Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

I-5 Bias: the 2014 Freeway Series Edition

Welcome to I-5 Bias: the 2014 Freeway Series Edition! This post marks the happy return of what has been a fun, 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. Matt and I were originally inspired to start this column by a huge shift in attention to the AL and NL West two years ago. Things have been up and down for my Angels and his Dodgers since then, but this season! Oh. My. Wow! This season!! Suffice to say, even though I’ve been in a busy real life enforced semi-retirement from blogging, when Matt asked me if I wanted to come back and do a Freeway Series I-5 Bias, both teams are so amazing, how could I turn that down?  So, here we are once again 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? No, forget that. This season more than ever, it’s I-5 bias instead!

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For this edition, we have posed six questions prompted by our teams’ current records, the relatively new season schedule format, that thorny little Dodgers TV problem, and the ensuing fan and media commentary on it all, to be answered on both of our blogs. We hope you enjoy this freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snotty ones), please ask away:

 

The Angels and Dodgers both find themselves as strong playoff contenders in heated division races that are likely to come down to the wire. What has impressed you about both squads this season? What do you think of their chances in the postseason?

Matt Says: Well with the Dodgers I would have to say what impressed me about them is their starting pitching rotation. Having Kershaw Greinke and Ryu pitching is dangerous and always set the Dodgers up to win but now you have (Had) Beckett when he’s on it. The offensive serge that the Dodgers are on is really helping them as well. Even though the Dodgers got off to a really slow start it seems like they’re starting to find their groove and at the right time too. After sweeping the Giants and Braves they’re making it known that they are starting to get their groove and when they’re on a role then they’re a very dangerous team. As far as the Angels I think they finally have their complete game finally figured out. They’re absolutely deadly with their bats and they managed to make some moves to improve their bullpen especially with the addition of Hudson Street, Joe Thatcher, and Jason Grilli. What impressed me more is how Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Erick Aybar are hitting with Mike Trout as well as the impressive play of Kole Calhoun. I think they’ve finally made themselves known as a legit World Series Contender.

Kristen Says: The Angels offense makes me giddy. They’ve been so hit and miss – pun most assuredly intended – these last few seasons, especially for having so much potential. But this season? Wow!! And it isn’t just the usual suspects – of course Mike Trout, etc., have been impressive, but so have Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun and Erick Aybar. It’s nice to feel spoiled with hitting again. The starting rotation is not as impressive as it has been in years past, but they’re getting it done and I am impressed with the way Garrett Richards has really come into his own this year. But, even more than all of that, I love the guys’ fight. Walk off wins, come from behind wins and, yes, plenty of decisive wins as well – this season it feels like the Angels have the fight and the drive to pull a win from just about anything.

I know there has been some scoffing about the Angels chances in the postseason because the team doesn’t have the world beating pitching they’ve had in years past and, “as everyone knows” pitching wins championships. But, I have to say, the pitching is getting it done and in that scenario I actually think that the ability to fight for the win in close games is at least as important. And if you’ve ever followed this blog, you know that’s about as far as I will ever go in terms of making postseason predictions. I feel like there really is something to the old cliché about taking them one game at a time and, also, perhaps there’s a bit of superstition there for me as well.

As for the Dodgers, oddly enough I feel like I don’t know much about the team this season other than their strong record, and obvious highlights like Kershaw and Beckett’s no-hitters. In a normal season, Seth and I tune in to other games before each Angels game starts and after it finishes, frequently the Dodgers, although other AL West games feature highly as well. With nary a borrowed-from-the-original-minor-league-Angels LA logo in sight on TV most nights, I haven’t been able to follow the team.

 

August is unusually late in the season for the Freeway Series – normally we’re writing this column in June! What are your feelings on Interleague match ups this late in the season, just as the postseason races are really heating up?

Kristen Says: When the new schedule debuted, I thought I would hate having interleague play throughout the season, but as it turns out I don’t mind it. As long as we have interleague play – and I am one of the oddballs that actually looks forward to these unusual matchups, a baseball DC/Marvel crossover comic if you will – when we have it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in the way the teams perform. And here’s the thing, even before the current interleague format, September wasn’t strictly reserved for divisional play anyway and, depending on how the season goes, and doubly so the moment the wild card came into play, it isn’t a given that the most exciting end of season games will be divisional games. As for the Freeway Series, specifically, happening in August? I think this is the best Freeway matchup we SoCal baseball fans have seen in years and, to me, having the games mean so much on top of it just makes it feel like one of those series I’m going to wind up describing as a privilege to watch. What’s the downside?

Matt Says: It’s really interesting but at the same time out of place. We’re usually seeing interleague teams as early as late May and now it’s all over the place. How ever I do believe with rivalries like the Freeway series being this late in the season it put more at steak. Right now you have two teams in the southland and down the I-5 from each other battling for their division and this game will have a lot on the line in terms of Postseason positioning. If you had a game like for example the Tigers against the Cardinals at this point of the season and both teams were in division races then the causal baseball/Sports fan would be attracted to this. At the same time it takes away the meaning of planning your summer seeing teams from the other league that you usually don’t see as much so I guess you can say I have mixed feeling about it. It has it’s positives and negatives.

 

What key players/match ups should fans watch for in this year’s Freeway Series?

