Results tagged ‘ Seth ’

The Hopefully Annual Baseball Extravaganza San Deigo Edition: Part 1

Like many baseball fans, Seth and I have a goal to eventually enjoy a game at every major league baseball stadium and ideally some of the minor league stadiums as well. Economics and vacation time has thus far limited our progress to slow and local but, hey, progress is progress! Last season we took in a gloriously old-fashioned single admission double header at the Oakland Coliseum and experienced the Dodgers Giants rivalry at AT&T Park. This season we headed down the 5 freeway in the other direction and are currently enjoying the beginning of Interleague play as the Angels take on the Padres at Petco Park.

The Pet-Co Park scoreboard. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

A Word About Petco Park: Gorgeous!

Okay, when can I ever limit myself to one word? Add to that enjoyable, friendly and in general a first class baseball experience. Everywhere we went, our clearly not rooting from around these parts red attire prompted staff to smile and welcome us to the park, a nice touch we have never experienced before. We enjoyed nice conversations with friendly ushers during batting practice and the game – baseball fans everywhere love talking about their team, their stadium, their experiences and I love to listen. The fans in our section were equally lovely, despite the fact of the Angels winning. And with recent Padre Ernesto Frieri sitting right in front of us in an Angels uniform (Ah, our seats! I’ll get to those is a minute.) and the other half of that trade, Alexi Amarista playing second, we had plenty to talk about.

The Padres: Their bleachers are absolutely better than your bleachers. Their’s are a beach! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

I love the Big A to pieces, but Anaheim take note: THIS is what a beer stand should look like. Stone! Ballast Point! Avery! Okay, so San Diego is the craft and micro brew capital of California, some would say the West, but it’s not like we don’t get some of this labels in L.A./Orange County and have some of our own too! :) Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The stadium seats are designed for beauty as well as function. The view across the field is really pretty, especially at night, with different sections of seats designed to look like industrial buildings. And there really does not appear to be a bad seat in the house…as for our seats, see that guy in red blocking the shot? That’s Jordan Walden standing up. Our amazing seats were literally just behind the Angels bullpen. We could have shook hands with them across the aisle and wall, were we inclined to bother ballplayers during a game, which we are not. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The outfield is huge. HUGE! Definitely not a hitter’s ballpark. Mike Trout warms up in centerfield between innings. I still like Peter Bourjos a little better in centerfield – stronger arm, better routes, a little faster and more experience. But Trout is an asset wherever you put him – He’s that good! – his arm is getting stronger and his routes will improve with time. Still is an outfield with both of them (and Trumbo for now and later longterm!) too much to ask?? Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Batting Practice and Bullpen Sessions, Oh My!

Taking in batting practice is one of my favorite ways to start a ballgame experience and yet, even as often as we go to the ballpark, this treat is a rare one for us. Working hours being what they are, even on the weekend, and L.A./Orange County traffic being what it is, if we’re lucky we get to the game about 20 minutes before first pitch and if we’re not, we get there somewhere during the 1st inning. So it was a nice vacation luxury to walk through the gates shortly after they first opened. Petco Park was designed with wide concourses that have great views of the field for most of their stretch, so we roamed freely about from the outfield above the beach bleachers, to our bullpen adjacent seats to home plate and back.

Watching Jerome Williams take his bullpen session from a distance comparable to across a conference room table was easily the best thing about the pregame. It was fascinating to listen to Williams and Mike Butcher go over which pitches to throw and refine a few points here and there…that and watching the pitches zing by like 10 feet from my face. Wow! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Relief pitchers Jordan Walden and David Carpenter chat during batting practice. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick looked great during BP, smacking the ball deep into the outfield and he got a solid hit come game time too! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis talk in between turns at the plate during batting practice. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, About Interleague Play… 

