July 16, 2014

Hello old friend

Hell-ohhhhh winning.  Hello 20 games above .500 at the all-star break for the first time in franchise history.  Hello series sweeps and winning streaks.  Hello confidence, optimism and that good old’ fashioned swagger.  Oh, how I’ve missed you.

Hey there to leading the league in come-from-behind wins and to leading all of baseball in runs scored and on-base percentage.  Thank you for making baseball fun again.  Angel fans can once again go to a game or watch on television with the expectation that the Angels will emerge with a win. 

Howdy hope and post-season aspirations.  Per Baseball Prospectus the Angels have a 98.9 percent chance of making the post-season.  I don’t know about you, but I like those odds; in fact, I like them a lot.

Hello Mike Scioscia haters.  You know who you are.  You thought the game had passed Mike Scioscia by and that his team no longer responded to him.  You begged for a change and became louder and louder with each passing day; that is, until now.

Many of you (myself included) wanted to see Albert Pujols moved down in the lineup and for Mike Trout to hit 3rd.  Funny, but Trout and Pujols have combined for 137 RBI and 42 homeruns – more than any other duo in baseball.

For years Scioscia-haters moaned about the idea that this team wasn’t patient enough and now this Mike Scioscia-lead team leads the league on on-base percentage at .334.  As an added bonus, this team is third in OPS at .761 (2nd in the AL).

Time after time, I heard how set in his ways fans thought Scioscia was.  Hello, have you seen the lineup lately?  Kole Calhoun is anything, but your proto-typical lead-off hitter and yet – he’s doing a bang-up job in that role.  Erick Aybar is last guy anyone would expect to see hitting 5th and yet – that’s who’s hitting behind Josh Hamilton.  Don’t look now (okay, go ahead and peak), but Aybar has 50 RBI’s.  Hello all-star!

Face it; Scioscia has had a Midas-touch when it comes to making out the lineup.  Look at the catching tandem of Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger.  They’ve combined for 8 homeruns and 44 RBI while basically splitting time behind home plate.

It’s time to put your belly-aching aside and give praise to the man who has the Angels in the hunt for a red-October.  I know it’s hard for you to do, but it’s time for you to just pipe down.  I’m sure he’ll still do some things that will drive you crazy (me too at times), but you can’t argue with the results.

Look, I know this team isn’t perfect and still has some holes – but good grief, man – isn’t this a refreshing change of pace over the last four years?  It’s okay to step back and appreciate where this team is and where they’re headed.

This is fun.  This is what you hope for as a fan.  This is what being an Angel fan is all about.

Speaking of fans – where have you been?  Although the Angels are 4th overall in home attendance average at 38,000, they’re actually 27th in average road attendance (26,925).  27th!  Hello?  Why aren’t baseball fans flocking to the stadium to see Mike Trout?  We’re talking about a once-in-a-generation type of player.  We’re talking about a 22 year old who is doing things that have never been done before.  C’mon, you know better.

Imagine having the opportunity to see Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle on a regular basis.  Those days are gone, but Mike Trout is here and baseball fans are missing out.  You owe it to yourself, your family, your neighbor, the kid down the street and whoever else you know to get them to the ball park with you.  Let’s do this, people.

Ok, now some of you might be wondering where the True Grich posts have been all this time.  It’s a valid question and I have an answer for you.

I lost my mom on April 18, 2014.  Prior to her passing she battled pulmonary fibrosis for months.  She suffered greatly and my wife Cheryl and I spent as much time with her as possible.  It’s been a difficult time and blogging just wasn’t on my agenda.

My mom liked the Angels and although she might not have been the biggest baseball fan, but she loved to watch Jered Weaver pitch (she had great taste).  She loved following the players from Japan and Ichiro was her favorite.  She got a great thrill out of meeting Hideki Matsui when he was an Angel thanks to a long-time family friend -  Ryan Cavinder

I think back and remember how worried she was about the pressures that would face Daisuke Matsuzaka when he signed a big contract in Boston.  It’s as if she knew he wouldn’t live up to expectations.  At the same ti me, she couldn’t wait to see Yu Darvish and always wished that some of the great players from Japan would end up in Anaheim.

Every year, I had to make sure I got her 3 pocket schedules so that she could keep track of games and of course – where Cheryl and I would be on a daily basis – knowing we went to most of the home games.  Why 3?  I have no idea, but I got her 3 just the same.  Our daily conversations on the phone would often include an update on whether or not the Angels had won and if we were going to the game that evening.

I miss those conversations and I miss her.  I’m not alone in that regard.

Many of the people who called my mom their friend thought of her as their “best friend.”  She earned that distinction through doing things for them all the time.  Some of them had no idea how sick she was and her passing was a shock to many.  That’s just how my mom was – she didn’t want people fussing over her (she was extremely private that way) even though she would fuss over them.

I think about her every day, and I give extra thought to her every time Jered Weaver takes the mound.  I miss not being able to tell her that he’s pitching on any given night.  That being said, she’s probably watching him from above, enjoying some cotton candy (a favorite of hers) and cheering out loud. 

