May 24, 2010

Life in full focus

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Watching the Angels has been almost comical at times and yet very sad at the same time. They continue to find ways to lose winnable games and they’re not getting the job done.

I’m frustrated not just because they’re losing, but also because of the way they lose games. Their defense remains suspect; and their bull pen can’t seem to hold leads. I’ve already said just about everything I can say…

And yet part of me doesn’t really care all that much. Why? Let’s just say life has a way of slapping you in the face some times.

My father-in-law (Charles) has been battling a rare form of cancer and up until recently that battle could best be described as a draw. The last few days have been difficult ones and tonight neither Cheryl nor I are at the stadium. It’s the first home game I’ve missed all year.

Now I know you didn’t navigate your way to this blog to read about such things and even though this battle has been going on since before spring training, I’ve kept it out of the blog until now. I only mention it because there are people out there who might wonder why the blogging has lagged.

So here I am. Writing is somewhat therapeutic for me and I thought I should at least attempt to blog just a little. I’m not ready to talk about this beyond this brief note; however, I will say that through it all, Charles still tries to stay on top of what’s going on with the Angels. I only wish I had better news to give him on a regular basis.

In case you’re wondering, I’m wearing my Joe Saunders shirt tonight. It feels good to have his name on my back again and I’m confident he’s turned the corner. As I type this, he’s trailing 2-0 in the 5th inning.

I will take a moment to say that Mike Napoli wins last week’s True Grich Award. I don’t have the stats to share with you; but suffice it to say, he’s in a nice groove right now.

That’s it. That’s all I have for you now.

I’m signing off now to be with Charles and the family. I will be back talking Angels baseball at some point; just not sure when.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 21, 2010

Is it safe to open my eyes yet?

Last time I checked the Angels had nearly blown all of their 6-1 lead and it was 6-5 Angels with Brian Fuentes coming in to face the White Sox in the bottom of the 9th.

So, I have to ask… Is it safe to open my eyes yet?

Cue the music…

“I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust, and you know it don’t come easy."

That about says it all.

Meanwhile, I tuned in yesterday just in time to see Erick Aybar steal second base and then turn around and get thrown out trying to steal third base. For those of you keeping score at home, Aybar has stolen six bases and has been caught five times; which goes right along with his career averages (including his minor league stats). He’s not getting any better folks. Let’s just say he’s never going to be confused with Rickey Henderson and leave it at that.

I know what you’re thinking… didn’t the Angels just win two in a row?

Why yes, they did and I’m quite happy about it. It’s just that nothing comes easy for this team and they continue to be hard to watch. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop watching, but you’ll have to understand if I watch from behind the fingers in front of my eyes, won’t you?

It’s like watching one of those bad horror movies where the people decide to go into the house where the blood curdling scream just came from. You know what’s coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Common sense tells you they shouldn't be going into the house/bring in Brian Fuentes... Just saying. Now I know it's in the team's best interest to have Fuentes succeed; however, he just makes me as nervous as chiuaua.

The Angels head to St. Louis this weekend to face the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend and I’m looking forward to the series. It will be odd seeing a Cardinals team void of any ex-Angels for a change. I mean we’ve seen Jim Edmonds, Adam Kennedy, Troy Glaus, Scott Speizio, Troy Percival, David Eckstein and others I may be missing dawning the Cardinals logo in recent years.
One guy I wouldn’t seeing switch from a Cardinals logo to the Angels’ one is Yadier Molina. I just love watching him do his thing behind the plate. He’s a great defensive catcher; in fact, he may be the best in the game. I don’t mind telling you that I covet him for the Angels in the worst way – even though I know that’s not likely to ever happen. A boy can dream, right?

I just hope Erick Aybar doesn’t get any bright ideas about trying to run on Molina. He’s thrown out eleven runners so far while only allowing six stolen bases. So… runners beware.

Hopefully one day the Angels will complete the set and sign Molina some how, some way. Then, Cheryl and I can break out our “Thou shalt not steal on the Molina brothers" t-shirts again. We had these made when Bengie and Jose were Angels. Cheryl was even stopped during one game by Bengie’s wife, who asked where she got the shirt? One thing leads to another and we made some for the whole family…

I remember when we gave the shirt to Jose – he looked, smiled and said, “That’s right!”