Matt Says: Well as far as key players for the Dodgers (Not Named Yasiel Puig haha) one would have to be Matt Kemp. Kemp has been on an absolute tear as of late with the bat since the “drama” towards the trade deadline. Kemp been hampered with injuries left and right and I think he’s starting to come around now (.386 BA Post All-Star break). Another key player to keep an eye on for Los Angeles Hyun Jin Ryu. Ryu, Who is predicted to be in the rotation during the series, is one of those pitchers where they give up a lot of hits but once he’s locked in then he’s on it. Why I have Ryu up here as a key player? Because as of last season (Rookie season) the Angels are batting .065 against him and if he can repeat his performance from their last meeting then it could be a long night for Anaheim. As far as Match-ups It would have to be the Dodgers starting pitching rotation against the Angels line-up. Monday and Tuesday being Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw this will be the first time the Angels see the two Post All-star break and with the game at Dodger Stadium (NL Park) it’ll be very interesting to see what line-up Scioscia puts out there. Then comes the games at Angels Stadium and the DH in effect you’ll have the struggling Dan Haren and Hyun Jin Ryu facing the Angels with their dangerous offense. I think that’ll be the key because you have one of Baseball’s best offenses in the Angels taking on one of baseball’s best pitching rotation in the Dodgers.

Kristen Says: Well, there’s this young kid called Mike Trout, and I understand he’s pretty fun to watch. ;) I know, I know. Dodgers fans – and everyone else! – are already well aware. But you may not be as aware of the combination of Trout and Calhoun. They’re brilliant together in the outfield and a blast – often quite literally – to watch hit back to back in the lineup. I realize that my defensive bias is showing a bit here – this chick thinks homeruns are very nice indeed, but what she really digs is a perfectly executed 4-6-3 – but I will never tire of watching the fielding combination of Aybar, Kendrick and Albert Pujols. As for pitching matchups, I am most excited about Richards vs. Zack Greinke at the first game.

 

As you are probably aware, Time Warner and a number of cable providers are currently in a huge standoff over SportsNet LA, which controls the Dodgers’ TV rights, with the result that 70% of the Los Angeles Market is without Dodger games. As baseball fans and sports fans what are your thoughts on this issue and is this becoming a growing issue in sports television?

Kristen Says: As a fan of the game, this is such utter bullshit. I don’t usually swear on this blog, but let’s call a spade a spade. And, yes, I do see this as a growing problem in sports, not just in this sport. I think it really comes down to a question of what do teams owe their fans? The financial perks of lucrative, exclusive TV deals cannot be denied and often, though certainly not always, those benefits are reflected in the quality of the team the owners are able to put on the field. But if the fans can’t afford to see that team play? Or, as in this case, can’t have access to see them play even if they can afford it? Quite simply you have not done right by the fans. TV deal money needs to be balanced against fan access. If your team goes all the way to the playoffs and you don’t get to watch them until October, does the victory still count? Absolutely. But unless you were able to jump up and down in your living room, or at your local sports bar with friends, family and even random strangers for all of those key moments throughout the season, there is no way that victory tastes as sweet.

At the risk of being very long winded – I know, too late! – seasons like this Dodgers season make baseball fans, and I’m not talking about fair weather and bandwagon fans. No, I’m talking about the children of adult fans who grow up with the memory of a magical season, of the year their parents let them stay up late all summer just to watch the games because the team was that good, of the time they got to see their unshakable grandfather shed tears of joy over a long hoped for playoff berth…you know the kind of season I’m talking about because, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a baseball fan and largely because of memories just like these. I know that’s my story. Now, what if that magical season, the season, wasn’t broadcast on television where you could see it? Managers and GMs are always talking about the need to consider the bottom line importance of the intangibles. I think owners need to keep them in mind as well.

Matt Says: I think this whole thing is outrageous. You have a 70% of fans who can’t watch a game in their local market because cable companies don’t see eye to eye with each other on what price to pay to carry a channel? I think if you look or pay attention to this whole issue you have to say all parties involved are responsible. The Dodgers because they knew that when they took this deal the potential for fans not to see their team play and the Cable companies because all they’re doing more finger pointing than working to reach a possible deal for the people. For me I’m getting by just fine attending games and listening on radio but it would be better to actually get this channel that I’ve heard about. This is really becoming a growing issue in sports because it’s becoming about the money more than the fans being able to see their team play on TV. I mean you have the Pac-12 Network and their ongoing issue with DirecTV where people can’t see certain college games. You also had the issue with the Lakers channel when they moved to Time Warner and most of the market couldn’t see Laker games until three weeks into the season. I can list more examples but I think the readers get my point haha. Point being that while the money being pumped into a franchise to pay the players that can help and having their own network but at what price are fans paying? I think franchises look at least think about those who put the money into their pockets.

 

We joke about our I-5 bias, but the truth is that baseball has taken a huge shift out West. The Dodgers and Giants are battling it out for control of the NL West in a race where the loser is mostly likely to head to the playoffs anyway as a wild card team. The A’s and Angels currently hold the best records in baseball and are locked in a similar race in the AL West. In the AL, there’s even a chance that both wild card teams could come out of the AL West if the Mariners go on a tear. Would you say that having this many West Coast teams in such tight races is good for MLB?

