Results tagged ‘ Interleague ’

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).

Interleague Wrapup + Angels Take 2 of 3 in the Freeway Series, Part II

As I mentioned just before the Freeway Series, part one, I had the opportunity to crash Matt’s Think Blue Weekly PodCast for the Freeway Series episode. At the end of the Podcast, Matt, his podcast partner and I all made predictions about the Freeway Series outcome. My prediction? The Angels will take the series 4 to 2 and, would you look at that? ;) Actually, if we had not been so pressed for time at the end, I was also going to predict that the Angels would drop one game at each stadium (yup and, sadly, I attended both of them) and that those games would be the one pitched by Santana (yup, though not for the reason I expected) and the one pitched by Garrett Richards (well, we can’t be right about everything. Richards wound up pitching two Freeway Series games because of a few starting rotation oddities, earned wins in both appearances and looked pretty darned convincing while doing it).

Ervin Santana was lights out after a few initial hits, striking out 10. It was sad to see him take the loss. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But the most important prediction of all was that it was going to be a fun series and, indeed, it was, the highlight of another Angels dominate interleague season and continued Freeway Series bragging rights. Sorry Dodgers! …except, you know, not really. ;)

Erick Aybar gets back to the bag quickly ad James Loney prepares for the pickoff attempt. Aybar had a good game, going 2 for 3 with the Angels only RBI. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Anyway, here are a few important Angels trends that either emerged or intensified during Interleague:

Mike Trout is a beast! No. You’re not listening to me. Mike Trout. Is. A. Beast!! Seriously, even more so than we already knew. Called up on April 28th, Trout took off running – very, very fast indeed – coming into his own almost immediately. Then somehow during interleague play, he played even better. The 20-year old rookie lead all AL players during this time with 30 hits, 21 runs scored and 15 stolen bases, dropping onto the AL batting average leaders list like a bomb in 2nd place on the first day that he qualified. He has since moved into first place just above Paul Konerko. So, in response to that weird Bleacher Report ‘hey, could the Dodgers trade for Mike Trout’ talk over the weekend, I sincerely hope that I speak for Jerry Dipoto when I say, ‘that’s a clown question, Bro, now excuse me while I laugh uproariously.’ (Editor’s Note: Thank you, Bryce Harper, for gifting us all with this decidedly not cliché gem. I hope you keep your spirited way with words throughout your career.)

Mike Trout gives himself a quiet little fist bump at first after a basehit. He attacks this game with a joy and exuberance that are a pleasure to watch. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout and Torii Hunter warm up in between innings. Any outfield where Torii is the slow guy has got to be great! Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The starting rotation is taking the rotation part of their name a little too literally for anyone’s tastes, but it’s all working. Jered Weaver is back off the DL and looked great in his first outing. Ervin Santana had a few rough at bats at the beginning of his last outing, then got mean and delivered a 10 strikeout gem that should have won him the game. Unfortunately, Jerome Williams was hospitalized with breathing problems after his last outing and went on the 15 day DL. Although it sounds like Williams is ready to come back roughly as soon as he is eligible, this still could have been a disaster without Garrett Richards stepping in to fill his shoes. Like I said, it’s an overly rotating rotation, but it’s working.

Jered Weaver hams it up a little in the dugout early in the game, while Andrew Romine hams it up a lot on the rail and Jerome Williams just looks ready to be back. (We’re ready for you to be back too!) Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels bats are hot, hot, hot…except when they’re not. When they’re not, other things don’t click well either and the team has a hard time winning. Fortunately, the downswings through spells of cooling bats seem to take a lot less time to recover from these days before someone – Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, etc. – gets hot again and brings the rest of the offense back online with them.

Albert Pujols with a gorgous swing. Angels vs. Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Torii Hunter whiffs for strike three. I include this picture not to mock one of my favorite players after a rough game, but because you can see the disappointment on his face. He was as frustrated as the fans. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Oh the errors, when they happen they happen in groups. The Angels have several players getting limited playing time at the moment and when they come in, not shockingly there are some issues with rust and errors. Peter Bourjos seems to be able to do this right, bounding around the outfield, running down every ball in site like a happy puppy whose owners finally let him really run, in those late innings and occasional games where he gets a start. Though, even in the case of Bourjos, there’s a little bit of rust on that fine arm. Anyway, this situation is partly to blame for Maicer Izturis’ errors in the Saturday game. Why Sciosia didn’t stick with Alberto Callaspo who had a great game on Friday makes little sense to me. I am absolutely not advocating a return to the ever varying, magic 8 ball, lineup, but it would be nice if something could be done to keep the utility guys ready to come in and play off the bench. Food for thought as we move into July.

