Results tagged ‘ Dodgers ’

Angels Bats Are Back, but I Have Questions about the Rotation

The Angels continue to hit in spectacular fashion, both those you would expect and those you would not expect. 39 hits and 31 RBIs in the last three games, even with the loss to Milwaukee? Whooooo hooooo! Granted, batting averages don’t really count for much in Spring Training because the pitching takes so long to get into season shape and the number of minor league pitchers each batter sees. However, the bats seem to be warming up more as the pitching warms up and this I will take as a hopeful sign for the season.

Starting rotation issues, however, are giving me concerns where I did not expect to have any just two weeks ago. Now it sounds like Joel Pineiro will spend a few days on the DL at the beginning for the season. I understand. I want him to pitch strong for as much of the season as he can and back precautionary decisions especially now before the season starts. So much for the 4th rotation spot, for now…though after Scott Kazmir’s last start, who knows?

Which brings us to our 5th starting rotation spot…well…How do you solve a problem like Scott Kazmir? And, yes, that did emerge from my head set to a Rodgers and Hammerstein approved tune. Thanks – or blame, depending on your point of view – to Red State Blue State. I wanted Kaz to regain his old form. I was really pulling for him. There were hopefully signs in several of his Spring Training starts – more control in one game, more strikes thrown in another, more consistency, etc. But it never all came together in one game, which in and of itself already has overtones of 2010. Then, on Thursday against the Brewers, he incurred eight hits and ten runs in five innings pitched. Owwwww-ch. And yet it still sounds like Kaz is our 5th starter. Which leaves us where exactly? Praying for rain every 5th start? That would be one baseball tradition I would prefer not to embrace.

Matt Palmer did pretty well today, pitching to contact with the infield and outfield living up to their capabilities. Hmmm…is he an alternative plan or is he bullpen bound, no ifs, ands or buts? Oh well, I guess we’ll find out on Tuesday after the game, when Mike Scioscia has promised he will announce the starting rotation, the 25 man roster and the opening day starters…because waiting for Wednesday evening would have been too last minute, she says with extreme affection.

In other news, preparing to buy tickets for a few games in Northern California has given me a renewed appreciation for buying Angels tickets down here in Southern California. On Stubhub you pay more than full price for even generic Giants and A’s tickets. Even now before the season has started. It is actually better to go through Ticketmaster for Giants and A’s tickets. The horror!! The Big A is so large and enough of our season ticket holders so unable to attend every game, that I can usually grab tickets at season ticket prices or even cheaper now or the week of the game off Stubhub or Craig’s list. Games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are notable exceptions to this rule. But even so, wow. I had no idea I was so spoiled, but I’ll take it!

MLB Network’s 10th Greatest Game, Childhood & Homerun Memories

I am so enjoying MLBN’s 20 Greatest Games series. I haven’t seen them all but, with my very Dodgers childhood, I definitely could not miss this evening’s episode: 1988 World Series Game One! I remember that evening vividly. It was a Saturday night, date night for my parents, so my sister and I were enjoying a small Domino’s pizza and had the beginnings of a truly epic Lego castle complete with maze winding its way across the den floor in front of the TV. I may have been too old for a lot of toys at that point but if you’re ever too old for Legos, well then, you’re just too old.

We were so disappointed, my sister and I, when they announced that Kirk Gibson wouldn’t be able to play. New to the Dodgers that year, He was already one of our favorites, right up there with Mike Scioscia, Orel Hershiser, Alfredo Griffin and Mickey Hatcher – is it any wonder why I say watching the Angels for me now is like watching the Dodgers of my youth, my Dodgers? Now, if my friends were any indication, pre-teen girls in Los Angeles were supposed to prefer Steve Sax in those days – Sexy Saxy as one young lady who may or may not have really understood her own nickname, called him. I didn’t dislike him at all, but I wasn’t seeing it.

