick, _we_ appreciate your fielding today *snerk*. Aybar: D'oh. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Russell Branyan and Peter Bourjos in the dugout during the Angels at bat. I know just how you feel, Russell. I know just how you feel. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

In fact, I think I waited this long to post our photos from the game, indeed anything about the Rangers series, in the hopes that Wednesday would give me something more cheerful to talk about. No dice. At least the lollygagging fielding was over by Wednesday, but not the gaffs. Balls were being thrown all kinds of places that weren’t anywhere near a glove. Erick Aybar decided to make an effort again for us Wednesday, but alternated between not being able to keep balls in his glove and not being able to get them out in time to actually throw them – which given the throwing situation might, in hindsight, have been a blessing in disguise, I don’t know – all night. Santana pitched a great game, but with the usual insufficient run support, and now with insufficient defense, it’s no surprise we lost.

Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick chat as they take the field and Howie confirms that Aybar's fielding was indeed half-assed this game. 'Hey, look at my uniform, I might have missed, but I at least dove for the ball'...or, you know, something like that. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So, are we done? The commentators all seem to think so. This was an important series, no doubt about it. We could be. If we can pull tonight off, we’re still six games out of first place in mid-August and that’s a tall order. But I did say my moment of despair was brief and, like it’s underlying message, I’m not giving up unless the Angels have given up…and even then I probably won’t give up unless winning becomes a mathematical impossibility, not a mere improbability, an impossibility. I’m stubborn like that. Monday and Tuesday notwithstanding, I don’t think the Angels have given up. Wednesday they still played badly but there were improvements – our pitching was back on track and the defense was at least hustling. And, here’s the thing. We were only one game out of first two weeks ago with only a handful of head to head games against the Rangers under our belt. We have seven more coming up including tonight. So, come on Angels, this division just got a whole lot tougher, but it’s still winnable.

So, tonight and going forward through August and September, we need to see a lot less of this – big bats taking knocking our pitching for extra bases -:

Mike Napoli begins a swing as Jeff Mathis positions himself for the ball. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Yorvit Torrealba at bat with Jeff Mathis catching. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ian Kinsler takes a swing and fouls it off. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And a lot more of this, namely Angels in scoring position who then actually score and Angels on the base paths who just earned RBIs. And, I know I’m being extra, extra demanding here, but how about in several of the innings leading up to the 9th inning too?:

Howie Kendrick leads off third as Michael Young moves with the pitch. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter on first after knocking in a run with a single in the 9th. Mitch Moreland is playing first for Texas. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

We need to start hitting pitchers who are hittable, and not right into double plays either. Derek Holland pitched a good game, but he was hittable:

Derek Holland begins his wind up. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

No more injuries please!!! Everyone stay healthy:

Torii Hunter tells Mike Scioscia and a trainer 'Hell, no, you aren't taking me out of this game.' or words to that effect after fouling a pitch off of his own foot in the 7th. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

It’s unfair to but so much pressure on our starting pitching, but that’s just the way things are this season, especially with the #4 spot in the rotation in such a state of flux, the rest of the rotation needs to be lights out as often as possible. With Garrett Richards unfortunately timed injury, they’re reinstating Joel Pineiro as a starter…oooooh boy. I just don’t know about that one. Prove me wrong, okay Joel? And the bullpen needs to be equally spot on. So why did we send this guy back to AAA?:

Trevor Bell, up from Salt Lake City just for this game, takes the mound in the 3rd. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And why do we keep putting this guy in, in crucial situations? Tuesday was fine. Fernando Rodney pitches best when we’re already behind and don’t want to fall further behind, but I still don’t like seeing him take the mound:

Jeff Mathis tells reliever Fernando Rodney, would you stop walking batters and pitch a GD strike every once in a while...oh...maybe that's just what I want to tell him. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And the fielding needs to be error free and full of hustle:

Mark Trumbo and runner Mike Napoli move with the pitch. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo fields the ball cleanly and Ian Kinsler is out at first. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 
Thursday Night Addendum: Holy Trumbo Walk Off, Bat Man! That was awesome! This doesn’t change anything I said in my initial post – this division is still winnable for the Angels, but it’s going to take a lot of work and I will be rooting for them the whole way…but it sure makes me a lot happier about all things Angels and I think the team needed that even more than the fans did. Light that baby up! Shall we return the favor in Texas in a few weeks? Yes please!
 

