Results tagged ‘ Bullpen ’

So the Angels Season…er…The Angels vs. A’s Game…er…Hey, Look. Pretty Photos!

While there were certainly enjoyable moments in the Angels’ 2013, overall there’s no denying that it was a miserable season, a statement would still be true even if the Angels had won this afternoon’s final Angels game of the season – and, ugh. Final game. Don’t think it doesn’t hurt to type that in September. Again. While the outcome of this last game would not have altered the Angels season outcome in the slightest — heck, even reaching .500 became a pipe dream a week or so ago – a win sure would have felt better, damn it. And when you’re at the end of a terrible season that’s really all there is left to root for, isn’t it? Enjoyment in the moment.

Mark Trumbo holds aloft his magic bat and says, 'Come on, Meat. Show me some of that...' Okay, so I like mixing my references a tad too much. Oh, yeah. And he's probably he's not really saying that either. But you never know, Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo holds aloft his magic bat and says, ‘Come on, Meat. Show me some of that…’ Okay, so I like mixing my references a tad too much. Oh, yeah. And he’s probably he’s not really saying that either. But you never know, Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Sadly this description is also apt for the Angels vs. A’s game Seth and I attended on Monday, our last live game of the season – except at that point achieving .500 was an extremely remote possibility. *sigh* It was a blast seeing so many of the Angels youngsters like Kole Calhoun and Collin Cowgill – ok, he’s more of a new player than a true youngster but you get the general idea – play hard and make bold statements for continuing to be on the roster next season – hint, hint, hint Angels! But at the same time, seeing the “kids” contribute so significantly only highlights what the veterans were unable to accomplish this season. Yes, Josh Hamilton has been hitting much better in the last month or so, even going two for four the game in question, but it’s so much too little, too late and he was far from the only problem besides.

Kole "Lucky Ginger" Calhoun takes a turn at the plate while Mike Trout waits on deck. I thoroughly enjoyed Kole's contributions to the team this year and hope him in the lineup with SuperTrout again next season. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Kole “Lucky Ginger” Calhoun takes a turn at the plate while Mike Trout waits on deck. I thoroughly enjoyed Kole’s contributions to the team this year and hope him in the lineup with SuperTrout again next season. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Josh Hamilton at the plate with Stephen Vogt catching. The good news? Hey, Hamilton's hitting again! The bad news? It came too late to help anyone. *sigh* Let's just hope that Josh is nice and comfortable in California now and next year puts his best "Natural" impression forward at the plate. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Josh Hamilton at the plate with Stephen Vogt catching. The good news? Hey, Hamilton’s hitting again! The bad news? It came too late to help anyone. *sigh* Let’s just hope that Josh is nice and comfortable in California now and next year puts his best “Natural” impression forward at the plate. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The outfield, as usual, was a veritable fount of joy amidst the misery. Even Cowgill – who is only an “even” because he hasn’t received anywhere near the understandable fanfare of Trout and some of the others – was making dynamite play after dynamite play.

Collin Cowgill, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun kick back in the outfield during a pitching change. Whatever tale Collin's spinning, Kole is clearly having none of it, but Mike might believe him...might. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Collin Cowgill, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun kick back in the outfield during a pitching change. Whatever tale Collin’s spinning, Kole is clearly having none of it, but Mike might believe him…might. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Of course, the general awesomeness of the Angels outfield only serves as a counterpoint to the general sketchy state of Angels pitching – yet another whole season parallel. Garrett Richards, whom I still would have preferred to see start in lieu of Joe Blanton, has great stuff by shaky location and while he looked just fine for some batters, he managed to locate big fat meatballs for others…and then things got really bad on the mound and then the bullpen took over and things got worse.

Garrett Richards, Chris Iannetta and Mike Butcher meet on the mound. Richards pitched really well...except for when he gave up homeruns and walked guys and stuff, naturally. Ugh. Sadly photo pretty much summed up the evening's starting pitching experience for me. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Garrett Richards, Chris Iannetta and Mike Butcher meet on the mound. Richards pitched really well…except for when he gave up homeruns and walked guys and stuff, naturally. Ugh. Sadly photo pretty much summed up the evening’s starting pitching experience for me. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Ah the offense, where to begin? Like so much of the season the offense was an upside/downside unto itself. What there was of it – which this game would be primarily Howie Kendrick – looked just fantastic! Sadly, having Kendrick, Mike Trout, Erick Aybar and Hamilton hitting, and Trumbo with an RBI sac and a walk – does not exactly equal a real offense. And if you rotate all of the names on the 25-man roster in and out of those sentences, you pretty much have the story of the Angels’ offensive season – take that meaning however you will and I can assure you it was completely intentional. ;)

Andrew Romine, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick laugh as they warm up in between innings. Kendrick was this evening's offense, driving in 4 of the 5 Angels runs. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Andrew Romine, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick laugh as they warm up in between innings. Kendrick was this evening’s offense, driving in 4 of the 5 Angels runs. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout at bat. Seriously, when he's on, I could watch this kid's gorgeous swing all day. Trout went 1 for 4 this evening. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout at bat. Seriously, when he’s on, I could watch this kid’s gorgeous swing all day. Trout went 1 for 4 this evening. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Of course, even with decidedly less than the full lineup participating, five runs should be enough to win a game…you know, with halfway decent pitching. Aaaaaand see previous rant, we’ve now come full circle. Hmmmm…looking at this game wrap-up, I think it’s safe to say Monday’s game functions pretty well as a microcosm for the Angels’ season.

Chris Young, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick kick back and watch the JumboTron during a pitching change. 'Hey, guys. Look at the crazy $#*! that Rally Monkey's doing now. You know, I love the Rally Monkey. When he's on that screen, they're losing...' Okay, probably that's just me transferring a bit here. Sadly I have grown to loathe the Rally Monkey this season because, yes, when he's on the JumboTron, we're losing and in 2013 we fans saw him on the JumboTron waaaaaaaay too often. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Chris Young, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick kick back and watch the JumboTron during a pitching change. ‘Hey, guys. Look at the crazy $#*! that Rally Monkey’s doing now. You know, I love the Rally Monkey. When he’s on that screen, they’re losing…’ Okay, probably that’s just me transferring a bit here. Sadly I have grown to loathe the Rally Monkey this season because, yes, when he’s on the JumboTron, we’re losing and in 2013 we fans saw him on the JumboTron waaaaaaaay too often. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The A's having a meeting on the mound. Pitcher Tommy Milone appears to be explaining something emphatically to catcher Stephen Vogt and Pitching Coach Curt Young. Perhaps, 'You know guys, it really makes me feel insecure when the infield can't make the play.' I for one found this imaginative scenario wildly hilarious...right up until the A's started kicking some serious Angels ass. *FacePalm* Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The A’s having a meeting on the mound. Pitcher Tommy Milone appears to be explaining something emphatically to catcher Stephen Vogt and Pitching Coach Curt Young. Perhaps, ‘You know guys, it really makes me feel insecure when the infield can’t make the play.’ I for one found this imaginative scenario wildly hilarious…right up until the A’s started kicking some serious Angels ass. *FacePalm* Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But here’s the thing, through it all, we hardcore fans all kept rooting for our Angels. As disappointed and angry and absolutely beyond frustrated as we all were, we kept watching. We may not have gone to the games in droves – life caused even Seth and I to severely curtail our usual 20+ games this season – but if Twitter, FaceBook and the other forums are any indication, I am far, far from the only fan who still managed to catch at least 145 of 162. And this is why I got so livid, though I refrained from posting at the time, with Dodger Nick Punto and his outrageously ignorant: “I live I Orange County and you can feel the buzz. Those Angel fans are turning into Dodger fans. It’s great.” comment. Yes Nick, the same group of casual bandwagon fans who have both jerseys in their closets and have switched their fan allegiance from red to blue and back again with the standings for as long as there have been two teams along the I-5 corridor, are rooting blue again this season. And we’re all shocked – heck, you know most of these folks probably have Red Sox and Yankees caps in their closets as well. ;) But as frustrating as the last several seasons have been, the rest of the fans have and will stay bleeding red. It’s not like we haven’t been through it before.

