Results tagged ‘ Kendry Morales ’

I-5 Bias: the Hot Stove Edition

Welcome to I-5 Bias: the Hot Stove Edition! This is the first 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 recent Hot Stove 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 photo - blog

For this edition, we have posed six questions prompted our teams’ offseason activities 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 snarky ones), please ask away:

Which of your team’s offseason moves do you think was the strongest?

Kristen says: I imagine everyone is expecting me to say Josh Hamilton here. Hamilton was a huge signing and should be a boon to the team, combining with Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo to make the Angels offense a formidable one indeed (at least on paper — I am very careful about how excited I allow myself to get before the teams actually take the field when, as any longtime baseball fan can tell you, anything can happen). However, I actually think the Angels strongest move was the most recent — the trade for Jason Vargas. As a player, Hamilton is definitely on another level than Vargas and will probably contribute more to the team directly. But trading for Vargas set the rest of the Angels roster in ways that will benefit the entire team and make Hamilton’s talents that much more effective. In addition to providing another reliable, workhorse arm to a starting rotation that needed exactly that, the Kendrys Morales for Vargas trade ensured that the Angels do not have to make less advantageous trades to get said arm. They no longer have to worry about trading the more versatile slugger Mark Trumbo, whose bat has the potential to be more explosive in the lineup with Hamilton. They no longer have to worry about trading Peter Bourjos, who can instead be the gold glove caliber centerfield anchor between Hamilton and Trout in what should be a truly scary Angels outfield — oh, and having Bourjos and Trout tear up the base paths together won’t hurt either.

Matt says: As important Pitching was this off-season I’m not going to say it was Zach Greinke or Ryu. I think the strongest was Mark McGwire as the Dodgers hitting coach. The Dodgers had issues with getting hits and runs in games and that hurt the Dodgers playoff chances. Look at what Mark did as hitting coach with the Cardinals. They were pretty much in the top ten in Runs, Batting Avg, and OPB. For a Dodger Team with Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford that’s going to be huge help for them.

What, if anything, do you think your team still needs to do?

Matt says: I still think the Dodgers need to address the Bullpen and bench. Dodgers lack a LHP out the pen. Scott Elbert is still out, Paco Rodriguez isn’t really ready for a full stent like that, and missed the chance at resigning Randy Choate. The only thing the Dodgers did for the bullpen was resign Brandon League. They have Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang out there on the trade block so maybe they trade them for Bullpen help. Bench wise I believe the Dodgers have to address getting a 4th Outfielder because lets be honest Yasnel Puig isn’t really ready quite yet. They traded for Skip Shoemaker which help but a 1st/3rd Baseman off the bench along with a 4th Outfield will really help.

Kristen says: Well, if we were asking these questions earlier in the week, I would have said that the Angels need another starting pitcher in bold, italicized, all caps, 24 point font. But, thank you Santas Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno, that seems to be taken care of – see previous response. Instead I’m going to enter complete fairy tale land here (Well, it is Christmas after all — might as well wish big!) and say that I think the Angels need to move Vernon Wells, even if it means eating almost all of that huge contract. Nothing against Wells himself — he has been a smiling example of good attitude, trying hard to improve at the plate and gracefully moving wherever the team asked him to, including the bench. But this acquisition just hasn’t work out, and that’s putting it mildly. I would love it if any of the, quite frankly, trade porn rumors surrounding one team or another showing interest in Wells worked out…even if the deal is for practically nothing! The Angels would seriously benefit from having the room on the 25-man roster and I think Wells himself would benefit from the chances offered by that supposed panacea, the change of scenery.

Mike Trout takes a swing while A.J. Ellis readies for the catch. Angels vs. Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout takes a swing while A.J. Ellis readies for the catch. Angels vs. Dodgers, June 23, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Now that we know what you want your team to do, what do you think they will do? Any trade/move/signing predictions?

Kristen says: I think that, with the Vargas trade, the Angels are pretty much done. I suppose that you might hear about a smaller move here or there — one lesser known bullpen pitcher or non-top minor league prospect for another, but other than that they’re done making deals for the offseason. Although, if Jerry Dipoto chooses to see this as a challenge — because of course the Angels read my blog ;) — and moves Vernon Wells just to spite my prediction, I certainly wouldn’t mind being wrong.

Matt says: I think the Dodgers will end up Trading Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano along with Dee Gordon for a Left Hand Arm out the bullpen. Theres been rumors about Andre Ethier being traded but I don’t see that happening at all. As far as signings go I believe the Dodgers will look into the Market for a Outfielder or Corner position player off the bench but at the same time I think they’re done.

There is A LOT of money being spent in LA/OC these days. A LOT OF IT! Does your team’s payroll size or amount being spent worry you at all?

Matt says: To be honest yes it does. With the amount of money being put into the Dodgers I would hope winning comes with it. You can’t buy wins or world series and playing Yankee ball can only work when done right. I fear of the Dodgers being like the Red Soxs. All the money being spent and no playoff apperance or anything. Not only that but the fear of Contracts back loading up to where the Dodgers can’t do anything in the future but the Dodgers said they have deep pockets and a new 2 Billion dollar TV deal is coming in soon so we shall see what happens but I can’t say it doesn’t worry me or isn’t in the back of my mind. Everyone tries to play Yankee Ball but the only way that works is if you get the players that fit and generate wins.

Kristen says: Absolutely. Spending this much money should scare anyone. Every player, no matter how talented, is a risk. No one wants to see it happen but any player has the potential to age, slump, lose their swing/pitching location/etc., fail to mesh with a given team and (God forbid) get injured. And when you’ve spent outrageous sums of money acquiring that player, the end result of any such occurrence is devastating because suddenly you’re priced out of just eating that paycheck one way or another to move the player off your roster. And if this happens on several such deals? Yeah, say hello to a nice block of ever-so-much-fun-for-the-whole-team-family “rebuilding” seasons. No. Thank. You!

Here’s the thing though – I think that more and more teams are going to need to come to terms with this level of spending as we go on. Teams are wisely locking up their talent before they hit free agency with greater frequency, leaving smaller free agency pools for teams in a buying mode to fight over. Nothing against Zack Greinke — he’s one hell of a pitcher and I wish the Angels had been able to keep him — but do you really think he would have garnered this impressive a contact if the Giants, Phillies and Angels had allowed Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and Jered Weaver to hit the free agency market in 2013 as scheduled? And Greinke is just the latest example of this phenomenon. And, of course, when quality players are making those kinds of dollars you know that marquee players will command even more from their current team or on the FA market (Holy Staggering Albert Pujols Contract, Batman!!). The end result is that, while the Dodgers and Angels may seem to be leading the charge at the moment, more and more teams will be joining in that charge out of necessity over the next several seasons — as a trend this is both kind of exciting and very scary.