The bullpen not only wasn’t scary, they were good. Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Latroy Hawkins were already good. But now Frieri and Downs have the best combined ERA for any pitching duo currently in the majors (with the requisite number of innings pitched, yada, yada, yada). But it isn’t just those three stalwarts. Hisanori Takahashi, Jason Isringhausen and Jordan Walden all delivered consistent solid innings as well, a trend which could make all the difference in the months ahead.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Angels are still 4.5 games behind Texas in the AL West. (Though, hey, at least for the moment they’re 1st in the running for the 2nd Wild Card spot.) Now, 4.5 games may seem like it’s still a lot, but here’s this thing, even if you aren’t buying the ‘we’re only just getting to the All Star Break’ argument, the Angels still have 12 games left against Rangers including, per recent tradition, the last three of the season. Suddenly, 4.5 games doesn’t seem like much, does it?

And now we conclude our time here on this post with, Fun With Captions! (In my mind, that has a Pigs in Space worthy bit of theme music heraldng it, just so you know. ;) ):

Todd Coffey…um…reviews the signs with his bullpen mates. Hmmm…do you think this might end the scourge of the dreaded kiss cam? Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I had no idea how may facial expressions Albert Pujols goes through on the basepaths until he became an Angel. Going clockwise from top left we have Bored Albert, Fish Lips Albert (Hey, Trout mania is in full effect!), Game Face Albert and Bubble Blowing Albert. I did not get any photos of Smack Talking Albert this game, but that is also funny. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. All photos by This is a very simple game…

Dodgers meeting on the mound. A.J. Ellis: “*cough, cough* Um, you do realize we’re having this meeting over Erick Aybar, right?” Juan Uribe: “Really? Aw shit…” Okay, so he isn’t usually exacty a slugger, but Aybar did feast off Dodgers pithign this Freeway Series and, indeed, knocked in out only run on this at bat. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo at bat with A.J. Ellis catching. I think the look on Trumbo’s face is the baseball equivalent of an exasperated ‘Mom!’, sort of a, ‘Sosh! Yeah, yeah I got it. Hit the ball hard.’ Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Albert Pujols says, ‘Juuuuuust a bit inside’, either that or he’s getting some sore of strange Rally Squirrel flashback. Angels vs Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Guest Podcasts, Interleague, Oh My — It’s a run by Angels blog posting…

One of the best things about starting this blog has definitely been my interactions with fellow bloggers. You are all amazing, inspiring writers and a lot of fun to read, the perfect accompaniment to any baseball season good or bad. And, in the last few weeks, two fun opportunities have come my way as a result of these interactions.

Our colleague Matt, who writes the kickass Dodgers MLBlog Dodger Familia Thoughts, hosts a Live Radio/Podcast called Think Blue Weekly on Blog Talk Radio. He has invited me to join him for a special Freeway Series episode this Sunday at 8 pm PT. So, if you would like to hear me embarrass myself in public – I’m very much a blogger not a talker ;) – or, more importantly, check out Matt’s work, tune in at this webpage http://www.blogtalkradio.com/think-blue-weekly on Sunday.

In other news, in addition to this blog I am now a columnist with L.A. Angels Insider, a much larger, well respected member of the Halosphere. Please check them out!

As for the Angels, ah, Interleague! Interleague play is back in full swing for 2012 which means, of course, that the Angels are on a tear. I’m one of those odd duck baseball fans who actually enjoys Interleague play – teams playing at highly unusual venues, DC/Marvel comic mash up worthy matchups, AL pitchers batting, need I say more? The fact that the Angels happen to kick ass at Interleague play is merely the icing on the cake – rich, delicious, cream cheese butter cream icing thickly slathered over every inch of the cake’s exterior and in between each moist layer, mind you, but the icing never the less.