October 11, 2013

Yes, it really was that bad

The Angels had an opportunity to bring their fan base a little bit of joy at the end of the season when they headed to Texas for a four game series.  As it turned out – had the Angels won a single game during that road trip they would have been responsible for knocking the Texas Rangers out of the play-off picture all-together.

Wishful thinking.

Not only did the Angels stink up the stadium – they provided their fans with a great deal of frustration, anguish, anger, and outright disgust.  Take the second game of the series as an example. 

In the bottom of the second inning with the score tied and one out, C.J. Wilson gave up a line drive base hit to Elvis Andrus.  With Alex Rios batting – Wilson uncorks a wild pitch that sends Andrus all the way to third base.  Rios then walks.  Wilson then hits the next batter Adrian Beltre to load the bases.  Up steps A.J. Pierzynski, who also gets plunked by Wilson to walk in a run.  Up steps Jeff Baker and Wilson uncorks another wild pitch and Rios scores.

That inning – was all too familiar in a season of pathetic play.  You have to work really hard to have an inning like that and watching it is like suffering a slow, anguishing death (not that I’ve actually experienced such a thing).  It’s enough to send a sane man into a fit of rage (no, I didn’t do that).  After an experience like that – you feel like part of you just died and that your life was shortened considerably because of what you just absorbed with your own eyes.

I imagine that a lot of televisions were turned off at that point or at the very least the channel was changed.  In some cases, I’m guessing an object found the front of the screen at a high rate of speed.

Even though the game wasn’t over and there were two more games on the schedule, I knew then that the Angels would probably be swept and that the Rangers would live past 162 games somehow.   All I wanted was a little bit of joy in having the satisfaction of seeing my team knock the Rangers out of the play-off race; but no, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Of course not.

Obviously, it was too much to ask.  Thankfully, the Rays would take care of the Rangers’ post season dreams instead.

Throughout the season, I wanted this team to respond to adversity with a purpose and silence the critics.  Instead, they rolled over when the going got tough. There were times when they couldn’t get out of their own way and they couldn’t give away runs and opportunities to the other teams they faced fast enough.  It was worse than a bad movie because this was real and it unfolded day after day before our eyes.

To a fan that is emotionally invested in a team – it was one of the most frustrating and agonizing seasons ever. 

There was a time when I wasn’t nearly as emotionally invested in the Angels.  Even though I am a longtime fan, my “fandom” didn’t really escalate until Cheryl and I became season ticket holders.  Sometimes, I long for those days when being fan didn’t necessarily mean that I would live and die each day with the team and my mood wouldn’t be affected by how they played.

Ok, maybe I’m not that bad – but there are days when it all takes its toll.

So the season is over and it’s time to dust ourselves off and get back to waiting for the spring and the optimism that it brings. 

I don’t know how to fix this team.  Sure, I have some ideas – but what does it matter?  As a fan, I have to wait and watch to see what is going to happen.

Here’s what I do know.  The Angels need more players like Kole Calhoun.  There’s something about a guy who actually looks like he loves playing the game and can actually play it pretty well that’s compelling.  His kind of enthusiasm has to be contagious in the club house.  He’s already become one of Cheryl’s favorites and who can blame her?

This guy plays hard – smiles a lot and shows no fear.  I haven’t noticed any deer-in-the-headlights moments from him unlike oh… I don’t’ know… perhaps, Howie Kendrick for example. 

I know a lot of baseball people and even fans will say that chemistry and all the intangibles aren’t real – but I don’t buy it.  I love players who have a chip on their shoulder and bring a certain intensity to the game.  I don’t think you can have a whole team of individuals like this – but having some who can have an impact in the clubhouse has to help.

Look at what happened in Boston.  That organization set out to change the culture in the clubhouse and it worked.  They brought in high character guys like Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino who helped change the mindset on that team.  In the process they traded away guys who look great on paper  - but not so good on the field.  Seemingly overnight, the Red Sox were transformed into a team that  brought a bull-dog-like mentality into every game. 

This make over extended to their pitching as well.  You know, there’s a fine line between being intense and being a jerk and they got rid of the jerk in Josh Beckett and in the process they freed up John Lackey to be the John Lackey.  I have my issues with the things Lackey said about the Angels fan base on his way out of town, but I have to say, part of me misses the guy who loves to compete and it’s clear to me that guy is back.

I don’t like the Red Sox, but I certainly respect what they did in the last year to bring that franchise back to relevance.

When I look at the Angels – I see a team without a soul and with no identity.  That all died the day they let Torii Hunter go to Detroit.  When you think of the Angels now – you think of the stoic Mike Scioscia, the angry Arte Moreno and two highly paid and underachieving players in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.  You almost forget that this is a team that has Mike Trout who is arguably the best player in the game.

Fans are so focused on the bad stuff that some of them miss the opportunity to enjoy Trout on a regular basis.  I’m not kidding.  There is so much that is wrong and frustrating about the team – that not even Mike Trout is enough to draw them in.

That’s sad.  We’re talking about a once-in-a –generation type of player who is playing historic baseball.  He’s doing things that have never been done and he’s doing it as player who just turned 22 in August.  Some are so disgusted with the team that they spend more time speculating that Trout will leave when he becomes a free agent rather than enjoying him in the here and now.

