Results tagged ‘ Rookies ’

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...

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. It’s a September Simon Says to the Season Finish, Folks!

And a September Simon Says is pretty much what I expected for the Angels push to catch up with those wily Rangers in this season’s wild, wild, a wee bit wilder than usual in fact, AL West. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss was frustrating. All those errors! Ugh! But Monday night’s win, with the Angels’ bats rising to the occasion to pick up Dan Haren, was glorious and this evening’s come from behind win was exhilarating, if a bit more exciting than strictly necessary. And, with Texas unable to do much against the pitching firm of Shields and Price – love that fan cave bit! – the Angels have gained one precious game on them, shrinking Texas’ lead to a mere 2.5 games.

Torii Hunter warms up in right field. Torii had an uncharacteristically rough first two innings in right but pulled himself out of the error cycle and more than made up for it with spectacular plays the rest of the game...would that Aybar, Callaspo and Izturis could say the same the next evening. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

September is still young and I predict a lot more Simon Says-style steps forward and back in the standings before all is said and done. So hang on to your hats and glasses, Angels fans. I think this rollercoaster of a season is going to come down to the last three games when the Angels and Rangers clash in Anaheim, don’t you? In the mean time, what better place is there to soak in all the excitement of the closest division race of the season than the Big A? (Sorry New York and Boston. Yes, I am aware that your division race is closer, and that the end result is extremely important to you, but for the rest of us? It’s not that big a deal. We already know you’re both going to the playoffs.) Of course, I won’t be able to attend as many games as I want to this month, but I plan on heading out to the ballgame as often as my wallet and a very understanding boss will allow. Seth and I started with Monday’s game.

To the victors go the high fives! Jeff Mathis, Jered Weaver, Vernon Wells, Alberto Callaspo and Bobby Wilson greet the infield after the last out. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

As I mentioned, this was not Dan Haren’s best night by any means. But like the veteran workhorse he is, he battled and kept the Angels in the game. And, like Jered Weaver in his equally turbulent Saturday start, this guy has lost pretty so many times this season, he deserved to be able to win ugly this time. It didn’t hurt that he was facing off against a rookie and that the Angels graciously decided not to make this rookie look like Cy Young award winner. ;)

Dan Haren pitching from the stretch, as he did frequently this game. It was not Haren's best outting but he still toughed and gritted his way tto a win with a little run support from his friends. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Rookie Anthony Vasquez' 3rd start could have gone better. It also could have gone worse. Let's call this appearance inconclusive. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

In both team’s cases, the relievers actually fared better than the starters. Kudos to Bobby Cassevah and Hisanori Takehashi for maintaining the lead. And while I certainly haven’t spoken with either reliever, somehow I am sure that in return they say kudos to the Angels offense for not handing them yet another one-run lead.

Bobby Cassevah took over for Haren in the 7th and pitched a 1, 2, 3 inning with two strikeouts. Suffice to say Bobby Cassevah is growing on me, and quickly. He gets extra points in my book for walking up to Hank Jr.'s A Country Boy Can Survive. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Closer Cesar Jiminez took the mound amidst a rare flurry of Angels fan heckling. As he warmed up the entire left field pavillion let out a loud, soprano "Whooooooop" every time he pitched the ball and a "Woooooooooo" eevery time the catcher returned it. No matter how they timed their throws, the crowd matched them. It was funny mostly because you never hear stuff like that at the Big A. One wonders if he had a "special" moment with the fans that prompted it. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

For the Angels offense truly was the key to this game. It was a thing of beauty! You couldn’t keep them off the base paths, a trend that absolutely must continue this month if they’re going to catch the Rangers. I say that it’s all well and good to rest a few bats here and there but, unlike Tuesday’s game, multiple bats should not be rested at the same time and when say Howie or Trout is sitting out the game, if his replacement isn’t getting it done in the field or at the plate they should be replaced in inning three or four, not inning nine. How about it Sosh, what do you say?

Vernon Wells takes a swing while Mark Trumbo leads off 3rd. Josh Bard is catching. Wells and Trumbo both homered this game. Mark's well-timed 26th Trumbomb was a two-run affair in the first inning tto give the Angels an early lead. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter one pitch prior to knocking Peter Bourjos (who leads off 3rd) in with a triple. A now healthy Torii is swinging the bat much better than the Torii of the chronically bruised ribs from the first half of the season. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos looks downright pissed standing on first base after a walk in the 3rd. Was he mad he got walked? Did I just catch him in a rare non-sunny moment for no particular reason? Was Mariners' first baseman Adam Kennedy talkin' trash? Only Fleet Pete can say. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

On second thought, maybe Adam Kennedy was talking trash because Howie Kendrick doesn't look any happier in this meeting of former team mates...maybe Jeff Mathis owes Kennedy rent money and he's bugging the other players to collect? Totally kidding of course. ;) Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The future is now! Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Watching these rookies (and near rookie) come up to the big leagues and into their own while breathing new life into the veteran players has made my season. Seeing Trout and Bourjos in the same outfield a year early makes me giddy every time I their names in the lineup. And between the Trumbomb, Trumbo and Bourjos’ doubles and Bourjos and Trout’s speed everywhere, all three players had an excellent night.

The future is now! Mike Trout takes a mighty swing while Mark Trumbo leads off 3rd. I can't wait for a whole season of these two and the rest of the Angels rookie stars in the same lineup! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trout did miss robbing a Seattle homerun that several of the fans thought he should have caught. From my vantage less than 30 feet away, he would have had to dive into the 4th row to catch the ball. He’s good, but that wasn’t happening. Besides, as Seth and I joked afterwards, judging from the number of hits I get on this blog for “Peter Bourjos Butt,” “Mike Trout Butt” and even “(insert name of Angels rookie of choice here) naked” when there ain’t no booty shots here to be found (so you know that number of actual searches using these terms is exponentially larger), I think it’s safe to say that the young women (and likely some of the young men) of Orange County have…um…shall we say…caught Angels rookie fever. If young Trout were to sail into the stands, they might try to keep him for a souvenir.

