Results tagged ‘ Offense ’

A Tale of Two Angels Teams…Again?

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games. (Well, okay, not really even close to the worst of games, but go with it. She’s rolling.) A large offense ably supported a fair haired pitcher’s strong milestone outing on the mound for Monday’s game. That same large offense plainly failed to support a dark haired pitcher’s equally strong start for Tuesday’s game… and the comparisons to 2010 and ’11 could only be meet with invective.

It was a game where, despite a few defensive gaffes there at the end, a plucky bullpen came through in style. It was a game where a nightmare bullpen self-destructed becoming, once again, a bogeyman fit for frightening children into good behavior. “Eat all of your peas and go to bed on time, dear, or we’ll have to call in the Angel’s bullpen!” “No, Mommy. No, Daddy! Not the Angels bullpen!”…

Okay, now we’re starting to veer into Fraser Crane’s rousing ATOTC/It/Rambo mash up territory and, quite frankly, I can’t hope to compete with that level of awesome, so we’ll just stop right here. But you get the general idea. There are two Angels teams here and that’s nothing new. I seem to find myself writing this same thought every April about this time on this blog or in other forums, in good Angels years and bad. Both teams have good starting pitching most of the time. The difference lies in how they support that pitching. And any time the bullpen, the offense or the fielding from that other Angels team appears, victory becomes a lot trickier. Any time more than one of these components appear together, look out.

All indications are that we should see far more of Monday’s Angels team – you know, the good one – than Tuesday’s “other” Angels team this season, especially as our starting pitchers stretch deeper into the game and tack on their usual high number of complete games. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t greet last night’s 2011 homage of a bullpen meltdown on top of a measly 2-1 lead with some invective of my own. I mean, come on, Kevin Jepsen has always been reliable for about two out of three outings – which did lead me to conclude loudly that Kevin Jepsen is How I Met Your Mother’s naked man. And even I can tell you which Jepsen it’s going be by the second batter. Butcher and Scioscia certainly should have been able to tell this was time one out of three and relieved him with that day’s more effective arm.

And, no worries, I’m still not panicking. In fact, I’m busily scooping up the crazy ticket deals being offered by those who are panicking. Second row, Club level seats to C.J. Wilson’s Angels stadium debut for a mere $10 a piece? *snatches tickets quickly* Oh. Yes. Please. I’ll take two. But I am asking if the powers that be can start keeping each member of the bullpen on a very short leash when the game is close, especially on those evenings when it seems like it’s that other Angels team’s offense who showed up, not our good one. Seriously, even if it means paying face value for my tickets. Pretty please with bittersweet chocolate and salted caramel drizzle on top? (Sugar is for amateurs. ;) )

The Angels are 3 and 6. Meh.

Oh my God, the Angels are 3 and 6. Sound the alarm! Hit the panic button! Towels, people? Where are the towels?! The last time this happened was 2010 and we all know how that season ended, right?. 3rd place. Below .500. Unemployed, in Greenland. Except…the last time we went 3 and 6 to start before 2010 was 2002 and we all know how that season ended, right? Wild card berth. World Series Champions. Bragging rights and brand new jewelry!

So, which is it then, should we be panicking or celebrating? Neither, of course. The sample size is far too small. My point is simply that it’s only been nine games. We have at least 153 left to go. Heck, the entire summer will arrive, be initially celebrated, celebrated some more, get way too hot, begin to annoy us, begin to cool off and fade into fall long before we reach the end of that. Anything can happen in amount of time.

Fear not, the winning will come. How much winning? Will it be enough? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. They’ve got to play the games. I can tell you this much, however:

Small sample size or not, the following things are making me very happy indeed:

  • Offensive support from the catcher’s position, and how! I can’t tell you how happy I am to not have mentally prepare for an automatic out every time I see the catcher taking practice swings on deck.
  • Our bats can come from behind. Okay, so we’re still working on the ‘then not falling behind again and still losing part’, but still. I don’t know about anyone else, but for the last two years, if the Angels fell behind by so much as one run I had to fight to keep from thinking ‘It’s all over now.’ And I hated myself for it, but I also understood the limitations of our offense. Now the offense hits, runs and scores and, even though there some bats that really need to come online ASAP, I feel like falling behind doesn’t have to be an automatic loss anymore.
  • A few more of our bats – the fact that Mark Trumbo seems to hit solidly, with no need for adjustment whether he’s DHing or playing 3rd. The fact that Howie Kendrick is turning into a regular beast.

I don’t care that it’s only been nine games, the following things are seriously pissing me off:

  • The bullpen or, more specifically, the fact that we’re still cringing over the bullpen. It was shaky in 2009. It was downright scary in 2010. Efforts to improve it in 2011 were mixed at best and for some unknown reason the powers that be decided to hire another veteran lefty – Isringhausen – for 2012 after hiring two such bullpen arms for 2011 had such hot – Downs, yay! – and cold – Takahashi, flip a coin and don’t you dare leave him in too long – results. And, guess what? The bullpen is still scary. Shocking, that.
  • We still don’t have a solid 5th starter? Really? Again, it’s been a while on this one.
  • Too many options or, more specifically, the need to use them all. This isn’t P.E. Everyone does not need to play. Yes, Bobby was hitting better, but I hate what he does to the outfield. We go from having Gold Glove experience on either side of a young Gold Glover to be whose speed makes up for the few steps they’ve lost on their range, to having no range in left field over emphasizing the steps all three parties have lost off their range and an outfield with so many holes, I keep expecting the Muppets prairie dogs to make a musical appearance.

