Results tagged ‘ MLB Network ’

With Angels Contracts Complete, It’s Time for Starting Lineup Roulette

With this week’s news that the Angels have reached one-year deals, avoiding arbitration with both Eric Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, the team appears to be mostly set for the season. Although, I don’t think anyone would mind another reliable arm for the bullpen, should it just happen to present itself and, you know, except for the “will they be ready or won’t they” injury situations with Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. Hey, you can’t have everything, right? …except, perhaps, when Jerry Dipoto is starting off his Haloed tenure with a bang, so we’ll see. *whistles softly*

At any rate, traditionally this is the time to start predicting lineups, rotations and such. But, let’s be honest. Being an Angels fan adds a certain layer – or, like 10! – of, shall we say, complexity to this age old pastime. Oh, I can predict the starting rotation with ease and a fair bit of certainty: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana and Jerome Williams. And don’t think I didn’t all kinds of delicious little shivers up and down my arms typing that list of names just now. The 2012 starting rotation rocks. Hard. But moving past that and on to predicting the lineup? That’s another story. This is, after all, a Mike Scioscia team, she types with affection.

The boys at Hot Stove proposed this starting lineup shortly after Albert Pujols was signed:

The Angels 2012 Lineup, as proposed by Hot Stove.

And as lineups go, it makes a certain amount of sense. But it has two major flaws. 1) Relegating Trumbo to a part time DH role (What a waste! At that point, trade him.) and, even more importantly, 2) it only allows for 4 different variations. Four…Amateurs! ;)

First, let’s consider the leadoff spot. Sosh will never stick to just one leadoff man. Yes, Aybar will fill that role frequently no doubt, but expect to see Peter Bourjos and Macier Izturis (provided he isn’t eventually part of trade for say, a bullpen arm, just to pull something completely out of thin air) in the leadoff spot a fair number of times as well. And then there will be those really random days, when Sosh is either feeling extra spicy or he thinks the guys need a kick in the pants. On those days we might find Howie Kendrick, Mike Trout or even Alberto Callaspo striding to the plate ahead of everyone else. You just never know with Scioscia.

Then there’s the cleanup spot. Albert Pujols is clearly the logical choice. But sometimes Scioscia likes to mix things up and bat the toughest slugger in the 5th spot. At that point you might see Trumbo or Morales take a turn batting 4th. And should the offense start to enter any lengthy slumps (Which you won’t do in 2012, right guys? Right?) expect to see some downright crazy things take place with the cleanup spot. In 2011 Maicer batted 4th in, I believe, two games.

And, really, that’s only the beginning. Torii’s natural place in the lineup is batting 3rd. But when he has an off week or two, expect to see him moved to batting 2nd…at which point he is likely to change his walkup song to Movin’ On Up again because, is there anyone who has more fun during a game than Torii? As much sure, but more? Nah, didn’t think so.

You can be sure that Trout and Bourjos will play in the same game many times throughout the season. And, in addition to taking the leadoff role some of the time, Bourjos will probably bat 2nd a few times as well. And the minute Trout comes into his own at the plate, Chris Iannetta is likely to see some time in the 9th spot – it’s an Angels catchers’ tradition, after all. Alberto Callaspo consistently has one of the highest batting averages on the team. He’s sure to spend some time batting 2nd or 3rd. And what of Bobby Abreu? So far I haven’t heard any noise about trading him. If he’s still with the team come Opening Day, I’m sure there will be several lineup variations featuring him at DH too…

…And this? This is just what I have come up with typing darn near stream of consciousness for a few minutes. Imagine what Scioscia will come up with given an entire season to plot and plan? That said, is any of this constant lineup shifting effective? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. On the average, I’d say it’s probably neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. It’s just Scioscia’s thing. And we fans gripe about it when the team is losing and joke about it with affection when the team is winning. Either way, I’ll not be attempting to diagram all of that variation into one master lineup, slash marks or not, thank you very much. :)

Angels of Catan, a Holiday Induced Hot Stove Mash Up

Once we got the house put back to rights after Thanksgiving, Seth and I spent most of the weekend playing strategy games with headlines on MLBN and Bloomberg playing in the background…as you do, when you’re a couple of geeks who have decided that all of the responsible chores you had planned for the long weekend just really don’t sound appealing. So instead of plastering and painting the bathroom, we played a lot of Settlers of Catan among other things.