Just a couple of random thoughts from the weekend:

  • So far Colorado has been good for most Angels batting averages but it has truly been the Trouty and Torii Show! Those two need their own theme song to accompany a montage of their hits and feats of daring do from the series so far. Maybe it could be kind of like M.I.A.’s Paper Planes, only punctuated with the sounds of clobbered baseballs flying off of wooden bats instead of machine guns.
  • Sometime closer, sometime setup man Ernesto Frieri has proven that he is in fact human, having given up two hits as an Angel now, but continues to blow away the competition. Okay, so two guys reached first. It’s not like it did them any good. Listening to MLBN rehash Brandon McCarthy’s ‘Siri, how do you get Josh Hamilton out?’ tweet it occured to me that what he should have tweeted was ‘Frieri, how do you get Josh Hamilton out?’ because unlike Siri, Ernasty knows how.
  • So Albert Pujols can play third and Kendrys Morales looked pretty darned good at first, all things considered. Neither is a great long term option at this time. Besides, I seem to remember hearing something about Pujols’ throwing elbow having issues when he spends too much time at third. Cardinals fans or other longtime Pujols fans, care to confirm, deny, or otherwise elaborate? But it’s nice to know that the Angels do have this option. And, yes I’m a softy, but seeing Kendrys’ huge grin over getting to play in the infield once again, however briefly, was touching and sweet.
  • LaTroy Hawkins is back from the DL and he looked pretty darned good! Welcome back good sir. The bullpen has been trying valiantly in your absence with some definite success – and some scarier moments I’d rather not remember sufficiently to write about them – but we need every good arm we can get! And Jered Weaver is expected to throw off the mound on Monday and return from the DL on schedule. Reportedly his back feels fine now. I pretty much want to just type ‘yay’ over and over again with many, many exclamation points, filling this page The Shining-style but, you know, in a psycho happy way instead of just a psycho way over that bit of news, but I’ll spare you…for now. Once he’s officially back with the team, I make no guarantees. ;)

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Diego Edition: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Deigo Edition: Part 1

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

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

A Word About Petco Park: Gorgeous!

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

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

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

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

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

Batting Practice and Bullpen Sessions, Oh My!

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

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

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

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

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

So, About Interleague Play… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, Now That’s Funny! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Realignment Deja Vu: Haven’t I Heard This Argument Somewhere Before?

When I started college, Occidental had just concluded the grand but brief scheduling experiment known as trimesters, basically a tweaked quarter system still in use at some schools. Mine was the first class to start under the “return to semesters” schedule. The reasons given for the switch were, as is typical in these situations, either the exact same reasons given for the initial switch to trimesters or arguments once used against semesters now touted as virtues. With typical Oxy snark, upperclassmen made t-shirts to illustrate this phenomena in hilarious fashion with a chart depicting the arguments for trimesters on one side, culled from the letters sent to siblings and acquaintances on campus during the time of that switch, and the arguments for semesters on the other side, culled from the letter they received prior to the switch. If I felt like digging deeply enough in the back of our dresser, I would probably find that my husband still has his t-shirt! Anyway, for some odd reason I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week. *glares daggers at Bud Selig* I wonder why?

I do not like the impending realignment. Do. Not. Like. I do not think it will ruin baseball or anything drastic like that. I am still going watch easily 150 or so of the Angels’ 162 games plus a number of other random games every season and I will still enjoy them. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s abysmally stupid to have argued passionately in favor of one thing only to switch the argument on its ear not 15 years later. To wit, ‘We must put up with the small inconvenience of unequal divisions in order to avoid the unimaginable horrors of Interleague play nearly every day and other scheduling nightmares that would occur from having two 15 team leagues!’ becomes ‘We must switch to two 15 team leagues and put up with the small inconvenience of expanded Interleague play nearly every day in order to avoid the unimaginable horrors of unequal divisions.’

It’s not the 15 teams in each league I object to so much, that at least fixes the stupidity having four teams in the AL West and six in the NL Central, it’s the expanded Interleague play (in addition to the revisionist history arguing style going on here). Look, I may be one of the few folks in the blogosphere that actually enjoys Interleague play, but even I would prefer to see it less often and certainly don’t want to see it several times a week, all season long. If we can’t fix the AL West/NL Central situation by adding two completely new teams to the AL – my personal little pipe dream that’s never going to happen – I would rather fix the scheduling difficulties that come from two odd numbered leagues by capitalizing on that other “scheduling nightmare” that Selig adamantly didn’t want all the way back in the late 90s: double headers.