And on that note, 2013 is over for the Angels and I can’t exactly say I’m sorry to see it go. I’d prefer to end on a happier note though, so I’m toasting to a hopefully better 2014 for the Angels with a few humorous photos:

During a pitching change, former FanCave Dweller and all around Angels Superfan Ricardo Marquez riveted the eye of the dance cam with his rally moves. Here we see our dynamic trio's (Collin Cowgill, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun) priceless reaction. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

During a pitching change, former FanCave Dweller and all around Angels Superfan Ricardo Marquez riveted the eye of the dance cam with his rally moves. Here we see our dynamic trio’s (Collin Cowgill, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun) priceless reaction. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

"The brothers," Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, separated once again by trades, greet each other on the base paths. 'Miss you, Bro!' 'Miss you more!' *snerk* Okay, probably their exchange was less girly and more peppered with friendly insult that that but, hey, it amused me. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

“The brothers,” Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, separated once again by trades, greet each other on the base paths. ‘Miss you, Bro!’ ‘Miss you more!’ *snerk* Okay, probably their exchange was less girly and more peppered with friendly insult that that but, hey, it amused me. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

While everyone else goofs around and Jerome Williams in particular is shocked, shocked I tell you over whatever hijinks are abounding, Mark Trumbo is having none of their shenanigans, thank you very much. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

While everyone else goofs around and Jerome Williams in particular is shocked, shocked I tell you over whatever hijinks are abounding, Mark Trumbo is having none of their shenanigans, thank you very much. Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Hank Conger caught daydreaming in the dugout...or is he? Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger caught daydreaming in the dugout…or is he? Angels vs. A’s, September 23, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

What If: One Angel Fan’s Lament

It’s been awfully hard to write about the Angels this season, largely because they’ve been…well…pretty awful, but not 100% of the time. And I do so hate to put up a thoroughly ranting post, no matter how well deserved, just as the team is in the middle of doing something unexpectedly good the next day. Hey, every fan’s just a little bit superstitious, right?  (A truth that could have easily been included in Avenue Q, right alongside the Internet is for Porn and such.) And, I equally hate posting commentary filled with praise and slowly rekindling hope just as the team proceeds to dash those hopes by ending whatever modest streak they had going in spectacular fashion, yet again. I suppose I should try to analyze this mess but, while I like SABR just fine and was more than a bit of a math geek back in my school days, that doesn’t exactly make for my kind of writing. Besides, when I start thinking about the Angels 2013 season, instead of analysis, I find myself mired instead in the midst of so very many sad little what ifs…so, finally, I decided to just go with that.

The 2013 Angels: What if…

…The Angels’ Hot Stove pitching maneuvers didn’t remind me quite so much of Shel Silverstein’s poem Smart?

…Albert Pujols had been given or insisted upon (because I’m still not clear on who was the most stubborn in this case) a chance to really rest and heel his foot issues early on in the season…or had accepted/been assigned the DH role from the beginning.

…Jered Weaver landed a bit differently in Texas back in April and hadn’t broken his arm? Of course, broken arm or not, hitting the DL at that point might have been necessary anyway. He was having a rough time pitching and many speculated he was already injured.

Heck, what if at least half a dozen what ifs regarding injuries this season — step right on up and pick your favorite!

…The offense stranded just a few less guys on base each week…hit into just a few less double plays each week…fired on all cylinders a few more times each month.

…Angels fielding looked like…well, for lack of a better phrase…Angels fielding, real Angels fielding I mean, a few more times each month.

…Run support, quality starts and effective bullpen pitching weren’t such strangers from one another.

…Among Josh Hamilton’s many considerable talents, was more of an ability to take a pitch from time to time.

…Going to the bullpen made me think “roll a pair of 10Ds to see if bullpen self destructs” a little less often.

…The starting rotation didn’t make me think quite so often of Wayne Campbell’s gun rack…because, seriously, do two regularly functioning pitchers really necessitate anything quite so grand as a full rotation?

…I had an easier time writing angst/my ability to write about the Angels wasn’t so proportionally tied to the team doing something remotely approximating well. *snerk* Hey, then I might actually have had a consistent blog going this season.

…Waxing metaphorical on the current state of the Angels farm system didn’t have me looking more at post Dustbowl imagery than that of a thriving agricultural center.

…The team had played just a few more really good, fun to watch games each month because, let’s be honest here, they have actually managed to play a few like that here and there, a scant couple of which might even be described as epic.

What if. What if. What if. None of mine are colossal what ifs. Most are, in fact, quite small instances of what if this or that had happened just a little more or less often. Most of the bones of a contending team are in the clubhouse right now, so I can’t help but think that’s all it would have taken for this Angels team to at least be looking at .500 from more of a northern vantage point, possibly even to have realistic thoughts about an October. But neither the season not the players played out that way.

So, I leave you with one last what if, a what if that can’t help but pop into my mind during Angels seasons both good and bad. What if my grandfather, a lifelong, diehard Angels fan, were alive to see this year’s team and hear all of my what ifs today? I mean, this was a man who began his fandom attending and frequently sneaking into PCL Angels games during the Depression and who never failed to listen to the Major League incarnation of his beloved team on the radio in all the time that I knew him. Well, I definitely think he’d be shocked by recent contract expenditures though less so and certainly significantly less pleasantly so than he would be by that gorgeous World Series Trophy. I think he would be disappointed in this season, but I also think that, having lived through so many terrible seasons I could probably expect some comments to the effect that at least today’s fans have a real reason to hope for great things most seasons.

Now, do I feel that sharing this thought is supposed to make everything all better? That just because the Angels have quite the long history of seasons ranging from disappointing to god awful, somehow one more utterly terrible season is no big deal? Absolutely not. But the thought of this imagined lecture which I can almost hear in his voice, does give me some perspective and, if I’m to be honest, a bit of a smile – you know, memories of our grandfathers and all that. This season is terrible. Barring a miracle, it is also over. And that is disappointing on a scale that will no doubt have us all speaking of the team of 2013 in dark, bitter tones to our own grandchildren. But for all of that, it is just one season. And, unlike with the Angels teams of my grandfather’s day, once a few gaffes have been corrected and hamstringing contracts dealt with, a hopefully wiser front office will actually have the means to put together a contending team again. It may not be next season. It may not be the season after that – though I sure hope it doesn’t take that long. But it will happen. And that’s more than fans of Grandpa’s era could say with anything more than the most wishful of thinking.

The 2013 Angels: Redefining Baseball

Heading into the 2013 season, the Angels were ranked highly on all analysts’ lists. A playoff berth was said to be all but assured and many even predicted they would reach the World Series. And indeed, even taking into account the pounds of salt it’s always best to take with preseason predictions, the Angels definitely seemed like one of the teams to beat. Certainly no one expected them to turn out to be one of the teams that everyone beats. *sigh* But, never fear ladies and gentlemen. The Angels are still having an extraordinary season – just not even remotely in the positive sense. They’re still causing jaws drop all over Major League Baseball and with play that causes fans to exclaim loudly — loudly and things that are largely unprintable, that is.

In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that 2013 Angels are redefining baseball as we know it. So, with the intent of educating and informing the larger baseball audience, I offer the following TIAVSG Angels vocabulary lesson. While these baseball terms continue to hold their standard definitions for the other 29 teams, here is what they now mean in the Angels’ lexicon:

Run Support – A mercurial happenstance that seems to come and go in waves with no discernible rhyme or reason, though it is significantly more likely to disappear when the Angels starters are doing well, and reappear when the starters’ performance renders it ineffective.

