Results tagged ‘ Family ’

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.

“Nothing Is Remotely Imminent” eh?

I guess I’ll let Nolan Ryan off on a technicality. I mean there isn’t a whole lot that’s remote in the 48 hour distance between that statement and a signed contract now is there? No, that pretty much is just imminent. What was it I was saying a few weeks ago about the different front offices playing a little too much Diplomacy this off season? If I were actually sitting in on this particular game of Diplomacy I might say well played in addition to growling less sportsmanlike comments but, as it is, I’m just growling.

So Adrian Beltre is a Ranger and the Angels missed the boat again. I understand that the free agent market got outrageously expensive again this year. Under normal circumstances, I think sticking to one’s principals is laudable but, right now, claiming to stick to their principals just looks like the Angels front office is making a piss poor excuse for terrible performance. We didn’t strike out this off season, we barely even bothered to step up to the plate. And they better not start carting out Takahashi and Downs again like those signings make for a fine off season on their own and anything else would just have been gravy. Those signings were a great start, alas apparently on a road to nowhere. When nothing else followed, just admit that you messed up. That way you only look really stupid instead of abysmally stupid.

If I am being rational, I know this isn’t the absolute end of the world. If I am being rational, I know that there is no one player who is the answer for us in a vacuum without any other changes. If we had landed Beltre and, defying all reason, the rest of bats went missing for most of the season again, a season with only Beltre and Weaver consistently performing to expectations isn’t going to be any prettier than one where Weaver more or less consistently performed to expectations alone. If the bats actually show up, I think the team that hits the field in 2011, as it stands right now, is a better team than the one that hit the field in 2010. Rationally though, I really don’t know if that is enough.

Again, if I’m being rational, it’s a long season and we haven’t started Spring Training yet. Everybody has to play 162 games, blah, blah, blah and all of the other clichés. But, seriously, a lot can happen in that amount of time, especially in California baseball. My sister and I have always said that no one, but no can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (or, sadly, defeat from the jaws of victory but let’s not go there right now) in the most unexpected of ways like California baseball teams. Angels, Dodgers, Giants, A’s and Padres fans, you all know what I’m talking about. And tomorrow…okay maybe by next week, I will probably truly believe all of this and the other hopeful posts I have made on this blog again.

But tonight I don’t feel like being rational. I am angry, enough so that I didn’t so much type this as I beat and pounded it into the keyboard. Whether or not Beltre was the answer, I just wanted something, anything to point at and say, look, the front office is really trying this off season instead of well, just being trying.

Rumors, Bloody Rumors + Giants/Dodgers Family Hijinks

The Rangers signed Beltre, except for the fact that they didn’t. That was totally a rumor. No wait, new rumors from more credible sources say that it’s the second rumor that was only a rumor. Beltre is signing on the Rangers’ dotted line right now. But wait, no. The people who are responsible for the rumor that the rumor about the first rumor being only a rumor was really just a rumor too, are now also guilty of spreading a rumor. Moose bites hurt. A lot. And now for something completely different…

This is the Hot Stove news I read on my Blackberry as we left a family holiday party this evening. And, yes, because I came in on the tail end of all of the rumor and counter rumor, to me it really did sound that Python-esque. The final word on all of the rumors? According to MLB.com, the Rangers do not have a deal with Beltre, nor is a deal imminent. The article goes on to quote Nolan Ryan this evening saying “As of right now, Michael Young is our third baseman. We haven’t done anything.” While I tend to think that, with Young’s bat and glove at third base, the Rangers wouldn’t really be interested in Beltre at this price, I did notice that Ryan’s no isn’t exactly a long term no and it’s not like the Rangers haven’t asked Young to switch positions for someone else before. I believe that MLB.com’s article is the final word on Beltre and the Rangers today but Monday? Tuesday? Wednesday? Next week? Who knows.

* * * * *

The family holiday party this evening was our annual post Christmas get together with my mother’s side of the family. The Giants cousins come down from Merced and Fresno and the Dodgers cousins come from all over L.A. and Orange County and then there are my husband and I. Surprisingly, baseball is not usually a big topic of conversation. This year, of course, it was not to be avoided.

I was pleased to see one cousin from Merced whom I have not seen in about two years because he’s been very ill. He’s recently recovered almost completely. “Oh I’m feeling so much better and it’s the strangest thing. Do you know what the turning point was? Game 6!” I had to laugh and congratulate him, of course. And that was pretty much the tone for the evening. My cousins are still so ecstatic and cute over the Giants win that I can’t help but be happy for them all over again. Of course, they’re still a little chip on their shoulders over the Giants’ champion status. Mentions of the Angels or 2002 still bring about hissing – yes, literal hissing – and a chorus of too soon, too soon. They’re a little sensitive about the Dodgers rivalry too, all of which kept me in stitches for large portions of the evening.