The future is now! Peter Bourjos in center and Mike Trout in left warm up in between innings. This is but one sneak preview of the 2012 season!! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mariners outfielders Mike Carp and Trayvon Robinson warm up between innings. The Angels are not the only team hoping to benefit from a youth uprising. Both young players have looked very good, at least against the Angels. Can an influx of young blood help lead the Mariners to a winning season in 2012? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. Personally, now that we’ve knocked them to elimination, I would love to see the Mariners start an amazing winning streak immediately. You know, really take their bad season agressions out on the Rangers…hey, a girl can dream.

Trayvon Robinson and Mike Carp warm up in between innings. You can see Ichiro in the background. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Trayvon Robinson leads off 2nd while Erick Aybar and Mark Trumbo prepare for the pitch. Aybar had a great night Monday. It just goes to prove that we need Howie Kendrick in the game as often as possible. Aybar between Callaspo and Izurtis is one error prone little dude. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And now for something completely silly…the Angels wonderfully goofy production staff has started airing short Q&A’s with the players on improbable topics in between innings. This evening’s fodder? ‘How many Jersey Shore kids can you name?’ and ‘Team Edward or Team Jacob?’ Needless to say, these are hardworking professional baseball players, not pre-teen girls. In most cases they didn’t even understand the questions, with humorous results. Ervin Santana’s expression shown below was the funniest, but Joel Pineiro with his “Is that the show with that chick that looks like a poodle?” had the best answer. Though Torii was pretty funny too. He scoffed at Twilight (though he did know what it was – he has teenagers after all) and said they should be asking him about “man” movies. When the reporter obliged and asked what his favorite action movie was, he was so taken aback that he sputtered and laughed at himself because he could not think of a single one.

Ervin Santana appears perplexed by the question. Don't worry Ervin, many of us join you in a collective WTF?! over Twilight. Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, let us not forget, rookie call-ups mean more rookie backpacks:

Mariners rookie relief pitchers display their backpack badges of rookie hazing. The Dora the Explorer and the cute kitty backpacks are pretty much par for the MLB course these days but the R2D2 backpack absolutely rocks! Angels vs. Mariners, September 6, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Keep Him In Coach. We Need Him to Play.

Hel-lo gor-geous bats! Where have you been all my season? Well, looking at the stats for the last few games, they’ve been in AA Arkansas with Mike Trout. Check this out:

The Angels have played ten games since Mike Trout was recalled from the minors and in that time they are 5 and 0 in games where Trout has started and 2 and 3 in games where Trout did not play or entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning. And one of those losses? That would be Friday night against Texas. Upon entering the game in the 8th inning, Trout continued a rally begun by Howie Kendrick. His hit moved Howie into position to score on Mark Trumbo’s line drive single and set the stage for Russell Branyan’s three run homer. Imagine what could have been if Trout had started the game?

No, I’m not saying Mike Trout is the chosen one, a one man offense here to single handedly save the Angels. But I do think he is proving himself to be the missing spark this team needs. It’s not that the Angels don’t have any bats, it’s that we don’t have enough bats and that there are far too many dead spots, all but guaranteed outs, dotted through the lineup in between them. How many times have we watched a mini rally start only to die without a single man scoring? Or bases loaded with one out turning into one measly run followed by someone grounding into a double play? This happens to every team, but it happens to the Angels so often that we’ve grown to expect it every inning this season. How excited do we Angels fans get when the team scores just four runs? ‘Nuff said.

Mike Trout waits in the hole in his second major league game. Angels vs. Mariners, July 9, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

But what if we had just one more clutch bat in between our existing bats, someone to keep the offensive outburst going once Macier or Bourjos or Howie starts it? Someone to knock Torii Hunter in when he gets on base? Heck, just one more guy not grounding into an inning ending double play? Well, we’d have our sweep of the Orioles, or last night, or our win against Texas on Saturday, or what Friday night against Texas very easily could have been if we’d had just one more clutch bat in the game a few innings earlier.

Yes, Mike Trout is young, not even a month past 20. But he doesn’t seem overwhelmed in the slightest. In addition to his bat makes good decisions in the outfield, has a fantastic glove, runs great routes for the ball and, with his speed, is a perfect complement to Peter Bourjos in the outfield and a terror on the base paths. And the frightening part is, he’s still growing into his skill set and showing a lot of improvement, even just since his last trip up to the majors. His arm looks a little stronger and then there’s that bat! Trout returned to the majors with a .163 batting average – hey, he only played in a handful of games on either side of the All-Star Break and, like a lot of rookies, it took him a few at bats first to connect and then to stop hitting it right at people. After five additional full games in the majors and two single at-bat pinch hit appearances, Trout has dramatically increased his batting average to .246. Between that and two homeruns and five RBIs last night, making Trout the youngest Angel to have a two-homerun game, I think it’s safe to say he is no longer overly impressed by Major League pitching. What do you think?

So, this post was originally going to be a plea to Mike Scioscia to put Mike Trout back in the lineup tonight. Because, of course, he reads this blog and takes my opinions into careful consideration before making lineup decisions, why do you ask? ;) But, much to my delight, they just posted the lineup and Trout is already there!!! And suddenly I am even more excited for this game. Go Angels!!

So, I was wondering instead…Sosh, pretty please, with zesty homemade marinara sauce and good imported parmesan on top, can we keep him in the lineup now??? He’ll be the offense’s new best fri-end. Thanks, ever so!