Eh, we have 153 games left to go. Don’t panic, these things will sort themselves out:

  • The completely set portion of our starting rotation. Yes we’ve seen some shaky pitches and a few of our fearless hurlers have been downright shelled. But we’ve also seen some stellar performances in these very few nine games too. These four guys are absolutely fine. And once we get past a bit of dead arm and rust, they’re going to make some of the issues with the 2012 team seem far less apparent.
  • Albert Pujols. He will hit. Remember all of the huffing and puffing and gnashing of teeth in April last season in St Louis? Sometimes he takes a while to get into his groove. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy all those great pitches Howie is getting in the mean time.

As for the rest? The jury’s still out for me. I could start adding it to any of the three lists above by the end of the month. We’ll just have to see. Of course, none of this makes starting the season 3 and 6 any happier or losing like this on a nationally televised game any less annoying when heading into the office Monday morning. Ugh! What’s a fan to do? Well, when all else fails, and the playing gets icky, the real fans go and buy more tickets I say! I now have tickets all squared away for our Interleague trip down to San Diego in May. I got great seats for Friday, right by the Angels bullpen. But it’s our Saturday seats that truly have me salivating and that made me feel a whole lot better this weekend. Of course, the fact that Padres are doing worse than we are didn’t exactly hurt me in this endeavor. Wait, the Padres record is still worse, right? *sigh of relief* LOL, relax! In this sort of situation, gallows’ humor isn’t merely to be expected, it’s highly encouraged.

Bring on the A’s.

Of Angelic Offenses, Hot Corners, Video Games and Towels: More Spring Training Thoughts

Holy Angels Lineup, Batman! They hit! They steal! They knock in runs! And they score and score and score again! I am so happy with the Angels offense right now that I am beaming as I type this. I hope this carries over into the regular season and grows! It sure looks Albert Pujols was the missing piece this lineup puzzle needed because all of the good pieces we had going last season are now working in conjunction with one another to create multiple, multiple run innings instead of little tiny offensive outbursts. They look almost as good as the starting rotation – and that ‘almost’ reflects more on the high bar set by the starting rotation than anything else. Speaking of which, I’ll bet that as pleased as the fans are, the run support starved starting rotation is even more so.

That sticky third base question…seems to be a lot less sticky than folks were predicting actually. We have now seen Mark Trumbo play third base and it worked out pretty darned well. He played the grounders hit his way well, including one that took a nasty hop. He made a great diving catch. In all of the discussion about the possibility of Trumbo at third, his arm was never once in doubt…even so, it was really nice to see that this assessment was accurate. And he did all of this while enjoying a good day at the plate which included his first Trumbomb of Spring Training. It’s only Spring Training. It was a very small sample size. But I actually think this could work. The stats and logic behind Clubhouse Confidential’s much more dire predictions a few weeks back did seem to make an unfortunate amount of sense. But people had the same predictions for Trumbo at first base last season with the same logic and, while he was certainly no Gold Glover, he turned out to be a competent, reliable first baseman who kept improving all season. I was hoping he would demonstrate the same caliber as a third baseman and, after watching him, I think that’s exactly what we can expect.

Those crazy MLB video game commercials. MLB 2K12? MLB 12 the Show? Which is better? I certainly couldn’t say. I don’t play video games much and when I do I tend to gravitate back to something old school like Gauntlet or Heretic. But I do know that the commercials for both MLB video game franchises are usually something special and this year is no exception. Justin Verlander’s Randy Johnson impersonation in the MLB 2K12 commercial has me laughing out loud every time. It almost makes up for his attempts at comedy on Conan O’Brien. As for the other? Granted, it’s not that hard to make me cry these days, but a video game commercial? ‘Fraid so. That darned Cubs Win! MLB 12 the Show commercial actually made me tear up…er…makes me tear up. He’s just so sad at the end! (Of course, we all know who they tried to get to be in that commercial and that’s just plain mean.) Suffice to say, both ads were very well done.

Don’t forget your towel. According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a towel is “about the most massively useful” item you can bring on any journey, local, interstellar, or somewhere in between. Apparently David Price agrees to disagree with the vaunted Guide on this front. Don’t panic, David, you are not alone. Many of us suffer bizarre abuse at the hands of seemingly innocuous inanimate objects. I have a friend who threw out her back showing her daughter how to put on nylons. I have another friend who received a scar from a Rock Band guitar pretty much just as she was just walking by – we refer to this as her Rock Band stage diving scar, by the way. And there’s a good tip for you. If you can’t somehow make the inanimate object injury sound less silly, go for making it sound epic instead.