Funny story about Jose – one of the 514 Fanatics – Kim (who is infamous for the unique way she helps start Angel rallies) tried to tell us there was a fourth Molina brother. When Cheryl asked him if that was true, he said, “Well, you never know with our dad – I will have to ask him.”

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah, Angels vs. Cardinals. Let’s hope the Angels pitching staff can contain Albert Pujols over the weekend. The thought of Brian Fuentes coming in with a slim lead and Pujols batting with men on base might give me nightmares. I wonder how far Pujols could hit a softly tossed Fuentes fast ball. I shudder. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

Interesting pitching match ups are on tap. Tonight Joel Pineiro goes against his old team and Sunday is going to be a potential pitching duel between aces Jered Weaver and Chris Carpenter. I’m looking for Weaver to rebound big from his last start.

Oh yeah, I skipped Saturday. That one has Scott Kazmir and Kyle Lohse going at it. Both are below .500 thus far… you might want to stock up on the munchies for that game as it could be a long one. Just saying.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 19, 2010

Two steps forward, one step back (or is it the other way around?)

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; 2002 really changed everything. By winning a World Series, the Angels effectively raised the level of my expectations forever. Barring a change in ownership and/or the manager - my expectation (at the minimum) is for a Western Division title every year. In my mind, losing is no longer acceptable and certainly not expected.

In the years following 2002 (other than the hangover year of 2003) the Angels did things that grew my optimism to the point of supreme confidence. Five division championships in six years will do that. You could say that I have been drinking the Angels kool-aid for quite a while now and I know my bias is severe. In fact, I don’t even bother trying to hide it. Even in 2006 (when the Angels failed to make the play-offs) I believed with all my heart that the Angels would find a way to win the west. That’s simply my expectation every year now.

So, where am I going with all of this?

This season has been hard to watch. My confidence is fading and my optimism is being tested. I tried to dismiss the early season struggles and kept repeating the “it’s early” mantra over and over again. I saw a glimmer of hope when the Angels swept the hated A’s this past weekend.

I began to believe the Angels had turned the corner and I could get back to enjoying the winning ways of Angels baseball. Then the Texas Rangers happened and it hit me… I’m no longer confident when I watch this team. Instead, I’m just anxious.

I’m anxious when I watch Brandon Wood come to bat. I get an uneasy feeling in my stomach when balls are hit to the corner outfield positions. I find myself wanting to close my eyes quite a bit. When they get down early, I feel pessimistic and become frustrated in the thought that it’s going to be another long game.

I’m not used to this and it’s just not fun.

Let’s face it; this team is not playing “Angels baseball.” They’re not nearly as aggressive on the bases as we’re accustomed to seeing them be. They’re not stealing bases and they’re not doing the things that put pressure on defenses. To compound matters their defense has been suspect (24th in the major leagues with a .981 fielding percentage) and their pitching has been inconsistent (25th in the major leagues with a 4.72 ERA). They’re not manufacturing runs and seem to make mental errors on a regular basis.

I keep expecting things to change, but every time they take one step forward, they follow up by taking two steps back. I don’t know what it will take to turn things around. Is it a change in mindset or personnel? All know is this team has flaws and those imperfections are being exposed on a regular basis.

The corner outfield positions are slow and un-athletic. In fact the overall team speed is lacking. Kendry Morales, Hideki Matsui, Juan Rivera, Mike Napoli and even Bobby Abreu are slow and none of them are very athletic. Even though Erick Aybar is fast, he’s not getting on base enough and even when he does; he’s not being the catalyst the team needs at the top of their lineup. He’s only stolen five bases in nine attempts. This is what I expected.

Prior to the season and throughout the off season, I raised some concerns about Aybar’s base running and the signing of Hideki Matsui. I proclaimed early on that the team had gotten older and slower and had lost their ace (John Lackey). Despite all of that, I tried to remain hopeful and even projected that an ace would emerge in either Jered Weaver or Scott Kazmir. Weaver (while not perfect) has stepped up to fill that role in my opinion thus far and despite yesterday’s set back is as good as there is in the AL.

The bench is weak and made even weaker by Maicer Izturis’ stint on the DL. And what is it about Izturis that makes him find his way to the DL regularly? This team lacks depth. I mean, when you have to go to career minor leaguers like Michael Ryan and Kevin Frandsen, you know you’re in trouble.

Freddy Sandoval once appeared to be the heir apparent to Robb Quinlan, but he’s only hitting .210 in Salt Lake. Peter Bourjos could certainly do a better job defensively than either of our corner outfielders; however, his offense is not ready for prime time. He has .315 OBP and that simply isn’t good enough.

