Results tagged ‘ losses ’

Ar-i-zo-na, here we come! Out where baseball’s starting from!

I’m very excited! Look what the mailman brought me:

20130226 WBC Tix - blog

World Baseball Classic tickets! Yes, Seth and I are going to spring training this year – a first for both of us! It will be the Arizona Baseball Extravaganza. We have our accommodations set, the requisite time off work and a fun, full list of spring training plans. We have tickets to Angels vs. D-Backs on 3/8, Angels vs. Rockies on 3/9 and the WBC games at Chase field for our evening’s entertainment. Sunday, we’re still not sure. We might go to the WBC game, or see what other ST game we can nab cheap lawn seats at, or maybe just grab breakfast and head back to L.A. So, hey, if anyone else is going to ST that weekend and wants to say ‘Hi’ and/or if any of you ST veterans have a great restaurant, bar and/or other must see suggestions, please let me know in the comments. Like I said, we’re very excited spring training newbies.

The itinerary sounds like heaven to Seth and I, but I am aware that this is a lot of baseball. The last time we tried to baseball all day long, at the Angels/A’s double header, we discovered a noticeable, yet far from unworkable, difference in our baseball thresholds. If you recall, the first game wasn’t exactly a short one and the second game went into extra innings. I wanted the second game to go on for as many innings as necessary for an Angels victory — an Angels victory that, alas, did not materialize – while suddenly, about the 10th inning, after some 9 hours of baseball, Seth was ready to be done. We stayed until the end – because he loves me very, very much and is a wonderful husband – but that last inning was a little much for him.

Now, we have agreed that what this really says is that I am a crazy person and not that he is a wimp. No, really, I would be that insane fan still watching the game from our seats at 2 a.m…in the 18th inning…on a week night…in the rain…with an early meeting awaiting me the next day, while Seth would have more sensibly wanted to go home sometime around midnight or so and at least be dry while catching the end of the game on the radio. However, knowing that this crazy person/passionate yet more sensible fan discrepancy exists is highly useful information and is the reason we’ve left the exact number of WBC we’re attending TBD and Sunday wide open to any whim that might take us. We’ll figure out what makes us both happy this trip, and know better how to plan for future baseball trips. But, however things work out, I know we’re going to have a blast together! We always do.

In the meantime, yes, I know the Angels have yet to win a game. I guess that’s supposed to concern me, but I have a really hard time getting too wound up about the overall record of extra early Spring Training games, when we’re still changing pitchers every single inning, changing the majority of the lineup at the 3rd/4th inning and again at the 6th/7th inning and during which few if any of the regular players are even on the field. And especially not when most of the pitchers MLB-wide are so very, very rusty. This is the very reason we have spring training – so that it’s February and March that look like this, instead of April and May. So, for now, I’m just going to revel in the glorious sounds of baseballs striking leather gloves and the crack of the bat on nicely hit balls – all of which sound so much clearer and more true to the live sounds of the ballpark on a ST broadcast than they do on a regular season broadcast where you have so much more crowd noise and sound-baffling cement – and in the promise of hearing those sounds live and seeing more improved performances and more regular players in just a few weeks.

Angels’ Wild Card Bid Gets Even Wilder

This end of the regular season prep, ball park therapy is great and all, but I have to say that my second session was significantly less satisfying than my first. Eight innings of solid pitching love from Zack Greinke went sadly unrequited by the Angels offense and were outright spurned by the bullpen in the 9th. It was deflating. (No, worries though, subsequent Angels victories have buoyed my spirits, but I’ll get to that. :) )

Zack Greinke pitched a gem, for the second time in a row, and the offense and bullpen let him down, for the second time in a row. Yikes! Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Michael Young watches strike three go right into Chris Iannetta’s glove. And for much of Zack Greinke’s outing, yeah, it was like that! Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Now, I didn’t expect the Angels to sweep the Rangers by any means. I was fairly certain they‘d win the first game with Jered Weaver on the mound. But, to be honest, I rather expected the Angels would lose Wednesday night’s game. Of course all of my jokes about CJ Wilson being the Arlinington Candidate are just that, but the facts of the matter are he’s rarely been good for much of the second half and he hasn’t been good against the Rangers this season. I did, however, think the Angels had a real chance to take the series on Thursday and, as it turns out, they did have chance. They just didn’t seize that chance, as attested to even more strongly by the long line of 0’s peppered with a few 1s and one 2 in the hit column than Ernesto Frieri’s errant pitch turned nifty souvenir for some “lucky” fan in fair territory in the 9th. Like I said, deflating…until the White Sox series!!