Starting Rotation – Similar to Run Support. A Starting Rotation is a group of players whose effectiveness and ability are a mercurial happenstance that seems to come and go in waves with no discernible rhyme or reason and appears to “enjoy” an inverse relationship with Run Support.

Turning the Corner – I’m convinced that, for the Angels, this is no longer so much a defined vocabulary term as the limit in a calculus equation. The Angels are forever, one might even say infinitely, said to be approaching “Turning the Corner” but they never, ever actually get there.

Lead – A largely theoretical concept that is difficult to achieve and, once achieved, nearly impossible to hold.

Loss – Synonym for weekday. No, never mind. That was grossly unfair of me. Losses can occur on weekends as well.

Firemen – Traditionally this is a neat, somewhat old fashioned term for relief pitchers, because they come into the game in a high stress situation and ‘put out the fire.’ I am particularly fond of it because I’m generally fond of old fashioned terms with vivid imagery…and you are all shocked. Now, under normal circumstances, I am highly in favor of reading as much as one can of as many different kinds of books as one can and Ray Bradbury is a personal favorite going back to childhood. But whoever made Fahrenheit 451 required reading for the bullpen? I want them found and forcibly serenaded with ButtercupI’m Henry the 8th, I am style…for several days. *shakes head sadly* Not that kind of firemen guys. Not that kind of firemen.

Astros (see also Cubs) – An offensive juggernaut of a team with virtually unhittable pitching.

Consistency – In standard baseball terminology, consistency always has a positive connotation. He’s getting consistent at the plate, for example, means the he in question is starting to hit regularly. But in just plain, old, everyday English, consistency is more of a contextual concept and, as the Angels are reminding us this season, it is more than possible to be consistently bad.

Closed Door Meeting – I am certain that this is now a common synonym for postgame spread as both occur with significant regularity after the conclusion of the game.

Ace – Fortunately for the Angels, the traditional baseball definition still stands. An Ace is the guy that stops the team hemorrhaging, the guy who takes the mound and gives his team a chance to win no matter what…even if the offense can’t get it together in time to actually give the W to him. But no matter how the Angels or anyone else continues to define an Ace, he can only take the mound every five games or so…ugh.

October – And thus, sadly I fear that the definition of this word is destined to become ‘a quiet time of deep sadness and contemplation, but mostly of idleness…idleness spent watching other teams in the playoffs.’

Fan – A pitiable creature, filled with self-loathing and wracked by guilt over his/her inability to refrain from snarking, griping, angry yelling and the composing of lengthy, disenchanted blog posts filled with sarcastic vocabulary lessons in the face of the Angels ongoing inexplicably terrible play…even though she…er..*cough, cough*…I mean, he/she still goes to games and watches almost every single one she…er…or he can’t attend on TV. A creature who, even awash with such emotions, cannot keep herself from starting to hope again, just a little, every time the team starts to show glimpses of their true ability and wins a game or two.

And that concludes this evening’s Angels baseball terms vocabulary lesson. I cannot tell you how much I want the Angels to start and keep playing the caliber of baseball that would make me well and truly embarrassed by this post. Seriously. No joke. I want to eat crow over this by season’s end. Few things would make me happier than posting a lengthy and heartfelt apology…but the longer this kind of play continues, the likelihood of my needing to scour the internet for tasty crow marinades from Food Network chefs decreases significantly.

Angels, Dodgers Split Freeway Series + a Couple of Dirt Bags Get the Halos Back on Track…Maybe

When you absolutely, positively, have to halt a baseball team’s downward momentum with a win, forget the AK-47, call in a Dirtbag. And when you have the option to call in two back-to-back in consecutive starts, one of whom is your freshly back from the DL ace? Well, your decision is clear. Seriously, accept no substitutes. So, yeah, between the two of them and with timely backing from the Angels offense, Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas halted the Angels brief post-8 game winning streak slide…

The man of the hour, our hometown hero, Jered Weaver, back on the mound at last!! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The man of the hour, our hometown hero, Jered Weaver, back on the mound at last!! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…aaaand then the Angels sadly passed out of the Dirtbag part of the starting rotation and promptly gave it up to the Astros. Yes, pitching was far from the only problem in that game. The Keystone Cops defense was equally to blame and, really, the offense could have cowboy’d up. But the pitching really, really, didn’t help. So what are we left with then? Weaver, then Vargas, then a whole lot of fans crying and swearing? Yes, I’m aware that my comment lacks the traditional cute little rhyme to sum up the fans feelings on the rest of the starting rotation, but my feelings towards them today are decidedly less than cute, so there you go. Anyway, rather than dwelling on that any further heading into the next Angels game. I’d prefer to concentrate on happy thoughts, in the hopes of a victory over the mighty, mighty Astros. *facepalm* Specifically, I’d prefer to talk about going to the Big A last Wednesday…

A lit halo, shining through the haze of post win fireworks is a heartwarming sight for Angels fans everywhere! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

A lit halo, shining through the haze of post win fireworks is a heartwarming sight for Angels fans everywhere! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

With rivalry series throughout MLB shortened from three games at one venue and three at the other to two and two under the new realigned schedule, I knew I had to buy tickets for my annual Freeway Series fix early. In fact, knowing how popular the annual Angels vs. Dodgers, battle for I-5 supremacy usually is, I bought our tickets to the Wednesday night game in the series the day individual tickets went on sale. And I made sure to nab us pretty good seats as well, just because.

A sight much beloved among Angels fans - the mighty Matt Kemp, striking out!! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

A sight much beloved among Angels fans – the mighty Matt Kemp, striking out!! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And another sight we love to see - a fresh off a strike out, pouty Andre Ethier jawing in the dugout. Skip Schumaker looks amused and Donny Baseball is having none of it. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And another sight we love to see – a fresh off a strike out, pouty Andre Ethier jawing in the dugout. Skip Schumaker looks amused and Donny Baseball is having none of it. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As it turned out, this was such a brilliant decision that I wish I could actually take credit for thinking it through any further than that. May was a terribly busy month for Seth and I. Between work, family and one really nice weekend away, we had every weekend and most nights booked for the month. Wednesday was our one and only trip to the ballpark in May, a nearly unprecedented dry spell in the history of our household. And can I just tell you how glorious it was to see all of that beautiful green and take in the sights and sounds of the ballpark again? Never mind. You’re all fans. You understand.

Mark Trumbo, ace number one Chatty Cathy first baseman, with Adrian Gonzalez leading off. 'No, I'm not kidding. Kemp actually...' Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo, ace number one Chatty Cathy first baseman, with Adrian Gonzalez leading off. ‘No, I’m not kidding. Kemp actually…’ Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The umpire asks Chris Capuano, A.J. Ellis and Don Mattingly to wrap it up. 'Enough talking already Chris. Yes, it's still Josh Hamilton. Yes, he still swings at everything. Yes, he still hits most of it...really far.' ...of course, this game Hamilton didn't hit anything he swung at, but life goes on. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The umpire asks Chris Capuano, A.J. Ellis and Don Mattingly to wrap it up. ‘Enough talking already Chris. Yes, it’s still Josh Hamilton. Yes, he still swings at everything. Yes, he still hits most of it…really far.’ …of course, this game Hamilton didn’t hit anything he swung at, but life goes on. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But, even more importantly, Wednesday was also Jered Weaver’s first game back off the DL and it turned out to be one heck of a great game on top of that. As I said before, when you absolutely, positively, have to halt a baseball team’s downward momentum with a win…well, sadly, accepting substitutes is exactly what the Angels have been forced to do since Weaver broke his elbow in Arlington way back in early April. And, while those substitutes have gamely tried to fill the Weave’s perfectly odd sized and incredibly hard to fill cleats, it just simply could not be done and the Angels have really, really missed his tough, winning presence on the mound. Heading to the game I was so excited to be there for Weaver’s return, but mildly concerned that he would overthrow, an issue he’s experienced on some occasions after enduring a long time in between starts. Fortunately, overthrowing was not an issue. Weave was just Weaver. Throwing deceptive stuff. Striking guys out and coaxing fly outs with an admirable regularity. Getting even tougher and dialing in harder after each of the few hits he gave up. Setting the Angels up for a victory. Welcome. Back. Jered!! We have all missed you so much!

Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton head to the field for between inning warm ups. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton head to the field for between inning warm ups. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo at the plate. Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare for TrumBomb! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo at the plate. Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare for TrumBomb! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And Weaver’s performance was not the only highlight of the evening. In the stands, the mixed blue and red crowd absolutely rocked. I understand there were altercations in other sections but the Dodgers and Angels fans in our section? Well, we just enjoyed giving each other friendly grief and commiserating over a season that hasn’t been anything like either team had hoped so far. On the field, the offense had Weaver’s back with one patented, honest-to-goodness TrumBomb, doubles from Iannetta, Trout, Aybar and Iannetta again, and hits from almost the entire lineup. The outfield impressed, per their usual really. And although we all prefer a healthy Albert Pujols in the position, it was awfully nice to see Mark Trumbo enjoying being in his proper element at first base. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the bullpen. They were pretty good, actually. Downright awesome, in fact. Right up until Ernesto Frieri gave up two homeruns in the 9th that is, just for extra spice I’m sure. You know, making sure all of the fans felt they’d gotten their money’s worth of excitement. Considerate lad, that one. Fortunately, the Angels had enough of a lead to absorb those blows with only minimal antacid ingestion on the part of the fans – because you know they’d long since stopped selling alcohol – and the good guys were victorious. No blood. No actual falling behind. No extra innings. No foul. All’s well that ends in a lit halo!!

Kevin Jepsen, fresh back from the DL, looks much more like last seasons Jepsen, otherwise known as Kevin Jepsen: The Revelation! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Kevin Jepsen, fresh back from the DL, looks much more like last seasons Jepsen, otherwise known as Kevin Jepsen: The Revelation! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Ernesto Frieri, Erick Aybar and Chris Iannetta chat on the mound. 'Woah, it really landed all the way over there!! Dammit Aybar, why you gotta go and tell me these things during the game?!?' Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ernesto Frieri, Erick Aybar and Chris Iannetta chat on the mound. ‘Woah, it really landed all the way over there!! Dammit Aybar, why you gotta go and tell me these things during the game?!?’ Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, the moral of this story is quite simple and carries an important message for the rest of the season. Angels, I don’t care if you win pretty or win ugly. I don’t care if you win by a landslide, one run or anything in between. I don’t care if you have to scare me half to death and drive me to the liquor cabinet swearing all the way on your way to doing so. Just win. Please win. Win a lot. Oh, and how often can we reasonably ask Weaver and Vargas to take the mound? I only ask because, well, in the team’s current situation, it could prove to be useful information. Maybe.

The Angels Bullpen. They look so sweet and innocent don't they? But flip a coin. Are they Firemen or the Arson Squad? Fortunately, this evening, Frieri's scary moments aside, they were pretty darned good. Bravo! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels Bullpen. They look so sweet and innocent don’t they? But flip a coin. Are they Firemen or the Arson Squad? Fortunately, this evening, Frieri’s scary moments aside, they were pretty darned good. Bravo! Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez at first is quite the sight to see. They chat and laugh like gossipy students and occasionally elbow, jostle, and thwack one  another with gloves...sadly also the second before I could snap the photo. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez at first is quite the sight to see. They chat and laugh like gossipy students and occasionally elbow, jostle, and thwack one another with gloves…sadly also the second before I could snap the photo. Freeway Series, Angels vs. Dodgers, May 29, 2013. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I-5 Bias: The Freeway Series Edition

Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Freeway Series Edition! This is the fourth in what we hope will be an occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Between two Giants World Series wins in three years (sorry Matt ;) ), the AL West making quite the exciting splash in September 2012 and the ensuing Postseason, and recent shrewd personnel moves throughout the AL and NL West, MLB’s attention sure seems to be packing up and heading west these days. Despite the Dodgers and Angels terrible 2013 starts, Matt and I are both incredibly excited by this development want to share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? Nah, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!

I-5 Bias - Blog Medium

For this edition, we have posed six Angels and Dodgers oriented questions to be answered on both of our blogs prompted by the first two months of the 2013 season and the Freeway Series that begins today. We hope you enjoy this continuing freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snarky ones), please ask away:

So, the 2013 Dodgers and Angels. Hmmm…how can I put this delicately? What the hell happened??

Kristen says: While I love SABR and all of the increased attention even the average fan pays to statistics and analysis these days, the drawback is that no one is satisfied until they have a specific, detailed answer to performance questions these days and, I’m sorry, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. I mean, if there were a specific, detailed answer to the question of the Angels slower than molasses in a blizzard start to the season, don’t you think the problem would have been quickly solvable? In a nutshell, I think this was a perfect storm for the Angels. Heading into the season, player transactions were very tightly concentrated on beefing up the offense, and very much at the expense of the quality of the Angels starting rotation while virtually ignoring the bullpen. I was already queasy over the idea of assuming the offense would always pick up the pitching and then Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance with a series of injuries taking out the only ace in the Angels pitching staff, turning the starting rotation and bullpen into personnel revolving doors, removing key set up pieces from the lineup and hampering the starts of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton – severely, in the case of Pujols. Does that fully explain the Angels start? Perhaps not for everyone, but when you throw in the added pressure of not living up to sky high expectations as each new calamity occurred, it explains things for me…not that I’ve been obsessing over this since Opening Day or anything…*whistles innocently*

Matt says: Well with the Dodgers I am still trying to figure out what is going on. This season hasn’t been the start we all expected for them. To be fair Injuries has hit the Dodgers pretty good but that’s no excuse. Between issues with batting with RISP, Bullpen meltdowns, and mismanagement in games the Dodgers have found themselves in a good hole.

Be honest. Do you think the Dodgers/Angels’ issues are fixable? How fixable? And what would it take at this point for you as a fan to call the season a success?

Matt says: Yes I do believe it is but that’s up to the Manager. Switch up the line up to where it’s more effective to get runs, Make better bullpen decisions and not put the same guys who keep blowing the game in. As far as what will make this season successful? Winning and getting back to the Playoffs is what will save this season. At the start all the expectations were going to be on but missing the playoffs after spending on the Starting Pitching and making changes will be a disapointment. They have to get it in gear ASAP.

Kristen says: Well, don’t look now but the Angels offense is back online, the pitchers are performing well enough and then some, and the guys have quite a nice little winning streak going on heading into the Freeway Series. And the cherry on top? Ace Jered Weaver is coming off the DL and scheduled to pitch on Wednesday…the game I have tickets for. Score! If this level of play continues, then I will count the Angels season a success, no matter what the standings say at the end. It’s not that I don’t care about making the playoffs, I very much do. And I’m not counting the Angels out at all. If they keep playing like this, anything is possible especially with two wild card opportunities. No, I’m just acknowledging the fact that when a team digs themselves this deep of a hole to start the season, they are no longer fully in control of their own destiny – final standings are as much a matter of the other teams having off days as your team having good ones, something that we as baseball fans know you can hope for all you want but never, ever count on.

There have been talk/rumors of Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia possibly getting fired. Do you believe it’s time for them to go or should they even take blame?

