Results tagged ‘ Jeff Mathis ’

Bats: 10, Bullpen: 3; I Sure Hope the Angels Get It

Ah, the Angels game today. Losing the third straight game to the Royals 12 – 9 in the 13th inning was…

So…um…yeah…Baby showers anyone? I went to my husband’s cousin’s baby shower today. I absolutely loathe baby showers. Isn’t that funny? I mean, I like kids. I love helping friends and family celebrate good news, but I loathe baby showers…

Right. The game. This is a baseball blog after all, so I probably should talk about the game. I have a fun, bantering relationship with the husband of one of my cousins and, helpful Dodger loving fellow that he is, he left the following questions on my Facebook wall round about inning 11: “Four runs in the last three innings and you’re still going extras? Are the Angels aware they’re playing the Royals? Further, are they aware that these are not the same Royals they’ll call neighbors next year?” Yeah, about that…well see…it was like this…

You know what the problem with baby showers is? It’s the stupid games. If we could just have a normal party, co-ed or still ladies only, without having to diaper a balloon or pluck tiny pins from rice or guess…well, you get the general idea…and I digress. Again.

So, back to the game and the questions on my Facebook. Well, when you start out the game with Scott Kazmir on the mound, he allows five runs in the first one and 2/3s innings, we pull him and then go the bullpen in the 2nd inning. Our bullpen. The Arson squad part duex. In the second inning. You knew the game wasn’t going to be pretty. Oh, and our “closer”? Walking 3 batters and allowing two earned runs in 1/3 of an inning? I’m just…

You know, today’s shower was actually fun! I think this really just proves my basic argument though. The wonderful ladies who planned it dispensed with the silly games…Oh, I’m doing it again aren’t I? That weird tangent thing? Yeah.

It’s not like the game didn’t have it’s high points. The offense was amazing! The Angels hit five homeruns! Five! And Howie Kendrick hit two of them. We hit doubles. We hit triples. Bobby Abreu went five for five. Peter Bourjos went first to home! Have I mentioned before that the kid’s just a little fast? There were a number of truly heroic defensive plays too. Torii’s catch. Maicer’s catch. Jeff Mathis’ tag at the plate. Fleet Pete flying in to bail Vernon Wells out of a jam and keeping two of the runners from scoring, at least.

We scored nine runs for crying out loud! Customarily, when a team scores nine runs, including five homeruns, etc., that team wins…unless our bullpen is involved. So I think you all probably understand why I would rather talk about anything, even that most dreaded of social obligations the baby shower, than about today’s game.

In all seriousness, it’s only four games and the Angels traditionally start out slow. We fans usually spend most of April moaning and groaning about how it’s the end of the world and the Angels usually shape up and then some by May and do well, with occasional bouts of ugly, for the rest of the season. The problem is that last season we didn’t. And, some of the reasons we didn’t are some of the same reasons we just lost three straight to the Royals. I usually don’t call for radical changes in early April but, after last season, spring training and this week, it’s time to call the Scott Kazmir and Fernando Rodney experiments a failure. Bring Matt Palmer back up from the minors and look for a closer. An effective one.

Opening Day Excites, my Baseball Snow Days Rock & an Epic Fiddle Player Surprises

Friday, literally before dawn, we rolled out of Los Angeles for Yosemite National Park to clean out my in-laws cabin for renovations – with great vacation options come great responsibility. Four hours later, we hit Fresno and my in-laws called to say no go, the cabin is snowed in. And I don’t mean, wimpy California snowed in, I mean my husband and I and his cousins digging all afternoon just to get to the shed to turn the power on and then starting on the cabin door, snowed in. So we grabbed shakes at In-N-Out and headed home. Breaking down the weekend so far: failed plans, I need to work a few hours later today to salvage the vacation day for a return trip to Yosemite, an eight hour drive for milkshakes, and unexpectedly getting to watch the game on Friday and Saturday. Hmmm…what does it say about me that I still think this adds up to a win? Sitting here luxuriating over coffee, brunch and an actual, live, for really real it counts, Angels game? I believe it says I have my priorities straight.

My thoughts on the season so far? Opening Day absolutely rocked. Jered Weaver pitched a Gem. Torii Hunter’s bat loves those K stadium fountains. I love, love, love our outfield…as I may have mentioned a time or two in the past. Jordan Walden continues to have my vote for closer of the future. Twelve hits! The bullpen got roughed up but didn’t actually blow the lead. It was a great game, a little too exciting there at the end, but a scary win is absolutely better than a sedate loss.

