September 27, 2018

Nothing but Respect for Mike Scioscia



As the 2018 baseball season winds down, I’m filled with disappointment, a twinge of sadness and a bit of uncertainty about the future of Angels’ baseball.  It’s been one of those seasons in a decade full of “one of those seasons” where things just didn’t go as I had hoped for my favorite team. 

What looms as the biggest question mark for me is who will manage the Angels in 2019?

It appears to me; at least from I read and hear, this will most likely be the last season Mike Scioscia manages the Angels.  Some find great joy in that while a few of us, are saddened by the possibility of a future without “Sosh” managing our favorite team.

If you don't like Scioscia for whatever reason - I can respect that.  You're entitled, obviously.  If you are anxious for a change - I can appreciate that.  It's a perfectly logical point of view.  I just happen to be fine with Scioscia as a manager.  I happen to think he does very well with the talent he's given each year.  Last year the team had no business competing and yet it did for most of the year.  You can disagree... that's fine. 

Love him. Hate him.  I don't really care.  I won't apologize for being a Scioscia fan.  And when he's gone - I'll move on - but I will do so with great appreciation for what he's accomplished in my lifetime as an Angel fan.  Angels baseball has been a part of my life ever since I can remember and the Scioscia years have been the best of them for me.  I have great admiration and gratitude for him because of it.

I have loved the fact that he's the longest tenured manager with one club in all of baseball and one of the longest tenured managers of any team in any sport.  As a fan, I’ve taken pride in that.  Having that consistency has been great, IMO.

I just want to say, I admire MIke Scioscia - the man.  I think he is an individual of high integrity and I am grateful that he has managed the Angels for the past 19 years.  That’s where it all starts for me.  I respect the man as a leader and public figure.  He’s been the face of Angels baseball and for good reason.

I love the fact he doesn't seek the spotlight.  He lets his coaches take the opportunity to interview on camera (i.e. when the team has been on national TV and do live interviews in the dugout - it's always been someone other than Scioscia doing them, unlike other teams). 

He's humble. He's smart.  To some, he comes across as boring - but if you've ever seen him at spring training out on the practice fields – you’d see, he's funny, engaging and a tremendous leader.

Look, I've been as disappointed as anyone that the Angels haven't returned to the World Series. Winning it all is hard; harder than most people think.  Yes, there were lots of woulda, coulda and shoulda's to go around over the years and 2005 was especially painful.  I just don't believe the lack of championships is Scioscia's fault.  It's the organization's fault.  Scioscia may share in the blame - but for me it's not really about blame - it's about what did or didn't happen and there's a difference. 

Face it - only one team gets to be the champion and the best team doesn’t always end up there.  Luck definitely plays a role.  It's hard to grasp that - but it's true.  We don't like to admit it - but it's true.  Lots of things have to go right before a team can win it all and they definitely need a little luck along the way.

That being said, I think the Angels have been lucky to have Scioscia all these years.  By all rights, he should have been managing the Dodgers, but their poor choices ended up being a blessing for us Angel fans.

I don’t know if the Angels would have won a world series if it wasn’t for Scioscia.  He deserves much of the credit for turning a franchise that wasn’t taken very seriously into a team that was relevant, fun to watch and had a great run in the AL West.  His philosophy and his attitude reached every level of the organization.  He gave the franchise an identity and to some degree even a bit of a swagger.

He set new expectations and that more than anything changed Angels baseball. 

I will always be grateful for the leadership he provided to this team.  I will never forget how he guided the team through the tragic loss of Nick Adenhart; always keeping the focus on Nick’s family and not the team.

He has always exemplified what a leader should be. 

I just respect the man so very much.  I don’t like it much when people disrespect him because most, if not all of the people doing the disrespecting couldn’t hold a candle to who Mike Scioscia is as a person of integrity. 

I wish Scioscia all the best in whatever he does and wherever he goes next.  Most of all, I thank him for 19 great years which include the amazing 2002 world series championship and several exciting years of AL West titles.  I don’t know if this franchise will ever get back to that level – but I am grateful that we had the run we did.  From a fan’s point of view, it was a heck of a lot of fun.


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. 

Fair?

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.