C.J. Wilson chats at the rail. “It’s the weirdest thing. Sometimes, when I’m pitching against the Rangers, Wash just starting holding up cards from a deck and then, I don’t know why, but I can’t pitch a strike to save my life.” Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Alight! Great inning guys! Now let’s pick up those bats and score some runs.. Guys? Some runs? Guys? Any time now. Some runs. Any. Time. Now. (Or, you know, Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick and Mike Trout follow Erick Aybar into the dugout where Alberto Callaspo is apparentlly touching Bobby Wilson for luck…or to annoy him. Who can say?) Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I know, I know, it’s only two wins and the Angels now have a long, long, looooooooong shot ahead of them to earn a wild card berth. But that would be practicality and rationality speaking. I think all diehard baseball fans are just a little bit crazy to begin with and only become more so when the post season is still a faint hope. To wit, one win against the Rangers and I was hopeful. Two straight losses against the Rangers and I believed that those faint notes I was hearing in the distance were the fabled fat lady going through her warm up scales…

Chris Iannetta had the best night at the plate. While he doesn’t always have a good night at the plate, I’ll take .250 something over .190 something every day! Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Oh Trumbo and Pujols I understand. The offense makes me feel like that too sometimes. But the next night they got bet-tah! Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…But one solid Angels victory against the White Sox (with way more than the mere requisite pieces of flair in my estimation!) and I start thinking dreamy eyed Angels happy thoughts again. You know, all the Angels have to do is sweep the White Sox and then it would just like winning both the Sox and Rangers series, right? I mean, the White Sox are only in first place in their division with a few players having career years. Pshaw, how hard could that be? Then Baltimore won today and I started hearing those scales again only to have hope return when the A’s lost. Now with a second Angels victory, I’m back to dreamy thoughts of a sweep…hey it could happen. Jered Weaver is on the mound tomorrow.

Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick warm up in between innings. Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo did get a hit this game, but he was still swinging frustrated and even attempting to bunt his way on at odd moments on Thursday. However, he was all smiles tonight! Hopefully he can build on this and finish the season strong. Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And then? Okay, now I will be rational. The Angels really can’t afford to lose more than one or two more games before the end of the season and the A’s have to lose a lot more than that. The Angels have to stop filling the bases up with no outs only to strand every runner at the end of the inning. The starters and bullpen need to need to be spot on. No more base running gaffes. No more fielding gaffes. Practically speaking, the Angels need to play playoff baseball now and for the rest of the season however long that may be. Possible? Oh hell yes. Probable? We shall see. Fun? Absolutely! More ball park therapy, please. Stat!

And, in the meantime, enjoy a few more pics from the ballgame on Thursday:

Nelson Cruz and Albert Pujols chat at first base. What could they be talking about? “Nelson, I felt so bad for you last year in the Series, man. That missed catch. *shakes head, then laughs* No, I shouldn’t lie to you like that. That was the best play ever, man. We watched it again and agian with the kids at Christmas!” Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Eric Aybar and Michael Young chat at third. Okay, not the best photo. But let’s take a moment to appreciate the expression on Aybar’s face. What hilarious things was Young saying? Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Everyone loves Mike Trout. Even umpires are a little star struck…okay, probably not really, but they are always chatting with him during warm ups. Angels vs. Rangers, September 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels Stomp the Rangers in a Wild 100th Win for Weave…and then Lose

(Editor’s Note: Edited to add in the photos I didn’t have time to add in before. :) )

All season long, I’ve said that when the Rangers bring their best game and the Angels bring their best game, the Angels can compete with the Rangers and win. The Angels have had an off and on kind of season but those occasions where they did bring their best game to the Rangers have borne me out on this. Now, the Rangers most certainly did not bring their best game to Tuesday night’s opener at the Big A and the end result was…well…let’s go with absolutely, stupendously awesome!

Our hero arrives! Jered Weaver heads for the dugout after his final pregame warm up with Chris Iannetta and pitching coach Mike Butcher in tow. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yeah, I know. I usually prefer a close hard fought game that still ends in a lit Halo, but you know what? Every now and then watching your team deliver a good old fashioned one-sided beat down of a game from the stands is good for the soul, not to mention morale…oh, and let’s not forget the appetite. Angels fans get a free Chronic taco if the team scores 10 or more runs at home and Seth and I plan on enjoying ours this weekend. …Besides, it’s not the like the Angels absolutely brought their best game either and it’s not like Texas wasn’t going to come right back out fighting soon or, you know, like the very next night. *facepalm* So, totally munching on the tacos of satisfying victory, that’s us. ;)

ike Trout takes a practice swing between pitches. He didn’t get a hit this game but scored both times he was walked. Even hitless, this legitimate MVP contender can beat you six ways to Sunday. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The Rangers infielders (Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Michael Young) kics back and stay loose during a pitching change. There were a lot of those this game. The Angels made them work through most of the pen…not that it mattered later. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

…or, at least, of a satisfying victory because, you know, Wednesday’s game and all that. But back to Tuesday’s game. It was more fun. The offense rocked with only a few lineup holes. The base runners never let up. And, after a bit of a shaky start, Jered Weaver buckled down and more than earned his 100th career victory. (And with only 51 losses. Not too shabby).