Kristen says: Nope. Never. You will not see me calling for Sosh’s head over this. Not going to happen. I may cringe over his bullpen management from time to time…er…all the time and yes, there have been and will always be instances of mismanagement. But I really think that as fans we have a tendency to point to the handful of mismanaged plays and ignore the rest of the game. Besides, injuries aren’t the manager’s fault. Personnel changes are not the manager’s fault. And somehow, despite all of the setbacks, the Angels are climbing back into this race and I think that that speaks volumes for the players’ grit, of course, but also for Sosh’s ability to keep them together even through the rough times.

Matt says: I’m going to be straight up with Mattingly. From the looks of this he isn’t the right fit for the Dodgers. He has mismanaged games on his part and at times shows lack of fire but as of late he is starting to pick up that fire and take action. Benching Ethier and Kemp as well as calling out the team is a start right there. Now should he take blame. Yes but not ALL of it. Blame has to go around to everyone on their part. Mattingly has messed up on his part and it’s going to cost him his job at some point.

One more uncomfortable question: What do you think about emergency/closed door team meetings — players only or otherwise? Are they ever effective or do they just feed the drama?

Matt says: You know about those meetings I actually really like them. You have time to really air out whatever issues their are and talk about what you have to do as a team to get it going in the right direction. The Media will always make it more than what it needs to be but they are an effective way to talk as a team to get things going in a positive spin.

Kristen says: I think that, like any other tool, closed door meetings can be useful at times, useless at others and downright detrimental at others. I think a team meeting certainly can turn things around and, when such things become necessary, I do love it when the players show enough passion, initiative and team spirit to take ownership and have their own meeting. Here’s the thing though. Back in the day, fans would never hear about a closed door meeting or certainly not about every closed door meeting. Now we hear about every single one, often as they’re happening. Frequently we even hear what was said at the meetings – pretty contrary to the point of ‘closed door’ don’t you think? This is the part I don’t think it healthy. It adds to the drama and it also leads to the tail wagging the dog. When things start to go downhill, everyone expects a closed door meeting creating external pressure for the meeting to happen, rather than the meeting just occurring or not occurring naturally in keeping with the rhythms and chemistry of that particular team.

With the new schedule and league realignment, rivalry matchups including the Freeway Series have shrunk from 6 games to 4 for the season. Do you like this development or is it messing too much with tradition, albeit a relatively recent tradition?

Kristen says: I love the Freeway Series and the rivalry fan energy that both surrounds it at the ballparks and spills over into our work and social lives for a few days. I’m really going to miss that lasting for two full series and, to be honest, a shorter more compacted Freeway Series cuts into my ability to attend one game at each stadium, a mini-tradition Seth and I have enjoyed for a few years. But, at the same time, I get the necessity of trimming down the rivalry matchups under the new schedule. I also understand how awkward and underwhelming two series’ worth of rivalry matchups were under the old schedule for teams/fan bases who had no natural rival and were stuck with 6 games against an, in essence, MLB manufactured and assigned rival. So, while I’m disappointed for Angels and Dodgers fans, I get that this was the best course of action.

Matt says: Well I ALWAYS have enjoyed the freeways series. To be honest I don’t have an issue with the series being 4 games because you have 2 in LA then right then another 2 in Anaheim. So more of a 4 game series home and home. I know this will eventually end up being a Opening Day match up soon with the realignment so 4 games isn’t bad. Though I did like the 6 game format.

Make your predictions now. Which team will win the Freeway Series and with what record?

Matt says: With what I have seen from the Dodgers they for some reason can’t get it together. Against St Louis they were shut out where they didn’t even show up and Yesterday where errors took them out of the game. This series starts off with Greinke and Ryu so it’s not pitching that I am worried about but the lack of offense. With that said I see this series going 2-2. Dodgers taking one in LA and one in Anaheim but with the Dodgers I really don’t know what to expect out of them at times especially with a hot Angels team coming into Dodger Stadium.

Kristen says: The Angels are hot right now and, since the start of interleague play, have owned the NL, including the Dodgers. I predict the Angels will win 3 out 4.

Meet the Bloggers Bonus Question: Do you enjoy the Freeway Series and, if so, what is your first/best Freeway Series memory?

Kristen says: I can’t pick out one specific, favorite memory – there are just too many! But the thing I love the most about the Freeway Series and the warm, fuzzy sense of family tradition I get from it. Growing up, my family primarily rooted for the Dodgers, but the Angels were Grandpa’s team, so I always knew both teams and loved watching them play each other. And, coming from such a Freeway family, as it were, my parents always took my sister and I to at least one Freeway Series game. There was no interleague play when I was a child so the Freeway Series was a pre-season exhibition. This meant that the Freeway Series was frequently my first live baseball game after the long winter without, adding to the specialness of the occasion.

Matt says: Theres so many favorite memories and moments from this series. I enjoy the Freeway Series because it’s two teams that’s close to each other clashing. As far as my favorite/best Freeway Series memory wellll theres so many that I can’t pin point on one. Mine would have to be my first trip to Angels Stadium in 2009. The night before Juan Rivera (Angels player at the time) hit a walk off Home Run. This night Jarred and Jeff Weaver pitched against each other. The Dodgers won that night but what made it memorible was that it was my Very First Freeway Series that I witnessed (The First of Many).

Fans Cheer as Angels Finally Decide to Go Streaking + Mike Trout Amazes Yet Again

Well looky there Lou Brown, the Angels have themselves an honest to goodness winning streak going on! And while, yes, it has happened before in 2013 – twice before to be precise, not that we fans have been counting or obsessing or agonizing over it or anything *nods* — at a five games and counting it is, in fact, the longest winning streak the Angels have managed this season, but two whole games no less. Now, a five game winning streak may indeed be a little short for a Storm Trooper, so to speak, and normal-season-Angels-Fan-Kristen is absolutely rolling her eyes at this 2013 season version of me but, to be honest, I am just way too giddy happy to care.

Watching the Angels play Tuesday and Wednesday against the Mariners in particular was downright exhilarating. The offense was absolutely raking, starters Jerome Williams and C.J. Wilson were dealing, the fielding was spectacular and the bullpen was everything you could possibly want them to be. Things were a little uglier yesterday, especially in terms of bullpen performance, but the team kept it together with strengths picking up the slack for weaknesses. In short, this was the Angels baseball we fans have been aching to see, the kind of Angels baseball that we just knew was lurking out there…somewhere…despite the numerous failed search party attempts and the increasingly hopeless expressions on the faces of the park rangers coordinating their efforts. So, does this mean hope is restored and all is suddenly right with our Halo’d little world? Hardly. Only five games and all that. But it is a start and I sure do hope the guys can keep playing like this because, well, this late into May it may or may be enough to lead to anything meaningful in terms of standings, but it sure would be a lot of fun to watch. And baseball that’s this fun to watch is no small thing.

So, in the middle of this Angels streak business, the team managed to remind MLB fans everywhere of another important fact: this Mike Trout kid? He’s pretty darned good at baseball. In the midst of an alleged sophomore slump, the prodigy is hitting just over .300 with 10 homeruns, a third of the way towards equaling last season’s total. Yes, he got off to a bit of a slow start, but this is only the kid’s first full season in the majors. We really have no pattern of behavior to compare this season’s progression to. Oh, and then there was the little matter of that hitting for the cycle thing on Tuesday. You may have heard or read about somewhere. I think a few of the local publications might have picked it up. ;)

And here I had been thinking that all of this season’s Mike Trout hype was a little embarrassingly over the top, possibly to the point of being detrimental. You know, the bobble head give away. The pint glass give away. The front office created daily Trout Farm cheering section out in left field, complete with themed shirt giveaways. The Subway commercial. All of the appearances in MLB commercials. Taken on their own, each of these things made me smile broadly…well, except for the Trout Farm. I have a pet peeve against such things being created by the Marketing Department. Naturally occurring and fan driven is infinitely cooler. But that can be the subject of another blog post…and I digress.