As for me? Doors are my personal bete noir. Car doors. House doors. Cupboard doors. Heck, even door jams. They all attack me and bruise my arms and legs on a regular basis. See, you are far from alone. Though I must admit, it is nice for the rest of us to be reminded yet again that even Major League baseball players can suffer from occasional bouts of klutziness too…and that that the rest of us only have to answer to the mockery of our friends and family, not the national media. Of course, as a woman, attending a small liberal arts college and having the only honest answer to “Where on Earth did you get that bruise?” be, “I ran into a door.” was more than a little awkward too, as you might imagine.

A.J. Burnett: Voice of Reason?

Yeah, yeah, it would have sounded pretty unlikely to me a few days ago too. But Thursday evening, my wonderful husband took me to our favorite tapas bar for my birthday and, as we waited for our table we both caught up on the last few days’ news. What can I say? All work and no Hot Stove makes Kristen an uninformed girl. Imagine my surprise, given that I had missed all of the rumors. The Angels and the Yankees were in the process of a straight up trade, Bobby Abreu for A.J. Burnett? And folks in the Angels front office thought this was a good idea? Thank you A.J. Burnett, or Mrs. Burnett if some of the subsequent stories are true, for answering a birthday wish I didn’t even know I needed to make! *sigh of relief* Thank you. A.J….er…Mrs. Burnett…heck both of you, for being the voice of reason.

Now I’m not saying the Angels shouldn’t be trying to move Bobby Abreu. I like the guy and he has made excellent contributions to the team in the past but we have quite the backlog in both the DH position and in the outfield (And, really, he can’t play in the outfield except in extreme emergencies anymore. His heart and efforts are in the right place but it just doesn’t work.) and his offensive production fell drastically in 2011. I just don’t see where he fits on the roster anymore. If a team were willing to take on Abreu’s contract, I’d miss the player he was but moving him would be an excellent idea.

And I’m not saying that A.J. Burnett is a terrible pitcher. He’s not. I have seen him pitch very well indeed. I am aware that when his stuff is on, it’s scary good. But he is a terribly inconsistent pitcher. And, when his stuff is off…well…look if off means that you can’t win while backed up by a team whose offense usually gives you a nice big fluffy cushion to play with, moving to a team where allowing one or two runs is often enough to cost you the game? (Of course, we do hope that certain offseason moves that may have been mentioned in the papers once or twice will help change that, but it’s all theoretical at this point.) And playing in a division where every single win is likely to be essential in determining the winner? Let’s just say that might not be the best move for any party concerned. I realize that according to the current story, these thoughts did not factor into Burnett’s decision much if at all, that he made his decision based on the need to remain on the east coast for family reasons, but the end result still makes him sound like an unlikely voice of reason to me.

Now, if the Angels could have gotten in on a three way trade with the Yankees and the Pirates, sending Abreu to New York for Burnett and then sending Burnett to Pittsburg for the two minor league prospects the Pirates wound up trading to New York for Burnett? Well, that would have been the best of all possible worlds, even if we never had a need for the minor leaguers. But the Angels have never been big on participating in multiple team deals and I guess that much has not changed…at least not so far.

The Year of the of the Mystery Team?

Way to go Tigers, coming out of nowhere to land the big free agent bat! That was almost…well…Angelic. ;)  …Ooooh. Kay. And reminiscent of many other teams in other seasons too. But this is an Angels blog. I’ve kind of got this slant going on. And with that slant I have to say, I don’t know which outcome of the deal amuses me more, the fact that this move keeps Prince Fielder out of the AL West? Or the thought that with Migueal Cabrera moving to third base according to today’s reports, Angels fans are likely to see a lot more of Justin Verlander’s “That’s bushleague!” scowl? Pssssst…Angels players bunt. Often and generally very well. Pass it on.

In all seriousness though, I do like the way this offseason is turning out and the role this deal played in it. The Tigers and the Rangers, both already strong teams, were able to make improvements without outright dominating. The Tigers filled the potentially devastating void left by Victor Martinez’ season ending injury in a way that also bumped up their offense. The Rangers did not further bump up an offense that was already pretty much the scariest in the AL, but they did improve their starting rotation. Yes, I know Darvish is unproven, but I just can’t imagine a pitching acquisition that Nolan Ryan approved of so highly turning into a flaming failure.

And the Angels? The Angels made sure they can compete, adding power to a lineup in serious need of just such an infusion and restoring their starting rotation to the promise it had at the beginning of the 2011 season. Remember, for all that our pitching was impressive last season it was primarily spots one through three that did the impressing. The four and five spots were a rotating mixed bag of frequent awfulness speckled with the occasional gem. Other teams patched potential problem spots too. I like the Yankees pitching additions…all the more because they’re both pitchers the Angels hit. I find it interesting and potentially beneficial that the Red Sox have gone out of their way to add good clubhouse guys into the mix with their All Stars. Don’t worry, I’m not going to beat a dead, repeatedly reanimated as a zombie and then beaten dead again and again and again, Bostonian horse here. But suffice it to say, I think this may prove to be a more powerful strategy than folks are currently giving it credit for.