Matt Says: Two years ago when we first did I-5 Bias I said that baseball’s power shift was swinging out west. Here we are with 5 teams out west gunning for the Postseason (Sorry Padres and Diamondbacks). The Dodgers, Giants, Angels, and A’s are making playoffs baring any big big collapse and the Mariners are right there in the thick of the wild card race. Yes this is great for the MLB right now because for once all the attention is out here. I think Baseball media’s east coast (And Midwest) bias is finally realizing that the excitement is really in the AL and NL West as well as the Wild Card races. To think this all triggered with the spending of the Angels, the ownership change with the Dodgers, the out of nowhere push of the A’s, the Giants as hard for me to say and now Robinson Cano and the Mariners. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

Kristen Says: Tight baseball races going down to the wire make a great season for everyone, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter what division they occur in – though, this is definitely a case of the more the merrier. There’s a reason that, when I Google “the best night in baseball ever,” every single reference on the first page is to September 28, 2011. I didn’t even have a team still in the running at that point and I still agree with that title. As far as the West Coast more or less owning the wild card race this season, I’d say it’s a definite improvement over the idea that the then one wild card spot would almost certainly go to the second place East Coast team, and one step closer to true competitive parity, where those wild card berths would be hotly contested across all divisions right up until the end. Because as much as I love my West Coast teams, I think that would be the most fun for baseball fans in general.

 

Care to make any Freeway Series predictions?

Kristen Says: I hate predictions! *cue Stevie Wonder’s Superstition* But in this case I always make an exception because it’s the done thing. Under the old(er) schedule, when the Freeway Series was 6 games, I always came down in favor of my Angels because, well, history. Yes, I said it. Cope. But with only four games and the Angels once again down a key starting pitcher (C.J. Wilson came off the DL just in time for Tyler Skaggs to go on it), I predict the Angels and Dodgers will split the series.

Matt Says: I know I may sound biased here but I am indeed very realistic with this. I believe the Dodgers will take 3 of 4 in the Freeway series. The Dodgers have been playing very good baseball as of late during the past 8-9 games. Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig to name a few have been hitting pretty well after the All-Star break and the Dodgers pitching rotation falls into their favor especially against a team like the Angels. Also the Dodgers hold a good but slim lead over the Giants and they can’t afford to allow that lead to trim especially at this point of the season. The Angels on the other hand have been struggling on offense as of late and headed into the series with the Dodgers against that pitching staff is really something that Anaheim can’t afford to do. They’ll also be without Tyler Skaggs who has been pitching pretty well for them. Now honestly it could go either way and maybe even be a split like last season but I think the writing is on the wall for the Dodgers to take the series over their interleague rivals.

I-5 Bias: The 2013 Season’s End Edition

Welcome to I-5 Bias: the 2013 Season’s End Edition! This is the latest in what continues to be a fun, 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. Matt and I were originally inspired to start this column by the huge shift in attention the AL and NL West have enjoyed. Between tough competitions down to the October wire, prominent postseason performances and some pretty loud player acquisitions, the AL and NL West, and frequently my Angels and his Dodgers specifically, have been big, big news. So we thought that we would share our perspective on these two Freeway Series rivals, to entertain, inform and, hey, to spark conversation and debate. Why not! East Coast bias? No, forget that. From now on it’s I-5 bias instead!

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Understandably, I almost didn’t want to do this edition, given the Angels sad, sad finish. But I would be a poor sport indeed if I didn’t continue in light of my fellow blogger’s team’s huge success. So, *mumbles* Congratulations Dodgers and good luck. Angels, kindly get it together this offseason – pretty please! And hopefully the next postseason will have more of a both ends of the I-5 vibe – not that a Freeway Series with Vin Scully announcing and the Angels ultimately victorious – naturally! – isn’t a bucket list level dream of mine or anything…nope, not at all. *nods* But I digress…

For this edition, we have posed six questions prompted by our teams’ final season records and the ensuing fan and media commentary, to be answered on both of our blogs. We hope you enjoy this freeway collaboration and, hey, if anyone has any burning questions for future editions (yes, even snotty ones), please ask away:

The Dodgers and the Angels both had abysmal starts to their seasons. But by the end of June, the Dodgers started to turn things completely around. What are your thoughts on the Dodgers comeback/why do you think they were able to turn their season around?

Matt says: It’s amazing to think about what the Dodgers did. At the begining a lot of things were going completely wrong. Injuries, Leaving runners on base, Errors, Mismanagement, I mean whatever you thought of it happened with the Dodgers. When they went on that run It was unbelieveable run and took first place, There was a feeling that this team could do something special. How they were able to turn it around? Honestly there was a number of things. Everyone started to trust one another, In an Interview before the Blue Jays Series Adrian Gonzalez and AJ Ellis said that everyone on that team started to trust each other. Taking a few pitches and not over do things knowing the next guy behing them. Anotheher was the pitching started to get better. If you look at the Dodgers Statisiticly pitching it started with their top two starting pitchers in Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. In the 2nd half both are a world better with low ERA’s and great win-loss records so there was no doubt that they would get it together. The rest of the staff on the other hand really went on to shock me. Ricky Nolasco was really getting it together, Hyun Jin Ryu continued his success, and the Bullpen as a whole managed to get better and the addition of Brian Wilson made it better as well. Let’s also not forget about Yasiel Puig! I think he was the huge spark that the Dodgers needed with his play.

Kristen says: I think it was as close to a perfect storm of good as a team can get – things started clicking for the Dodgers when Yasiel Puig debuted right as key players started coming off the DL. This is, perhaps, an oversimplified explanation for a pretty epic comeback, but that’s all I’ve got and, really, it’s no worse than Vin’s Magic Castle explanation. ;)

And what are your thoughts on the Angels continually frustrating season/why do you think they weren’t able to turn their season around?

