September 20, 2017

Not your everyday post about Mike Trout

You already know this, but Mike Trout is arguably the best all-around baseball player on the planet.  Ok, make that- universe.  That being said, he’s not Superman. 

Vladimir Guerrero frequently wore a Superman t-shirt under his jersey and in 2004 when he carried the Angels to the post-season he was indeed Superman.  He was a one-man wrecking crew that destroyed opposing pitching and came up with clutch hit after clutch hit in the final month of the season.  It is something Angels fans still talk about today.

Tuesday night – Mike Trout came up in the bottom of the 8th inning with two men on and two outs with an opportunity to put the Angels on top in a key game that had the potential of putting the Angels a half game back of the Minnesota Twins who currently hold the second spot in the wild-card play-off chase. 

He hit the ball hard (110 mph, hard) and for a brief moment, we all thought he delivered.  He hit the ball hard all right - right to the second baseman who threw him out at first.

The stage was set for heroics.  He was the one player you most wanted to see in that situation.  It was disappointing.  Thus are the expectations we have on Trout.  What made it worse?  The following inning Justin Upton led off with a monster homerun.  If only…

Sept. 21 Update: Last night, with the Angels trailing by a run - Trout came to bat in the bottom of the 9th, with no one on base and two outs. He struck out to end the game and the Angels failed again to gain ground on Minnesota who had lost earlier in the day.

Mike Trout has deserved every single accolade he has received to date.  In fact, he probably deserves more than he’s received.  In some ways, he vastly under-rated and under-appreciated.  He is truly an amazing; dare I say, once-in-a-lifetime player. What he has done statistically, especially from a sabermetric view is astounding.  The world, err – universe, has never seen someone as truly remarkable as Mike Trout. Ever. 

Years from now – people will talk about Mike Trout’s statistics.  They’ll talk about his remarkable career from a sabermetric point of view.

The question is – will they remember his heroics?  Will there actually be heroics to remember?  Will there be moments; unforgettable moments, when he delivered the big hit, when the stage was the biggest and lights were the brightest?  Will there be memories of him lifting the team up in the hunt for a play-off berth or delivering a monumental moment in the post-season?

I hope so. 

Here’s the thing – the world is full of athletes who have amazing statistics, but aren’t necessarily memorable.  Think Dan Marino.  Think Charles Barkley. 


I know, I know… we’ve put expectations on Mike Trout that no mere mortal could possibly live up to.  Then again, he has done super-human things at times.  His physical tools are Marvel-comic like.  He brings baseballs back from places that baseball never come back from.  He beats out grounders that defy physics.  He crushes baseballs the way a robot would crush them.

And yet…

He’s not Superman.  There are some players who you know in your heart and feel in your bones are going to deliver when everything is on the line.  Mike Trout hasn’t become that guy that opposing fans fear when he comes to the plate in a key situation.  He’s not David Ortiz or Reggie Jackson.  He’s not even Vlad Guerrero.

The potential for him to be that guy is there, but it hasn’t shown up on the field just yet. He doesn't have that reputation yet.

Now is the time.  There aren’t many games left in the season and the Angels are on the brink.  The train is teetering on the edge of the cliff.  Will he save us?

Don’t misunderstand me.  There isn’t another player in the universe I would rather have on my favorite team.  There isn’t another player in the galaxy I cheer harder for either.  I expect great things. I want great things.  I want to see Trout’s smile when he lifts a World Series trophy above his head.  I want the world to see how amazing he is and that’s not going to happen when games on the west coast aren’t even being watched on the east coast because of the lateness in the hour.

Baseball is a hard game.  Mike Trout makes it look easy most of the time.  No one is probably better prepared or works harder.  We just need to see all of that pay off now.  Today.  And in the next two weeks and hopefully beyond.

I want to look back and talk about Mike Trout’s heroics and not just his statistical prowess.  Sabermetric greatness doesn't do it for me.  I want memories.  Real life baseball memories.  Post-season memories.  I want Superman-like stuff from Mike Trout when it matters most. 

I know Trout can’t do it alone, but I also know the Angels can’t do it without him. 

He's human. We all understand that. Even still - we expect great things.  He's a once-in-a-generation player.  This is the time he has to shine, step up and do what needs to be done.  We are right to expect this - everything he's done to this point, allows us to have those expectations.  I won't apologize for it. 

The cameras are rolling and our eyes are on you, Mike.  I don’t want to blink and find it’s over.  I want to close my eyes and savor the moment.  

September 5, 2017

Thank you, Jered Weaver

Much of the joy of my being an Angels fan has come from watching Jered Weaver pitch.  Jered is far and away my favorite pitcher of all time.  He blessed us all with a great career and so many wonderful memories.

When he announced his retirement on August 16, 2017, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss.  Jered provided us with years full of great memories and moments that not only made us smile, but also inspired us and made us proud.  He was special to us in so many ways and I will miss not seeing him on the mound. 

Cheryl and I were there when Jered made his major league debut on May 27, 2006.  We had actually gone to a Padres game that same day to see former Angel - David Eckstein and the St. Louis Cardinals and drove back in time for his game.  There was no way in the world, we were going to miss his debut.

I had anticipated that day from the moment the Angels drafted him in 2004.  Being a fellow Long Beach State alum – I was thrilled to know that this Dirtbag was going to be pitching for my favorite team.  His debut was one of the most highly anticipated events in my Angels’ fandom.

Jered’s collegiate career was electric.  He went 37-9 over his career and won the Golden Spikes Award in his final year as the top amateur baseball player in America.  He also walked away with the Dick Howser Trophy as the national collegiate baseball player of the year and the Roger Clemens Award as the top pitcher in college baseball.  He dominated the competition and demonstrated passion and a competitive fire that made him a larger-than-life athlete.

On May 27, 2006, he did not disappoint.  He went 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk and no runs while striking out 5.  A hometown hero was born and a fabulous career was launched that day.  He would begin his journey through major league baseball with an impressive 9-0 record and would finish his first year, 11-2, with a 2.56 ERA and a 105 K’s in 123 innings.  He was 5th in the Rookie of the Year voting that year (Justin Verlander won the award).

I remember leaving the stadium that evening and thinking about how lucky and blessed we were to have Jered on our favorite team.  A love-affair was born.  He was all ours and over the course of his career, he would provide us with countless moments of unbridled joy.