And no, this isn’t me being some sort of Mary Sue saying, Yay, everyone is equal now. Let’s get out there, give the other team a big hug, and don’t bother keeping score.  This is me, the passionate baseball fan saying, I see a lot of well matched, hard fought, competitive as all get out, great baseball games on the horizon in 2012, and that prospect makes me downright giddy. Spring training, you slacker. What’s taking you so long to get here? Come on, pick up the pace already!

 

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So, I’ve been less than present in the MLBlogs community for the past week now and probably will continue to be so for a few days yet…or not, who can say. No, I’m not one of the bloggers packing it in. And I didn’t finally go off the deep end from some sort of baseball depravation induced psychosis. Heck, I would prefer that. I lost a close friend Sunday. The guy both Seth and thought of as brother. The third of our goofy Three Musketeers band of degenerates. He was only a little older than me, which is to say way, way too young…as if there were a good age for this. He’d been in the hospital all last week and devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My friend – the best bad influence a girl could have, as I called him with fondness – was, among other things, the gent who taught me how to play blackjack. Not the rules, but how to really play – strategies, calculating probabilities, fearlessness. But as anyone who has ever spent serious time at the tables knows, no matter how well you work the probabilities, sometimes the cards just don’t fall in your favor and you need to do something different to change your luck. I haven’t been able to put pen to paper in days. Not for work. Not for blogging. Not for nothing. But today, I made myself bang out this post in response to news that genuinely excited me, in an attempt to “change my luck” by doing a few “normal” things. To quote Marcellus Wallace, I am pretty f-ing far from okay. But I think I am moving closer to a place where I am better able to honor his life with memories that bring smiles rather than floods of tears.

New Year’s Resolutions, New Stadiums, and…What Else Is There to Talk About During These Slow News Days?

It seems like this time of year everyone starts thinking about making changes and improvements. While changes can be important, experts caution, and rightly so, not to fixate so much on one big change that it starts to seem like a panacea for all of our problems. Great advice, but often a little tricky to follow. I mean, how often do you start to think along these lines? If I could only lose 10 pounds, I would finally be happy. If I could just get a better job, everything would improve, even my relationships. If only we could move to San Jose, we would make it the World Series! Because, oh yes, baseball teams do this too.

Not that I’m mocking the A’s here. I mean, really, it does sound like moving to San Jose could be a very good thing for the team. And while we’re at it, I’m glad the Marlins got to move to Miami and I hope the Rays get the go ahead to build their dream stadium too. However, in order to be able to make (continue to make in the case of the Marlins after this big splash of an offseason) the kind of personnel decisions these teams believe their respective moves will grant them, the new stadiums need to actually bring in more money, a lot more money.

New stadiums in higher income neighborhoods with a theorized greater propensity towards rabid baseball fandom do stand a greater chance of bringing in more fans and, ultimately, more money. But outside of the movies simply building it isn’t always enough to make the fans come, an idea that has been largely absent from coverage of the Marlins move and of the brief rumors that the A’s were making progress on the San Jose front earlier this week.

Hey, I want everything to work out as planned for A’s, Marlins and Rays. Baseball is meant to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, improved attendance for any team helps the entire sport, and largely empty stadiums are a sad sight indeed. But a move cannot cure all of the reasons the current stadiums are empty. For example, the Bay Area and the state of Florida, even in their more affluent neighborhoods, still haven’t recovered from our most recent economic woes…and in both cases not from the economic issues in the decade leading up to that either.

This is not to say I think the teams should scrap plans for (or regret) the moves. (The Miami Marlins should regret those uniforms to be sure, but not the move!) I do think there is real benefit to be gained from moving. I’m just calling for more realistic expectations, especially from the media responsible for informing the fans…a tall order, that. And lest you think I’m forgetting to point out another instance of this panacea type thinking that hits a lot closer to home: Oh, if only the Angels had Albert Pujols, the lineup that was 10th in runs scored and 6th in GIDP in the AL in 2011 would suddenly be fearsome! What’s that you say? We have no lineup incentive to prevent Pujols from becoming the most walked man in the AL 2012 and in 2011 he G’d into more DPs than anyone else anyway? *claps hands over ears* La la la la la.

*clears throat* Ahem. Like I said. Great advice, but often a little tricky to follow.

Do You Believe in Magic? …and Not So Much: Reflections on Last Week and a Season of Growth for the Angels

Baseball last week was bittersweet for me. We enjoyed a night at the ballpark Monday! But it was our last night at the ballpark of the season and the Angels lost, sounding the absolute final death knell in their post season hopes. But a little more sweet was added to temper the bitter Wednesday night when we all witnessed pure magic! An evening of baseball so amazing it can only be described with a Yogi Berra quote – it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over. My condolences to Red Sox and Braves fans, it’s not about rooting against your teams, it’s about loving the magic of a come from behind upset to begin with and then witnessing two within breaths of one another. Wow!