Santana Pitches Another Gem and Pineiro…Well, Let’s Just Not Talk About That

Forgive me comissioner, for I have sinned. It’s been three weeks since my last Angels’ Stadium session…Hey, church of baseball and all that. ;)

Yes, Seth and I had our fair share of baseball on vacation, but it had been three weeks since we last visited the Big A. For this reason, and just plain not wanting to waste tickets, we arrived at the game on Tuesday night. Even though he had a loan customer right at closing, I was writing on deadline and the copy wasn’t flowing, and we both left work about 15 minutes before first pitch. Even though I was worried I would spend the whole game with attempts to describe open enrollment and systems migrations creatively percolating ineffectively in my brain. Even though the game was flying so quickly we arrived in the bottom of the 4th inning…ouch! Even though, I was still going to have to get on the computer and write some more when we got home. 

Here’s the funny thing about all of those worries and even thoughs, they tend to vanish once I walk inside a ballpark. For me it starts with the excitement of the fans as you walk through the gates, especially the younger children who are literally bouncing and wiggling with excitement. But the best part of that initial “I’m at the ballpark!” sensation is the first glimpse of the field from the concourse. The perfect green of the grass, the deep red of the clay and the bustle of the players, moving with the crack of the bat, all lit so brightly that it almost seems unreal, like a movie set. Gorgeous! Yes, I did have to write until after midnight when I got home, but getting to take in even the last five innings of the game was completely worth it, and I knew that the minute I saw the diamond peeking at us over the rows of field seats.

Mark Trumbo takes a swing (no, not that swing, but a good looking swing even so). Immediately after seeing that gorgeous green, Mark Trumbo blasted a Trumbomb an estimated 457 feet into centerfield. You know, just in case we had any lingering doubts about our decision to head for the ballpark. We cheered and whooped with packs of Angels fans along the concourse as we headed for our seats. And can I just say how much fun it is to hear the folks at MLBN picking up the term Trumbomb from Angels fans and giving this young man some well deserved recognition.

Trumbomb time?! Mark Trumbo takes a swing. Joe Mauer is catching. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (to the left) said. Grin away, Mark! That was homerun number 20. He has a serious shot at beating Tim Salmon’s club rookie homerun record of 31.

Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (on the left) said. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Sunset over the Angels scoreboard. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was also a beautiful night and just the right temperature for an evening out at the ballpark.

Sunset over the Angels' scoreboard. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ervin Santana had another dominant outing on the mound. It wasn’t a no-hitter. He started out a little wild, walking the first batter, Denard Span, on four pitches. And I was getting antsy listening on the radio on my way down to Anaheim. But Santana quickly got everything under control, eventually delivering a complete game, five to one win.

Ervin Santana takes the mound for the Angels. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

“Well, I figured I would throw strikes and you guys would provide error-less defensive backup.” Of course, I have no idea what Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar really said out there, and I’m sure that whatever it was it was it was much more strategic, but my inner imp of the perverse must speculate. Bobby Wilson had a strong game on both sides of the plate. I was sorry to see Hank Conger go back to AAA, though I think it’s probably for the best in terms of playing time and Hank getting his swing back. But getting to see Bobby play more and have the chance to shine is a nice consolation. Bobby and Jeff Mathis are supposed to split the catching duties at least until September call-ups.

Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar meet on the mound. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. I always enjoy watching Duensing pitch – especially when we’re hitting him! His delivery, with that high pointed toe kick, is like a ballet dancer – all grace, control and strength. I don’t think he pitched badly so much as the Angels just had his number this time out…which was refreshing after last season, let me tell you.

Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter takes a strong swing. Not to be outdone, Mr. Hunter took one deep for a solo homerun in the very next inning. I like this kind of competition. Come on guys, everyone try to keep up with Trumbo!

Torii Hunter begins his swing. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The team congratulates Torii Hunter after his homerun! Can I just tell you how weird it was to see Bench Coach Rob Picciolo setting at Mike Scioscia’s desk? Or rather at the desk where Mike Scioscia sometimes hovers briefly while he wanders from the rail to the bench and back again? Scioscia is not protesting the one-game suspension meted out in response to Sunday’s Tigers game firewoks, and  served his sentence inmmediately, missing this game. On the way to the game I teased Seth that of course we knew the Angels would win this one. Scioscia’s bench coaches always have a perfect record.