Elian Herrera leads off first while Albert Pujols prepares for a thrown down. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Elian Herrera leads off first while Albert Pujols prepares for a thrown down. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The MLBN analysts seem to think that the Dodgers and Angels offseason moves are all about one upping each other. Do you think there is any truth to this? How do you feel about that?

Kristen says: To quote Annie Savoy, “Baseball may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth, and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.” Or, from the owners’ perspectives it’s also a business. I’m sure Arte Moreno and Magic Johnson and partners do consider things like Los Angeles/Orange County market share when they’re making decisions about advertising, overall ballpark experience and the price of parking, beer, etc. But I highly doubt that this thinking extends to personnel decisions. Competitive teams that win games and reach the Postseason make fans happy and draw them to the ballpark. In order to do that, it’s far more important to be competitive within one’s own division than with an interleague rival as I’m sure all owners and GMs involved are well aware. I can see why the timing of some of the Angels and Dodgers free agency signings lead to the comments in question on MLBN, but I think that both the signings and their timing had little to do with Freeway Series rivalry. Yes, the Angels wanted Zack Greinke and so did the Dodgers. But at least half a dozen other teams also seriously wanted Greinke. He was the best free agent starting pitcher on the market this season. Once the Dodgers signed Greinke, I’m not surprised that the Hamilton signing followed so quickly on its heels. Suddenly the Angels had a lot less pokers in the big money free agents fire and could just concentrate their efforts on Hamilton.

Matt says: You know that’s an interesting question. I honestly don’t think it’s one upping at all and theres two reasons for that. 1- The Dodgers and Angels are filling needs that prevented them from making the playoffs. Thing was it just so happen the Angels signed Hamilton in the heat of the Dodgers making serious moves. 2- The Angels turned out to be the mystery team that was after Hamilton and got him just like last year with Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson So they’ve done this before. People predicted the Dodgers having money to throw at Free Agents before Off-Season. I don’t believe it’s one upping at all but It has caught the attention of the National Media so I like the westcoast attention the Baseball Media is giving.

Now on to something really important – the annual LA/OC billboard war. Which team do you think will have the most/best billboards plastered all over town?

Matt says: Hahaha It was a year ago when the Angels had billboards all over LA/OC until the Dodgers got new owners. I believe it’ll be fairly even. In the OC you have Albert Pujols, Jarred Weaver, Josh Hamilton, and Mike Trout where in LA you have Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Adrian Gonzalez. I believe the Dodgers will have them posted all over L.A. knowing Magic and his promoting of the Dodger brand and the Angels will do a lot of marking themselves as well. It’ll be interesting to see.

Kristen says: *snerk* The “billboard wars” always make me smile and laugh. I take the 605 freeway to work. Most seasons that freeway is littered with Dodgers billboards heading south and Angels billboards heading north as if both teams were making a concerted effort to convert their rival fan base. Honestly, the arrival of the billboards is one of my favorite So Cal signs of spring. Last season at the height of all of the Frank McCourt ick in L.A., the Angels rather dominated the local billboard space and, as much as I like seeing red everywhere I look, it just wasn’t nearly as much fun as when it’s a “battle.” (Yes, mine is a long and boring commute and I take my simple pleasures where I can. Why do you ask?) However, between Arte Moreno (who made his fortune in advertising and billboards, don’cha know) and Magic Johnson (who also seems to have an admirable grasp of the importance of good marketing) I am sure both that teams will being trying to convert us all once again this season — looking forward to it, in fact!

Acquiring Jason Vargas, Keeping (and Playing?!) Peter Bourjos and Other Things that Make this Blogger Giddy Happy

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. So, these two Dirt Bags walk out to the mound and…and…well, suddenly I’m a much happier Angels fan, that’s what. No, no punch line. Just that. See, early yesterday I started writing a post that was quite ranty (about the need for another starting pitcher, a good one this time) and involved a great deal of begging and pleading (please, please don’t trade either Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos to accomplish this). I don’t like writing begging, pleading rants at all and I liked both the state of the starting rotation and the, seemingly likely, prospect of trading Bourjos and/or Trumbo with or without additional prospects in order to correct the situation even less.

But instead, thanks to Santas Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno, I get to write about the Angels trading Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for Jason Vargas instead (another Long Beach State baseball team alum, joining fellow Dirt Bag Jered Weaver in the rotation). What’s not to like about that? Yes, the Angels and, indeed, this Angels fan will absolutely miss Kendrys in the lineup and I even think that he will improve a bit more this season as he moves further and further away from his last surgery. However, I think that with the addition of Josh Hamilton, we will miss Kendrys a lot less than we would miss the more versatile Trumbo. In addition to slugging, Trumbo can cover both corner outfield positions, first base and – yes I’m going to say it, quiet you – if he actually gets practice time during Spring Training this season there is even the possibility of him covering third. Hey, it could happen.

And — and this is a huge and in my book, more of an AND, really – Trumbo can now spend most of his time in the now vacated designated hitter’s position allowing for a regular outfield featuring Mike Trout and Hamilton in the corners and Bourjos playing an even better centerfield than Trout. Yes, you read that correctly, an even better centerfield than Trout – Bourjos is alternately just as fast and faster depending on the task in question, tends to run better routes and has a stronger arm. And watching Trout and Bourjos dominate the outfield together on the rare occasions I’ve gotten to see it is one of my current favorite delights in baseball…adding Hamilton to that mix? Every day or very nearly so? Um, yeah, I’ll be in my bunk.

But Bourjos can’t hit, whine the naysayers. Correct, he can’t hit…when he’s only getting one or two innings of playing time a week as he was in 2012 or during his first half season in the majors. When Bourjos has a full season of regular playing time however, well we only have a one season sample size for this but, while he started out slow to be sure in 2011, Bourjos hit .271 with a .765 OPS (a decidedly speed enhanced figure, and yay for that) and 12 homeruns for the season. I for one would really like to see what the kid can do with another full season of regular playing time and it sure sounds like Dipoto and Mike Scioscia would like to see that as well. Yo ho, yo ho, it’s a lightning fast Angels lineup for me!