Anyway, individually these promotions and hype are neat, fun for the fans and certainly well deserved by Trout. But, the sum total of the hype on the shoulders of a 21 year old kid this early in his career? In the beginning I just felt queasy about the potential for pressure and harm, especially when Trout was warming up into the season slowly. But watching him play as amazingly as…well…as Mike Trout? I still think it all may be a little too much, but not out of worry for Trout mid you. I just think that the Angels driven components make us look a little overeager and unused to having such young talent on the team. However, in the grand scheme of things, although I may shake my head and role my eyes over it a little from time to time, I’m okay with all of it and having fun with most of it. And Mike Trout? Well, attention, no attention or anything in between, clearly the kid is going to be just fine. We don’t call him SuperTrout and Troutstanding for nothing!

 

 

Angels Still Have Issues, but what a Difference a Few Lit Halos Can Make!

Writers are often purported to be an angsty bunch, pouring out the prose most effectively in a fit of anger or sadness. But not I. Words flow from my fingers through the keyboard most easily when I’m in a good mood and this blog is no exception. I don’t want to yell at my Angels, I want to cheer for and celebrate them. Now, is this more a factor of there being little truth to the stereotype about writers or of the fact of my being a hack, I cannot say. ;)  But I can tell you that I’d far rather continue writing the post I started in a fit of baseball fan euphoria on Sunday than anything “inspired” by last night’s game against the Rangers…but, don’t worry. You know me. I’ll bring it back around eventually.

Oh what a difference a series or even a game can make in the mood of the baseball fan! Especially when that series finds my previously slumping Angels sweeping the Tigers, scary offensive lineup and all! You would think that, as a lifelong baseball fan, I would thoroughly grok the whole 162 game season concept and not get so worked up over a series or even a week here or there. But, in truth, I think that’s only possibly for the more casual fan, the fan who skims the box scores far more often than they find the time to sit down and watch a game. Because, when you watch most of those 162 games, the no less true for being so very clichéd concept of this being a marathon not a sprint, becomes strictly academic in the face of the fact that you are living the season game by game. Heck, sometimes it doesn’t even take a series to provoke a completely disproportionate to the sample size at hand move to despair or jubilation. Especially this early in the season, sometimes just a game will do it. I certainly found myself embracing an impractical surge of optimism after watching the Angels’ walk off win against the Astros from the Big A two Saturdays ago. And a game like last night’s game against the Rangers, a game which laid bare all of the Angels flaws over the course of nine innings – see, I told you I’d bring this back around! – would have eaten at me, planting nagging doubts about the season, even in June or July.

Thus, last post I was desperately searching for a reason to stay optimistic and this weekend I was trying to temper my optimism with sane practicality and with only limited success…until last night. After the first game against the Rangers, the stark reminder of the Angels flaws did temper that optimism, but it didn’t kill it. Yes, I know the Angels are far from out of the woods yet in terms of the standings…yes, even this early in the season and I will remind anyone who says ‘no it’s too early to worry at all’ to look at last season. Yes, the starting rotation is a real problem, especially for the duration of Jered Weaver’s DL stint, and the bullpen is worse. And, yes, there is an awful lot riding on a potentially brilliant but frustratingly streaky offense. But the weekend’s sweep of the Tigers did at least show us what an Angels team with a fully functioning offense can do when the different components of the pitching staff combine for at least a passable performance, and what that team can do is win! Now, when the offense takes a while to come online, or is scoring but still strands too many runners in scoring position while any aspect of the pitching outright self destructs? Well, hang on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, this season could get a little interesting by all appropriately Hoban Washburne definitions of the word.

So those are the realistic concerns from the past week and change, but what about the happier observations?:

  • Is there anything hotter in baseball than your team’s walk off win? I mean, seriously. Is there anything more, dear lord, ‘Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?,’ I think I need several moments to recover and quite possibly a cigarette, hotter in baseball than a walk off win…especially one you witness live? No. Quite simply, there is not, as I was reminded from our seats at the Big A two Saturdays ago and again just this past Sunday.
  • When the offense is clicking it can and will pick up even so-so pitching…and the offense is heating up. Okay, Josh Hamilton needs to catch the warming trend and we’d like Mike Trout to steal more again, but for the most part they’re starting to look really good more games than not.
  • Promising youth explosion! If we had to have so many injuries early on – and, let’s face it, we’d all prefer that the Angels did not, but here we are – then at least the team has found two legitimate gems in the form of Garrett Richards and Luis “Lucho” Jimenez. When he last joined the Big League team, Richards had promising stuff but little seasoning. Returning from more time in the minors with a lot more polish, the youngster still has some work to do, but has nevertheless been one of the brighter spots in the rotation. And Lucho, replacing the ailing Alberto Callaspo, is simply a revelation. Good instincts, good hands, serious athleticism, some speed and no small amount of pop in his bat, not to mention an attitude with just the right amount of cockiness and an infectious grin. I find myself hoping that Lucho is Callaspo’s permanent replacement and I’m one of the fans usually counted among Callaspo supporters.
  • Even in our sketchy bullpen there are a few standouts. Scott Downs is Downs again. Jerome Williams is a confidence inspiring sight taking the mound in long relief and recent call up Michael Roth sure impressed in his Angels debut…in fact, one wonders why we haven’t seen him since. (Editor’s Note: Ah, that would be because apparently Roth is temporarily joining the starting rotation beginning tonight. I’m awfully excited to watch that. It’s only the Rangers, kid, and Yu Darvish. No pressure. ;)   )
  • Our outfield!! Trout, Peter Bourjos and Hamilton. I cannot get enough of the great plays from these three guys. And Bourjos haters? You go right on hating because, let’s face it that’s what you’re going to do anyway despite anything I say or, you know, logic. But don’t look now, Bourjos is hitting. Well!! And he’s getting on base too. Once Hamilton settles in at the plate, this trio will be unstoppable.

And that’s basically the long and the short of it. Which Angels tendencies will have more of an impact on the standings by season’s end? Well it really is too soon to tell, no matter how I feel on a game by game basis. But I have more optimism than I did when last I checked in and that, dear reader, is seriously something…something I for one needed badly.

I-5 Bias: The Opening Day Edition

Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Opening Day Edition! This is the third in what we hope will be an occasional, throughout the season collaboration between this Angels blogger and Matt Lowry of Dodger Familia Thoughts, a great Dodgers blogger and friend of this blog. Between two Giants World Series wins in three years (sorry Matt ;) ), the AL West making quite the exciting splash in September 2012 and the ensuing Postseason, and recent shrewd personnel moves throughout the AL and NL West, MLB’s attention sure seems to be packing up and heading west these days. Matt and I are both incredibly excited by this development and especially by all of the attention our teams’ offseason moves have brought to my Angels and his Dodgers. So we thought that we would share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? Nah, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!

I-5 Bias - Blog Medium

For this edition, we have posed six Angels and Dodgers oriented questions to be answered on both of our blogs prompted by the end of spring training and the World Baseball Classic and, of course, Baseball Fans’ Christmas Morning, otherwise known as Opening Day. We hope you enjoy this continuing freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snarky ones), please ask away:

So, about those less than stellar spring training records? Are you concerned? What, if anything, did you learn about your team from spring training?

Kristen says: I’m not really concerned about the Angels spring training record (or, truth be told, the Dodgers either for that matter). Split squads facing full squads. Pitchers taking the mound in unconventional innings for unusual stretches of time. Players pulled both more and less quickly than they usually would be. Minor leaguers finishing what the big leaguers start. Spring training play is just too different from regular season play for the one record to say anything predictive about the other. Besides, lately the Angels have started off their seasons with a crappy April and early May. The terrible spring training record gives me a small, odd hope that they’ve somehow gotten it out of their systems earlier this season. Now, having watched more spring training games than not, I can tell you that I am still really concerned about the Angels bullpen and only somewhat less concerned about the back end of the starting rotation. Here’s hoping that I’m just a hopeless worrywart without cause.

