Results tagged ‘ Alexi Amarista ’

Angels, In and Out of Focus this Season + Final Thoughts on the San Diego Trip

Focus. It’s essential, both for winning the game at hand and for reaching the post season. Completely out of sorts after the last three games, on Tuesday morning I was going to argue that Angels had hopelessly lost all focus.

Fortunately, I’m a moody writer in the reverse of tradition – I hate writing when I’m in a bad mood – so I had Tuesday’s gem to remind me that the prognosis is far from hopeless before I posted. The Angels have lost focus, it’s true, and for several seasons now if we’re being honest. But, they are working to regain their focus and we saw some of the fruits of that effort last night. Still, I think that Mike Scioscia’s comments after Monday’s game are correct. When you get mired in problems this deep, you aren’t going to fix them overnight. And, while my out of focus image is a pun-ny visual I also think it’s an apt analogy. As you focus the lens on a camera, your view bounces from terrible, to good, to blurry again, and back through good directly to bad a few more times until finally it’s just right.

The Angels aren’t fully focused yet and, while I hope Tuesday was the beginning of a fun winning streak, especially with Weaver on the mound today, I also imagine we’re in for a few more shifts through frustrating play before they do achieve complete focus. Batting averages are going up, or starting to go up again as the case may be. The bullpen’s been looking downright good lately. Situational hitting…is still a work in progress. Even when we win, LOBster is still far too much in season for anyone’s tastes. But the team’s overall record is improving – three steps forward, two steps back but, still, improvement. Much like focusing the camera, some of the interim results may give you a headache watching them, but ultimately we seem to be headed in a better direction.

And, once the Angels have finished focusing, what will the picture look like for late September? I know what we all want it to be but, honestly, I don’t think you can ever have more than a hopeful idea until you actually get there even in seasons where the team is doing well. Besides, I think focusing so hard on the end of the season before it even really began is the underlying reason the Angels got so very out of focus to begin with. Focus on the end of May first and then worry about June and so on. Although the end of the season is no longer as far away as any of us would like, it still really is a long way off yet.

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Diego Edition: Part 2

After Sunday’s all too costly game – wishing both Vernon Wells and Ryan Langerhans full and speedy recoveries! – I didn’t have the heart to post about the end of our San Diego trip. But a one hit shutout does a lot to improve one’s outlook on things and scanning through my photos I was reminded of all of the positive things we fans can focus on right now while the team is getting it together. Hey, last season I was the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels Baseball, best get back to it, right?

1) Starting Pitching, of course. So there have been a few issues getting started, but ultimately the staff is strong top to bottom as they reminded us this week – Weaver more than bounced back from Texas on Friday. Haren looked much healthier and definitely pitched to win, as did Santana and Williams. (And can you believe we have a guy this good as our 5th starter? The more I watch his calm presence on the mound, the more I adore him). And then there was C.J. last night. ‘Nuff said. If the rest of the team is willing, clearly our starters can get us there.

Jered Weaver gives Dan Haren a high five before the game begins. I love that the pitching staff seems like such a mutually supportive, cohesive unit. You can also see a bearded Peter Bourjos fist bumping with Jim Butcher (and Alberto Callaspo’s arm) in the foreground. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

2) The kids. I simply can’t say enough good things about what Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout bring to this team – and Trout especially was on fire at the plate throughout this series. While I absolutely did not want it to come about because of injuries, especially injuries like these, I am eager to see if, with playing time, Peter Bourjos can bounce back to last season’s batting average. If he can, having the combined dynamic speed and talent of Trout and Bourjos in the outfield and terrorizing the base paths is certainly cause for celebration, no Pollyannas required.

Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout swing in the on deck circle before first pitch. If Bourjos can pick things back up at the plate, I would love this photo to be a vision of the number one and two spots in our lineup for seasons to come. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo appears to be asking Peter Bourjos for a race during warm ups. Trumbo is not exactly a slow guy, but even at a jog Bourjos had him beat effortlessly. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

3) Kudos to the Bullpen. They’ve been looking pretty darned good lately, no? I think the shifts and changes have ultimately been good for the team. I’m thrilled with the addition of Ernesto Frieri to the pen. To a man, the relievers appear to be making whatever adjustments and corrections they can to help keep us in the game and the improvement has not gone unnoticed.