Mind you, the season is so young it isn’t even in diapers yet, it’s still in those pampers infant swaddling things, but I feel like I am finally watching Angels baseball after a poor imitation last season. The bats. The manufactured runs. The sacrifice bunts turned base hits. Both guys you would (Torii!) and would not (Happy Birthday, Jeff Mathis) expect going yard. Nailing the 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 double plays. Flying outfielders – Fleet Pete! Diving catches. Robbed homeruns. Great plays at the wall – heeelloooo Vernon Wells, and I bid you a hearty welcome to the team, good sir. A bullpen with a flair for the dramatic, especially the “closers.” Yes, unfortunately, that’s a hallmark of Angels baseball too, and one the team really needs to work on if we want to defy all of the predictions this season. I wish we’d pulled off the win on Friday but that one was close and, all in all, this is not a bad start to the season. More please, and by that I mean more like Thursday’s game please!

Edit: I said more like Thursday’s game. Thursday’s game! Grrrrrr…the bullpen…and the stranded runners…and the gorram BULLPEN! *Breathes deeply* Excuse me while I swear loudly and pound the coffee table a few more times.

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Imagine my pleasant surprise this weekend when a friend of mine confirmed that I was not mistaken in thinking I saw a familiar face in the new Brian Wilson’s epic beard MLB commercial (below)…other than the obvious one, of course. The fiddle player on the right? An old, old friend of ours I am really glad to see getting some commercial work. It amuses me to no end that he is in this particular commercial given that he knows nothing about baseball. He thinks this is one of the strangest ad campaigns he has ever seen. I told him there’s nothing odd about it. It’s just your standard, every day, run of the mill commercial featuring a closer who says his beard is magic and that he’s a certified ninja assassin with a gimp superhero housemate he refers to as the Machine. What could possibly be odd about that?

Spring Training Is Over. The 25-Man Roster Is Set-ish. Play Ball!

The Angels announced their initial 25-man roster late this evening, following a 5 – 1 win over the Dodgers in their final preseason game. I say initial because, of course, there will be considerable roster shifting in April and possibly into early May as Scott Downs, Kendrys Morales, Joel Pineiro and Reggie Willits come off of the 15-day DL. So, for now, the 2011 Angels are:

Starting Rotation:
Jered Weaver (RHP)
Dan Haren (RHP)
Ervin Santana (RHP)
Scott Kazmir (LHP)

Bullpen Pitchers:
Jason Bulger (RHP)
Kevin Jepsen (RHP)
Michael Kohn (RHP)
Fernando Rodney (RHP)
Hisanori Takahashi (LHP)
Rich Thompson (RHP)
Jordan Walden (RHP)

Catchers:
Hank Conger
Jeff Mathis
Bobby Wilson

Infield:
Erick Aybar
Alberto Callaspo
Maicer Izturis
Howard Kendrick
Mark Trumbo
Brandon Wood

Outfield:
Bobby Abreu
Peter Bourjos
Torii Hunter
Chris Pettit
Vernon Wells

Trevor Bell (RHP), Matt Palmer (RHP), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP), and infielder Andrew Romine were optioned back to AAA Salt Lake.

Not a whole lot of surprises there. Okay, I was a little surprised to see Hank Conger stay on the roster. I figured he would stay in AAA so he could get work in every day. But I don’t know who I would have kept up instead, this may change when they need roster space for guys coming off the DL and, besides, carrying three catchers is becoming a Mike Scioscia tradition. Given his hot streak since the surgery, I wish they found a way to keep Palmer up. I know Bulger is out of options, but he didn’t have a very good spring, or late summer for that matter… I’m pleased to see Chris Pettit getting another shot after missing all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery. I don’t know how long that experiment will last once guys start coming off the DL but we’ll see.

I’m excited! Yes, I pretty much knew who would make the cut, especially given the limiting injuries. Even so, just seeing the official roster really drives home the fact that Opening Day is Thursday! And I’m hopeful. We may have platoons at both of our infield corners indefinitely, but today it doesn’t bother me. So far it seems to be working, better than I expected. And if Trumbo’s bat holds up during the regular season, I think the first base platoon will be resolved quickly, even if Kendrys isn’t able to come back full time any time soon.

I’m so ready for Thursday. We have Weaver on the mound, the triple centerfield patrolling the outfield and a couple of guys whose bats really, really love Kauffman Stadium. Bring on the Royals. Play ball!!