One of my early memories of Jered as an Angel took place at a Fan Fest (back in the day when the Angels had these fabulous events).  He walked into an autograph tent; tall, lanky, with long blond hair, sunglasses on and a big smile on his face.  He exuded confidence, but you got a sense that Jered Weaver knew how to have a good time.  It was clear he was loving the opportunity to be with fans.  That day, Cheryl and I affectionately dubbed him “Rock Star.”  He looked every bit the part.

The funny thing about Jered Weaver is that although his collegiate career was legendary – he was always sort of an under-dog.  While he was dominating college baseball players, the experts who anticipated his entrance into pro-baseball never looked at him as an elite pitcher.  I distinctly remember reading about the projections and none of them matched the career he had at Long Beach State.

He was mostly projected as a #3 starter.  Many "experts" were concerned about the way he threw across his body and felt he was destined for injury. It seemed nobody expected much from Jered.

Make no mistake about it – Jered Weaver was an ace.  A true #1 starter for a good chunk of his career.  Never was that more evident than in 2011 and 2012 when he put together back to back years that were truly magnificent.  In 2011, he went 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young voting.  He also had a 7.0 WAR the highest of his career.  In 2012 he won 20 games (against 5 losses) with a 2.81 ERA and third place finish in the Cy Young voting that year.

One of my greatest memories as a baseball fan was the night he threw a no-hitter.  Cheryl and I were there on May 2, 2013 when Weaver blessed us with the only no-hitter we’ve ever seen in person.  To this day, my post about his “no-no” remains one of my favorite blog posts of all time.  Whenever I introduce someone to this blog, I often share that link as their first entre into this space.

Selfishly, I’m going to miss writing about Jered.  I’m going to miss a lot of things about him, but most of all I’m going to miss just watching him pitch.  He was our version of Greg Maddux.  He was an artist, a magician and a precision mechanic all rolled into one.  The way he changed speeds and kept batters off balanced was always fun to watch; especially when his velocity began to dip and he still found ways to get outs and eat up innings.

From 2010 through 2012 he was among the elite pitchers in the American League.  His 233 strike-outs in 2010 lead the league.  Yes, our Jered Weaver once lead the league in strike-outs which makes the fact that he still found a way to get batters out later in his career, despite diminished velocity even more impressive. 

I know very well that “wins” are not a true indicator of how good a pitcher is, but never-the-less Weaver’s 150 major league wins in his career are significant to me.  I knew that every time he took the mound, there was a good chance his team was going to win.  I knew he would do everything he could to keep his team in the game and give them a chance to win.

I will miss his competitive fire and his intensity, but I will also miss the “softer side” of “Weave” as well.  He was always gracious and friendly at spring training.  He always made time for fans, posing for pictures and signing autographs.  He was the consummate professional in every way. 

I will never forget one of his not-so-fine moments as well.  It was June 20, 2009 when he faced off against his brother, Jeff Weaver and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That night, Jered never looked like himself.  Cheryl and I showed up early because we wanted to absorb this sibling rivalry from the get-go.  I vividly remember seeing Jered warming up prior to the game in the outfield and constantly looking over at his brother in right-field doing the same.  It was as if he was hoping to catch his eye and give him a friendly wave, but his brother never looked his way.

I felt like Jered was disappointed, maybe even sad.  I have no way of knowing if that was true, but that was my take.  He looked like the little brother who wanted desperately to get some attention from his older brother, but it just wouldn’t come his way.

He went on to have a horrible game; giving up 6 runs in 5.1 innings, while giving up 10 hits, walking 3 batters in a 6-4 loss.  I felt as if he was psyched out by his brother and the anxiety of going up against Jeff was just too much.  It was the only time I can remember when Jered looked vulnerable as a major league baseball player.

Again, I don’t know Weaver personally, but I’ve been able to gather an impression of him over the years.  That day in 2009 when he faced his brother and my thoughts about what Weaver went through are based in part by something I vividly remember about the 2006 post-season. 

The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series that year and Jeff Weaver played a big part in all of that when he won game 5 against the Detroit Tigers.  The cameras kept finding Jered in the stands, all decked out in Cardinals gear, cheering on his older-brother, looking every bit the part of an adoring younger brother watching his hero.

Jered had just finished his rookie season.  It was refreshing to see Jered just being himself, absorbed in the moment of being at the World Series watching his brother.  Jered didn’t look like a major league star in the making – he just looked like a kid cheering on his hero.  It was just cool.

I think we can take something from the fact that Jered also took the #36 in 2007, a year after his brother was traded to St. Louis.  It was Jeff's number.

As you can see, my memories of Jered Weaver are as varied as the speed of is fastball has been over the years.  Not all of them are related to his on–the-field performance. 

My memories include his public press conference when he signed his five-year $85 million extension.  He could have signed elsewhere for more and when asked about that he simply said,  “How much more do you really need?” And with that he cemented himself as a fan favorite for life.

Yes, we are going to miss Jered Weaver.  He was easy to cheer for and it’s hard to see him walk away.  Luckily, we have memories and good times to reflect on whenever we think about our “Rock Star.”

Thank you, Jered Weaver.  Thank you for giving us everything you had every time you stepped on the mound. Thank you for those moments when you took the time to pose for a picture, give us a smile or a wave or even stop to sign a photo or baseball.  Thank you for being yet another reason why we love baseball and for why we love our Angels. 

September 26, 2016

Missing Jose

On May 9, 2014 Cheryl and I drove down to San Diego’s Petco Park to see the Padres take on the Florida Marlins.  We went specifically to see Jose Fernandez pitch.  My thought was all about the possibility of seeing something amazing. 

Going into that game, Jose had a 1.74 ERA and the Padres’ offense wasn’t setting the world on fire.  I thought… maybe, just maybe we’ll see Jose throw a no-hitter.  Seriously, that was one of the reasons why we made the trip.  It was a hunch and an excuse to see one of the brightest young stars in the game.

I can count on one hand the number of times I made a trip to a ball-park to specifically see a certain player.  As season ticket holders, I know if I’m patient I will eventually see everyone there is to see in the game.  It says a lot that I would make a special trip to see one guy away from Angels stadium.

Jose was that special.