Jordan Walden pauses his warm as he and the rest of the relievers watch the tense game. He’s been looking more accurate and more confident on the mound lately. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Alexi Amarista warms up between innings at second. It was bittersweet to lose this kid even for the addition of Frieri, especially when one of his first acts as a Padre is to contribute so heavily to an Angels butt kicking. However, I am thrilled to see him playing everyday. He was ready and unlikely to get that opportunity in Anaheim. Best wishes for a great career Alexi! Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As for the game itself, it was a tough loss, but largely because leading up to that point the game was so good – a two run tie until the bottom of the 7th and the Angels fought hard to get on top again. There were frustrating wasted opportunities at the plate – though certainly not from Eric Aybar! What a game he had! But defensively the team was amazing and that catch of Trout’s to keep us in the game? Wow! I just wish it had ended differently.

Erick Aybar is a blur diving back to first. He went 4 for 4, was a homerun shy of the cycle, and brilliant distraction on the basepaths. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Albert Pujols catches a the throw and Will Venable is out, despite pouring on the speed. Defense was definitley not our issue Saturday. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

You can see how tense the game was at the end from the dugout. Albert Pujols, Vernon Wells, C.J. Wilson and all of the rest are transfixed on the field. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But it wasn’t all tensions and frowns. There were more joyful, playful moments – Pujols affectionately thwacking Amarista on the shoulder with his glove after the kid got a hit, for example. Or, Erick Aybar shown here goofing around with first baseman Yonder Alonso during a pitching change. Do you think they were assessing his chances of getting that homerun here? Because that would make anyone laugh. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And, a few more words about Petco itself – our seats were in the club section right behind home plate with a fantastic view of one gorgeous ballpark. A lot of the photos I’ve included in this post are warm up photos and that is largely because at Petco Park all of BP and the warm up sessions are easily viewable from the concourses at all levels and, for the most part, fans are allowed easy field section access until the end of batting practice, something that is only possible with the more open designs of the newer stadiums. I am absolutely against all of this moving to L.A. talk, but I certainly wouldn’t mind a few modernizing upgrades to the Big A in Anaheim.

Petco Park at night, a view from section 201. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels fans turned out for the series in droves, as you can tell from the sea of red behind the Angels dugout. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Something else I would like to point out is that I love the Padre’s sense of community. It was heartwarming to enjoy National Anthems played by a local school band on Friday and to have a local military color guard on Saturday.

The USS San Diego, the 4th U.S. Navy ship to bear San Diego’s name was comission Saturday morning, so the Padres honoed Sailors of the Year from the USS San Diego during a special ceremony before Saturday’s game. In a lovely touch, EM1 Nathan Burnett of the USS San Diego, who threw out the first pitch, was apparently drafted by the Angels before he chose to enlist in the navy. Classy all around Padres, seriously!Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

A military color guard for the National Anthem. Angels at Padres, May 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game….

Suffice to say it was a great a trip and I will jump at any chance I get to catch a game at Petco Park again.

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Deigo Edition: Part 1

Like many baseball fans, Seth and I have a goal to eventually enjoy a game at every major league baseball stadium and ideally some of the minor league stadiums as well. Economics and vacation time has thus far limited our progress to slow and local but, hey, progress is progress! Last season we took in a gloriously old-fashioned single admission double header at the Oakland Coliseum and experienced the Dodgers Giants rivalry at AT&T Park. This season we headed down the 5 freeway in the other direction and are currently enjoying the beginning of Interleague play as the Angels take on the Padres at Petco Park.

The Pet-Co Park scoreboard. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

A Word About Petco Park: Gorgeous!

Okay, when can I ever limit myself to one word? Add to that enjoyable, friendly and in general a first class baseball experience. Everywhere we went, our clearly not rooting from around these parts red attire prompted staff to smile and welcome us to the park, a nice touch we have never experienced before. We enjoyed nice conversations with friendly ushers during batting practice and the game – baseball fans everywhere love talking about their team, their stadium, their experiences and I love to listen. The fans in our section were equally lovely, despite the fact of the Angels winning. And with recent Padre Ernesto Frieri sitting right in front of us in an Angels uniform (Ah, our seats! I’ll get to those is a minute.) and the other half of that trade, Alexi Amarista playing second, we had plenty to talk about.