Um, hey, blogger lady? Sorry to interrupt and all but so far you’ve talked about every single aspect of this Vargas trade except Vargas himself. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Patience. There was a reason for that. In my opinion this deal is every bit as important to the Angels for it allowed the team to do in terms of bolstering defense while maintaining offense as for what it did for the starting rotation. However, when it comes to the starting rotation, the Angels just moved from having an Ace, a positive and three question marks to having an Ace, two positives and Scioscia’s choice of the two most promising question marks out of the three. Is it perfect? No. But it is a lot better. And, with this outfield and this offense, on paper at least it all looks pretty darned good. The same can also be said of Vargas himself. Yes, that 4.35 career ERA looks a little scary. But I think this is a case where the numbers don’t really reflect the reality of Vargas’s pitching. Vargas has pitched better than that 4.35 ERA for three of his four seasons – the most recent three – with Seattle. And last season he was good for 14 wins…with Seattle’s outfield and Seattle’s offense. Wait’ll he gets a load of ours!

 

Looking Back at the Angels Wednesday Walk Off Win Against the Mainers and Forward

Two posts in one day? I know! September really does do crazy things to us baseball fans. In the last post I discussed the latest game and with this post I ask you to take a step into the Not-Really-So-Way Back Machine all the way back – not really that far back – to Wednesday night’s game. Yes, an Angels walk off win against the Mariners. And can I just tell you how much more fun it is to write about that game after Friday night’s win than it was when I started writing it after Thursday’s ick? Because Thursday’s game was a maddening, error filled, flaccid offense, overly generous bullpen kind of a loss that actually had me singing the chorus of Build Me Up Buttercup while writing this post and I shouldn’t have to tell you how wrong that is. (Buttercup is pure evil, a 7th inning stretch crime against Angels fans and players alike.) Friday’s win, on the other hand, was all sunshine, lollipops, single admission double headers, lit halos, kisses from my husband, good bourbon, flourless chocolate cake, three day weekends, glasses of petite verdot and everything else that is awesomely wonderful I can possibly think of, much like Wednesday’s game…

Mike Trout and Torii Hunter warm up in between innings, all smiles. I think Torii has set the perfect tone balance between fun and serious in the outfield like any captain should, though the great attitudes of his fellow outfielders probably don’t hurt. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Barring the so remote as to be nonexistent chance of playoff tickets falling into my lap, Wednesday night was my last game for 2012 and what a game it was!! Everyone did whatever was needed to win. Of course, it was not C.J. Wilson’s best outing – I know, now there’s a second half shocker! But, in this case, not his best outing was much better than C.J.’s last two and you could see him really reaching deep and trying to help the team but willing a quality start into existence. A for effort and, when it comes to both baseball and life, that means a lot in my book. So, when I say everyone did whatever was needed to win, I’m including C.J. in that, though I think that all of us, including C.J., hope that his marks for execution are higher next season.

It was a better outing for C.J. Wilson than we’ve seen in a while and he did bust his butt to make it so, but he still remains very weak in the 2nd half, a problem that concerned me back when the Angels were exploring signing him. This is an area where I really wanted to be wrong and, given that he’s ours for a long time, an area where I hope I can be wrong next year. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And, of course, the fact that this was not Felix Hernandez’s best outing of the year didn’t exactly hurt. Of course, the Angels as much as anyone seem to have King Felix’s number year after year, so high fives all around to the Angels offense too. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But I digress… Back to everyone did whatever was necessary to win. The bullpen. Was. Awesome!! Repeat. The bullpen. Was. Awesome!! And the Angels sure were grateful for their oh-so-necessary help. In a season where the bullpen has been alternately an asset and a detriment, and I’ve been whining as loudly as anyone when they resemble to Arson Squad of old, I feel it is absolutely imperative to shout it out to the interwebs whenever the bullpen rocks it, and oh boy did they rock it!

Jerome Williams continues admirably in his current role of long reliever. I cannot overstate the importance of Williams’s contributions to the team this game, in CJ’s last start and in any number of others where he came into the game in a do or die situation and _did_ — and how! — getting the Angels back on an even keel for the duration of his outing. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Kevin Jepsen stares down a runner in the 8th. Jepsen has been an absolute revelation this season, becoming a reliable, at times even dominant, reliever after repairing his knee. I was so happy to see him get the win. His contributions to the Angels this season also cannot be overstated, especially in a season where the bullpen has been a asset to the opposing team almost as often as to the Angels. Now, he did have a shaky night on the mound in Texas last night, but it all tuned out okay. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…And then Ernesto Frieri (with Kendrys Morales getting moving with the pitch in the foreground) was our Ernasty once again, sitting the Mariners down 1, 2, 3 to close out the 9th and set the stage for the Torii Hunter clutchness that was to come… Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yes, there are holes in the Angels lineup, have been all season – though mostly not the same holes all season it should be noted. But this game even the guys who are struggling busted their asses to do as many little things as possible to keep the game alive and their efforts were effective – which, in this often unkind game we all love, we all know is not always the case. Their efforts combined with those from players on a hot streak made all the difference.

Chris Iannetta in the act of hitting a crucial single that would eventually mean the tying run in the 7th. Check out Mike Trout doing his best Keanu Reeves “Woah” impression in the on deck circle over Iannetta’s clutchness. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Kendrys Morales takes off after a hit. It’s so exciting to have him back and see him playing so well. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

First baseman Kendrys Morales and third baseman Alberto Callaspo stay loose during a pitching change. Both players made crucial contributions to the game, hitting their way on base an scoring the first two runs of the game in the second in addition making killer defensive plays. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Peter Bourjos sighting!! He came in to pinch run for Chris Iannetta, getting back to the bag just in time here, and stayed to score a run, sacrifice bunt the winning run to 3rd in the crucial bottom of the 9th, and make a fantastic inning ending catch in the 8th. Quite the productive outing for our Fleet Pete. (I still want to see him join the outfield more.) Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Part of the reason that starting to write this after Thursday’s completely avoidable loss is that my throat was still raw and scratchy from cheering the Angels to victory just the night before. (And I actually had a slight bruise on my palm from smacking the concrete ledge in front of me in celebration of a few great plays, because my clumsiness literally knows no bounds. Doh!) One of the biggest reasons my throat was sore was all of the cheering and “Keep Torii!” shouting I was doing as Mr. Torii Clutch Hunter got it done again and again. And, let me just tell you, soothing hot tea has never tasted so good. It was the tea and honey of victory! ;)

Torii Hunter at bat with his game face firmly in place. My throat was raw from cheering by the end of the game and a large part of the reason was this amazing player. #KeepTorii indeed!! Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Torii Hunter at bat, Mike Trout on first and Maicer Izturis on third. The air was alive with possibility as fans – or at least the sadly few who came to the game – rose to their feet and cheered hard for Torii Hunter to be clutch in his last at bat and, oh, he was clutch and then some. I snapped this pick literally right before the last pitch and happy pandemoniom ensued. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…And then Torii Hunter’s walk off single. The crowd went wild. The players erupted from the dugout to celebrate. It was the perfect cap to the perfect game to end my season at the ballpark on. And if the celebration was a little overly playoff like, I say so what. Hey, if a team has to play playoff intensity and quality baseball from here on out with playoff berth stakes both in and out of their control occurring every moment, then I say playoff like celebrations are only fitting. For every win even if they feel like it. And no, I don’t think this is too many photos to post from my last game of the season. Why do you ask? ;)

The moment Maicer Izturis crossed the plate on Torii Hunter’s walk off single into left center, jubiliant teammates mobbed Torii, our hero, and the celebration began… Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…and continued…Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…and continued, as well it should! Finally the celebration ushers a now jerseyless Torii Hunter toward the dugout. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Suffice to say, if Thursday’s team shows up in Texas and Seattle, we’re hosed. End of season. But if the team of Wednesday’s and Friday’s games continues to show up, then anything and every wonderful thing is possible. You know what? I think they can do it! Go Angels!