As you can tell, this was quite the fun trip down memory lane for me. Hatcher’s improbable home run. My first real exposure to baseball’s unusually intimate relationship with the flying fickle finger of fate when the broadcast team felt the need to put “Joe Canseco has never hit a grand slam before” among his stats as he came up to bat with bases loaded. Ouch! The looooong tense wait for something, anything good to happen for the Dodgers. Scioscia scoring Mike Marshall in the 6th to bring the game within one run. Two and a half very tense innings, plus two outs and then hearing Vin Scully say “And look who’s coming up…” Oh that hopeful, long drawn out at bat. The pitch Gibson fouled off and watching him stagger towards first on two bad legs. And then, the hit. What a hit! Pandamonium. Legos flying everywhere, as we jumped up and down and cheered. I only know Vin Scully’s famous call of the hit from all of the replays afterwards. We were too loud to hear it when the homerun actually happened.

Dave Stewart, the A’s starting pitcher from game 1 was a very entertaining narrator. I had no idea that he hit Sax in the first inning because of some trash talk the day before. I no longer think I was being fanciful when I thought maybe Sax tipped his helmet a bit at Stewart before he took his base. It was great to hear about the famous hit from the man himself, interviewed via satellite from Spring Training in Arizona. The fact that Bob Costas, host of 20 Greatest Games, was present for Game 1 and played a few interesting roles in both that game and the Series gave this episode a nice touch. It was Costas who emphatically announced that there was no way Gibson could play at the beginning of the game. Later, standing in the hallway ready to walk out onto the field for postgame interviews, Costas overheard Gibson’s painful warm-up session in the batting cage in those last moments of the bottom of the 9th. Costas also reminded about how he accidentally inspired Tommy Lasorda’s “Kill Costas” rallying cry to the team with one of his pre-Series broadcasts about the A’s. I had completely forgotten about this detail, though it amused me to no end at the time.

Back in 1988, I remember getting goose bumps all up and down my arms when I watched Kirk Gibson hit that ball, knowing even then that I had just seen one of the great hits. Watching it all over again in a full game highlight reel format, I still get goose bumps.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Angels Promotions + More Spring Training Thoughts

Watching Angels spring training games, it would be extremely difficult not to notice the promotions schedule planned for the regular season. There is a large billboard just to the visitor’s side of home plate with a rolling display that prominently advertises the April and May promotions and the broadcast team is doing a great job of hyping all of the others. As with most baseball teams, the Angels promotions are a mixed bag. Some of them are exciting indeed. Others make you wonder what the marketing department was thinking. But some of the bad ones actually fall into a third, so bad they’re actually awesome category – the name-your-favorite-Kurt-Russell-bad-***-B-movie-here or They Live of stadium giveaways, if you will. Allow me to present a few examples:

Great Promotions

  • We get an Angels post game concert series this season! So far no bands have been named, but there will be four concerts, one each month in June through September. Is this copying the Rays? Yes. Will it be amazing fun anyway? Yes, oh yes.
  • Hat nights: the Angels marketing department usually offers a series of great ball caps throughout the season. For the anniversary, a lot of the caps are retro or outright replicas of players’ uniform caps through the years. As long as none of them are the cap from the Disney years, we’re good.
  • The Rally Monkey Sock Monkey in July: I like the Rally Monkey concept – a random, spur of the moment whim of the video board operators takes on a life of its own – but I have never felt the need to own one. A Rally Monkey Sock Monkey, however, sounds awfully cute. He could sit on the book shelves in my living room and taunt visiting Dodgers and Red Sox fans. Too bad this one’s just for the kids and I have no prop children to take with me so I can snag one.

So Bad They’re Actually Kind of Awesome Promotions

  • The Angels Luchador Mask in May: one the one hand, it’s kind of a WTF idea. On the other hand, it’s an Angels luchador mask. I think this is the giveaway my husband is most excited about. Why do I see his entire sales team sporting these things when the Rangers fan head of Marketing comes for a visit?
  • The Angels Ski Beanie in April: okay, so it’s a really silly looking brightly colored knit hat with ear flaps and a pom pom on top. But I think that the marketing department has failed to capitalize on the obvious Firefly tie-in potential with this one. The Outfielder of Canton, anyone? Hey, the Dodgers get their Star Wars night. Fair’s fair.
  • The Angels Gnome Bobblehead in August: usually all of the bobbleheads are in the great promotions category (I just didn’t mention them because every team does this now) but this bobblehead is not a player bobblehead, it’s literally a bobblehead of the Angels gnome statue giveaway last season. This would just be bad, but Angels fans turned out in droves to collect those darned gnomes last season and the broadcast team caught gnome fever, keeping one in the booth that would “show up” in odd places throughout the game so the gnome bobblehead gets style points for the humor factor.