Oh, hey look. Blue won! ;) Settlers of Catan, November 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Settlers of Catan is a continually variable resources management game. Think of it as Sid Meier’s Civilization unplugged. You shuffle the tiles and their numerical dice role assignments that make up the playing board at the beginning of every game, so rarely are any two games the same. Your goal is to get enough resources to build cities and other things that are worth points, oh and to keep your buddy from doing so. But in order to do this you have to trade with your buddy a lot because there is always a key resource or two you can’t access on your own.

Hey Kristen, this is highly entertaining and all. Sounds like another fun game. But isn’t this supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, a baseball blog? Oh. You again. Hey, I brought it back around to baseball the last time I went on a strategy game tangent. Just work with me for a minute here. I’m getting to that part!

So, as I was saying. *glares over her shoulder at the peanut gallery* There we were playing Catan. Making trades. Listening to MLBN and hearing about trades though nothing earth shattering. And, well, my brain tends to make weird connections between completely disparate things.

You’re telling me! Quiet, you.

Ahem. All the trading just started to seem hilariously parallel, especially the AA and AAA outfielders I’ve never heard of that some teams seem to be stockpiling. In Catan, if you’ve pissed off your buddy so much by thwarting him that he won’t trade with you (or you’re close to winning which we refer to as being “Cuba”) you have an option of stockpiling 4 of some useless resource and trading it “off the island” with the deck for one of something you actually need. So, how many no name minor league outfielders does it take to build a major league closer? Or a clutch hitting third basemen? Or anyone we would actually like to hear about…and by we, I mean I because, well, I’m baseball news selfish like that. But more than lightbulb-esque jokes about minor league players, my strange baseball/Settlers of Catan juxtaposition lead to an oddly accurate illustration of the Angels current player situation.

See, it totally relates. Well, it’s about bloody time!!

Here it is, presented for your gaming pleasure, just in time for the holidays, Major League Baseball Players of Catan: The Angels Expansion! Hey, they have every other theme and expansion under the sun for Catan, why not? Anyway, looking at my goofy creation and the board the Angels have been clearly playing with for the last couple of seasons, I think the problem is readily apparent, don’t you?:

This is the way our board looks? Now it all makes sense! MLB Players of Catan, Angels Expansion, November 2011. Concept, artwork and photo by This is a very simple game...

I mean if my dice roll options for hitting looked like that, you better bet I’d shuffle up the game board at the nearest opportunity. Strong starting pitching options with a few holes. Good and bad bullpen options based, seemingly, on a roll of the dice. Good fielding and throwing. Some speed. Some strong hitting for average but also some really poor hitting for average and almost no power hitting at all. I keep hearing all kinds of trade and signing rumors about the Angels, as we all do about our teams this time of year, but nothing that I like at all so far.

Catan, for real or as an illustration of the relative talents of Angels personnel, is all about balance and trying hard to compensate for lack of balance when it invariably occurs. Only rarely is pumping up one strength to the neglect of some or all of the others a good strategy. There is no shooting the moon, in baseball or in Catan. And, let’s be honest here, even teams with a lot of money still don’t have infinite money. Balance and prioritization are essential.

I do not want C.J. Wilson, one of the more consistent rumors. Not only do I not like the fact that the converted reliever slowed down earlier this season than last, but I think that it would be throwing entirely too much money at something that is already mostly a strength. We have a hole and a half, if you will, in our starting rotation. But we only have one power bat in our lineup…unless Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales come back in typical shape, but notice I’m not counting on that. I might have liked the David Ortiz rumor. Say what you will about the Fenway toybox, he always kills it in Anaheim, unlike Vernon Wells which probably should have been a clue, but I digress… But we have such a glut of big contract lame duck bats, at least going by 2011’s numbers, in the DH spot that I can’t see a way for the team to get rid of so, really, what’s the point?

So far, the rumor I like the most is Aramis Ramirez, but that one isn’t perfect either even when you ignore his fits of bad attitude for the sake of argument. More power at third base would be really nice. Really, really nice. But people forget that Alberto Callaspo may not be flashy but he hit consistently for average all season long, our highest batting average in 2011 in fact. And while I would like some power, if we replace Callaspo, we would then need to make up his batting average somewhere else in the lineup somehow. How about a power hitting catcher…or, even, an average hitting catcher? Clearly the slumping bats need to step it up big time or be replaced. But is that possible? It’s a puzzle. A Catan worthy puzzle. Mike Scioscia has said he likes playing Civilzation. I wonder if Jerry Dipoto likes resources management strategy games? Because like it or not, he’s got a pretty tricky one ahead of him.