I knew he was a special talent, but even beyond that - I loved the way he played the game.  I love watching players who not only have swagger, but also have a genuine love for the game and play the game with unbridled joy.  Jose was everything good about baseball and we wanted to see him pitch, knowing he was capable of doing something extraordinary any time he stepped on the field.

Unfortunately, Jose didn’t come close to perfection.  In fact, he had one of his worst games of the year. We would learn afterwards that he was sick and battling a high fever along with vomiting.  We would also learn that game would be his last of the year as he would need Tommy John surgery.

Baseball is rarely predictable.  It often shows you the opposite of what you expect. It has a way of making the brightest stars look mortal and even has the ability to elevate role players into the stratosphere when they do something spectacular. 

It was disappointing to see Jose not be all that he was capable of being that day, but we walked away thinking - maybe next time…

Fast forward to Sunday – September 25, 2016 and the news of Jose’s tragic death.  The moment I heard the news, my heart sunk.  I immediately put my hand over my heart.  It was just my natural reaction to horrific news.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  A rush of thoughts came to my mind – the May 9, 2014 game we went to, his infectious smile and zest for the game and thoughts of Nick Adenhart who was also lost to us tragically at a young age.

Jose was the kind of player you want on your team.  Not just because of the talent alone, but because some guys just make you love the game more and he was that kind of guy.  Jose was easy to cheer for and I will miss having the chance to do that ever again.

Mourning the loss of a public figure is different for everyone.  These kinds of tragedies are different from losing someone close to you, but they can be profound never-the-less.  They can certainly make us sad and reflective and they definitely bring life’s priorities into focus.

I can’t stop thinking about Jose Fernandez.  I can’t stop thinking about the joy he brought to those who watched him pitch.  I can’t stop thinking about how special he was.  That word “special” will always be the word I associate with Jose Fernandez. 

Back in 2014, we were reminded that even the great ones are human.  More than two years later – we are reminded that no one is invincible and how brief life can really be.

I am saddened by his death, but grateful that we had the privilege of seeing his talent and personality shine so brightly for the short time he was here.

September 13, 2016

You know you're done when...

I can’t remember wanting a baseball season to end more than this one.  I’m kind of ashamed that I feel this way, but it’s true.  It’s been pure drudgery to watch the Angels this year – even with Mike Trout doing Mike Trout things.  I’m sorry, but I have all but checked out and I wish the season would just end.

I know I’ve checked out when I don’t know who’s scheduled to pitch on any given day.  I know I’m done when I don’t know the name on the back of the uniform and I don’t bother to find out who they are.  I’ve stopped looking at the standings and I only occasionally even look at the box scores. 

I have hated the season early and often.  I have hated the fact the Angels threw good money at the likes of C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton without any ROI.  I hated knowing that the Angels went into the season with question marks in LF, 2B and in the rotation and bullpen.  It aggravates me to think this was the best team they could actually field.

It also makes me anxious to think the Angels are wasting the years they have Mike Trout. It actually makes me a little sick to my stomach.  I could do a whole week of blog posts just on this, but it would probably kill me in the process to think it that much.

I miss baseball.  Not the way I miss baseball when its winter and there isn’t any baseball being played.  I miss Angles baseball that is relevant and meaningful.  I hate waiting for the season to be over because in an ideal world, I never want baseball season to be over.

I’d like to think things will be better next year, but I really don’t know if they will.  This isn’t fun and baseball is supposed to be fun.  It’s supposed to be a nice distraction at its worst and an obsession at its best.  It’s neither of those things now.  It’s this annoying thing that is taking place on a nightly basis and leaves me agitated, grumpy and even worse – somewhat apathetic.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t stopped going to games, but I know for certain I’ve gone to far fewer than in recent years.  And when I do go, I’m not even excited to go. 

It’s sad to think this could be Jered Weaver’s last year.  I hate the idea that his career could end on such a bad team in such a meaningless season. 

I’m tired of the “let’s get rid of Mike Scioscia” talk.  I don’t have any desire to tune into Angels talk or read any message boards because in my case – misery does NOT love company.  I don’t want to gripe and moan my way through the season and I certainly don’t want to hear to read about how horrible things are from fans.  I’d rather just ignore it at this point.

Then again, by posting this blog – I guess I’m adding to the pile.  Sorry.  I’ll stop now.

May 10, 2016

Show Me Something

There’s a bad news epidemic that’s rolling through the Angels and it isn’t taking any prisoners.  It’s kicking the team’s butt and barreling through it like a tidal wave and that’s not to be confused with a title wave.

Every time I check MLB Trade Rumors, tune into MLB network or just open my eyes – I see one awful report after another.  Good grief, somebody please make it stop.

I guess this is what happens when you don’t show any empathy for other teams who go through seasons with devastating injuries to their team.  I guess this is just the way the ball bounces – like an inning ending double play.  Boom.  Just like that.

It’s only May 10 and I’m not prepared to give up on a season.  The idea of a long, losing season just makes me want to… well, it make me want to puke.  I don’t know if I can stomach it. 

I guess there’s two ways the team can respond.  They can either roll-over and play the “Woe is me” card or they can look each other in the eye and say, “Let’s win this thing anyway.”

I really don’t know what they will do or what they’re capable of doing.  Certainly, things don’t look very good on paper, but we all know that games aren’t won on paper. Time will tell what this team is made of and if they can overcome and become something special. 

This is what I do know…  It’s time for Albert Pujols to step up.  In fact, it’s past time.  I don’t know if Father Time has finally caught up with him or if he’s just on cruise control as he coasts towards Coopers Town – but I’ve been more than patient waiting for some semblance of greatness to show up on a consistent basis. 

There was a time when any team that Albert Pujols in its lineup had a chance.  There was a time when Albert wanted to prove to the world that he was in fact the best hitter in baseball.  He had a chip on his shoulder.  He played with an edge and a fierceness that was awesome to watch.

I don’t know if he still has any of that.  I just don’t.  I don’t know the man personally.  I’d like to believe he still has a fire in his belly, but I’d like to believe a lot of things…

Losing isn’t fun.  Watching a team not compete is just plain painful.  I don’t want or need that kind of aggravation.

