Results tagged ‘ Mike Napoli ’

Wild Card Wednesday. Pinch Yourself, Did That Just Happen Thursday. And Now Termination Friday?

“We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.” – Bob Slydell (no, not that Bob, the other Bob) 

This is but one of many scenes in Office Space that is hilarious and at the same time so very, very true…which makes it just a little bit painful, which in turn makes it infinitely more funny. That human nature. Kind of a sick bastard, ain’t he? The mortgage industry, of course takes this several steps further. Friday isn’t just the day employees receive, as an old boss of my husband’s used to say, an invitation to the world, Friday is also the day banks fail, a fact which became all too apparent in bad old days of ’07, ’08 and ’09.

Imagine my colleagues and I at about 1:30 or so every Friday, just after the markets closed, scanning the headlines on Bloomberg and CNN to see who received a knock on the door from the FDIC this week, like so many baseball players on a cold streak eager to see how many guys were worse off and headed straight for the Mendoza line. And, oh yes, after the FDIC came calling on us, we performed this weekly ritual all the more attentively and with a great deal more snark. This was less a matter of schadenfruede running rampant, mind you, than one of absolute terror and paranoia channeled into research, gallow’s humor and a seemingly endless stream of Tom Lehrer parodies…as you do.

Usually Major League Baseball bears about as much resemblance to corporate life in any of its variations as the Metro Goldwyn Lion does to Calvin Coolidge, but watching MLBN today, I have to wonder. Terry Francona and Tony Reagins? Interesting. Have the Bobs been doing some consulting work? I mean, of course, in both cases this is being billed as “they stepped down” and also in somewhat differing reports as a mutual or collective decision but, really, any PR team worth their pay will try and get everyone involved to adopt that party line as soon as possible, so you just never know.

The whole thing was very interesting for me, because I was expecting the news about Francona, even though I don’t think he deserved it after what he has meant to Boston. But never in a million years was I expecting the news about Reagins, even though I think he did deserve it. The Angels tend to be a lot more warm and fuzzy with their front office staff over the last decade or so than they used to be, and more so than is good for them as a general rule. Maybe they were listening when Reagins was booed during the Jered Weaver contract press conference? Because try as Victor Rojas might to cover it up with a joke, they weren’t shouting “Tooooony, Toooooony” and it wasn’t funny.

So Francona is off to, one would assume, if not bigger and better things at least big and good things and Tony is…still employed with the Angels but as Assistant to Club Chairman Dennis Kuhl. I think this is fitting. Tony Reagins clearly loves the Angels and he’s tried to do right by the team just with very mixed results as a GM, Dr. Tony and Mr. Reagins as it were.

So, thank you Dr. Tony, with all of my Angels loving heart for the Jered Weaver extended contact. For Dan Haren. For Scott Downs. For Mark Teixeira, who was a brilliant rental signing it’s just too bad we couldn’t keep. And for Torii Hunter. And, in truth, for Alberto Callaspo who has quietly lead the team in batting average ever since. But for all the rest? For Scott Kazmir. For Fernando Rodney. For trading Mike Napoli (you can have Juan Rivera) for Vernon Wells for crying out loud? I tried to be pretty Pollyanna about that one because it’s not like I had a choice, but sheesh! For not being aggressive enough to really have a shot ai Teixeira…or any strong bats during this last off season…or, no offense to Callaspo but, a star third baseman with the cleanup bat we desperately needed at that time. For all of this large downside, I thank you for leaving, Mr. Reagins, with all of my Angels loving heart.

So, where do we go from here? I confess I am not exactly up on available GM candidates and the Angels have indicated they’re looking for someone young and untried anyway. Here’s hoping this winds up being more of a Dr. Tony, the deal ninja, style decision than a Mr. Reagins style decision.  And one way or the other, I hope they fix the Angels’ glitch.