The Long, Dark Time Without Baseball, Day 24

24 days without baseball. By this point my mind finally understands that baseball season is over. This isn’t an inordinately lengthy All-Star break or some sort of weird mid-season hiatus. There is no more baseball until spring. My mind understands, but it still does not accept.

Evenings are the hardest. During the day, I am working, just as I do during the season, and sometimes have time to catch Hot Stove or read other news over lunch. That’s not so very different, really. But in the evenings, when all of the have tos are over and it’s time to settle down and relax…eeek, there is just so much extra time now! I have a few non-baseball shows I like. Top Shot is over for the season, but Castle is fun with a lot of good quips about writing and sly book and movie references. I am infatuated with Grimm right now. It’s quirky and clever. Hell on Wheels is so far a more than adequate westerns fix in a sadly post-Deadwood world. And there are a few others. Food Network and the like. But that’s, what? An hour every other evening or so? Occasionally a little more? My mind is temporarily satisfied, then the brief distraction is over, it grows restless and the impatient channel surfing begins in search of a fix that simply does not exist:

Not baseball. *click*

Not baseball. *click*

Ah, MLBN, my hero! Except…is this a highlight show or countdown or Hot Stove/Intentional Talk/etc. episode I’ve already seen? As the offseason drags on, increasingly the answer is yes. *sigh* *click*

Not baseball. *click*

Not baseball. *click*

“Reality” TV crap. Definitely. Not. Baseball. *shudders* *click*

Not baseball. *click*

And so on. What on Earth do people do with all of this extra time?! I’ve filled it with movies. I’ve filled it with books. Two weeks ago, I filled several evenings making pickles. This week Seth and I are filling the time scouring our house from top to bottom and cooking, cooking, cooking. We host Thanksgiving for our combined families each year (just the two of us and both sets of parents this year though) and we enjoy making it a completely from scratch affair. But that’s this week and before. Whatever will I do next week? 24 days without baseball and it’s clear this blogger needs more offseason hobbies, stat.

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Funny story of the week…okay, of my week at least:

My Pilates instructor is a heck of a nice lady and an excellent instructor, especially from the standpoint of sports and dance conditioning or physical therapy. Her husband is a baseball fanatic, while she knows little to nothing about the sport. It’s just not her thing. To illustrate this point, she told us about a chat with her husband a few years back.

He had asked about two of her clients, a husband and wife, whom she giving private lessons to at the time. And she told him: Oh yeah, Mark used to play baseball. I think their last name is McGwire? He has a lot of Cardinals stuff. I mean a lot. Have you heard of him?

Needless to say, yes, her husband had heard of him.

I burst out laughing all over again just typing this at the thought of what her husband’s expression must have looked like. For the foreseeable future, “He has a lot of Cardinals stuff” is Seth’s and my favorite way of saying someone missed the point.

The Long, Dark Time Without Baseball, Day 9

Day. Nine. Nine days without baseball. Nine! That’s two entire days longer than a week! Recent studies question the canonical stages of grief based on the, very sound if you ask me, notion that we all grieve in such different ways that assigning set stages, even with the understanding that people may progress through them differently, is ludicrous. Besides, I’m not entirely certain that they would have applied to grief from baseball loss anyway.

Regardless I think it’s safe to say that what I am experiencing right now is denial, channel surfing for a substitute and then trying to behave as though that substitute were the real thing. The MLB All-Stars vs. Taiwan games. The Arizona Fall League. Heck, I’m even watching the darned awards shows on MLBN, something I would not normally be inclined to do. La la la! Look it’s still baseball. La la la…except, really, it’s not. Well, not the same anyway. *sigh*

I tried to get excited over the MLB All-Stars in Taiwan, really I did. They featured a great bunch of players and Erick Aybar, Trevor Bell, Rich Thompson and the rest of the Angels players made a strong showing for their team, but when it came right down to it, the games were only so so.

Mark Trumbo says see ya! Catcher Miguel Olivo and Plate Umpire Todd Tichenor pause to watch it go. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

As for the awards shows and the like, I love that Mark Trumbo won the Player’s Choice Award for AL Rookie of the Year. I’m thrilled that players all over the league saw in Trumbo the same amazing things that Angels and Angels fans have been seeing in him all season. On base percentage be damned, the kid is doing great things with his bat and with his glove. But in the end an awards show isn’t a baseball game. It’s more like a visual aid for a press release about baseball with a few fun, extended interviews included.