What Were They Thinking Promotions

  • The Rally Monkey Chia Pet in August: sadly, I may wind up with one of these. This is one of the games we were thinking of attending.
  • The Angels Troll Doll in May: fortunately just for children!
  • Angels Newsboy Hat: this is the one exception to the Angels hat nights are great rule. Do hipsters even go to baseball games? I know. I know. If they do, it would be in Anaheim or Los Angeles.

It’s baseball. It’s wonderful. I love my Angels. And I would quite happily still go to as many games as possible even if there were no promotions at all. But I think it’s fun to take a look at the promotions and oh and ah or mock where appropriate.

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A few notes after the Angels most recent spring training games: This is the first time I’ve seen Scott Downs pitch in Angels red and so far I really like what I see. Eight pitches, three outs. Whooo. Hooo. Mark Trumbo keeps right on hitting and it looks like he’s starting to place himself better for each play at first. Howie Kendrick makes me happy, specifically his increasingly reliable bat! Peter Bourjos makes me happy too, specifically his speed, range and glove in center! And hell-o Tyson Auer. Wow, that kid is fast! It looks like the Angels will not lack for speedy outfield prospects in the years to come.

I’m still on the fence about Scott Kazmir. In his second outing, it took him about three or four batters to warm up, which is customary even when he’s having a good season, but he threw more balls in proportion to the strikes. However, he didn’t get hit nearly as much as he did in his first outing and he settled down such that the last 15 or so of his 35 pitches were fantastic. The Angels lost to the Brewers but Joel Pinero’s three innings were scoreless, continuing his streak. Pinero has not lost a spring training decision in the last 25 appearances.

We beat the White Sox this time out, but it wasn’t easy and it isn’t going to be easy in the regular season. I’m glad to see Jake Peavy seems fully recovered from last season’s injury. I watched the game he was injured during, and it didn’t look like he would be able to make it back this quickly. Former Angels Bench Coach Ron Roenicke looked comfortable as the Brewers Manager. I’m sure he’ll do well and wish him all the best!

More Musings on Spring Training and an Angels’ Great Retires

With a few more, significantly less than stellar, spring training games under our belt, Angels fans have learned several new things. For example, ouch, those Rangers guys sure can hit! Oh. Wait. We knew that already. I’d blame the loss on the kids – the Angels were playing with a mostly minor league squad that day – but it was really the homeruns that killed us and the first two – of four! – were off of regular pitchers and enough on their own to ensure a loss. At least Dan Haren was mad at himself about the homerun hit off him. A little anger can be motivating and spring training is the time to get motivated and shake off the rust.

But, Mark Trumbo can also hit! A line drive Wednesday and another bomb Thursday. It’s great to see he’s getting used to Major League pitching! Especially because Kendry Morales’ progress sounds steady but very slow. Kendry’s unlikely to be ready to play any time soon. Based on the fact that Trumbo has seen the most playing time of any Angel so far and all of it at first, I think it’s safe to assume that he’s Scioscia’s primary first base back-up plan. Trumbo’s still mixing a lot of clumsy plays in with the good ones, but with his bat coming around I’m softening up on this idea lot. Keep practicing hard and taking notes, kid, and this might just work out!

Torii Hunter found his bat today. Jeff Mathis and Howie Kendrick continue to find theirs while Brandon Wood temporarily misplaced his on the bus or something. And if any real conclusions could be drawn from this small sample size, I’d be dangerous. ;)

Ervin Santana may be the most unfortunately die hard Star Trek fan ever – convinced that in odd numbered years he’s supposed to suck. Yes, melodrama for humor’s sake is a perfectly reasonable coping mechanism. Why do you ask? I’m not actually panicking. I know it’s his first outing. I know he’s working on a new pitch. I know it’s just one spring training game. I know I still would have liked it a lot better if he’d nailed it.