Kristen says: Frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it. Trust me, I watched something like 145 of 162. Seriously. There are a lot of things that went wrong – injuries, veterans failing to perform, an on again/off again offense – but I think that the worst thing, the truly irreparable nail in the coffin, was pitching. This is a team that had relied on stellar pitching for the last string of seasons and they went into 2013 without a true starting rotation and no improvements to speak of in a shaky bullpen. Then injuries and aging arms made the pitching situation even worse and the powers that be failed to make any moves that constituted so much as a legitimate patch before the trade deadline – not that they really had a lot of funds to make such a thing possible by that point in the season.

Matt says: The Angels were a team I thought would also get it together in the 2nd half of the season. They had the offensive fire power, Pujols, Trout, and Kendrick was doing their thing, Josh Hamilton was starting to come around but ultimately the Angels couldn’t get it done. You had the injury to Albert that put himout for the rest of the season and inconsistant play it just wasn’t good all around. I think what hurt the Angels was the inconsistant ball play. The inability to really put something together to make a run hurt them. In the AL West you can’t afford to lose series against the A’s and Rangers and expect to make up ground. Droping games against Seattle and Houston didn’t help at all either. I believe the Angels needed to get it together consistantly and didn’t.

With postseason baseball coming for the Dodgers what is their biggest strength and weakness? How far do you think they can go?

Matt says: Their biggest strength will be pitching. I always preach that pitching will win you championships. Look at the Giants in 2010-2012 and look at the Phillies 2008-2009. Both had a great pitching staff that lifted them to World Series appaerances/Championships. That’s what the Dodgers needed and they tackled it well the Dodgers pitching staff is getting it done at the right time and when it’s really needed. Kershaw and Greinke in game one and two is scary enough and the bullpen has been lights out. As far as their weakness I do believe it’s their health. Dodgers for some reason have this issue with staying healthy and that tend to hurt them a lot. Right now L.A. have Matt Kemp out for the season with a ankle injury and the status of Andre Ethier is really up in the air right now. This team must stay healthy in order to really make an impact. I do believe the Dodgers can go far. It’s going to be difficult because they have a lot of good teams to pan up against and will be on the road. I think the Dodgers can make it to the World Series due to their pitching and talent.

Kristen says: I think pitching is the Dodgers biggest strength and an on again, off again offense is potentially their biggest liability. They sure aren’t hitting right now but even the last few games leading up to the postseason aren’t always an indication of play come October. If the Dodgers start hitting again, they could go pretty far.

What, if anything, do you think the season fallout will be in the Angels organization? Is there anything this team can do to get back on track for 2014?

Kristen says: I feel like Sadusky in National Treasure, “Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben.” I don’t know or even really want to predict who is going to leave but it’s certain that someone, and probably several someones, will. There are rumors flying far and wide about Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia. On the one hand, if you take injuries out of the equation, Jerry Dipoto is responsible for the pitching situation – he dismantled the old starting rotation to build this one. One the other hand, Scioscia has managed four teams that failed to make the post season in a row, two of them with losing records…and don’t think we haven’t noticed that this is the first season Arte Moreno has failed to respond to questions over Sosh’s future with with instant unwavering support. So is it one or both of these guys or will it be a massive player shift? Or, D, some of all of the above? Personally, I’d like the fallout to be enough player movement to get an actual starting rotation going into 2014 without throwing all babies out with the bathwater to accomplish it. But I learned a long time again that I don’t think like a team owner, especially not this team owner, so I doubt it will be that.

Matt says: I don’t think much will happen in the Angels Organization really but ig I had to pick I do believe the Angels will let go Jerry Dipoto. He has made splash signings with Albert Puljos, CJ Wilson, and Josh Hamilton but really nothing much has come out of it. He also failed to get the Angels true help which was to upgrade the pitching staff. I do believe that there is something that this team can do to turn it around in 2014 and that’s to get pitching help. They have the offensive firepower and enough of it but now is the time to really lock down on pitching if they want to make an impact in the AL West.

After winning the NL West the Dodgers came out of their clubhouse and celebrated in the Diamondbacks pool in the outfield. This was controversial and commentators have expressed differing opinions on the matter. What is your take on the celebration?

Matt says: Well I maybe in the majority that actaully don’t have an issue with this. I honestly think the Diamondbacks and media are making a huge deal out of it than we are or the Dodgers. If anything it started with them saying that the Dodgers couldn’t comeback out to celebrate which puzzles me. It was all done when everyone was out of the stadium and Los Angeles didn’t mean any harm over it at all. I understand the sportsmanship and classiness of celebrating but lets not forget when the Dbacks clinched they went swiming in their pool in 2011. It’s really no issue at all really and I think it’s bigger deal to Arizona than anyone else.

Kristen says: On the one hand, I think the DBacks telling the Dodgers not to come back out of the Clubhouse to celebrate on their field was out of line and contrary to baseball tradition. So, if the Dodgers had just come out of the Clubhouse and celebrated on the field, I wouldn’t have any objections. But come on Dodgers, you can’t tell me that a large part of your motivation to celebrate specifically by jumping in the DBacks’ pool wasn’t sticking it to a division rival with whom you have bad blood and have brawled this season, knowing that such an action would really piss them off. While that is certainly an understandable, human motivation it isn’t exactly a classy one. So, do I think the Dodgers are evil? No. But they sure aren’t winning any kudos for sportsmanship this season. Of course, did they actually set out to? Probably not.

So, baseball fan boys and girls, what does the 2013 season have to teach us about pre-season media hype?