Mark Trumbo, Russell Branyan, Bobby Wilson and the rest of the team congratulate Torii Hunter after his homerun. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver have a long chat in the dugout. They were laughing earlier in the inning, though they look serious here. I wish Haren had talked Weave out of appealing the suspension, if they even discussed it. I think appealing the decision is just more posturing. He isn’t going to get to duck missing one start and it would be a lot better for the team if Weave missed this weekend’s start against the Mariners instead of a later start against the much tougher Blue Jays or our pesky division rivals the Rangers, just one game ahead of us at the moment.

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver chat in the dugout. Especially after Sunday's game, one wonders what they might be discussing. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Mauer at bat and out at first. I’m not going to lie, I have a soft spot for the Twins. Playing the Twins is like playing old friends…old friends that you really want to beat handily, of course. I like a lot of the players on the team. I usually wind up rooting for them in the post season when they outlast the Angels, etc. It was nice to see Mauer playing again, and as catcher too at that. He even got a hit, though I was only pleased for that after the game and only then because it didn’t lead to any runs. ;)

Joe Mauer takes one low. Bobby Wilson is catching. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Well played, Trumbo. Mauer, you're out! Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Such a first baseman! By which I mean both of them, of course. Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reaches first, offering strong anecdotal evidence in support of the Chatty Cathy/First Baseman stereotype. The friendly conversation to total game face in a split second conversion always amuses me.

Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reached first. First basemen! Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Cuddyer chats with Erick Aybar when he reaches second too. Yes, this is the same inning. Okay, so Cuddyer is clearly the chattier Cathy, but he’s been a first baseman longer. He knows more people. Give Trumbo time.

Erick Aybar and Michael Cuddyer chat at second base. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar hang out in the dugout during an Angels at bat. This photo amuses me for two reasons. First, this particular perch seems to be a coveted spot that almost always goes to the pitchers, but for whatever reason the position players got it this game. And two, Jeff Mathis appears to be either giving or receiving hitting advice…no offense Jeff, but I really hope it was the latter.

Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar in the dugout. Is Mathis giving hitting advice or receiving it? Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells is out at first in the 8th inning. Wells had a fine game. He went two for three, walked and scored a run. But I liked the way this photo turned out the best, so there it is.

Vernon Wells is out at first, as Michael Cuddyer throws the ball back to the mound. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And as for this evening’s debacle? After four bad starts, I am officially worried that Joel Pineiro has lost  hissinker ball to an extant that may be hard to recover from this season…and don’t think my Kaz scars have healed sufficiently that I’m not jumping to dark thoughts about his abilities next season as well. However, as the title of this post suggests, I don’t want to talk about that right now.

Angels Sweep the Mariners and Head into the All Star Break One Game Behind Texas

Sweeping the Mariners in a four game series was a most fitting way for the Angels to head into the All Star Break. After all, it was series win over the Mariners at the beginning of the epic Four Corners Road Trip that helped June’s struggling Angels turn it around and embark on a 19 and 6 streak. During the Angels reign of terror through the National League and back again, bats were discovered, starting pitchers delivered gems, bullpen pitchers delivered holds and saves a plenty and a talented nineteen-year old number one prospect made his Angels debut. I attended Saturday’s nine to three victory and hd a blast watching our guys do their thing and the kid fitting right in…you know, with all of the other Angels kids.

Yes, with Peter Bourjos’ unfortunate hamstring strain late in Thursday’s game, Trout-mas came early to Anaheim this year. No, Mike Trout did not knock two grandslam homeruns in his first game or singlehandedly field every single ball that made it to the grass as the increasingly outrageous hype surrounding this talented young man might have lead one to believe. But what he did do was get a hit and an RBI in his second game in the show. Show off his speed on the base paths and in the outfield. He did display a rookie’s hesitancy on several plays, which is to be expected, but more than made up for it with one highlight reel, game saving catch and several other catches of varying difficulty and generally charm the heck out of Angels fans everywhere with the joy he takes in the game and his pleasure at just being called up.

Mike Trout waits in the hole in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So what is my assessment of the lad? I am really pleased. I think he’s extremely talented and a stellar future corner outfielder. Corner outfielder? What’s that you say? Yep. You read that right. Trout can fly and dive and catch but no more so than our current future Gold Glove centerfielder (if not this season then soon) Peter Bourjos. And Bourjos has a strong, sure arm while Trout…well he doesn’t have Johnny Damon’s arm or anything, but baring some serious improvement, it isn’t strong enough for centerfield. Still, the thought of an outfield in 2012 or 2013 with Bourjos in center and Trout in left gives me goosebumps thinking of all the extra base hits they will rob. And although he didn’t really get  piece of one this series, Trout has more of an extra base hits bat than Bourjos so they will complement one another nicely in that regard as well…as they blaze around the basepaths forcing errors left and right. To wax Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom-ish for a moment: My God, it will be beautiful!