I’ll be going to the games against the Cardinals and I’ll be watching to see what kind of effort they put forth.  If I don’t see guys battling like they’d rather die than make an out, let alone lose a game – I won’t be happy.  I want to see a team that is out to prove the doubters wrong and to show the rest of baseball that they’re not done.

The great Jim Valvano once gave a great speech about how ordinary people do extra-ordinary things every day.  Well?  It all starts tonight and I’ll be watching.  

April 25, 2016

Way faster than a speeding bullet

I’m not going to do the play justice, but let me post this just the same.

Saturday night, a ball was hit by Kyle Seager of the Seattle Mariners deep in the hole at shortstop.  Now, usually when I watch a game, the game and each play has a certain rhythm and timing to it all; at least that’s normally the case.

On this particular play the ball went into Andrelton Simmons’ glove and .5 seconds later was on its way to first base for what looked like a routine out.  The play was anything but routine.  I don’t know if you realize how fast .5 seconds is, but when a play happens that fast – you think your eyes are playing tricks on you. 

It was as if real-time was on extra, extra fast forward for a split second as the play unfolded.  My eyes were focused in one area, anticipating when the ball should fly out of Simmons’ hand, but the ball was way ahead of my anticipation.  It was like *ping* - ball gone.  It was freaky.  It was cool.  It was magical.

I can’t imagine anyone having faster hands.  It was like Muhammad Ali in his prime, flicking jabs – only faster; much faster.  It was like the best magician in the world doing a slight of hand trick.  I’m surprised I didn’t hear a sonic boom because surely that play happened faster than the speed of sound. 

I can see why Simmons is considered the best defensive player in the game.  With Mike Trout in CF and Simmons at SS, I can’t imagine a better defense up the middle.  This is going to be fun to watch all season long.

April 18, 2016

Caution: Winding Road Ahead

Somewhere out there in the great state of Minnesota, there’s a Twins fan who is writing or has written a post on his or her blog similar to the one I wrote last week about feeling better about their team.  I mean, the Twins were 0-9 prior to facing the Angels and now stand at 3-9.  That’s right, the Angels were swept by the winless Twins.  Swept!

Now, I’m all for creative inspiration, but I have to say – the Angels took this too far.  Are you kidding me?  Is this the kind of roller-coaster season the Angels are going to have?  Each of those three games were winnable.  They had leads.  They should have won each of them.  They didn’t and I’m back in that place I hate.

I’m in anxiety land; the “this-season-reminds-me-of-last-season” place.  Losing sucks.

This is where fear and loathing lives.  I really don’t want to go there.  Not even for a short visit.  I really don’t.  I don’t know if I can take it.  Again, I really don’t.

Baseball is a funny game.  Teams often lose the games they’re supposed to win and win the games they’re supposed to lose.  Match-ups that look like “pitchers’ duals” on paper often turn into Homerun Derbies in real life.  It’s all so unpredictable and this is the beautiful thing about baseball.  It’s also one of the frustrating things about the game.

So, here we go.  Buckle up.  Close your eyes if you have to.  Rub a rabbit’s foot.  Do whatever you need to do.  We’re just getting started Angel fans.  Regardless of where the road takes us; let’s just go-together.  Maybe we’ll have some laughs along the way.  Perhaps we’ll shed a few tears.  Who knows?

It’s baseball, people.  Anything can happen.

April 15, 2016

Winning is Fun... Again

A funny thing happened on the way to the abyss; the Angels made a 180 degree turn and swept the Oakland A’s.  Now, if you know how much I dislike the A’s, you know how happy that makes me.  Sweeping any team is nice, but sweeping the A’s?  Oh, that’s like an extra serving of your favorite dessert. 

I’m just sorry there weren’t more A’s fans at the stadium to see their team get demolished.  In three games the A’s drew a total of 38,079.  They averaged 12,693 a game.  I bet there are garage sales in the area that draw more people than that. 

Now, I’ll admit that the stadium is a giant toilet and all, but seriously?  It’s not like its July and the A’s are already 20 games out of first.  It’s April!  What a franchise.  What a fan base.  Let’s make a movie about this team.  Oh wait…

It’s funny what a little four game winning streak can do.  It allows me to exhale and more importantly allows me to keep my sense of humor in the proper perspective.  Instead of making fun of my favorite team, I get to make fun of my least favorite team.  Win-win, right?

Moving on.

I will be curious to see how the Angels and Mariners series unfolds later this month.  I wonder if there will be any fireworks… (Insert dramatic pause here)… when the two managers exchange lineup cards!  I don’t think Mike Scioscia and Scott Servais exchange Christmas cards and yet, they’ll have to exchange lineup cards tonight.  I wonder if one of the two ex-catchers will try to squeeze the other person’s hand a little harder when they go to shake hands.

Wouldn’t it be funny if Scioscia and Servais got a little heated before the game even started?  Imagine the benches clearing before the first pitch… Of course, that will never happen – but a guy can dream, right?

That’s all I have for now.  Go Angels!

April 7, 2016

How to Rant Like You Mean It

Maybe it’s just me (probably not), but after just two games – 2016 feels a lot like 2015.  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t care much for the 2015 baseball season and the idea of possibly reliving it again just doesn’t sound like much fun.

I know it’s early.  You don’t have to tell me it’s early.  I know what day it is.  Please don’t start.  And I don’t want to hear about patience.  My patience ran out a few years ago.  My expectations have even dwindled a bit.  No, let’s be honest – my expectations are in the toilet.  This isn’t fun.  It’s just not.  No, not even a little bit.  Losing sucks. 

It’s funny – every time I anticipate a game or a series where the Angels could really make a statement – they make the wrong kind of statement.  The first two games against the darlings of baseball, the supposed favorites to win it all and yadda, yadda, yadda – were just demoralizing.

Where do I begin?

First off – hats off to the Cubs.  They lived up to the hype in the first two games, but a word or two of advice.  Don’t start making plans for a parade.  I mean, hasn’t the last 100 years taught you Cub fans anything?  I know you think Joe Maddon is some kind of messiah, but until he actually wins it all – he’s just another manager in my book.  Then again, they'll probably make a movie about him

After all, they made a movie about Billy Beane specifically highlighting the year the Angels won the world series – so what do I know?  Call me a hater.  The shoe probably fits.