Kristen says: Well, both the Dodgers and the Angels were heavily hyped to go all the way. The Angels…yeah, ‘nuff said. *sigh* While the Dodgers have made it to the post season in style for sure…but with significant help from guys who weren’t even on the team when the predictions were made. Look, an MLB season is too long and complicated to ever listen to the preseason predictions with anything more than the kind of interest a diehard baseball fan shows any MLB news when there are no live games on yet and a ‘that’s nice’.

Matt says: I think it taught us something very valuable. Baseball isn’t played on paper. If you were to tell me the Giants, Angels, Nationals and Blue Jays wouldn’t even come close to playoff contention then I would think you’re crazy. This season basically showed us a lot when it comes to pre-season media hype. The Dodgers and Angels got off to bad starts but the Dodgers managed to get it together in the second half of the season and the Angels struggled which was disapointing to see. I think we will all be more careful when we take a look at things in the pre-season but this was another example of how anything can happen in baseball.

Get to Know Your Bloggers Bonus Question: Do you have any favorite memories and moments from the MLB Postseason?

Matt says: Well I do have a few memories and moments from the MLB Postseason. The Dodgers sweeping the Cardnials in 2009 is one that sticksout because St Louis was a heavy favorite and it really shocked a lot of us when the Dodgers swept them out of the playoffs. Another was the Cardinals/Rangers World Series. It was sad to see Texas lose it when they had two chances at winning it but amazing to see the Cards win it thanks to David Freese heroics but I think my favorite has to be the Red Sox and Yankees 2004 Series where the Yankees were up 3-0 in the series and was bound to win the series only for the Sox to pulloff an amazing comeback to win the ALCS which was crazy to see. I hope to see some this postseason as well that we can talk about for years to come.

Kristen says: You all know what I’m going to say here, right? ‘Erstad says he’s got it. Erstad makes the catch!’…except, favorite memory though that was, I wasn’t strictly back to being a baseball fan in 2002. I was a bitter, bitter lady over the strike, and I’d been raised a Dodgers fan, after all. No, I wouldn’t come back to baseball until I fell head over heels in love with the Angels about three seasons after the 2002 series. Sad, but true. But I do remember when they won. My grandfather was a lifelong Angels fan going back to the Minor League PCL days, but he passed away in 1990 and missed the team’s truly good years. It’s maudlin, but I remember catching the end of game 7 on TV and wishing that somehow he knew, as you do.

Now, with my odd mixed fan base baseball background, I also have vivid warm fuzzies over 1988, and that first Saturday game, building the Lego castle of the weekend all along the den floor with my sister while we watched the World Series. Memories of Vin Scully’s, ‘And look who’s coming up…’ and just knowing who I was going to see when I put down the Legos and looked up at the screen, because Kirk Gibson was my hero, so of course he would come in at just the right moment to win the game like it was some sort of fairy tale.

Ah childhood! But I guess that’s part of why I really get into doing this whole I-5 Bias thing, even when my team blows so many goats for the season that they actually made me momentarily happy the regular season has ended. Oh well, here’s looking forward to 2014 and hopefully less drama and more editions of I-5 Bias where I get to brag about my guys. Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What If: One Angel Fan’s Lament

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

The 2013 Angels: What if…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I-5 Bias: The Freeway Series Edition

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

I-5 Bias - Blog Medium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I-5 Bias: The Opening Day Edition

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

I-5 Bias - Blog Medium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I-5 Bias: the Early Spring Training Edition

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

I-5 Bias - Blog Medium

For this edition, we have posed six Angels and Dodgers oriented questions prompted by spring training, the World Baseball Classic and recent media commentary, to be answered on both of our blogs. 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:

What player(s) should we keep an eye on during spring training? Are there any young minor leaguers Angels/Dodgers fans should pay special attention to?

Kristen Says: Well, I don’t think I have to tell anyone to keep an eye on the usual suspects. ;) In fact, at least this early on in spring training, I wish fans would keep less of an eye, or at least a more casual eye on some of the bigger names. Josh Hamilton going 0 for 3 in his Angels February spring training debut merits a top Yahoo headline today? Really? *shaking my head and laughing* As for some of the players who aren’t already on every fan’s radar but should be, with Bobby Wilson no longer on the team, Hank Conger will be trying to make this season finally be the season that sees him start and stay on the 25-man roster. His batting average was the only thing standing in the way before and this spring he’s off to a great start. Peter Bourjos spent 2012 on the bench but is slated to finally share the outfield with Mike Trout in 2013. He should be both thrilled to play again this spring and extra eager to prove himself. Outfielder Kole Calhoun and short stop Andrew Romine will start the season in the minors on the 40-man roster but are exciting up and comers likely to become 25-man roster fixtures in the seasons to come.

Matt Says: Well for the Dodgers there’s two players that fans should keep an eye on. Yasiel Puig and Zack Lee. Puig as you know was the first major International signing that the Dodgers made in the middle of the season. Many scouts say he has good Power but is still Raw and needs more coaching. Fans will finally get to see what he is all about this Spring and we’ll get to see if he is ready or needs more time. Zack Lee is another player who is listed as the #1 Prospect in the Dodgers Organization. This is a guy who I believe will be called up this season (If any injuries are to hit). If not we will see him in Triple A.

Teams often find a hidden gem in a non roster invitee. Which NRI player(s) have the best shot at making the Roster come opening day?