Center fielder Mike Trout looks to left fielder Vernon Wells after a play. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But for this season, once Bourjos is back in shape, I like our existing outfield with players who have already ironed out their communications issues and work as a unit. I also think Trout’s bat is going to take the same amount of time to warm up as our other rookies’ did, and would rather the team deal with that at the beginning of next season rather than the middle of this one…and hopefully for Trout, the vets won’t make him walk up to Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA next time. Too funny!

Mike Trout dives back to the back as first baseman Adam Kennedy catches the throwdown. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But back to Saturday’s game. Now that’s a homerun swing! I lucked out and happened to snap the photo right as Torii hit his first of what would be two homeruns for the evening.

Now that looks like a homerun swing to me! And, indeed, it was the first of two for Torii Hunter. Miguel Olivo is catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Michael Pineda was every bit as formidable as his reputation states. He sat down six Angels in a row to complete the first two innings.

Rookie phenom Michael Pineda on the mound. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And I think that might have been the story of the game, were it not for our secret weapon: Rookies who had faced Pineda in the minor leagues just last season! Mark Trumbo said hey, I know how to hit this guy and got the Angels off to a nice start in the 3rd with a single. He would also homer in the 8th.

Mark Trumbo fouls one off. Miguel Olivo shown catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger also knew Pineda and stood his ground against Pineda unafraid and worked the count into a walk. Then Mike Trout got his first base hit, a sacrifice he beat out with his speed, and his first RBI and Trumbo scored.

Mike Trout bats in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Setting the stage for Torii’s first homerun of the evening.

Hank Conger, Bobby Abreu and Mike Trout congratulate Torii Hunter on his three-run homer in the 3rd. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The rockpile at the Big A, wrapped in smoke from homerun fireworks. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joel Pineiro pitched a pretty good game. He had a strong start and overcame a shaky 5th inning to deliver seven innings with seven strike outs and only one walk…he did allow ten hits, but the infield and outfield had his back. The Angels took off scoring runs again in the bottom of the 5th and the tide never came close to turning again.

Joel Pinero's pitching release. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Joel Pineiero wraps his arm and Maicer Izturis rests during the Angels at bat. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Here are a few other snapshots from the game. Erick Aybar tries to sell an attempted pick off of Greg Halman to the umpire. Don’t worry, the ump didn’t blow this one. Chalk it up to Erick’s poor acting chops…or, you know, the ball sitting there on the grass two feet behind him.

Erick Aybar tries to sell the tag on Greg Halman to the umpire. Ummm, Erick. The ball's about two feet behind you. No dice. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout during an Angels at bat. Bourjos is still day to day but it sounds like he should be well enough to play after the All Star Break.

Peter Bourjos, still day to day with a pulled hamstring, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo chat in the dugout. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. “Coach, if I see fireworks come out of the rockpile one more time…”

Batting coach Chris Chamblis, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan and Jack Cust chat in the dugout. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate. This was a good photo of Hank Conger maneuvering behind the plate.

Former Angel Adam Kennedy steps up to the plate with Hank Conger catching. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trumbo decides to make the play himself. Yoooou’re out!

Mark Trumbo takes the out himself. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The Angels bullpen heads for the clubhouse after the game. Hmmm…looks like it was Jordan Walden’s turn for the Cookie Monster backpack.

The Angels bullpen files out after playing their part in another successful game. Looks like it was Jordan Walden's turn for the Cookie Monster backpack and Michal Kohn called dibbs on Tinkerbell. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And now? Well, it’s good to be busy at work and headed up to the Bay Area because otherwise I’d be awfully mopey for baseball this week. I love seeing the right players named to the All Star Teams because it is an honor and it tickles them, but I seldom get really pumped for the All Star Game itself.