And the AFL Rising Stars Game? Mike Trout is clearly tired and probably should get some rest before spring training or, as I said to crack up Seth, Awww, the poor little guy’s all tuckered out. And it was a boring blow out of a game with the kind of play one would expect from rising stars who are a mix of fresh from rookie ball young players and recent rookie call-ups. No offense to the kids, but in the end I turned it off thinking I could probably get a better baseball fix watching Major League. I did. Even if it was edited in truly silly ways for basic cable.

Eh, I suppose I really am being a bit of a baby about this. I mean, existing without baseball will get easier as fall and winter wear on and Spring Training isn’t that far away, right? I mean it’s only, what? 70-ish…? *reaches for calendar* 80-something…? *begins counting on calendar* 90, 91…?! La la la! I resolve to stop counting and be in denial about this too! La la la.

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On an even sillier note, if anything finally drives me from my denial it may very well be the weather. It just doesn’t winter-rainstorm-downpour in Southern California during baseball season once you get past April. Yet it was coming down hard all day Friday and all evening as we watched the game in Taiwan. Yes, rain in Southern California. Look! Photographic evidence from my very own porch:

It's really starting to come down. View from my porch, November 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Of course then, Southern California being what it is, the weather got all gorgeous again the very next day, though when the rainy season starts in earnest this can take several days :) :

Ah, gorgeous again! View from my porch, November 5, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But it is raining again today. Really, really.

Epic Doesn’t Even Begin to Cover Game 6! + A Little Angels News

Game 6 was…Wow! Just wow! It was so amazingly, excitingly, excruciatingly edge of your seat suspensefully, fantastically awesome that I simply cannot find the right adjectives to describe it. So I’m throwing any that come even remotely close out there in one large jumble, hoping that sum of the parts hits closer to the mark. I guess what I’m saying is that this isn’t really my description of last night’s game, it’s a tribute. ;)

David Freese stands at the plate in the bottom of the 9th, with the Cardinals down by two, and the Rangers one strike away from becoming World Series champions for the first time in their franchise history. That moment, so full of potential for either heroics or disappointment, when the outcome can go either way and everything is riding on one pitch and one swing? That moment was microcosm for everything I love about this game, regardless of who is playing…and that moment happened two more times in the same game!!

Forget the box score. Five errors and 15 different pitchers? Stats like that almost make this sound like a game neither team wanted to win badly enough rather than the 11 innings of bare knuckled brawl for the final lead that it was. No box score is ever going to completely convey a game like this anyway. But I suspect that in a few seasons, MLBN will revise their 20 Greatest Games of the Last 50 Years and when they do, this game is sure to be on that list.

And I will say this. Anyone who was not excited by last night’s game (and there were a few such killjoys on my FaceBook last night) should seriously check their pulse, because if that didn’t move you, it’s entirely possible you don’t have one. And with Halloween drawing near…well…you just can’t be too careful about these things. Beware of zombies, and all that. ;)

And there’s still one more game to go!

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And in Angels news…

Baseball organizations are starting to announce their annual awards and the Sporting News has named our Mark Trumbo AL Rookie of the Year!

Mark Trumbo's habit of siting in the pitcher's mound down his bat when he steps into the batter's box has become a reassuring sight to Angels fans. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I am so pleased! Mark Trumbo meant everything to the Angels this season. He may have started off slow, but he grew into a difference making bat in a lineup desperately in need of one. Trumbo’s 29 homeruns were the most hit by an AL rookie in well more than a decade and just shy of the franchise rookie record. I wonder what he might have done if it weren’t for the stress fracture discovered in his foot during the last weekend of the regular season. To be honest, I’m actually a little anxious for an injury update on that front. It should be a routine injury that keeps him out of Winter Ball and no more but, well, we have terrible luck with first basemen’s feet these days and I’d hate to lose this rising star for any amount of time.

I don’t know where Trumbo will finish in the race for the Hank Aaron Rookie of the Year award. There is some stiff competition in the AL this season, so much so that I was pleased to see Trumbo get recognition on any front, even though he is more than deserving. But this analytical, slugging first baseman, who literally takes notes to work from on every pitcher and hitter we face, is sure to just keep on getting better. And, regardless of how the voting goes, I expect his name will be on a lot more lips next season.

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Oh, and apparently we have a GM. The unofficial announcement, announcing the fact the Angels can’t announce their hiring of the Arizona D-Backs Jerry Dipoto during the World Series but will hold a news conference on Saturday “regarding the GM position” just, you know, for no particular reason hit the news today. Hmmm, I am not certain exactly what I think of this yet but basically feel positive about it. …That and I am overcome with the desire to reread Catch-22…you now, for no particular reason.