Mike Napoli is a pretty classy guy and is handling the inevitable interview questions about the trade as well as anyone could ask. He’s being truthful – he appreciates the trade because it means he’s likely to get more playing time – while speaking well of both his former team and his new one. I still don’t like seeing him in another uniform but I wish him well and this takes a little bit of the sting out of the “just business” side of baseball.

Spring training doesn’t count for anything more than a means of everyone getting their work in and preparing for the regular season. Spring training records do not necessarily give any indication of how the team will look in the coming season. But boy do we scrutinize every pitch, swing and play anyway. It’s kind of like the initial stages of a new relationship. You know it’s going to take a while to get to know the person, so you try to keep your attitude light and casual. But every interaction still takes on exaggerated meaning as you try to figure out, does this have the potential for just an okay couple of dates, a really fun fling or something longer and more meaningful? Something that might even keep you cheering all the way through October?

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Angels great Garret Anderson announced his retirement on Tuesday after 17 years in the majors, 15 of them with the Halos. A key member of the 2002 World Series winning team, Anderson still holds numerous Angels franchise hitting records including those for hits, extra base hits, runs and RBIs. I will always remember him for his clutch performances both at the plate and in the field and for that gorgeous, graceful swing, one of the most beautiful swings in the game.

Watching him struggle on the Dodgers last year was hard. Seeing him fumble two hard hit balls against the left field fence at the Big A during the Freeway series was harder. I’m sure retirement was a difficult decision but I think it was time. I understand and applaud the drive to try and push out one more year and then another and another, but I really like to see the players retire while their peak years are still a lot fresher in the fans’ minds than the rough years at the end. My hat’s off to you Garret Anderson. Congratulations on your retirement. (For a great Garret Anderson tribute with wonderful personal stories, please visit fellow Angels’ blogger Mo’s Angels.)

This isn’t just a spring game. It’s live baseball! It’s been like four months, man!

The quote I used for my headline? It was easily the best comment of the night at Taps Fish House and Brewery where Seth and I decided to go for a late dinner in the bar Saturday. We were giddy from the live baseball treat of the afternoon – and scoring opening day tickets that morning! – wanted more and figured it wouldn’t take much effort to sweet talk the Taps bar staff into putting the Rockies/D-Backs game on one of the TVs. It didn’t. Our favorite bartender, the Angels fan who pumps us for details every time we hit Taps after a ballgame’s, eyes got huge when we asked for a channel change. “There’s still a game on! I thought I missed them all today.”

Well thank goodness for the MLB network’s delayed airing because I think all of the baseball fans in the bar were in the same boat. No one apparently thought to put the game on before we arrived, but the minute it was on the TV half of the eyes in the bar were glued to it…and it’s not like there were any Rockies or D-Backs fans in the bar, just a bunch of baseball starved locals. The headline comment came shortly after that from a guy sitting at one of the tables behind us. One of his friends chided him for paying so much attention to the game and this was his response, delivered loudly, with a great deal of passion and a sweeping gesture at the screen. We at the bar, several bartenders included, responded with approving hollers.

It was a great evening. Out with my husband, an honest to goodness game at the bar, good food, tasty beverages and a lot of baseball fans to talk to – from the friendly, talkative Red Sox fan beside me, to the Angels fans on both sides of the bar who echoed our boo when he used the term “rebuilding year” in reference to the Halos. In many ways, Taps is my ideal game day bar. I would spend more games there if I didn’t also spend so much money there every time I go.

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So imagine my excitement about the Angels/Dodgers game today! Meh. As it turned out, I would have been a lot happier if they had aired yesterday’s game instead. Today the Angels gave the starters and most of the second string the day off and let the kids have a work out. Alas, against the Dodgers first string, the kids were not alright. I’m aware that this is the nature of spring training. It’s more about giving everyone a workout, giving the kids some experience and a tryout and working through any issues before the season starts than it is about winning. But still, 5-0 ouch.

With the spirit of spring training in mind, I think there were a few important take aways. First, Kaz was throwing hard and throwing strikes! Even in the first inning and Scott Kazmir is prone to rough first innings. Granted, the Dodgers hit him – five hits and three earned runs in the two innings he pitched. But I think this was inconclusive, and I am not inclined to make excuses for Kaz. I think if he had the Angels starters behind him, that stat would have been better, more like two or three hits and one run. But you never know. I want to see more before the season starts but the fact that I do want to see more at all is positive. Maybe…maybe…well, we’ll see.

