Results tagged ‘ Mike Scioscia ’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I-5 Bias: The Freeway Series Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitchers and Catchers Report Today!! Time for Angels’ New Baseball Year Resolutions

Pitchers and Catchers report today!! Okay, granted with a few exceptions. But, still, pitchers and catchers report today. *happy dance* I know, I know. To the baseball fan, it’s ‘Play ball!’ that’s the truly wonderful phrase, the phrase we all rank highly on any list of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. ‘Pitchers and catchers report!’ just doesn’t have the same impact…most of the time. Today, however, ‘pitchers and catchers report’ means that the long, looooooong winter without baseball is over. It means that players will begin throwing baseballs, conducting drills and preparing for the main event, Opening Day, any moment now. It means that spring training ‘play ball’s will soon ring out loud and clear across Florida and Arizona and that official, regular season ‘play ball’s are not far behind. So why don’t you just take a moment, let that phrase roll off your tongue again and really savor it this time. Pitchers and catchers report! Today is sounds absolutely gorgeous, doesn’t it?

In honor of this beautiful day — my personal first day of Spring regardless of what the calendar says – I have decided to finally share my “resolutions” for the 2013 Angels, resolutions that I think the team should keep in order to help make their high potential for a fantastic 2013 season a reality. Hey, I know these sorts of things are traditionally done in January but what the heck. I missed that with my little blogging break and I might argue that today is the start of the baseball year anyway:

  1. Health is a common resolution, right? So let’s start there. Obviously no one ever wants to get injured or sick and Angels players are a tough bunch, often playing while injured. But when you look at the issues the team has had the last several seasons – with the offense, the bullpen, the starting rotation — the need to work around injuries and illnesses has played a significant role in each of those issues. So, as much as injuries are absolutely just a part of the game, play hard and with joy and passion but, while you’re doing that don’t forget to do all of your stretches/take up yoga or Pilates/ lift from the correct position/don’t hit the wall unless you have a shot at making the play/avoid walking into toe breaking brick patios/take your vitamins/whatever it takes to stay healthy. (And, hey, as I write this I am recovering sloooowly from the ick that’s going around my office and wishing desperately that I’d taken my own advice, so there you go. Healthy >>>>>>>>>>>>>not healthy.)
  2. Along the same theme as health, I would really love to see all aspects of the Angels’ game working at the same time. Last season, it seemed like the offense found their stride only to have the starting rotation hit a rough patch. Then the starting rotation would right themselves for a few games only to have the bullpen fall apart. Mind you, despite these issues, the team still won 89 games. So it stands to reason that if the Angels can really get on a role in 2013 with all of their strengths working at the same time, this could be really special season!
  3. Free Peter Bourjos! Picture it, an outfield with Bourjos in center flanked by Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout truly is one amazing centerfielder, but Bourjos is even faster, runs even better routes and has a similarly golden glove (and, seriously, if both of these kids don’t get actual, for real Gold Glove awards in the plural sooner rather than later in their careers, that will be a crime). So, putting the two of them in the outfield together?!! Plus Hamilton?! I get goose bumps just thinking about it. And let’s just quit it with all of that Bourjos can’t hit talk, shall we. Yes, last year, coming into the game sporadically, often in the middle or at the end of the game, sometimes with weeks in between at bats, his batting average was terrible. But when given a full season to play the year before that, he may have started out slow but he finished with a more than respectable .271. Is a .271 average really higher than we should expect from Bourjos in a normal season like some say? Perhaps. But instead of continuing to speculate, why don’t we find out, really find out…you know, by leaving him in for more than a handful of games at a stretch. Look, even if Bourjos’ normal batting average turns out to be like .250, that’s a lot better than 2012’s alternative of Vernon Wells.
  4. Accomplish the above ^^ without losing Mark Trumbo’s bat. Barring any scary slumps — which means, Mark, stay out of the Home Run Derby unless you can do it without f-ing up your swing, ‘kay? – Trumbo should be a lineup constant, primarily in the role of DH but also as an occasional substitute outfielder, as needed.
  5. Hey, Sosh, fewer lineups, please. Now I understand that having multiple starting lineups for specific occasions can serve a useful purpose, as can shaking things up from time to time. And I do realize that giving up having 100+ lineups for 162 games is probably harder for you than quitting cigarettes is for most people. So I’m not asking you to go cold turkey and pick just one lineup to stick with for the rest of the season. But how about choosing one basic lineup with a small handful of situation specific variations – for example the ideal infield and outfield for Angels fly ball pitchers, the ideal infield and outfield for Angels groundball pitchers, and whatever? And, hey, maybe you could stick with each situation’s lineup for a while to really see if it works instead of switching them up at the drop of a hat? Hmmmm…What’s that you say? Probably not? Yeah, I thought as much. But hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying.
  6. Stay healthy.
  7. Players who tend to swing between off years and on years, I really hope to be cheering for the best version of you, so to speak, in 2013. For example, I really want to see the 2012 Kevin Jepsen again, or even a continuing, positive evolution of him. Because 2012 Jepsen was a revelation, pulling all of the occasional glimpses of skilled reliever we’d seen in previous seasons into a solid, reliable reliever who saved the Angels bacon a lot. Among my other biggest wishes in the category? I want to see the .300 + hitting Albert Pujols, the bone-spur free, kick ass version of C.J. Wilson, and I want to see “amazing feats of baseball awesomeness” Josh Hamilton, not the “caffeine ailments and special eye issues uniquely related to blue eyed folks” Josh Hamilton…because I’ve got a pair of baby blues of my own, Josh, and I call shenanigans on you there. ;)
  8. Another common resolution is to try new places/styles/foods/fill in the blank with a sense of adventure instead of fear. For the Angels, I think this specifically refers to new opposing pitchers. Facing a new pitcher should a be a light hearted adventure filled with all kinds of fun games, like home run derby and “how many bases can I steal?” not the sort of fear and over thinking that makes rookie pitchers look like Cy Young candidates.
  9. Fans and players alike: prepare for a full year of Mike Trout magic!!! But at the same time, let’s keep the same attitude of wonder and amazement we had in 2012 instead of heaping all of the expectations of last year’s stellar season on his young, albeit strong and capable, shoulders. I have not a doubt in my mind but what every year with Trout is going to be something special, but keeping some sort of running game by game comparison of last season’s home run totals and on base percentages with this season’s creates a stupid kind of pressure and is just going to drive everyone crazy…especially if you tend to do this out loud and while sitting next to me at the Big A. I’m just sayin’. ;)
  10. Oh, and last but certainly not least, the best resolution of all, again for fans and players alike: let’s have fun with the 2013 season! That, and did I mention stay healthy?

And, with that, I’m going to cease my giddy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day bouncing around the house and go back to getting some serious work done. *boingy, boingy, boingy* *sigh* Okay, apparently I’m going to continue my giddy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day bouncing around the house while getting some serious work done. 2013 is going to be amazing, I can just feel it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

Hatcher, Bourjos, Shut Out, Hits – It’s Been Quite an Eventful Angels Week!

I probably should not let my mood rise and fall based on the results of the latest Angels game. That way lies a certain sort of madness I suppose…or perhaps just strong fanaticism. But darned if I wasn’t more than a little mopey after last weekend’s debacle. And, now that the Angels have won two in a row with strong bats making an appearance, darned if I’m not grinning from ear to ear…of course the fact that we’re leaving for San Diego tomorrow morning to catch the Angels/Padres series might have something to do with my mood as well. But before we embark on what I hope will be a nice long streak of giddy making wins, there is a little unpleasant business this blogger should attend to:

Bye Mickey Hatcher

The Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher Tuesday evening and, I have to admit, I’m pleased. Oh, not for the reasons you might think. This isn’t another ‘Dancing in the streets, Ding Dong the Hatch is Gone’ Angels blog post. I was never particularly in the ‘Fire Hatcher, he’s the bane of our existence’ camp. Look, since 2010 the Angels offense has been dismal to put it kindly and Angels fans readily place the blame on Hatcher. But the thing is, before the 2010 season the Angels offense was pretty darned good for a few years there, at least from a batting average and overall effectiveness standpoint if not from a frightening power standpoint. I vividly remember a few games late in the 2009 season where the entire Angels starting lineup was batting at or over .300. Crazy good! And if we’re going to blame Mickey Hatcher for the bad times, doesn’t it only stand to reason that we credit him for the good times? I mean, it’s not as if either apex of the pendulum was a brief moment in time such that one might characterize it as a fluke.

Mike Trout’s swing certainly isn’t the problem! He has been nothing but fantastic in the lead off role. Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

But, here we are in May 2012 and while the offense had shown brief flashes of teasing hope heading into Tuesday, it still looked like the third season in a row of wildly swinging but otherwise quiet bats. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Angels lack of recent championships occurred simultaneously with the lack of offense. Do I think this is Hatcher’s fault? No. I don’t think he “ruins” swings or there would be no way to explain the seasons before 2010. And ultimately whatever the hitting coach is or is not doing, whatever the team’s strategy and hitting philosophy, the burden is on the players to get in the batter’s box and make contact with the ball.

But I also think it’s clear that Hatcher wasn’t equipped to fix the current situation or we would have seen strong signs of a breakthrough long before now. Over the weekend against the Rangers you could see how much the team has internalized the situation as they started to noticeably despair the moment the Rangers pulled ahead. When a problem gets this convoluted and existing personnel can’t solve it, it’s time to bring in fresh ideas and a new point of view, not because existing staff are to blame for causing the problem or aren’t good at their job under normal circumstances but specifically because they are no longer an effective fit for the job under the current circumstances. On the one hand, I’m sorry to see Hatcher go. He’s a good guy who cares a lot about the team and the team in turn owes him thanks for the good years. But on the other hand I am pleased that Jerry Dipoto recognized the severity of the offense problem and didn’t let the team flounder for another full season without trying something radical. Do I think this solves the Angels problems? I certainly hope so!! But bringing in a fresh point of view is never a guarantee of good results.

Jemile Weeks is a blur back to first base as Albert Pujols moves in place for the pick off toss. Pujols’ defense has been lights out and I see signs that his bat is coming back around too…patience fans and your patience will be rewarded. Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Regardless, the Angels offense sure looked good Tuesday and positively exciting on Wednesday to the joy and relief of Halos fans everywhere. Now, a lot of fans are already cheering on new hitting coach Jim Eppard, freshly promoted from AAA Salt Lake City, and congratulating him on our seemingly revitalized bats. But, seriously people, that’s just plain silly. However good Eppard may eventually be for the team, no one walks off the plane and magically turns two plus seasons of weak offense around in less than 24 hours. It could be a sort of placebo effect, relief over someone finally making a radical move to help, just one of those inexplicable things or even some delayed positive result of Hatcher’s influence, though that would be sad considering the situation. Whatever the reason, hitting is contagious and I sincerely hope that Eppard’s fresh presence, methods and point of view are able to help coax this initial hitting outbreak into a full blown virulent offensive epidemic…or, you know, just not stand in the way while it happens of its own accord because, sometimes, that is the most effective thing a leader can do.

Keep it going guys! Interleague is nigh and you know what that traditionally means for the Angels!

Have You See This Centerfielder?

Wednesday was Peter Bourjos bobble head night but somehow I really think that Bourjos would have preferred to be in the lineup than the subject of the evening’s promotional giveaway. I know I would have preferred it. Not to take anything away from Vernon Wells’ two great defensive plays on Monday or his hits this evening, but I would still also really like to see Bourjos and Mike Trout in the same outfield and the same lineup – an outfield with quicker, better defense every time, not just sometimes. And to add insult to injury, not only was Bourjos not in the lineup for the 14th time in the last 18 games, but he was handing out his own bobble heads at the front gate. Oh, I’m sure meeting and shaking hands with Bourjos was a very nice thing for the fans, but really? They had him handing out bobbleheads at the front gate? What’s next? ‘Hey, Petey, while you’re not doing anything would you mind taking over for the bat boy for a few innings?’

This is the view of Peter Bourjos we see all too frequently – in the dugout waiting to get into the lineup. On the rail with Fleet Pete – Ryan Langerhans, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver. Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yes, Bourjos started off the season in a hitting slump like, oh gee, I don’t know, most of the rest of the team. But he alone has not been given the chance to work his way through said slump with playing time. Surely they can find better use for a kid who was on the short list for a Gold Glove in his first full season in the majors than occasional pinch running duties. Why wouldn’t we want to make every effort to allow he and Mike Trout to grow together into one dynamite outfield duo? Of course, as I finish this post it looks like he’s in the lineup today – yay! – so maybe this is the sign of better things to come?

Monday Night’s Shutout by the A’s

As you can probably tell from the photos, we were there. It was about as pleasant as you might imagine.

The Good – Hey it was a night at the ballpark and our friend scored her mother’s company seats so we were sitting pretty in the Diamond Club right behind home plate for free. That part wasn’t just good, it was downright giddy making.

The Bad – We were shut out. 5 – 0. By a division rival. I don’t think any more details are really necessary.

Dan Haren is a very stubborn man and I wouldn’t wish him any other way because I imagine that’s a big part of why he’s so good. But, still, his back wasn’t quite 100% yet and you could tell – from the way he pulled his extension up a little short at the end of each release and from the way he got hit a little. Still, not a terrible outing by any means and I expect that this weekend he’ll be more or less back to normal. Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Still, there were signs of hope that I think were the logical precursor to the last few nights’ offensive productivity. Namely that the Angels were hitting the ball – right at the A’s for an out in many cases, but there was still some solid contact going on and a few cases of robbery by an excellent play. There was also less wild swinging. Albert Puljos in particular looked more comfortable and, up until the very last at bat where he swung at one so high and one so low that Vladdy would have been saying ‘Really?’, had good discipline and good contact…just at people and robbed in one case. Looking at him Monday I felt we would be seeing more of the old Albert later this week and, indeed, we have. Keep it going! I am rooting for you!!

And here are a few more random game photos just for kicks. No on to the today’s White Sox game, the Padres and, hopefully, a lot more winning! Go Angels!!

I don’t know if Albert Puljos is questioning the umpire’s ball/strike call or if Jemile Weeks is talking trash. Either way, his expression is priceless. Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Jordan Walden throws heat while Howie Kendrick moves into position behind him. Walden has looked much improved on the mound lately but there was no saving this turkey of a game. Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Cliff Pennington and Maicer Izturis swap stories during an injury break. Hmmm…which team’s form of constant lineup fluctuation is more odd for the players I wonder? Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington stretch and practice swings just before the game begins. Angels vs. A’s, May 15, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

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.

These Shoes Weren’t Made for Batting Average

Money can make people do some pretty strange things and that in turn can lead to awful decision making. And the more money we’re talking about, the more things can get even stranger and the decisions even worse. This proportional relationship explains but in no way excuses baseball GM thinking, which at times provides us with arguably some of the most ridiculous occurrences of this phenomenon. Allow me to explain by putting a, completely random of course, GM big money/bad decision situation into everyday terms. Say I went shoe shopping and on a bizarre whim committed…oh, let’s pull a completely random number out thin air here…let’s say $86 million give or take on some sort of weird four season…er…month…four month payment plan. I mean, personally, I usually spend more like $40 to $60 on a pair of shoes and I don’t believe I’ve ever spent more than a bill on a pair but I have heard of Manolo Blahniks and the like – hello, I do have two X chromosomes! – so I suppose that $86 million might be reasonable for someone else. ;)