My dad picked up on this, I think, because during a discussion about baseball announcers, he pounced. One cousin mentioned that he likes the Giants radio announcers so much, he will gladly put up with the delay in order to hear the radio broadcast while he watches the game muted on TV. My father got this mischievous twinkle in eye and said that, over the years, he’s done the same thing with Vin Scully’s broadcasts…after the Dodgers beat the Giants and head into the post season. My cousin started to sputter angrily about the Dodgers bad season and how he expects the same from them next year and so on, until he realized everyone else was cracking up on both sides of the fan divide, including my father. Then the conversation became playful and teasing again. You simply can’t let family get your goat that easily.

I may have been laughing the loudest of anyone. I don’t think I have ever seen my father talk trash before. But he and my mother were high school sweethearts so he has known all of these cousins, her cousins, since they were in high school and, in some cases, much, much younger. I think I just got a tiny glimpse of what they were all like getting together as kids and that was neat to see. Family and baseball both have the power to take even the most grown up among us back to the carefree silliness of our childhood and thank Heaven for that!

Michael Lewis, Moneyball and Team Chemistry

My father-in-law discovered Michael Lewis this Christmas. One relative gave him The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Lewis’ new book on the mortgage meltdown and my husband and I loaned him Liar’s Poker, Lewis’ first book about his early career as a Wall Street bond trader in the 1980’s. He’s really enjoying The Big Short and we got into a huge discussion about both books and all things Michael Lewis over the weekend. And, of course, you can’t talk about Michael Lewis without talking about Moneyball, or at least I can’t.

My father-in-law is as much of a numbers geek as I am. I hooked him on the idea of reading Moneyball with my descriptions of the newer sabermetric stats and Lewis’ comparison of the analysis of certain key pieces of a baseball player’s skill set to the derivatives trade market. However, while I also appreciated these aspects of Moneyball when I read the book, they are not the reason it is one of my favorite baseball books. No, what grabbed my attention were the strong but unintentional arguments Michael Lewis made on the way to arguing his main points: namely that personalities, clubhouse/teammate chemistry and other intangibles that stats cannot measure are every bit as important as those skills the stats can measure and that being a passionate baseball fan sometimes causes you to defy logic and reason. If this doesn’t sound like the Moneyball you read or have heard about, check my logic here:

In talking about on base percentage, slugging percentage and other at the time undervalued stats Lewis dedicates a entire chapter each to A’s acquisitions Jeremy Brown, Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford. Each player exhibited one or more sabermetrically valuable skills while lacking many of the qualities that Major League Baseball placed a high value on. In the course of outlining the different ways this situation made each player a brilliant bargain for Billy Beane’s larger vision for the A’s an entirely different argument emerges. In telling their stories, Lewis’ also describes a crucial unexpected personal element that helps each player achieve success. Brown, for example, is a talented hitter who suffers from the fragile psychology of the chronically picked on kid. In Lewis’ telling, once Brown makes the first jump away from the A’s rookie team, he is on the verge of crumpling from a lack of confidence when his friend, the much more socially adept Nick Swisher, gives him the encouragement he needs, a sympathetic ear and a one-man cheerleading squad in the dugout.

Scott Hatteberg’s story is my favorite. A former catcher with a damaged elbow that destroyed his throwing arm, Hatteberg’s high on base percentage brings him to the attention of the A’s who want to retrain him as a first baseman. What the A’s have no way of knowing is how much Hatteberg’s love for baseball is built around the chats and personal interactions he had with the opposing teams’ batters when he used to catch. What I took from Lewis’s argument is that, more than the desire to excel at baseball again, it was the realization that he could have that same level of personal interaction and possibly even longer conversations with opposing players as a first baseman that gave Hatteberg the drive he needed to learn the challenging new position.

Hatteberg’s personality becomes a real asset when Chad Bradford begins pitching for the A’s. Lewis describes Bradford almost crumpling under the pressure of past manager’s reactions to his quirky submarine pitching style until Hatteberg gives him a timely confidence boost by sharing the hitters shocked and impressed reactions to the pitches when they reach first base. I assume that Lewis’ point in sharing these stories is that they are great stories which bring a compelling personal element to the book. But after reading them, I for one can’t imagine any of the players functioning in the way Beane felt their stats indicated they would perform if the intangible qualities in the player and/or their teammates weren’t there right along with the tangible ones. I know this is not what Lewis intended to argue at all, but the argument is there nevertheless and largely, I think, becuase you can’t escape the importance the human element plays in baseball no matter how you crunch the numbers.