Matt Says: Dodgers tend to find hidden gems with the NRI players. I will say one who has a good shot would be Peter Molan and Mark Lowe. The Dodgers want to add a Veteran presence in a young bullpen and both of them have a good shot at making it but will have to beat out Stephen Fife and Josh Wall just to get on the 40 man roster. Molan you may remember was with the Braves last season but was hit with Injury problems and Lowe was with the Rangers as well but didn’t play as much. Only one of them will make it on the 40 man roster in my opinion.

Kristen Says: Barring any injuries or other oddities *knock on every scrap of wood in a 40 mile radius!* I think the Angels came in to spring training with the 25 and 40-man rosters pretty much set in all respects except perhaps the bullpen. I think that if NRI relief pitcher Hiroyuki Kobayashi continues to have a good Spring, he will have a shot at making the roster for Opening Day but I don’t expect any of the other Angels NRI players to make the roster for a couple of seasons yet.

From 2012's Spring Training Freeway Series games: Matt Kemp swings at a nasty Angels pitch and misses with Hank Conger catching...oh how I hope the Angels starting rotation can deliver this season!! Angels at Dodgers, April 3, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

From 2012′s Spring Training Freeway Series games: Matt Kemp swings at a nasty Angels pitch and misses with Hank Conger catching…oh how I hope the Angels starting rotation can deliver this season!! Angels at Dodgers, April 3, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Are there any issues or unanswered questions that you hope to see your team work out in spring training?

Kristen Says: For me, at least, the biggest question still facing the Angels is the starting rotation. I’m thrilled with the addition of Jason Vargas, but once I get past Jered Weaver and Vargas, I am full of questions. Will C.J. Wilson’s bone spur surgery mark the reappearance of the strong, reliable, successful C.J.? And will we get to see this C.J. in the second half too? Which Tommy Hanson will we see? And so on. I bounce back and forth between optimism and queasiness on the subject and really hope that spring training ultimately gives us a strong indication of positive answers to those questions. A secondary question for me is how quickly will the planned outfield configuration of Trout in left, Bourjos in center and Hamilton in right shape up? I don’t ask how well because I don’t really think that’s a necessary question — an all young, talented centerfielder outfield is a pretty drool-worthy prospect. At the same time, Trout and Hamilton are both used to calling the shots in their respective outfields and Bourjos spent most of 2012 — unfairly — on the bench so it may take him a few games to get used to taking charge again and will definitely take all three of them a few games to get used to each other’s range and working together. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what spring training is for – and I do love the fact that so many games are on TV now so that we get to watch the process.

Matt Says: Well for sure it isn’t Chemisty haha. I honestly think there’s a few questions and issues that I would like to see the Dodgers workout. One is being Hanley at Shortstop. Hanley isn’t the best defensive Shortstop out there and we all know he was at 3rd for a reason with the Marlins last year. Hanley will have to get fielding down at short and only has so much time with the Dodgers before he goes and plays in the WBC with the Dominican Republic. The rotation after Kershaw and Greinke is also a mystery as well. Dodgers had a deep rotation which could see guys either traded or moved to the bullpen. #3-4-5 will be up in the air pending on how Capuano, Harang, Beckett, Billingsley, Lilly, and Ryu pitches through the spring. Right now it’s projected to be Beckett, Billingsley, and Ryu but that could all change.

The Dodgers are well represented in the 2013 World Baseball Classic with five players participating. The Angels only have one player participating. How do you feel about this? Do you think it’s more important to have the cream of MLB represented in the WBC or for teams and players to conserve their talent for the regular baseball season?

Matt Says: I for one Love the World Baseball Classic. I like that the Dodgers are well represented in this because they’re playing for their country which is something they don’t get to do that much. I honestly would like to see the MLB’s best play in the classic but can understand if the Player don’t want to play..Notice I said player because I feel it’s up to them if they want to play in the Classic. Through the past few weeks we have seen teams step in a block players from play in the tournament and that I think is not fair. I get that teams don’t want guys hurt playing but it’s the same risk if you have them play in a Spring Training game. In my opinion I think it’s more important to have players ready for the Regular season but the WBC is played in the Spring and the players will have their rest before the Season starts but that’s for the players to decide. You see players like Mike Trout who declined to play to work with the Angels and that I can understand and respect.

Kristen Says: I think it’s great for the Dodgers to be so well represented in the WBC and most years I would be happy to see the Angels equally well represented. However, after all of the injuries of 2011 and 2012 and with so many very young players still learning how to keep positive momentum all the way through the second half of the regular season, I am glad that this Angels team largely opted not to participate. There will be other WBCs with more Angels participation. In general, while it would certainly be exciting to have all of the best in baseball playing in the WBC, I think this is a question best left up to the individual players. As with the Angels, I completely understand when players, knowing their own pre-season training needs, decide that they would prefer just to concentrate on the regular baseball season and skip out on the WBC. Look, half the fun of the WBC is seeing MLB greats playing for their home or ancestral countries, so excellent MLB participation isn’t going to guarantee a strong USA team regardless – though I do think we have a strong, competitive team this year and am excited to have tickets to the USA/Mexico game in a few weeks. I also don’t think that teams should step in to block players from participating in the WBC unless there is a legitimate injury concern in the sense of a frequently or recently injured player.