Angels Sweep the Nationals, Presidents’ Race and All

The Angels swept the Nationals and, oh yeah, we went to a baseball game on Monday! Work has been plentiful, all consuming, fun and, occasionally, FUn this week – I came home from Monday’s game and moved a project along until 2am, that kind of fun. Between that and the games I suddenly looked up, it’s Thursday already and I haven’t posted my photos. Oh well…

Our seats for Monday night’s game were just to the foul side of the foul pole down the first base line, in the second row. Prime visitor’s section this. And, indeed, we set in front of and behind two families of Nationals fans vacationing in Los Angeles and next to a Phillies fan and his young daughters who were here on one of the middle stops of a larger baseball tour vacation. They had just come from Seattle and were headed out to Arizona then Texas. So jealous! When everyone has the right attitude, visiting fans can be a kick to enjoy the game with and all parties involved in this particular case were really nice and a lot of fun to chat/snark with.

Bobby Abreu leads off of second. Being on the field level, these seats were excellent for catching glimpses of personality on the field, some of which I got on camera. As you can see, Bobby is a talker on the base paths, especially at second base. He always wears a huge smile and gestures broadly with his hands so it is unclear for the most part if he’s goofing around, talking trash, just shooting the breeze or what. Probably a little of columns A, B and C. What little I catch of it on TV is pretty darned funny…and of course he has 13 stolen bases (not bad for one of the few ballplayers left who are older than me :)) so perhaps this is all part of his strategy. Get ‘em laughing, then break for third?

Bobby Abreu takes a lead off as he chats with the second baseman. Trash talk? Shooting the breeze? Who can say, but this is a classic Bobby on the basepaths moment. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells at bat. These seats were not, however, the best for views or photos of the plate. The first base umpire is always in the way. That’s okay. Ssometimes I enjoy having a closer vantage of the outfield and plays at second. Wells is continuing to heat up in June. He hit a single this at bat, which eventually lead to a run and then went four for five on Tuesday with a crucial two-run homerun. And Angels fans are starting to respond. Both developments are very welcome indeed.

Vernon Wells at bat while baserunner Bobby Abreu has lead off far off frame and Nationals First Baseman Michael Morse waits for a possible throw down. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Catcher Bobby Wilson and Pitching Coach Mike Butcher meet with Ervin Santana on the mound. Santana got off to an uneven start, giving up homeruns in the 2nd and 4th, but settled into a good rhythm after that. He lasted eight innings and on the Angels, starters don’t pitch in the 9th inning unless they’re pitching a shutout or something equally spectacular, so that’s pretty darned good.

Pitching Coach Mike Butcher and Catcher Bobby Wilson come out to the mound to give Ervin Santana a pep talk. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Just a random shot of the Angels bullpens. The bullpens at the Big A are terraced, which is a little unusual. The Angels bullpen on the lowest “step” in the front. And if you look at the photo you can see the Nationals in the visitor’s bullpen one step up and behind the home bullpen. Starting another “step” above the visitor’s bullpen you have the Left Field Pavilion seats. In this bullpen shot you can see Angels relievers Michael Kohn (standing up), Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takashi’s translator, Hisanori Takashi and Jordan Walden kneeling down and…what? Praying? Vomiting? Spitting sunflower seeds? Catching a few ZZZs? Probably the real answer isn’t nearly as funny so I’m going to go with one of mine.

The Angels back to back home and visitors' bullpens. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Nationals brought the Racing Presidents with them to Anaheim for the series. So was this a) an incredibly stupid idea, b) a fine example of Interleague sharing of baseball cultures and traditions, or c) I really hate Interleague and fail to see how these two comments are mutually exclusive? You make the call. I initially thought the idea was kind of dumb, only because this is the Nationals’ tradition and it’s the Angels ballpark. But it was kind of fun to see and it provided a between innings icebreaker with the Nationals fans around us. I took the opportunity to ask, so, what’s the deal with Teddy? He’s really never won? I mostly knew the answer, but it was fun hearing all about the goofy, fun tradition from fans. We’d been talking a little between innings before that, but talked a lot more often after: relievers we love/who make us cringe, hitters who are starting to do better than their batting average indicates, overinflated contracts…it turns out Angels fans and Nationals fans have a frightening amount in common.

Teddy Roosevelt prepares to loose again in the Nationals Presidents' Race...of Anaheim? Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Abe Lincoln and George Washington are neck and neck...in Anaheim? Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty meet with Pitcher John Lannan on the mound. All was going well for Lannan and the game was tied 2 to 2 until the Angels started hitting in the 6th. The Angels scored their third run shortly after this meeting and then Lannan was pulled. I love the photo because of the facial expressions and body language. I can only imagine the conversation that went with it. McCatty: Alright then, how are we going to get out of this? Lannan: Well, gee I don’t know Coach. I thought maybe I’d throw some strikes and get him out.