If I sound a little grumpy, I guess I’ll need to kick it up a notch because I’m a whole lot of grumpy.  Losing does that.  Losing by a combined score of 15-1 puts me at the troll-who-lives-under-a-bridge-kind-of-grumpy. 

My Dodger friends are loving this.  Hey, they need to have a little fun after not smelling a world series in 28 years.  They deserve to feel a little giddy.  Yay for them.  Rah, stinkin’ rah.  *Yawn.*

I hate it when the Angels fall below .500.  Whenever that happens I start to play that game… you know the game – how many wins in a row do they need to make it back to .500?  I hate that game.  Makes me crazy.

At this point the Angels are on pace to go 0-162.  They’re team ERA is on pace to be 7.50 for the year and they’ll score exactly 81 runs – which will all be driven in my Craig Gentry. 

Relax, I’m just messing around here.

I’m sure I’ll start to feel better the first time Mike Trout launches one into outer space and Huston Street comes in to slam the door shut. 

You might want to stay clear of me until then though.  Don’t worry – I’m not going to kick any puppies or anything.  I’m not that bad just yet.  

Check back with me in a week.  If I don’t post on this blog by then it will be a safe bet that I threw my keyboard against the wall and then for good measure took my monitor and tossed it into an eco-friendly recycle bin.

March 17, 2016

Please Bring Back the Swagger

As I anticipate the start of the 2016 baseball season, one thought prevails above all others.  It rises above the overall success of the team even though it is directly tied to the team doing well.  It’s an emotional thought and one that comes from the very core of my Angels fandom.

I want to see Jered Weaver return to being Jered Weaver. 

Maybe it’s a pipe dream.  Maybe I’m opening myself up for disappointment.  Perhaps I’m fooling myself into believing this is even possible.  Yet, I hope.  Isn’t that what spring is all about; hope?

I admire Jered as much as it is possible for any fan to admire someone they do not know, but has watched for years.  I have lived and died watching Jered do his thing over the years.  I have celebrated every fist pumping end to a climactic inning that he’s been involved in.  I have winced with agony when well intended pitches have left the ball park faster than Jered can throw them.

Jered Weaver has been everything I could hope for in a baseball player.  He’s far and away my favorite pitcher of all time.  No question and without a doubt.

From the moment Jered Weaver stepped on the mound for the Angels, I have been engaged and committed to watching him pitch.  Perhaps it’s because; like me, he went to Long Beach State.  He's a Dirtbag. He’s a throwback.  He’s old school. 

There is a fire in him.  The kind of fire we all want to find within ourselves when the going gets tough or the task seem bigger than ourselves.   He’s the taller, thinner version of every underdog you've ever cheered for; be it,  Rocky, Rudy or whoever.

He’s a lot of things, but he’s also uniquely just Jered.  There isn’t any flash to his game, just swagger.  Oh the swagger.  You have to love the swagger.  He reminds me of the gunslingers you see in the movies.  There’s a little bit of Clint Eastwood in him.  No nonsense.  No messing around. But plenty of attitude of the don’t-mess-with-me kind.  

Jered is what happens when intensity meets coolness and the two join forces.  That’s Jered.  That’s so Jered.

I always felt like everything was going to be okay when Jered took the mound.  I know I wasn’t going to get cheated as a fan because Jered was going to give everything he had to the effort.  No moment was too big.  His confidence inspired me to believe.

And I still believe. 

I’m not writing this as a eulogy.  I’m writing this because I want Jered to be successful as much as any fan can want anything.  I want to see that sneer again.  I want him to walk off the mound pumping his fist and screaming at himself.  I want to yell… “That’s what I’m talking about” again.

I’m not ready to say good-bye.  I’m ready to say hello again and "Hell, yeah - that’s the dude I know! That’s Jered Weaver and he just shut your team down."  I want him to remove all doubt and shoot that look (you know the one) at all the naysayers. 

Make no mistake about it, I want the Angels to win.  I just happen to believe winning will be all the sweeter with Jered being Jered.

If the Angels are lucky enough and good enough to win it all and they happen to do it without Jered, I’ll feel a bit empty.  It’s like any big moment – you want to share it with the people you love.  It would be like the Angels winning in 2002 without Tim Salmon.  Can you imagine?  Of course not.

So, as I prepare for the season that is fast approaching, I keep hoping.  I keep praying.  I keep watching.  Even more than all of that, I have raised my expectations; knowing full well what comes with that.

Let’s do this.

March 8, 2016

Choosing to Believe

I’ve made a decision.  As long as Albert Pujols is able to step on a baseball field, I’m not going to count him out.  I’m just not going to do it.  I don’t care what anyone says or anyone thinks, I will continue to believe that Albert is capable of doing great things.

Everyone knows he had off season foot surgery.  The funny thing (at least to me) about that is that from the moment that was made public; fans, experts, insiders, etc. started to write him off.  They said he wouldn’t be ready for opening day.  They said a lot of things that were made to cast doubt on what kind of season he would have.

Not me.  Never.  No way.

There are some people out there (you know who you are) who will look for any little thing to pile on when it comes to Albert.  These people have an agenda.  I guess they don’t feel like he’s lived up to his expectations and more importantly (for them), his contract.  I get that. 

What I don’t get is the notion that some people think he doesn’t care.  That doesn’t make any sense to me what-so-ever.  There is no way Albert has achieved what he has achieved in his career without caring.  Talent alone doesn’t make you a Hall of Fame candidate.  The great ones are driven.  They play with a chip on their shoulder.  They play with something to prove every time they step on the field.  I believe that.

Albert has said that if he doesn’t feel like he can play at a high enough level, he’ll retire before the end of his contract.  I believe him.  Some of you (again, you know who you are), don’t.  Whatever.

I’m pretty much over the people who have taken it upon themselves to hate on Albert every chance they get.  Hating on certain ball players has become a new favorite pastime for some.  I don’t get that (unless we’re talking A.J. Pierzynski, of course).

I believe Albert always gives his best effort.  I know he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, but I believe some of those things are about circumstance and certainly not about effort.  When I look at Albert, I see a proud man who takes his job very seriously. 

Obviously, I don’t know him personally – but neither do most if not all of you reading this.  We don’t know what he thinks, what motivates him or what’s going on in his life.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and just believe that he’s doing everything he can to be the best player he can be.

His contract is what it is.  Get over it.