Here are some other thoughts I had watching the game. Bobby Wilson is taking spring training very seriously and looked strong both behind the plate and at bat. His increased speed and agility was a bright spot in the game for me. Hank Conger on the other hand looked rusty. I’m not really worried. I’ve seen him do a lot better than that, but if he wants a shot a starting catcher he needs to pick up the speed on his throw down to second a lot. I don’t know what to think of Mike Trout. He hit a nice solid single in the first inning and made one catch in center that his speed made look a lot easier than it was. Other than that, however, he looked like he kind of phoned it in, which I don’t like. But it is just one game. Mark Trumbo needs a lot of work at first. He made some good plays and some really clumsy ones. He’s wearing Mike Napoli’s Angels’s jersey number 44 this season and between the homerun yesterday and, alas, the lack of performance with runners in scoring position today, this seems appropriate. Fernando Rodney’s rustiness looks suspiciously like right where he left off last season.

Watching this game, it was obvious that, like most teams, the Angels have a lot of minor league players who will never be major league players. Andrew Romine, on the other hand? I liked his instincts when he came up this September, sliding across third with the ball to get the seemingly impossible force out. He had a good solid hit today and made one nice diving play at short, his throw just missing getting the speedy runner out at first. I look at him and think, interesting, maybe in a few years? Suffice to say, I need to see a lot more of spring training and the kids – and some of the veterans – need to play a lot more before I form stronger opinions. Fortunately, this was only game two and tomorrow the regular starters are supposed to play. And it’s all still exciting. In the words of random Taps bar guy, these aren’t just spring games. It’s live baseball! It’s been like four months, man!

We’re All Still Just In Training for Spring

Calling it “spring” training isn’t really accurate. Sitting here listening to the hard steady beat of the rain against the roof, I realize that the name is optimistic at best. It’s a wonderful sound, the rain, filled with hints of cozy evenings in and coffee or tea enjoyed over a good book by the fire. But there is no mistaking the sounds of this storm for spring rain, they are most decidedly winter – of course, watching a documentary on the little ice age while I write this might be increasing this effect. ;)

True spring usually materializes closer to the start of the regular baseball season so I have come to think of the spring in spring training as a kind of teaser trailer for spring. Soon after pitchers and catchers report, we begin to see stronger, surer signs that spring is getting even close, lengthier trailers as it were. Sure, sure. The days get longer, the temperatures get warmer, the trees sprout green leaves again and flowers bloom. Blah. Blah. Blah. But I’m talking about the really exciting signs that spring is on its way.

We’ve already experienced a few of them. Position players report and full practices begin. Live player interviews debut on television and on the radio. Basketball talk is briefly suspended for spring training updates! More strong signs occur tomorrow when the first games start up and air on TV. Mike Scioscia announced that Trevor Bell will be the Angels starting pitcher tomorrow, assuming that there is a game – the rain apparently being of the opinion that it isn’t spring in Arizona yet either. I’m excited. The 24-year old right hander showed a lot of promise last season and I want to see how he’s coming along.

Individual game tickets going on sale in another strong sign of spring’s approach. For Angels fans, this also happens tomorrow – and I already bought my first set off of StubHub, tickets to the exhibition game in the Big A against the Padres. Of course, receiving the tickets and holding them in your hot little hands is an even stronger sign. Soon! Soon! As the march toward spring progresses more and more kids start playing catch around the neighborhood and the batting cages come alive. There is one particularly cool batting cage that I see when we’re up in Paso Robles. Homemade and built alongside the grapevines on someone’s private property, it was just starting to show its annual signs of preparation for use when we were up there last weekend. When we visit again in late March, I expect I will see line drives flying into the repurposed barrel room mat – or at least that’s what it appears to be – that marks the end of the cage.