Although it certainly isn’t the popular view, I actually enjoy and look forward to Interleague play. Maybe it’s because I was raised on the Dodgers and the National League. Maybe it’s because my team of choice has such a natural, longstanding and fun Interleague rival in the Dodgers? Or maybe it’s just that my personality is as slightly skewed from the norm in my baseball fandom as it is in everything else? Whatever it is, I look forward to seeing all of the unusual matchups Interleague play has to offer. Hello, odd visuals like the Angels playing against the storied ivy draped backdrop of Wrigley Field? How can that not be fun? Or, at least, that’s what I think. Besides, watching American League pitchers bat is a seasonal novelty I will never tire of and some guys surprise you:

Jered Weaver in the on deck circle. Such an AL pitcher! For his first at bat, he wasn’t really even taking practice swings so much as just playing with the bat like a little leaguer whose coach is about to tell him to quit daydreaming. It was very cute. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Jered Weaver leads off second…and it’s a goofy, I don’t do this very often lead off as well. Still, for all of his awkward appearance at the plate and on the base paths, Weaver did more than fine, walking and lining a nice hard single into left. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yes, there you have it folks: Big Bat Jered Weaver! …of course his average has since dropped to a mere .500. ;) Starters, Weaver has set the bar high indeed but you’re used to this. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

As if All of This Preamble Wasn’t Enough, the Game Rocked…

The Angels played well and that was especially nice to see after Thursday’s game against the White Sox. Yes, I know, the Padres are struggling but so are the Angels and the struggling Royals just swept the unstoppable Rangers so you never can tell how these matchups will turn out once you take them from paper to the field. I was proud of our guys! Jered Weaver looked great – and not just with his bat ;). Our bats were present and made that presence known. Our defense had more than moved on from Thursday’s gaffs – hey, who put that sun up there in the sky? *facepalm* – and the bullpen rocked. All that and a W – what more could a fan ask for?

Jered Weaver pitches from the stretch. Weaver pitched a great game with really only one bad inning and he managed to get out of that one giving up only one run. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout is a beast! He had 3 hits and 1 walk in 5 trips to the plate. I am loving having this talented rookie bat leadoff. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mike Trout reaches second base. It may look like he’s jawing at someone but with former teammate Alexi Amarista at 2nd, I think it more friendly banter. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Mark Trumbo continued his hitting streak with a solid double driving in a run in the 5th inning and he looks great in right field, really comfortable. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

The bullpen looked great! Scott Downs was, well, Scott Downs. Ernesto Frieri got a shot at closer and definitley impressed. Padres fans called out that he looked better in blue when Frieri took the mound in the 9th but, personally, I like him in red an awful lot. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Okay, Now That’s Funny! 

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I prefer my blog entries, my friends and, indeed, my baseball with a rollicking sense of humor, the more off kilter the better. I love baseball’s crazy prank traditions, overly complex and fabulously silly rookie hazing rituals, and the goofy things that stadium personnel do to the opposing team. This evening it was the Padres Jumbotron Angels player slides that had me cracking up:

At first it seemed sort of innocent. I noticed that all of Albert Pujols’ stats changed with each at bat but always pertained to homerun records he had with the Cardinals. But, because he’s had such a slow start this season, I figured what else were they going to say? Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Then I noticed this one and thought ‘Why go back to minor league stats and that’s a weird aside to bring up, Brandon Wood that is. It almost makes mentioning the honor seem sort of like a left-hand compli…ah hah! There’s a reason for that!’ And then I saw… Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

There was just no way to read these with a straight face at this point. But it got even better! Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Okay, now they’re just f-ing with us! Well played, Padres Jumbotron programmers, well played. Angels at Padres, May 18, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Big A Jumbotron programmers can be funny too, just usually at the Angels expense. For example, when our pitchers load the bases with only one out or no outs, it’s not uncommon for the stat to tell us how rarely the batter hits into a double play or how prone he is to grand slams. Ummm…thanks guys?

Anyway, that concludes Part 1 of our excursion. We have great seats for today’s game too and I am really looking forward to it – Go Angels!!