What does that tell you?

This off season is one of the most important in the history of the Angels franchise.  Whatever gains they made during the years following the 2002 World Series is dissipating.  A great many season ticket holders aren’t going to renew.  They’re fed up.  They’re moving on.  I imagine that if and when the team gets back to being relevant, they’ll be back – but they’re done for now.

The team needs a make-over – not necessarily a total redesign, but a make-over.  They need Arte Moreno to step up and publicly hold himself accountable.  He needs to face the music – and by that I mean the local media.  He needs to take the shots and he needs to respond by showing true leadership.  Sports fans love fearlessness in their athletes and the same trait should be demonstrated in the front office and most certainly in the ownership.

We don’t want to see an owner who takes punitive action by moving the media down in the right field corner – we want an owner who’s not afraid to stand toe to toe and fight for his team. 

I’m encouraged by the recent news of a united front between Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto.  I believe the news that they’re now working together as a team to fix it all.  This had to happen and I’m hopeful in the outcome.

Sports is supposed to be fun and baseball is supposed to be America’s pastime.  It’s time to put the fun back in being an Angels fan and ownership needs to take the responsibility of making that happen.  The last thing anyone wants is for their favorite baseball team to be a source of angst when it should be a source of joy.

Right now – there is very little; if any actual joy.  This can change.  It’s going to take hard work and patience from the fan base, but it’s possible.  After all, its baseball and we know anything is possible in baseball.

I know this post is overdue.  My apologies.  I won't make any promises about what is to come - but there will definitely be more to come.  Thanks for reading.

September 4, 2013

Remaining reasonable in the face of chaos

The 2013 season started to head south for me on November 16, 2012 – the day Torii Hunter signed with the Detroit Tigers.  Hunter had become my all-time favorite baseball player, let alone Angel – surpassing both Roberto Clemente and Bobby Grich.   A big part of my joy was sucked right out of me and I began to wonder what kind of season was in store for us in 2013.

I felt betrayed by Arte Moreno.  I felt he had led Angel fans to believe that resigning Hunter was a priority.  Regardless of the truth of how things went down – that was how I felt at the time and quite frankly, it still bothers me.

Things got progressively worse the following month when the Angels signed Joe Blanton on December 12.  In my mind – Joe Blanton was a bottom-of-the-barrel kind of guy and I could not understand why in the world Jerry Dipoto would make such a signing.  It was a “face palm” moment for sure.

Those two events were the beginning of the demise of the 2013 season in my opinion and it all happened before 2012 was even over.  It was as if the Angels had a dug themselves into a hole before spring had even come along.

By the time the season rolled around, it was clear to me that everything had to go just right for the Angels to have any chance.  There was no margin for error.  That was a tall order and the results are obvious.

Now, I’m really not here to rehash all the reasons why the Angels have been so terrible this season.  I also don’t want to be “that guy” who comes across as just plain angry.  No, “Angry-Blogger-Dude” isn’t a title I’m looking to champion.  Trust me.

My reasons for this post are purely selfish.  I am hoping it will be therapeutic to put some of my thoughts out on my blog.  To do that I have to organize my thoughts and I’m hoping that process will help me cope.

I haven’t posted much because for the most part, I didn’t know what to say.  I was dumbfounded by what I was seeing on the field.  Lately I’ve also been disturbed by what I’ve been reading in all the media outlets.  As a blogger, I try to focus on the fan experience and quite frankly that experience has been horrific lately.

So, here we go….

Here’s what I know… If you look at the current 40 man roster – exactly half the players were acquired in some fashion by Jerry Dipoto.  Of the 26 players on the active roster (rosters expanded Sept. 1), 12 of them are Dipoto’s. 

I’m certain this means something.  In a nutshell, the roster – be it the 40 or 25 man version, isn’t very impressive.  In fact, one could argue that it stinks.

There are a lot of journeymen and career minor leaguers in the organization right now and that doesn’t appear to be a good thing.  That’s not even counting the reclamation projects like Dontrell Willis or Chad Cordero or even Andy Marte who aren’t even on the 40 man roster. 

Sure, every organization has names like these peppered throughout their farm system, but it sure seems like more than a fair share of them have found their way into the Angels organization.  Let’s not forget Ryan Madson, Brad Hawpe, Brendan Harris, Bill Hall, Chris Snyder, Mark Lowe, and others – who spent time on the active roster and are now elsewhere and in most cases – looking for work.

Is that an unusually high number of also-rans?  I am going to guess that it is.  Some of these names are ones that you’d expect to see on an independent league roster.  Oh wait, some of them actually came from the hinder lands.

It seems to me that Dipoto has been turning over a lot of rocks looking for pieces to make this team better.  Yes, he found J.B. Shuck, but most of his moves have proven to be for naught.   So this begs the question – is this the best he can do, all things considered?  I ask that openly and honestly.

I’m not even including the big ticket moves in this conversation – this about the “little” things that make up a roster.  If the prospects in the minor leagues can’t even displace the Andy Marte’s or Chad Cordero’s of the world – that speaks volumes.