Soon the billboards appear announcing the coming baseball season! Granted, along my commute they will all say This Is My Town and have that blue interlocked L and A but, then again, most of the car stickers on my commute are halo capped A’s, so apparently the billboard campaign isn’t working. In other parts of the country, one of your signs is probably baseball commercials on TV. Oddly enough, here in the land of Hollywood and cameras, we don’t really make baseball television commercials. I envy the Mariners, Giants and many of the others their clever, funny TV ads. But, more universally, the frequency of player interviews speeds up. Starting rotation and line-up speculation and announcements reach a fever pitch. The teams return from Arizona and Florida for exhibition games and, before you know it, spring has well and truly arrived followed shortly by opening day!

Personally, I can hardly wait to enjoy this weekend’s signs of the approaching spring. Phillies vs. Yankees. D-Backs vs. Rockies. Angels vs. Dodgers! Who says we can’t appreciate the changing of the seasons in California? ;)

One Hat, Two Hat. Red Hat, Blue Hat. Black and Yellow hat?

At Pilates this evening, I enjoyed a quick chat with a White Sox fan. Last season I introduced her to the cheap ticket wonders of StubHub and gave her information about the Big A so she could see her guys play – she was concerned about our “scary” freeways – and we’ve been friendly ever since. As I was leaving the parking lot, a group of guys in Pirate caps, one of them quite old school, walked by. On the freeway drive home, the usual mixed bag of bumper stickers streamed by as speeds increased in the final fade of rush hour. In and among the honor roll proclamations, fading Obama/Biden stickers and occasionally humorous sayings was an eclectic array of baseball stickers – Dodgers, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. Nothing new here.

Los Angeles is not like other places. The billboard signage proclaims that this is Dodgertown and that is true to a certain extent. But a sufficient number of Angels fans call Los Angeles County home to warrant equal representation in the team gear sections of our local Targets and Costcos and the same is true in reverse with Dodger fans in neighboring Orange County, home to my Halos of the absurdly lengthy and geographically challenged name. I read as many of your blogs as I can find, and more and more each week as Spring Training brings more sleepy bloggers out of hibernation, so I know that two team towns are nothing special. But Los Angeles is a little more complicated than that.

In and among the Dodgers and Angels gear, you can usually find a fair bit of Yankees and Red Sox items. White Sox caps and shirts are becoming more common as well and, if the number of Cubs fan Chicago transplants I ran into in Orange County last year is any indication, I expect to start seeing the occasional Cubs logo on the sales racks in the next year or so. Native Angelenos like myself are rare, you see. In Los Angeles and, increasingly, Orange County seemingly everybody is from someplace else. And even among the natives, most of us are only native by a generation or two. My grandparents and their families all came out to California during the Dustbowl, which is very common story.

When it comes right down to it, this is one of the things I love most about living here – so many different people bringing pieces of their home to mine and mixing them together in new and different ways. I love that I can go out for authentic soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung (the only location outside of China), hit a jazz club hosting a band from New Orleans and then finish off the evening line dancing at a club opened up by Texas transplants who thought it might be fun and profitable to bring a little bit of home to Los Angeles. Authentic street tacos, a cheesesteak place opened up by a couple of guys who moved out here from Philly, New York style delis, a German deli where more people are speaking German and Polish than English on any given day, Kansas City style BBQ joints, all of these offerings are within easy driving distance of my house, and it’s amazing.

And the sea of different baseball caps? Dodger, Angels, Giants, Red Sox and Pirates at my office’s summer picnic alone. Enough nowadays that, seriously, if I were a kid, I’d give up playing “States” and play “MLB caps” instead. It’s just one more manifestation of what I think of as the real Los Angeles – Dodgertown yes, but kind of Everytown at the same time. I know that Los Angeles is far from the only big city to experience this phenomena, but I wonder if any other city sees their diversity carry over into their baseball cap offerings at non-ESPN type stores? I would definitely be interested in learning if this is so if any of you care to share.