From 2012's Spring Training Freeway Series games: Peter Bourjos entertains Mark Trumbo and other teammates on the bench...a location I sincerely hope neither Bourjos nor Trumbo will be seeing much of this season. Angels at Dodgers, April 3, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

From 2012′s Spring Training Freeway Series games: Peter Bourjos entertains Mark Trumbo and other teammates on the bench…a location I sincerely hope neither Bourjos nor Trumbo will be seeing much of this season. Angels at Dodgers, April 3, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

We had a Freeway Series showdown — naturally! — during the MLB Network’s recent Face of MLB contest and Matt Kemp beat Mike Trout. Thoughts? Reactions?

Kristen Says: On the surface, the Face of MLB contest is just a fun, silly way to pass the offseason time. On a deeper level though, I think the results demonstrate the effect of changing technology on the way fans interact with the game. With the increasing popularity of social media, constant MLB-wide highlights streaming across a baseball dedicated cable channel and all of the different ways we have to stream games online and watch out of market games on TV, baseball is no longer about just getting to see “our team” and the handful of, primarily East Coast teams, that at one point held an almost “National Brand” status. There was a time, not so long ago, when West Coast ballplayers would have been eliminated in the first round of any such competition. Now we fans still root the hardest for our own teams – as it should be! — but we are also aware of the daily exploits of talented players on every team regardless of rank and market size and I think that’s wonderful! As for Matt Kemp beating Mike Trout in this competition quite handily, this season I think that’s as it should be. Both are exceptionally talented players but Trout is a brand new face while Kemp is an established a team leader with several MVP level seasons to his credit. However, as Trout continues to live up to his potential, I expect that the results of any such future contests will quickly start shifting in Trout’s favor. ;)

Matt Says: I didn’t vote or anything for this because I don’t see the point in it but I find it to be something that adds for the fans. Last year Mike Trout was in the same position Kemp was in 2011. Great season only to not be named MVP due to his team not being in the Playoffs. Honestly I believe this is a great honor for both players to be recognized but in my opinion this was for the fans to make that call which we all knew who everyone was voting for. I just want to know outside of Dodgers/Angels fans who voted for who haha.

Bonus Bloggers’ Bias Question: As a fan, do you look forward to spring training or can you take it or leave it?

Matt Says: As a fan yes I do and for many reasons. One it signals that Baseball is back after a long off-season and seeing Free-Agents sign and moves being made in the winter. Also allows fans to get a good look at players like a Kershaw and Kemp play and get their pre-season done, New players like Grenkie and Ryu play with their teams for the first time, and get a good look at the Top Prospects in the farm system play in MLB Uniform and see if they’re the real deal. Best part is actually going to see Spring Training and actually getting to meet the players. Yes people spend a lot of money to attend opening day or Opening night but it’s the only time fans can catch Baseball at a cheap price and in a location (Well to me and Kristen) where it’s not far at all. This year will be my first trip to Spring Training in Arizona and I am honestly looking forward to it. I understand some fans say they’ll wait till Opening Day to see what the team is about and that’s fine but with me being such a Baseball Junkie I like to see the Prospects and NRI guys just to see what my team will be working with.

Kristen Says: I love spring training and look forward to it every year! Yes, this is partially because of how stir crazy I get in the offseason. However, a big part of my spring training love is the glimpse it gives us inside the teams’ preparations for the season. I love watching my favorite players shake off the rust and work back into their regular season form and I enjoy watching new players and/or existing players in new positions work to blend seamlessly into the team unit. No, the games aren’t the same quality as regular season games, especially this early on. And, yes, once we get past about March 15th, I will be Jones-ing hard for the regular season to start. But the more casual vibe of spring training has an undeniable charm all its own and serves as the perfect appetizer before the regular season main course. (I decided that this was a more mature metaphor than Foreplay/Long Time, if you will. Aren’t you all so proud? ;)  )

From 2012's Spring Training Freeway Series games: Angels jack of many trades and chief bomb hitter, Mark Trumbo, and Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz move with the pitch. Angels at Dodgers, April 3, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

From 2012′s Spring Training Freeway Series games: Angels jack of many trades and chief bomb hitter, Mark Trumbo, and Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz move with the pitch. Angels at Dodgers, April 3, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Oh Josh, You Fell for One of the Classic Blunders!

…You know. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line. And, only slightly less well-known, never ever speak of the fans in less than complimentary terms…because it will live forever online…or something like that. But I’ll get to that in a moment. First…

Hey there Major League Baseball, you great big sweetie. Don’t think for one second that I didn’t notice and appreciate your thoughtful Valentine, having position players start reporting on February 14th. We fans have enjoyed live video of actual baseball players on the field, in uniform, getting ready for the season all over MLBN and our favorite sports sites ever since. Hitting and pitching and live player interviews, oh my! It’s the best thing ever! …well, the best thing since October at any rate. See boys and girls, even if our teams appear to have a funny way of showing it at times, baseball really does love us back. ;)

Of course, the return of players to ball fields and the happy increase in player interviews that inevitably follows does also lead to an increase in player gaffes. For truly it seems as if no Spring Training is complete without several players contracting a case of foot in mouth disease. Among the most recently afflicted is one of our newest Angels, Josh Hamilton.

“It’s one of those things where Texas, especially Dallas, has always been a football town. So the good with the bad is they’re (the fans) supportive, but they also got a little spoiled, at the same time, pretty quickly. You can understand like a really true, true baseball town – and there are true baseball fans in Texas – but it’s not a true baseball town.”

Yikes. So…um…I can’t understand how Texas fans took offense at that, can you? ;) Seriously though, this isn’t pick on Josh Hamilton day for me. He’s not the first player and I doubt he’ll be the last to say something controversial well before Opening Day, and anyone watching the interview rather than just reading cold words on a page can see that Hamilton’s intentions with these comments were not malicious. He wasn’t trash talking, he was making his own honest observations in response to reporter questions.

