September 30, 2009

Fanning the Globe in Red

2002 changed everything. Not only did it put the Angels on the map as World Champions, it also changed the dynamic of attendance. For a franchise that had consistently drawn more than 2 million fans a year – a new standard would be set with more than 3 million fans a season now flocking to Angels Stadium.

Now, I know there are people out there who will claim that this is when most people jumped on the Angels band wagon. Well, I can offer up a different perspective based on my own personal experience.

I’ve been going to Angel games since the late 60’s. Over the years I would probably go to about 10 games a year. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

When the Angels won it all in 2002, I knew the days of walking up to the box office the day of the game to get a good seat were basically over.

So in 2003 Cheryl and I, along with our friends Ken and Kim bought a 20 game mini plan. As luck would have it 2003 wasn’t a particularly good season (77-85) and the Angels failed to make the play-offs.

Then Vlad happened.

In the off season prior to 2004, the Angels signed Vladimir Guerrero to a five year (plus an option year) deal. The moment that happened, I knew a mini-plan wasn’t going to be enough and ticket demand would go through the roof. Plus -- having bought tickets (from brokers) for both the fifth game of the ALCS and the seventh game of the World Series in 2002 (for the price of what I could have probably bought season tickets for) was enough to convince us it was time to buy season tickets.

So again, Cheryl and I along with our friends bought season seats. Now, instead of 10 or so games a year or even 20 games a year – Cheryl and I now attend more than (gulp) 70 home games a year.

Take our story (and others like it) and multiply it several times and this dispels the notion that the Angels fan base is “full” of bandwagon fans. By the way, did attendance at Dodger stadium go up when Manny arrived? I’m not judging, I’m just asking…

That being said, I do believe that 2002 did bring some new fans to the table and quite frankly, I’m fine with that. I love seeing the stadium packed or nearly full on a nightly basis. Looking at a stadium covered in red shirts sure beats the heck out of an empty stadium. Looking at the stands at… well… let’s say Oakland-- is pretty depressing. I think a Partridge Family reunion concert with Danny Bonaduce instead of David Cassidy as the lead singer would draw more people than the A’s.

Plus if “new” fans are bringing kids along, some of them will grow up to be Angel fans. It’s all good. In fact, I actually love the idea that 2002 gave birth to new Angel fans all over the country. To think that a kid in Fish Haven, Idaho or Encino, California or any number of cities across the country is wearing an Angels hat because of their exposure to the 2002 World Series is pretty cool. It’s great that his or her favorite player became Troy Glaus and they’re now a big fan of Torii Hunter. Again, it’s all good. I want the Angels to expand the brand to every market and increase revenues!

Every so often, I’ll hear a fan say, “I hate all these band wagon fans… I remember when I could walk up and buy a ticket and sit right behind the dugout...” I don’t get that. Are those people so selfish that they’d rather have better ticket options than a stadium full of screaming fans? I'd rather have the stadium so loud, it drowns those people out.

I don’t care if you don’t know who the manager was before Mike Scioscia (Terry Collins). I’m not going to ask you if you know what Kendry Morales’ OPS is (.917) or even if you know what OPS stands for (on base percentage plus slugging percentage which is essentially a measurement of the player's ability to hit the ball).

I’m not going to ask you where you were in 1994 (the strike year) when the Angels were 46-68. All I ask is that you cheer loudly for the Angels, boo Ian Kinsler, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, anyone wearing an A’s uniform (except Adam Kennedy) and of course - A.J. Pierzynski. Speaking of A.J. – if he ever has a son that grows up to play in the major leagues, I’ll expect you to boo him too.

September 28, 2009

Cue the band... Kool & the Gang - The Celebration is on!

I find it most appropriate that on Monday night the Angels went head to head with the team that's been on their tail for much of the season - the Texas Rangers (who actually lead the west early on).

You see, the Rangers did a bit of trash talking back in May when they swept the Angels.

From the LA Times:

Texas had completed a three-game sweep of the Angels on May 18 to take a 4 1/2 -game division lead, and in a clip that was replayed numerous times on ESPN, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, as he high-fived teammates, could be seen mouthing the words, "Get the (bleep) off our field!"

"We noticed that, for sure, but nothing needed to be said," Angels pitcher John Lackey said. "We try to fly flags; we don't talk. Let them do that. We win games."

Game on!

Well, it's time to hang another Western Division Championship banner in Anaheim. As the Angels dominated the Rangers 11-0 Monday night to clinch their third division title in a row. It was beautiful. It was even poetic, as Ian Kinsler made the final out.

Then the celebration began...

In a season that has had the tragedy of Nick Adenhart's death at its core, it was great to see some joy on the field.

After all the team has been through, winning the west was awesome. For the fifth time in six years the Angels out classed the rest of the field. Is this fun or what?

I know the Red Sox loom big on the horizon. That's okay because we are not afraid. It's time to show some True Grich. Challenges are a blessing. Let's welcome the drama and embrace the intensity. This is what baseball is all about.

Regardless of the outcome, this season will be memorable and I thank God Cheryl and I are able to share in the experience together.

Let's do this. Can I get a BOB-BAY!?

September 27, 2009

There's no business like shoe business

It's a good thing I don't believe in jinxes. Otherwise, I might think the debut of this blog had something to do with the Angels losing the first two games of their series with the hated A's. My wife Cheryl even asked me if my blog would some how jinx the Angels chances.

Again, I don't believe in jinxes (Cheryl doesn't really either). Never mind that the Angels lost in two of the worst ways possible; getting shut out on Friday night and then blowing a seven run lead on Saturday. Never mind that the Angels just lost four games in a row for the first time all season. It ain't the blog's fault.