- An Angels Fan on the Edge of Her Seat

Weaver Pitches 7 Shutout Innings to lead the Angels to their 6th Victory While the Ink Dries on His Brand, Spanking New Contract

We were not going to go to a game this week. Yes, we had originally planned on going to Tuesday night’s game, but then the unexpected trip to Yosemite came up and it just seemed like too many things…Until Jered Weaver’s press conference. I think Weaver got a great deal from the Angels. But at the same time, I am as touched as everyone else that he didn’t wait to shop around as a free agent, potentially leaving significant dollars on the table to stay with the organization he grew up with.

Jered Weaver readies for his windup. Weaver took the mound to darn near a standing ovation in this, his first game post contract announcement. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Listening to the press conference on the radio at lunch on Tuesday and hearing Weaver say, with warmth and tears in his voice, ‘I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else but here,’ ‘How much more money do you really need?’ and ‘Watching all of the Angels alumni return to throw out first pitches for the 50th, I want to be part of that brotherhood.’ I was thrilled. I was proud. I was moved. Heck, I even shed a few tears myself. There’s just something about tough guys being moved to tears that causes a few of my own to roll down my face in sympathy. And suddenly, I really wanted to go the game on Wednesday and be part of the crowd cheering our admiration and thank yous when Weaver took the mound for his next start. I can’t imagine sharing that with my non baseball fan friends. It’s not like I know the guy, or much of anything about him outside of baseball. So I know they wouldn’t understand needing to go to the game at that point in the slightest. But at the same time, I’m certain you all get it. :)

Jeff Mathis helps Jered Weaver calm down early in the game. Weaver said later he had a hard time finding his arm slot initially, but obviously worked through it just fine. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Reason #3,987,542 (give or take, it’s a really long list!) my husband is the best ever? When I texted that I after listening to the press conference I wanted to go Wednesday’s game after all. Could we go if I could find cheap tickets? He responded almost instantly with a ‘Yes, please.’ He was listening to the press conference too. So, many, many thanks to the Angels fans who decided to part with club level seats for $10 each. Were it not for the generosity and/or last minute changes in plans of fans such as yourself, I would sit at home a lot more often than I do. ;)

So, long story somewhat truncated, we got to see the Angels mini-sweep the White Sox (I just can’t think of a two game series as a full series, sorry!), winning their sixth game in a row. The whole evening was perfect. We even got to the game in time to check out some of the warm ups which with our jobs and So Cal traffic, never happens:

Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Jeff Mathis warms up with Jered Weaver before the game. Mathis had a pretty good game with a bases clearing double, a rare treat for him, and some timely pitcher whispering. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

White Sox rookie pitcher Zach Stewart warms up before the game. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels bats went on a terror and guys found ways to get and base and score in a welcome trend I hope to see continue into the fall:

Mark Trumbo goes briefly airborne diving back for the bag as Adam Dunn waits for the pickoff throw. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Erick Aybar is safe after an RBI single and Adam Dunn is...blowing a bubble? That'll do, Dohn-kay. That'll do. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

We saw seven Jered Weaver shutout innings followed by shutout innings from Bobby Cassevash and Fernando Rodney – note, he isn’t coming in when it counts. Smart. Very smart:

And, ste-ri-ike three! Bobby Cassevah has struck out Brent Lillibridge. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Ozzie Guillen is not amused. An 8th inning dugout shot. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And  I got to see one iteration of my dream Peter Bourjos/Mike Trout outfield live and in person for an entire inning once Trout pinch hit for Vernon Wells in the 8th. Trout promptly knocked the ball into left field for his first big league pinch hit. So many firsts! *sniffles* Our baby’s growing up so fast! ;):

The man, the myth, the socks! My no doubter favorite centerfielder this season, Peter Bourjos...apparently being attacked by gnats yet again. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mike Trout already looks very much at home in left field. My dream outfield is slowly coming to fruition! Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

From our vantage, we even caught random goofiness in the bullpens…or, invoking the Roger Rabbit Only When it’s Funny Clause, chose to infer random goofiness:

The White Sox Bullpen travels in style, setting up buffet table of reliever needs. I see snacks, towels, gatorade and coffee. No mere backpacking it for these guys. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The Angels Bullpen was feeling especially relaxed this evening and no reliever more than Fernando Rodney, apparently. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Awww, the poor kid's all tuckered out. Actually Hank Conger was alternately stretching and sitting in the bullpen, but this photo definitely makes it look like I caught him napping. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

"Mike Rotch? I don't know. It's August. Lota rookies. Let me check." Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And then, there was this. I hate the kiss cam. In fact, I think it’s so stupid and pointless that until you all set me straight, I assumed it was a uniquely So Cal thing. We So Cal folk seem to need our beach balls and other lame distractions at perfectly good baseball games *rolls eyes* so it made a disturbing sort of sense. However, this season cheeky humor has arrived at the Big A. Finally, the sound guys have caught up with the times and play sarcastic music and sound effects when the visiting team strikes out, has a meeting on the mound…you know, like other teams do. In keeping with this sense of fun, the camera folks have continued their goofiness with the Kiss Cam’s last victims each evening from where they left off with the Indians Bullpen back in April. The visitor’s bullpen is a common target, as is the visitor’s dugout – an injured Evan Longoria blowing kisses at the camera from his perch on the rail was a high point. But announcers, programmers and sound crew from visiting and home team alike aren’t guaranteed a pass either. By now, this is a sufficiently well known prank that the victims usually play along, increasing the humor value considerably. The White Sox bullpen was no exception:

The dreaded Kiss Cam settles on its prey - White Sox relievers Matt Thornton and Josh Kinney. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Matt Thornton and Josh Kinney realize they have been captured in the Kiss Cam's wiley gaze. Kinney is willing to ham it up but Thornton initially tries the old "if I pretend i'm stretching and don't see them, maybe this will all just go away" trick. The Kiss Cam refuses to move on. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Realizing that the Kiss Cam is not going away, Kinny gets increasing insistant, to the point of miming poutiness, that Thornton join him in hamming it up for the crowd. Finally Thornton walks over and gives Kinney a hug and this is the bashful result.Hilarious! Excellent sports both!