Editor’s Note: So I am a bit behind on my posts. Work really piled on the projects this week and sometimes it’s all so much writing that I don’t have two coherent thoughts left amidst the jumble to string together for the blog. But have no fear, TIAVSG was born during the offseason by the barely glowing embers of a recently kindled Hot Stove, and this blog will surely continue though the post season and the off season…pics from my last game of the season and wrap up thoughts on the Angels season coming soon…Hey, come November and December especially, a girl’s gotta do something to keep the offseason blues away.

Stomped by Texas for Three Games Straight, Is There Any Hope For Our Boys in Halos?

The 2011 Angels can’t score to save their lives and they can’t hit when it counts. Veteran bats have only come alive in alternating streaks all season – much like Torii Hunter’s slumbering bat waking with a vengeance into his current 15-game hitting streak – and the rookies and the gap hitters are pretty much carrying the line-up. The problem with that is that we can get guys on base, but we can’t bring them home, facts I haven’t shied away from mentioning all season.

Alberto Callaspo prepares to pop out while Bobby Abreu, in the on deck circle, takes practice swings before he grounds out. Callaspo's mini-slump is new. He has the second highest batting average on the team just behind Howie Kendrick. But Bobby's absentee bat has been one of several veteran disappointments on the team this season. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis prepares to strike out for the second time this evening as Peter Bourjos takes practice swings on deck. We're used to Mathis' sub Mendoza average by now, but it sure hurts when isn't the only automatic out in the lineup any more. Bourjos, on the other hand, went 2 for 4 with an RBI, one of the rookies tryign very hard to pick up the slack in the lineup. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And yet, the Angels have been in the thick of the division race, winning series and beating top teams all season long pretty much on the strength of their pitching and fielding alone. Two weeks ago, we were a mere game out of first place! So what happens when the pitching inevitably falters for a few games? Last week happens, with the disastrous road trip to Toronto and the Bronx. And if the fielding gets lax too? Well, then you have what could have been a season making series against the Texas Rangers turn into what we’ve seen on the field instead the last few days – something that could very well be season breaking if the Angels don’t pull it together and play their hearts out from tonight on through the rest of the season.

Pitching Coach Mike Butcher joins Tyler Chatwood and Jeff Mathis on the mound. It was clear from the first pitch that Chatty wasn't himself this evening. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Another end result is that I, consummate baseball optimist, constant cheerleader and the self-proclaimed Pollyanna of Angels baseball actually started to despair for a few minutes Tuesday night. Tuesday was my husband’s birthday and his boss gave him the company seats, the OMG! company seats, on the field, in the first section on the dangerous side of the home plate screens, 10 rows back from the action. Awesome boss, yes? But sitting there, seemingly inches from the field, watching Erick Aybar lazily glance at the second playable line drive in as many innings shoot uncontested into the outfield for extra bases, in a game where our young starter was clearly struggling and needed all the backup he could get, I thought, “Well, that’s it then. If the Angels have just given up, the season is over.”

Erick Aybar looks embarrassed, as well he should after his half assed fielding earlier, as he and former teammate Mike Napoli chat during a pitching change. What could they be saying to one another? Naps: It's okay Erick, _we_ appreciate your fielding today *snerk*. Aybar: D'oh. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Russell Branyan and Peter Bourjos in the dugout during the Angels at bat. I know just how you feel, Russell. I know just how you feel. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

In fact, I think I waited this long to post our photos from the game, indeed anything about the Rangers series, in the hopes that Wednesday would give me something more cheerful to talk about. No dice. At least the lollygagging fielding was over by Wednesday, but not the gaffs. Balls were being thrown all kinds of places that weren’t anywhere near a glove. Erick Aybar decided to make an effort again for us Wednesday, but alternated between not being able to keep balls in his glove and not being able to get them out in time to actually throw them – which given the throwing situation might, in hindsight, have been a blessing in disguise, I don’t know – all night. Santana pitched a great game, but with the usual insufficient run support, and now with insufficient defense, it’s no surprise we lost.

Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick chat as they take the field and Howie confirms that Aybar's fielding was indeed half-assed this game. 'Hey, look at my uniform, I might have missed, but I at least dove for the ball'...or, you know, something like that. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So, are we done? The commentators all seem to think so. This was an important series, no doubt about it. We could be. If we can pull tonight off, we’re still six games out of first place in mid-August and that’s a tall order. But I did say my moment of despair was brief and, like it’s underlying message, I’m not giving up unless the Angels have given up…and even then I probably won’t give up unless winning becomes a mathematical impossibility, not a mere improbability, an impossibility. I’m stubborn like that. Monday and Tuesday notwithstanding, I don’t think the Angels have given up. Wednesday they still played badly but there were improvements – our pitching was back on track and the defense was at least hustling. And, here’s the thing. We were only one game out of first two weeks ago with only a handful of head to head games against the Rangers under our belt. We have seven more coming up including tonight. So, come on Angels, this division just got a whole lot tougher, but it’s still winnable.

So, tonight and going forward through August and September, we need to see a lot less of this – big bats taking knocking our pitching for extra bases -:

Mike Napoli begins a swing as Jeff Mathis positions himself for the ball. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Yorvit Torrealba at bat with Jeff Mathis catching. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ian Kinsler takes a swing and fouls it off. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And a lot more of this, namely Angels in scoring position who then actually score and Angels on the base paths who just earned RBIs. And, I know I’m being extra, extra demanding here, but how about in several of the innings leading up to the 9th inning too?:

Howie Kendrick leads off third as Michael Young moves with the pitch. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter on first after knocking in a run with a single in the 9th. Mitch Moreland is playing first for Texas. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

We need to start hitting pitchers who are hittable, and not right into double plays either. Derek Holland pitched a good game, but he was hittable:

Derek Holland begins his wind up. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

No more injuries please!!! Everyone stay healthy:

Torii Hunter tells Mike Scioscia and a trainer 'Hell, no, you aren't taking me out of this game.' or words to that effect after fouling a pitch off of his own foot in the 7th. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

It’s unfair to but so much pressure on our starting pitching, but that’s just the way things are this season, especially with the #4 spot in the rotation in such a state of flux, the rest of the rotation needs to be lights out as often as possible. With Garrett Richards unfortunately timed injury, they’re reinstating Joel Pineiro as a starter…oooooh boy. I just don’t know about that one. Prove me wrong, okay Joel? And the bullpen needs to be equally spot on. So why did we send this guy back to AAA?:

Trevor Bell, up from Salt Lake City just for this game, takes the mound in the 3rd. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And why do we keep putting this guy in, in crucial situations? Tuesday was fine. Fernando Rodney pitches best when we’re already behind and don’t want to fall further behind, but I still don’t like seeing him take the mound:

Jeff Mathis tells reliever Fernando Rodney, would you stop walking batters and pitch a GD strike every once in a while...oh...maybe that's just what I want to tell him. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And the fielding needs to be error free and full of hustle:

Mark Trumbo and runner Mike Napoli move with the pitch. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo fields the ball cleanly and Ian Kinsler is out at first. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

 
Thursday Night Addendum: Holy Trumbo Walk Off, Bat Man! That was awesome! This doesn’t change anything I said in my initial post – this division is still winnable for the Angels, but it’s going to take a lot of work and I will be rooting for them the whole way…but it sure makes me a lot happier about all things Angels and I think the team needed that even more than the fans did. Light that baby up! Shall we return the favor in Texas in a few weeks? Yes please!
 

More Musings on Spring Training and an Angels’ Great Retires

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

This isn’t just a spring game. It’s live baseball! It’s been like four months, man!

The quote I used for my headline? It was easily the best comment of the night at Taps Fish House and Brewery where Seth and I decided to go for a late dinner in the bar Saturday. We were giddy from the live baseball treat of the afternoon – and scoring opening day tickets that morning! – wanted more and figured it wouldn’t take much effort to sweet talk the Taps bar staff into putting the Rockies/D-Backs game on one of the TVs. It didn’t. Our favorite bartender, the Angels fan who pumps us for details every time we hit Taps after a ballgame’s, eyes got huge when we asked for a channel change. “There’s still a game on! I thought I missed them all today.”

