Results tagged ‘ Rookies ’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Baseball in that Dreaded Eastern Time Zone and Post ASG Funks

I know that East Coast fans complain about all of those late nights up watching baseball and bleary eyes at work the next morning when their teams play out here in the west. And I feel their pain, really I do. Even so, I can’t help but think that we West Coast fans have it worse when the situation is in reverse, or at least we do during the week. East Coast fans may choose to stay up late if they desire and their constitution allows it, but we West Coast fans cannot choose to skip work. Darned old Bill and Morty, those moochers we all pay off monthly, would protest most mightily. Like a lot of us, my job is not such that I can pay a lot of attention to the game at work, or I wouldn’t get anything done. So my choices when the Angels have a 4 or 5 p.m. PT start are rush home and hope to catch the end of the game, watch it on our DVR or give up completely and check the box scores/play by play and, of course, Quick Pitch later.

When our baseball obsession was less well developed, my husband and I used to opt for the DVR and try not to catch the sports report on NPR on the way home or, in his case, to notice if the halo was lit when passing by the Big A. Honestly, that was tricky enough, but now? Once you start gravitating toward sports radio, add Angels pages to your FaceBook, join twitter and blog, well…seriously, just try not having a clue how the game is going before you turn on that DVR. :) Watching the game on about an hour’s delay at that point is usually acceptable. This is baseball. Short of a blow out, anything can still happen when a game is an hour in. But starting from scratch when the game is nearly over and you already know the score? Yeah. Exactly.

So this season Seth and I find ourselves watching a lot of 8th and 9th innings when the Angels play away series, and trying to piece together the nuances of the rest of that particular game after the fact. Yes, the technology and broadcast options have improved significantly since the time of my youth, giving baseball fans valuable resources undreamed of when I was a child. But, even so, Game Day, Quick Pitch and the like are excellent for conveying big moments, but not so much so for nuances. And the end result is that when the Angels are two time zones away, I feel this weird disconnect from the team. It’s like trying to keep up with a good friend using only FaceBook comments when you’re used to hanging out in person. It’s a lot better than nothing, but really unsatisfying all the same.

Oddly enough, coming back from the All Star break, it seemed like the Angels were feeling their own disconnect. Between the starting rotation doing a mini rotation through the DL and guys getting back into the swing of things, in some cases literally, after four days off, the Angels who appeared in New York just didn’t seem quite like the same Angels who headed into the break, and the box scores showed it. The first game in Detroit was much the same. But, just as I am starting to come out of my own funk knowing that my team will be watchable at rational times starting Friday, the Angels launched a full on Home Run Derby of a victory Tuesday night against the Tigers signaling that their own funk may be blissfully, equally short lived. Hey, I know the starting pitcher was a rookie, but the Angels often fall prey to Yankees syndrome when faced with new pitchers and make them look like a Cy Young candidate upon their first meeting. So, progress!

Of course, what I did catch of today’s game told me that I shouldn’t be overly disappointed about missing the rest of it, so I guess neither of us are completely out of the woods just yet. *sigh* Hey Angels, you know how Bradley Wiggens slowed down his pace in the Tour de France the other day after the sabotage with the tacks so the affected riders could catch back up to their original places, and it was this beautiful, amazing display of sportsmanship that we should all applaud with enthusiasm? Yeah, well, this isn’t that kind of situation at all! This is the AL West pennant race and when the Rangers lose, you shouldn’t go out of your way to lose too. You should win! But I digress…

Even with today’s loss, I think that the Angels are on the right track and will be back to their pre-All Star Break selves by the time they arrive in Anaheim. The starting rotation is coming back together with Jerome Williams and Dan Haren coming off the DL just in time for the next round of games. The bats are clearly functioning – hello, 18 hits, 5 of them home runs just yesterday!! And, to be honest, after the first two awful innings, even in today’s loss it sounds the Angels looked more like themselves, just not soon enough. So, I am quite pumped for the series against the Rangers this weekend. I think it’s going to be something special to watch…and not just because they’re back in the Pacific Time Zone for awhile, though that certainly doesn’t hurt.

Weekend Gourmet, Wine Festival and Angels Blogger Spring Training?