And, of course, all’s well that ends well. Light that baby up! Hey, Shakespeare wrote it…except, you know, for that Angels-centric part there…and now you can read it on the Internets, so it absolutely has to be true:

Fireworks from the rockpile say the Angels win. Light that baby up. Angels vs. White Sox, August 24, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Now, let’s do it again, but in Texas shall we? I am so excited for this series! Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver are both even pitching on short rest to help get it done. Clearly the Angels are feeling extra competitive and I love it!

Mistakes Can Be Costly. Let’s Try to Be Accurate in Our Work.

I was eight years old when I caught gymnastics fever. It was the summer of 1984. Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. Mary Lou Retton was America’s sweetheart. And NBC must have re-aired the Nadia movie 10 times that summer. My sister and I begged and pleaded so, of course, my parents let us start lessons. The first gym wasn’t what we expected. They never let us do any real tricks, we couldn’t use the whole beam, only the part over the giant fluffy mat and we vaulted onto a large upholstered box. However they had large pit full of foam squares, just like in the Nadia movie, and a lot of the kids taking classes there were “Industry,” including the younger siblings of a then rising sitcoms and afterschool specials star with a child-of-hippies first name and a state capitol for a last name, so you’d better bet classes were expensive.

Eventually we switched to youth classes at the local community college. No Nadia pit “full of bouncy things” but plenty of encouragement to try difficult tricks at a reasonable price. And the gym in which the classes were held announced it’s more serious work ethic when you walked in the door with a large poster of a young gymnast in the middle of a giant swing on the uneven bars with her toes just brushing the floor, a major points deduction, and the saying I used for my headline: Mistakes Can Be Costly. Let’s Try to Be Accurate in Our Work.

Watching the Angels play this season, this poster comes to mind fairly often. Mind you, the team is doing well in many ways and they’re only two games out of first, even with the last two losses. But when the Angels do lose, all too often, they’ve really beat themselves with some sort of costly mistake. Walking batters, sometimes several in a row. Errors on what would have been the third out. Meatball pitches. Base running gaffes. Swinging for the fences to the point of detriment when a nice hard knock into the gap would suffice. Mental vacations at inopportune fielding moments…I could go on, but you get the general idea.

All teams have these moments, make these mistakes. But, for whatever reason, timing is not on the Angels side this season and when mistakes are made, they quickly prove costly with even greater frequency than normal. And just what can a team do to prevent this situation? Nothing, other than work harder to keep the mistakes in check. This is why I love this particular poster so much that it has stayed with me all these years. It doesn’t yell, or point fingers and it doesn’t suggest for a second that anyone can live an errorless existence. It just states a simple fact, mistakes can be costly, and suggests a valuable action plan. I’ve already seen improvements in the Angels play this season. If they can avoid more of the costly errors, mental and otherwise, in the next few weeks, I expect they will still be playing in October.

*     *     *     *     *

So, were there any high points we can take away from the series in the Bronx? Yes, indeedy. Dan Haren for one. He pitched most of a great game (Bringing in Fernando Rodney against Jeter with two on and two out was a moronic decision. Coaching staff, see previous conversation about mental errors.) and was an excellent mentor to young Garrett Richards, chatting him up and keeping him positive after his first game. Richards himself. Yes, he had a terrible first inning and a terrible fourth inning. But the kid fresh up from AA making his major league debut in the Bronx also pitched two 1, 2, 3 innings and a third near 1, 2, 3, inning (except for that little solo homerun thing, D’oh), striking out Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the process. Was it an awe inspiring debut? No, but I do think the kid shows promise. Tyler Chatwood’s debut was much the same and he was another bright spot in this series.

Angels bats were a frequent high point – Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis, and Mark Trumbo all hit well throughout the series and others had hits. If only they could have hit consistently with runners in scoring position throughout the series, this could have been a different post. But at least the fought back this series. No, we scored our three runs in the first two innings and couldn’t possibly score any more until tomorrow. That was a positive…that and two homeruns off Mariano Rivera. Hey, we take our giggles were we can. ;)   Angels fielding was also stellar this series and errorless, except for that one really, really big one…see previous conversation. *sigh*

Baseball Book Report: The Bullpen Gospels + a Mish Mosh of Loosely Related Topics

 I read, rather incessantly if the truth be told. For me it’s primarily a way of maintaining sanity. Something about disappearing into someone else’ story or an intriguing bit of non-fiction boosts my mood and settles my oft chaotically busy brain back into less stressed out functionality. Except, since late February I haven’t read much of anything. I have been too stressed out to settle down long enough for anything to grab my interest. It’s been miserable.

Finally, I picked up Dirk Hayhurst’s tale of minor league life, The Bullpen Gospels. I was so charmed by his turn of phrase and the compelling mix of humor and gut wrenching introspection, that I devoured it like a starving person in about two days, thus breaking up the longest “slump” of my “career.” One of the jacket quotes describes the book as Bull Durham meets Ball Four. On some levels this is true, especially on the humorous end of things. Never have kangaroo court proceedings been reported with such glee and the tales of out heckling rowdy opposing team fans are truly hilarious. But on the serious side of things, Hayhurst’s very much non-fiction back story and his personal stakes for failure are much darker and the introspection is more deliberate.