As to the unintentional argument about the passion of baseball fans, one of Moneyball‘s biggest controversies is the perception that Lewis argues in favor of new sabermetric stats hands down over traditional stats. This isn’t Lewis’ original argument at all. He starts out by saying that sabermetrics allows managers to pick and choose undervalued skills, the skills that can give a less wealthy team the most talent for their limited dollars. His central premise is not that a team with relatively unlimited resources should prize these undervalued skills over traditionally valued skills…but it sure doesn’t sound that way by the time you get to the draft scenes in the middle of the book. Lewis begins to praise the skill sets the A’s have chosen to focus on to a greater and greater degree as the book progresses. He brings things back around to his central point by the end but seems unaware of the degree to which he strayed from it in the middle…and, understandably, it is the points where Lewis strays that the book’s detractors fixate on. Why the discrepancy? I think Lewis’ own obviously growing enthusiasm and occasional downright giddiness in describing his subject tells the whole story. By the end of his research, Michael Lewis has evolved from an interested but unbiased researcher into passionate baseball fan. And who among us really sounds logical and reasonable once we start talking about our team and their chances in any given season?

As much I appreciated Lewis’ sabermetrics history and analysis of the new stats, to me the combination of his intentional and unintentional arguments cuts right to the heart of baseball. The stats are important. The stats give you an amazing amount of crucial information. The newer stats give you even more. But the stats can never and will never tell you the whole story. I hope my father-in-law asks to borrow Moneyball soon. I want to discuss this with him and see if he thinks it compares to gut instinct vs. in depth market analysis on the stock market.

Baseball Reminiscences: Dodger Bat Girl

Christmas is but two days away. My sister and her fiancé will start their drive in from Las Vegas this evening and my husband and I will be celebrating with my side of the family tomorrow night. This time of year always beings so many great memories bubbling to the surface – holidays past, time spent with family, childhood fun. Between starting this blog, enjoying all of your blogs and pumping or shaking my fist over the various offseason rumors, baseball is very much on my brain right now and playing an even larger role in those memories than usual. And for me childhood baseball memories mean memories of the Dodgers…

In 1988 my sister got to be the Dodger’s honorary bat girl for a day. To be honest, I actually liked this a lot better than if I was the bat girl myself – I got to tag along and meet everyone with her, but I didn’t have to stand near the plate on the field in front of everyone and have my face on the Jumbotron. I would be okay with it now, but at that age I was painfully shy. This was a very special day and the Dodgers organization were wonderful hosts. In those days, they picked a bat boy and bat girl for every game but you wouldn’t have known it from the amount of individual attention they lavished on my sister, of course, but also on the whole family.

Our guide took us to meet then manager Tommy Lasorda who was warm and friendly and cracked jokes about the players. He asked if there was any player we would specifically like to meet and we both really wanted to meet Orel Hershiser. But that was not to be. Lasorda explained that Hershiser was pitching that game and he really didn’t like to be bothered with anything outside of the game once he got to the field. I remember we were disappointed but also understood. Who wants to bother their favorite pitcher if it might keep him from pitching at his best? Our second choice was Mike Scioscia, another family favorite. My sister and I both have a huge soft spot for catchers. She was a softball catcher. For me it’s more of an admiration for players who both play and manage on the field, combining athletic skills with the strategy side of baseball. Scioscia was an absolute sweetheart. He signed baseballs for both of us, chatted with everyone and even had my sister show him her eight year old’s catcher’s crouch when he found out what position she played. He was a really great guy and I remember thinking that he must have daughters because he knew just how to talk to us not down to us.

After that a young assistant, who I think was a ball boy, who had been standing with Lasorda came back up to us and handed my sister a baseball obviously newly signed by Orel Hershiser. Wow! He had gone to the bullpen to get it for her. In my youth, I was appreciative but the enormity of this gesture didn’t occur to me – this kid, who probably wasn’t that much older than me, had to disturb the Bulldog before a game to get the autographed baseball. I truly appreciate it now. I wonder what he said to him? Did he just hand him the baseball and hope he would sign it? Did he make a joke about demanding fans? Or did he tell him there were two little girls who knew all the Dodgers by name, number and stats, who thought he was just fantastic (my sister even wore his number 55 in softball) and would treasure a signed ball? Whatever he said, it worked and meant a lot to us. Players who are inclined to do such things must do them all the time and probably don’t remember each individual good deed, but I will always remember that and think extra fondly of both Hershiser and the ball boy, wherever he is. This weekend I will have to ask my sister if she remembers this…and if she still has the ball.