A belated Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from the Emerald Isle!…

View of Paso Robes farmland taken from West Highway 46 looking out towards a completely mist shourded Morro Bay. The rock? I can't see it, but who cares with all this pretty. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…Yeah, I wish. ;) Though as not-Ireland places for a St. Patrick’s weekend getaway go, Paso Robles, CA is plenty nice enough. And although the particular shades of green in this landscape are all wrong for Ireland, it is still quite lovely and the mist and rain were at least accurate. So what’s a diehard Angels fan like me doing in a place like Paso Robles when there are games going on Arizona, you ask?

Well, with Pujols-mania bringing folks out to Tempe in droves, hotel stays and such suddenly got more expensive and harder to book, so we decided to wait and go to Spring Training another year. Oh well, I was a little sad but that does mean more money for the regular season ticket budget, which certainly makes up for missing out…and, besides, it’s the Zinfandel Festival which means I just spent a lovely weekend going through my own little baseball blogger’s Spring Training, which came none too soon if you ask me. Between Albert Pujols heating up the lineup, the rest of the bats following right long, the starting rotation looking great and even more formidable with the addition of C.J. Wilson, and what is looking more and more like the very real possibility of Kendrys Morales returning to the 25-man roster, this could be a very special season in the making. A blogger’s got to prepare. Training and drills are a must.

Okay, training and drills. Fine, you say. But at a wine festival? Of course at a wine festival! Where else could I get all of this practice and prep in? Take photos, for example. If you read this blog last season – first off thank you! – you know I like to take photos when I go to Angels games so that I can pepper my posts with photos that are as much mine as the commentary. Well, taking baseball game photos can be tricky. There’s a lot of action. Your subjects are constantly on the move, sometimes in unpredictable ways. It’s all too easy for the rusty blogger to end up with a large collection of photos like this one, which I like to call Not-So-Still life with Aybar:

A blurry, bad Erick Aybar rounding first base photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. White Sox, May 10, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or even this one. Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos were both well in frame and in focus when I started to take the photo…:

A blurry, bad Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos warming up photo that is only seeing the light of day per the Roger Rabbit rules: Only when it's funny! Angels vs. Mariners, September 5, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

You’ve got to warm up for tricky action shots. Practicing on things that don’t move but require a lot of detail and focus can be helpful, like this vineyard (I love the gnalred, wintery vines and the  lines created by the three distinct fields with vines running at three different angles):

Views like this are why I say if I could find a way to make money up here, I would absolutely move to Paso Robles. Anyone need a mortgage banking, copy writing couple? We would probably be fair hats at catering and he brews excellent beer! March 16, 2012, Red Soles Winery property. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Or this gorgeous tasting room:

Shale Oak Winery's absolutely gorgeous eco-friendly tasting room. Grab a glass of something bold and fruity and head for the fire pits on the patio. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Then you can move on to some simple action subjects, like these Paso Robles wild turkeys:

Why did these Paso Robles wild turkeys cross the field? Duh, to get to road of course. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I say a simple action shot because, although this is an impressive little dominance display here, with a lot of action going on, turkeys (the real ones with feathers at any rate) don’t generally muck up photos by adjusting themselves. Still, although no Spring Training can ever replicate the real thing I think I have gotten enough “innings” in with the camera to be ready for the regular season.

As for the rest of my blogger’s Spring Training? Well, I got to study plenty of tasty treats in preparation for my Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels nights, like this glorious roast pork panini and sundried tomato salad from Farmstand 46. They call it The Goat:

If you're ever passing through Paso Robles, Farmstand 46 is a must! Behold The Goat, a slow roated pork shoulder panini topped with pickled onions, salty gruyere and a homemade garlic aioi, accompanied by a sundried tomato salad and real macaroons. March 16, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

…or the Zinfandel sliders, the tacos al pastor, the paella or any of the other deliciousness I was too busy nom-ing to take a photo of. Would I really make a roast pork panini or paella just for our Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels enjoyment? *laughs* Will Mike Scioscia change the Angels lineup a minimum of 60 times this season? Hell. Yes.

Speaking of Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels, what better place to stock up the old wine cellar than at Zin Fest? Yes, I think it’s going to be a beautiful season:

Part of this year's Zin Fest haul. As they say in Paso Robles, 'Sip. Swirl. Enjoy!' Don't mind if I do. March 17, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game...

I even got my usual pre-season gabfest in with some of the Giants fans at the Barrel 27 pick-up party. Not surprisingly they are every bit as thrilled to be getting Buster Posey back as we are with the positive Kendrys outlook. Not to mention it was fun talking rookies and just barely not rookies with them. The Giants have some great younger players in the mix or soon to be in the mix too – one gent I was chatting with is particularly enamored with Baby Giraffe, Brandon Belt – so our two fan bases have some fun things in common.