The Padres: Their bleachers are absolutely better than your bleachers. Their’s are a beach! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I love the Big A to pieces, but Anaheim take note: THIS is what a beer stand should look like. Stone! Ballast Point! Avery! Okay, so San Diego is the craft and micro brew capital of California, some would say the West, but it’s not like we don’t get some of this labels in L.A./Orange County and have some of our own too! :) Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The stadium seats are designed for beauty as well as function. The view across the field is really pretty, especially at night, with different sections of seats designed to look like industrial buildings. And there really does not appear to be a bad seat in the house…as for our seats, see that guy in red blocking the shot? That’s Jordan Walden standing up. Our amazing seats were literally just behind the Angels bullpen. We could have shook hands with them across the aisle and wall, were we inclined to bother ballplayers during a game, which we are not. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The outfield is huge. HUGE! Definitely not a hitter’s ballpark. Mike Trout warms up in centerfield between innings. I still like Peter Bourjos a little better in centerfield – stronger arm, better routes, a little faster and more experience. But Trout is an asset wherever you put him – He’s that good! – his arm is getting stronger and his routes will improve with time. Still is an outfield with both of them (and Trumbo for now and later longterm!) too much to ask?? Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Batting Practice and Bullpen Sessions, Oh My!

Taking in batting practice is one of my favorite ways to start a ballgame experience and yet, even as often as we go to the ballpark, this treat is a rare one for us. Working hours being what they are, even on the weekend, and L.A./Orange County traffic being what it is, if we’re lucky we get to the game about 20 minutes before first pitch and if we’re not, we get there somewhere during the 1st inning. So it was a nice vacation luxury to walk through the gates shortly after they first opened. Petco Park was designed with wide concourses that have great views of the field for most of their stretch, so we roamed freely about from the outfield above the beach bleachers, to our bullpen adjacent seats to home plate and back.

Watching Jerome Williams take his bullpen session from a distance comparable to across a conference room table was easily the best thing about the pregame. It was fascinating to listen to Williams and Mike Butcher go over which pitches to throw and refine a few points here and there…that and watching the pitches zing by like 10 feet from my face. Wow! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Relief pitchers Jordan Walden and David Carpenter chat during batting practice. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick looked great during BP, smacking the ball deep into the outfield and he got a solid hit come game time too! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis talk in between turns at the plate during batting practice. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, About Interleague Play… 

Although it certainly isn’t the popular view, I actually enjoy and look forward to Interleague play. Maybe it’s because I was raised on the Dodgers and the National League. Maybe it’s because my team of choice has such a natural, longstanding and fun Interleague rival in the Dodgers? Or maybe it’s just that my personality is as slightly skewed from the norm in my baseball fandom as it is in everything else? Whatever it is, I look forward to seeing all of the unusual matchups Interleague play has to offer. Hello, odd visuals like the Angels playing against the storied ivy draped backdrop of Wrigley Field? How can that not be fun? Or, at least, that’s what I think. Besides, watching American League pitchers bat is a seasonal novelty I will never tire of and some guys surprise you:

Jered Weaver in the on deck circle. Such an AL pitcher! For his first at bat, he wasn’t really even taking practice swings so much as just playing with the bat like a little leaguer whose coach is about to tell him to quit daydreaming. It was very cute. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Jered Weaver leads off second…and it’s a goofy, I don’t do this very often lead off as well. Still, for all of his awkward appearance at the plate and on the base paths, Weaver did more than fine, walking and lining a nice hard single into left. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yes, there you have it folks: Big Bat Jered Weaver! …of course his average has since dropped to a mere .500. ;) Starters, Weaver has set the bar high indeed but you’re used to this. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As if All of This Preamble Wasn’t Enough, the Game Rocked…

The Angels played well and that was especially nice to see after Thursday’s game against the White Sox. Yes, I know, the Padres are struggling but so are the Angels and the struggling Royals just swept the unstoppable Rangers so you never can tell how these matchups will turn out once you take them from paper to the field. I was proud of our guys! Jered Weaver looked great – and not just with his bat ;). Our bats were present and made that presence known. Our defense had more than moved on from Thursday’s gaffs – hey, who put that sun up there in the sky? *facepalm* – and the bullpen rocked. All that and a W – what more could a fan ask for?

Jered Weaver pitches from the stretch. Weaver pitched a great game with really only one bad inning and he managed to get out of that one giving up only one run. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout is a beast! He had 3 hits and 1 walk in 5 trips to the plate. I am loving having this talented rookie bat leadoff. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout reaches second base. It may look like he’s jawing at someone but with former teammate Alexi Amarista at 2nd, I think it more friendly banter. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo continued his hitting streak with a solid double driving in a run in the 5th inning and he looks great in right field, really comfortable. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The bullpen looked great! Scott Downs was, well, Scott Downs. Ernesto Frieri got a shot at closer and definitley impressed. Padres fans called out that he looked better in blue when Frieri took the mound in the 9th but, personally, I like him in red an awful lot. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Okay, Now That’s Funny! 