Think about it. Interleague play can remain intact and unexpanded in the middle of the season, thus eating up a few of the near daily odd-man-out in each league situations while scheduling several four-game series with planned single admission double headers for every team can eat up the rest. I know that the players union hates double headers, but if MLB wants something that will solve scheduling woes and really attract fans, double headers are the way to go. A single admission double header brought numbers that could actually be deemed crowds rather than a mere crowd to the Coliseum last season. I saw it with my very own eyes. Now that’s power!

And as for the rest? An additional Wild Card in each league? I didn’t like the first Wild Card additions, but it grew on me. I don’t really like this one either. I guess I’m a curmudgeon before my time when it comes to change in baseball. But if adding an additional Wild Card race makes the end of the next season half as entertaining as the end of this one, it might grow on me too. The Astros making the switch from the NL Central to the AL West? Meh. Returning the Brewers to the AL and switching one of the AL Central teams to the West might have made more sense, given that it would simply be undoing that which was already done. However, I think that wouud require Mr. Selig to admit he is reversing his argument completely and, much like my college administration, I think he’s trying to avoid that as much as possible. Hmmm…do I still know anyone with access to a silk screen press?

And while I am already waxing Suess-ical with all of these do not likes, I do not like Jerry Dipoto’s reported “serious interest” in C.J. Wilson. Not in a box, not with a fox. Not over twitter, not with a dash of bitters. I do not like it. Not one bit. Overpaying free agents may be the new black, but if the Angels are going to grossly overpay a free agent, how about one that swings a bat for power…and, call me crazy, actually makes contact resulting in something other than an out(s) on a regular basis.

Baseball Book Report: The Bullpen Gospels + a Mish Mosh of Loosely Related Topics

 I read, rather incessantly if the truth be told. For me it’s primarily a way of maintaining sanity. Something about disappearing into someone else’ story or an intriguing bit of non-fiction boosts my mood and settles my oft chaotically busy brain back into less stressed out functionality. Except, since late February I haven’t read much of anything. I have been too stressed out to settle down long enough for anything to grab my interest. It’s been miserable.

Finally, I picked up Dirk Hayhurst’s tale of minor league life, The Bullpen Gospels. I was so charmed by his turn of phrase and the compelling mix of humor and gut wrenching introspection, that I devoured it like a starving person in about two days, thus breaking up the longest “slump” of my “career.” One of the jacket quotes describes the book as Bull Durham meets Ball Four. On some levels this is true, especially on the humorous end of things. Never have kangaroo court proceedings been reported with such glee and the tales of out heckling rowdy opposing team fans are truly hilarious. But on the serious side of things, Hayhurst’s very much non-fiction back story and his personal stakes for failure are much darker and the introspection is more deliberate.

Ultimately, it’s the book’s juxtaposition of different elements that grabbed me. The silly with the serious. The drive for a major league baseball career with the motivation to have a lasting impact on the world. Beautifully related insider game tidbits peppered with references to Narnia, Charley and the Chocolate Factory, Conan the Barbarian and other wonderful oddities. I am a huge fan of that last part especially, as you might have guessed from the hodgepodge of strange side stuff I incorporate into this blog. Suffice to say, add The Bullpen Gospels to my list of recommended reads and many thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for helping me find my way back to my reading mechanics, as it were. Yes, of course he will read this, just like the Angels. Why do you ask? ;)

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After busting out of my biblio-slump, I began tearing my way once again through the stack of books to be read, and one of the first things that caught my interest also happened to have a blog tie-in. Jim Butcher’s “Curses,” a new short story in the Dresden Files series included in Ellen Datlow’s recently released urban fantasy anthology Naked City. In this story we find Harry Dresden, detective, warden and the only wizard in the Chicago phone book taking on the Cubs’ Billy Goat Curse. And the end result? A very fun read. I had no idea Butcher was a baseball fan and if he isn’t, he fakes it nicely. This is a lighter Dresden tale, as Butcher often chooses to share in these anthologies, and would be relatively easy for someone who hasn’t read the series up until now to pick up. And if you had the misfortune of watching the Sci-Fi Channel’s terrible TV series adaptation of these books, don’t worry, the books are a completely different animal.