So, I have my trusty camera at the ready, my Opening Day tickets in hand…er…inbox, plenty of wine options (seriously if I actually showed you the full collection of options, you would laugh at me!) and my typing fingers limber and warmed up. 19 days until Opening Day and I. Can’t. Wait!

The Crack of the Bat! The Slap of the Glove! The Long Uncomfortable Silence of the Error?

Okay, so it’s only Spring Training. The sights and sounds of the game are never going to be the same in Spring Training as they are when the real deal begins. Still, after so many long days without, they sound pretty darned musical to me. So, after two entire Angels games, one of which only aired on the radio and one we watched this evening via that faithful friend of the working stiff, the DVR, I have a few thoughts.

 

It’s only Spring Training. And believe you me, if it were going badly I would absolutely be emphasizing how much Spring Training games don’t really mean anything, a fact I don’t forget just because things are going well. However, it makes me really happy to see:

  • Albert Pujols and that gorgeous swing looking good from the first at bat.
  • C.J. Wilson looking like he’s in season shape already or pretty darn close to it.
  • The regular infielders doing their regular season thing in the field and at the plate.
  • One possible incarnation of the outfield doing their regular season thing in the field and at the plate.
  • Alberto Callaspo belting the ball and playing his position with an “Ahem. I’m still here!” swagger and chip on his shoulder.
  • Angels infielders turning two in March with a decidedly May kind of ease and precision. Have you ever noticed that the sound of the ball slapping the glove during a solid 6-4-3 or 4-6-3 is just a little different than it sounds during any other play? Three fast, solid thunks in precisely measured succession. It’s a lovely sound!
  • Power from the catcher’s position!! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Spring Training ball parks. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. I have now seen current Angels catchers look like they actually know what they are doing in the batter’s box in two back to back games. And after last season? Yeah, that’s a big deal.
  • Angels ball players looking relaxed, rejuvenated, and very at ease with one another…until they start talking about the coming season and then there is a fire in their eyes. Love that!

Meh. It’s only Spring Training:

  • Oh my word, the errors. With every team, in every game. Balls zinging out of gloves. Sailing lazily past gloves. Dropping softly at the outfielders’ feet… Throws going into the outfield. The backstop. The dugout. The stands… And some of the pitching and hitting? Ugh. Yes, this is why we have Spring Training but it is also why Spring Training will never be as good as the regular season.
  • I’m not particularly impressed with most of the Angels kids so far. Not last season’s rookies or Mike Trout who spent a fair bit of time in the Bigs last year. I think my appreciation of their efforts and the breath of fresh air they bring has been thoroughly documented on these virtual pages. No, I mean the younger prospects. I really like Alexi Amarista whose gutsy, athletic, maximum effort style of play in a diminutive package reminds a bit of Dustin Pedroia. And I like Andrew Romine who has demonstrated great instincts and a gift for pulling plays out of thin air in the past. Other than that, I don’t see anything that impressive yet…of course, I wasn’t that impressed with Tyler Chatwood last Spring Training, so I can’t claim to have the best eye for the subtle nuances of a rookie-to-be’s performance.
  • The usual: No one stays in the game for very long, even when they’re doing well. Small stadiums make for quiet games. Even the announcers…heck, even the sound and picture quality seem to be in training right along with the players.

 

We got to watch baseball. Real, current – if not precisely live – baseball over dinner for four days running now. And this evening my husband looked from the game to me with a very contented smile, all of the strain of the day gone from his face, and sighed. This is a nice evening, he said. It’s great to have the back game on. I couldn’t agree more…and that part needs no Spring Training specific header. That part is universal.

Musings on Baseball and Wine – Hey, It’s January. What Do You Want? ;)

All work and no baseball makes Kristen a sad girl…a most unacceptable state of affairs if you ask Kristen, I can tell you that. Lacking the ability to add baseball to the equation, clearly it was time to mix in a little playtime. It’s a three day weekend, so naturally Seth and I lit out for Cambria and Paso Robles the second we were both off work and packed up on Friday night. Yeah, it was a 4 and half hour drive starting at 8 p.m. So what? Brown footed loons are naturally nocturnal…and diurnal and crepuscular for that matter, whichever natural activity cycle is apt to lead to greater work productivity and/or a good time. We’re adaptable like that. Anyway, as we noted walking around town this morning, the Cambria/Paso Robles/long weekend/random weekend thing has been our thing for as long as there has been an us. Some years, I think we use the house more than his parents do…other years I know we do.