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I prefer my blog entries, my friends and, indeed, my baseball with a rollicking sense of humor, the more off kilter the better. I love baseball’s crazy prank traditions, overly complex and fabulously silly rookie hazing rituals, and the goofy things that stadium personnel do to the opposing team. This evening it was the Padres Jumbotron Angels player slides that had me cracking up:

At first it seemed sort of innocent. I noticed that all of Albert Pujols’ stats changed with each at bat but always pertained to homerun records he had with the Cardinals. But, because he’s had such a slow start this season, I figured what else were they going to say? Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Then I noticed this one and thought ‘Why go back to minor league stats and that’s a weird aside to bring up, Brandon Wood that is. It almost makes mentioning the honor seem sort of like a left-hand compli…ah hah! There’s a reason for that!’ And then I saw… Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

There was just no way to read these with a straight face at this point. But it got even better! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Okay, now they’re just f-ing with us! Well played, Padres Jumbotron programmers, well played. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Big A Jumbotron programmers can be funny too, just usually at the Angels expense. For example, when our pitchers load the bases with only one out or no outs, it’s not uncommon for the stat to tell us how rarely the batter hits into a double play or how prone he is to grand slams. Ummm…thanks guys?

Anyway, that concludes Part 1 of our excursion. We have great seats for today’s game too and I am really looking forward to it – Go Angels!!

The Angels’ Opening Day Went to 11! Let’s Concentrate on that…

When I get sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead! True story. – Words to live by from the immortal Barney Stinson

So games 2 and 3 of the Angels opening series didn’t go exactly the way we had planned…or, you know, anything remotely like we had planned. Opening Night was pretty darned awesome! And more of an indication, I think, of what the season will be like than a pair of extremely early season games where, while this was not the only issue, two ace quality, workhorse pitchers were working through a bit of the old dead arm.

So, the morals of this weekend are:

  1. Don’t be sad, be awesome instead – and this goes triply for the fans.
  2. Dead arms and early season fielding jitters will pass of their own accord, as will some of the plate issues. And even with those plate issues, the offense already looks better than that of the last two years. But, even so, let’s stop swinging a) for the fences and b) at stupid pitches.
  3. Relax and just play your game.
  4. Clearly Seth and I need to be at these games. I mean, hello? They won when we were in the stands. (Of course, I am completely joking about that last point. Of course. *whistles innocently* But if say, anyone extra superstitious in a position to just happen to let a pair of season tickets fall off a truck and into my hot little hands felt the need to take me seriously, who would I be to say no? And I would like to state, for the record yet completely apropos of nothing of course, that said theoretical tickets would not have to be Diamond Club, or anything fancy like that. Quite the contrary, we would be perfectly happy continuing to root, root, root for the home team from mere mortals’ seats, so long as they’re in decent camera range. ;))

Opening Day. Opening Day lit halo. Looks pretty darned awesome to me! Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

*relieved sigh* Well, that’s out of the way. Now let’s all concentrate on the sheer Angels awesomeness we are sure to see sooner rather than later this month. And, to get you into that frame of mind, I give you a visual recap of the complete awesomeness that was Opening Day…and if you think I have used variants on the word awesome a few too many times in this post, I ask you, what would Barney Stinson say to you? Uh huh. Thought so. ;):

Opening Days tend to have the same ingredients MLB-wide – the giant flag covering the outfield, the local military color guard, the players from both teams lining the base paths as their names are called, the military flyover and the VIPs throwing out the first pitch. But that certainly is not to say that every Opening Day is the same, or that these details aren’t special. In fact, the universality of this format is part of what makes it special, lending the affair a ceremonial, special occasion air like a wedding or a graduation. And, much like the parties involved in those examples, each team manages to make the details their own:

Mike Scioscia and Howie Kendrick shake hands as they Angels take their places along the third base line for the pre-game festivities. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The color guard. The giant flag. The Angels lined up at attention. Ah, Opening Day! Darned if I don't tear up a little every time. In the line you can see C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and Alberto Callaspo aming others. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The photo I took of the actual first pitch was blurry, which is okay because I like what this one says a little more. Angels 2002 greats Troy Percival, Tim Salmon and David Eckstein embrace before throwing out the first pitch to their coaches (and Dodgers 1988 greats!) Mike Scioscia, Alfredo Griffen and Mickey Hatcher. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The energy from the crowd was absolutely unreal. I have been to Opening Days before and I have been to well attended games before, but this was something completely different. And while I am sure that many in the stands were brand new Angels fans, brought to the stadium by the hype and excitement of the Angels well publicized off season acquisitions, I’m not going to join in the griping about that. I say, welcome. Come join us. Get to know the team and stick around for the seasons to come. However the rankings fallout by season’s end, this is going to be fun!