In fact, I even agree with Hamilton…up to a point. Now hold on a second there Rangers fans before you get angry with me. In my opinion, Hamilton would be equally correct if he’d the same thing about Southern California fans, whether we’re calling them Los Angeles or Orange Country. Much like Texas, we also have great baseball fans in Southern California, but I wouldn’t call any of our towns baseball towns…and I do believe that by not including Anaheim or the greater OC/LA area in the list of “great baseball towns” that Hamilton gave in his attempt at a rebuttal, he was indicating as much himself.

Look, I spent the three day weekend hanging out with my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. They were taking a week’s vacation from their Boston home to warm up on the West Coast. We spent a fair bit of time talking about baseball – Hey, Seth and I are getting ready for a Spring Training trip; my nephew Henry has been enjoying Little League and is very excited about a great baseball camp his Boy Scout troop attended with PawSox players that culminated in a sleepover on the field; Henry’s annoyed with the Red Sox; I was trying with little success to pound out a blog post; the subject came up a lot. Anyway, just listening to my sister-in-law, Laura, and the kids talk, I was impressed once again with how much Boston is a real baseball town. Laura is a Los Angeles transplant and she is continually surprised at how much the average person in Boston knows about the Red Sox both past and current, by how many games they watch, by how frequently games and personnel moves are discussed. Compared to her experiences in Los Angeles, it’s night and day.

And while I’m certainly not complaining, in all honesty I can’t say the same thing about anywhere in Southern California, even if I were to somehow combine Dodgers fans and Angels fans together in my mind as if they were together rooting en masse for some sort of super Freeway Team, LOL! The Angels and the Dodgers both have great fans. Diehard fans. Fans who absolutely bleed their respective team’s colors. I interact with some of these amazing fans on a regular basis on Twitter and on the blogs…but half of the reason I started blogging and turned to the internet is because, when I’m not at a game, I don’t encounter many baseball fans in my daily life. Only once have I worked in a department where there were more baseball fans than not, and that was split evenly between Dodgers and Angels fans. Usually it’s me, myself and I. And in that one case, our department was unusual for the company.

When Seth worked a few miles from the Big A, he worked with a couple of diehard Angels fans (one of whom sweetly gave us season tickets on a regular basis) but their department was unusual for the building and whenever the company’s stadium seats were offered, it was the same handful of people asking for them every time. During the season, unlike what I hear about Boston, you can’t just walk into any bar in either county and expect the baseball game to be on. Some bars yes, and I make it a point to find and frequent those bars, but not every bar. It is common to have to “fight” basketball and football fans for the TV at points where the seasons overlap and, in my experience, it’s common for basketball and/or football to win out based on majority opinion. In fact, if anything, I would say that L.A. at least is a basketball town. Lakers. Blah.

And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that the same is true for the environs surrounding Arlington, expect in their case it’s football, not basketball that’s front and center. Yet, I don’t think anyone would accuse Rangers fans of lacking passion for their team – I certainly would never accuse them of such and Hamilton’s comments didn’t either. So there you have it, great baseball fans. Not a “real” baseball town. That said, of course Rangers fans are pissed. I would be too if the cleat were on the other foot, so to speak. In fact, I remember when John Lackey dissed Angels fans during his first Spring Training with the Red Sox. I can’t remember the exact language, but he said something very similar to what Hamilton has said, that Anaheim is not as great a baseball town as Boston. And at the time I was livid. How dare he?! But I’m much more mature about the whole thing now, of course. So, John, how’d that work out for you? ;) …okay, okay. More mature, but not yet actually mature.

Now, Lackey also accused Angels fans of not supporting him, which was not true and quite offensive. And, if you move past the ‘not a true baseball town’ part of the comment, the point of Hamilton’s entire quote is that those real baseball fans in Texas won’t boo him when he returns to play in Arlington in Angels red, only ‘not true’ baseball fans will boo him. Ummm…yeah. This part would also be not true – especially after this Hamilton interview! – and probably is quite offensive to his former fan base. But I digress because that isn’t the aspect of his comments people are griping on.

Look, I know we fans seem like contradictory creatures and, well, some of us are. We’re always complaining that we want the players to say something real during interviews instead of just spouting the usual clichés and then the minute that something real turns out to be a bit controversial, some of us whine about that…a lot. But that isn’t what this is. I would far rather hear players speak their mind — even when I don’t agree with them! — than the usual, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ ‘We just have to play them one game at a time.’ Blah blah. Blah blah. Blah blah. However, while players are speaking their minds I would just caution them to remember that speaking about the fans in anything less than complementary tones really is one of the classic blunders. You can’t win. Really. You can’t. Even when you’re right. Perhaps especially when you’re right. Isn’t that right, Chris Perez? ;) And just so long as players understand that going in and make their own decisions accordingly, we’re all good.

So, in the meantime, how does one recover from an acute case of well publicized foot in mouth disease? I only ask (rhetorically) because, maybe, in our current situation…well…it could prove to be useful information. Well, it’s very simple, one need only keep one’s mouth shut against the possibility of relapses or appearances of new symptoms and wait for the next afflicted player to open his mouth and pull all of the attention his way with a few poorly considered words. And with that, we say thank you, Octavio Dotel — or, at least, so it would appear – and move on. ;)

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