Well thank goodness for the MLB network’s delayed airing because I think all of the baseball fans in the bar were in the same boat. No one apparently thought to put the game on before we arrived, but the minute it was on the TV half of the eyes in the bar were glued to it…and it’s not like there were any Rockies or D-Backs fans in the bar, just a bunch of baseball starved locals. The headline comment came shortly after that from a guy sitting at one of the tables behind us. One of his friends chided him for paying so much attention to the game and this was his response, delivered loudly, with a great deal of passion and a sweeping gesture at the screen. We at the bar, several bartenders included, responded with approving hollers.

It was a great evening. Out with my husband, an honest to goodness game at the bar, good food, tasty beverages and a lot of baseball fans to talk to – from the friendly, talkative Red Sox fan beside me, to the Angels fans on both sides of the bar who echoed our boo when he used the term “rebuilding year” in reference to the Halos. In many ways, Taps is my ideal game day bar. I would spend more games there if I didn’t also spend so much money there every time I go.

* * * * *

So imagine my excitement about the Angels/Dodgers game today! Meh. As it turned out, I would have been a lot happier if they had aired yesterday’s game instead. Today the Angels gave the starters and most of the second string the day off and let the kids have a work out. Alas, against the Dodgers first string, the kids were not alright. I’m aware that this is the nature of spring training. It’s more about giving everyone a workout, giving the kids some experience and a tryout and working through any issues before the season starts than it is about winning. But still, 5-0 ouch.

With the spirit of spring training in mind, I think there were a few important take aways. First, Kaz was throwing hard and throwing strikes! Even in the first inning and Scott Kazmir is prone to rough first innings. Granted, the Dodgers hit him – five hits and three earned runs in the two innings he pitched. But I think this was inconclusive, and I am not inclined to make excuses for Kaz. I think if he had the Angels starters behind him, that stat would have been better, more like two or three hits and one run. But you never know. I want to see more before the season starts but the fact that I do want to see more at all is positive. Maybe…maybe…well, we’ll see.

Here are some other thoughts I had watching the game. Bobby Wilson is taking spring training very seriously and looked strong both behind the plate and at bat. His increased speed and agility was a bright spot in the game for me. Hank Conger on the other hand looked rusty. I’m not really worried. I’ve seen him do a lot better than that, but if he wants a shot a starting catcher he needs to pick up the speed on his throw down to second a lot. I don’t know what to think of Mike Trout. He hit a nice solid single in the first inning and made one catch in center that his speed made look a lot easier than it was. Other than that, however, he looked like he kind of phoned it in, which I don’t like. But it is just one game. Mark Trumbo needs a lot of work at first. He made some good plays and some really clumsy ones. He’s wearing Mike Napoli’s Angels’s jersey number 44 this season and between the homerun yesterday and, alas, the lack of performance with runners in scoring position today, this seems appropriate. Fernando Rodney’s rustiness looks suspiciously like right where he left off last season.

Watching this game, it was obvious that, like most teams, the Angels have a lot of minor league players who will never be major league players. Andrew Romine, on the other hand? I liked his instincts when he came up this September, sliding across third with the ball to get the seemingly impossible force out. He had a good solid hit today and made one nice diving play at short, his throw just missing getting the speedy runner out at first. I look at him and think, interesting, maybe in a few years? Suffice to say, I need to see a lot more of spring training and the kids – and some of the veterans – need to play a lot more before I form stronger opinions. Fortunately, this was only game two and tomorrow the regular starters are supposed to play. And it’s all still exciting. In the words of random Taps bar guy, these aren’t just spring games. It’s live baseball! It’s been like four months, man!

Michael Young, Young Catchers and Catching Angels Events

Michael Young? No, thanks. None for me please.
So Michael Young has had all he can stand and he can’t stands no more and he’s asked to be traded. I can’t say that blame him really, not that I blame the Rangers either. The team is making good deals but I can only imagine what went through Young’s mind when they signed Mike Napoli after he had already agreed to move to DH for Adrian Beltre…the All-State Insurance commercial with Mayhem as the distraught, dumped teenaged girl, however, does come to mind. It sounds to me like he’s headed for the Rockies. Of course, the being the media’s front runner hasn’t meant a whole lot this offseason, so you just never know and there are other teams – and other teams fans – who want him badly.