Jered Weaver is a beast, that is all. Well, maybe not all…

So, Kristen. How was the ballgame?

Oh, it was nice. Fun. You know. They threw the ball, caught the ball and hit the ball. Couple of good plays. Just another Halo victory, as the announcers say. Oh…yeah…there was one other thing…

OMG!!! OMG!!! Jered Weaver threw a no hitter!!! And it was one of the most amazing things I have seen in my entire life. He was so on, he made it look effortless. I am still bouncing with excitement as I type this hours later and might quite possibly still be cheering were it not for the fact that I am hoarse from all of the cheering I did at the game – my neighbors are grateful and they don’t even know it, he he. Congratulations, Jered! This was beyond well deserved!!!

The team mobs Jered Weaver in congratulations. Check out the hair flip. ;) Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And the pitching staff gets in n the congratulations too! Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So, yeah. That was the first no hitter I’ve ever seen in person, a thought I heard echoed by many, most of whom are older than I and have therefore seen a great deal more live baseball, as the jubilant crowd lingered, mingled and eventually meandered their way out. It was just so magical that I don’t think anyone really wanted to leave. I know I had to pry myself away from the rails. So, now I am going to try to string together a few coherent thoughts about the game and the Angels beyond just exclaiming Wow!! over and over again, but I can’t make any promises on that front. As I said before, I’m pretty giddy.

So, as you may have heard a place or two…or ten…thousand, the Angels had a rough April. Enough pieces were there for a winning team, but those pieces just weren’t working together or at the same time. The team desperately needed not just a spark, but several sparks in rapid succession, sufficient to get a fire a going. So, starting Friday, the team makes several needed changes. Spark. Last night Jerome Williams pitched a gem, a complete game, three-hit shutout. Spark! And the offense started to pick up – Hello Torii ‘Homerun’ Hunter and Howie ‘one double shy of the cycle’ Kendrick! Spark!!

Torii Hunter warms up in right field. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick! A double shy of the cycle last night. 4 for 4 tonight!! No ‘rest days’ for this hot bat, Sosh. Please!!! Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Then Jered Weaver takes the mound and flat out deals – 9 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 9 strikeouts and 1 walk. He threw 77 of his 121 pitches for strikes. Spark! Spark!! Spark!!!

Jered Weaver almost makes it look effortless during his no hitter. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And to top it all off, finally gifted with a lineup that simultaneously contained all of the teams’ best hitters, the Angels offense just went to town. Nine runs on 15 hits?! Baseballs were flying over the wall, zinging into the outfield, sneaking through the infield. It was a sight to behold. Spark! SPARK! Whooooosh. Conflagration? I hope so. We’ll find out this series when we face the Blue Jays.

Kendrys Morales was a beast, hitting just a triple shy of the cycle! This is not the most clear photo, but it’s the only photo I got of him actually touching home plate after his homerun and the motion was so careful and deliberate – note that he his watching that foot hit and not looking at anything else – but triumphant that I felt it spoke volumes. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Howie Kendrick gets a high five as he enters the dugout after homering in the 4th. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Once a first baseman…Mark Trumbo and Twins first baseman Chris Parmalee chat during a pitching change. Trumbo had a great game all around. He went 2 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs and made several great plays at 3rd. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Torii Hunter’s hot sreak continues! He went 2 for 4 at the plate, scoring 2 runs and owned right field, including making that great final catch to end the game. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Yes, we could look at sweeping the Twins as just the Angels beating up on a team that had an even worse April than we did. The Angels just did what they were supposed to do, big deal – except that in this case it is. The Angels did what they were supposed to do, which means that all of those sparks are starting to catch fire. Hip hip and ten thousand huzzahs. Keep it going boys and soon everyone’s going to catch on fire. So, Dan Haren. Weaver one upped Williams. You’re a competitive fellow. How about it? Care to try for the one up like you did last season? It could be fun!