Hits, Misses, News, Announcements and General Goofiness

My plan for this evening was to post a lot of photos and fun stories from today’s Angels Fanfest and exhibition game against the Padres. Unfortunately, I missed them both. My husband and I have been burning the candle at both ends and at a couple of points in the middle just for good measure for a few weeks now and this morning it finally caught up with him – he woke up too sick and headachey to do anything. I am a diehard baseball fan but I am a diehard wife first…okay, that makes me sound like a car battery or like I should be saying yippee ki-yay mother etc., but you get the general idea. Suffice to say, we stayed home, I took care of him and I wound up watching the game on the living room sofa, whooping and cheering between a snoozing husband and two snoring cats – yes, they snore. Louder than most people. It’s a little disturbing. As disappointing as this was, it really only means 12 extra days until I get to hear my first actual crack o’ the bat since September. That’s not so bad at all.

The game itself was as fun as a blowout beating up on a mix of the other team’s A, B and C squads can be – which is to say fun, it being baseball and all, but not outrageously so. Still, Dan Haren pitched a great five innings. It was great to see that he is definitely in April and May shape. Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen and the other relievers looked more than ready for prime time themselves. Mark Trumbo is still hitting like a beast, even inside regular season height walls. He had a three run homer and an additional hit today. Peter Bourjos, Jeff Mathis and Alberto Callaspo also collected two hits each, including a nice triple from Bourjos. Hopeful signs for a great season, all. Mike Trout looked good but it was an uneventful game for him so I didn’t see much of him from my living room vantage point, another small disappointment.

There was, however, one definite consolation to watching the game at home – Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells were not playing today and joined Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza in the announcer’s booth for two innings. Whether it was Wells giving Torii grief about his age – he is clean shaven this year because there was apparently a lot more silver in his beard than he liked – or Torii suggesting that Wells can’t bunt because he would hurt himself running hard to first, those two guys crack me up. They were also serious at times and it’s great to see them locked in and so psyched for the season. If I had to make the rough decision and pick a favorite current Angel, it’s Torii and I can tell Vernon Wells is going to become a favorite of mine as well. I know that clubhouse chemistry alone does create a winning season. But I think it is the important x-factor that makes a team’s strength greater than just the sum of its parts. I am thrilled that Wells seemed to fit so effortlessly into the work hard, act goofy Angels clubhouse that I love so much. Wells mentioned that Mike Scioscia’s group dinner tab Spring Training assignments definitely helped him make friends quickly, he he.

After the game, Mike Scioscia officially announced the Angels Opening Day pitcher. It’s Scott Kaz…I’m totally kidding. Of course it’s Jered Weaver. I would say, as predicted here on this blog, but this decision was pretty close to a given. In the same press conference Scioscia also announced that Joel Pineiro will definitely start the season on the DL. The Angels will go with a four man rotation – Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir – using the extra days off in early April as the 5th starter’s spot, until Pineiro is scheduled to come back and pitch in the April 8th home opener. I think this is a great short term solution and I am now certain Pineiro will be healthy enough to start on April 8th. I have tickets for that game, as I’ve mentioned, and I have uncanny luck for being at games where it’s either a pitcher’s first start off the DL or first start with the Angels.

Spring Session Mid-Terms at LAAU at Tempe, AZ

My latest big project at work is updating and rewriting our entire course catalog and student handbook…in a little over a week. In the words of the late great Douglas Adams, I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by! Seriously though, I am a professional. I have everything planned and moving along on schedule, from the legal requirements review, to all of the rewriting, to the occasional panic attack over the deadline. And they said all of that late night paper writing in college wouldn’t be useful in the real world. Ha! (All joking aside though, I love my job and this is a pretty cool assignment, if a little intense.)

Needless to say, I am just a wee bit catalog and course description focused at the moment and Spring Training is all about learning and practicing, so you can see how they might start to jumble together a little in my brain. Watching the games and reading the articles coming out of Arizona, I think I can make a pretty good guess about a few of the spring session catalog’s course offerings at Mike Scioscia’s LAAU:

365. Advanced Astronomy: Okay, so only Mark Trumbo is actually putting the ball into orbit this spring (and Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood once each) which is a little worrying but many key players are getting high marks with Trumbo, Bobby Wilson, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo and Jeff Mathis (Really? Cool!) are all hitting over .300…still, after last season, I won’t consider this course successful until more of the starting lineup names are on this list.