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Speaking of books and baseball, there was a really cute news feature in one of the early July episodes of Angels Weekly showing Angels rookies Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo and recent rookie Peter Bourjos car pooling to the interleague games at Dodgers Stadium. The adorable part was how nonchalant and professional they were trying to be about having reporters videoing their ride, when it was obvious they could barely contain their glee over the very Big Leagues novelty of the whole thing.

The three young Angels shot the breeze on a number of subjects, eventually settling on upcoming movie releases that had piqued their interest. Conger, it turned out, could not wait for the new Harry Potter movie because he loves Harry Potter and has read all of the books, thus earning several Kristen approval points, not that they’re worth anything. ;) Bourjos and Trumbo laughed at this revelation and exchanged “Here Hank goes again” looks before each asked the other if he had ever finished an entire book willingly. No, neither one had, and both clearly thought Conger was the odd duck on this subject. But their teasing was affectionate and the whole conversation reminded me of a funny story from my high school days…

One day before class during my sophomore year, I had just put down a book I was reading to joke around with a group of baseball players, a fairly typical day. The guys were teasing me about my reading habits, mainly that I had them. I was the stat girl for the varsity team and had gone through grade school and then some with most of these JV players. We were friends. The teasing was affectionate and I was giving it right back. “Did your parents brainwash you or something?” asked a guy I had known literally since preschool. “Yes, and once you get past the machine that holds your eyes open really wide, the drugs are actually kind of fun…” I responded, or something to that effect.

Old friend kept it up and I finally asked him if there was any book he would willingly read. He pretended to gag and loudly protested, of course not. And all of the baseball players predictably laughed. Yeah, the boy didth protest too much, especially to someone who knew about his extensive Darth Vader collection. Fortunatley, timing was on my side and I held aloft the recently released book to reveal the shiny new cover – Timothy Zahn’s Dark Force Rising, the second book in the very first Star Wars series to tackle the question of just what happened after the conclusion of the original movie trilogy. Old friend emitted what can only be described as a squeal of delight and practically dove over a row of desks to get a closer look. “Oh my god! It’s out! I didn’t know it was out yet! Is it good? The last one was so good…” and so on. And he wasn’t the only one. Bwa ha ha.

The moral of this story? Careful Bourjos and Trumbo. Reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and there’s nothing wrong with that. But someday you may just find that one book that has you diving over a desk and looking silly, LOL.

Angels Earn 2011 Freeway Series Bragging Rights…and How!

Interleague has always been good for the Angels. This year the team won every Interleague series and finished by taking two from the Dodgers this weekend at the big A. Friday’s game was the Angels sole loss in this series, proof perhaps that a day of rest is not always in order. The team’s level of play across the board prompted me to comment on FaceBook “The Revolution may not be televised, but the Zombie Apocalypse just aired on Fox Sports West.” But they were back in fine form Saturday and Sunday, with a dominant performance against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and a tightly contested duel between Ervin Santana and Chad Billingsley on Sunday.

Seth and I had tickets to Saturday’s game, good seats in the club section just on the foul side of the left field pole. It’s amazing what folks will part with cheap these days. :) Anyway, the energy was high and the fan interaction was a lot of fun, one reason I love Freeway Series games. Our seats were in front of three suites – one with Dodgers fans sandwiched between two filled with Angels fans – and intermingled with  mix of fans of both teams. The suite dwellers were the fun, loud side of thoroughly hammered and formed the loudest component of both teams cheering/mostly friendly trash talk sections. The funniest part was after a one-two-three inning for Weaver when the Angels were already well ahead. The Dodgers suite switched from yelling “Let’s Go Dodgers” to “Let’s Go Yankees” of all things in perfect unison. They earned a lot of laughter and claps of approval from the Angels crowd. Who doesn’t appreciate a good sport?

Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw warm up in the bullpens just before first pitch. This photo shows off the side by side terraced bullpens I spoke of earlier. Seth and I did take the camera to the game, but some absolute dork left the memory stick at home in her computer. She had long brown hair and freckles…oh, yeah…it was me. J So there aren’t as many from the game and these photos are not as good as some of our others. To get the good photos, you have to have enough memory to snap several shots of a play or an at bat.

Clayton Kershaw and Jered Weaver warm up before the game in the Angels side by side bullpens. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Weaver pitched a dominant game, allowing only four hits and one run in eight innings. At first it didn’t look like he was going to get much run support, as usual. But in the end the guys gave him downright gaudy seven runs. Hey, I could get used to gaudy and I’ll bet our pitchers could too.

Jered Weaver warms up with Jeff Mathis before the game. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Angels alumni will throw out every first pitch this season. Recent retiree Garret Anderson threw out the first pitch on Saturday and I was thrilled to be on hand to watch this Angels great, still the holder of eight different team batting titles, accept the honor. Fernando Valenzuela threw out the first pitch on Friday, a controversial choice among Angels fans because he only played for the Angels for one year. I, personally liked the idea of including Fernando because of what he meant to baseball in California and how his rising star helped show off the considerable talents of our own skipper, Mike Scioscia, when he was a young catcher trying to earn the everyday role. Besides, I think it was a nice touch on the part of the Angels front office to choose Angels alumni for this series who also had Dodger ties, underscoring the long, intertwined history between our two teams.

Angels great Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden and the bullpen and Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the relievers before the game. One, I like these photos my husband took from our vantage just above and in front of the bullpen because you can see some of the personalities and bonding in our bullpen this season. But also, this series, and indeed for most of interleague, the bullpen flat out rocked and I wanted to take a minute to recognized their important contribution.

Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden in the bullpen before the game begins. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Rich Thompson is all ears as Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the bullpen before the game begins. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Jeff Mathis leads off of second base after knocking a double into left field. This series was marked by unexpected but extremely welcome contributions at the plate from unlikely sources. Russell Branyan knocked in the winning run plus on with a two-run no doubter on Sunday and on Saturday it was Jeff Mathis with a solid double putting him in position to score the Angels first run of the night. He also had a single and a nice sacrifice bunt (and a badly failed sacrifice bunt, but we’re only talking positive here.)

Jeff Mathis leads off second past Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon after hitting a solid double into left field. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells crossing the plate and celebrating with Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar after another timely homerun. I am really enjoying his bat right now!! I managed to catch Wells doing his point to the sky as he crosses the plate and I love the exchange between Wells and Trumbo. It looks like Trumbo is saying “Dude, what was that?! How far did that go?!”

Vernon Wells crosses home plate after a two-run homerun. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar congratulate Vernon Wells on his homerun while Alberto Callaspo and Mike Scioscia wait to clap him on the back. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Behold the power of the rally manicure! I fidget. When I’m writing, when I’m resting, when I’m watching the game from home, just whenever. Sometimes the end result is useful, like folded laundry or and organized bill file and sometimes it’s just really silly, like random nail art for work or, you know, the ballgame. But I got more compliments on the silly things Saturday that I figured I would post them for posterity and/or mockery…and hey, if I were the sort to be superstitious about such things, they did win didn’t they? :)

Behold the power of the Rally Manicure! Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Doesn’t everyone love a win?! The Angels celebrate after the game.

Dan Haren, Jordan Walden, Bobby Wilson and DH Bobby Abreu congratulate the fielders after the Angels win. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels and Angels coaching staff celebrate after the win. Angels vs. Dodgers, July 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And in news outside of baseball, this weekend further rocked because Seth and I got out on the bikes a lot. I have come a long way since Memorial Day weekend and was able to ride in the rough again…okay, it was mild rough, but still. We took this trail on Saturday and again this morning. Go go Gadget knee. :)

Nature trails inside the Santa Fe Dam recreation area. July 4, 2011 Photo by This is a very simple game...

A Brief Angels and Dodgers FAQ Before the 2011 Freeway Series Continues at the Big A

 

Today marks the beginning of the final stretch of Interleague play this season. Love it or hate it, you learn a lot about the baseball cultures and traditions of teams from the other league during Interleague and knowledge is never a wasted thing. To that end, before the Angels and Dodgers take the field at the Big A this evening for the second half of the Freeway Series, I thought I would use my bi-baseball-cultural heritage (Dodgers fan childhood, Angels fan adulthood) to answer a few questions and clear up a few misconceptions about our two team’s shared histories in Southern California for the benefit of both fan bases.