I know the minor league system is in transition and the state of its condition isn’t solely on Dipoto, but he hasn’t done much, if anything to make it any better.  The 40 man roster seems out of whack.  The pieces don’t match and it looks like the old’ finger in the dike scenario.  It’s also been a revolving door with players coming and going as frequently as baseballs are being hit out of the park after Joe Blanton throws a pitch.

I think it’s safe to say that Dipoto won’t be nominated for GM of the Year. 

The bottom line is that I like Mike Scioscia.  I think he’s one of the best in the game.  I also know we can argue that point all day long and never change one another’s mind.  Regardless of that, one thing seems pretty clear – Dipoto’s philosophy and Scioscia’s don’t seem to mix and they certainly don’t complement each other.  Something has to give.

Some people say that Dipoto’s plan needs time.  Tell that to my friends who aren’t renewing their season tickets.  Tell that to the great many fans who are staying away from the ball park this season.

Some people think that Scioscia needs to go.  To that I say, be careful what you wish for.  There’s a reason most managers don’t stay with one organization for any great length of time.  There’s a reason that many have speculated that if Scioscia was to be fired, he wouldn’t stay unemployed for very long.  Can you say the same about Jerry Dipoto?

Mike Scioscia is unique.  His fingerprints are all over the organization; or at least they were.  It’s rare that a manager has that much input and impact.  I believe he can still be effective. 

I’m not happy with how things stand today and I know for a fact I’m not alone in that sentiment.  As I mentioned previously, it’s as if we are looking into the abyss.  That’s a crappy feeling.

Clearly, there are issues between Moreno, Dipoto and Scioscia.  It’s maddening.  It’s depressing.  It has to be resolved.  Of the 3, I’m going to take Scioscia’s side every time and I believe I've arrived at that conclusion in a reasonable manner.  What do you say?

September 3, 2013

First comes mayhem and then the abyss

This isn’t the worst season the Angels have ever had; it just feels like it is. 

There’s a great deal of chatter out there regarding Angels baseball and quite frankly none of it is good.  The amount of venom that’s being spewed is at epidemic proportions.  People aren’t just mad, they’re fed up and even a little nasty about it. 

There’s a lot of finger pointing going on.  Some of them are pointing at Jerry Dipoto; some at Mike Scioscia and some at Arte Moreno.  Heck, some are pointing at all 3. That finger isn’t just pointing; it’s being waved with intensity.

Fans are fed up; columnists, writers, bloggers, message boards, sports talk radio and the like are having a field day.  Speculation is running rampant and it’s hard to separate the truth from fiction.

What happened? Where did it all go wrong?  Most importantly, what is the truth and how does this franchise rebound?

I can’t ever remember a time when the fan base was this restless; let alone - annoyed and frustrated.  2002 changed everything.  For better or worse - the franchise has never been the same since 2002, as expectations were elevated to new levels.

The good news is that all the anger and frustration is a sign that fans actually care.  They’re passionate about this team and although the end result may mean that many will be walking away from supporting the team at all; all of it is sending a message to the front office…  We don’t like what you’ve done with our team and we want you to fix it!

As I check in with fellow season ticket holders – many of them aren’t renewing.  They can’t justify the investment of time and money.  Their emotions run the gamut of everything from despair to disgust.

It’s sad.  We enjoyed a sort of golden age of Angels baseball from 2002-2009 and I would hate to think that’s as good as it will ever get, but lately – it feels like that might be the case.  Think about it.

The future looks bleak.  Every fan knows that the farm system is in shambles, we don’t know who’s running the show – be it Dipoto, Scioscia or Moreno and it seems like there is massive dysfunction and chaos at every turn.  It’s like the team is auditioning for one of those All-State Insurance commercials with the “Mayhem Guy.”

 It feels like it all went bad overnight and what makes things worse is that it doesn’t seem like the team can rebound the other way just as quickly.  The next few years could be painful and when you’re not accustomed to waiting and watching a rebuilding process – it just sucks.   Not only that, it’s painful too.

I’ve been an Angels fan for a long time – since the late 60’s and I know all about the lean years, but like I said earlier – 2002 changed everything.  I want to get back to that 2002 feeling.  I know it’s never easy winning a world championship and quite frankly that’s what makes it all the more special.  What I want is some leadership and a plan; and right now, I’m not seeing either.

So I’m about to give you my take.  I’ve given all of this a lot of thought and I’ve spent countless hours mulling this all over in my head. 

When I think about Moreno, Dipoto and Scioscia – I think about the one individual in this group who has had success at the major league level and that’s Mike Scioscia.  The way I see it – Scioscia along with Bill Stoneman are the two individuals who changed Angels' baseball forever and the farther away we get from their original plan – the more likely we’ll continue to see the demise of the franchise.

Scioscia is the one of the three with a track record and who clearly had a vision for how a franchise should develop players and play on the field.  I don’t get a sense of vision from the other two.  I assume they have one – but I just don’t see it.