And after this many years of coming up here to California’s Central Coast wine county, I can tell you that that natural cycles of baseball and California wine mirror each other in so many different ways it’s a wonder they aren’t more closely associated than the more traditional pairing of baseball and beer. Just to name a few:

  • In California, wine’s biggest event, its Fall Classic if you will, is the Harvest and crush (literally what it sounds like) which occurs in October. And, much like in baseball, you really want to get it over with before you hit November if at all possible.
  • While wine blending, bottling and selling can occur all year long depending on what varietals a winery offers, the majority of the blending, the tinkering with the 25 man roster if you will, occurs in February and March and again in the early summer months.
  • Rookie wines can be excellent right out of the bottle, or take several years of aging and conditioning before they really show their stuff, and the aging almost always improves the end result.
  • Some winemakers rely on their own farm system, growing the majority of their own grapes. Others rely on the farm systems of their colleagues. Trades and outright “free agency” purchases are common.
  • Many amateur aficionados think they know almost as much as or ever better than the professionals…and a lot of them have blogs. ;)
  • Both the aficionados and the professional raters rely on often obscure numbers and statistics that are not necessarily what the actual wine makers, being more of a by taste, gut instinct and experience sort, rely on when putting together the finished product.
  • And then, there is the fickle finger of fate thing. Just as really promising rookies may fail to live up to their potential or excellent ballplayers suffer career ending injuries, sometimes nature says “nope, I don’t think so” in the form of a drought, or quite the opposite, or any number of other minor disasters and the grapes just don’t live up to their potential either.

This last bit really speaks to what’s happening in Paso Robles and I would imagine the rest of California’s winery regions this year. California didn’t really have much of a summer in 2011. And, while consistent balmy mid 70’s weather is wonderful for tourism and fantastic fodder for any number of movies, it absolutely sucks for grapes which need hot days and cool breezes at night in order to fully develop the sugars that eventually ferment into the delicious nectar we enjoy. That kind of weather was in short supply this off season, much like free-agent starting pitchers of quality.

And, much like baseball teams with said starting pitchers, wineries tried different things to insure victory, from leaving the grapes on the vines an extra long time, risking catastrophic rain storms, to stripping the leaves off to give the gapes the full benefit of the sun, risking malnourishment and, should the heat wave finally come, scorched grapes. Just as in baseball, some wineries lucked out and some did not (the Angels clearly falling in the former category here). And it’s safe to say that in both worlds a lot of teams/wineries have rebuilding years ahead of them. But here’s the thing about rebuilding years in wine or in baseball that a lot of folks forget. Rebuilding necessities can lead to unexpected levels of creativity and take us in directions we never thought we could go. And, every now and then, this leads to an even better result than anyone could have possibly imagined. I can’t wait to see how the fruits of 2011 and early 2012 work out for everyone, on the field and in my glass. Cheers!

Happy New Year! + Angels 2012 Resolutions

Happy New Year!!

I hope everyone had a great time last night and I wish you all the best in 2012!

New Year’s Day is traditionally a day for proclaiming resolutions for the year to come…and the wee hours in between New Year’s Day and January 2nd work just as well in a year where New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday. I don’t know about you all but it just isn’t New Year’s for me until I get to flop in front of the Rose Parade on TV with a nice brunch and a flute or several of champagne. I am not usually one to make specific official resolutions for myself. A general try to grow and improve in life is sufficient. In 2011, the Angels certainly did grow and improve over their 2010 season and it was a pleasure to watch. But there is plenty of room for continued growth and improvement in 2012. If the Angels happen to be in a more traditional New Year’s resolutions state of mind, I can certainly suggest a few resolutions they would do well to make for the coming season:

  1. Most importantly, everyone stay healthy! Take care of those hamstrings. Mind those groin muscles. Don’t let the walls get the best of quite so many arguments. Oh, and that freak plate jumping accident may have been a once in a lifetime thing and all, but how about we don’t jump on the plate anyway.
  2. Enough with the GIDPs already. This is a good resolution for everyone but Torii, and now Albert, I’m mainly looking at you.
  3. Think before you steal. Seriously. Thinking caps on and fully functioning. Successful base stealing is thing of beauty to behold and an Angels baseball staple. Caught stealing? Not so much on either count.
  4. Stop swinging for the fences every at bat, especially if that’s not really your swing. Watching all of you, I know this was not done to showboat. You were trying to kick start the offense which is admirable. But, more often than not, a nice solid line drive into the gap helps just as much as a homerun and always more than popping out.
  5. No runners left behind in 2012! Raise that RISP and more RBIs! This was a 2011 resolution, and you all definitely improved in this regard but what the heck? There’s always room for more improvement right?
  6. In 2011, you resolved to make the 8th inning a little less unnecessarily exciting. For 2012, let’s resolve to do the same for the 9th inning, shall we? Extra innings are only fun when we were already coming from behind and, while it’s certainly sweet of you to think of them, this economy has already given the antacid industry enough of a boost.
  7. Leave any woes from last season in the past. Everyone starts the 2012 season with a clean slate!
  8. You brought a lot of the old swagger and sense of fun back in 2011 and it was wonderful. Keep it up, please.
  9. I love seeing how Angels veterans always help out the rookies and the newbies and how quickly the rookies and newbies fit right in and really look forward to seeing it all over again in 2012.

An Angels Season Highlights Review – Don’t Leave 2011 Without It

So, 2011 is drawing to a close and it is my tradition to take a few moments and write up my top Angels Baseball moments for the 2011 season. It should be noted that, as this blog is now just over a year old, tradition means I am doing it for the second time. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? …But I digress. These are not the Angels only highlights for the season or even necessarily the ones that folks who get paid to analyze this kind of stuff would point out. There are enough articles about that floating around out there already. No, these are the highlights, both Angels and personal, that made my baseball season, in no particular order:

Jered Weaver! Both the season he had – which, were it not for Verlander’s even more amazing season would have easily been a Cy Young season – and the fact that he signed a contract with the Angels through 2016. I loved every minute I spent watching this homegrown dynamo on the mound and look forward to many more in the seasons to come.

Being Wrong. Yes, sometimes being wrong is a great thing and I am thrilled that I was wrong to have worried about Mark Trumbo taking over at first base. My concerns were based on his rookie call-up outings and the issues he had getting into position for plays during Spring Training. But the AL Rookie of the Year runner up worked hard to improve quickly at first and was a bright spot in an offense that was otherwise anything but. None of this guarantees that Trumbo will also be good at third base, but he has more than earned my interest in seeing what he can do in yet another new position.

Ervin Santana’s No Hitter. A former on one season then wild as all get out the next pitcher, Santana showed he has gained considerable consistency following up on his excellent 2010 season with another quality season, and how! The no hitter was merely the most obvious indicator of thischange, but what an indicator it was.

Dan Haren’s 1 hit shutout. And we were there!! Having a full season with Haren on the team would have been a highlight in and of itself, but getting to see this game, live and in person, with a great view of every nasty pitch going over the plate was absolute baseball magic.

Young Angels’ feats. I said it many times throughout the regular season, the Angels rookies and practically rookies made my season. Whether it was watching Peter Bourjos’ dramatic plays in center, Tyler Chatwood’s development on the mound or Mark Trumbo slowly make opposing pitchers start to take notice, the Angels “kids” made the game a lot of fun to watch and gave me significant hope for future seasons.

Personal Game Attendance at an All-Time High! So I tallied it up and we went to 22 games this season, two of which were the Angels/A’s double header. Wow! So. Ummmm…Hon, when you read this, remember how that fact of that being absolutely (Wonderfully!) crazy is tempered by my folks and your boss giving us tickets. ;) Being at the game so often gave us the chance to catch a lot of season highlights. Bourjos’ first home run of the season. Trumbo’s first big league homerun. A couple of flying Bourjos catches. An I can’t believe he caught that Torii Hunter catch…and that was just during the Haren 1-hit shutout game, no kidding. There was even more than that over the course of the other 21 games. I only hope that tickets are not so expensive this season that we have difficulties getting to the game. I don’t have to go to 22 games (Though I will never turn it down!) but if I don’t get to the ballpark every couple of weeks or so, crankiness is likly to ensue. :)

Travelling for Baseball. Seth and I have talked about eventually seeing a game in every Major League stadium for years, but it has also been years since we’ve been able to do any real travelling. This season we finally got started on our plans and while we may have started small we started well, travelling up to the Bay Area to visit with friends and watch games at the Coliseum and AT&T Park. So. Much. Fun! This coming season, the way things look, I think we may only be able to make it down to Petco Park in San Diego, which is local but still progress.