I may be in the minority, but I don’t want him for the Angels. He’s a stand up, team player kind of guy and I would love to have a bat like his in the lineup. But defensively he’s no better and possibly not quite as good as what we’ve already – which is not to say that the Angels third base options couldn’t use some defensive improvement. For me, Young’s bat alone doesn’t justify the players we would have to give up -and then face again, and again and again in Texas – to get him. Another team could make the trade and be happier and better for it, but I just don’t think the Angels are the right fit.

Young Catchers Trend Continues in 2011
MLB.com had a great article today about the large group of talented young catchers who should see some major league playing time next year. It was nice to see that the Angel’s Hank Conger prominently mentioned and frequently quoted. Conger impressed me behind the plate last season. If he can find his bat against major league pitching this season and find it quickly, he could really go places. Conger was even one of four catchers included in the photo when the article was highlighted on MLB’s front page this morning, before the news lit up with speculation about Pujols and Young. The photo was actually a montage of four tall, skinny photos, one of each catcher in a different crouch or catching position. Of course, when I was trying to explain this to my husband this evening, what I came up with was that it looked very Charlie’s Angels, actually, but with photos instead of silhouettes and mitts instead of guns. Sadly this was apt and he knew exactly what article I was talking about from this description. We both laughed a lot.

Why must all of the fun events happen during the week?
The Angels open house? All of the press conferences? And now the Inland Empire 66ers Affiliation Celebration – celebrating the Angels new advanced A affiliation? (Basically, the Angels and Dodgers traded advanced A teams in the offseason.) I actually do get why so many of these things take place during the week but I would love to be able to go to one or two of them. Oh well, that’s one of the many beauties of baseball. There is always next season.

Baseball So Cal Style: Vernon Wells Is Ready for His Close-Up & Trades with Hollywood Endings

The Angels held their press conference to officially welcome Vernon Wells to the team today. It sounds like there was a great crowd gathered underneath the giant baseball caps in front of the stadium this morning. Only where the Angels are concerned do I envy my husband’s job location in Irvine, mere minutes away from the Big A, and the unfortunate 60 to 90 minute commute that goes along with it. I know that some of his coworkers, a fun bunch of diehards the lot of them, took an early lunch at the press conference and, while I like my job and my commute much better, it would be fun to be able to do that every now and then…or just to be able to get to weeknight games in time for batting practice. But I digress…

It was nice to read a little more positive press about the trade today. I am actually really surprised at the huge disconnect between the way some of the – admittedly local and Angels friendly – press views the Vernon Wells trade and the way the rest of the press views it. Apparently, this is the worst deal this offseason or any of the last few in recent history, the Rangers and the Blue Jays should erect statues in our honor and Tony Reagins should fear for his job. Wow. It’s so nice to know that no one is still falling back on hyperbole and other sports writing clichés. (Sarcasm, on the other hand, is a grand literary tradition as well as an important lifestyle choice. Why do you ask?) I have read a lot more about this trade since my post last weekend and I stand by my initial assessment of the whole thing – this is certainly not the best deal we could have made this season but it is a good one and the team the Angels are putting on the field in 2011 is better than the one that left the field in 2010. Are they good enough? Well, I guess we’re just going have to actually play 162 games and find out. I am excited to watch how it all plays out…and I am really excited about our outfield this season!

And then there was that was that completely unexpected twist ending to the trade yesterday…No, no one had a psychotic break or turned out to really have been dead the whole time (Juan Rivera’s 2010 left field performance to the contrary – sorry Morris, I had to.), but, no one expected the Texas Inquisition! Shocking yes, but I am even more surprised at the God-like qualities Mike Napoli’s batting prowess has recently taken on in some of the blog posts about his unfortunate trade by the Blue Jays to the Rangers (not to mention the unexpected presumption that he would have suddenly become the primary catcher). He’s got a great bat. I’m going to miss having him in the Angels line-up too and I’m really going to miss him behind the plate, for the little bit of playing time he was likely to have (let’s not forget that part!). I’m not looking forward to facing him in our division either. And I am also not thrilled that the Rangers got another power hitter – as if we didn’t know it already, those guys are definitely going to be tough again this year! But Napoli did not suddenly become one of the elite hitters in baseball just because he got traded to the Rangers.