Santana Pitches Another Gem and Pineiro…Well, Let’s Just Not Talk About That

Forgive me comissioner, for I have sinned. It’s been three weeks since my last Angels’ Stadium session…Hey, church of baseball and all that. ;)

Yes, Seth and I had our fair share of baseball on vacation, but it had been three weeks since we last visited the Big A. For this reason, and just plain not wanting to waste tickets, we arrived at the game on Tuesday night. Even though he had a loan customer right at closing, I was writing on deadline and the copy wasn’t flowing, and we both left work about 15 minutes before first pitch. Even though I was worried I would spend the whole game with attempts to describe open enrollment and systems migrations creatively percolating ineffectively in my brain. Even though the game was flying so quickly we arrived in the bottom of the 4th inning…ouch! Even though, I was still going to have to get on the computer and write some more when we got home. 

Here’s the funny thing about all of those worries and even thoughs, they tend to vanish once I walk inside a ballpark. For me it starts with the excitement of the fans as you walk through the gates, especially the younger children who are literally bouncing and wiggling with excitement. But the best part of that initial “I’m at the ballpark!” sensation is the first glimpse of the field from the concourse. The perfect green of the grass, the deep red of the clay and the bustle of the players, moving with the crack of the bat, all lit so brightly that it almost seems unreal, like a movie set. Gorgeous! Yes, I did have to write until after midnight when I got home, but getting to take in even the last five innings of the game was completely worth it, and I knew that the minute I saw the diamond peeking at us over the rows of field seats.

Mark Trumbo takes a swing (no, not that swing, but a good looking swing even so). Immediately after seeing that gorgeous green, Mark Trumbo blasted a Trumbomb an estimated 457 feet into centerfield. You know, just in case we had any lingering doubts about our decision to head for the ballpark. We cheered and whooped with packs of Angels fans along the concourse as we headed for our seats. And can I just say how much fun it is to hear the folks at MLBN picking up the term Trumbomb from Angels fans and giving this young man some well deserved recognition.

Trumbomb time?! Mark Trumbo takes a swing. Joe Mauer is catching. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (to the left) said. Grin away, Mark! That was homerun number 20. He has a serious shot at beating Tim Salmon’s club rookie homerun record of 31.

Mark Trumbo, in the hole for his next at bat, grins, possibly over something Peter Bourjos (on the left) said. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Sunset over the Angels scoreboard. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was also a beautiful night and just the right temperature for an evening out at the ballpark.

Sunset over the Angels' scoreboard. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ervin Santana had another dominant outing on the mound. It wasn’t a no-hitter. He started out a little wild, walking the first batter, Denard Span, on four pitches. And I was getting antsy listening on the radio on my way down to Anaheim. But Santana quickly got everything under control, eventually delivering a complete game, five to one win.

Ervin Santana takes the mound for the Angels. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

“Well, I figured I would throw strikes and you guys would provide error-less defensive backup.” Of course, I have no idea what Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar really said out there, and I’m sure that whatever it was it was it was much more strategic, but my inner imp of the perverse must speculate. Bobby Wilson had a strong game on both sides of the plate. I was sorry to see Hank Conger go back to AAA, though I think it’s probably for the best in terms of playing time and Hank getting his swing back. But getting to see Bobby play more and have the chance to shine is a nice consolation. Bobby and Jeff Mathis are supposed to split the catching duties at least until September call-ups.

Bobby Wilson, Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar meet on the mound. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. I always enjoy watching Duensing pitch – especially when we’re hitting him! His delivery, with that high pointed toe kick, is like a ballet dancer – all grace, control and strength. I don’t think he pitched badly so much as the Angels just had his number this time out…which was refreshing after last season, let me tell you.

Brian Duensing takes the mound for the Twins. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter takes a strong swing. Not to be outdone, Mr. Hunter took one deep for a solo homerun in the very next inning. I like this kind of competition. Come on guys, everyone try to keep up with Trumbo!

Torii Hunter begins his swing. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

The team congratulates Torii Hunter after his homerun! Can I just tell you how weird it was to see Bench Coach Rob Picciolo setting at Mike Scioscia’s desk? Or rather at the desk where Mike Scioscia sometimes hovers briefly while he wanders from the rail to the bench and back again? Scioscia is not protesting the one-game suspension meted out in response to Sunday’s Tigers game firewoks, and  served his sentence inmmediately, missing this game. On the way to the game I teased Seth that of course we knew the Angels would win this one. Scioscia’s bench coaches always have a perfect record.