The crowd was unbelievable, sold out and packed to the gills. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And it was standing room only on the concourse. Too cool! Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So, the game itself. Just how good was the game? It was so good that I was hoarse until evening on Saturday. So good that I kept thinking Saturday was Sunday. No joke. That first regular season ballpark experience of the year was so much fun and excitement packed into one game that it seemed to me like it must be an entire Saturday, not just a Friday night. And here are a few of the reasons why:

Jered Weaver, 'nuff said. Well, okay. I might as well add 10 strikeouts, 0 walks and a mere 4 hits in 8 shutout innings. Well, this is the "Awesome" post after all! Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Albert Pujols just misses pulling off the out on an errant throw from 3rd base. I cannot praise Pujols' defense enough. As for Mark Trumbo's defense at 3rd? Okay, so three errors in his first two games is not exactly a pretty start. But remember how much we were bitching about him at first in the opening weeks of 2011? And then he got a lot better and was pretty darned good by the end of the season? After watching the guy last year I can see that when things aren't working out, he works harder, often with success. I say give him the month of April, because the potential upshot from his bat is so great, and if we don't see some improvement and promise, then you can resume screaming bloody murder. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Okay fine, Jered Weaver decides he'll get his own outs - Howie Kendrick gets the pickoff throw and makes the tag in the 7th. Jeff Francour, you're out! Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Kendrys Morales decided to bat leftie on his third trip to the plate, and set off what would become a 5-run rally. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have this man back in the line up. Go Bam Bam go! Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar takes a sassy lead off third base after his bases clearing triple in the 8th inning. I wish I knew what he was saying to the Royals...though I imagine this was one of those times that is the reason we will never mic players. :) Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos had a great night, knocking in the first run, sliding in just ahead of the tage to score the 4th run and making a few great plays in the outfield. This is just a between innings warm up photo, but I think that I got his game face. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, just because this is my blog, here’s some silliness too:

Meeting on the mound in the 7th inning. Whatever they're saying, Mark Trumbo appears to be telling the Royals dugout, "Ooooooo. You guys are in trou-ble." Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And the Kiss Cam hijinks continue into 2012...as opposing team members MLB wide either make plans to stand well apart during this particular ritual or to ham it up for laughs and applause. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Okay, I have never tried to catch the butt pat on film, but you'd think that with the number of butt pats in baseball I would have wound up with a picture of one before this...I mean I've certainly erased enough photos of players doing other things I never intended to capture on camera. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Check out the height difference between Eric Hosmer and Alexi Amarista – this shot cracked me up. Now, what he lacks in height, Amarista more than makes up for with his glove, speed, agility and, in the future, I believe with his bat as well. This is one of the kids I am excited to watch come in to his own over the next few seasons. Angels vs. Royals, April 6, 2012, Opening Day. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And if that isn’t enough awesome to get you in the right frame of mind for the next few series, just wait. The Angels will get you there eventually. I’m sure of it.

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

 

 

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.

Angels and A’s say it’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame. Let’s Play Two!

Of course, I would have dearly loved to amend Ernie Banks’ famous quote to let’s win two for this post but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not in the double header and not even in the series. Ouch. Seriously, did you see Sunday’s score?! Ouch!

With the Angels entering the All Star Break on such a roll, we didn’t really want to break just then. And then coming back from the break to Peter Bourjos moving from day to day status to the DL until the 23rd and Vernon Wells too ill to start? Suffice to say, it was not a recipe for success. However, it was not a guaranteed disaster either, despite the eventual outcome. No, the Angels old “friends”, lack of RISP and difficulty getting the third out, played a large roll here too. Whatever is going on, the Angels need to get it together by Tuesday, because Texas is coming to town and we can’t lose any more series in our division right now or things just went from hard to really darned difficult in a hurry.

But back to that double header part. Single admission. Double header. On Saturday in Oakland. Who could resist the old fashioned allure of a draw like that? Not this girl. Saturday I was at the Coliseum bright and early with my husband and a good friend from college, ready to continue the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with 18 innings of baseball…which turned into 19 by the end. It was a great day at the ballpark indeed. The weather was mild, our seats were excellent and we were seated in good company with just enough red nearby to not feel like we were cheering alone.