Now let’s say these shoes just plain turn out to be bad shoes. I mean, they’re certainly nice, personable shoes…er, I mean pretty. That’s it, pretty. They look good on my feet. But other than that, they’re bad shoes. They give me blisters, pinch my heels and make my feet ache. Every now and then it finally seems like they’re starting to get comfortable but then they don’t allow me to walk for any length of time before all the blisters and pinching start up again. And, to top it all off, they’re not just affecting my feet. When I wear these shoes, more often than not, they wreak havoc with the whole starting lineup…er…my back. My back and, actually my legs. Now these shoes worked out okay for a friend of mine but, as anyone can tell you, she’s much more hitter friendly…er…I mean she has much, much better arches.

So what should I do about these shoes? I mean, I committed all of that money to them, so I suppose I should just keep wearing them until I’m crippled right? There’s no way I could eBay the silly things. Who else would be crazy enough to commit so much money to them. And, in the mean time, other, better, more reliable shoes are just sitting there riding pine – in my closet that is, it’s one of those new fangled pine closets – and gathering dust. So, just to be fair, I should probably trade those better, more reliable shoes for another aging reliever and a few sticks of used bubble gum right? …er…I mean used gym socks, old flip flops and a couple of packs of mothballs. Suffice to say, this is completely ridiculous and I am thrilled that Major League GMs don’t get to make my sartorial decisions for me.

So, baseball. Because this blog is about baseball after all, not about shoes, crazy monitory decisions or strange, badly used literary devices…okay, maybe it is frequently about strange, badly used literary devices, but I digress. Peter Bourjos. The trade talk has been flying through the rumor mill again like crazy and, coincidentally or not, he’s riding the pine again tonight. I know his bat has been terrible so far this season. I also know that, so far, when Sosh puts him back in for a game, he hits…and then is benched again, which isn’t exactly sensible or positive reinforcement. I also know he started out slow last season and finished out 2011 hitting a respectable .271, a figure we sure wish Vernon Wells had achieved. And his defense? Oh my word, his defense!! So this makes no sense to me.

As far as Bourjos’ latest replacement goes, I love Mike Trout. I want him to stay in the lineup, batting leadoff, and in the outfield every game. But I want to see Peter Bourjos in the outfield with him instead of Vernon Wells. Bourjos is younger. Bourjos is faster. Bourjos catches everything in sight! Bourjos made changes at the plate last season that lead to a respectable batting average and appears to be on the verge of doing the same thing this season while Wells is, at best, one step forward, two steps right back to last season. Keeping and playing Bourjos and Trout together would mean many more seasons of an amazing outfield combination that can’t even see their peak approaching from where they stand, as opposed to aging outfield.

If the team hadn’t committed so much money to Wells, I don’t think we’d even be having this conversation. But they did and we are. However, I don’t think any amount of money justifies the team cost of continually not using the best tool we currently have available…and it certainly doesn’t justify trading that tool for another bullpen arm. Since I first saw Bourjos play in 2010, I have been dying to see a regular outfield with Trout in left, Bourjos in center and Torii in right (for as long as Torii’s an Angel and I do hope that’s longer than this just this season). I just hope Jerry Dipoto wants to see the same thing.

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And now the highly anticipated Angels/Rangers game is about to begin! Go Halos!!! Of course…I’ll be catching it delayed by about an hour and 15. Seth doesn’t get off work until 6 and the Friday Night Ritual just isn’t the same if I start the game without him – besides, he’d wait for me. :)  In the mean time, I’ll be preparing the Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels spread – blue cheese bacon burgers with fried leeks and fresh tomatoes. Wine still to be determined, but definitely, definitely red. I’m thinking something in a Syrah.

The Obligatory What’s Wrong with Albert Pujols Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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