So, as the season inches closer – I am looking forward to seeing what Albert will do.  I’m going to root for him.  I’m going to be optimistic and positive.  I’m going to wear his name on my back to games.  I’m even going to expect greatness; yes, greatness. 

I love come-back stories.  I love it when good people prove doubters wrong.  I admire those who do the unexpected.  I champion those who exceed expectations and defy the odds. 

The story is yet to unfold.  I can’t wait to see what happens.  I know I may be disappointed.  Then again, I might not.  Regardless, I’d rather stay positive and expect greatness than be that guy who’s just negative for the sake of being negative, never happy and always looking for the sky to fall. 

That’s just not me. 

Baseball is supposed to be fun and this is what I choose to do as a fan. 

March 6, 2016

Good Baseball Hunting

Something is different.  Usually when pitchers and catchers report, I get a little extra pep in my step.  I usually feel a little more optimistic about everything.  I’m usually in a little bit of a better mood and I’m looking forward.

It’s March and the teams are in full spring training mode. Games are being played and competition is taking place and guess what?  I haven’t even looked at a single box score or searched the internet for any little tidbit of baseball news; at least not to the extent I usually do.

I know Albert Pujols is ahead of schedule in his recovery from off season foot surgery; and although that makes me smile, I’m just not where I usually am at this point in time.

Baseball isn’t taking up much, if any time in my head right now.  I’m guessing as opening day gets closer things will change, but I don’t know for sure.

At a recent chalk talk held for season seat holders with Billy Eppler; the new Angels’ general manager, I heard some things that were encouraging.  First and foremost there is a movement towards a return to Angels baseball, Mike Scioscia style. The Angels are making a point to acquire Scioscia’s type of players; guys who put the ball in play, go first to third and play good defense.  I love that. 

In many ways that news is better than any “big splash” signing the Angels could have made in the off season.

Even still… something is different.

What’s puzzling, is that I can’t tell you why it’s different.  I mean, I’m excited about getting to watch the best player in baseball continue to do amazing things in Mike Trout.  I’m excited about seeing if Jered Weaver can bounce back from a disappointing season and re-emerge as the guy we have always counted on.  I’m just not as excited, I guess.

Is this what happens when your team doesn’t have a certain level of success anymore?  2002 seems like a million years ago.  The run of consecutive division championships seem like a lifetime ago. 

Is it because the team hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years?  I really don’t know.

Maybe it’s because there isn’t a Torii Hunter type of guy who makes me laugh and smile.  Maybe it’s because there isn’t a Joe Saunders, who Cheryl and I were able to connect with on a certain level.  Again, I don’t know.

As I write this – it’s like I’m thinking out loud.  I’m asking questions and feeling certain things and I’m trying to figure out why.

I’m not feeling the anticipation of great baseball to come.  I don’t have any real expectations.  I have hopes for good things, but I am not sure what to expect.  I’m not sure I’m ready for the grind and if the Angels struggle, I’m not sure I’m ready for the negativity that comes from the fan base when that happens.

They say baseball is America’s favorite pastime.  It’s been more than that for me for quite some time.  It’s been an obsession of sorts.  Not so much this year; at least, not so far.

Maybe this is better.  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Maybe something will happen that I didn’t see coming and baseball will be fun again. 

Ah yes, maybe that’s it.  Maybe I’m waiting for baseball to be fun again.  Maybe I need to be around like-minded fans who are all about the Angels.  Our season seat section has shrunk considerably from where it once was when we had so many regulars surrounding us every game.  It’s a sliver of what it was.  I miss that a lot. 

Maybe we can engage whoever will be sitting around us this year.  Maybe we can add on to our “summer family” like the one Jimmy Fallon’s character talked about in the movie “Fever Pitch.” 

One can hope…

September 16, 2015

Are we havng fun yet?

This post is dedicated to my young friend – Evan, who is the son of a long-time friend of mine who happens to be an Angels fan living in the heart of Dodger country in the San Fernando Valley.  Evan recently came to a game and told me how much he liked my blog and then nudged me about my not writing much.

Well, Evan – I have lots to say, but unfortunately, I haven’t had time to say it…  So, this one’s for you.

Here are some thoughts and observations on all things Angels…

The 2015 version of the Los Angeles Angels is one of the most frustrating teams of recent memory.  Sure, there was a time when the Angels didn’t always play meaningful games in September and even though the Angels are doing that – they don’t “feel’ like a play-off team at all.

Yes, there was an all-too-brief period when they looked like world beaters going 17-3 over a 20 game span, but was just a blip in a season of disappointment and anxiety.  It’s so bad, that part of me can’t wait for the season to be over and I never want baseball season to end. 

In true “buttercup fashion” (why do you build me up, just to let me down), the Angels teased me yet again this past weekend by winning the first two games against the Houston Astros before blowing a 3-0 lead with two outs and two strikes in the 9th to lose 5-3.  The loss was devastating.  It was horrific.  And sadly, not all that surprising.

I’ve come to expect the worst of this 2015 team and that’s not fun.  I want to believe they’ll rally and pull out a miracle, but my gut says otherwise.  I can view the baseball world through rose-colored glasses as well as anyone – but not this year. I nearly didn’t buy post-season tickets – but had to succumb to it because with my luck – the Angels would defy me and make the post-season without me and I can’t have that.  That being said, I waited until the last day to make that commitment. 

So… here are some thoughts on this year’s squad and they will be in no particular order…

Fernando Salas is the new Kevin Jepsen.  For the life of me, I don’t understand how in the world Salas can be second in appearances to only Joe Smith.   To date, he’s appeared in 61 games with an ERA of 4.34.  Seems like he comes out of the pen for just about any situation.  Things usually go bad when he comes in with men on base.  I admit, I’m too lazy to look up the stats to verify that – but there must be a reason I roll my eyes every time he comes into a game.

More CP-58, please.  That’s my nickname for Carlos Perez who appears to be the far better option at catcher than Chris Iannetta.  I can’t believe it’s taken nearly a whole season for Mike Scioscia to come to that conclusion.  Perez definitely has more upside and I just feel better when he’s behind the plate and "Joe Base Stealer" is on first.