342. Physics of Linear and Non Linear Trajectories: The starting rotation is…coming along. They started slow. They’re easing into it. I’ve seen great stuff and silly mistakes. The last appearances were better than the first. For the most part, their 2011 ST stats are comparable to or better than their ST stats in ’10 and ’09. Eh, it’s not great, but I’m just not worried here (except about the 5 spot). To my eye it looks like the rust is coming off on schedule.

450. Fahrenheit 451 and the Art of Closing the Game: Bullpen pitchers are often referred to as firemen. But what happens when your firemen occasionally accelerate or actually start the fires themselves? A lot of offseason dollars were spent wrestling with this “philosophical” delimma and at ST midterms the grades are all over the place. Many of the pitchers the Angels will look toward for relief are making good grades, including Scott Downs, Jordan Walden, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takashi and Michael Kohn. As for the actual closer? Love Ray Bradbury though I do, Fernando Rodney needs to find some different reading material, stat…as does everyone who has been playing in the 8th and 9th innings for the last few games, ouch.

405. Field Biology: Quite the bell curve going on here. The starting outfield is A’s across the board. Howie and Erick Aybar are looking good at 2nd and short. A nice fight to set the curve at catcher looks promising. The corner infield positions, however, are cause for concern. Trumbo is working admirably hard to overcome a needs improvement at first, which is good because we may need him in April. But third? We’ll see how the final exams play out. As to the kids? The 8th and 9th innings lately are making me think the kids are not alright…at least, not yet.

201. Basic Anatomy (prerequisite for all students intending to declare pre-med): It is often said that the true indicator of a successful spring training is having all of your players make it to the regular season in good condition. So far, the Angels are passing with a B+, which we will elevate to an A as soon as Kendry Morales makes up last semister’s incomplete.

And what of Mike Scioscia’s special core seminars and colloquia, the ice-breaking, team-building and often hilarious “research assignments” he doles out to rookies and veterans alike for morning meeting presentation? Well, sadly Ostrich Wrangling 101 does not appear to be among the course offerings for 2011. However, the following classes are moving right along towards ST midterms:

204. Social Networking: When young Mike Trout ostensibly broke the rookies should not speak until spoken to rule, Jared Weaver took it upon himself to encourage the lad to share his gift for socializing with the fans instead…by posting his phone number on the scoreboard during a spring training game with an invitation to fans to “call Mike Trout with all of your baseball questions.”

305. Trickle Down Economic Theory: So, apparently, Vernon Wells has a rather large contract. Were any of you aware of this? I’m not sure the news has covered this particular detail. At any rate, Wells has been nominated to take the rookies out to dinner and Scioscia has stuck him with the tab after several team meals. Clearly this is a popular course. Sign up early.

515. Artisan Leather Craftsmanship: (this is my favorite by the way) minor league pitchers Matt Meyer and Ryan Chaffee have been assigned a special project, designing a catcher’s glove and fielder’s mitt from scratch and then using them during batting practice. Reporters and players tell us the gloves are still in the prototype stage.

The Angels appear to be excelling at some of these classes and in need of a few visits to the campus learning center for others. As we all know, the specific marks you get in school don’t have much of an impact on your overall performance once you enter the “real world” so we’ll have to wait until May or so before we really know the results of all of that schooling. It will be interesting to see who has learned their lessons…and how jealously Mike Trout guards his new cell phone number.

More Musings on Spring Training and an Angels’ Great Retires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Has Sprung, the Pitches Are Zinging and the Bats are in Bloom

Silly as it sounds, after Sunday’s game I felt somewhat deflated. But two better spring training outings for the Angels was all it took to return the buoyancy to my mood. First and foremost, the regular pitchers and most of the core bullpen candidates both days looked good – a little rust here and there, a couple of instances where the pitch placement could still use a little work, but on the whole very good.

I got to see the debut of our most likely new outfield configuration – all centerfielders, all the time with Vernon Wells in left, speedy Peter Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right. I loved it! Between the three of them they cover a lot of ground and seem to work well together. Bourjos seemed to have a little trouble calling off Wells at first, but he came around much like he did last season with Torii and Bobby Abreu.

I think I have now seen the real Mike Trout and I too am impressed. That was a heck of a catch at the end of this afternoon’s game and he made it look absolutely effortless. And when he does get the bat on the ball, you can see the power there. I like this all centerfielder outfield idea and think Trout will fit in just fine when the time comes to replace one of the centers currently in the corners.