First things’ first:

This is not a Dodgers cap.

And I don’t just mean this statement in the Magritte sense. This really is not a Dodgers cap, nor is it an “Angels Dodgers-look-alike” cap as some have called it. This is a replica of the original Angels cap, featuring our original interlocked L and A logo and a halo stitched into the top, a reminder of an era when, for better or worse, baseball uniforms were often a little more literal than they are today. Remember the nautical motif on the 1970s era Pittsburg Pirates cap and on short-lived Seattle Pilots caps and stirrup socks?

So, is it an ugly cap? Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion of course. I tend to think it’s so ugly, it’s completely awesome! But then again, you may have glanced around my blog and noted my subtle little bias.

 

Wait a minute! The Angels’ original logo was an interlocked L and A? What have the Angels ever had to do with Los Angeles and why were they copying the Dodgers? I have heard variations on this one from both sides of the fan divide as well. The Angels have played at the Big A in Anaheim since the 1966 season…but, from 1961 until 1966 they played in Los Angeles. Yes, Los Angeles. The first year at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field and for the next four years at – if you’re one of the folks who didn’t know this already, this is going to trip you out even more than the concept of a Wrigley Field in Los Angeles – at Dodger Stadium.

No, Angels fans, it wasn’t our field first. It was always the Dodgers’ field. We just sort of couched surfed there for four seasons until we became established in our career and were able find our own digs. And, really, can you get any more Los Angeles than that? There were occasional issues between the Dodgers and Angels in those years, but they were merely baseball variations on the sort of small slights and annoyances known to housemates of convenience the world over. Hey, I’ll bet the Angels were much better housemates than a former housemate of mine, who shall forever be remembered in my circle of friends as the girl who actually said, with real annoyance in her voice and not the slightest trace of humor, I might add, “But I paid you rent last month.”

 

Okay, so the Angels do have a tie to Los Angeles, but what about that logo? The interlocked L and A isn’t a copy of the Dodgers logo. It was intended as a nod to the minor league Los Angeles Angels who were the first team to use an interlocked L and A logo and played at Los Angeles Wrigley Field in several incarnations for decades before the Dodgers moved to California. I suppose that one could argue that the Dodgers copied the logo from the minor league Angels, but it’s a little more complicated than that. O’Malley had bought the minor league Angels and moved the team to Spokane when the Dodgers moved out west. If I am reading the meandering history of this particular minor league franchise correctly, the original Los Angeles Angels turned Spokane Indians went through several more incarnations and are now the Tucson Padres. Regardless, it was too cool a logo to remain unused, so I commend the Dodgers for keeping it alive.

Bet the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doesn’t sound so silly now does it? …Okay, actually, it still does. Terribly so. Really. Which brings me to our final question:

 

Okay, so what about that crazy name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Well, if you were to tell me, biased though I am, that this mouthful of a name is kind of stupid, I would be inclined to agree with you. After all, we don’t refer to the A’s as the Philadelphia Athletics of Oakland by way of Kansas City, now do we? Once the Angels moved out of Los Angeles, the California Angels was my favorite name, though I liked the Anaheim Angels well enough too. Throwing in the Los Angeles was silly in my opinion, and the reason given for doing it – associating the team with a larger market – was even sillier. As we just discussed, the Angels have a legitimate historic tie to Los Angeles, and I for one am going to wear my awesomely ugly haloed LA hat with pride, but legitimacy doesn’t make the current name any less silly.

This concludes our brief, and hopefully entertaining, Angels and Dodgers history lesson. The game is about to begin. So go forth to the ballpark or get thee to the pub and enjoy one another’s company in spirited rivalry, safe in the knowledge that your heckling can now be every bit as accurate and knowledgeable as it is biting and sarcastic. And may the best Angels team win!!! Hey, my baseball heritage may be “bi-partisan’ but my adult loyalties are anything but.

Angels Sweep the Nationals, Presidents’ Race and All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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