And with that, I leave you with *sniff, sniff* the last of my silly moments photos from the 2012 season:

Erick Aybar and Casper Wells “Um, man. Your pants. Did you know you have a gaping hole in your…” “Yes, thank you. You’re only like the 100th person to point that out to me” And this caption dialog, dear reader, is probably pretty close to the mark. Aybar kept looking at the pants and laughing while talking to Wells and Wells looked annoyed but laughing. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Bobby Wilson clearly has given Vernon Wells and Jered Weaver a lot to consider with whatever he’s saying. Angels dugout philosophy sessions? If it isn’t something along the lines of philosophy a’la Clerks, I would be very disappointed in Mr. Wilson. ;) Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mariners outfield triage during a pitching change. It was a gnatty kind of a night and Chone Figgens thinks he sees it…no…yes…right there…almost got it…darn it, would you frickin’ hold still already Casper Wells, while Franklin Gutierrez stands by waiting to provide a second opinion. Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The Angels outfield kicks back during a pitching change. Mike Trout’s very obvious “Who, me?” expression and gesture cracked me up. Was Mark Trumbo accusing him of something silly and Torii Hunter arbitrating? Angels vs. Mariners, September 26, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Positively Gushing about the Angels Awesomeness and September Baseball Fun in General

Eleven wins in the last twelve games. Three sweeps and a series win. Moving ahead in the AL Wild Card race game by game by game. Back. To. Back. Sweeps!! The season’s end results may still officially be one great big question mark but, oh my lord, is it ever fun to be an Angels fan right now!! The guys are just on fire. The games are exciting and hard fought on both sides…and they actually mean something. I mean, Friday’s game against the Tigers alone was everything I think September baseball should be.

The best part of the whole thing is…well, let’s be honest here. The best part from my perspective is the Angels. But almost as wonderful as that best part is the fact that, with both leagues’ Wild Card races running hot and heavy, there are a lot of fan bases enjoying their September every bit as much as I am and there is a lot of great baseball out there for the enjoyment of all. I have to say, if this is what September’s going to look like from here on out, my journey towards acceptance of the new playoffs format isn’t going to be a very long one at all.

Soooooooo, long time no blog. And, thus, we have much to discuss…

Jered Weaver’s Tendonitis

On the one hand, it’s hard to lose Jered Weaver in the rotation at this point in the season and no injury news is ever welcome…except…well, I have to admit that I was actually quite relieved to hear about the tendonitis. It means that the trainers have identified a clear and fixable reason why Weaver’s been having so many troubles in his last few starts. Because, seriously, I was starting to worry that somehow…you know what? Let’s just not even go there, actually. Suffice to say, while I wasn’t panicking or anything yet, I was starting to get a little worried. Now, I’m just hoping Weaver and the staff balance the team’s needs appropriately with his body’s needs so that, when he does return, he is as fit and well as any pitcher ever can be come September…and October because it’s going to happen this year. I can feel it!

And, in the meantime, kudos to the rest of the rotation and to the bullpen for kicking ass and taking names! …even if it has involved occasional indulgences in fan torture. Hey, we’re supposed to elevate our heart rates for at least a half hour a day, right? ;)

Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales

I swear, as each season rolls to the end, the race to secure a playoff berth becomes as much a game of chicken with the lurking specter of player injuries as it is a competition with the other teams. Sadly, the Angels have flinched a few times already and a couple of players are fighting injuries. Albert Pujols’ strained calf had as much potential for disaster as Weaver tendonitis but, thanks to all parties involved, the team is rolling with this punch as well. Even if running the bases looks painful, Pujols has gamely taken over the primary DH role for the time being and is just raking at the plate, and all with a huge smile on his face and plenty of encouragement for the whole team on his lips. I was always a fan, but now it’s safe to say I’m a huge fan!

And as for the other half of this equation, Kendrys Morales temporarily resumed his old role at first base so Pujols could rehab the calf. At first I wondered how this was going to work. Kendrys has played first here and there throughout the season and it is clear that he can still move and make some pretty tricky plays. But day in and day out? On that ankle? Nearly two weeks later, Kendrys is still working out just fine at first and he also continues to absolutely pound the ball. Seriously, this weekend was as much the Kendrys show as it was the Trout show. Among his many contributions, on Friday the man hit a legit triple. Yes, on that ankle. ‘Nuff said.

Except…if you want to read a little bit more about Kendrys, my latest LA Angels Insider piece is about the accident and his recovery season. Check it out if you get the chance. :)

Oh yeah, and Then There’s that Trout Kid…

Mike Trout. Can anyone ever praise this young man enough? I know I can’t, but that won’t stop me from trying. He’s actually going through a bit of a rough patch right now but that still means crucial hits, scoring important runs, back to back leadoff homeruns, leaping and diving plays in center, oh, and a walk off robbed homerun. Yeah, you read that right, a walk off robbed homerun. He began Saturday night’s game by putting the Angels on the board with a leadoff homerun and finished it by robbing Prince Fielder of a home run for the final out, thus earning the Captain Morgan pose salute from Torii Hunter — I don’t know when exactly the guys started this bit of fantastic silliness, but I sure hope it continues.

Watching Trout play baseball is like watching all of the stories I have heard about the Golden Age of baseball come alive before my eyes. And to think, he’s still maturing as a player. I don’t think I can fully wrap my brain around what that might mean for future seasons, but I am thrilled at thought of spending them in a more or less perpetual state of dropped jaw. (Some mother, somewhere: If you don’t close your mouth and stop making that face, your face is going to freeze in that silly shocked expression forever! Angels Fan: As long as I get to keep watching Trouty play, Mom, I don’t care!)

Suffice to say that right now the Angels destiny is firmly in their own hands and those hands – along with their bats, gloves, arms and legs — are looking strong, steady and capable of great things.