It's all about the shoes. Yeah, that's right - it's those stinkin' white shoes the A's wear. When Brad Ziegler came into the game yesterday, I got a glare headache. Those shoes were ""Ross glow-in-the-dark teeth white AND... they were HUGE. I mean, I know Trevor Bell is related to Bozo the clown, but Ziegler has Bozo's feet. Cheryl asked me if he was wearing ski's. The Angels had no chance of yet another comeback looking at those things. I think Ziegler wore a path in the outfield grass on his way to the mound from the bull pen. The ground's crew had to work over time to repair the damage after the game. Fellow 514 Fanatics Ann and Linda know what I'm talking about.

The way I see it, the white shoes must impair the vision of any opponent playing them - especially at night, at least last night and Friday night. I think they should be banned from baseball. Those stinkin' A's always find a way to ruin my day.

Okay, so the Angels aren't going to clinch the AL West this weekend. Not to worry because I am not afraid. After all, Bobby Grich wouldn't be afraid. In fact, I guarantee the Angels will win today! How's that for looking at a jinx straight in the eye and spittin' in its face?

Joe Saunders takes the mound today and Joe just happens to be Cheryl's and my favorite pitcher. Joe won't let us down.

You see we have a little history with Joe. When Joe made his major league debut, we followed him around (from the stands, of course), taking pictures of him warming up on the field and in the bull pen. We took pictures of him during the game, capturing his strike out totals, stats on the scoreboard, etc.

The following spring training, Cheryl and I presented him with a little album from his first game. Joe was touched - he seemed sincerely surprised anyone would do this and he was very appreciative. Through that we've created a little bond. A good ol' fashioned player/fan bond. He knows us enough to recognize us whenever he sees us and we think that's fun.

A couple Saturday's ago we met his wife Shanel who was a part of the pet-adoption event held at the stadium. When we introduced ourselves, she said "you're the couple that made Joe that album!" Again, pretty fun.

Where am I going with all this?

Cheryl and I believe in Joe. Who's the guy who beat probable 2009 Cy Young award winner - Zack Greinke 1-0, while throwing his first complete game shut out? That's right - it was Joe. He's going to get the job done today. The Angels need a win today and Joe is going to deliver one. Guaranteed.

We don't need a rabbit's foot. We don't need a four leaf clover. We have Joe.

September 25, 2009

They're not so Athletic after all...

I hate the Oakland A's. I despise them. Yes, I even loath them.

Disclaimer: I realize that my hatred is not always rational and often times is based on my biased perception of how the A's do things and not necessarily how they actually do them. Whenever I rant about them, I might even exaggerate some things to make a point. Never-the-less, I am quite passionate about my utter disdain for them.

You see, I hate everything about the A's.

I hate their boring, stiff offense. They'd rather take a walk than hit their way on base (Go ahead, look at strike 3!). They don't appreciate the fundamentals of baseball and being aggressive on the bases is a sin to them (and no, Rajai Davis doesn't change things). They look down on the sacrifice bunt and their "hitters" refuse to expand their strike zone when they have runners in scoring position. Their mantra is "thou shalt not drive in a run with thy bat."

I believe their general manager is the most over-rated executive in baseball (maybe in all of the business world, for that matter) and it's appalling to me that Hollywood would even consider making a movie about Billy Beane. Word was Brad Pitt was going to play Beane. That's bad casting if you ask me. I think Jack Black would be a better choice.

I hate that the A's are touted as some sort of "small market" miracle, while a team like the Minnesota Twins has been largely ignored - even though they're more successful. The real miracle is that they haven't quite achieved Montreal Expo status just yet.

I hate their arm pit of a stadium. I hate that you could probably park the Queen Mary in foul territory there. Hmmm. No wonder they don't swing the bat much. They'd probably pop out in foul territory. I do find it oh-so-funny that the stadium was named after an anti-virus product (McAfee) - even though the place still looks like a germ infested play ground. They don't even have the good sense to get out of Oakland. I don't think they know the way to San Jose.

I hate A's fans. Well, maybe not all of them, but the ones that act like Moneyball Zealots/Billy Beane Wanna-Be's and think they're the be all to end all in fandom. They even have their own language... UZR anyone? Huh? Is that an assault rifle? I even hate the flag waving fans in their outfield seats (unless they're waving white ones). It's nothing personal. I haven't really met many in person, but I'm sure they kick their dogs and cheat on their taxes.

My hatred is deep rooted.

Disclaimer 2: Maybe my disdain has something to do with being at a game on July 4, 1971 when Vida Blue pitched a complete game to beat my Angels 2-1.

I hate that Carney Lansford began his career as an Angel and spent the majority of his productive years in Oakland. I hate that Joe Rudi had his best years in Oakland and then became an Angel. I hate that players like Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Nick Swisher end up being Yankees. This goes way back for me. Even guys like Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson and Jim "Catfish" Hunter became Yankees. Let's face it, the Oakland A's serve as a farm team that feeds their players to other major league teams. I've heard that the A's fans favorite pastime these days is making up teams of former A's and realizing how good they could have been.

I really hate it when ex-Angels become A's. Orlando Cabrera - you're dead to me. While I'm happy that former Angel Adam Kennedy is having a nice season, I despise the fact that he's doing so in an A's uniform. I'll cut AK a little slack because without him there wouldn't have been 2002. Speaking of their uniforms - I hate them too. Didn't the Robinson family wear those in "Lost in Space?"

I do love it when the Angels beat them and especially when they finish higher than them in the American League West - which has been a great trend lately. Soon to be five titles in six years.

Speaking of which...

I really love the idea that the Angels will most likely clinch the American League West this weekend while playing the A's. I love it so much that I chose this time to launch this blog (True Grich) now.

I hate the A's and you should too! After all, what's a rivalry without a little hatred?