And last but not least…I hesitate to include this winter’s signings only because at the moment Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson have not had the opportunity to take a single swing or deliver a single pitch for the Angels. We suspect they will be strong, difference making additions to the team but while it’s all still just on paper, it’s only highly probable, not actual. But I will add this to my list: last year at this time I was writing about Hot Stove Grief (Hey, this is a serious disorder. Wipe that smirk off your face!) and feeling like the front office was just phoning it in. Today I feel like the front office is really working to put the best team on the field they possibly can and I am hopeful and excited for the season to begin. What a difference a few months make!

The Angels May Still Have Problems, But A Mendoza Line Hittin’ Catcher Ain’t One…

Amazing how quickly they update the uniforms in these online pics. Behold the power of the Adobe Creative Suite...or whatever.

…Or is it? Oh, I don’t mean are the Angels still keeping Jeff Mathis. Jerry Dipoto made his first personnel move as the Angels manager on Wednesday, trading rookie pitcher Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies for catcher Chris Iannetta and, by all accounts, one of his next moves will be to non-tender Jeff Mathis and I am beyond okay with this. I think Mathis is a good guy and the pitchers love him. And he is rather good at take down plays at the plate. But there are also all of the mental errors in throw down situations and, ugh, that batting average. Yes, Mathis has a pretty swing to be sure but, after this many seasons, I’ve stopped waiting for the pretty swing to become a productive swing and just reflexively cringe whenever the guy steps into the batter’s box.

Suffice to say, I’m not going to miss Mathis much and would be thrilled to get an actual bat in the catcher’s position. And, initially, I was quite seduced by Iannetta’s lifetime .238 average and typical double digit season homeruns numbers…okay, so they’re just barely double digit and .238 isn’t that great a batting average for anyone who isn’t a catcher but compared to the lifetime .197 average and “he holds the record for most home runs…hit on opening day…on his birthday” stats that I’m used to? Please, that there is a hitting dynamo.

…But then I slowed down my ridiculous happy dance and began to think, hmmm. Rockies player. Batting in the land where balls hit with a stick fly freely into the upper deck and pitchers fear to tread. What are this guy’s road splits like? Ugly, as it turns out. Looking up to Mathis’ .197 most seasons, in fact. And the happy dance is slowing down. Sllloooooooowing down. And we’re stopping now. Well, yuck. And by yuck I really mean something that rhymes with yuck and has more of a Van Halen album title-ish vibe to it, but this is a family blog, or something like that.

I’m not crying foul on this trade yet. Maybe I’ve just been scarred by Vernon Wells’ last season and the home/away splits that preceded it. Maybe Iannetta’s splits have more to do with really feeling comfortable with the home crowd, the home clubhouse, home cooking, home anything but the Earth’s yellow sun like properties that Coors Field has on the would-be Superman bats of hitters ranging anywhere from mediocre to awesome. Maybe?? Or, maybe my pessimistic thoughts are more akin to realistic thoughts in this case.

In an interview today on Clubhouse Confidential Jerry Dipoto was asked about this very thing and chose the more optimistic interpretation of the splits. On the one hand, of course he would, he just made the deal! On the other hand, he did work for the Rockies and has some insight into the players. Then again, when asked what primary characteristic sold him on Ianetta, Dipoto said, He walks. A lot. Okay. So, what then? Iannetta is the Italian demi-god of walks?

Tyler Chatwood and Jeff Mathis, both of whom had seen better games at this point. Angels vs. Rangers, August 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Anyway, National League folks, or anyone else who knows a lot more about this player than I, lay it on me. What do you think of this acquisition?

And as for the trading away Tyler Chatwood, I don’t mind it terribly. I thought he was good, poised beyond his tender years, and showed promise as a bottom half of the rotation starter. I was less than thrilled with his strikeout to walk ratio and with how early and how well and thoroughly he sputtered out during his rookie season. I know that it will take another season to determine if that’s indicative of a long term flaw or just rookie stretching out and growing pains, but I still don’t view trading him as a bad thing, not that I would have minded keeping him either. Of course, if the Rockies turn around and trade him to the Rangers tomorrow and Chatty proceeds to take revenge on the team who scorned him by having a career year and sitting our asses down one by one all season long, I may revise my opinion somewhat.

Scarred, who? Me? ;)

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.

*     *     *     *     *

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.

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