Angels Take 2 of 3 in the 2012 Freeway Series Part 1

This week, the Angels proved once more that not only can you go home again, but you can rack up the Ws while you’re there. Okay, so Dodgers Stadium is more of that ‘on again, off again friend’s house where you sublet a room for a lot longer than originally intended during the awkward transition between your suddenly waaaaay too small first apartment and your first home purchase’ for the Angels than an actual home, but you get the general idea.

Mike Trout at bat. He went 0fer this game which will happen from time to time. But, as you can see, we had fun seats. On a side note, when I can skim through thumbnails of all of my photos and know who is at the plate by their swing/stance, I think it’s safe to say I’m a little invested in this team. ;) Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Seth and I went to the Tuesday night game, the only game the Angels lost in the series…of course my Dodgers fan sister went to the Wednesday night game, and that was her first baseball game in years, so we can’t always get what want and sometimes the Rolling Stones just might write a song about it, or something like that.

Jerome williams communicates with Hank Conger. I was so sorry to see Williams get roughed up in the 8th. He pitched a great game and deserved a better ending, but some games that’s just baseball. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Tuesday night, the Angels only scored on Dodgers errors, which kind of sums up that game, really – neither team played particularly well. Joe West was just being Joe West, which is to say terrible and arrogant in his own ineptitude while he was at it. But the fact of the matter is that if the Angels had played better ball the blown call would not have mattered. It pissed me off most mightily at the time, but such is baseball. Sometimes you win the terrible calls, sometimes you lose the terrible calls and sometimes only great calls rain down upon both teams…just generally not in games officiated by Joe West.

Ah, a manager arguing with Joe West over a bad call. Now there’s something you don’t see every day…I mean, there is an offseason, and umpires get days off too… The truly unusual things here was that the call was so bad that easy going Maicer Izturis got vsibly angry over it. You can see how Aybar has pulled him off to the side to calm him down on the left of the photo. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The rest of the series, however, was great. Go figure, the “still best record in the majors even though they’ve been losing more since Matt Kemp went on the DL again” Dodgers have a pretty good team and the Angels gave them a run for their money and won. I prefer it when the Angels are hitting a little better and not leaving so many guys on base. However, they usually came up with just what they needed to do to win (Like Erick Aybar coming through in the clutch with a homerun into the Dodgers bleachers?!? Wow!! You just can’t script this stuff!) and I tend to think that the bats were suffering from a little altitude lag, if you will, after the series in Colorado rather then this being indicative of a troubling trend. I think they’ll be fully recovered this weekend.

Albert Pujols moves for the pickoff attempt as Dee Gordon dives back to the bag. Pujols looked much happier to be back at 1st. He did not have the best game at 3rd on Tuesday…or even a good one, really. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The pitching looked good. Oh, Garrett Richards had those rocky first two innings, but he recovered, and Jerome Williams looked great, he just was left in one inning two long, hind sight being 20/20. And C.J. was dealing. The bullpen was decidedly the good bullpen and defense made me all kinds of happy…on Monday and Wednesday at any rate. This time out, Albert at 3rd looked really awkward on Tuesday – I mean reeeeeaaaaaalllly awkward – and the rest of the infield kind of followed suit, leading to a wise retuning of everyone to their normal positions in the 7th. Hey, small sample sizes. This could still work to get Kendrys in the lineup one or two more times this month…or not. We’ll see.

Kendrys Morales (shown here moving with runner Juan Rivera), on the other hand, looked pretty good at first, not as agile as he was before the injury, but still pretty good and likely to get better with time. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And now I leave you with a return to one of my favorite pastimes last season, fun with captions:

Albert Pujols and Juan Uribe have an animated conversation at third. Hmmm…what could they be saying? Albert: ‘Your fans, man, they sure have “boo” and “suck” down.’ Juan: *rolls eyes* ‘No kidding! At least when you guys are in town they mix in a little “overrated.” Variety is key, man. Variety is key.’ Of course, leaving a guy stranded at third tends to tak all of the elegance out of the run by trash talking. I mean, LOBsters are not exacrtly known for their witty snark. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

he Angels have a meeting on the mound. I mostly amused by the exchange on the left. Yes, Albert completely bothched the play at third. No maybe about it but, seriously Aybar. _You’re_ going to chew him out for mental lapses and bad plays?? Either that or the Angels plan to enter the Laguna Beach Pagent of the Masters as DiVinci’s Last Supper and try to seize any moment they can to practice… Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…Okay, clearly the Angels need a _lot_ more practice. But I think their reenactment of this half of the famous painting, at least, is coming along quite nicely, don’t you? (Obviously, not my image, LOL! Leonardo Di Vinci’s Last Supper, cropped for comedic effect)

Erick Aybar in the middle of making a great play the required a ballet worthy pivot. ‘Hey, check out my moves Donnie Baseball. Think you can get a part for me in the Nutcracker this year?’ Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout with Jered Weaver (and I think John Hester) in the dugout. I love that Trout seems to spend every non playing second chatting with existing Angels players and staff, soaking up knowledge…or necessary shortcut tips to avoid traffic on the way out of Dodgers Stadium. Hey, there is no such thing as wasted information, right? Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

 

Ervin Santana and Alberto Callaspo in the dugout – when you’re sitting the game out, even the smallest of sunflower seed choice decisions take on great importance. Angels at Dodgers, June 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

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

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

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

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

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

Just a couple of random thoughts from the weekend:

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

 

Don’t Look Now, But the Angels Are Back + Notes on Kendrys & Vacation

So apparently the Angels were much more in focus than I thought, and halleluiah for that! Sometimes it’s okay to be wrong, other times it’s downright awesome. Hot pitching. Clutch bats. An already improving bullpen that jumped to pretty darned good with two lights out closer options. Homeruns – yes, and from that guy too! I think it’s safe to say that the Machine is coming back online nicely – see, patience is a virtue. I hate that injuries occurred prompting its creation, but I do love the way our outfield-of-the-future-come-a-little-early is looking. And, hello? Come from behind wins? Don’t look now but I think the Angels are back.

Okay, there’s still some tinkering that needs to happen. A few or, you know, a lot less guys left on base would be nice. And there is the little matter of Texas and their smaller – dare I say slowly shrinking? – but still substantial lead. But things are coming along nicely. And, go figure, take six out of seven against your division rivals including a 4-game sweep of the Mariners, jumping from last place to second, and suddenly optimism returns to the season outlook. I’m really looking forward to this week’s home stand and can’t wait to see the outcome if we meet Texas with this swagger instead of the nervous gaffs of a few weeks ago.