Congratulations Jered Weaver!! Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

It was also a record night for rookie (and just plain all around) sensation Mike Trout, who tied the Angels rookie record for total bases on Tuesday…and has since blown right by it and then some. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The only bad parts of the evening were Tanner Scheppers injury in that bizarre play at the plate (oh, I loved the two runs, and Mike Napoli missing the throw and drilling the umpire instead, but not the injury) and the lack of Angels fans attendance. Come on folks, these games still count. Landing a wild card berth is going to be difficult but it’s still possible so come on out and cheer our guys on! That said, I was amused at Rangers fans tweeting derisively about this same attendance. Yes, attendance at this game was in fact sad, but come on, weren’t your players just complaining about low attendance and lack of support from Rangers fans as recently as 2010? A year your team went to the World Series? Yeah, kind of forgot about that part there Mr. and Ms. Pot, now didn’cha? Awk. Ward! ;)

Calling all Angels indeed! Hello fans, where are you? The Angels have a legitimate post season bid going on here. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Erick Aybar had a hell of a game. He went 3 for 4 with 2 runs and an RBI and was an absolute terror on the base paths. Aybar is so much fun to watch when he’s on that it isn’t even funny! Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

*wipes hands* So, mischief managed on that front. Down to the more important business. What do I think about the Angels’ wild card chances? Well, I think they have a chance, but they’re going to have to win every series and probably sweep one or two of them from here on out to take advantage of that chance. Last night’s loss didn’t help, but it’s not the absolute end of the world. There’s still the runner match tonight. So, yes, it’s possible. But it’s a tricky kind of possible, you know, like the Cardinals and Rays getting in last season. That kind of story doesn’t happen in baseball every season or even every other season…but it does happen. We’ll know better in another few games so, in the meantime, Go Angels!! And fans, let’s take ourselves out to the ballgame and shout that loudly and in person, shall we?

In the meantime, it’s that time again so I’ll leave you with a few photos of Angels September call ups making an appearance in this game:

Cole Calhoun got a hit in his only at bat…and appears to be telling Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland that his shoe’s untied. ;) Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Recent D-Backs aquisition Barry Enright, up from AAA, takes the mound in the 9th to finish the game. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Andrew Romine plays short stop. I have no action shots because there wasn’t a lot for him to do in the 9th. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Angels rookie backback sighting!! It’s Minnie Mouse, in case you can’t tell. Angels vs. Rangers, September 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Hot and Cold Angels Are Hot Again and Pushing Hard for a Wild Card Berth

What do you make of a team that can’t get it done at the plate for three games straight against the A’s, games that were about as close to do or die as it gets, but then rallies to shut out the A’s for the 4th game and never stops fighting to come back – twice! – to win their first game against the Royals? A team that falls victim to their own bullpen on Saturday only to be saved by a stellar bullpen performance on Sunday? I feel like I’ve been asking these same questions and similar ones all season long and darned if I’m any closer to an answer in September than I was in April. Here’s the thing though, despite the setbacks, the Angels continue to make progress in the Wild Card race. And that fact makes me giddy excited. These Angels may be alternating between frustrating and exhilarating, but they are absolutely not giving up and October is not out of the question by any means. Oh…and when they’re exhilarating, the way they play the game makes up for a lot.

Jered Weaver’s Back

Back and simply as good as ever! Putting at ease any concerns fans had about an adjustment period, Weaver picked up right where he left off before his bicep tendonitis issues. Looking every bit his old self, Weaver shut the A’s bats down, allowing the Angels to salvage one game from the series. Clearly, Angels’ bats and fielding were also to thank for this victory, but Weaver’s strong return set the tone and turned things around at a point when the Angels season was on the very brink of the point of no return. The decision for AL Cy Young winner may not be as clear cut in Weaver’s favor as it was before his injury, but if that isn’t the very definition of Ace then I don’t know what is.

There Are Only 2.5 Weeks Left in the Regular Season!

I simply cannot wrap my brain around this fact. I feel like the 2012 season has just flown by. Enough with this football thing! Off the television set with it, I say…at least temporarily. It can’t be football season already. We need, like another month or more of the regular baseball season. I am absolutely loving how crazy, awesome this year’s September baseball has been and, of course, I love October baseball for its own self, completely separate from the regular season. But September and October mean that November is not far behind and November means the beginning of the long countdown to April and I’m really not ready for that yet, so there.

What’s that you say? Therapy?! Pshaw! Whatever for? I say the only solution is to go to as many games as I can during the Angels last regular season home stand. (Which begins tonight. *sob*) Now, that’s my idea of therapy and, lucky me, my “sessions” begin with seats tonight!!

What a Difference a Win Makes! …Especially After the Angels’ Terrible Week.

“I love winning, man. I fucking love winning. You know what I’m sayin’? It’s like, better than losing!”