First, a note about the A’s ballpark. I heard horror stories before I headed up here and I have to say that’s really not fair. No one is ever going to put the Coliseum on their list of top 10 ballparks. It’s a no frills, mixed use facility, but those are the only problems with it. The park was clean, the seats were comfortable, most seats appear to have a good view of the field and we bought black and tans for only $8.25. Suffice to say no frills was far from uncomfortable. The no frills part does mean there weren’t a lot of unique regional specialities in the food court but we enjoyed polish sausage rolls, corn dogs and nachos – hey, it was a doule header. Nine hours at the ballpark. Don’t judge me. ;) And even though the drawbacks of a mixed use facility are odd shaped seating and fields and still being able to see the lines from the previous week’s soccer match on the field, it’s still a baseball field, the most gorgeous shade of green in the world:

Mike Trout and Alexi Amariste. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Besides, in Oakland, instances of the wave were blessedly few and far between and no one, seriously no one, bounced stupid beach balls around the stadium. Angels fans, take note. Please! Also, I don’t know what the players think of them, but as a fan I really liked seeing the old fashioned, on the field, open bullpens and dugouts for a change:

The A's oldfashioned, wide-open on the field bullpen. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The A's oldfashioned, wide opened dugout. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I took advantage of those on the field bullpens when I bought our tickets – on the field, 12 rows behind the mound in the Angels’ bullpen. It was a lot of fun to see the bullpen warmups up close:

Jered Weaver warms up in the bulpen before game 1. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 

Scott Downs prepares to take the mound. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jordan Walden warms up in the bullpen. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

It was also a lot of fun to have a good vantage for so many of the serious warm-ups, hanging out and general goofing around that goes on before a game. I’ve included more photos of that than game photos this time because, well, they’re fun and I don’t often have the opportunity:

Torii Hunter "helps" Jered Weaver warm up by providing a target before game 1. You can't see it here, but he was smiling and looking super confused over each pitch as if Jered had impossible to hit stuff. Very cute. And oh so very Torii. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo share a joke before the games begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter chats with Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks before the games. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren and Joel Pineiro prepare for long toss before the games begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The bullpen says "Go get 'em Weave!" as the first game is ready to begin. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout stretch before game 1. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ervin Satana and and Hank Conger warm up for game 2. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

And, of course, the games weren’t without their fair share of derring do. Jered Weaver was, well, Jered Weaver. Ervin Santana was shakey but kept it together. The bullpen was great. We had great hits, notably from Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and – yay! -from Mike Trout. We made some great plays too. With a few less stranded runners in the second game, who knows?:

Jered Weaver prepares to pitch...or will it be a throw down? Mark Trumbo prepares for the latter as Jemile Weeks leads off first. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Mark Trumbo takes it himself as Jered Weaver nods in approval. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout makes a catch in center. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis move to catch a wilder change-up as Jemile Weeks takes a swing. Coco Crisp is on deck behind them. Weeks, Rickie Weeks' younger brother, looks like a fantastic A's call up from where I sit. He hits, he's clutch, he has a great glove and a good arm. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trevr Cahill pitches as Erick Aybar takes a league off third in the background. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trevor Cahill, Kurt Suzuki and the pitching coach have a meeting on the mound while Howie Kendrick and Alfredo Griffin look on from first base. Angels at A's Double Header, July 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

If only the Angels had won the second game, it would have been a perfect day…and I’m sorry to say that as good a time as I had, I am not a good enough sport to have left the ballpark in perfectly high spirits after losing the second game. One great win, a near win and an amazing time at a double header should have been enough…but they weren’t quite, not for a perfectly gleeful mood. I still had a lot of fun, mind you. But it’s hard not to feel just a little but deflated even so. The A’s, or better yet the Angels, have to, have to, have to do this again next season. Have to! :)

*    *    *    *    *

Outside of baseball, coming up to the Bay Area and hanging out with friends from college has a lovely feel of both fun in the here and now and nostalgia to it. I was definitely ready to start the rest of my life and move on from college once it was over, but those were four very fun years. Getting the band back together, as it were, for a few nights of fun however does remind me of a few things I miss, like the ability to spend long periods of time just hanging out…and that wonderful sense of possibility you feel when you know you’re smart and willing to work your butt off and life has yet to hand you any real beat downs…well, that, and the ability to be fully functional after three hours of sleep and 1/3 or so of a 1/5 of something tasty. ;)

Next Post: the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza concludes with a trip to AT&T Park for a Giants vs. Dodgers game.