Thoughts on Kendrys Morales

Since the season began, Kendrys Morales has had his good days at the plate and his bad days. A few days ago, reporters and fans alike were concerned with the number of his recent 0-fers and today he is a hero after hitting 3 for 4 with a homerun and 2 RBIs. As for me? I’m just grateful he’s able to play again and am unsurprised and calm about the inconsistency. I know that being a DH is not as strenuous as being a position player, but think of what he’s asking of his ankle after, in essence, two seasons of immobility punctuated by rehab activities. I expect him to hit because he is a natural hitter. But I also expect him to have tired and sore days in addition to the usual small expected slumps an uninjured hitter will go through in a given season.

However, I think that Kendrys is another player with whom a little patience from the fans will eventually be rewarded. I think that based on what we’ve seen so far, he will contribute this season, even if his contributions come in waves. But in the meantime he’s building up strength, getting his swing back and getting into his old groove so that next season we stand a good chance of having the old Kendrys back 100% of the time – at least in the DH role ‘cause it’s not like we’ll need a new first baseman. And I for one think this possibility is worth putting up with more bad days this season than one might expect from your typical hitter – especially if the good days look like Sunday!

On a Personal Note… 

Of course, as luck would have it, I was away this weekend so we only grabbed bits of the killer games on MLB.com Gameday and Twitter. Yeah, yeah, I know. The first step is admitting that you have a problem. Don’t worry, we have never sacrificed quality vacation time to stay indoors for the game and we never will. Witness, we spent Sunday hiking around the various trails in Yosemite Valley, not trying to catch the Angels day game. (Check out my Twitter page for a few photos if you are interested.) But, especially in the evenings, if we don’t have any other plans, what could be more relaxing and vacationy than kicking back with the game or seeking out a local’s haunt to watch it at? Besides, this was primarily a working vacation anyway, helping empty out the storage unit and move all of my husband’s family’s stuff back into the rebuilt cabin in Yosemite. We went from having the cabin totaled by a falling tree and the resulting snow melt/water damage/mold created by the hole in the roof a little over two years ago, to this last summer:

And, finally just in time for summer 2012, this:

 

…and I am looking forward to many fun trips back up here to come!

The Obligatory What’s Wrong with Albert Pujols Post

Mike Scioscia left Albert Pujols out of the lineup today, a common Scioscia tool to give a struggling player a day away from the grind to mentally refresh for, hopefully, a new approach. So I don’t think I can avoid it any longer. Apparently it’s high time for the obligatory what’s wrong with Albert Pujols post. Well, I do blog about the Angels, after all, so you know that tackling this topic is practically a contractual obligation. ;)

As you may or may not have noticed, although I do comment on Pujols from time to time, I’ve pretty much avoided arm chair batting coaching, ranting, raving, advising, foaming at the mouth, begging, pleading and/or keeping a running lack of homerun tally anywhere even remotely in his general direction. It’s not that I don’t care, far from it. It’s just that I am absolutely certain he’ll come around eventually, though I am coming to realize that eventually may be a lot later than I originally thought, and while his slumbering bat is certainly a problem, fixating on it fixes nothing and ignores a whole host of other problems that have been far thornier for going on three seasons now.

As for what’s wrong with Albert? Well, there’s the new league/new ball parks/new opposing pitchers theory. At least in the short term that was probably part of it. Angels blogger True Grich suggests that moving away from his wife and children, who are remaining in St. Louis for the time being might have a lot to do with things. I can’t say I disagree. I mean going for long periods of time without…companionship, someone to lighten up your off time, hugs from the kidlets, comfort, laughing together, someone to talk through the bad stuff with and anything else that one might add after those ellipses, when one was used to enjoying those things on a regular basis would throw anyone for a loop, especially when things aren’t going well. MLB Network recently compared the dimensions of Angels stadium to Busch stadium, pointing out that Pujols’ Angels stadium on the warning track fly outs would simply have been out of the ballpark at Busch stadium. Well, honestly, I’d been wondering about this very thing and given that many of Pujols’ homeruns weren’t of the tape measure variety, I can see how this would seriously mess up a person’s swing for a while.

I think all three of these things are part of the problem, but I actually think that the main problem is the homeruns, or rather that homeruns have become the fixation. When he is more himself, Pujols hits for average and for power, which means that he hits a lot of singles and doubles and those figure heavily into his RBI and run totals. He keeps saying he isn’t a homerun hitter that he’s more of a doubles guy and this is true in the same sense that Jered Weaver says he’s not really a strikeout pitcher. Strikeouts aren’t Weaver’s primary goal, they just happen a lot when he’s on his game. Ditto for Pujols and the homeruns. When he’s on his game and hitting well, the homeruns just come along with all of other hits.

But ever since the Angels signed Pujols, the fixation has been on his eventual homerun total and when he was going to hit the first one. This wouldn’t be a problem if Albert himself wasn’t also fixated on that first homerun and obviously swinging for the fences. Which came first, the Angels’ expectations or Pujols’ pressure on himself? I don’t even think it matters but somehow he needs to start believing his own words again and just focus on hitting the ball and the rest will come. Heck, homeruns are a wonderful, highly productive tool in the lineup, but if Pujols gives us an around .300 batting average and high RBI and run total, I personally wouldn’t care about how many of those hits were specifically homeruns.

I really hope that taking a day off has helped Pujols clear his head…or reach the point where he’s frustrated enough to brute force stubborn his way through his problems. But I don’t think it would hurt to also arrange a visit from his family, wipe the homerun thoughts completely from his mind and watch a tape of that MLBN segment, you know, just in case.

In the meantime, it’s sad to hear everyone on the team talking about Pujols in terms that are the very definition of Mendoza line – Yes, he’s struggling at the plate, but he’ll come around and in the mean time look at that defense. – but I’m afraid that’s just the way it’s going to have to be until he figures it out and comes around. The fact of the matter is that his defense is out of sight and do we really want to be the team who decided after less than two months that a.326 lifetime batting average over 11 seasons and one+ month (even after all of this ick) is somehow a fluke? Because even if takes most of this season for Pujols to get back to his usual form, it will be worth it in the long run…that said, if it does take most of the season, I may have to rethink my no ranting, raving, whining and/or foaming at the mouth policy. I’m just saying’.

*     *     *     *     *

Now, on to something happier. After two games in a row that made me think temper tantrums are seriously wasted on the young, the Angels offense finally showed back up, thanks primarily to a significant youth uprising. Mike Trout sent his first homerun of the season sailing over the wall. Mark Trumbo hit a Trumbomb that may just now have landed, I mean we’re talking into right into Big Papi 2010 Homerun Derby territory. C.J. Wilson pitched a good game tonight, the defense was on and the Angels offense pushed and pushed again, forcing and then taking advantage of several Blue Jay errors. It was like watching Friday’s game but in reverse and, you know, fun! ;) If Trumbo, Trout and Kendrys Morales (who also had a big night) aren’t all in the lineup tomorrow after the night they had then I truly will think, love Scioscia though I do, that there is an evil Magic 8 Ball making all too many of the lineup decisions.