You can say what you want about Scioscia and some of you are attacking him pretty hard, but at the end of the day – I’m going to back Scioscia 100%.  Even though I don’t know him personally, I get a sense of who he is as a man and I respect him a great deal.  I believe that given the proper tools – as in the kind of players who play the way he wants – this team will be successful.  Anything less than that isn’t going to work.

I love the way Scioscia’s team played when they were winning.  I loved the fact that they had the sabermetric community scratching their heads because they often outperformed their projections.  I mean that was a beautiful thing.

I don’t have any confidence in Dipoto.  Why should I?  I also have less and less confidence in Moreno – given how he’s portrayed in the media.  I know I don’t know the whole story and I’m never going to have all the facts about what’s really happening behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t draw my own conclusions.

I don’t like what I’m reading and I certainly haven’t enjoyed what I’ve seen take place on the field. 

Angel fans are beginning to lose hope.  That’s a big deal because without hope, the will to fight and hang in there vanishes.  Our little utopia is crumbling and the real impact is the loss of friends who sit around us at games.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back to a time when it was easy to get a seat at the stadium.  I would much rather see the stadium full and decked out in red with rally sticks thundering.

Things feel out of control and almost desperate.  It’s like we’re looking into the abyss.

I don’t know how to fix this franchise, but I’m guessing Mike Scioscia does.  My head hurts when I try to think of what needs to be done and how long it might take.  That being said, I do have an opinion.

For me – the plan is simple.  First – Arte Moreno needs to stay out of the baseball business, period.  Second – we need a GM who thinks about the game the same way Mike Scioscia does.  Put the two together and then get out of the way.  It’s a simple plan, but it’s easier said than done.  There are egos to contend with and a fan base that wants to see improvement right now.

I have hated almost every moment of this season and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.  The joy has been sucked out of me and I’m not happy about it.  I will still support the team, but my enthusiasm has taken a hit. 

Let’s get back to basics.  Let’s get back to solid pitching and defense and forcing the issue on the base paths.  Let’s get back to winning.  Let’s get back to playing Mike Scioscia’s brand of baseball… or else.

July 29, 2013

Grit: The key to success

Every now and then a player will come along who inspires the phrase – he’s a "gritty" player.  For Angel fans names like David Eckstein come to mind almost immediately or perhaps Darin Erstad or even… Bobby Grich.

For a long time – you could attach such a label to a ball player and nobody would really question it at all.  With the emergence of sabermetrics and more in depth statistical analysis – some people view grit as nothing more than fairy dust.  In other words it’s not real because it’s not really measurable.  Admit it; when you read the title of this blog, you smiled and maybe even chuckled a bit at the notion that something like “grit” was real.

Is “grit” real?  Are there players who have it and those who don’t and is it a factor in the success or failure of a player?  Before you attempt to answer those questions – please spend six minutes watching the video below.  It’s just six minutes long, but it could shed some new light on the subject.

Duckworth describes grit in a variety of ways.  She says it’s about  “passion and perseverance.”  She goes on to say that “grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Her data shows that grit is “usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.”  

Duckworth also admits that science knows very little about how to build it.  Her studies are clear that talent alone does not necessarily translate into success.  In fact, her data shows that grit is unrelated or inversely related to measures of talent.

The most telling part of her talk is that those who have grit don’t view failure as a permanent condition.  I think good closers have grit because they’re able to put past failures behind them and attack the next opportunity.  

The idea that grit is a factor also feeds into one of my own philosophies about Cuban born players.  Given what some of them have had to go through just to have an opportunity to play in the major leagues is beyond amazing.  When you really think about guys like Kendrys Morales who made 8 attempts to defect it makes you stop and realize that playing baseball isn’t pressure at all.  In fact, it’s easy compared to their other life experiences.  Does Morales have grit?  I’d think he’d have to, wouldn’t you?

In any case - I think there's some merit to the notion that having grit matters.  How about you?

July 5, 2013

I want this, you want this, all Angel fans want this

Sunday evening at approximately 5:05 p.m. the Angels will take on the Boston Red Sox.  Normally, any meeting between the two teams has the potential for drama and all the things one can hope for in a baseball game.  This game, which will be ESPN’s Sunday night game, has an element to it that makes it extra special; it features Jered Weaver going against John Lackey.

That’s right; the once undisputed leader of the pitching staff – Lackey goes head to head against the team’s current lead dog - Jered Weaver.  If ever a matchup had “epic” written all over it for Angel fans, this is it.  Both are emotional leaders whose competitive fire is always evident whenever they take the mound. 

One left the team and in his own way sent jabs at a fan base and an organization that haven’t been forgotten.  The other cemented himself as a fan-favorite when he signed an extension at a discounted price and calmly asked “how much do you really need?” when asked about his contract.

In many Angel fans’ eyes – this is the battle between good and evil.  This is a game you circle, clear your calendar for and make sure any and all distractions are eliminated beforehand. 

Maybe the game will be uneventful.  Maybe it will be one sided. 

Then again, maybe- just maybe, it will be one for the ages.  If you’re only going to go to one Angel game all year, this is the one you want to be at.  This is what it’s all about.  Forget about looking ahead to possible post season plans.  Forget about all the games that await us.  It’s time to focus on this game and this matchup. 

My adrenaline is already rocketing upward.  I want this game.  You want this game.  We all want this game more than any other regular season game thus far. 

I’m sure both pitchers will down play the matchup and Mike Scioscia will say it’s just another game, but you and I know differently.  This is anything but just another game. 

I want this in the worst way and anything short of a victory will be a huge disappointment.  When you have that much on the line – it makes your stomach queasy and your head spin.  I know how you feel and trust me – this is a good thing.

This is baseball at its best.  It’s time to go all in, knowing we have no control over anything that’s about to happen.  There is potential for absolute joy and also the possibility for feeling the lowest of lows. 

To that I say - bring it on.  Let’s bury John Lackey and the Red Sox.  Let’s come in with a swagger and rise up victorious. 

Angel fans – it’s time to rally, put on your gear and come to the stadium to make sure the world knows that John Lackey isn’t welcome in our house and we want his head on a platter.

Let’s do this.

June 21, 2013

Let's try something different

So the other night… Tuesday night, in fact – Cheryl and I are sitting in the View MVP section with friends and this guy starts walking around with a neon colored sign with the words “Show me the money Josh Hamilton” and “He’s robbing you blind, Arte.”

Now, the first question you have to ask yourself is what possesses a person to come to a ball game with such a sign.  The man happened to be at the game with three young boys, who I assume were his own.  Was he there to teach them a life lesson?  Was he looking for his fifteen minutes of fame and wanted to make sure his boys got to share in the experience?  Or was he simply looking to get a little air before he crawled back under the rock he lived under?

The interesting thing is that he didn’t really get a reaction from anyone – except for the security person who showed up to make him put his sign away.  No one seemed to care and although some were probably annoyed – they probably realized he wasn’t worth the energy.  Even when security had him put the sing away, no one made a peep.  When he left the game early… nada.  Nothing. 

No doubt he wanted the cameras to find him, but apparently he wasn’t bright enough to understand that wasn’t going to happen and the only camera that was going to notice him were the ones being viewed by security.

So – here’s the deal.  Showing up to rant about a player isn’t going to get you much.  For one thing – I’m certain Josh Hamilton couldn’t hear the man shout things like “I want your paycheck.”  Sitting in the upper level should be an obvious road block to your goal of having the player actually hear you.    Common sense should prevail in these situations, but I guess one has to have it to use it.

Think about it.  Hamilton can’t hear you and the cameras aren’t going to put you on a big screen.  At this point you have to realize you’re only annoying the fans sitting in the area and what you’re doing is making a much bigger statement about yourself than it does about Josh Hamilton.  And then there’s the kids… think about the kids, man.  Do you really want them growing up with this imbedded in their memory?

You have to be more creative than that. 

So here are some suggestions for anyone who wants to make a statement about Josh Hamilton’s struggles.  These things will at the very least, elicit a chuckle or two from the fans in the stands.

Make a voodoo doll.  No, not of Josh Hamilton, stupid; after all, we are still Angel fans – but one of the opposing pitcher.  Every time the pitcher goes to wind up – have his arm go crazy and throw the ball into the stands.  You accomplish two things this way.  One, the fans in the area will appreciate the souvenir and two, Josh Hamilton will get a walk and his on-base percentage will go up.   Now, I don’t believe in voodoo, but at this point anything might help.  Just make sure the voodoo doll is huge for impact.

This one is for the Hamiltown crowd – the group that sits in the right field pavilion holding up the sign.  Every time Hamilton makes an out – downgrade the sign.  For his first at-bat, you’re a town… if he makes an out – you’re a community then a cul-de-sac, and then a small house and last, but not least – an outhouse – which could have a couple different meanings, if you catch my drift.  What would all of that look like?  You figure it out – I’m just throwing out ideas.

Okay… enough of that.  And quite frankly - the Hamiltown crowd is a great group trying to do something positive. In fact - we need more fans to follow their example.

So... you know what would really be cool?  This would be sure to make its way to ESPN or at the very least the local news.  What if every time Hamilton came up to bat – we all stood and clapped and chanted Ham-il-ton! I’m not talking about a patch of people here or there – I’m talking about an entire stadium; standing in support of a man who desperately wants to live up to expectations.  To make it even more amazing – what if every fan was wearing a Josh Hamilton t-shirt or jersey?

Imagine the impact.

It’s too easy to sit and complain about how badly Hamilton has performed.  And booing?  That’s just weak.  Boo A.J. Pierzysnki or Ian Kinsler – but booing Josh Hamilton is pointless.  Do you really think that’s going to make him play better?  Would it make you perform better?

My crazy idea isn’t likely to take hold.  There are too many cynics and complainers in the world.  That’s not a group I want to associate with. 

I can only do what I can do.  I’m going to make a point of showing my support for Hamilton from now on.  This team needs him and baseball will be a lot more fun - if and when he starts playing like the player he can be.

Something has to change.  As fans we have no control over what happens on the field, but we can have an impact on the environment the player performs in.  Think about it.