I wish Napoli well except against the Angels, as I did when he was traded to the Blue Jays. But while his homerun total may go up slightly in Arlington, always hyped as a hitter’s ballpark, I really don’t expect his slash line stats to change that drastically. He’s been fairly even his whole career up until now. Yes, as a former Angels catcher, he knows our pitchers well, but that didn’t help him against John Lackey this year anymore than it did any of our other players. He is likely to smack a Weaver or Haren pitch or two out of the park over the course of a season – fly ball pitchers and all that – but, be honest, he’s also likely to keep stranding runners in scoring position even when he’s playing in Anaheim and going through three and four week long slumps too. He’s good. We’ll miss him. It’s going to suck seeing him in Rangers red…and blue…and red, white and blue…and whatever other uniform they come up with this season. But he is hardly the key to the Angels undoing. The Rangers line-up as a whole? That’s a lot scarier, but our starters had better be bringing their nastiest stuff anyway. Hmmm…if all else fails and the Angels really need a Plan B in terms of pitching to Nap, maybe they can just plan on walking the guy in front of him if no one else is already on base? ;)

Surprise! Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera Traded for Vernon Wells

Wow. I leave the internets alone for one day and our recently all too mild-mannered Tony Reagins turns into the Trade Ninja again. So intent was I on fun, gorgeous scenery and wine today that I wasn’t even checking my email (understandable given that reception up here is pretty hit and miss) and didn’t notice the trade announcement until a few hours ago. Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays in exchange for Vernon Wells and an undisclosed amount of cash, or no cash at all depending on which reports you read. My, that was unexpected.

Admittedly, my initial reaction to the trade news was a little pouty. Mike Napoli is one of my favorite current Angels players and you always hate to see a favorite player move on even though it’s all part of the game. But then the trade started to grow on me. The truth of the matter is, Mike Scioscia prefers Jeff Mathis behind the plate and has said repeatedly that he considers Napoli too streaky to be anything more than an occasional DH. Whether or not I agree with Scioscia’s assessment, the bottom line is that barring injuries and with Kendry back at first (Yay!), at the absolute best Napoli was only going to split time behind the plate and see a couple of games as the DH anyway. If the Angels were going to underuse him, I’m sad to see a favorite player go, but I would rather trade him for someone the Angels will use. I wish Napoli all the best with the Blue Jays, except when the Blue Jays play the Angels. He’s streaky. Maybe he can have a brief slump those games.

On the other hand, I am not at all sorry to see Juan Rivera go. It’s uncharitable, I realize. He gave the Angels a few great seasons but he’s been sliding downhill since returning from the broken leg. He just seems to play with fear and hesitation now and the hustle is gone. I can forgive a player many things, including loss of mobility from aging or injury, but lack of hustle is something I’ve always found very hard to forgive. I wish him well in Toronto, I truly do (except when they play us, of course), but after last season especially, I will not miss him in Anaheim.

As for the other end of the deal? Yes, we overpaid. Whether or not we actually get cash out of this. I’m not even going to debate that. But, with the way deals have been going this offseason, free agency signings, trades or otherwise, I just don’t see very many ways for the Angels to have avoided overpaying and other teams already struck those deals. Yes, Vernon Wells is 32. But he doesn’t seem to have slowed down in the outfield since his Gold Glove years and, in terms of homeruns, OPS and batting average, 2010 was one of Wells’ best offensive seasons since 2006. When you ignore the money (and I am, because, really, how many deals didn’t involve insane money this offseason?) the Angels traded two players they were using as occasional utility players for a starting outfielder with a good glove and a dangerous bat. Between Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter and Wells, I am actually really excited to see our outfield in action this year and I am starting to worry less about the batting line-up…though we still really need a leadoff hitter. I also love how excited Wells sounded about coming to Anaheim in his interview. He sounded ready to win and certain the Angels could accomplish that. Maybe he can help bring some of the swagger and daring the Angels lost in 2010 back to the Big A. Optimism returning and growing.