Jered Weaver is a beast, that is all. Well, maybe not all…

So, Kristen. How was the ballgame?

Oh, it was nice. Fun. You know. They threw the ball, caught the ball and hit the ball. Couple of good plays. Just another Halo victory, as the announcers say. Oh…yeah…there was one other thing…

OMG!!! OMG!!! Jered Weaver threw a no hitter!!! And it was one of the most amazing things I have seen in my entire life. He was so on, he made it look effortless. I am still bouncing with excitement as I type this hours later and might quite possibly still be cheering were it not for the fact that I am hoarse from all of the cheering I did at the game – my neighbors are grateful and they don’t even know it, he he. Congratulations, Jered! This was beyond well deserved!!!

The team mobs Jered Weaver in congratulations. Check out the hair flip. ;) Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And the pitching staff gets in n the congratulations too! Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, yeah. That was the first no hitter I’ve ever seen in person, a thought I heard echoed by many, most of whom are older than I and have therefore seen a great deal more live baseball, as the jubilant crowd lingered, mingled and eventually meandered their way out. It was just so magical that I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave. I know I had to pry myself away from the rails. So, now I am going to try to string together a few coherent thoughts about the game and the Angels beyond just exclaiming Wow!! over and over again, but I can’t make any promises on that front. As I said before, I’m pretty giddy.

So, as you may have heard a place or two…or ten…thousand, the Angels had a rough April. Enough pieces were there for a winning team, but those pieces just weren’t working together or at the same time. The team desperately needed not just a spark, but several sparks in rapid succession, sufficient to get a fire a going. So, starting Friday, the team makes several needed changes. Spark. Last night Jerome Williams pitched a gem, a complete game, three-hit shutout. Spark! And the offense started to pick up – Hello Torii ‘Homerun’ Hunter and Howie ‘one double shy of the cycle’ Kendrick! Spark!!

Torii Hunter warms up in right field. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick! A double shy of the cycle last night. 4 for 4 tonight!! No ‘rest days’ for this hot bat, Sosh. Please!!! Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Then Jered Weaver takes the mound and flat out deals – 9 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 9 strikeouts and 1 walk. He threw 77 of his 121 pitches for strikes. Spark! Spark!! Spark!!!

Jered Weaver almost makes it look effortless during his no hitter. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And to top it all off, finally gifted with a lineup that simultaneously contained all of the teams’ best hitters, the Angels offense just went to town. Nine runs on 15 hits?! Baseballs were flying over the wall, zinging into the outfield, sneaking through the infield. It was a sight to behold. Spark! SPARK! Whooooosh. Conflagration? I hope so. We’ll find out this series when we face the Blue Jays.

Kendrys Morales was a beast, hitting just a triple shy of the cycle! This is not the most clear photo, but it’s the only photo I got of him actually touching home plate after his homerun and the motion was so careful and deliberate – note that he his watching that foot hit and not looking at anything else – but triumphant that I felt it spoke volumes. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick gets a high five as he enters the dugout after homering in the 4th. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Once a first baseman…Mark Trumbo and Twins first baseman Chris Parmalee chat during a pitching change. Trumbo had a great game all around. He went 2 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs and made several great plays at 3rd. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Torii Hunter’s hot sreak continues! He went 2 for 4 at the plate, scoring 2 runs and owned right field, including making that great final catch to end the game. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yes, we could look at sweeping the Twins as just the Angels beating up on a team that had an even worse April than we did. The Angels just did what they were supposed to do, big deal – except that in this case it is. The Angels did what they were supposed to do, which means that all of those sparks are starting to catch fire. Hip hip and ten thousand huzzahs. Keep it going boys and soon everyone’s going to catch on fire. So, Dan Haren. Weaver one upped Williams. You’re a competitive fellow. How about it? Care to try for the one up like you did last season? It could be fun!

Albert Pujols, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick take the field for the 9th inning, with excited game faces firmly in place. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Peter Bourjos is all smiles in center, warming up before the 8th inning. Could it be being back in the llineup? The hit and the walk? Or, gee, I don’t know. The no hitter maybe? So glad to see him back in the lineup! Can’t hit, if you don’t play. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So back to this whole no hitter thing. Being there was almost indescribable, but I’ll try. The crowd was sparse. Way too sparse for my tastes. Blame the aforementioned April woes combined with a weeknight game on a night that really looked like the morning’s rain might resume at any moment despite what the weather reports said. But by the fifth inning this small crowd was so excited, so invested in every pitch, that the feeling was absolutely electric and it filled the stadium.

Everyone knew what was going on. Ball players like to say they never look at the scoreboard but the fans make no such pretenses. And we all kept looking at each other, giving thumbs up and high fives. Bouncing up and down. Cheering. Pumping our fists and banging on the empty seats. All jumping out of our skins to shout out loud that which tradition forbids us from so much as whispering before the outcome of the final pitch…well, except for these two obnoxious ladies who from the 6th inning on would not shut up with the “Catch it Torii, catch it. Don’t spoil the no hitter!” “Way to go Pete, you saved the no hitter!” and so on. Look, I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t believe that saying no hitter during a no hitter, unless of course the person you’re saying it to is the pitcher in question, will have any impact on the game. But there are some traditions you just don’t break, and this is one of them. For the most part, they were simply ignored. And after that final out, the crowd went nuts chanting “Weaver, Weaver!” and jumping up and down.

Normally Jered Weaver has company in between innings. Note the traditional no hitter wide berth everyone is giving him during the Angels at bat in the 7th. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And can I just say how heartwarming it was to see our hometown hero who made it clear in no uncertain terms last season that he loves this team as much as we do, accomplish so much at home in front of friends and family! Watching him exchange emotional hugs with his parents and then sweep his new bride – who has a great name, by the way, even though she spells it funny ;) – up into an embrace before the press conferences began? This was a slice of what baseball used to be.

Hugs all around! Jered Weaver gets a bear hug from his father and his mother and new bride exchange “Can you believe this!” looks in the happy pandemonium that follows the final out. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

*     *     *     *     *

And the absolute icing on the evening’s seriously delectable cake was our seats. Some season ticket holder with a very exclusive location just couldn’t make the game this evening – bet they’re kicking themselves now, don’t you? – and put their tickets up for sale online. I really will never be able to thank them enough because not only were Seth and I there for this amazing game, we watched it from the front row of the Knothole Club, the Club level restaurant in right field just to the “It’s outta here!” side of the foul pole. The view? The service? The food? Amazing! This game made its own ballpark experience. We would have enjoyed ourselves in even the cheapest of cheap seats. But having the rare opportunity to enjoy such luxurious surroundings and a perfectly unobstructed view of the magic on the mound made it even better.