Matt says: as far as the records I’m not concerned at all because if you look at spring training most of the time it’s the minor league guys and Non roster guys playing so no need to worry at all. As far as what I learned in Spring I learned a few things. 1- the Dodgers minor league system is in great hands and 2- Dodgers have depth.

After watching spring training, what player(s) have particularly impressed you? What player(s) you look forward to seeing this upcoming season?

Matt says: One player I am really looking forward to seeing and Impressed by is Josh Beckett and here’s why. While Beckett isn’t going to be a Cy Young Award winner he is going to produce for the Dodgers. I believe the change of scenery will really help him this season. Another player that impressed me was Hyun Jin Ryu. Ryu will have to adjust to the MLB style of play but without a doubt he can for sure get it done. He will be a treat to watch this season. Yasiel Puig also impressed many Dodger fans this spring. Even though he was sent to Double A due to no room on the roster he will be something else once he’s called up.

Kristen says: I’m still head over heels enamored with the Angels outfield – Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton. They had their rough games and bouts of butterfingers this spring training but I really got the impression they learned to work well together. Watching Bourjos get his centerfielder’s confidence back after a season spent largely on the bench was a kick and a half, as was watching Hank Conger kill it at the plate.

This is the first season with two 15 team leagues and interleague play every day. In fact, the Angels are one of the teams opening the season with an interleague series. What are your thoughts on this?

Kristen says: I’m an oddity among hardcore baseball fans in that I actually enjoy interleague play and look forward to all of the odd matchups – perhaps it’s a throwback to my childhood and all of those great DC/Marvel comic mash ups. ;) So, on many levels, I am excited to see the Angels take on the Reds. In fact, my only annoyance with the Angels season opener is not that it’s against a National League team. It’s that the series takes place on the East Coast and most of the games are early, sticking me with the unappealing choice of either catching games that take place while I’m at work only in bits and pieces on the radio and in phone updates, or watching them on delay knowing full well that there is no way I will be able to avoid knowing the outcome of the game prematurely unless by some miracle I can avoid the entire internet, the radio, television and basically all human contact until I’m finished watching the game. I know. Not bloody likely.

As for this being the first season with two 15 team leagues, I love having an equal number of teams in both leagues at last, but still have some serious reservations about that equal number being an odd one. We’ll see how this works out.

Matt says: I honestly believe is a pretty cool yet odd thing. With Opening Day it’s the start of the season and you always want to start the season off on the right foot. Interleague games to start the season will be an odd one but will also be fun. A good example is Angles and Reds. The Reds pitching staff against the Angels line up at Great American Ballpark is a game that catches many eyes. AL vs NL contenders. I believe it is a great treat for baseball fans.

What are your thoughts on your team’s Opening Day 25-man roster? Do you have any issues or just plain surprises?

Matt says: Justin Sellers is a player that surprised me. I would’ve thought Alex Castellanos or Ellian Herrara would be on the roster but Mattingly wanted to go with Defense. Paco Rodriguez is also another surprise but the kid shown that he can pitch. That’s for a fact. He can really pitch and has a bright future with this team. Other than that I see no other surprises on the 25 man roster. Most are healthy which is great.

Kristen says: The 25-man roster is more or less what I expected. There were no surprises for me in terms of the starters and I am completely happy on that front, ecstatic even. I was thrilled, though not surprised, that Hank Conger made the roster. Hopefully 2013 is his year to really make an impact! I was pleasantly surprised to see Andrew Romine make the bench list and am excited to see what he can do. I’ve had a soft spot for the kid ever since I saw him pull off a tough force play at third with a long distance slide across the bag with the ball, just ahead of the runner. He’s rough around the edges and needs work at the plate but has good instincts and an appealing versatility. My only issue is that even, with a large personnel shuffle in the bullpen, I still don’t trust them to be consistently reliable. Prove me wrong guys. I would love nothing more than to be making heartfelt, happy mea culpas to the bullpen at the end of the season.

The World Baseball Classic was big news and now the media are debating the impact it will have on the regular season. What are your thoughts?

Kristen says: I think it’s a mixed bag and that the effects will differ from player to player. I’m thrilled silly that the Angels’ participant, Erick Aybar, emerged from the WBC with a May and June like hot bat that he shows every intention of maintaining. In the case of Aybar, who regularly plays pretty much year around between the regular season and the Dominican League, I think he actually has a chance of maintaining it and other teams will be in this same, happy little boat. Other players may start out hot but fade early having, effectively, started playing hardcore, competitive baseball a month earlier than their teammates. And, of course, WBC related injuries – many of which would not have happened during less intense ST play – will be an issue for a few teams, including the Dodgers. What we have to remember, however, is that if the unfortunate end of the WBC related effects spectrum is enough to tip the seasonal balances for any team, then one of any number of the sort of injuries/issues that managers have to anticipate during the regular season might well have had the exact same effect.

Matt says: I honestly believe it will. Hanley’s injury was something that could’ve Happened in a Spring Training game. What many fail to realize is that the WBC gets players into 9 innings shape instead if slowly getting into that game by game. It gets them ready and going and if their teams make playoffs then the atmosphere will have them set to go. So I believe for the good it will have them ready.

Bonus Bloggers’ Bias Question: So, Opening Day. Do you have tickets to your team’s home opener and what, if any, Opening Day traditions do you have?

Matt says: yes I absolutely do. This is my first FULL season as a season ticket holder and I am looking forward to it. A tradition I always have is I check my stuff the night before and put it in one place. Then I get there the next day for batting practice and to see all the festivities. Opening day is really great.

Kristen says: I am bouncing off the walls excited! Yes, we do have tickets to the Angels home opener, though it’s just about the latest home opener for any team this season so I still have a ways to go before I get to see my guys play live. For the last three seasons, our tradition has been to go to the Angels home opener. In seasons like this one where that doesn’t coincide with Opening Day, our tradition is just to watch as much baseball as possible and really soak it in after the long winter without, preferably accompanied by a nice bottle of red…or two. Sadly, this year all traditions will be bucked. I’m sick, so no wine, and the Angels are playing at 1 p.m. on a weekday so, really, no Angels. Thus this year’s ‘tradition’ is apparently watching not my team and being frustrated until the Angels hit Texas. But, you know what? Today umpires will call out those magical words, ‘Play ball!’ twelve times in regular season play, so I simply can’t be bothered to wipe the big, silly grin off of my face long enough to be upset about much of anything. Baseball is back!

Angels Welcome Ryan Madson, Tommy Hanson and some Brand Spanking New Question Marks

Mention the Angels 2012 bullpen to a group of fans and you’ll get quite the array of reactions. Cringing. Anger. Shaking fists. Tears. Laughter…of the crazed sort, mind you. And, occasionally, nostalgia. (After all, fans did dub the bullpen of 1970s, the Arson Squad because, when called upon, they tended to have the opposite effect of putting out the fire…and that’s putting it mildly.) And those reactions are absolutely justified. Despite a few bright spots and clutch performances, the Angels 2012 bullpen had 22 blown saves to their…um…credit, tying the Red Sox for the most in the AL. Suffice to say, heading into the offseason, bullpen help needed to be one of Jerry Dipoto’s top priorities.

Dipoto and the Angels took a positive step Wednesday in signing Ryan Madson. Assuming he returns to his usual quality form following recovery from Tommy John surgery, having Madson’s strong arm in the 8th or 9th inning should improve the Angels ability to hold leads. This deal is potentially a great start towards fixing the bullpen for the 2013 season and, fortunately, Dipoto seems to see it that way too, hinting that he has a few more bullpen plans up his sleeves during the interviews surrounding Madson’s signing.