We’re nailing the double plays!! One of the first indications I had that things were amiss in 2010 was how few and far between the jaw dropping double plays, once an Angels hallmark, had become. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see the guys nailing that 6-4-3 or 4-6-3 again! Also, the fielding so far has been error free, which is especially nice to see so early in spring training.

We have bats! Everyone who should be hitting has had at least one good solid hit in the last three games (remember, each player in question has only played about one full game worth of innings in those three games) except Torii, and Torii’s bat usually doesn’t really heat up until late April. I would jump for joy if it happened earlier, of course, but I’m not going to panic when it doesn’t. Yes, this does mean that Jeff Mathis, Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and even Brandon Wood all had hits – Wood’s a hard hit double in his spring training debut today. I don’t know if this will last in all cases but it sure was good to see.

Certain old bad habits were still evident. Eighth and ninth inning excitement: Monday’s game against the A’s was 8 to 2 Angels going into the eighth inning and the final score was 8 to 7. Stranding runners on the bases: seven runners were left in scoring position in today’s game against the Reds. Failing to strike again: today’s game was another score in the first inning and never again outing. Aybar’s base running: he’s like the little girl with the little curl and today’s game was one of the horrid outings. But I’m not really concerned about this, this early on. These observations, good and bad, are all based on one two-game snapshot and I think early spring training games, where the pitchers change every one to two innings and all of the regular position players are out of the game by the 6th inning, are not the best representation of how the regular season will progress. I’m just grounding myself by taking note of the worrisome things along with the hopeful ones.

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The baseball fever is so thick in my house that my husband actually convinced me to go play catch with him in the park the other day. Seth never played baseball growing up, not beyond the usual neighborhood pick-up games. I played softball in the local park and rec ponytail league from t-ball up through the beginning of high school but I haven’t touched a glove with any intent beyond catching a ball at batting practice in more than 15 years. So it was odd that he would ask and odder still that I would accept. I think that maybe seeing all of the young minor leaguers play a day game in such a small setting brings more nostalgia for the games you played in your own youth than a regular baseball game.

Playing catch? It’s not like riding a bicycle. Not after more than 15 years anyway. My arm is so much spaghetti, it’s embarrassing and, after this much time, it actually stings to catch the ball bare handed. But I’m still reasonably reliable with the glove and was even able to jump and stretch high to catch a few like back in the old days. And the unmistakable thunk of a perfect throw landing solidly in his glove the few times I managed a good one is absolutely addicting – childhood, laughter and fun all bottled up in a single sound. Yes, I will do this again. It was a lot of fun and I am way too stubborn not to give it another try. Besides, I’m not talking trash here but, um, I’m not the one with the sore shoulder today…he he he.

Two Down, Six More to Go

And another potential Angels arbitration case bites the dust in short order. The latest player to ink a quick deal rather than attempting to bargain for more based on his 2010 stats – because, really, how many of them had 2010 stats you could present as a bargaining chip with a straight face? – is catcher Jeff Mathis. Two players down, six more to go. This whole process was a heck of a lot more painful last year. Funny that. Apparently the avoiding arbitration thing is a lot easier for a team after a particularly bad season.

Angels: The deal is the deal. You will take it and you will smile for your batting average stunk up the place and don’t even get us started on your WAR.
Angels player: No no, that’s okay. No need to start in on the WAR. I’ll take the deal and, look, I’m smiling.

(Okay, so somehow in between my brain and the blog that wound up sounding very Eddie Izzard. Tea and cakes, or death?)

I am not surprised about any part of this deal and I am not upset by it either. I am not a Mathis hater and, yes, I am well aware that merely typing that in a public forum may earn me hate mail ;). I am also not in the smaller camp that thinks he God’s gift to catching. Mike Scioscia thinks he’s a better defensive catcher than Mike Napoli. Most seasons the stats do bear that out, but not to such a huge degree that I think it justifies having Mathis’ historically weak bat in the line up more often than Napoli’s streaky but mighty one. Generally, I am happier when I flip the game on or show up at the stadium and hear that Napoli is behind the dish for the game.