Maicer Izturis and Peter Bourjos warm up before the bottom of the 1st inning. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

So, as for Monday night’s game? Well, it was a heartbreaker of game, an at that point expected heartbreak I quickly recovered from, but still. So many miscues and missed opportunities!

After sending one sailing into right field, Alberto Callaspo takes a moment to remind himself that Howie Kendrick is several inches shorter than Mark Trumbo. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I loved Mike Napoli as an Angel. I'm thrilled he's having a great season but when he faces the Angels, this is how I prefer to see him - slinking back to the dugout after striking out. I only wish we'd seen this more often. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I absolutely miss Darren Oliver from the Angels bullpen. Not going to arbitration with him at the end of 2009 was a dumb decision in my opinion. He's a class act and I wish him well, but darned if I don't prefer seeing him walk off the mound defeated when he gos up against us. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And that is not how I prefer to remember my season, especially when I had so much fun with the Angels for most of it…frequently frustrating fun as I have fully documented on these virtual pages, LOL, but fun even so. So imagine my delight when I reviewed the photos I took that evening and discovered a lot of smiling, fun shots of my favorite ballplayers that I think show off the great personality of the team as a whole. Instantly my goofy brain imagined strange scenarios and back stories for each of the photos because, really, I prefer to remember the season as fun:   

Mike Trout appears to be jawing at Mike Napoli on 1st. "Seriously. You call _that_ a pick off attempt." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dino Ebel talks with Mike Trout at 3rd. "You're kidding!!" "'Fraid not Mike. The whole dugout dared you to touch Beltre's head. Better do it. You don't want Weave to post your phone number again." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter and Michael Young laugh over something at 2nd during a pitching change. "They really dared him to touch Beltre's head?! Oh, this is going to be funny Torii!" Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre and Mike Trout at 3rd. "I know all about the bet, Kid. Don't even think about it!!" ...and yet, Trout's still thinking about it. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Adrian Beltre keeps Alberto Callaspo at 3rd. "Not you too 'Berto! Look, I already told the kid don't even think about it..." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar during a pitching change. Could the two short stops be talkin' shop? "He he, yeah. The old empty glove tag at second. I'm tellin' ya. Coco falls for it and slides every time." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All silliness aside, walking back to our car after the game Monday night, Seth and I rehashed the misses and mistakes. What if the Angels had played the first inning smoothly? What if they hadn’t stranded so many runners? What if, what if, what if. Seth declared that ‘what if’ was a metaphor for the whole season, though he said it wistfully and with some affection, not in anger. I agreed with him at the time, but the more I think about, the more I decided that Howie Kendrick’s last at bat was a better metaphor for the season.

Last minute fill in Howie Kendrick needs a little work on his first baseman's small talk skills, apparently. "Aw man! Elvis, you kicked up dirt all over my pants." Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Bottom of the 9th, two outs, one on base and the Angels are down by one. Were this the scenario back in 2009, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would get a double and the runner would score from first or on the very next at bat and my comeback kid Angels would have pulled it off again. Were this scenario last season, I would have been 75 to 80% certain that whoever was at bat would pop up or strike out, ending the game. Watching it all play out this season, I realized that I had absolutely no idea if Howie would be able to pull it off or not. With the 2011 Angels, you just never knew. And if that was sometimes frustrating, it was also sometimes amazing – a definite improvement over the previous season and an indication of growth in the right direction, giving me hope for 2012.

Michael Young and Elvis Andrus react as Mike Trout reaches second on an Erick Aybar wallk in the 6th. The Angels have bases loaded for the first time this game. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Look, 2011 was a season where there were darned few easy wins for the Angels. There were numerous contributing factors. Season long questions, first about the five spot in the starting rotation, then the four spot, then the five and back to the four and eventually both. Veteran bats failing at the same time rookie bats were learning. Not getting Kendrys back at first as expected – though in hindsight, they should have planned on that from the start – threw everyone for a loop and although Mark Trumbo became the first baseman for the team and how, there were the to-be-expected growing pains all season especially in April and May. Injuries, several of them to Torii Hunter which contributed in part to the bats situation. Cleanup spot by committee on a team with no natural cleanup spot hitter…which lead to a bunch of guys who are really excellent gap hitters, swinging for the fences and whiffing or popping out. (Trumbo is the cleanup hitter of the future in my opinion, but it was too early this season.) Then there was the bullpen. There was noticeable improvement over 2010 but, still, pick a day. They could be absolutely fantastic or the arson squad part deux. And, of course, the closer situation. From veteran closer gone bad to baby closer with flashes of brilliance amidst growing pains, that was another constant struggle this season.