Cautiously pleased though I was with the deal, it didn’t do a whole lot to ease the tension I’ve been feeling about the Angels roster since Dipoto started letting players go. Despite the disappointment of 2012, I just didn’t think the Angels needed that much work. So many of 2012’s woes – Albert Pujols’ painfully slow start, back troubles hobbling Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, injuries and slumps and tigers and bears, oh my! – seemed like such random, one-time only streaks of terrible luck that, in my mind, the 2012 Angels should have treated the offseason much like the 2011 Braves did, as a chance to rest, heal, recover and not do anything drastic from a personnel standpoint. In my mind, the Angels just needed to fix the bullpen, sign Zack Greinke, lose Ervin Santana (because his awesomely nasty vs. “just a bit outside” pitching mood swings aren’t swinging nearly often enough or well enough to the positive end of the spectrum to justify putting up with the negative these days) keep almost everyone else, smile and wait for pitchers and catchers to report.

Getting rid of Torii Hunter and Dan Haren (whose bad year was truly uncharacteristic and, I think, won’t be a repeat occurrence in 2013) left me with feelings of deep unease and a sense of “where do we go from here?” I understand that the idea is to save enough money to sign Zack Greinke but that just seems like an awful lot of eggs in one highly expensive and only possibly attainable basket. I mean, even if the Dipoto is successful in landing Greinke, what about the rest of the starting rotation and the hole-ridden offense?

Trading Jordan Walden to the Braves for Tommy Hanson on Friday helped me feel a bit better. Hey, the Angels now have a for-certain 3-man rotation with one potential 4th that doesn’t scare the hell out of me – Jerome Williams. Progress! I liked Walden but he really doesn’t seem to have the temperament to maintain control and get outs once batters start hitting him…and then the pre-glasses Wild Thing emerges and things get a little scary. I think the addition of Madson is a safer bet. As for Hanson, I’m a little concerned about his back issues last season, and less concerned about his shoulder issues two season ago which seem to have healed. Basically, between that and the velocity drop offset by the increasingly nasty delivery, it feels like the Angels traded for Dan Haren’s younger, more economical self. But Haren worked out very well indeed for the Angels for the better part of two seasons so I am cautiously optimistic about this deal.

Now the team just needs another starter (Greinke, hopefully. If that won’t absolutely break the bank.), to fill at least one key hole in the starting lineup, oh, and adding a little bit more stabilization in the bullpen couldn’t hurt either. No problem, right? Yeah, there went that breathing easier thing again. Yes, I know, I know. It’s only December 3rd. The Winter Meetings are just getting started Monday morning and there’s a lot of offseason left — a lot, a lot even. Anything is possible…but the pickings are slimmer this year and I just can’t shake the feeling that we created too many holes to fill in an attempt to land one key piece that would have only just filled or offset the preexisting holes anyway. Oh well, bring on the Winter Meetings.

Giants and Tigers and Pandas, Oh My! + My Rooting Philosophies in an Angel-less October

Just before 5 p.m., feeding time for our baseball addiction, Seth and I crept down the mountain from the Yosemite cabin to catch the game at a truly delicious barbecue joint in Oakhurst. We have meals to cook at the cabin, despite the lack of stove, and things we want to do in the evenings that preclude a 90 minute round trip just to find an available television, so we knew we were only going to catch one more game this vacation and, as it turned out, we picked a fun one. I chose this evening’s game because I wanted to see a great pitchers’ duel and just hoped that Barry Zito would hold up his end of the bargain by building on his heroic NLCS outing. I never expected that a pitchers’ duel would fail to materialize because Justin Verlander was having an off night. But, you know what? Those cheesy Postseason commercials really are true: you can’t script October.

Usually I don’t enjoy a blowout as much as a close game, even when the winning team is the team I’m rooting for, but who could possibly call themselves a baseball fan and not enjoy Pablo Sandoval’s three homerun game? …Well…okay, fine…Tigers fans get a pass on this one. ;) Sandoval is now only the fourth player to hit three home runs in a Postseason game. Talk about complete and utter Panda-monium in the Bay Area! Also, I think that this one-sided score doesn’t really tell the whole story. From what I saw, yes, the Tigers absolutely gave up when Verlander got shelled, but they also recovered and tried valiantly to get back in the game at the end there, it was just too little, too late. The end result was a dazzling display of highlight reel worthy diving and leaping defensive plays on both sides. With the Tigers showing strong signs of life at the end to the point that the Giants blew through three relievers to get the last three outs, tomorrow’s game could be a different story. But, a story with a similar Giants ending or one more to the Tigers liking, who can say. See previous comment about commercial cliches, scripting and October.

 

Woah, Woah, Woah. What’s with all this Giants Stuff?

Okay, okay. I know what you all must be thinking, reading my last few posts. Is this an Angels blog or some sort of weird hybrid Giants/Nationals/Orioles blog heavier on the west coast bias than on the east? Have the Angels finally driven this blogger so crazy that she’s lost all focus? Now that’s just crazy talk. Of course this is an Angels blog. But this is October, the Angels almost-an-October never quite materialized, and I will be damned if I spend the month mourning the lack of Angels to such a degree that I miss out on the LAST FEW WEEKS OF BASEBALL before the looooong wintery time without.

Even as a huge fan of the game, it’s so much more fun to root for someone than just to watch with no skin in the game, so once the Angels are out of the running, I pick other teams to root for. Borrowed skin, as it were. No, this isn’t being a bandwagon fan. Bandwagon fans hop on that bandwagon in good times and pretend they’re diehards from way back before jumping right off again in bad times. No bandwagon fans here. I am simply shamelessly loving the one I am with, namely your team, for a week or two or however long they last in the postseason because I can’t be with the one I want…and I have absolutely no problem explaining that.  …Also, yes, my father did raise me with an appreciation for the classics and generally excellent taste in music. Why do you ask? ;)

This postseason my adopt a team philosophy has lead me to root for the Nationals – because they’d never been to the World Series as Expos or Nationals and I like rooting for a lovable underdog – the Orioles – because of their long World Series drought, see previous discussion of the Nationals – the A’s – because they had a fun team this season despite the fact that I almost never root for another AL West team also I couldn’t very well break tradition now and root for the Yankees – the Tigers – see previous conversation about the A’s – and the Giants because of family ties…

 

Our Blogger Heroine’s Strange Origins

…Long story shortened, I am the lone living Red sheep (my grandfather was a diehard Angels fan) in a family split on both my mother’s and my father’s sides between the Dodgers fan base and the Giants. Oddly enough, this means I grew up with a weird affection for both teams. But Kristen, how can you like both teams? Don’t you know about the Dodgers/Giants rivalry? Hello, did you not just read the previous two sentences? I have family on both sides of the rivalry…family who share food across the table at holiday gatherings…holiday gatherings that take place in the months following the baseball postseason. Savvy?

Such passion, while often contentious, is also contagious so, as improbable and downright wrong as this sounds, I have both an affection and a respect for the Dodgers and the Giants that still pales in comparison to my diehard passion for the Angels. I follow the Dodgers and the Giants out of the corner of my eye while I’m watching the Angels all season. I know the players on both teams and generally wish them both well. If either the Dodgers or the Giants makes it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, then I’m rooting for that team. If both of them ever make it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, well then I’ll probably root for the Dodgers – my immediate family are the Dodgers fans, so I grew up going to games in Chavez Ravine – and try to lay low on FaceBook when the cousins start trash talking. So, you see, it doesn’t matter that I felt nothing particularly for or against the Reds, that I generally like the Cardinals, and that I think the Tigers have a pretty fun team this season. This Giants rooting thing was as inevitable as it is fun and strictly relegated to an Angel-less October.

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