Wrapping up the A’s Series with a Photo Finish

 I suppose I should add an addendum to my Support Your Starting Pitchers plea from the other day. Run support that doesn’t materialize until the 9th inning a) typically does not qualify as supporting your starting pitcher, though I do applaud giving plenty of love to the bullpen too and, b) only really counts if you can actually pull off the win at that point. Scoring early and often is the better way to go - it supports the whole pitching staff equally. I know, I know. If only it were that easy! 

So, Thursday. Ugh. What to say? Brett Anderson was on. The Angels’ bats were off. Joel Pineiro didn’t have his greatest start. And the A’s bats were on. It wasn’t a terrible game, but it was hardly a recipe for a win. And so we split the series with the A’s, Texas and Seattle did similar things with the ends of their week and less than two games separated the last place team from the first place team in the division heading into Friday’s games. And that’s just the way it is in the Wild, Wild AL West this season - a little frustrating and very, very exciting! Praise the Angels and pass the defibrillator. 

And because I didn’t like Thursday’s game and I’m not liking this evening’s game much at all so far – which we are watching on delay so Seth can see every pitch too per the Friday Night Ritual – Let’s take a step back to Wednesday’s game. I was there. It rocked! Games like Thursday where things are okay but just not quite good enough are going to happen a fair number of times in a season. Here’s hoping that the Angels can play more like they did on Wednesday for the rest of this road trip! 

So, Wednesday Ervin Santana was his controlled, nasty best – six strike outs and only one earned run (with six hits and two walks so many thanks to the Angels stellar defense too!)… 

Ervin Santana was definitely on against the A's. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Which means that a lot of A’s batters looked like Daric Barton here, looking back almost confused as the umpire prepares to call a strike: 

Daric Barton at the plate with Hank Conger catching. Photo by This is a very simple game…(Seth)

…Here Josh Willingham finds himself in similar straights: 

Josh Willingham at the plate with Hank Conger catching. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Of course, Willingham did walk that at-bat and then successfully stole second base, but it was a close play – short stop Erick Aybar waits for Hank Conger’s throwdown:

Josh Willingham steals second while Erick Aybar waits for the throwdown. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Our seats were front row of the upper deck again but only a section behind 1st base this time, so I could see into the Angels dugout which was fun for a change. I didn’t take too many pictures of that. I prefer to watch the game, but I did like this one – Jered Weaver and Dan Haren obviously sharing a joke about something, with Tyler Chatwood intent on the game beside them. Perhaps they are saying “Wow, run support. I thought that was only a myth.”:

Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Tyler Chatwood hang out in the dugout. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Of course, this means our seats were right above the A’s dugout. I like this one too because it makes one wonder what they’re talking about. “Hey, Coco. How far did Torii hit that ball?” “It went far Andy. All the way over there.”:

Kevin Kouzmaniff, Andy LaRoche, Coco Crisp and Daric Barton in the dugout. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo dives back to first to avoid the tag from Daric Barton. I’m of two minds about the recent acquisition of Russel Branyan and Trumbo is the reason. On the plus side, Branyan fits in well with the team and could be a nice big bat in our lineup – though based on his batting average it does seem as if he hits homeruns or nothing at all. And he’s cheap, so if he doesn’t work out we can easily release him. But I don’t want to see Trumbo get any less playing time. He’s slumping a little bit at the plate at the moment, but he’ll heat up again and I really, really like his reflexes, glove and intelligence at first:

Mark Trumbo avoids the tag from Daric Barton. Photo by This is a very simple game....

This game also saw scrappy utility player Reggie Willits get his first hit for the season (two swings after this one) and a crucial early sacrifice bunt as well. Reggie spent most of Spring Training and part of April on the DL for hamstring issues and has taken awhile to get back into the swing of things…so to speak. Peter Bourjos, in the on deck circle behind Reggie, also snapped a hitless streak Wednesday: 

Reggie Willits at bat with Landon Powell catching and Peter Bourjos on deck. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Rookie Alexi Amarista takes a nice swing. Playing second for the evening, Amarista had a heck of a game too. He went two for three at the plate and his uniform is quite clay covered in this photo from diving all over the field playing a very acrobatic human ball trap all night – yet another Angels rookie I am thrilled to have on the team this season. I wish I had photos of his diving catches at second:

Alexi Amarista at bat with Landon Powell catching. Photo by This is a very simple game....

Jordan Walden and Rich Thompson warm up in the bullpen. Hats off to the bullpen this game! Scott Downs had another great outing. I love having him on the team this season and am instantly reassured when I hear 8 Second Ride start to play and know he’ striding up to the mound. Rodney also had a nice outing. Apparently the key is to start warming up another reliever the second he walks someone:

Jordan Walden and Rich Thompson warm up in the bullpen. Photo by This is a very simple game....