…because truly there is an appropriate Bull Durham quote for just about every situation in baseball and in life and that little gem is my quote for today for obvious reasons. Coming off of an awful weekend at the end of a terrible week, Angels players and fans alike badly needed last night’s victory over the Indians and, if my sigh of relief was any indication, the whole of the Angels family slept a lot more relaxed last night than they have in days. Why was this win so cathartic? Well, let us review.

It was the week so bad even Jered Weaver couldn’t salvage a win!!!

Jered Weaver was not at his best, but not at his best is still a quality start. The team needed to pick him up and didn’t. Let’s hope games like that are all behind us now. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Doesn’t that sound like it should be the tag line from an episode of the Twilight Zone? Trust me, I was at Sunday’s game and that description is apt. It wasn’t horror movie scary – my understanding is that that would better describe Saturday’s game during which, in hind sight, I am glad I was busy – but it was disturbing and surreal down to the umpires’ calls.

Mark Trumbo began finding his swing again on Sunday a most welcome sight for fans even if it didn’t lead to any runs. Quiet Angels bats were a huge part of the problem Sunday and have done as much damage this season than starting pitching or the bullpen. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mariners ourfielders Trayvon Robinson, Michael Saunders and Eric Thames wait out a pitching change. You wanna talk surreal? Isn’t it beyond weird not seeing Ichiro out there? Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

In a nutshell, Jered Weaver had a bad day. Big deal. It’s bound to happen a handful of times in any given season. And it wasn’t even that bad of a day, if you think about it. He gave up three runs. Okay, for Weaver, that’s a pretty bad day because usually any team getting more than one off him should consider it their lucky day. But, still. Three runs. This was a quality start, a winnable game…unless, of course, your team had to beg, borrow and steal just to get one run. Can’t win if you don’t score. And then the Bullpen, who had performed admirably in a string of games leading up to this point, gave up another run just to add insult to injury.

Mark Trumbo fields the pickoff attempt as John Jaso dives back to first. This would have been a much better photo if I could say we got him out or the Mariners stranded him but, no, he went on to score another run, his second that day. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Bobby Wilson takes a swing – included because Bobby Wilson got a hit which always makes me happy (I tend to root extra hard for guys who bust their ass trying to be an everyday player), I was there and, just take a look, his swings that at bat were gorgeous. …Sadly he was out moments later on a fielder’s choice. Story of the game. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, Weaver suffered only his second loss of the season. The loss would not even be worth noting beyond that fact if it wasn’t a mid August game in the middle of an Angels slump fit to give any fan pause…if it wasn’t for the fact that poor Angels pitching had been contributing to team losses at an alarming rate including throughout the week leading up to this game and then the team turned around and squandered a quality start…if not for the fact that fans could watch the division and wild card race distances growing with each game. But it was all of those things, oh and then the Angels turned around and did pretty much the same thing on Monday with C.J. Wilson on the mound. Ugh!

Ernesto Frieri fires one towards the plate. Ernasty was a little less than truly nasty Sunday, giving up a run. This is a problem that has plagued every member of the bullpen on an off all season. Fortunately, by Tuesday’s game he looked just like his usual nasty, bat missing self. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick leads off third after hitting a triple. With a hit and a walk that eventually scored the Angels’ lone run for the day, Kedrick had a pretty good game. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, it was a week and a weekend so bad that many Angels fans declared the season over in frustration. I left the game Sunday tweeting something to the effect of ‘I have never declared a season over until making the post season becomes a mathematical impossibility and I’m not about to start now’, and I stand by that. However improbable it may seem, I have hope unless it becomes literally mathematically impossible. So with that context, imagine my joy at seeing everything working right for the Angels last night, even with a few bobbles. Zack Greinke looked great. And if he gave up one too many runs for a quality start, no matter, the offense and some great fielding picked him up and even offset a scary bullpen moment from the usually reliable LaTroy Hawkins. In fact, it was probably more cathartic for fans to see a win that happened with a few mishaps because it was starting to feel like the Angels couldn’t win unless they had near perfection on their side. True, it’s only one win. However, the way the team looked making it happen I see much more of that in the Angels future. Which brings us back to my post’s opening quote…because…well…seriously, could anyone capture the feeling better than Nuke LaLoosh did? I think not!