It was already a tense enough interlude to be the climax of a musical's act 1 and then, during a pitching change, Bobby Abreu, Erick Aybar and Alfredo Griffen apparently decided to strike the appropriate poses to seal the deal. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All in all, the Angels won a lot of games but, for all of the reasons above and more, it was a grind to win almost every single one and I think that, quite simply, by the time we got to September the Angels were tired. Oh, in spirit they were willing and eager enough to get to the post season, witness the string of near comebacks. But I think that physically they were just too tired to take that next leap and carry themselves into the post season. And if they had made to the post season, I don’t think they would have made it past the first round, especially with the news that Mark Trumbo had been playing with a stress fracture in his foot for the last several games and was out. This isn’t a complaint at all, it’s an observation. I think they played their hearts out but, well, teams that are still capable of contending at the end, like the 2011 Rays, dig in harder to win even more when they find out that other teams in the race have lost. Teams that are just too tired to get there, like the 2011 Angels, collapse in relief to catch their breaths when they find out that other teams in the race have lost.

I wish it were different but I have a hard time being anything more than a little disappointed by it. I have watched a lot of So Cal baseball in my life, brilliant seasons, terrible seasons and everything in between, and I have to say that this was not a season that folks should get depressed over. This was a growing season that gives next season some promise. And, now, as we continue enjoying what so far has been a pretty fun post season – as fun as it can be without an Angels presence! – I will conclude this post with a few heartwarming thoughts for next season:

Mike Trout takes another mighty swing at the plate. This at bat lead to an RBI single. I have a feeling that I will have many photos of Trout making good things happen for the Angels with his bat in the seasons to come and that is a definite silver lining to the 2011 season. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Dan Haren pitches from the stretch. Poor Danny, if only that first inning hadn't happened. Hopefully with more seasoned rookie bats and an uninjured Torii Hunter in 2012, Haren and his rotation mates will have a lot more run support and such things won't matter as much. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Fernando Rodney chats with the Rangers bullpen. Well, they do say that when you're about to lose your job, networking is key. Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

This last photo really struck a chord with me. Taken during the warm-up just before the top of the 9th, immediately after Mike Trout struck out looking, it appears to me that Peter Bourjos is consoling Trout a little bit. Who knows what they were actually saying to one another. For all I know, Trout was making sure his cleats are tied and Bourjos is laughing him or they weren’t even talking at all. But my photo, my interpretation – so consoling it is. And I think, as such, it’s a good message for everyone. Take heart Angels fans, they’ll get ‘em next season!

Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout move into position at the beginning of the inning. "Cheer up Rookie. Next season is going to be awesome!" And indeed it will be. I just know it! Angels vs. Rangers, September 26, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

E Is for Errors, Elimination and Exasperation…But the Angels Got Better

Were you aware that, in addition to being MLB “berth” month, September is both National Wine Month and National Bourbon Month? Whether or not this is coincidence, I can’t help but feel it’s appropriate…unlike some of those other special monthly designations like National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Month (thanks, but weren’t we all aware of alcohol in college, like extremely aware) and National Pork Month (I’m not entirely certain if this is more of a food thing or an offshoot of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness thing but I was hesitant to see what the internets would tell me if I looked it up. You understand, I’m sure.) I can really get behind this September last month of baseball/alcohol appreciation tie-in thing. Suitable for comfort or celebrations, alcohol pairs wonderfully with all of your September needs. But I digress…

A few of my favorite things! - with shout outs to Paso Port, Chronic Cellars, Mitchella Winery, Barrel 27, Bodega de Edgar and Cypher Winery because you are all amazing and more people should try your libations.

So, the Angels lost to the A’s and now have a big old E next to their name in the AL West, the last team to fall prey to the dreaded E, though time zone bias did play a role in that. After the loss to the Jays especially, I was expecting this eventually. I am even glad it happened early enough to avoid having to watch Texas celebrate on our infield when I go to the game on Monday, but that doesn’t mean I am happy about it in general, you understand. Even so, Friday night was a good night at the ballpark if for no other reason than aren’t they always?

Angels hangout on the dugout fence during their first inning at bat. Vernon Wells says, "Damn it Trout, I said _don't_ look. Gotta learn to be more subtle, rookie. Check out my trick with the bat."

Fresh off a start on three days’ rest, Jered Weaver was a little overly strong in the first inning, giving up a homerun to Jemile Weeks in the first at bat and hitting Josh Willingham before settling down for six scoreless innings. Really, with 3 runs, only two of them earned, on 6 hits and 0 walks with 8 strikeouts? Weaver pitched well enough to win.

At the beginning of each inning, just before his first pitch, Jered Weaver turns away from the mound and touches his toes twice, then turns to the mound and writes an N and an A in the dirt with his finger in memory of his friend Nick Adenhart... this sign of the kind heart within the bulldog exterior is one of many reasons Weaver will always be one of my favorite Angels. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jered Weaver begins his delivery. He pitched well enough to win if the Angels' bats hadn't been stuck in customs or some such. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The bullpen, shown here largely in goofier relaxed moments, was solid too with Rich Thompson coming in to record the last two outs in two batters in the 9th.