June 17, 2013

You can call him Al

If Albert Pujols is going to be a shell of himself, we might as well call him Al instead of Albert.  Think about the song by Paul Simon…

A man walks down the street
He says why am I soft in the middle now

Okay, Al may not be soft in the middle per say, but he’s certainly soft in the middle of the Angels lineup.

Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard

We’d like to know why you’re so soft too, Al.  The rest of your life is going to be hard?  Not with the kind of cash you’re making – now your life on the baseball field… well, we shall see.

I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption

A walk off hit yesterday would have gone a long way toward both.

Don't want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard

Too late...

Image borrowed from:  The Jert Blog

Bonedigger Bonedigger
Dogs in the moonlight
Far away my well-lit door
Mr. Beerbelly Beerbelly
Get these mutts away from me
You know I don't find this stuff amusing anymore

Well... Al, we are not amused with the lack of production in key moments of a game.  This is not the Albert Pujols we thought we were getting.  The “dogs” in the moonlight – are you and Josh Hamilton who aren’t living up to expectations.  The media here is soft, but every now and then they might nip at your heels...if you want them away from you - start producing.

If you'll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty when you call me
You can call me Al

Mark Trumbo has done everything he can to protect you… but I don’t think you should call him Betty.  Now, about being called “Al;” I’m all for that.

A man walks down the street
He says why am I short of attention
Got a short little span of attention
And wo my nights are so long

Focus bro; focus.  See the ball; hit the ball.  Got it?

Where's my wife and family?

I hope they’re not back in St. Louis.  I hope that distraction has been resolved.  Just saying.

What if I die here?

Well… you’re killing us, Al.

Who'll be my role-model
Now that my role-model is
Gone Gone

You mean Torii?  Yeah, we miss him too.

He ducked back down the alley
With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl
All along along
There were incidents and accidents
There were hints and allegations

The only hints and allegations around here about whether or not you should be on the DL and although some people question your actual age – I’m not going there.

If you'll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty when you call me
You can call me Al
Call me Al

Again, talk to Mark Trumbo.

A man walks down the street
It's a street in a strange world
Maybe it's the Third World
Maybe it's his first time around
He doesn't speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man

I know this hitting .250ish is a strange new world for you.  We don’t like it much either.  Something has to give.

He is surrounded by the sound
The sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen and Hallelujah!

Umm… those are Angel fans.  Most haven’t taken to booing you just yet… and I for one, would never do that – but the natives are getting restless.

If you'll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty when you call me
You can call me Al
Call me Al

You got it, Al.  You’re Al to me until Albert reappears.

May 13, 2013

Yeah, we'll be there

For the 17th time this season, Cheryl and I will walk into Angel Stadium to watch a game tonight and even though the Angels have struggled mightily this year, I’m excited.  I hope I never lose that feeling. 

There are people who have never had the privilege or opportunity to go to a game and I don’t ever want to take it for granted that I can basically go whenever I want and to make things even better, I get to go with my wife.  I’m blessed for sure.

Some nights are thick with anticipation; like the night Mike Trout made his major league debut.  Some nights, you go and before you know it Jered Weaver is throwing a no-hitter.  That’s the thing; you just never know what’s going to happen.  Chances are nothing spectacular will occur and yet, every game there’s the hope that you will get to watch something special; maybe even something that’s never been seen before.

For me, there’s nothing like being at the ball park. I like seeing the whole field and not just the way television presents it from behind the pitcher, looking in at the batter.  I want to see where the infielders and outfielders are positioned and I want to watch them react to every pitch.  I like being able to look into the bullpen to see whose warming up and taking a glance at the out of town scoreboard to see who’s winning and losing.

I like talking baseball with some of my friends in the stands.  Sometimes we sit around and make up names for the players like Jeff “English isn’t my favorite subject, but Math-is.”  Sometimes we speculate about trades or question a move Mike Scioscia makes or predict what Howie Kendrick is going to do with the bases loaded.  We laugh, we high-five, and we cheer.  Every now and then, we whine, and moan and scream out in agony.  On a good night, we walk away satisfied with a win and we look forward to the next game.

We talk about ex-Angels who are doing poorly and lament about those that are doing well.  We notice the loud mouths cheering for the other team and hope that in the end, the scoreboard shuts them up once and for all. 

Some nights the game is in the background.  On those occasions, it’s usually because we are celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions.  Some games the mood is somber because we are mourning the loss of a loved one or even a friend from our section.  

Since we’ve been season ticket holders, we’ve had a lifetime of baseball experiences.  We’ve celebrated division titles, mourned the death of Nick Adenhart and embraced the wonderful smile of Torii Hunter.

We felt the joy of acquiring impact players at the trade deadline and the sadness of watching one of our favorites traded away. 

Being die-hard fans requires a huge investment of time, resources and even emotions.  We experience joy, sorrow, elation and even pain.  When we became invested fans and started coming to games regularly we had no idea it would be like this.  Now, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to not have baseball games to go to and enjoy.

We’re going to a game tonight.  It could be great.  Maybe you should be there too.