It’s Angels Contract Tuesday

The Angels signed contracts today, avoiding four of their six remaining possible arbitration cases, with Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Reggie Willits and Kendry Morales. Wait, Kendry? The Angels and a Scott Boras client reached a deal quickly and amicably? No snarling, gnashing of teeth or packing up of toys and running home swearing never to play with one another again? Apparently so, and amen to that I say. So, is this the dawn of a new era? Doubtful. I chalk it up to the classiness of the client (which as we all know, especially after watching contract negotiations this year, only goes so far) and an early Boras lull into a false sense of security before Kendry becomes a free agent. But for now we’ll take it…and it’s highly possible teeth were gnashed in private.

In other Tuesday Angels news, the team apparently traded dollar amounts with the other two arbitration eligible players, Jered Weaver and Mike Napoli. In terms of baseball dollars (you know, what’s an extra million give or take), the numbers being reported in the papers don’t look like the players asking prices and the Angels offers are too far apart. Personally, I hope the Angels just give Weaver and Napoli what they’re asking for. Weaver pitched an All-Star year and filled John Lackey’s vacated ace shoes like he’s been wearing them his whole career and meeting his request now might earn us some good will in negotiations when he’s a free agent…okay, he’s Scott Boras’ client so probably not, but it couldn’t hurt. Napoli did everything the team asked of him and more…okay his runners in scoring position clutch was a little broken, but when has that not been an off and on issue? He still had the most home runs of anyone on the team, a career high for him in a year where career lows ran rampant through the clubhouse, and he moved over to first base and played it admirably well when the team needed a first basemen.

Wow, did typing that ever bring on a flood of memories. (Yeah, yeah. I digress. You are all shocked.) Memorial Day weekend. My husband and I were in Cambria. Oh no, the whole home stand against the Mariners was blacked out on the Central Coast! No problem, we can catch bits of the games on our phones. Wait. Kendry did what? Naps is playing first? The next day we desperately platooned our Blackberries to “watch” the game on MLB.com Gameday intermittently with Cambria and Paso Robles’ notoriously sketchy cell phone signals and wound up jumping up and down like loons in the middle of a Giants territory bar while the Giant’s season ticket holder bar owner (great guy and a great bar by the way – been favorite of ours for years) chuckled at us when the Angels actually pulled it off. As long as everyone is healthy and hale this season, this officially becomes a good memory.

At any rate, the 2011 team is starting to take shape…and it’s pretty much the same shape as last year but, for whatever reason. Call it not losing any more key players this year? Call it Kendry’s back? Call it plain old fashioned excitement because I’m starting to see the barest glimpse of Spring Training on the horizon like that first glimmer of the beacon on top of the Luxor seen from just outside of Baker? For whatever reason, I am starting to feel just the tiniest bit of that preseason optimism.

Two Down, Six More to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angels 2010 Top 10 – No I Don’t Mean This List Satirically

With only one day left in 2010, I believe it is customary to make a top 10 or some other sort of retrospective list. I don’t recall any actual written rule to this effect in the Big Book of Blogging Rules, wherever that may be, but it hey, the end of the year just cries out for such things, doesn’t it? So why buck tradition? If finding 10 things in this season of all seasons that make me happy to be an Angels fan makes me the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels baseball, well, I did choose the handle Blithescribe after all *big grin*. In no particular order, here are my personal 10 favorite things about Angels baseball in 2010:

Jered Weaver - Angels fans were all so very worried about who could step up and fill the ace’s shoes with Lackey headed for the Red Sox. That seems so wonderfully silly now! I actually wasn’t that worried. I didn’t know he would step up so fully this season, but I did remember that post season game against the Yankees in 2009 when Weaver became the 8th inning set up man in a moment of need and he came in looking like a steely eyed gunslinger and sat them down one, two, three. I remember standing up and cheering in my living room and thinking future ace. And to be the AL strikeout leader in 2010, icing on the cake! Now let’s get this man some run support in 2011 shall we.