So, on that note, let me leave you with a few photos that will make you smile…well, they make me smile :) :

Totally inspiring: the Angels division and World Series champion flags fly proudly in centerfield. I think the team needs a few more of these, how about you? Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout takes off for second base as Mike Carp lookes on…ultimately it was a foul ball, but Trout still leads the league in stolen bases and entertaining facial expressions. Trout was in a mini slump at this point. Even his swing looked wrong but, if Tuesday night was any indication, even Trout’s slumps are crazy fast. He seems to have regained his swing and overcome his difficulties. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo mostly kept a straight face but he had John Jaso cracking up on first base. Given the amount of laughter they could only have been talking about Plate Umpire Mike Eastabrook’s strike zone. Seriously? He tossed Mike Butcher? In the 1st inning? Butch never gets tossed. Angels vs. Mariners, August 12, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The Late July/Early August Angels’ Jekyll and Hyde Routine

In their last 5 games, the Angels have:

  • Scored 46 runs!
  • Allowed the opposing team to score 44 runs.
  • Hit 15 home runs!
  • Allowed the opposing team to hit 10 home runs.
  • Struck out 30 batters!
  • Were struck out 48 times.
  • Came from behind to tie or pull into the lead so many times, they reminded me of the 2009 Angels who were among the league leaders in that regard.
  • Blew the lead so frequently that none of those comebacks amounted to anything.
  • Beat the division leading Rangers 2 times, one of which was more of a good old-fashioned shellacking.
  • Lost to the division leading Rangers 2 times and the White Sox once, just for good measure.
  • Left 40 guys on base.
  • Went to the bullpen 16 times – 4 times apiece in the last three games.
  • Moved out of 3rd place (yay!) to tie the A’s for 2nd.
  • Shot past the A’s to a 2nd place that was just 3 games out of 1st place.
  • Sank right back into 3rd place one game further out of 1st than they started.
  • Brought me to my feet cheering repeatedly.
  • Sat me right back down again in exasperation complete with loud expletives and an annoyed fist bump on the table for good measure repeatedly.

Wow! There is an inordinate amount of both !!! and #$@! in that list. Come to think of it, I suppose this is true in different ways both for Angels fans and for fans of the opposition. So what on Earth are we supposed to make of a crazy, simultaneously hot and cold, brilliant upside, scary downside team like this? I would say that the Angels really need to get key players back off the DL in top form, or top August form at any rate, and figure out what’s broken with the starting rotation and fix it. This list just illustrates what those who have been watching the games already know – so many important pieces, essential to having a shot at the post season are already present, accounted for and how in the way the Angels are playing right now.

However, the sick and amazing bullpen of a few weeks ago has become a sick and ailing bullpen in the absence of Scott Downs. As much as Andrew Romine looks like he can fill a big league short stop’s shoes in a few seasons, the defense and the base paths are both missing Erick Aybar. Recent, blessedly brief, stints with various strains for Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo did the lineup no favors. And the starting rotation is kind of, sort of, maybe just starting to come together…maybe. But Dan Haren did push back another start due to back issues. (On the one hand, way to go Danny for admitting you’re hurting and taking the steps you need to fix it. On the other hand, ouch. We need him back strong and we need him back now.) Ervin Santana is restricted to three innings until he can get his head straight. And Zack Greinke, if the small sample size of the last two starts are any indication, is still working through his home vs. road issues, though I do admire a pitcher who toughs out a bad few innings and finishes strong.

The other thing I would take from this Jekyll and Hyde list is that the Angels season future is unclear. I know that a lot of folks saying it’s over now, that this Rangers series was the “the moment” and the Angels blew it. But I don’t buy that. Oh, I believe in momentum, but I also think that trying to pick out what “the moment” is in any season as it’s happening is impossible. It’s a little too much like writing history as it happens. Oh, plenty of people do write history as it happens and I can tell you as a history major that historians do value such analysis…but as primary source documents not as their intended purpose. The 2012 season is moving quickly. But we do have two solid months of baseball left and, for the Angels, much of that baseball will be played in the AL West. If they can get some guys back or start playing around their absence with more grace, well, anything is still possible.

Angels Move to “Take Back the West”! …Let’s Just Forget About that Icky Saturday Part

What’s the best cure for the old “post All Star Break, my Angels have been playing in the Eastern Time Zone so I haven’t caught a game in more than a week and, oh by the way, they weren’t playing so hot” blues? Well, I don’t know about you, but heading down to the Big A the second the Angels got back in town to watch them beat their biggest division rival soundly worked for me! What a night, what a game! And what’s the best cure for the old “Rangers came back the next day and stomped all over the Angels” blues? I suggest having a selective short term memory – forget about Saturday’s game, relive Friday’s and hope for a better Sunday! So to that end…

The Big A’s Halo in it’s happiest natural state – lit like Christmas. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

All the way down the 57 freeway to the stadium on Friday night Seth and I kept hearing about a playoff atmosphere, and, to be honest, I mocked the radio more than a bit. A playoff atmosphere? Yes, the Angels were facing the Rangers, but for the first of the 13 games before seasons’ end and it’s only July. However, entering the gates it was clear that if the radio announcers were exaggerating, it wasn’t by much. I have never been to a playoff game — a deficiency I’d love the opportunity to correct this season! — but this was definitely close to what I imagine a playoffs atmosphere would feel like. The stadium was packed, the fans were pumped and, behold the icing on the cake, in an unannounced giveaway, the Angels were handing out ThunderStix:

I suggest rechristening these ThunderStix, TnT Stix! Because, let’s be honest, while all Angels will get their fair share of ThunderStix love, who are we going to clang the Stix the most for this season? Crack all the jokes you want, dear reader. I doubt you’ll come up with any we didn’t already make in the stands last night. ;) Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As for the game? Well, this is how the serious playoff contending Angels play as opposed to that other team that shows up sometimes…sometimes, including Saturday. Jered Weaver set the tone early. He got the first batter out only to give up a home run to Elvis Andrus on the next at bat. But did he crumble? Hello, this is Jered Weaver we’re talking about. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the last time a Ranger crossed the plate that game. Weaver only really got into trouble one more time that game – bases loaded with one out in the 3rd and Josh Hamilton at the plate. But he got himself out of trouble by coaxing Hamilton into a double play. Inning over — hit the road Jack. ;)

Jered Weaver. What else does one need to say? Elvis Andrus hit a homerun off him in the 2nd at bat of the game. Many pitchers would have panicked. Weaver got mad and got even, pitching six shutout innings with only one walk. No other Ranger managed to cross the plate. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

It’s great to see Dan Haren back in the dugout, ready to come off his first DL stint ever. It’s not the same when he’s not huddled at the rail with one of the other pitchers – Garrett Richards in this case – talking about whatever it is they talk about. Here’s hoping your back is indeed all better and that you’re back to being the old tough as nails, unhittable Dan Haren, because the Angels really need you. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

This is my favorite view of Mike Napoli these days. No, not because it’s the rear view, you pervs! I mean the walk of shame back into the dugout after he strikes out! …a view, I might add, that Angels fans don’t see nearly often enough. 2 for 4 and both hits homers on Saturday?! Naps, you’re killin’ me! Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The Angels bats were more than ready to follow Weaver’s dominant lead, getting the one run back in the first inning and following it with five more as the game progressed. The TnT boys went off with clutch, productive singles in the early innings and then in spectacular fashion in later innings. Mark Trumbo’s 6th inning TrumBomb was, in essence, a line drive turned run seeking missile over the centerfield fence, much like the hit that made Big Papi bounce up and down like a gleeful child during the Home Run Derby. Mike Trout followed his lead the next inning with an opposite field bomb of his own.

Very few of my Mark Trumbo shots turned out. Too powerful to be captured on mere film? Anyway, both of the TnT boys went off so beautifully Friday night that maybe Kendrys Morales is pumping Trumbo for advice for later in the series? Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout begins his swing. When the TnT boys both go off in the same game, it is quite a sight to see! Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout and Michael Young move with the pitch. They tried to pick Trout off several times…emphasis on tried. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As impressive as TnT was, they shouldn’t completely overshadow the rest of the Angels offense. Albert Pujols, looking every inch the Albert of old, went 3 for 4, advancing runners and scoring a run of his own. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar brought in two runs a piece with clutch hits and a productive out. And so on. I really feel like when the offense is functioning this well as a unit, the Angels are one scary team! So how about we see some more of this offense this week, okay guys?

Albert Pujols and Rangers first baseman Michael Young were extra chatty every time Pujols got on, which was often. The man had three hits. Go Pujols! Anyway, this shot was just extra funny to me. What could they be saying? Albert: “Hey, buddy. Did you see that awesome single right into the gap. I totally made Hamilton and Gentry dive and run for it!” Young: Yeah, buddy. That was really funny!” Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar chat during pitching change. I love it when the Angels offense is working well! Both guys knocked in two runs on Friday. I hope Aybar’s foot injury Saturday is of the quick healing, day to day sort, but it doesn’t sound like it. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Alberto Callaspo slides home to score the Angels 4th run of the evening. When Angels keep flying accross the plate like this, it’s a great game! Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Much has been made of the Angels “BlowPen” this season, the new version of the “Arson Squad” of old, but I feel like after a very rough initial start, the acquisition of Ernesto Frieri and some oft discussed key moves, they’ve had more good days than bad. Kevin Jepsen, of all people, has returned from his DL stint in pretty good form. And while it will take a lot more quality relief outings for the Angels Family to stop holding our collective breaths when he takes the mound, he was effective again. Things got a little too exciting when Jason Isringhausen took the mound in the 9th, I guess just to let us all know we shouldn’t take a five run lead for granted…um…thanks? Yeah, no. But still, no runs, no foul. Light that baby up and enjoy the Friday Night Fireworks!