Mark Trumbo, Russell Branyan, Bobby Wilson and the rest of the team congratulate Torii Hunter after his homerun. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver have a long chat in the dugout. They were laughing earlier in the inning, though they look serious here. I wish Haren had talked Weave out of appealing the suspension, if they even discussed it. I think appealing the decision is just more posturing. He isn’t going to get to duck missing one start and it would be a lot better for the team if Weave missed this weekend’s start against the Mariners instead of a later start against the much tougher Blue Jays or our pesky division rivals the Rangers, just one game ahead of us at the moment.

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver chat in the dugout. Especially after Sunday's game, one wonders what they might be discussing. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joe Mauer at bat and out at first. I’m not going to lie, I have a soft spot for the Twins. Playing the Twins is like playing old friends…old friends that you really want to beat handily, of course. I like a lot of the players on the team. I usually wind up rooting for them in the post season when they outlast the Angels, etc. It was nice to see Mauer playing again, and as catcher too at that. He even got a hit, though I was only pleased for that after the game and only then because it didn’t lead to any runs. ;)

Joe Mauer takes one low. Bobby Wilson is catching. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Well played, Trumbo. Mauer, you're out! Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Such a first baseman! By which I mean both of them, of course. Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reaches first, offering strong anecdotal evidence in support of the Chatty Cathy/First Baseman stereotype. The friendly conversation to total game face in a split second conversion always amuses me.

Mark Trumbo and Michael Cuddyer chat after Cuddyer reached first. First basemen! Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Cuddyer chats with Erick Aybar when he reaches second too. Yes, this is the same inning. Okay, so Cuddyer is clearly the chattier Cathy, but he’s been a first baseman longer. He knows more people. Give Trumbo time.

Erick Aybar and Michael Cuddyer chat at second base. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar hang out in the dugout during an Angels at bat. This photo amuses me for two reasons. First, this particular perch seems to be a coveted spot that almost always goes to the pitchers, but for whatever reason the position players got it this game. And two, Jeff Mathis appears to be either giving or receiving hitting advice…no offense Jeff, but I really hope it was the latter.

Jeff Mathis, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar in the dugout. Is Mathis giving hitting advice or receiving it? Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Vernon Wells is out at first in the 8th inning. Wells had a fine game. He went two for three, walked and scored a run. But I liked the way this photo turned out the best, so there it is.

Vernon Wells is out at first, as Michael Cuddyer throws the ball back to the mound. Angels vs. Twins, August 2, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And as for this evening’s debacle? After four bad starts, I am officially worried that Joel Pineiro has lost  hissinker ball to an extant that may be hard to recover from this season…and don’t think my Kaz scars have healed sufficiently that I’m not jumping to dark thoughts about his abilities next season as well. However, as the title of this post suggests, I don’t want to talk about that right now.

MLB Network’s 10th Greatest Game, Childhood & Homerun Memories

I am so enjoying MLBN’s 20 Greatest Games series. I haven’t seen them all but, with my very Dodgers childhood, I definitely could not miss this evening’s episode: 1988 World Series Game One! I remember that evening vividly. It was a Saturday night, date night for my parents, so my sister and I were enjoying a small Domino’s pizza and had the beginnings of a truly epic Lego castle complete with maze winding its way across the den floor in front of the TV. I may have been too old for a lot of toys at that point but if you’re ever too old for Legos, well then, you’re just too old.

We were so disappointed, my sister and I, when they announced that Kirk Gibson wouldn’t be able to play. New to the Dodgers that year, He was already one of our favorites, right up there with Mike Scioscia, Orel Hershiser, Alfredo Griffin and Mickey Hatcher – is it any wonder why I say watching the Angels for me now is like watching the Dodgers of my youth, my Dodgers? Now, if my friends were any indication, pre-teen girls in Los Angeles were supposed to prefer Steve Sax in those days – Sexy Saxy as one young lady who may or may not have really understood her own nickname, called him. I didn’t dislike him at all, but I wasn’t seeing it.

As you can tell, this was quite the fun trip down memory lane for me. Hatcher’s improbable home run. My first real exposure to baseball’s unusually intimate relationship with the flying fickle finger of fate when the broadcast team felt the need to put “Joe Canseco has never hit a grand slam before” among his stats as he came up to bat with bases loaded. Ouch! The looooong tense wait for something, anything good to happen for the Dodgers. Scioscia scoring Mike Marshall in the 6th to bring the game within one run. Two and a half very tense innings, plus two outs and then hearing Vin Scully say “And look who’s coming up…” Oh that hopeful, long drawn out at bat. The pitch Gibson fouled off and watching him stagger towards first on two bad legs. And then, the hit. What a hit! Pandamonium. Legos flying everywhere, as we jumped up and down and cheered. I only know Vin Scully’s famous call of the hit from all of the replays afterwards. We were too loud to hear it when the homerun actually happened.

Dave Stewart, the A’s starting pitcher from game 1 was a very entertaining narrator. I had no idea that he hit Sax in the first inning because of some trash talk the day before. I no longer think I was being fanciful when I thought maybe Sax tipped his helmet a bit at Stewart before he took his base. It was great to hear about the famous hit from the man himself, interviewed via satellite from Spring Training in Arizona. The fact that Bob Costas, host of 20 Greatest Games, was present for Game 1 and played a few interesting roles in both that game and the Series gave this episode a nice touch. It was Costas who emphatically announced that there was no way Gibson could play at the beginning of the game. Later, standing in the hallway ready to walk out onto the field for postgame interviews, Costas overheard Gibson’s painful warm-up session in the batting cage in those last moments of the bottom of the 9th. Costas also reminded about how he accidentally inspired Tommy Lasorda’s “Kill Costas” rallying cry to the team with one of his pre-Series broadcasts about the A’s. I had completely forgotten about this detail, though it amused me to no end at the time.

Back in 1988, I remember getting goose bumps all up and down my arms when I watched Kirk Gibson hit that ball, knowing even then that I had just seen one of the great hits. Watching it all over again in a full game highlight reel format, I still get goose bumps.

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!

More Random Angels, etc. Thoughts & Headlines

Thank you to all of you who drop by to read my blog and comment. I made the top 50 again, which is something I didn’t really except to accomplish at all and certainly not so soon after starting the blog. I really enjoy the conversation with you all, on my blog and on your blogs. You have helped make this offseason a lot more palatable. :)

Orioles & Vlad Reach a Deal
I like Vlad Guerrero and wanted to see him get a good gig this year. I was thrilled to see that Vlad and the Orioles reached a deal today – $8 million for one season, apparently. Barring injuries, I think this is a good deal for both Vlad and for the Orioles. The Orioles were strong and building momentum at the end of last season and if they carry that over into 2011, Baltimore could be a fun place for Vlad to play and I think that having his bat in the lineup and his presence in the clubhouse can only be beneficial for the Orioles…and I’m not exactly sorry to see him out of the AL West either. While I miss him in the Angels lineup, I’m glad it worked out this way. It’s tricky and awkward to bring players back once they’re gone and, while there are certainly examples of times it has worked out well, bruised egos and bad attitudes coming from any number of directions can cause enough harm to outweigh any benefit to the decision. I am usually not in favor of it.

Angels aim to recapture road swagger
I was happy to see this article. Last season the Worst Road Trip Ever (in my mind it is spelled out in bold, title case just like that) where the Angels went 2 and 8 through Detroit, Boston and Seattle was one of the first indications that 2010 was not going to be a normal season. The Angels are traditionally a great road team and when that’s not working, nothing else seems to work either. Getting back to that, getting their swagger back as Torii Hunter says in the article, would help set a great tone for 2011. I realize that knowing a thing needs to be done and talking about doing it are both very different things from actually doing it. But I am happy to see the discussion anyway. It’s a start and it’s good to know that everyone acknowledges the issue and is on the same page.

MLB Network
It’s been fun having the MLB Network this offseason. It was not available as part of our TV package for the longest time and then it just appeared on the menu last season sometime in July. A Cal Ripken Jr. interview from last year here, a couple of episodes of the Top 10 Right Now there (I’m better at guessing the top 5 than my husband, bwa’ha ha). It helps with the offseason impatience when Spring Training is right there around the corner except I’m not going again this year anyway so baseball is actually still a couple of months away. Granted I’ve been enjoying it a little too much in the wee hours of the morning lately, but if one is suffering from insomnia anyway, well, it sure beats infomercials and old Law and Order reruns.

* * * * *

On a personal note, I am off on a whirlwind one-day turn around trip to Las Vegas tomorrow for my little sister’s wedding. I’ve mentioned her in the blog a few times. She’s marrying a great guy who loves her very much and only has one major flaw, as near as I can tell: he’s not a baseball fan. He’s a NASCAR guy. Consequently, my bleeding Dodger Blue sister is becoming a NASCAR girl. Oh well :). Congratulations Sis! I wish you every happiness. Just try not to drift so far to the NASCAR side of things that we can’t text our way through the playoff games again the next time SoCal is doubly represented.

Funny story about my sister: she ignored my Angels fandom for a few years, then accepted it but with an odd certainty that if I ever had to choose, I would root for the Dodgers…right up until the Freeway Series last year. Seth (my husband) and I went to the Saturday night game at Dodger Stadium. My sister and I exchanged texts off and on during batting practice:

My Sister: You’re at the game! I’m so jealous!
My Sister (this text following right on the heels of the previous text): Wait…what are you wearing??
Me: Clothes.
My Sister: No, what _color_ are you wearing, smart ***?
Me: *bats eyes innocently* Red of course.
My sister: (long string of cartoon swear words)
My sister (next text after a pause of at least 15 minutes): I suppose you’ve got to support your team, Sis, good for you. Just stay away from the left field bleachers in that color.

MLB Network’s 16th Greatest Game & How the Twins Brought Work to a Halt

Monday nights are extra busy in my house so I have managed to miss the first four games in the MLB Channel’s 20 Greatest Games in the last 50 years series. But the stars aligned tonight and I caught the program on game #16 – the Twins/Tigers one game playoff to determine the 2009 AL Central champion. I was surprised that MLB.com chose such a recent game, but I remember that one very well and, indeed, what a game!

I “watched” that one, which is a completely different thing from watching a game. In 2009 I was still working in the Mortgage industry for a bank recently purchased from the FDIC. If you know anything about the Mortgage meltdown in Southern California, you can probably figure out which one I am talking about and if not, well, suffice to say I had more of a front row seat than I wanted for the whole thing.

Anyway, my department was full of Angels fans and a department both pumped for the game and divided on who to root for…divided over who would best serve the Angels by beating the Yankees in the playoffs, that is. The Twins never beat the Yankees in the post season but they were just so scrappy that it was hard for some of us, myself included, not to root for them. The rest were sure the Tigers had the best chance. The problem was that my department always worked really late, especially at that time, and this was a Midwest game so there was no way any of us were getting home to see any part of it.

So, I was sneaking peaks at the game on my Blackberry as I worked, per my habit in those days, and a couple of my colleagues were checking in from time to time to get the score, per their usual game day habit. The other baseball fans all had company Blackberries, you see, while I only had my personal Blackberry, and company Blackberries had all sports sites blocked. Everything was calm through the 3rd inning with the Tigers comfortably in the lead, but then the Twins started to catch up. Suddenly people are working less and less and checking in more and more and then my boss came striding out of his office and up to my cubicle…no worries, this was standard procedure as well. He just wanted to know the score and get a quick play by play on the last inning.

As you probably remember, it was a heck of a game. The Twins tied it up then, in the 9th, the Tigers pulled into the lead and the Twins tied it up again. By the time the game went into the 10th inning, all pretense of working was gone and everyone had switched to rooting for the Twins. We moved into one of the larger cubicles by playing off of the Minnesota pride of one of the generally non-baseball fan team members and were alternately biting our nails and yelling and cheering as the score seesawed from 4-4 to 5-5. Around the 11th inning, we became refresh monkeys – the 15 second auto refresh rate on the Gameday site was no longer sufficient. When the Twins pulled it off, it was a good thing we were the only team left in our wing because it sounded more like a sports bar than the headquarters of a mortgage bank…and then we went back to work. We repeated this routine for the east coast playoff games until the Yankees took the Angels out of the mix and it was a blast. (I don’t regret rooting for the Twins either, even as things turned out. I don’t think the Tigers could have stopped the 2009 Yankees either. That team was tight and seriously on a mission.)

I do not miss my old job. I worked with good people and had a great run of it but I don’t have the stomach to deal with the volatility of the Dread Pirate Mortgage Banking Industry anymore – Goodnight Blithescribe. Good work. Sleep well. We’ll most likely lay everyone off in the morning. I really love my newer job and I work with great people here too…they’re just more basketball and soccer fans. But sometimes I really do miss the baseball season camaraderie of a department full of Angels fans. However, the job change is part of the reason I started lurking on MLBlogs and eventually blogging myself. It’s funny how well things work out sometimes.

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