I went to Costco on my lunch break this afternoon and did some of our grocery shopping with this post percolating in my mind. I decided it would be funny to take a picture of the souvenir baseball jersey rack so you could appreciate the wild mix of logos we tend to stock out here but, apparently it’s a little early for baseball still at Costco. However, serendipitously enough, when I walked out to my car this is the picture I was presented with. What are the odds? Well, around here? Fairly good, actually:

Halos BoSoxIMG00071 - web.jpg

More Random Angels, etc. Thoughts & Headlines

Thank you to all of you who drop by to read my blog and comment. I made the top 50 again, which is something I didn’t really except to accomplish at all and certainly not so soon after starting the blog. I really enjoy the conversation with you all, on my blog and on your blogs. You have helped make this offseason a lot more palatable. :)

Orioles & Vlad Reach a Deal
I like Vlad Guerrero and wanted to see him get a good gig this year. I was thrilled to see that Vlad and the Orioles reached a deal today – $8 million for one season, apparently. Barring injuries, I think this is a good deal for both Vlad and for the Orioles. The Orioles were strong and building momentum at the end of last season and if they carry that over into 2011, Baltimore could be a fun place for Vlad to play and I think that having his bat in the lineup and his presence in the clubhouse can only be beneficial for the Orioles…and I’m not exactly sorry to see him out of the AL West either. While I miss him in the Angels lineup, I’m glad it worked out this way. It’s tricky and awkward to bring players back once they’re gone and, while there are certainly examples of times it has worked out well, bruised egos and bad attitudes coming from any number of directions can cause enough harm to outweigh any benefit to the decision. I am usually not in favor of it.

Angels aim to recapture road swagger
I was happy to see this article. Last season the Worst Road Trip Ever (in my mind it is spelled out in bold, title case just like that) where the Angels went 2 and 8 through Detroit, Boston and Seattle was one of the first indications that 2010 was not going to be a normal season. The Angels are traditionally a great road team and when that’s not working, nothing else seems to work either. Getting back to that, getting their swagger back as Torii Hunter says in the article, would help set a great tone for 2011. I realize that knowing a thing needs to be done and talking about doing it are both very different things from actually doing it. But I am happy to see the discussion anyway. It’s a start and it’s good to know that everyone acknowledges the issue and is on the same page.

MLB Network
It’s been fun having the MLB Network this offseason. It was not available as part of our TV package for the longest time and then it just appeared on the menu last season sometime in July. A Cal Ripken Jr. interview from last year here, a couple of episodes of the Top 10 Right Now there (I’m better at guessing the top 5 than my husband, bwa’ha ha). It helps with the offseason impatience when Spring Training is right there around the corner except I’m not going again this year anyway so baseball is actually still a couple of months away. Granted I’ve been enjoying it a little too much in the wee hours of the morning lately, but if one is suffering from insomnia anyway, well, it sure beats infomercials and old Law and Order reruns.

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On a personal note, I am off on a whirlwind one-day turn around trip to Las Vegas tomorrow for my little sister’s wedding. I’ve mentioned her in the blog a few times. She’s marrying a great guy who loves her very much and only has one major flaw, as near as I can tell: he’s not a baseball fan. He’s a NASCAR guy. Consequently, my bleeding Dodger Blue sister is becoming a NASCAR girl. Oh well :). Congratulations Sis! I wish you every happiness. Just try not to drift so far to the NASCAR side of things that we can’t text our way through the playoff games again the next time SoCal is doubly represented.

Funny story about my sister: she ignored my Angels fandom for a few years, then accepted it but with an odd certainty that if I ever had to choose, I would root for the Dodgers…right up until the Freeway Series last year. Seth (my husband) and I went to the Saturday night game at Dodger Stadium. My sister and I exchanged texts off and on during batting practice:

My Sister: You’re at the game! I’m so jealous!
My Sister (this text following right on the heels of the previous text): Wait…what are you wearing??
Me: Clothes.
My Sister: No, what _color_ are you wearing, smart ***?
Me: *bats eyes innocently* Red of course.
My sister: (long string of cartoon swear words)
My sister (next text after a pause of at least 15 minutes): I suppose you’ve got to support your team, Sis, good for you. Just stay away from the left field bleachers in that color.

Courage, History, Equality and Baseball

Listening to all of the historical retrospectives on the news and writing a bit about Martin Luther King Day for work – nope, no Monday holiday in my industry – got me thinking a lot today about courage, history, equality and baseball…okay the baseball part is pretty much always droning away in the back of my thoughts these days, but you get the general idea.

I have always been proud of Major League Baseball for breaking the color barrier and playing its own part in the history of the Civil Rights Movement all on its own, without government mandate and for what, to my mind, was the best reason of all – Jackie Robinson was good baseball player and would have been an asset to any team.