Ultimately, it’s the book’s juxtaposition of different elements that grabbed me. The silly with the serious. The drive for a major league baseball career with the motivation to have a lasting impact on the world. Beautifully related insider game tidbits peppered with references to Narnia, Charley and the Chocolate Factory, Conan the Barbarian and other wonderful oddities. I am a huge fan of that last part especially, as you might have guessed from the hodgepodge of strange side stuff I incorporate into this blog. Suffice to say, add The Bullpen Gospels to my list of recommended reads and many thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for helping me find my way back to my reading mechanics, as it were. Yes, of course he will read this, just like the Angels. Why do you ask? ;)

*     *     *     *     *

After busting out of my biblio-slump, I began tearing my way once again through the stack of books to be read, and one of the first things that caught my interest also happened to have a blog tie-in. Jim Butcher’s “Curses,” a new short story in the Dresden Files series included in Ellen Datlow’s recently released urban fantasy anthology Naked City. In this story we find Harry Dresden, detective, warden and the only wizard in the Chicago phone book taking on the Cubs’ Billy Goat Curse. And the end result? A very fun read. I had no idea Butcher was a baseball fan and if he isn’t, he fakes it nicely. This is a lighter Dresden tale, as Butcher often chooses to share in these anthologies, and would be relatively easy for someone who hasn’t read the series up until now to pick up. And if you had the misfortune of watching the Sci-Fi Channel’s terrible TV series adaptation of these books, don’t worry, the books are a completely different animal.

*     *     *     *     *

Speaking of books and baseball, there was a really cute news feature in one of the early July episodes of Angels Weekly showing Angels rookies Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo and recent rookie Peter Bourjos car pooling to the interleague games at Dodgers Stadium. The adorable part was how nonchalant and professional they were trying to be about having reporters videoing their ride, when it was obvious they could barely contain their glee over the very Big Leagues novelty of the whole thing.

The three young Angels shot the breeze on a number of subjects, eventually settling on upcoming movie releases that had piqued their interest. Conger, it turned out, could not wait for the new Harry Potter movie because he loves Harry Potter and has read all of the books, thus earning several Kristen approval points, not that they’re worth anything. ;) Bourjos and Trumbo laughed at this revelation and exchanged “Here Hank goes again” looks before each asked the other if he had ever finished an entire book willingly. No, neither one had, and both clearly thought Conger was the odd duck on this subject. But their teasing was affectionate and the whole conversation reminded me of a funny story from my high school days…

One day before class during my sophomore year, I had just put down a book I was reading to joke around with a group of baseball players, a fairly typical day. The guys were teasing me about my reading habits, mainly that I had them. I was the stat girl for the varsity team and had gone through grade school and then some with most of these JV players. We were friends. The teasing was affectionate and I was giving it right back. “Did your parents brainwash you or something?” asked a guy I had known literally since preschool. “Yes, and once you get past the machine that holds your eyes open really wide, the drugs are actually kind of fun…” I responded, or something to that effect.

Old friend kept it up and I finally asked him if there was any book he would willingly read. He pretended to gag and loudly protested, of course not. And all of the baseball players predictably laughed. Yeah, the boy didth protest too much, especially to someone who knew about his extensive Darth Vader collection. Fortunatley, timing was on my side and I held aloft the recently released book to reveal the shiny new cover – Timothy Zahn’s Dark Force Rising, the second book in the very first Star Wars series to tackle the question of just what happened after the conclusion of the original movie trilogy. Old friend emitted what can only be described as a squeal of delight and practically dove over a row of desks to get a closer look. “Oh my god! It’s out! I didn’t know it was out yet! Is it good? The last one was so good…” and so on. And he wasn’t the only one. Bwa ha ha.

The moral of this story? Careful Bourjos and Trumbo. Reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and there’s nothing wrong with that. But someday you may just find that one book that has you diving over a desk and looking silly, LOL.

A Melange of Weekend Thoughts About the Angels and Otherwise

Trade deadlines. Unexpected fireworks at the Sunday Angels, Tigers game. And an anniversary. It’s been quite the full weekend. Too full to cram everything into one coherent post so, in no particular order, here are some of the things on my mind:

  • I am pleased the Angels didn’t make a move before the non-waiver trade deadline. We could certainly use a reliable bat, but I didn’t see anyone would really help the Angels sufficiently enough to justify what it would cost us to land him. No trading the rookies!! Or the near rookies for that matter!
  • The announcers on the national broadcasts, be it ESPN or Fox, are terrible and one of the back-handed perks of being a smaller market team is not having to deal with them very often. On the flip side of this equation, hearing someone new drool in surprise over Peter Bourjos’ speed in the outfield, Mark Trumbo’s bat, Howie Kendrick’s clutch glove and the like never gets old.
  • If he had to get tossed, I wish Jered Weaver had gotten himself tossed one inning earlier because that finally got the offense awake and fired up enough to score some runs. With one more inning, who knows what could have happened.
  • About Weaver getting tossed. Usually the amount of trash talk that goes on during a game is entertaining and probably helps guys keep a competitive edge. When it gets carried away, however, I feel the urge to knock heads together and tell everyone involved to grow up and just play baseball. This should have been over and done with after Weaver barked at Magglio Ordonez (who likely was just waiting to see if it was fair) and he came by the mound a few innings later for a little chat. But then things had to get even more stupid. Carlos Guillen was no more waiting to make sure the ball was fair than Weaver accidentally let the ball slip at Alex Avila’s head. Enough already!
  • Of course, I finally sat down with the game just in time for the real blowup in the 7th inning and had to catch up on the preliminaries leading up to it after the fact. Seth and I have been trying to get in extra long bike rides every other Sunday or so, today we tackled the San Gabriel River Trail…all of it. 38.9 miles from the trail head one long block above our house in Azusa down the river all the way to the ocean in Seal Beach. It was absolutely awesome!! But grueling enough that I didn’t have it in me to tack on one last mile’s tour around the parking lot after we left the trail to make it an even 40. Today, my jurisdiction ended right here, when the trail did. Next time.
  • In his post game interview today, Justin Verlander referred to Erik Aybar’s bunt “attempt” in the 8th inning as bush league.  No, sweetheart, that wasn’t bush league. Your throw to first? Now that was bush league. I’m sorry, but I have never understood the “unwritten rule” against busting up a no-hitter with a bunt. Is the team being no hit supposed to just roll over and let the opposing pitcher have the no hitter? Hell no. That cheapens the whole concept. A baseball team should continue trying to win, no hitter or not, by whatever means they have at their disposal. And if you are a Cy Young candidate caliber pitcher in the middle of a no hitter, and a guy who routinely leads the league in bunt singles comes up to bat, and you aren’t prepared for him to do just that, is that really something you want to admit to in public, let alone gripe about? Truly it defies logic.
  • Nothing in the above rant is meant to take away from Verlander’s amazing pitching performance. His fastball was faster in the 8th inning than it was in the 4th and every bit as accurate! There is a reason he has garnered all of the accolades he has this season, he’s earned every single one. I put Jered Weaver in the same category. However on Sunday Verlander was the better pitcher and Weaver let himself get rattled a little too easily, provoked or not.
  • Mike Trout shared the outfield with Peter Bourjos on Wednesday for Santana’s No Hitter and then pinch hit for Bobby Abreu on Friday…and hasn’t played since. I don’t think this, the not playing much part, is the usual plan for 19 year old prospects with promise and for good reason. Trout needs to play almost every day. So if we’re not going to play him a few times a week in more than a pinch hitter role – and I do understand that our outfield is crowded and Trout has a few things to work on – then send him down to AAA until September.
  • And last, but certainly not least, a personal note to my wonderful husband where I know he will read it: Happy 12th Anniversary! From the first date that adamantly was not a date at all – until it absolutely was! – to now, hands down, this is the best. Sumer fling. Ever! And we’re just getting started. :)

The Glamour List, Baseball Edition: 10 Things That Really Are Okay, Encouraged Even

We’re in the last few days of July and, aside from a few lumps and bumps, the Angels are doing pretty well – Monday’s game notwithstanding. Comfortably above .500. Four games out of first place in the AL West. Ten and two in their last 12 series. Not bad for a team most of the talking heads were predicting would be deeply entrenched in the third or even fourth place spot at this point in the season.

However, even with all of August and September still left to play, the distance between the Rangers and the Angels isn’t moving in the right direction anywhere near quickly enough or consistently enough for the comfort of Angels fans. Giant sweeping changes are unnecessary. As I said, the Angels are playing pretty good ball. But, having watched far more games than not this season, I can’t help but notice certain key things the Angels could be doing that they just aren’t doing. Clearly, they must not know it’s okay. This is the only reasonable explanation. ;)

So, for the Angels education – and for your entertainment – in the style of that paragon of good information and insightful advice, Glamour Magazine, (Come on ladies, you know there’s nothing like a fashion magazine for a little guilty pleasure, comic relief. Come on gents, you know most of you have snuck a curious peak at an S.O.’s or sister’s stash at one point or another.) I present:

 

the glamour list – baseball edition

10 Things That Really Are Okay, Encouraged Even:

 

1. 

Scoring runs before we have two outs on the board.

 

2. 

Scoring runs before the 7th inning stretch.

 

3. 

Hitting homeruns at home too.

 

4. 

Lengthy, unbroken winning streaks.

 

5. 

Keeping opposing team runners off the bases between the second and third outs. 

 

6. 

Heck, while we’re at it, sitting the other team down 1, 2, 3.

 

7. 

Being aggressive on the base paths…without being aggressively stupid on the base paths.

 

8. 

Disappointing rookies…opposing team rookies that is. Really, it’s not unsportsmanlike if you hit their pitches, make it hard for them to catch the ball and, you know, not allow them walk-off first hits.

 

9. 

 Taking over 1st place early and never letting it go.

 

10. 

Teams other than the Angels beating the Texas Rangers…Okay, so this one isn’t for the Angels so much as the rest of the AL but, really guys, it’s okay. Any. Day. Now.

4th of July Win and Nothing But Angels Fireworks Ever Since

Mariano Rivera gracefully bows out of the All-Star Game due to injury and fire balling rookie closer Jordan Walden is named to the AL team in Rivera’s place, joining his equally deserving teammates Jered Weaver and Howie Kendrick. Yay! Peter Bourjos injures his hamstring. Oh no!! (Ouch! It didn’t look season ending or anything but it sure looked painful.) And Angels #1 prospect, 19-year old Mike Trout gets called up from AA to take Bourjos’ place for a few days. Yay!?! The Angels were only a game out of first. Yay! The Angels were tied for first. Yay!!! The Angels are a game out of first again. Eh. Wow, get busy and take a few days away from blogging and the whole world changes!

Well, as excited as I am about Trout debuting – and I wish him one heck of a great game tonight! – I understand this is a temporary move until Bourjos is back on his wing-shoed feet and I think that’s probably for the best, unless he just takes off on a tear that is. Trout is 19, after all, and the outfield is really clicking the way it is. So while we wait for this excitement to unfold in a few moments, I’m going to wade back into blogging – after four days off, the horror! ;) – by posting my photos from the 4th of July game against the Tigers.

Yes, I went to the ballgame again. *big, huge grin* As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am in the middle of a borderline embarrassment of baseball riches in terms of game tickets right now. We have tickets to tomorrow’s game and Dierks Bentley concert. And, no, Dierks is not the only one that wants to have some fun tonight…er…tomorrow night. And then, next weekend we will enjoy our Bay Area baseball extravaganza. Crazy fun!