Rich Thompson joins the game in the 9th. Thompson walks up to Midnight Oil's "Dream World," a cute choice for our Aussie reliever. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

"What'cho talkin' about Chopper!" Rich Thompson indulges in the age old pastime of 'confuse-a-rookie' and judging from the look on Hank Conger's face, he's rather good at it. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Scott Downs chats with the bullpen coach and catcher. "I swear Downsy, his strike zone was *this* big!" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Sadly, Gio Gonzales was on and, as usual, largely incomprehensible to the Angels while our bats remained…Inert? Immobile? Stuck in customs? Whatever the reason, the team only cobbled together three hits while stranding 10 guys on base, only one of whom (outside of Torii’s solo homerun) actually made it all the way to third. You don’t win ballgames that way, especially against the A’s who, regardless of what their record says this season, can and will make a team pay for mistakes…mistakes like our boneheaded fielding error in the 8th, for example.*face palm*

And Gio Gonzalez was his usual A-game self and stymied the Angels yet again. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Howie Kendrick takes a swing...sadly for naught. Howie was 0 for 4 for the night. But this season more often than not, HK47's bat had been a weapon indeed. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout takes a mighty practice swing...alas, Trout was yet aother 0-for this game. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

First baseman Mark Trumbo and runner Josh Willingham move with the ball off the bat...it was a foul. Trumbo had a much better ngiht defensively and was responsible for 2 of the Angels 3 hits. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game... (Seth)

I was disappointed with the loss to be sure, but accepted what was, at this point in the season, inevitable. I reminded myself that I had enjoyed a lot of the season, had enjoyed this evening out at the ballpark and that the Angels still had a small shot at clenching the wild card. And so I began to watch the final Friday Night Fireworks post game show of the season only somewhat deflated. And I was fine. Really adult about all of it. It’s only baseball, right? …right up until the bouncy Beach Boys soundtrack ended and the next wave of beautiful fireworks launched to the tune of Train’s Calling All Angels. Then the distinct explosions of glittering color blurred into an impressionist knock off of blue and red swirled with green, purple and yellow as tears welled up in my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks.

I am not proud of this fact. I am 35 years old and this was a baseball season, one of many near playoff misses I have witnessed in my lifetime. But…there was a wonderful quote that prefaced the broadcast of the 2010 All Star Game in Anaheim. I have searched and searched today, trying to find the exact quote, but the Interwebs have failed me. The gist of the quote is that baseball is a child’s game and when we watch the game we do so through a child’s eyes and with a child’s glee and so, for the span of a game, can remember however briefly the wonder and innocence of being a child. Baseball always fills me with a child’s excitement and glee, so looking back on last night I think it’s only appropriate that, for a few moments, it filled me with a child’s disappointment, raw and unencumbered by any need to put on a brave face and act the adult.

Ten minutes later and on into today, I have prospective and am back to disappointed but not crushed. Still, for those of us who do embody the quote I can’t find when around this pastime we adore, I think it’s important to embrace and acknowledge this side of ourselves. Even if it means admitting that all too often there absolutely is crying in baseball, this is also the side that allows us to experience unrestrained and darned near unreasonable joy over the feats of 25 men we don’t know on a field of grass, clay and chalk. The side of us that allows us to, for example, cheer again the very next day after a division elimination while we return to torturing ourselves with Wild Card elimination number math. I think it’s the child side balanced with the adult that allows me to laugh when I am happy and search for reasons to laugh even harder when I am disappointed or upset. To that end, I give you the rest of the photos I have selected from the game, all photos that made me laugh for one reason or another:

First basemen crack me up. Mark "Chatty Cathy" Trumbo and Jemile Weeks exchange pleasantries at first. "Damn, that Weaver is nasty. So, Trumbo, what's a good steakhouse down here?" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter relax during a pitching change. Bourjos says, "Really Torii?!" while Trout is incredulous. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter relax during a pitching change. Now, Bourjos and Trout are both incredulous. "Come on Torii, you expect us to believe that?!" Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Josh Willignham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus kick back during a pitching change. Coco says, "Hmmm...what about a steakhouse? Jemile said Trumbo told him about the great place in Brea." Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Beware of jazz hands! Peter Bourjos strikes a pose halfway bewteen Ichiro and Dancing with the Stars during a pre-inning warm up. Angels vs. A's, September 23, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, hey, good news this evening! A stronger Angels performance earned a victory while the Red Sox lost to the Yankees…and the Rays won too but what can you do? The Angels also announced their team awards. Congratulations to Jered Weaver for winning the Nick Adenhart Pitcher of the Year award and to Mark Trumbo for the team M.V.P. award – neither a surprise and both extremely well deserved!! So, onward to the last four games of the season and hopefully the last four wins of the season. I am all for the Angels finishing the season as strong as they can whether that means a miracle Wild Card Playoff berth or just a final record that’s that much better.

Angels Take Two Against the Yankees! …Oh. Yeah. And That Play Too.

Peter Bourjos dropped the ball and then made a truly terrible throw. Oh no! Head for the hills! The sky is falling! The world is coming to an end! The Angels are finished! And, and, there’s no Santa Clause either!