Better late than never, but come on!  It took C.J. Cron a while to find his way into the everyday lineup, but it finally looks like the Angels have found their DH and some additional pop in their lineup.  Even still – as he started to heat up, it took Scioscia a while to recognize he’s the best option regardless of whether there’s right hander or left hander on the mound.  If only he and his bat had found their way into the lineup from day 1 on – this season might look a lot different.

Let’s see – 3 observations so far and it looks like I’m blasting Mike Scioscia in each of them.  Well, before you Scioscia-haters get to excited – read this…

It’s time for the Angels to give Scioscia the kind of baseball players that fit his style.  The fact that Erick Aybar leads the team in stolen bases with just 11 is a clear indicator to me that the roster is not constructed to fit Scioscia’s style of baseball. 

Stop. I see you out there.  Don’t even go there.  Don’t even tell me it’s up to Scioscia to adopt to the lineup he’s given…  I’m not buying it.  I want a roster that has guys who love to force the issue, guys who put the ball in play instead of looking at strike 3 (more on this in a bit).  Guys who are on a mission to go from first to third whenever possible and constantly put pressure on the defense.

And speaking of defense – I want a roster full of guys who can flat out pick it.  A team that doesn’t require late-in-the-game defensive replacements.  I hate sloppy play and this season has been like one big "sloppy Joe" of a season. 

Now, forgive me as I head into the deep part of the pool to talk a bit about Mike Trout.  No question – he’s the best all-around player in the game and from all indications will be a Hall of Famer one day.  And yet… (Don’t you hate when people do this?)… There are times when he makes me crazy.

I want to turn Trout lose.  I want him to be a little more like Rickey Henderson and a little less like Jim Rice.  Both are hall of famers, but one had the distinction of being a disruptive force.  Teams had to go out of their way to figure out how to keep Henderson off the base paths.  Teams may have “feared” Rice as so many of his advocates will tell you – but Henderson was pure chaos.  He could beat you with his bat and his legs and there usually wasn’t a darn thing you could do about it.

I want teams so focused on Trout when he's on base that they’re not paying as much attention to who is in the batter’s box.  You see, I don’t see anything wrong with putting the best hitter on your team in a position to get the most at-bats.  He’s not only the best hitter, he also has the best chance of getting on base (when he’s no looking at strike 3). 

Yeah, I just went there.

I don’t have any hard data to back this up (remember, I’m lazy), but I can’t stand watching Trout take strike 3 in big situations or any situation for that matter and it appears to me that this happens all too often.  Swing the bat!  For the love of baseball, swing the bat!

I’m not here to tell Mike Trout how to play baseball – but someone please explain to me why he almost always looks at the first pitch.  I think it was very telling when he was mic’d up at the all-star game and came back from an at bat and said, “I really wanted to swing at the first pitch, but couldn’t pull the trigger.” 

What is going on in his head?  This started out as being a not-so-big deal, but I think it has gone a tad bit out of hand.  I know he recognized this and worked on it in spring training, but he’s back to falling behind in the count early and often. 

Look, I count my lucky stars every day that I get to watch Trout play on my favorite team.  I know I’m blessed and beyond thankful, but that doesn’t mean, I can’t nitpick just a bit.

I’m selfish.  I want Trout to dominate the highlight reel every night.  I want people around the country to get sick and tired about hearing how great he is.  I don’t want to hear how Josh Donaldson is the front-runner for the MVP award.  Heck, no – that’s not going to do anything for the Trout Legacy.  I want total domination.  I don’t want it to even be close. 

I want Trout to go 40/40.  Heck, 40/60+ would be even better.  I want opposing fans to think that every time Trout is on base – he’s destined to score.  I want Dan Patrick saying, “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”  I want to people paying tribute to the late Stuart Scott and give us a “boo-ya” every time Trout does something great.

I don’t think I’m asking for the impossible.  Mike Trout was born for greatness. Time to put him in a position to be just that.

And now on to more observations and comments…

Johnny G. – get well soon, but when you’re ready, please forgive me for wanting a better option at second base.  I get the fans’ appreciation of “Johnny Baseball” as Roger Lodge affectionately refers to him, but I miss Howie Kendrick.  Yes, I know he had that deer-in-the-headlights effect in the post season, but his bat and defense were a solid part of the Angels and both have been greatly missed in 2015.  How about we bring him back in 2016?

Sorry Grant Green and Taylor Featherston – but your upside isn’t close to what Kendrick brought to the table.

I’m not certain that Featherston was worth a Rule V pick.  Having him on the roster all year has definitely limited the team’s options in my opinion.  I hope I’m wrong about that (I know he’s finally starting to hit with regular playing time), but I won’t be surprised if this becomes a regrettable move.

Erick Aybar – you will always be Gilligan to me.  Pujols’ little buddy – still has the propensity to do something great one moment and something absolutely unfathomable the next.  I continue to question his baseball IQ and the thought process he uses to make decisions on the field.  No doubt the talent is there – but the decision process doesn’t quite match the ability.

I wouldn’t be terribly upset if the Angels found another option at SS.  I might one day regret that statement, but I’ll take my chances for now.

Ever been at the game and heard a group of fans in the upper level yelling “Cal-hooooun” (think Ya-hoooo) whenever he comes to bat?  That’s a small group of dedicated fans who are in the Kole Calhoun admiration society.  Is there a harder worker baseball player than Calhoun? That was a rhetorical question because of course, there isn’t. 

Any baseball fan that doesn’t love Calhoun simply has issues and needs professional help.  Calhoun is the prototypical Scioscia player.  He may not be the fastest guy on the planet, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in effort.  He gets to balls in the outfield that mere mortals never come close to.  He’s the consummate teammate and openly celebrates the success of his teammates.  He smiles.  He has fun.  It’s clear he loves to play the game and fans like me – can’t get enough.

One thing I’ve had enough of is the revolving door in left field.  We’ve seen a plethora of guys trotted out there over the years.  Everyone from Juan Rivera to Vernon Wells to gulp… Matt Joyce.  I had high hopes for Matt Joyce, but that move just turned out to be ugly all the way around.  It reminded of the season Scioscia kept trotting Steve Finley out to center field despite his not being able to hit his weight. 

The guys the Angels brought in mid-season – David Murphy and David DeJesus haven’t exactly worked out great either.  Murphy has had his moments and is adequate, but he’s not necessarily the kind of guy you want batting in the middle of your lineup.