Albert Pujols, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick take the field for the 9th inning, with excited game faces firmly in place. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Peter Bourjos is all smiles in center, warming up before the 8th inning. Could it be being back in the llineup? The hit and the walk? Or, gee, I don’t know. The no hitter maybe? So glad to see him back in the lineup! Can’t hit, if you don’t play. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

So back to this whole no hitter thing. Being there was almost indescribable, but I’ll try. The crowd was sparse. Way too sparse for my tastes. Blame the aforementioned April woes combined with a weeknight game on a night that really looked like the morning’s rain might resume at any moment despite what the weather reports said. But by the fifth inning this small crowd was so excited, so invested in every pitch, that the feeling was absolutely electric and it filled the stadium.

Everyone knew what was going on. Ball players like to say they never look at the scoreboard but the fans make no such pretenses. And we all kept looking at each other, giving thumbs up and high fives. Bouncing up and down. Cheering. Pumping our fists and banging on the empty seats. All jumping out of our skins to shout out loud that which tradition forbids us from so much as whispering before the outcome of the final pitch…well, except for these two obnoxious ladies who from the 6th inning on would not shut up with the “Catch it Torii, catch it. Don’t spoil the no hitter!” “Way to go Pete, you saved the no hitter!” and so on. Look, I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t believe that saying no hitter during a no hitter, unless of course the person you’re saying it to is the pitcher in question, will have any impact on the game. But there are some traditions you just don’t break, and this is one of them. For the most part, they were simply ignored. And after that final out, the crowd went nuts chanting “Weaver, Weaver!” and jumping up and down.

Normally Jered Weaver has company in between innings. Note the traditional no hitter wide berth everyone is giving him during the Angels at bat in the 7th. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

And can I just say how heartwarming it was to see our hometown hero who made it clear in no uncertain terms last season that he loves this team as much as we do, accomplish so much at home in front of friends and family! Watching him exchange emotional hugs with his parents and then sweep his new bride – who has a great name, by the way, even though she spells it funny ;) – up into an embrace before the press conferences began? This was a slice of what baseball used to be.

Hugs all around! Jered Weaver gets a bear hug from his father and his mother and new bride exchange “Can you believe this!” looks in the happy pandemonium that follows the final out. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

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And the absolute icing on the evening’s seriously delectable cake was our seats. Some season ticket holder with a very exclusive location just couldn’t make the game this evening – bet they’re kicking themselves now, don’t you? – and put their tickets up for sale online. I really will never be able to thank them enough because not only were Seth and I there for this amazing game, we watched it from the front row of the Knothole Club, the Club level restaurant in right field just to the “It’s outta here!” side of the foul pole. The view? The service? The food? Amazing! This game made its own ballpark experience. We would have enjoyed ourselves in even the cheapest of cheap seats. But having the rare opportunity to enjoy such luxurious surroundings and a perfectly unobstructed view of the magic on the mound made it even better.

Ah the Knothole Club! A great view of the field combined with no obstructions and in seat service from a rather nice menu! We felt like royalty. Oh how I wish these seats came up affordable more often. Angels vs. Twins, May 2, 2012. Photo by This is a very simple game…

Has the Argument Blown Over? + Bobby Abreu, Mike Trout and Angels Closers

When last we encountered our heroine, her Angels were mired in distress, largely of their own causing, and she was more than mildly annoyed with the situation. I believe the term livid was bandied about? So she did what anyone who is that mad at a loved one should do – she stepped away until she could approach the situation more rationally. Specifically, she said she would avoid watching the Angels play for the duration of the weekend while she was biking, wining, snapping photos and generally goofing around on the Central Coast…

…Yeah, any guesses as to how long that lasted? Mmmm hmmmm…uh huh…well, then…I see…Okay, all of you who said first pitch on Saturday greatly underestimate the depth of my anger. Those of you who said first pitch on Monday greatly overestimate the strength of my will power. And as for those of you who said the beginning of the third inning on Saturday? Well, you know me pretty darned well and it’s not your fault that you didn’t know that my in laws’ place has no television and no internet connection sufficient for, say, streaming baseball games. We know. We’ve tried. The middle of the 5th on Saturday. That’s when my resolve broke and we watched the game.