May 10, 2013

Misery loves company; not

I don’t know what’s worse; the losing or the Angels fans who weigh in on the losing.  I’ve said this before and I will say it again – the old line “Misery loves company” doesn’t hold water with me.  There’s nothing worse than listening to other Angel fans trying to explain what’s wrong with the team, who needs to go, what changes need to be made, etc.   It’s nauseating. 

Look, I understand the need to vent.  I love a good rant every now and then, but if you’re not bringing something new to the table – better to keep it to yourself because chances are we’ve heard it before and that was probably once too many.  Just saying.

I’ve read everything from “Mike Scioscia needs to be fired” to “It’s time to send Josh Hamilton to AAA.”  There’s even the occasional – “Let’s rebuild.  Let’s trade Pujols, Hamilton, Trumbo, etc., etc.”  Some people have even gone so far as to say it’s time to bring in a whole new coaching staff made up of former players form the 2002 World Series team.  I swear I’m not making this stuff up.

There’s a ton of finger pointing going on and a ton of angst for sure.  It’s almost like a feeding frenzy as one crazy idea begets another one.  There’s a lack of common sense in a lot of these rants.  Some fans believe the players don’t care, they’re not giving a 100% and that they’re just going through the motions.


I’m certain they’re even more frustrated than we are.   Nobody likes losing, least of all – professional athletes.  I see plenty of effort; I see comebacks that show plenty of desire even when they fall short.  This team is fighting.  They just happen to be losing the fight, but they’re definitely not giving up.  No way.

Some people have even decided to boycott games.  Good riddance.  Seriously, fair weather fans are showing their true colors.   I’m fine with them leaving until times get better.  Really, I am.  The way I see it, I’d rather not have them in my ear all game anyway and in most cases – the people saying this kind of stuff usually don’t even go to many games anyway.

Some of these people have the misguided impression that they’re being passionate.  Yeah, boycotting your team shows real passion.  Un-huh.

The way I see it, the off season is too long for me and I always look forward to the baseball season.  I know that my team isn’t going to win every year, but that doesn’t stop me from watching.  Its baseball and watching baseball is better than watching anything else on TV as far as I’m concerned.

As for Mike Scioscia – you can count me on the side that’s for him.  That’s right.  I’m not calling for his head.  I like him too much as a manager and as a man.  I appreciate the way he carries himself and even though fans get tired of hearing him say things like “we need to turn the page,” I appreciate his level headed approach to this game of baseball.

Fans aren’t happy that he hasn’t gone off the deep end and kicked a few butts.  Really?  It’s 2013 and Bobby Knight doesn’t coach any more.  I’m not a professional athlete by any means, but the last thing I need when I’m doing poorly is to have someone yelling in my ear.  That doesn’t motivate me in the least and I doubt it motivates most people in life.

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax.  There are more games to be played and more importantly – more for us to watch.  I know it’s hard to watch sometimes.  I really do.  There are times when I feel like I can’t take it anymore, but I get over that feeling by the time the next game rolls around.  I’m tired of the losing, but I would hate to miss a game if given the choice.   And that’s what it’s all about; choice.  What you do with your time and money is certainly up to you.  As for Cheryl and me – we’re still here.

April 24, 2013

Things are getting interesting

Michael Roth will make his first major league start tonight against the Texas Rangers and Yu Darvish.  Darvish is a potential Cy Young Award candidate. Roth is a year removed from pitching in the College World Series (CWS).  It’s a match up that’s tailor made for baseball.

It’s David vs. Goliath.  It’s the stuff that makes baseball compelling.

Some things you should know about Roth… he’s from the University of South Carolina (USC) – where he was the winner of the President’s Award; the most prestigious honor given to a South Carolina student-athlete.  He is also the winner of the 2012 SEC's Boyd McWhorter Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year award as well as 2012 SEC Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.  The kid has talent and brains.

Roth made eight career CWS starts; so he’s used to pressure.  He holds the record for innings pitched in the CWS with 60.1 career innings.  His career ERA in the CWS is 1.49 – 5th lowest among all pitchers who have at least 30 career innings in the CWS.

Roth is one of the best pitchers in USC's and the CWS' history.  He has the pedigree to be a success and I have a feeling he will be up for tonight’s challenge.  In fact, I’m fired up about it because there’s a lot of potential for a great story here.  It’s must-watch stuff in my opinion.

For more details about Roth's career at USC - click HERE.

Speaking of "much-watch-stuff"… last night’s walk off homerun by Howie Kendrick was awesome.  I’m always curious as to why people would leave a tied game going into extra innings.  I mean, when you think about it – from the bottom of the 9th on, there’s that chance you could be a part of something special – like a walk-off homerun, base hit, etc.  Sure, Cheryl and I didn’t a lot of sleep last night, but it was worth it.

Had the Angels lost it probably wouldn’t have been worth it – but that’s the chance we took.  I’m not saying we never leave early – but when the only thing that is standing in our way of watching what could be a great finish is sleep – we say, “Let’s do this!”  

This season has been a tough one so far; so moments like the one last night are extra special.  That’s part of the journey; that’s baseball at its best.  Being there for the experience is what it’s all about.