Come on all you gloom and doomers. Yes, you really do sound that silly. The Angels just won the series against the Yankees, something we haven’t been able to do all season. And they won it with two days of stellar pitching and three days of offense each of which on it’s own could have been the entire offensive output for a whole series earlier in the season. And – and this is a huge and! – we kept pace with the Rangers in the standings over the weekend.

Yes, the boys were awfully close to sweeping and gaining yet another game on the Rangers and that makes the error especially disappointing, but let’s put this in perspective. A brilliant young centerfielder who has been one of the highlights of the season for so many of us this year, had a really bad day defensively…and it wasn’t even the whole day, though I am aware this play wasn’t the only gaff, just the biggest. That’s all that happened. 99.99% of the time he would have made the catch. Yesterday he didn’t. But he took responsibility for it to in the clubhouse without any drama, so hat’s off Peter. That’s the Angels way! Suffice to say, this is not the end of the world. The sky is not falling. The Angels are far from finished. And this error is not even solely responsible for the loss, even though the offense didn’t have three entire innings afterwards to score one more run and at least tie it up again…Oh. Wait. They did.

Okay, so that part about Santa Clause not being real? That was true but, I mean, you knew that already. Right? …Right? Oooops. *face palm* Um, you there. The rather young fellow in the back there who’s crying? Yeah, you. Sorry kid! Better go call your mom. Anyway, moving right along…

This series the Angels faced the Yankees while the Rangers faced the A’s whom they have owned all season. Gaining a game on the Rangers over the weekend was very unlikely. Keeping pace with them over the weekend given those two matchups was quite an accomplishment. Now we’re in Oakland for three days with one of my favorite lineups this evening and Jerome Williams and Jered Weaver headed for the mound Tuesday and Wednesday and the Rangers are headed to Cleveland. Remember how I’ve been saying September is going to be a two steps forward, one step back again kind of a month? The Angels took one step forward and another step right back over the weekend and this week they’re going to take that second step forward!!

Labor Day Weekend Brain Drippings – Angels Baseball and Otherwise

  1. From a baseball standpoint, Saturday and Sunday were as heartening as Friday was disappointing. Outside of baseball, the whole weekend rocked. I didn’t bring a single project home from work this weekend. Go team, me! Okay, I work from home for half the week so, technically, I didn’t bring a single project out of my computer bag for the weekend, but you get the general idea.
  2. Jered Weaver, fresh off the plane from his grandfather’s funeral in Oregon (My sincere condolences on your loss. Losing a grandparent is extremely difficult and the bruise on your heart may fade, but never leaves.) worked his heart out on the mound for five innings on Saturday but his control was, understandably, far from his usual precision. It was a thing of beauty to see the rest of the team, offense, defense and bullpen alike, pick him up and get Jered the win. It was an ugly win to be sure, but the guy’s had so many pretty losses that he more than deserved this.
  3. Food Truck Wars alumni Nom Nom Truck, Grill ‘Em All and the Grilled Cheese Truck too? Believe the hype, they really are worth spending 45 minutes in line. They fact that in doing so we also contributed to a fundraiser for the local high school band? Pretty cool way to kill a Saturday afternoon.
  4. Joel Pineiro looked amazingly like…well…Joel Pineiro on Sunday and I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to see that. My hat’s off to him for working his way through his troubles with such a good attitude and I hope this is a sign that his rough times are over.
  5. Holy Angels offense, Batman! Torii and Aybar and Trumbombs. Oh. My! Not to mention hard, clutch knocks from Bourjos, Callaspo, Conger and Wells! Keep it up, gentlemen. This is how we win ballgames.
  6. With 25 homeruns to his name, Mark Trumbo is getting closer to matching and perhaps surpassing Tim Salmon’s franchise rookie homerun record of 31 from 1993. Whether or not he gets there, that’s pretty darned slick. Go Trumbo!
  7. As distasteful as it was, I actually rooted for the Red Sox this weekend…which is probably why they lost. Stinky Red Sox. Hmmm. Do you think they know that my love was merely a matter of temporary convenience? *nods* It’s the only rational explanation. ;)
  8. While my husband tends to see the Aybar as half Gilligan (serious props to True Grich for the all too often spot-on nickname), I tend to see the Aybar as half highlight reel. But there’s no denying he could go either way in a given game. Flip a coin.
  9. Midnight Vineyards Malbec is an excellent tater tots wine…yeah, I cracked up typing that too, hear me out. Inspired by our food truck adventures, we made gourmet burgers on Sunday, topped with blue cheese, mounds of sautéed mushrooms and a veritable tossed salad of baby greens, red onions and balsamic vinaigrette. We paired it with tater tots accompanied by curry ketchup and siricha ketchup dipping sauces. So this was a wine worthy meal…that also happened to prove the truth of the initial statement.
  10. I’m going to the game on Monday! It’s the perfect way to cap off the last weekend of summer. And I wound up getting field box seats so cheaply, I’m almost embarrassed. Thanks guys, but this better just be just a holiday weekend vacation thing, because although my last post is still true and this will take work and luck, we’re still in this!
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