We were picking up amazing barbeque from the Main Street Grill – seriously, you can tell when the tri tip and brisket are ready each day from two blocks away when the perpetual heavenly aroma of the smoke shifts from a wood smell, to that of wood and meat to that of beautifully cooked meat. Yum! …but I digress. As I said, we were picking up barbeque to take with us, when Seth noticed that the game was already on in the dining room, in the 5th inning and that the Angels were actually winning. Yeah, I know. Already on TV. In Giants country with a heavy dash of A’s! What are the odds? Clearly this was meant to be. ;) We might as well eat here, Seth suggested, as the guy at the register laughed at us good naturedly. We could probably watch the rest of the game by the time we’re done. Can we say ‘enabler’? Also, ‘awesome’!

I’m glad we changed our minds. It was a good game, though the offense still needs a lot of work. And I am equally glad we really were too busy to watch the game on Sunday (Yuck!!!) but not Monday night’s game. (Overly exciting in the 8th but, still, yay!!!) Suffice to say, I may get mad from time to time, but I’m in it for the long haul and I have a handful of hastily snatched up cheap tickets to prove it, because I plan to be there as the Angels turn this around…a lengthy process I think just may have started already. We’ll see.

Besides, the Angels released Bobby Abreu and brought up Mike Trout! You’ve all seen my posts about Bobby. I appreciated his efforts for the team in ’09 and ’10, I admire his career and, quite frankly, I like the guy, but this was a move that needed to be made. Bobby can’t contribute on the field anymore and his bat hasn’t been helping much either. With Trout, we have a lot of possibility. Is he the answer? Absolutely not. The answer to the Angels woes is a lot more complicated than anything one 20 year old top prospect can solve. But bringing Trout up is a great start as is moving Jordan Walden out of the closer’s spot until he can regain some control. I think that crafty and reliable Scott Downs is an excellent temp or even temp to perm if it comes to that. Now, I’ve never been one to desire a gift gesture as a form of apology after an argument. But if the Angels were intending to offer one even so, this is an excellent start to getting the team back on the right track and oh, so much better than any old roses. Now can we just put all of our big bats in the lineup at one time, already? Pretty please with some of that wonderful Central Coast barbeque on top?

A Loony Musical Interlude in between Angels Spring Training Matchups

So, LeAnne Rimes has this song…

Yes, sometimes I like my country a little pop-py. Don’t judge me. ;)

Ahem. So LeAnne Rimes has this song called Big Deal. It’s a catchy little tune about a young lady who dumped a guy a while back and, while she’s 99.999…% over him at this point, she’s still plenty miffed that her best friend has started dating him and won’t shut up about how amazing he is. So the young lady is encouraging her friend, perfectly politely of course, to adopt a more tactful topic of conversation…right now.

Anyway, last night Seth and I watched the Giants/Rangers game. Ho Hum. But nothing else was on. Certainly not the Kendrys Morales batting cleanup behind Albert Pujols because Kendrys is looking that good game that I actually wanted to be watching even though it’s only a Spring Training game but couldn’t be watching because none of the stupid networks were airing it…*pauses to take a deep breath…finally*…not that I’m bitter about it or anything even though he hit a home run. *pauses to breathe again* ;) And we capped it off with the Rangers edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

Mike Napoli was heavily featured in this MLBN preseason rundown, naturally, and, also naturally, we kept watching because we both like the guy. He was a great Angel and one of those players you wish all the best…just much, much further away than Texas in an ideal world. It was enjoyable and yet not so enjoyable at the same time and, as Dan Plesac and the Rangers began laying on the Napoli accolades thicker and thicker I was eventually moved to begin singing LeAnn’s catchy ditty: Yeah, you call yourself a friend, but you just keep rubbing it in. Big Deal. So what!…

Seth began cracking up almost immediately and took up the refrain: Who cares! You just got lucky that’s all. It was. Shut up! I swear…

But here we paused and looked at each other giggling, unsure of how to go on because the “candle light and long stem roses nd how you’re falling head over heels, in love…”of the next line, unlike its predecessors, hardly fit Mike Napoli and the Rangers.

Seth: If I hear another word about…?

Me: If I hear another word about…?

Seth: If I hear another word about…?

Ah hah! Inspiration. Me: …about catching right and grand slam home runs and…and…

Seth, grinning: and…? And…and World Series MVP! So what. Big deal! 

And by that point we were both laughing too hard to extemporize any further…and to follow the thread of the rest of the analysis truth be told. Anyway, we both thought we were pretty darned funny…perhaps the Friday night wine ritual helped that sentiment along a bit, but it still seemed worth sharing, especially this weekend. With Rangers/Angels match ups both today and tomorrow, I am sure the Napoli trade and his stellar 2011 season couples with the Angels anemic 2011 offense will be rehashed ad nauseum along with both teams’ offseason acquisition exploits.

Besides, the song, both the original lyrics and our little reworking of them, fits my feelings on the situation perfectly. I’m over the Mike Napoli trade. I am. I didn’t want him traded away, but it’s not like fans have any choice in the matter, and it’s not like he played like this for the Angels anyway. (And don’t bring up playing time. He actually had significantly more playing time for the Angels in 2010 than he did for the Rangers in 2011. The whole playing time thing is a myth.) Don’t get me wrong, last season was painful in bold 48 pt. font italic all caps covered in sparkles, just for good measure…awful, Twilight Vampirey sparkles. *shudders*

…But trading Mathis and acquiring a catcher that seems capable of hitting above the Mendoza line has helped a lot. Retooling the offense has helped even more. I’m absolutely not saying, ‘Who needs Mike Napoli?’ But I am saying, it’s over and done with. I have moved on. I really like the team we have now and I am at peace with the whole trade ick. But, much like the main subject of LeAnn’s song, that doesn’t mean I will ever enjoy hearing the announcers, the press and everyone else go on and on. And on. And on about the whole thing.

The Year of the of the Mystery Team?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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!

He Just Wasn’t That Into Them. How About a Change of Scenery?

If it seems as though I compare all things baseball to all things relationship a lot, that would be because A) I do, and B) the analogy absolutely works! Hey, it’s not like I made this up. I mean, how happy were you as young person the first time you made it past first base on a date? Not so much the first time you struck out with a cutie in public, right? Or, take the amazing t-shirt a friend of mine got after the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which proclaimed “I saved second base!” Honestly, it would be weirder to try and separate the concepts.

I do finding it amusing though that the timing for these analogies is often opposite. I mean, right now, just as millions of men and women everywhere are resolving not to date Mr. or Ms. Right in 2012, or to stop dating their friends’ castoffs, baseball teams are leaping to the contrary conclusion that these are fine ideas. This isn’t a pot/kettle situation. Vernon Wells in 2011. Fernando Rodney in 2010. Scott Kazmir in 2009. I could go on but, really, what’s the point? As an Angels fan, suffice to say, I know from whence I speak.

Trying to look at it from the teams’ perspectives, I get it. At least, I think I do. I mean, we’ve all been there right? You think the Angels just didn’t understand Fernando Rodney. Not the way you can, Rays. They nagged him way too much about his control and all of those walks without spending enough time appreciating the speed of his fastball and the rakish angle of his ball cap. If only the Angels had taken more time to praise him and shower him with applause, you know, like they back when the relationship was fresh, things might have been different.

And what about Carlos Zambrano? I know Marlins, I know. Clearly he and the Cubs had severe compatibility issues. Sure the making up part was epic every. Single. Time. But all of the volatile spats that lead to the making up? And their increasing frequency coupled with little to no making up? This wasn’t a case of opposites attracting, they weren’t even speaking the same language. It will be different with you, right Marlins? Signing Carlos will be like getting to marry your best friend, right? Near perfect compatibility.

And for the rest of you out there joining me in a collective WTF – hey, I can see that face you’re making! – just remember, it always looks different when your friend is the one rationalizing a bad decision then when you’re the one doing it. And, really, who are we to point fingers? Sometimes these things work out, crazy as they may seem at the time…right? My husband and I made all of our friends make those faces when we started dating and we’re heading toward our second decade together…though examples of this working out are far more prevalent among humans than among baseball teams, I think. Still, good luck Rays, Marlins and everyone else in this position. Maybe it really will be different with you…

“Have fun storming the castle, Boys!” “Do you think they’ll make it?” “It’ll take a miracle…”

Miami, the Life of the Winter Meeting Party + Baseball Fever, Catch it from Someone You Love!

So, how about those winter meetings? The agenda could be duller than a long Friday night in folding laundry and they would still seem pretty darned exciting at this point, mostly thanks to Florida…er…I mean Miami. Miami at the moment reminds me of that lightweight drinker who has overindulged beyond their usual prudent amount and suddenly finds themselves the life of the party. You’re thrilled that they have acquired a few missing pieces…er…learned that they do in fact love tequila. You want them to be competitive again…that is, to have a great time. But you can see the potential for hangover growing by the minute and if it hits this one is going to be uh-uh-gly…er…oh, wait. Nevermind. That one works for both analogies. ;)

And, while we’re on the party analogy, has anyone seen our escort? He brought us that lovely tropical drink – something catcher? – a little while ago and then left to get us another, but we can’t seem to see him in the crowd at the moment. Oh well, no matter. We’re feeling happy – no complaints. This is an awfully fun party and I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually with a big swingin’ bat or two (If there is no such drink, I swear I will make one up with spice infused bourbon to get some nice wood notes and other tasties!) or maybe even a pitcher of something. Oh, we can wait for that and even enjoy the waiting.

Editor’s Note/Update: Ummm…not so sure about some of the current rumored beverage offerings. I enjoy rum and Texas tea…but not in those quntities/for those contracts. Yikes!

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My husband and I often joke that baseball fever is, how shall we say? Ah yes, a social disease. (Gee Officer Krupke!) It’s the only explanation for the speed with which two sworn non baseball fan friends acquired the disease once they started dating a baseball fan and the wondrous virulence of their lasting symptoms. It also explains why all of our other friends, non baseball fans in committed relationships with one another, will never catch the fever. Hey, baseball fans out there in love with non baseball fans. Wouldn’t it be great if it actually worked that way?

Anyway, my husband is a great baseball fan. But the true fanaticism is a newer thing, something that grew parallel to my returning fanaticism when my own baseball fever joyfully relapsed after way too long a remission. I like to think I helped him a little bit with that. He already definitely knew the rules and some of the strategies, players and such. But I got to teach him the finer points, or at least be there when he picked them up on his own and it’s been an incredibly fun journey. He is not as big a dork as I am, yet, but he’s getting there.

Coming home from work the other day, I walked in on him ranting at Hot Stove. That’s not an intangible. You can absolutely measure that. It’s called Wins. Above. Replacement. He snarked and tossed the remote on the sofa in amused disgust.

Wow, I laughed appreciatively. Look at you!

Seth paused, looked at me, laughed and said. It’s a social disease.

Amen!

Angels of Catan, a Holiday Induced Hot Stove Mash Up

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

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

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

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

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

You’re telling me! Quiet, you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long, Dark Time Without Baseball, Day 24

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

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

Not baseball. *click*

Not baseball. *click*

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

Not baseball. *click*

Not baseball. *click*

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

Not baseball. *click*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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