Catcher Jeff Mathis and the evening’s starter Joel Pineiro warm up in left field right in front of our seats. I am developing a wallet healthy love for the first row of the upper deck but nothing beats field seats, in my opinion, when you can find someone willing to part with them cheaply. This 4th of July, the stadium was packed, almost as packed as during the Freeway Series earlier in the weekend, and the fans were fantastic. We happened to be sitting near a lot of Tigers fans, all of them pretty cool. Most were on vacation but the couple in our row just moved to Southern California last week. Their new diehard Angels fan neighbor brought them to the game to welcome them to California and give them a taste of home at the same time. All three individuals were really, really nice and I adore their story. Now that’s being neighborly:

Catcher Jeff Mathis and starting pitcher Joel Pineiro warm up in left field before the game as the flag bearers move into position. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Ah the dreaded, and ever hilarious rookie reliever backpacks! We caught the Tigers heading toward the pen at the beginning of the game but couldn’t get a good shot of the Angels rookies until after the game. Apparently the Tigers prefer pink Hello Kitty for their small dose of rookie humiliation while they Angels go for the slightly more dignified blue. Hey, the Cookie Monster backpack Bobby Cassevah is sporting is actually pretty cool. And, yes, that is our All Star closer modeling the Tinkerbell backpack. Excellent sports all, really, and at least neither team played the Beiber card. I don’t know why all of the baseball hazing traditions amuse me so, but they do:

A Tigers rookie reliever sports the dreaded pink Hello Kitty backpack. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Bobby "Cookie Monster" Cassevah and Jordan "Tinkerbell" Walden sport the rookie hazing backpacks on their way out of the bullpen. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu greet Victor Martinez before the game begins. I like baseball players to be fiercely competitive once the game begins, but I enjoy seeing player fraternization before the game. I like the idea that a lot of the guys are friends outside of the game across team lines. And from what I have seen before Angels games Torii, Bobby and Erick Aybar have friends on every single team in the majors. Besides, aren’t the truly competitive more apt to go all out when competing against friends than just random folks they know in passing?:

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu greet the Tigers Victor Martinez before the game. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Like all MLB teams who played at home on Monday, the Angels had special extended pre-game festivities in honor of the 4th of July. I love spending the 4th at a baseball game. It’s a wonderful celebration of so many of the things about our country that are great. Last year, after the 4th of July Angels game, my husband told me that was the most fun he had ever had on the 4th of July. And that says a lot because he’s an Eagle Scout who spent a lot of great 4ths backpacking and kayaking in truly gorgeous parts of the country:

A military color guard before the National Anthem. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

A flag covers the outfield during the Star Spangled Banner. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

The "Spirit of Ronad Reagan" a Boeing C-17 flies over the scoreboard after the National Anthem. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Joel Pineiro took the mound for the Angels and pitched a great game – one run on five hits and three walks. Pineiro only had one strike out, but the sinkerball appeared to be sinking which was a good sign. This has been tricky for Pineiro this season, largely because of injuries I feel. So less hits, less walks, no homeruns and only one run. Pineiro is definitely getting back on a good track:

Joel Piniero on the mound. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Tigers pitcher Charlie Furbush takes the mound in his Major League debut. (And don’t think I didn’t giggle a little when I typed that. Sometimes I’m still 12.) Regardless of the score, Furbush showed promise. He was not easily flustered and he didn’t make very many mistakes…the Angels were just able to take advantage of each mistake he did make, a nice change for a team so often baffled by debuting pitchers:

Rookie Charlie Furbush takes the mound for the Tigers. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Torii Hunter “welcomes” Charlie Furbush to the big leagues, knocking a pitch into the bullpens for a one-run homerun. Vernon Wells also went yard in this game and the Angels offense was generally nice and present:

Torii Hunter on the verge of "welcoming" Charlie Furbush to the big leagues. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Goofy shenanigans in the Bullpen in the second inning. While I would love to know who said what that had Trevor Bell playing “hear no evil”, that will never happen. So I will have to content myself with this wonderfully silly photo:

Reliever Trevor Bell hears no evil as the bullpen gets up to some shenanigans...oh to be a fly on the wall. :) Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third as Erick Aybar takes a swing in the 3rd inning. This shot immediately preceded one of the odder occurrences of the game. The umps charged Furbush with a balk and awarded Bourjos home plate. Personally, I hate the balk call. I have no problem with pitchers being a little deceptive and think that the call is never enforced consistently among the umpires anyway. But, hey, we’ll take the run. Bourjos was on a mission this inning. He had just stolen second and third easily and was bound and determined to score even without the balk call:

Peter Bourjos takes a deep lead off third as Erick Aybar takes a swing. Bourjos would score on a balk on the next pitch. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo moves to catch the throw down in the 4th as Jhonny Peralta moves back to first base. Peralta was a little tricky for Pineiro, accounting for two of the five hits as well as, on this hit, the Tigers only RBI.