Right there with you Jepsen. I have no idea how or why you’re pitching pretty well all o fthe sudden, either, but in this case I’d like to keep scratching my head for the rest of the season. Well done! Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

This is the scene of Mike Trout’s sliding near miss attempt to catch a foul ball for the game’s final out. (Like I said, the 9th was a lot more exciting than it needed to be.) Photos of the chalk outline have been submitted into evidence as part of the wall’s subsequent disability case. The gentleman on the right who’s pointing at Trout, then back in position, is reported to have uttered something incoherent about birds, planes and speeding locomotives. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Ernesto Frieri hangs out in the Bullpen. Yeah, Ernesto, it _was_ a great game but a couple of plays made me make that face too. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And so the moral of our story is: Hand out ThunderStix…er…I mean TnT Stix every home game for the rest of the season!!! Oh, yeah. And, you know, quality pitching starts and effectively thundering bats are probably a good idea too! ;)

Friday night post game fireworks awesomeness! Hey, the Big A has to compete with Disney’s evening pyrotechnics just a few blocks over, so you know they’re good. Angels vs. Rangers, July 20, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

TrumBombs Away, an NL Shellacking, Mid West Boo Birds + Any Other ASG Thoughts that Come to Mind

So in the current baseball world order, the AL absolutely dominates the Home Run Derby, the NL sometimes allows the AL to score during the All Star Game, but only when they’re feeling especially generous, and the NL also just pretty much owns Ron Washington. Do I have that about right? Oh what a difference a few years makes! And that’s a good thing actually. Sports trends, both winning and losing, are meant to be bucked and dynasties to be crumbled. In the end, it makes all of the teams work harder and the whole thing just that much more fun for the fans.

As for this year’s All Star Game, wow. And, by wow, I mostly mean yikes! And, to a lesser degree, *facepalm* While it did contain many memorable and touching moments, I’m sorry but out and out shellackings are always a snooze fest, especially for the fans rooting for the shellacked. I do understand what I perceive to be Ron Washington’s motivation to allow all of the starters an opportunity to hit before he removed them from the game, and to allow each starting pitcher to finish a full inning, but I just can’t get behind it. Trying to give everyone a chance to really play is an absolutely lovely sentiment…for Little League.

Yes, the All Star Game is an exhibition meant to delight the fans and give the players a chance to share the field with the best of the best among their peers. But it’s also supposed to be a good game. An entertaining game. A game both sides are trying their hardest to win. And then there is that tiny little matter of the All Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series, the importance of which should be crystal clear to Washington after two very painful demonstrations in as many years. If the team you have on the field isn’t getting it done and you have a dugout full of All Stars at your disposal, you might want to flip some folks out before the 6th inning, or maybe get the pitcher off the mound before he allows that 5th run, even if it is only the 1st inning. I’m just sayin’.

Oh well, at least the Angels All Stars played well. And I do love hearing the MLBN analysts and other national media oohing and aahing over Angels players, especially when it’s so richly deserved this season. Of course, for Angels fans, the highlight has to be the Home Run Derby. TrumBomb. TrumBlast. Heck even TrumBoner. All of these phrases coined by Angels fans and our local media for our hometown hero have now reached the National consciousness as they tripped off the tongues of Derby commentators with increasing frequency and passion while a veritable TrumBlitz assaulted the walls and waterfalls of Kaufmann Stadium.

In fact, while Trumbo placed third in the Derby, I think it’s safe to say that after Monday night, the national baseball viewing public experienced the latter phrase themselves, at least a little bit. Don’t worry, America, you don’t need to call your doctor if it lasts for more than 4 hours. We’re going on two seasons out here in Southern California with only positive side effects. And the best thing about Trumbo’s Home Run Derby performance? What the analysts kept saying of Prince Fielder is just as true for Trumbo, that is his normal, everyday swing. All of those stupendous, crazy, I can’t believe he hit the ball that far and didn’t even fully extend his arms bombs? Yeah. Normal. Let’s just say that batting practices before Angels games are pretty epic.

Anyway, if you’re interested, I wrote more about Mark Trumbo’s Home Run Derby appearance and tackled the dreaded Home Run Derby Curse for the LA Angels Insider blog. If you get the chance, please check it out. :)

Sunflower & Show Me State Boo Birds

Yeah, I couldn’t very well write an All Star festivities article, however brief, without attacking this divisive subject, now could I? Here’s my 2-cents on Royals fans booing Robinson Cano for the entirety of his Home Run Derby appearance and I would love to get your take on it in the comments, along with your Trumbo Love and other ASG thoughts you may wish to share. My apologies to Billy Butler fans everywhere, but Cano clearly made the correct choices in assembling his Home Run Derby team. The AL team absolutely rocked with the lone exception of Cano himself. Where Cano Royally – pun well and thoroughly intended – f’d up is not in neglecting to include a Royals representative on the team, it was the fact that he had previously indicated he would like to include a Royals representative on the team, that he felt it was the right thing to do, and then neglected to include said Royals representative. Cano never should have made such a comment – or promise depending on your perspective – unless he had every intention of abiding by it.