Pitcher John Lannan looks bemused as he meets with Catcher Wilson Ramos and Pitching Coach Steve McCatty on the mound. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo grows impatient during the meeting on the mound –  again, with being able to catch glimpses of personality from these seats. Mark Trumbo is usually as professional in demeanor as a veteran so I was amused to see him visibly impatient at another break in this already lengthy at bat, with his cheeks puffed out like an exasperated little kid. Very cute actually. He ground into a double play this at bat, but was pretty solid at the plate this series. His average is creeping back up again and he is the American League’s rookie homerun leader with 13. Coincidentally, the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa is the Rookie Major League homerun leader.

Mark Trumbo stands at the plate and puffs out his checks with impatience during a time out for a meeting on the mound. Alberto Callaspo is in the on deck circle. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during the subsequent pitching change. ‘Damn Werth, you have lots of friends over here too. You’re a real popular guy in Anaheim.’ Suffice to say, Angels fans were heckling Werth all night, which isn’t surprising. There are a few folks I see regularly in this section and the left most corner of the right field MVP section (Season ticket holders? Maybe, maybe not.) who heckle pretty much everyone, occasionally even our own players. Whether or not that was the topic of the outfielders’ conversation, I’m sure Werth is used to it by now.

The Nationals outfielders, Roger Bernardina, Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth meet during a pitching change. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells joke after Peter snags a fly ball to end the inning. The outfield chemistry is shaping up much better as the months role by. This is very helpful, especially with various assorted centerfielders, corner outfielders turned DH and the occasional second baseman flopping roles in the outfield on a regular basis to accommodate injuries, Interleague and random acts of lineup juggling.

Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos joke after Bourjos snaggs the catch. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Yes that is Torii Hunter right in front of me in right field. The news report prior to Monday’s game was that Torii took batting and fielding practice Monday and looked good enough to return soon, possibly as soon a Wednesday. Imagine our delight when they brought him in as an unexpected substitution in the top of the 8th inning. The whole crowd erupted and we went especially crazy in the seats around right field with our welcome backs.

Torii Hunter returns to right for the first time since hitting the wall against the Marlins. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jorda Walden takes the mound in the 9th. Unfortunately this would prove to be another blown save for Walden, his third in a row, when he gave up a two-out homerun to Danny Espinosa. The young Nationals fan in front of us turned around and informed me “Blown Save”. Thanks kid, I kind of figured that one out on my own. No liner notes needed. So, am I worried about Walden? No. Not at all. When I started advocating making the rookie our closer, I knew there would be some growing pains. This is a kid who had every intention of being a starter and never thought about the closer’s role until it turned out he had quite the aptitude for it this season. So far, he has 18 saves (including last night’s) which is respectable. And when he does blow it, instead of crumbling, Walden is right back in the game to get the next batter. Monday night when he gave up the homerun, he threw the next pitch for a called strike and then coaxed the batter into a ground out to end the inning. And he was right back in the game on Wednesday night with a 1-0 lead on the line and got the save. That says something to me. We will probably witness a few more growing pains this season, but I have no doubts that Jordan Walden is our closer.

Jordan Walden takes the mound in the 9th for what would become his third blown save in a row. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Scott Downs pitches in the 10th as Howie Kendrick (who moved to first base in the 8th when Torii came in to the game) moves into position. I mentioned we were chatting about relievers with the Nationals fans? Well, Scott Downs is one of the few I never worry about. When I look over to the bullpen and see Downs warming up, with that distinctive haircut easily identifiable across the field, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, he has an off outing here and there, but by and large he comes in and gets it done and he has five wins for the season, as many as some teams’ starters, to prove it. Monday night and the rest of the Nationals series was no exception.

Scott Downs begins a pitch in the 10th as Howie Kendrick moves into position at first. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Brian Bixler stands on second flanked by second baseman Maicer Izturis and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Bixler reached 2nd on an uncharacteristic fielding error by Maicer. There were an annoying number of Angels fielding errors this series actually, but we recovered from all of them to sweep. I hope the errors are more an indication of tiredness from the epic Four Corners Road Trip than anything more trend setting, shall we say.