Mark Trumbo moves to recieve the throw down as Jhonny Peralta moves back to the bag. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

Peter Bourjos makes another great catch. What, can’t you tell its Fleet Pete? ;) No, this isn’t the highlight reel game changing catch in the 6th. That photo looks even worse. But it was another good catch. I am crossing my fingers and hoping Bourjos heals quickly and thoroughly because he is something to watch in center and his bat has been great lately too. No, the reason the photo is blurry isn’t because Fleet Pete moves too fast…though I suppose that if I’d thought this through a little better I could have passed it off that way. ;) No, basically, getting good action shots from a distance with powerful zoom is a little like firing a rifle. You have to have excellent breathing control. In fact, again much like a rifle, it’s best if you can hold your breath, hold your body perfectly still and lightly press the shutter button. I am pretty good at this for most plays, but when it comes to amazing catches and also double plays, I get way too excited to hold my breath and keep still:

Peter Bourjos makes another dynamite catch in center...what, you can't tell it's him? ;) Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Mark Trumbo successfully steals second in the 6th, sliding under second baseman Ryan Raburn’s tag. Trumbo has joked in several interviews that he is “not as fast as the other kids” and he’s not…when you’re talking about Bourjos. But all jokes aside, Trumbo can move and he’s a smart base runner:

Mark Trumbo slides under second baseman Ryan Raburn's tag. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Angels fans stand as reliever Michael Kohn goes for the final out of the game. See, Southern California fans can be passionate! We (or rather they, not my husband and certainly not I) may spend way too much time playing with stupid beach balls in the stands, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care. Kohn did a great job in a non-close situation, getting the last three outs while handily preventing the game from becoming a close situation. And, yes, the Kohn puns are pretty much boundless at the Big A. You Kohn do it! InKohnceivable! Koooooohhhhhhnnnnnnn! And so on. Seriously, fans have scores of them:

Michael Kohn prepares to strike out Alex Avila, the game's last out. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

And, of course, what would 4th of July be without a heavy dose of simulated rockets’ red glare? If the Angels had kept the fireworks show in the same location as last season’s display, our seats would have been some of the best in the house. As it was we had the foul pole in the way, but the fireworks show was still pretty darned cool. This season the 4th wasn’t a get away day for the Angels so the team, the office staff and their families were able to come sit out on the infield in front of the Angels dugout and enjoy the show with the fans. It sounds silly, but it was cute to catch a glimpse of our tough players just being “dad”. I think it would have been disrespectful to take photos of that, especially for a blog. However, Seth took some great shots of the fireworks show itself and this was the best one:

Fourth of July fireworks over the scoreboard. Angels vs. Tigers, July 4, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...(Seth)

New York, New York, a Helluva Town, the Angels Were Up, Then the Angels Were Down

The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey, Stop #2: New York. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Friday, the Angels reached stop number two on the Four Corners Road Trip and returned to Interleague play with a bang. Joel Pinero notched his 100th career win as the Angels bested the Mets in a tight four to three victory. Both teams played well and the outcome was a question mark right up to the last pitch. The Angels bats were out in full force and clutch with men in scoring position. Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick all had a multiple hit game. Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells also contributed to the hit parade. Most importantly, every time the Mets scored, the Angels were able to score in response. That hasn’t exactly been a given this season, a big part of the reason we’re still below .500.

The defense was pretty good as well. Another highlight reel Bourjos catch up against the wall in center. A couple of great plays at first. We have got to work on keeping the other guys from stealing though, even though players like Jose Reyes are smart, fast and dangerous on the base paths. Fortunately, Pinero had a good start and kept the sinker ball down and the Bullpen did their thing with only minimal hiccoughs. Jordan Walden had us all on pins and needles when he walked the first two batters, but then he let the ice water back into his veins and struck out the next three in a row to earn the 16th save of his rookie season.

So what happened Saturday? Well, let’s just say there are a lot of very satisfied goats walking around the Bronx right now. (Note to self, “if my husband laughs” is probably not the best barometer there is for appropriate. ;) ) Without the benefit of the DH option, in order to get Bobby Abreu back into the lineup (good idea), we put our weakest outfield configuration on the field (bad idea). Abreu, Wells and Hunter all alone in that giant Citi Field outfield without Bourjos’ speed? Very bad idea.

Then, Russell Branyan replaced Mark Trumbo at first in the starting lineup for reasons unbeknownst to me – can’t we declare Branyan a cheap, failed experiment already? – and Erick Aybar proceeded to have one of those, fortunately rare, games when you wonder where his head is at and what joker oiled his glove with Vaseline. The official record shows only one error, but I watched every play and the Mets scorekeepers were extremely generous in this regard. Dan Haren had a bad night and the umpire’s strike zone was doing him no favors. And with few exceptions, the team could not hit – Mark Trumbo, a late innings replacement going two for two with one deep homerun to right center, was our only highlight.

“Which is more important, a strong offense or a strong defense?” is one of those questions whose answer varies with every team and every season. For the Angels this season, the offense doesn’t seem to be in a position to weigh in on that argument no matter what tweaks Scioscia might make to the lineup. In this situation, every single run is a big deal. Ours and theirs. If we aren’t going to give the pitchers run support then we absolutely have to put the best possible defense out on the field every day. No more Branyan  at first and leaving speed out of the outfield…oh, and when Aybar is having one of those games? Pull him. So, on to the rubber match, where I hope to see a lineup that reflects our best defense, and then on to Miami: 

The Angels "Four Corners Road Trip" takes the team on an 8,000 mile trek across the United States and back again both vertically and horizontally, as helpfully illustrated by our oh-so-creative kitchen table and Ticket to Ride visual aid...Yes, you would be correct. This trip will take the Angels nowhere near Berlin. ;) Photo by This is a very simple game...

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Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful dads out there, and especially to mine! 

Daddy, softball coach, friend, confidant, giver of hugs, encourager of dreams and occasional shoulder to cry on, like most fathers, mine has worn many, many hats, and all of them much better than he will ever know. My father gave me my head for trivia, my irreverent sense of humor, my stubborn streak, my love of music, John Steinbeck and Mark Twain, my blue eyes and freckles and so much more. He taught me the value of working hard, the power of a good laugh and if the ball falls into your glove, never look surprised. And my love for the game? Well, as with so many things that are wonderful, I owe that to both my father and my mother. Thank you does not even begin to cover it, but it will have to do.

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