Of course this act of bravery, on the parts of Robinson, the Dodgers and Major League Baseball as an institution, was just one action. And one action on its own could never solve all of our nation’s problems with racial discrimination. One action couldn’t even solve all of baseball’s issues on that front. But it was a crucial step that opened the door for other players of color to join the league and for all of America to see them playing well and together with white players, to see players of all colors showing the same amazing athletic ability, teamwork, brotherhood and honor on the athletic field of battle. Eyes, minds and hearts were opened and this became one more brave action helping to affirm all of the brave efforts at integration that preceded it and helping to set the stage and inspire all of the brave acts that were to follow.

When we work and play together, we see each other for what we really are as individuals and it becomes harder and harder to hold onto false assumptions until the relationships that result are actually based on something real. This is a concept that we all know instinctively as children but often forget as adults. Baseball offered a refresher course in this all important lesson to a generation of Americans and many took it to heart…many should continue to take it to heart today. It was one action, but it was one loud, crucial action. Whatever the sport’s current popularity may be in relation to other sports, for this reason more than any other, baseball will always be the real national pastime for me.

Baseball Stadium Music and Pavlov’s Angels Fan

They will not force us. They will stop degrading us. They will not control us. We will be victorious.

The Angels are haunting me. Seriously. The lines in italics above? They’re lyrics from the song Uprising by Muse and lately, I hear this song everywhere I go. On the radio at home. In my car. At the office. When I walk into one of our schools. At my favorite local Sushi restaurant – every time I walk in, be if for dine-in or take out. Seriously. Every time. I realize that my local sushi restaurant only has one iPod mix of about 90 minutes in length and this song is included in that mix, but every time? Even when I just stop in to pick up a phone order? Seriously, what are the odds? Yes, the Angels are definitely hunting me.

Perhaps I should explain. This song is played at every Angels game right before the bottom of the 1st inning. I love music and form a strong memory connection to certain songs. My ear will pick up on the background music at restaurants and even in the middle of a loud Vegas casino so, for me, the music played at the ballpark is noticeable and very memorable. Some team songs or walk up music will forever be linked to specific person or team for me. I doubt I will ever hear Guns n’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle again without thinking stand back, Mark McGuire’s coming to the plate. Take Me Out to the Ballgame, oddly enough, still has tinges of Dodgers association for me because theirs is the first name I belted out in lieu of “home team” many, many years ago. With other songs, like The Who’s Baba O’Riley, which the Rangers play before each game, I remember the baseball relationship to the song but hearing it doesn’t make me cringe because other memories formed a more powerful association long ago – in this case, listening to my Dad playing records.

Most of the songs played at Angels games have formed a very strong Angels baseball association for me. Train’s Calling All Angels, which is played during the historical highlight reel before the start of every game. Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky, which plays as the Angels start to take the field for the first time. And, of course, Uprising. I hear these songs, and I get my inevitable anticipatory goose bumps and chills. Oh, I didn’t mention the goose bumps? Yeah, whenever I know something exceptionally cool is about to happen or I see something creative that is just beautifully done, I get literal goose bumps on my arms, often chills. Previews for a movie based on a book I’ve read or a part of history I’ve studied where they get the scene just right? Concert announcement for a band I’ve been dying to see? New book release from a favorite author? A particularly well done cover song? Witty dialog? Angels game is about to start? Goose bumps in every instance.

So, Uprising plays, or Spirit in the Sky or Calling all Angels, and there I stand, Pavlov’s Angels fan with anticipatory goose bumps on my arms because my ear is absolutely certain that the game’s about to start. But, of course, I know it’s only January and I’m on my way to work, out with friends eating sushi this evening or whatever and I shake my head at my own silliness and sigh. Haunted I tell you. Now where did I put that countdown of the days until pitchers and catchers report? Because I’m sure I calculated something wrong. It’s moving way too slow.

(Editor’s Note: Build Me Up Buttercup is a notable exception to the whole Angels music/goose bumps thing. When that song plays during the 7th inning stretch, I sit down and mull over finding the poor misguided creature whose idea it was to use that song and politely suggesting that they turn in their marketing card. Right now.)

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