Ah the Knothole Club! A great view of the field combined with no obstructions and in seat service from a rather nice menu! We felt like royalty. Oh how I wish these seats came up affordable more often. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Of Angels Losses, Angels Wins, Good Food, Better Wine and Really High Socks

Thursday’s game. Angels vs. A’s. Our usual attempts to get to the ballpark at a decent hour actually worked this time and we arrived in time to catch the tail end of warm ups.

'So about these socks'...(which are completely awesome, by the way) Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos warm up and chat before the game. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

C.J. Wilson and Chris Iannetta warm up before the game - this looks a lot like what we do in Pilates. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And in time to catch Erick Aybar’s Gold Glove Award ceremony…Murphy’s Law being what it is, of course this meant he was good for at least one colossal error this game and Murphy, sadly as usual, did not disappoint. Oh well, it was still neat to watch him get the award, especially on the day the Angels very smartly locked him up for four more years! Whoo hoo!

Erick Aybar accepts his Gold Glove Award and seems to say 'now, don't you break that while I'm gone.' Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Before the game begins, the unlit halo looms expectantly over the stadium. Sadly, the halo would remain unlit for another evening.

The Halo, unlit, before the game. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Heading down the 57 for the game, I told my husband that I had a good feeling about this game, that I was sure the Angels were due for a win and that we would get to see Albert Pujols’ first Angels home run…personally, I don’t think I was so much wrong as just a game or two early. See, I don’t claim clairvoyance, I just see patterns and the Angels patterns say improvement to me.

Albert Pujols went 3 for 5 with 3 doubles! And one of them would have been a homer with about 5 more inches in height. Missed it by that much! Gotta love the Big A in the evening. Angels vs. A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I am love, love, loving Chris Iannetta! It started with his bat (namely the fact that he's a catcher who puts it to use, novel concept that), continued with how the pitchers seem to love him and was forever confirmed when he broke up that double play on Thursday with authority! Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo prepares to make things happen, once again, with his bat. I LOVE how he looks down his bat at the pitcher before he gets into position. For some reason it puts me in mind of an old west gunslinger about to take down the big bad. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

...and the swing! Scioscia, we need to find a way to keep Trumbo in the lineup, alongside Kendrys Morales and, of course, Albert Pujols as many nights as possible. Make it so...please!!! Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Indeed, the Angels were improved over the previous evening, though still unvictorious and then this evening, they were even further improved – though we still seriously need to work on those LOBsters – and they won!!

Obviously, it’s more fun to be at a game where the Angels win, than one where they lose, but as much as I was annoyed with mistakes that simply didn’t have to be, we still had a fine evening at the ballpark – because isn’t an evening at that the ballpark better than an evening just about anywhere else? And the A’s fan gents behind us were a kick and a half. Be it at the Big A or the coliseum the opposing fans I tend to have the most fun with are A’s fans. I hope you enjoyed your trip, boys, and that we were as nice to you as your fellows were to us on our trip to Oakland last season – and the A’s fans were pretty darned nice hosts.

Honestly, one game is only one game so my greatest regret about the Angels losing this specific one game is the high socks. Note:

Clearly Peter Bourjos has been an excellent sartorial influence on Vernon Wells. (And speaking of Vernon, don't think I haven't noticed the plate improvements. I'm rooting for you!!...because of course the Angels have time and inclination to read blogs, LOL!) Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

...and on Erick Aybar too? Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Did you ever expect to see Torii Hunter in high socks? Apparently Bourjos is a good influence. ;) Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Heck, did you ever expect to see Albert Pujols in high socks? Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Yes, exactly, they all wore high socks to change their luck…well, except C.J. and the other pitchers. If the Angels had won this game, you know the high socks would be here to stay, and I do appreciate the neater, more professional look of the old school uniform.

Speaking of C.J., part of the impetus of my going online to find the $10 club section tickets for this game was the thought that I wanted to see Mr. Wilson’s home debut in an Angels uniform. Well, Mr. Wilson, as you have probably seen on Quick Pitch, SportsCenter or the like had some good innings and some not so good innings and one pretty bad inning – not his usual performance at all, though typical of the times the Angels did beat him. Hit C.J. early and he gets a little flustered. Still it was nice to help welcome him to the Big A properly and if his first two appearances and all of the times I’ve watched him kick Angels behind in a Rangers uniform are any indication, I expect pretty good things.

C.J. Wilson begins his pitch. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

...and the finish. I never noticed the high leg before - one more interesting delivery to add to the Angels ecclectic collection. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

You could see the bullpen well from our seats. They look so normal and harmless, don’t they? Well, by and large they are, or rather their harm is helpfully directed at the opposition. As for the rest of time, well, to paraphrase Wednesday, homicidal maniacs look like everybody else, don’t they?

The Bullpen waits...but for good or evil? Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

LaTroy Hawkins - one of the bullpen pitchers who absolutely does _not_ scare me. Angels vs A's, April 19, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Still, they were more than acceptable on Thursday and pretty darned good on Friday and I so want to see a pattern there!

Friday evening’s game further confirms the pattern I thought I was seeing earlier – improvement. Yes, there are still a few issues, but I think that if we can just find a lineup, or even one lineup for groundball pitchers and one lineup for flyball pitchers, and that/those lineup(s) make sense, and we stick with it/them long enough for guys to get comfortable, we’ll really see something here.

And speaking of a return to consistency, after way, way too many day games, the Friday Night Ritual is back – that’s right Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels. This evening I made a spinach, tomato and mushroom paella with grilled Argentinean chorizo (it’s closer to a heavily paprika-ed Italian sausage than the chorizo you may be used to). It was everything the Friday night ritual should be – a delicious and gourmet seeming but budget conscious meal to enjoy with the game plus leftovers for the rest of the weekend. We paired it with a yummy (totally a technical/industry term ;) ) Paso wine – Clavo’s Collusion, a Cabernet, Malbec and Petite Verdot blend. Yum! Perhas the return of the Friday night ritual added a little luck? Okay, probably not. But that doesn’t make it any less tasty.

And if there seems to be a certain, um, disjointedness to this post, a, shall we say, joie de vin…well…there’s a reason for that. Did you not read about the ritual? It’s Friday!! The Halo is lit and so am I! Happy weekend everyone!

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