Brian Bixler leads off second, as Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo move into position. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos takes a long lead off third. I think it is safe to say that Bourjos has worked through his slump at the plate. He went four for five on Monday with one RBI and was a crucial component of the 10th inning rally, knocking a ground rules double into the stands mere feet from my seat, that put Callaspo in scoring position for Maicer Izturis’ walk-off single. Yes, when that happened I tapped the young Nationals fan in front of us on the shoulder and informed him “Walk off.” Fair’s fair right? Acutally, everyone was laughing both over the “Blown Save” and the “Walk Off.”

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third. Angels vs. Nationals, June 27, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels vs. Royals: More Blah, but Then Victory!

Friday’s Angels looked much like Monday through Thursday’s Angels, only with much better fielding than on several of the previous days. While this was an improvement, it was not enough to yield a different result and they lost four to two. The Angels aren’t exactly getting killed on the field this season. Most of the losses have been close. But it does go to show that if you aren’t scoring many runs, then your pitching and fielding have to be absolute perfection game in and game out in order to compensate for it, and that just isn’t feasible for any team.

So, cut to last night’s seven to five victory over the Royals. What changed? Several very important things as it turns out:

The veteran bats came alive. I admit it. I was less than pleased when I saw Vernon Wells batting cleanup last night. But he waled on the ball, going three for four with nice solid base hits that moved runners around the bases and lead to Wells scoring a run each time he made it on base. Howie Kendrick also went three for four, with two RBIs. Bobby Abreu had a key hit and he and Torii Hunter worked counts into walks for needed bodies on base. I cannot tell you how nice it was to see all of them on in one game!

We put runners on base and scored runs in multiple innings. If you look at the typical 2011 Angels box score, the one to three runs scored by our heroes usually occur all in one inning, often early in the game and then they don’t score again. This has not been an effective strategy. Last night, the Angels scored four runs in the second – more than their game average already – added a fifth run in the third and then game back to put two runs on the board and regain the lead in the 8th.

Our fielding was stellar. The Angels fielding has been good for most of 2011, but last night it was just on fire and it was equally on fire all around the diamond. Double plays. Two beautiful plays at the plate, including one highlight reel play on a perfect throw from Torii in right. Great catches all over the field and heads up back up. 

We stole four bases! Stolen bases is one of many areas where sabermetrics and I have to agree to disagree. A team doesn’t have to be loaded with power hitters to win as long as they know how to consistently manufacture runs. The Angels know how to manufacture runs. This is one of Mike Sciocia’s specialties as a manager. They just haven’t been doing it consistently. Last night, the final two runs were the result of situational hitting, stolen bases and smartly taking advantage of a few Royals mistakes. This is a great sign and hopefully the beginning of a re-emerging trend. Now let’s just hope Alberto Callaspo, who pulled a hamstring during a successful double steal, is able to move from being day to day back to an everday player soon. This injuries trend is one that can stop any day now.

Looking at the season strictly from a numbers standpoint, one win by no means offsets six straight losses, even when the rest of the division helpfully loses again. But I never think numbers tell the whole story, especially in early June. They’re more like a guideline, actually. ;) This was a good solid win, a pretty win if you will, the end result of several missing pieces coming together for the Angels all at once while other team strengths continued. If the Angels can capitalize on the momentum from this game heading into interleague, I think they can start putting together enough wins for significance from any standpoint!

Friday (and Saturday!) Gourmet, Wine & Angels 

This week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, “gourmet” dinner and the Angels game) spread? Well, the chefs – read, Seth and I – were tired after a long week and indulged in a bit of lazy cooking: grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches with bacon and TJ’s guacamole (hence the lazy). Quick and dirty, but tasty. And the wine was amazing – Mitchella’s 2007 Cabernet which tastes of black currants and dark chocolate. Yum!

We were better rested on Saturday and grilled up a feast for the evening game. Tri-tip, rubbed with olive oil, crushed garlic, cracked black pepper and kosher salt, which my husband grilled to that perfect state where the meat has an amazing crust, but is a gorgeous medium to medium rare throughout when you slice into it. Tri-tip is an absolutely glorious cut of beef that I am sorry to say we Californians have not shared much with the rest of the country. Trust me, you are very sad. You just don’t know it. ;) We served it with black beans, fresh tortillas and queso fresco and squash lightly sautéed with garlic and black pepper. Paired with Dead Nuts, Chronic Cellars luscious Zinfandel, Petite Sirah blend, it was a fantastic meal…and the Angels won, so if I were inclined to superstitions on that front I would say they prefer us to make more of an effort for the game, LOL.

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