Signing Dan Haren - This was one of those, really, we got him? Way to go Reagins! moments. A second ace to add to the rotation, he was an absolute pleasure to watch in 2010 and finished his partial season here with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. I hope that these stats are indicative of what we can expect to see in 2011. The fact that we happened to be there for his first (Where he took the Youk line drive to the pitching arm, ouch!) and second starts made this extra fun for me.

7/31 and 8/1 against the Rangers - Both were absolute, bare knuckled brawls of a game, the Angels were in top form, and we had tickets to both for our anniversary – this lady demands diamonds on such occasions, natch ;) The Rangers won the first game, but the second was Weaver vs. Cliff Lee, the Angels pulled it off and it was quite possibly the best game I have seen from a stadium.

Players Doing What’s Best for the Team - Torii moving to right field so the Angels could bring Bourjos into center; Napoli taking over first base and doing a darned good job at it really, after Kendry’s injury when he hadn’t played first base since the minors; both were selfless, team spirited moves and, to my mind, damn clutch.

The Month of June - Instead of crumpling in the aftermath of Kendry’s season ending injury, the team cowboyed up and played like, well, like the Angels for the month of June and it was a beautiful thing to see…and then they crumpled. Would that the June play had lasted the rest of the year.

Peter Bourjos - It was such a breath of fresh air to watch this young bundle of talent and enthusiasm move up to the majors. And you’ve all heard it hundreds of time by now, but oh my God is this kid fast. In the games we attended alone I saw him rob four homeruns and turn two sure thing out bloopers to the short stop into a base hits. And he’s smart on the bases and out in the field too. He’s not perfect. He’s definitely a rookie so there were a few issues, primarily with his offense but he seemed to be improving by small increments with each at bat and I for one really look forward to watching him blossom into a full blown All Star in 2011.

Getting to See the Rookie Call-Ups in Action - While it would have been better if the Angles were in contention for a post season and the rookie call-ups mostly sat on the bench, the way things worked out it was a lot of fun to be there at the Big A for to see so many of their firsts – Conger, Trumbo and Romine’s first at bats, their first turns on defense. As with Bourjos, it was a bright spot to see so much youthful enthusiasm on the field, and I think we’ll be seeing Conger and Romine again, Conger quite soon.

16 Games! – My husband and I managed to go to 16 games this year. We typically watch between 100 and 130 of the games in some fashion, mostly on TV but this is the first time we’ve made it to the Big A, which is oh so much better, for so many. No, this is not earth shattering for Angels baseball as a whole, but it was a big deal in terms of my personal fan experience.

The Growth of the Friday Night Ritual - this is another one that would only matter in my house. A good bottle of wine, a gourmet dinner from our own kitchen and Angels baseball became what we called the Friday Night Ritual. It’s fun, companionable, affordable and this year we grew to love it to the point where we turned down all other invitations…’tis such a fine, fine line between the fanatic and fan!

Personal Firsts - Kendry’s exhibition game grand slam against the Dodgers was the first grand slam my husband had ever seen live at a stadium – he didn’t go to as many Dodger games as I did as a kid ;). This was the first year I timed the tickets such that I got to see Weaver pitch at the stadium and honestly, you can’t really appreciate the sheer amount of ground this 6′ 7″ talented stork of a man covers and the deceptiveness of his delivery until you’ve seen it at the game. The first time either of us was there for an entire series – the last homestand against the A’s, many, many thanks to D for his generosity in just handing my husband the season tickets, this game and so many others. And the list goes on…

Suffice to say, yes it was a dismal season. But there were bright spots and enjoyable times for me at least and I for one am ready to call clean cup move down and see what the 2011 season brings…ideally Adrian Beltre but, if not, I am still eager to see what the Angels can do.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 70 other followers

%d bloggers like this: