Results tagged ‘ Yankees ’

A.J. Burnett: Voice of Reason?

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

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

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

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

File This Under “Things That Aren’t Going to Get Old Any Time Soon”

As an Angels fan, I am used to not seeing my team on the national radar – sports news covers or features, popular culture, public awareness, generic poll via number of ball caps seen in random unexpected places, or otherwise. This is hardly a gripe – actually, I kind of like it – it’s just an observation. As I’ve mentioned before, I was raised a Dodger fan. And the Dodgers, while they aren’t the Yankees or, more recently, the Red Sox, are frequently on the national radar…not always for good reasons, sad to say, especially lately, but still, they’re there.

When you want to set a scene as being definitively in Los Angeles, you reference the Dodgers or show a glimpse of the stadium in a scan of the scenery. Dodgers Stadium isn’t as frequently filmed as the Hollywood sign, nor as oft destroyed in Hollywood natural disasters as the Capital Records building or those darned Angelyne signs, but it’s there never the less. (Yes, the Angels had top billing in that one movie but, seriously, I’m trying to forget that one. ;) Remember the Naked Gun, by all means, but please forget that other one…er…ones, apparently. I stand corrected. See comments below.) You are likely to see Dodgers caps in random places, ditto shirts and other paraphernalia. Yankees gear is more common, but you get the general idea. I grew up thinking this was normal attention for your average baseball team, even though fans of 25-ish other teams could have told me otherwise. Now I get it. Sightings of Angels on the cover of, the TV screen of, or head or back of anything or anyone becomes increasingly rare the further you get from the general Orange County/Los Angeles area. This is normal attention for your average baseball team. And as a direct result, any random Angels sighting – National news feature, gear seen in a movie, ball cap on the head of a random fan in, say, Olathe, Kansas, never fails to give me a giddy little thrill.

Needless to say, those giddy little thrills have been quite the frequent occurrence since, oh, say December 8th. Go figure. Signing two of the biggest free agent names in the same day will do that for a team. And the best part is, they aren’t getting any less giddy or thrilling as they continue to multiply. So, imagine my delight this morning in the doctor’s office, when I spied this bright, shiny treasure:

My Angels on the cover of ESPN. Yes, it was bright and shiny. I swear, it glowed like Excalibur in the Disney cartoon. Why do you ask? And, yes, I am probably the only baseball blogger who didn’t already know the Angels were on the cover. January has been quite the suck for me. But not knowing made the thrill just that much more giddy-making. No, I don’t see this getting old anytime soon. While I liked the homey feel of non-attention, I could certainly grow to appreciate attention.

Random Thoughts on the article itself:

  • Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar. Mind you, this is just a confirmation of my existing opinion of the guy, but, yeah. Total. Rockstar. However these signings turn out – and I certainly hope it’s a meets or exceeds expectations kind of scenario – he’s proven that he has the negotiating skills, brains, guts and personality to do well by the Angels for years to come.
  • It really is interesting how very normal typical player concerns are when they’re deciding which offer to accept. Yes, I do understand, it’s much more about the money than anyone is going to actually come out and say. But even when you boil that down, it’s typical job stuff. Compensation. Job security – length of contract and no-trade clauses. Will my family be happy? Will I get to do the specific job I like to do? Will I like my boss/coworkers? etc…
  • Except, of course, for C.J. Wilson whose pros and cons list was, between the screenwriting opportunities and possible sponsorship of his racing team, unique to say the least. Maybe it’s because I was hot and cold on the rumors that Angels were going after him in the first place? But whenever I watch or hear an interview with Wilson where he talks more about his – incredibly interesting, I’ll admit – hobbies than about baseball, I am torn between thinking “Wow, what an intriguing, well rounded guy” and “Nooo! He’s not Barry Zito. He’s not Barry Zito. He is. NOT. Barry Zito.”
  • The part that made me laugh? One call from Albert Pujols apparently pulled Arte Moreno away from a movie date with his wife. They were in the middle of watching Melancholia. Okay, I like arty, abstract movies but please tell me that Arte wasn’t thanking Albert in more ways than one as soon as he saw the mighty bat’s name displayed on his cell phone. Oh, darn. Whoops. Sorry, honey. I am so disappointed to miss this boring drivel…er…I mean stirring dialog, but I gotta take this.
  • Apparently a random woman reading ESPN magazine in a doctor’s office is still considered an oddity. I got a literal thumbs up from one gent when I picked up the magazine and several odd looks from other parties. Of course, the fact that I took a photo of the cover with my phone may have had something to do with that. I suppose that could be considered odd in some circles. ;)
  • Did I mention that Jerry Dipoto is a rockstar?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Math Is Hard, Let’s Go to the Angels Game! + Rootin’ for the Enemy and Beware of Hitchhiking Mantises

I’m a freak, I admit it. I loved math in school. Algebra, geometry, trig, calc, it all appealed. I was even working on a math minor in college until multiple variable calculus. Trippy stuff that. Once I stopped being able to see what the shapes were doing in my head. *tap, tap* I’m out. But I still enjoy it. Problem solving. Statistics. Wonderful stuff! But this elimination number math? Yuck! That’s an entirely different story. 

Clearly Jered Weaver, Jeff Mathis and Dan Haren aren't overly fond of this whole elimination number math thing either. Angels vs. A's, May 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Oh I am familiar with it. Between my Dodger fan childhood and my Angels fan adulthood, I have _plenty_ of experience with elimination number math, I’m afraid, and just enough experience with magic number math to know that I significantly prefer that…then again, don’t we all? The Angels have certainly spoiled me more years than not this past decade but, especially with last season’s refresher course, I’m not too rusty to torture myself with endless “what if” elimination number math scenarios. Tom Godwin had the Cold Equations. I call these the Desperate Equations.

Could it happen this way?:

If the Rangers lose one and the Angels win two, and the Rangers lose one and then another one, and another two and the Angels win one and then another two and two more…

Or, maybe, could it happen this way?:

If the Red Sox lose one, and lose one more, and the Rays lose two, and the Red Sox lose one and the Rays lose two more, and the Angels win four…

So, one plus one plus two plus one… Hmmmm….anyone else overcome with an irrational desire to watch Clue? ;)

Say what crazy Angels blogger lady?! One plus two plus one plus what? Run that math by us one more time. Angels vs. A's, May 25, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

All equations point to the fact that the Angels still have a chance. But with another loss to their record, and especially if they continue committing those kind of errors, it’s a thin wisp of a chance, even after this evening’s win. If they win just about every game left. If the Rangers or the Red Sox and the Rays start losing, a lot. If. If. If…suffice to say, it’s pretty darned iffy. But stranger things have happened.

I still have hope. I am practical and this is far from my first September rodeo, but I have hope. And I have tickets to Friday night’s game against the A’s and Monday night’s game against the Rangers. One way or the other, however these equations work themselves out, I want to enjoy watching my team play as much as possible. After all, whether it starts at the end of October or September, it’s a long, cold, baseball-less winter. Gotta gorge yourself while the game’s in season…and if the solution to either of the equations works out to a be Red, Halo’d October, I want to be there to see it.

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And sadly, as part of the Desperate Equations, I find myself once again rooting for the Yankees. The AL West is so…well…the AL West that this happens once or twice a season out of necessity. The enemy of my enemy is…still really distasteful to root for truth be told but, much like when I rooted for the Red Sox against the Rangers a few weeks ago, it has be done.

However, it amuses me to no end that Red Sox fans are rooting for the Yankees along with me at the moment. Red Sox fans, you’re a little newer at this rooting for the enemy thing than some of the rest of us, so I offer you the following advice from another favorite movie:

The shame is like the pain. You only feel it once.

And that is absolutely…not true. But the shame and the pain do get a little be better each time. Enjoy. ;)

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On a more humorous note, when Seth and I stopped for gas on the way out of town this weekend, we noticed we had a hitchhiker on the pedal of my bike: 

Hitchhiking Mantis says, "Take me to your LoMo!" Cambria Trip, September 16, 2011. Photo by This is a very simple game...

We tried to coax the little guy off, but he was so stubborn he would have none of it. And he had two broken back legs so we figured we would just let him be. Maybe the wind would give him enough of a lift to fly away when we took off. But no, the next morning when we went to unload our bikes for our morning ride, some 245 miles away, he was still in the truck bed and very much alive. This time he let us move him to the grass. Maybe he was hoping to catch some sort of wounded mantis transport for Florida? It was like the Incredible Journey in search of LoMo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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*

The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey Begins

While the Angels grounds crew plows up the entire diamond for a series of U2 concerts and then puts everything back the way it was again, the Angels will spend two weeks circling the country in pursuit of truth, justice and the baseball way…Okay, really just in pursuit of a whole lot of Ws, but didn’t it sound more poetic the other way? Anyway back to the travel part. Affectionately – by which I mean sarcastically and with no small amount of annoyance – dubbed the Four Corners Trip by Mike Scioscia and crew, this road trip will take the Angels to the four corners of the continental United States, more or less. Once they conclude their current series in Seattle, the Angels will fly to New York to play the Mets, after which they will fly to Florida to play the Marlins and then right back home again to play the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. That’s a journey of just over 8,000 miles.

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...

Now the length of the road trip does come courtesy of the U2 concert. But the craziness of the broad spectrum of destinations comes courtesy of Major League baseball. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just fly out the East Coast and play more Eastern Division teams while the Angels were already out there than flying all over hell and gone? Perhaps they could have played the Yankees and the Rays on either side of the Interleague match-ups? Or maybe this would have been a better time to head for Boston or Baltimore. Heck, even stopping in Kansas City on the way out to the east coast, rather than having the Royals fly to California would have made more sense.

And this isn’t even the only crazy road trip the Angels have scheduled in 2011. In Oakland right after the All-Star break for three days, Monday off, just three days at home to play the Rangers and then out to Baltimore with no day off to play the Orioles before heading back home by way of Detroit to play the Twins in Anaheim, anyone? The Four Corners Trip is merely the craziest of the bunch.

I realize that every team has crazy schedule situations this season and if by some miracle a team escapes such oddities, don’t worry, MLB will get to you next year. I also realize that there is a certain amount of scheduling craziness inherent in being a Western Division team, where no two in-league opponents exist within the same 100 mile radius. Florida teams have a similar problem.  And no amount of proper prior planning is going to completely fix that.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia is one of the proponents of expanding the post season to include two wild card teams in each league. I myself am not a fan of the idea. However, Scioscia keeps talking about making the post season extension feasible without pushing play back out into November by scheduling the regular season more efficiently. Avoiding having so many bizarre road trip situations, like the one described above, which Scioscia said looked like Kindergarteners designed it, would allow MLB to shave off a few rest days here and there, shortening the regular season in a sane fashion without actually cutting out any games. If MLB makes an effort to take some of the stupid end of the crazy spectrum out of the away schedules, I would like that _so_ much that I might find it in my heart to tolerate additional wild card teams…eventually. Just no more of this 15 teams in both leagues realignment talk, okay. Now _that’s_crazy…not to mention contrary to having moved the Brewers to the National League in the first place. 

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The Angels’ Crazy Four Corners Interleague-ean Baseball Odyssey, Stop #1: Seattle. Photo by This is a very simple game...

Two Ws in Seattle

However, as much as I am griping about the travel involved in the Four Corners trip, I have no complaints about the trip itself. So far the Angels are wearing it very well. They took two against Seattle including Jered Weavers’ complete game shutout this evening. Wins for Weaver and Dan Haren in the same spin through the rotation. Angels bats striking early and often, including multiple hits for Bobby Abreu and Howie Kendrick whose bats are on fire and two homeruns by Vernon Wells in Monday’s game. Spot on fielding. Heads up base running. A clutch bullpen. Oh yeah! Sure there are still a few things to work on, but keep it up boys. You’re playing like Angels!

And with those two wins, the Angels gain two games on Seattle, of course, but also one on Texas to whom those nice, helpful Yankee boys administered a beating this evening. Well, nice and helpful this evening anyway. What’s not to like?!

The Continuing Saga of Kaz

Scott Kazmir had yet another rough start in Salt Lake City this evening. He lasted 1.2 innings and is on the hook for six earned runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batsman. I don’t report this gleefully. I am sorry he hasn’t made any improvements at all and seems to be backsliding even further after such a solid career with the Rays. However this evening current Angels GM Tony Reagins and former Angels GM Bill Stoneman were in attendance at the Bees game, taking stock of Kaz’ performance. I expect we will hear a final decision soon. It’s more than time to stop prolonging the agony.

Scott Kazmir one year ago this week, warming up in the visitors’ bullpen at Dodgers Stadium. I am sorry to say that this is one of the last games where I remember him pitching well. Photo by This is a very simple game…(Seth)

Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Lose to the Yankees. Sometimes it Rains…All in One Weekend

Well, if the Angels had to lose two close games to the Yankees, at least it happened while I was out of town. It’s so much easier to stay detached you only check in with one of the games on your phone from time to time. You’re a lot less invested and barely notice all of the runners stranded in scoring position when you’re merely regaling your husband with your own rendition of the game day play by play ob the way back down the coast.

Seriously, when you can’t watch the game on TV, or hear your announcers’ commentary on the radio, you really only notice the good stuff – Bobby’s hitting streak, Trumbo’s homerun, Fleet Pete doing his thing, the fact that Howie’s back. All of the bad stuff – the missed scoring opportunities, the botched plays, the Yankees homeruns – barely even registers.  …You know, except for the part where I’m totally lying. April or September, squeaker or blow out, glued to the action before you on the field from the first pitch or just catching the score the next morning, losses always sting…especially when they seem to be coming in streaks.

It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s only June. It’s just two losses. And all of the other clichés which, of course, are clichés for a reason. Yes, we’re only four games out of first and it’s just the beginning of June. Anything is still possible and I believe that this team can turn things around but it’s disheartening to be back under .500 on June 5th…and to have the AL West standings finally spread out by more than two games and be in third place and four games out. Absolutely fixable, but completely frustrating even so.

Anyway. Me? Out of town again? So soon? Well, that at least that’s more fun to write about than griping about the Angels. This weekend is the reason I was not going to go up to the wine festival last weekend until the Am Gen Tour was coming through and I decided that practicality and responsibility are really terribly overrated concepts. So this weekend, we were back up in Paso Robles for the Seafood and Sangria Summer Kickoff Party at Rio Seco, the baseball winery.

It was pouring rain for much of the weekend so the summer kickoff took place indoors, but the evening was a lot of fun. The Hinkle family were gracious hosts as always. This was a mostly locals crowd but they made sure we felt right at home – the older daughter who we usually chat with in the tasting room even asked how the Angels were doing. They remember their baseball and baseball fans here. The food was excellent. I now have several great ideas for sangria later in the summer, including one with the MVP reserve, apples and berries. More please! And the party favors were half cases of wine – the Grand Slam Cab/Syrah blend no less, ensuring that the party will continue at several Friday Gourmet, Wine and Angels evenings at our house later this summer. We had a nice time hearing some of the local gossip and all about the Giants – central coast California is absolutely not Angels country. They’re disappointed about Buster Posey but not exactly calling for Scott Cousins’ head or any rule changes in Paso Robles. Bruce Bochy take note…and a lesson or four.

Jered Weaver Collects His 7th Win + I’m in a Paso Robles State of Mind

I am very careful in my work and take pride in not making many mistakes. But when I do make them, they tend to all occur at once. A mini slump, if you will. Today was one of those days. Mistake 1 begat Mistake 2 and it’s more public sister, Mistake 3. I owned up to them and put out the resulting fires. But it’s good that we’re driving to Paso Robles for the weekend as I typed this because, honestly, somtimes to get out of the head space that causes a cycle of mistakes to perpetuate like that, you just have to get out of town…

…Or come home again! The Angels broke up their own cycle of mistakes this evening with a much needed win over the Yankees, a win made all the more important by the fact that it was finally win #7 for Jered Weaver. So, was it a brilliant, awe-inspiring performance? Did the Angels, resplendent in their earliest years throwback jerseys complete with the original interlocking LA ball cap, strike fear into the hearts of the Yankees with their dominance at the plate? Um, no. Not really.

It was a lot of the same actually. The team hit well, especially Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, but continued to struggle with runners in scoring position. The fielding was tight but neither Weaver nor the Yankee’s Ivan Nova had a great start, though Weaver settled into his groove by the third inning, giving the team five additional strong innings and eight strikeouts. So, not an amazing performance, but the Angels battled through, held the Yankees to two runs for five innings and stubborned out a victory!

Besides, a W is a W and I could not have been more thrilled by the victory – for the team, for Weaver and for Angels fans. In fact, we were just outside of Santa Barbara when the Angels won the game and when my husband read me the last pitch – using the pitch by pitch on Gameday, because our ability to pick up the broadcast cacked it in Ventura – I let out such a loud whoop that we both started cracking jokes about the perils of loud cheering in the friendly confines of a Pontiac G6. So what do you say we do it again tomorrow? Sadly, Dan Haren will miss the first scheduled start of his career but we have Ervin Santana on the mound and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Hmmm…time to start a cycle of winning? Yes, please.

On another note, this amused the heck out of me, so I figured I’d share. I believe I have mentioned before that the majority of my friends are not baseball people? The following statement from our weekly Wednesday gathering at the pub, illustrates this fact better than I ever could. The “lights out” Giants/Cardinals game was on the TV over the bar, Brian Wilson strides out to the mound in all of his Brian Wilson-y glory and my friend asks with a tone of shocked disdain, “Who the hell is that and why is he wearing a fake beard?” A quick glance around the table shows that she was not alone in her question.

Really? Just in case we needed another definition: Baseball people may or may not fear the beard, but they are at least aware of it.

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