Now I don’t claim to be able to pick up on all of the subtle ways each catcher influences the pitching staff from my sofa or stadium seats vantage. And Mike Scioscia clearly does know as much about the relationship between pitchers and catchers as anyone currently in the game, so I’ve got to defer to his opinion on this and am not upset when Mathis is catching, I just don’t typically hope for too much when he comes up to the plate. I was ecstatic when between the end of 2009 and early 2010 he suddenly developed a hot bat. Catching dilemma solved! Unfortunately, the broken wrist in late April did a lot more than just put him on the DL for two months. The Mathis who returned to play in June had an altered swing and committed a string of fielding and throwing errors. From my vantage, not looking to make excuses for the guy, it really looked like continuing weakness on the recently healed wrist. But who knows.

Was the whole hot bat episode just one of those weird once in a career streaks that would have had him revert to form by the end of April or so if he hadn’t broken his wrist? I know what folks are saying, but seriously, who can really say. I sure hope that with the wrist completely healed, the Mathis who shows up to spring training hits like the Mathis we had on the team for most of April…and catches like him too, especially if the plan is for Mathis to catch at least half of the time.

And Now We Return to Wednesday’s Originally Scheduled Broadcast

As I mentioned before, my original plan on Wednesday was to discuss some of the topics covered in Tuesday’s Winter Meeting interviews with Angels’ GM Tony Reagins and Angels Manager Mike Scioscia. That was before the Crawford deal, before the Angels signed Scott Downs, before…well, suffice to say a lot has happened in the four and a half days since those interviews, rendering much of what was said irrelevant at this point. However, a few pieces of news remain pertinent and interesting:

Kendry Morales
Since about late August or so, all reports have indicated that Kendry is making great progress at or slightly ahead of schedule and that he should be able to return for the 2011 season as good as new. On the one hand, this is what you would expect the front office to say but, on the other hand, if his progress was cause for concern I tend to think the easier route would just be to avoid giving frequent updates all together. During the Tuesday interviews, Scioscia and Reagins both reiterated that Kendry is making excellent progress and let us know he has been able to resume light baseball activities in addition to the regular rehab and workouts. Scioscia also said that while they will watch Kendry cautiously in the beginning, of course, based on his current progress he should be “full-go for all drills”* by the beginning of Spring Training.

Kendry Morales is one of my favorite players – a guy who can motivate the whole team with a swing of his mighty bat or a great play at first. Honestly, this news makes me happier than a big trade or signing announcement would make me…not that I didn’t want that big announcement too. I’m greedy like that. Having Kendry back in and of itself will be a huge improvement in the Angels offense, but all of the major players involved have promised us repeatedly that they would not be content with just having Kendry back in the line-up and would make one or two additional improvements for 2011. This promise has noticeably not been repeated since Crawford signed with the Red Sox and, while I sincerely hope this is not the case, I am left with one of Ash’s great lines from Army of Darkness stuck in my head. Oh that’s just what we call pillow talk, baby, that’s all.

Catchers’ Tango Turned Broadway Ensemble Dance Routine
Mike Scioscia said that with Kendry on the mend, Mike Napoli would be returning to his role as catcher in 2011 in the typically glowing way we have all come to expect when Scioscia talks about Napoli behind the plate. “I think he’s a catcher, and he thinks he’s a catcher. Now he needs to go out a catch like he’s a catcher.” Clearly by returning to his role a catcher, Scioscia meant returning to the two and occasionally three and even four way bare knuckled, albeit good naturedly so, brawl for a permanent position behind the plate. Of the catching position, Scioscia said, “It’s obviously an important position for us. Jeff is more skilled defensively. Bobby is a combination. Hank Conger is coming. We have some depth there.” Mike Scioscia, King of Understatement. Of course, this could also be so much pillow talk and Napoli could very well be trade bait for the bat we so desperately need. Given the fact that the Angels’ 2010 homerun leader is often, himself, the bat we so desperately need, albeit a very streaky one, unless such a trade brings additional sizable tangible benefits, this doesn’t make nearly as much sense to me as other deals might.

Scott Kazmir
According to Scioscia, Kaz’ new offseason conditioning program seems to be working. He is showing marked improvements in stamina and control and is still expected to be the 5th starter in 2011. This is the kind of news I really hope is true and not just the thing the team is expected to say. It’s hard not to respect and root for a player who is possibly more upset by his poor performance than even the fans and who busts his butt in the offseason to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. If Kaz could be as good as he was for the Rays, as good as he started out for us in 2009…Wow! The Angels starting rotation would truly be a thing of beauty, wouldn’t it?

* All of the interview quotations were taken from Lyle Spencer’s articles “Scioscia Sees a Bright Future for Trout” and “Lee Joins High-Profile List Linked to Angels.”

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