Later we got to tour the press box. At the time my sister wanted to be a female Vin Scully when she grew up and I wanted to be a news reporter so it was neat to see all the audio equipment and watch some of the reporters prep for the game. Vin Scully himself was there, but he was well into his game prep and, understandably, could not be disturbed. Still he looked up from his work to smile and wave at us as we toured the booth which was awfully nice. Instead, we met another one of the Dodgers broadcasters. I looked up, and up, and up some more and there was Don Drysdale with a friendly smile, extending his huge hand to envelope first my sister’s and then mine in a welcoming handshake. He would have dwarfed me at my adult height, and I am a tall woman. As a little girl, he seemed like a friendly giant…well he was in his civilian attitude. I know from history that batters who faced him probably would not have described him as friendly on the mound. Don Drysdale would consider an intentional walk a waste of three pitches. If he wants to put you on base, he can hit you with one pitch. I adore this quote, usually attributed to Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon. It’s quintessential baseball in the great “bad” old days. Drysdale was also a lot better at answering a bunch of questions from excited little girls than his reputation might have led you to expect. I actually shed a few tears years later when he died, remembering how kind and hospitable he was.

We had excellent seats that night in the field boxes and I remember enjoying the game but cannot for the life of me recollect any additional details about it. Getting to go behind the scenes and meet some of our favorite players and the people who worked with them, however? Those details I will remember forever.

Of Mixed Fan Base Families, December Birthdays and Mickey Mouse

Families certainly bring about the weird and wonderful in life, especially where birthdays are concerned and especially around the holidays. This is how I found myself yesterday afternoon running to UPS to ship a very California, Angels inspired, Red Sox fan item from Los Angeles County to Boston. You can go back and read that again if you want but, trust me, you read it correctly the first time. Allow me to back up and explain.

Our nephew Henry is a very new diehard Red Sox fan. He’s only turning six this week, so the very new part can be forgiven. The Red Sox part really isn’t his fault either. There are undeniable environmental factors involved. Growing up in the Boston area, the cards really were stacked against him turning out any other way…or at least these are the jokes I tell my sister-in-law, his mother. She’s a somewhat casual Yankees fan married to a far less casual Red Sox fan and these comments made her laugh a lot. (Yes, on my side of the family we have Dodgers and Giants fans – and a few rogue Royals fans – occasionally coinciding within the same immediate family group. On my husband’s side of the family we have the same thing with the Yankees and the Red Sox. And my husband and I are the odd folks out wherever we go. When the trash talk starts it can occasionally get epic, but it doesn’t start nearly as often as you might think.).

When Henry and his family came out to California for their summer visit, he came to dinner wearing an obviously well loved Clay Buchholz shirt. My husband and I were the height of cool in his book when we told him we’d seen Buchholz pitch. The Red Sox are the best team ever, he proclaimed. So I asked him to tell me about the Red Sox and why they were his favorite team. Henry got an extremely thoughtful look on his face and seemed to consider my question very carefully. Then he broke out in a huge grin.

Because Big Papi can hit the ball so far, Aunt Kristen. I mean really, really far. And this year we killed the Angels!

At this last comment, my sister-in-law looked mortified. But between her expression and our nephew’s literally bouncing up and down enthusiasm, my husband and I could not help but laugh. Those are very good reasons, Henry, I told him in between giggles.

Hey, he’s five (just shy of six now), he’s starting to love baseball and he’s passionate about his favorite team. What could be cuter? Other than his favorite team having a halo in their logo, I mean. So for his birthday, we sent Henry this Red Sox Mickey (shown here sitting next to his, in my opinion, much better looking cousin Angels Mickey):

All Star Mickies for Blog 100_1032.jpg

Buying Red Sox Mickey for our nephew was really funny. They still have the All Star Game Mickeys (36 different kinds – one painted to represent each team as well as an AL Mickey, an NL Mickey and 4 different All Star Mickeys) for sale at the Big A so we went to buy one after a game. The saleskid looked really surprised at my request after taking in our Angels gear and kind of sputtered, But, but that’s the ugliest Mickey of all of them! As he handed me the box.

I decided to have a little fun with him. Really, you think so? But the red and blue are such great colors don’t you think? And look, he’s got an adorable little Wally the Green Monster right here on his foot!

At this point, Saleskid kind of short circuited. He did that goldfish out of water thing where the mouth just opens and closes without actually making any noise as he tried to think of something nice to say about the Mickey, the customer being always right and all that. So we laughed and let him off the hook by explaining about the Red Sox fan nephew’s birthday.

Saleskid’s response? You guys are awfully accepting. Best Aunt and Uncle ever.

Hopefully Henry agrees.

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