Okay, so he messed up. Very painful lesson learned. But did the punishment really suit the crime? No, I think it was excessive. I understand why fans booed Cano. I understand why they continued to boo him and to applaud his mounting failure to hit the ball out of the park. I understand that this was funny on some level. In fact, initially, I was laughing. But fans carried the joke way too far. When it was obvious the Cano was floundering. When it became painfully clear that Cano’s poor father – whom I do not believe fans intended to harm or insult in any way – could no longer give his son a decent ball to hit, it was well past time to let up. If fans had booed Cano and yucked it up for the first 5 outs, maybe even the first six, and then stopped, they would have still made their point and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

You know how there’s a fine, fine line between an amusing heckler and an outright bully who makes fans from both sides uncomfortable? For the first four outs, Royals fans were on the amusing heckler side of that divide. But, somewhere between the 4th and 6th outs, they waltzed right over that line and into uncomfortable bully territory, which is even more unfortunate in light of that fact that the rest of the 2012 All Star festivities were 100% classy. While I think that, much like booing Cano for his entire performance, such a punishment would be excessive for this particular crime, Royals fans, don’t be surprised if Bud Selig says this is why you can’t have nice things for another four decades.

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

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

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

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

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

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Diego Edition: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas, Ugh! Questions? Answers? Aspirin? Something Stronger?

When the weekend began, I was annoyed. Here were the Angels entering this must-watch first series of the year against the arch-rival Rangers, and I was stuck with the piles and piles of work I brought home in order to meet a tight deadline. Oh, I still had every intention of watching the games, just over the top edge of my laptop while I rewrote course catalogs for new states. Of course, you all saw what happened…the box scores and sports news recaps if nothing else. As it turned out, aside from Saturday, my work was far more entertaining and less frustrating than watching the Angels…and, for the record, anytime anything compares unfavorably to wrestling with Massachusetts state regulations, that’s really saying something. Ugh, indeed!

I think Angels fans were looking to this series for the answer to one of the biggest questions of our season. I know I was. So, can the Angels compete with the Texas Rangers? You may be surprised at my answer but, yes they can, and win. Just look at Saturday. The Rangers weren’t asleep at the wheel, the Angels just actually showed up and played and it was a good close game.

However the frustrations and, let’s face it, colossal beat downs of this series replaced that question with a far more relevant one – will the Angels compete with the Texas Rangers? I don’t think we have a definitive answer to that one yet, but Friday and Sunday sure didn’t put a hopeful spin on things.

Look, it’s baseball. Shit happens. Aces have bad starts. Good hitters slump. Position players who usually play great D occasionally throw away the ball or flub a catch. What makes a team great is not its ability to prevent these things from happening – you can keep them to a minimum for sure, but over the course of 162 games, they’re going to happen – but how the team reacts and deals with them when they do happen. And this team? I just don’t know. I see some guys, mostly the younger guys, continuing to fight hard even when the score looks impossible and I see other guys starting to go through the motions when the game gets tough.

I prefer to look at some of the good examples. Take Jered Weaver. He had a terrible outing and his temper flare in the dugout after gaving up the grand slam to Nelson Cruz is now all over MLBN and ESPN. But you know what? I like his fire. No, he wasn’t able to get it back together when he got back to the mound in the next inning, but terrible starts happen. He didn’t give in, he got mad. When he finally left the game, singing along to Hit the Road Jack, the calmly livid look on his face reminded me very much of the his expression right before he threw the infamous pitch during that game against the Tigers last season. No, I don’t think this means opposing batters need to think about hitting the decks the next time Weaver takes the mound, but I do think it means he’s about to take care of business. And I’ll bet that in his next outings and, especially the next time he starts against Texas, things will be very different. We need to see more guys with that passion and resolve.

Mark Trumbo looks frustrated these days. Given a few seconds and even less effort, I think we can all come up with a whole slew of reasons why that might be. But he turns that frustration on the ball and knocks it deep into the stands. There are a lot of guys who are frustrated right now, but I want to see more of them channeling it like that. I also want to see more speed and defense in the outfield. Yes, Vernon Wells got a timely hit on Sunday and we’re grateful. But Peter Bourjos got a timely bunt that also led to runs on Saturday and which outfield had better defense which, let’s face it, we’re going to need against most of our competitors – Wells, Trout and Hunter or Trout, Bourjos and Hunter? (Yeah, I know Trumbo was actually in right on Sunday, but the Wells/Trout/Hunter combo has been more regular.) Which outfield had more fighters? Exactly. Now let’s hope Mike Scioscia comes to the same conclusion.

And there’s one more thing I think the team needs to do, stop worrying about championships, rankings, October, all of it and just play today. And then when tomorrow becomes today, they need to just play today again, and so on. It feels like everyone is pressing so hard for what could be at the end of the season, for what they feel should be that they are no longer able to just be and the end results are anything but pretty. And, from a sanity perspective, I think that goes doubly for us fans.

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