The depth of the batting lineup has hurt the Angels all year long and when David Freese went on the DL, it was really magnified.  I like Freese’s presence in the lineup and his post season experience is a huge plus.  Then again… am I really talking post season?

Freese also happens to be a free agent after this year and I hope the Angels bring him back.  The pickings are slim for 3B and he’s solid enough.  I’m not sure Kaleb Cowart or any of the other Angel farm hands are ready to assume that position just yet.

The guys who have tried to fill Troy Glaus’ shoes since he departed in 2004 include Chone Figgins, Dallas McPherson, Maicer Izturis, Edgardo Alfonzo, Shane Hillenbrand, Robb Quinlan, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Nelson, and Freese.  It’s been a revolving door and I’ll keep Freese, thank you very much.

And then there’s the pitching.  Truth be known, I’ve had a hard time adopting C.J. Wilson as an Angel.  I still think of him as a mouthy Texas Ranger from back in the day.  It’s like when the Lakers signed Karl Malone.  Are you kidding me?  I’m supposed to now cheer for a guy I hated because he changed uniforms?  I have a lot of issues with Wilson.  Perhaps I’ll get into another time, but quite frankly – I can’t wait to see him move on.

I liked the additions of Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, but I like the idea of adding someone like David Price in 2016 even more.  Heaney has been pretty good at times, but I’m not sure he was worth losing Howie Kendrick.  I’m not going to bag on either guy, but they aren’t the kind of guys a team wins pennants with at this point in their careers.  The Angels had to count on them a little too much, in my opinion.

I think we all counted on Garrett Richards a little more than we should have.  We expected him to return to is pre-injury form and it didn’t happen.  He’s pitched well, but not at the one-of-the-five-best-in-the-American-League well.  It was unfair of us to think he was going to be that good after returning.  He’s still a solid pitcher and I expect him to be just as good or better next year.

Hector Santiago was an all-star this year.  Go figure.  The guy struggles to go more than five innings and he’s picked to play in the mid-season classic.  I’m happy for him and I like the guy a great deal, but he just doesn’t give the team enough innings.  Every time he takes the mound – you know the bullpen is going to get some work.  He’s fine as a fifth starter, but the Angels asked him to be more than that.

Ok, so I saved Jered Weaver for last.  If you’re looking for me to blast the Dirtbag in anyway, you’re going to be disappointed.  Yes, Weaver slipped a lot in 2015 and he wasn’t as effective as he needed to be, but I refuse to blast the guy in any way.  Weaver will be done when Weaver decides he’s done as far as I’m concerned.  I have too much admiration and respect for a guy who has given Angel fans so much to be thankful for. 

Jered Weaver is always going to hold a special place in my heart.  Watching him throw a no-hitter was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in baseball.  And even though he hasn’t pitched like himself this year – there were games when he was as good as he ever was and his defense let him down.  That wasn’t always the case – but it happened more than it should have.

Call me a Weaver apologist.  I admit it. 

Now, about that bullpen…

I already touched on my disdain (for lack of a better word) for Salas.  I don’t have a lot of issues with the rest of the pen, but I wish Mike Morin was used more.  He was pretty good last year and I thought he should have made more appearances this year.

I keep waiting for Cam Bedrosian to be the pitcher everyone thinks he can be.  The guy throws hard, but he hasn’t been able to harness control of all his pitches.  He makes me nervous… like Kevin-Jepsen-nervous every time he comes in a game. 

I don’t have much to say about the rest of the pen, except to say – they weren’t the issue this year.  I’m happy to have Huston Street – even after he blew that 3-0 lead Sunday… Stuff like that just happens. Even Troy Percival blew ten saves one season.

Now about those “ten things” I mentioned in an earlier post (something else Evan wanted an update on)….

Cheryl and I made it to a Nationals game at Petco Park. The night we went Harper didn’t homer, but had homered the night before and would again the night after.  Go figure.  It was nice to see the young star in person never-the-less.  We almost had one of his foul balls when one landed near us – but it wasn’t in the cards.

When the Dodgers came to town – so did their fans… in mass.  It was not fun and Cheryl and I didn’t even go to the last game of the series.  We had enough from the previous two nights.  I just hate it when Angel fans disappear for the free-way series. 

We only made it to one Padre game – the schedules just didn’t match up right for us.  When the Padres were home – the Angels we usually home too. Maybe next year… but then again – that team didn’t turn out to be nearly as entertaining as anyone had hoped.

We got to see Troy Tulowitzki more than we thought after his trade to Toronto.  I made an effort to get his autograph one home game – getting there early, etc. – but it was to no avail.  I didn’t have it in me to do more than one long day at the stadium.  Maybe next year.

No Evan Longoria autograph either… I just didn’t make an effort.  Joe Saunders left the Mariners and never saw the major league roster, A.J. Pierzynski was off my radar all year (hooray!) and it continues to be an absolute joy to watch Mike Trout day in and day out.  Regarding Saunders – I fear he may be done as a major leaguer, but we’ll see.  Lefties have a way of sticking around…

As I attempt to finish off this post, it’s Tuesday night and the Angels are losing to Seattle 3-1 in the 7th and David Murphy has homered for the second night in a row.  I guess he’s trying to make me look bad after my comments in this post.  He’s been the lead-off hitter the last two games and you know how I feel about that. 

Trout just struck out swinging in the 8th to make the third out with two men on… Ugh.

Anyway – the season seems to be slipping away.  Texas is in first place and that makes me want to puke.  I don’t have a lot of animosity for the Houston Astros, but I don’t care for Texas at all… not quite as much as I hate the stinkin’ A’s – but they’re high on my list just the same.  It’s bad enough that the Angels have been horrible.  Texas surging at the end of the season just makes it worse. 

This season is fast becoming a real downer.  Wait, I take that back… it hasn’t been fast.  It’s more like a slow, agonizing, and painful experience.  That being said, when it’s over – I’ll still miss it because it’s still baseball.

That’s all I have for now.  I will definitely make an effort to write more – even as we head into the off season.  I have lots of topics rolling around in my head – it’s just a matter of sitting down and pounding them out.

Thanks to Evan for the nudge – I felt pretty guilty about letting down anyone who is kind enough to actually take the time to check in on this blog.