Jordan Walden on the mound. Believe it or not, this was the first time I have seen Walden pitch live. For better or worse depending on the game, I have not been present for any save situations this season. Very, very impressive! Walden changed his walk-up music for this homestand. He used to emerge from the bullpen to the classic guitar riff from Smoke on the Water now it’s Robb Zombie’s Dragula. I love Deep Purple, but I have to say I approve. Robb Zombie is a little more bad ass, which is what this young closer is rapidly becoming:

Jordan Walden on the mound. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I don’t have any good Torii Hunter photos from the game itself, which is a shame because he had a great game between the homerun (immediately followed by a homerun from Alberto Callaspo!) and a couple of great plays in right that are just so many blurs on my camera. So we’ll go with this photo of his much deserved post-game interview:

Torii Hunter's post game press conference outside the dugout. Photo by This is a very simple game....

 
Update: Okay, so I wound up liking tonight’s game very, very much! Way to come from behind guys! Way to hold ‘em bullpen! Way to bring the bats! Welcome to the team Russel Branyan! And Fleet Pete is nothing short of amazing sometimes!

Friday Gourmet, Wine & Angels: Let the Wild Interleague Rumpus Begin

Now that was the way to come back from a bad couple of weeks. Nine runs on ten hits to beat the Braves 9 to 0. Ervin Santana pitched a complete game, four-hit shutout and was just plain nasty, striking out seven and walking no one, throwing both his slider and breaking ball for strikes. Not a single Brave made it to second base. It was beautiful.

Our bats were back and the rookies in particular were in fine form. Mark Trumbo had a fantastic game with a couple of stellar plays at first, a three-run homerun and two additional hits, finishing a triple shy of the cycle. Alexi Amarista went hitless but continues to impress in the field with several great plays and one leaping catch that did not look possible…until he did it. Hank Conger had a great night behind the plate and Peter Bourjos (okay, technically no longer a rookie, but only just barely) was able to put those quick feet to use yet again in center and on the base paths, with one hit, one hit by pitch and two runs scored.

The veterans were not left out of the fun either. Torii Hunter, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu all had hits. Torii had a great night in right field and even managed to make fun of his own blunder against the Mariners. He pretended, quite convincingly, to lose the ball in the twilight on a routine pop-up before catching it effortlessly, but not before frightening Santana, Bourjos and Mike Scioscia. Well played Torii! We were cracking up over here.

 Oh, and I have decided that Ervin Santana is Hobbes. Outside of the game, he is charming, funny and downright sweet seeming in interviews. The term affable comes to mind. Much like the warm fuzzy side of Calvin’s imaginary companion. On the mound with his game face on, however, Santana’s face settles into an intense predatory smile and, though his eyes are completely hidden in the shadow of his cap, I always expect them to glow from underneath, like Hobbes in pouncing mode with the opposing team’s batters in the role of the unsuspecting Calvin just home from school. I love it!

So, this week’s Friday Night Ritual (wine, “gourmet” dinner and the Angels game) spread: grilled turkey and brie sandwiches topped with apples, pickled red onions and baby greens tossed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette and accompanied by Rio Seco’s (the baseball winery) MVP reserve, a flavorful Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot blend perfectly themed for the evening. It was delicious but, even better, it was a great game! Keep it up gentlemen, this could be the beginning of a wonderful trend!

*    *    *    *    *

I realize that I am in the minority on MLBlogs, but I actually like Interleague play…and not just because the Angels usually rock it. I understand it’s not traditional. I understand that many of the rivalries are manufactured. I understand it can lead to uneven match-ups across a given division, but I don’t care. It’s just plain fun to watch the kind of crazy scenarios we played out as kids – the Angels catching balls against the backdrop of Wrigley’s ivy, the Dodgers dealing with the green monster – come to life.

Part of my attitude may come from the fact that Interleague play developed during the period of my baseball discontent and self-imposed exile from the sport. I didn’t watch it develop like the rest of you. I just checked back into the game in 2004 and *poof* we have Interleague play now. I am enough of a purist that, when I came back to baseball, I hated the new three division league structure, I hated the addition of wild card teams to the playoffs and I hated the whole stupid pitch count thing, but I enjoyed Interleague play. Go figure. Incidentally, I have come to accept three divisions and wild card teams, though it happened slowly and grudgingly, but I still do not like pitch counts and overspecialization among pitchers at all.

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