Why Terry Evans isn’t on the major league roster over Reggie Willits is beyond me; not that he could help this team right now any way.

And then there’s Brandon Wood. Needless to say, the fans are growing impatient with this experiment. One Angel blog – Monkey with a Halo is already calling for the Brandon Wood era to be over. And as much as I’d like to disagree with that sentiment, I can’t blame anyone for being done with Wood.

So what do we do? Can this team still win the west? Can it go beyond that?

For the most part, I believe the personnel are there. Granted the team has holes, but it also has the pieces that can make a real run at a fourth consecutive division title; however, how we get the Angels “into their game” as Mike Scioscia likes to put it is beyond me.

And it’s not like the Angels have the prospects to go out and make a deal either. Granted there are some guys at the lower levels like Mike Trout, but I don’t think the Angels can afford to trade their youth. Now I know as soon as I write that, there will be some faction of the fan base who will disagree. Let me just say that any good organization builds a core from within and trading away those kinds of pieces ultimately results in failure.

The Angels' success – and yes, they’ve been highly successful since 2002 is based on the principle that you build from within first. That not even remotely debatable in my mind.

This roster isn't likely to change much this year. Next year’s another story, but this one has to get it done with the players they have.

I know that games against Texas in May aren’t necessarily important games, but I need to see some signs of life or else I may just lose my mind. It’s not even just the back to back losses in Arlington either; it’s the manner in which this team has gone about their business all year long. It’s been ugly, frustrating to watch and painful to endure.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 17, 2010

Happy days are here again (The week in review May 10-17)

Happy days are here again
The A’s were swept, the Angels win
So let's sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

Now that’s what I’m talking about. The Angels played three outstanding games over the weekend - putting a nice beat down on the Oakland A’s.

It all started with an “atta boy” performance from Joe Saunders, who threw a complete game four hit, shut out. This is the Joe Saunders we’ve been waiting for. This is the Saundo we expected to see all season long. How big was this peformance? Saunders lowered his ERA from 6.19 to 4.96.

Saunders effort was special. He was facing Dallas Braden who was coming off a perfect game. It was reminiscent of last year’s complete game shut out against Cy Young award winner - Zach Greinke and the Kansas City Royals. Like last season, Saunders stepped up to out shine an opposing pitcher who was getting a great deal of publicity coming into the game.

Cheryl and I usually wear our Saunders shirts when he pitches, but we didn’t Friday night. It was our own little version of showing a little “tough love” to our favorite pitcher (not that he would know or care). In our minds, he hadn’t deserved that kind of support. Call it silly, call it whatever you want, but it was own our mild form of protest.

Those t-shirts are a big deal to us. In 2008 Saunders didn’t have his own shirt yet in the Angels Team Store. Even after making the all-star team the store didn’t carry one. Cheryl and I took our complaints to anyone who would listen and it wasn’t long after, that shirts with his name on the back started appearing. The fact that it had come to us not wearing those shirts meant something.

Maybe in some strange way it worked to make him pitch better (again, I know this is a reach). Maybe it was the group of kids Saunders had brought to the game; a group called Team Saundo. Whatever it was – it helped restore our faith in his abilities.

Happy days are here again
When Saunders throws the Angels win
So let’s wear our Saundo shirts again
Happy days are here again

Saturday night saw the Angel bats come alive in a 12-3 victory over the A’s. I have to tell you, seeing the Angels pound the A’s never gets old. It doesn’t necessarily happen often (the two teams are notorious for close ball games), but when it does – it’s a beautiful thing.

Ervin Santana pitched a strong six innings, giving up three runs (2 earned) while striking out six; however, the big star of the night was Kendry Morales and his two homeruns and five RBI. Even Brandon Wood got into the act with a hit and two RBI.

Funniest moment of the night came in the 7th inning. Jack Cust watched a catchable ball hit by Hideki Matsui sail over his head for a double; at which point I commented out loud that Cust might be the worst left fielder in baseball. Those words proved to prophetic as he three batters later he would watch a fly ball from Brandon Wood skip off his glove to score a run.

Cust looked at his glove in bewilderment. It’s always funny when players do that. Needless to say the fans let him have it pretty good and when he caught a routine fly ball hit by Michael Ryan the next inning, they were on him again. Cust was a good sport about it as he gave the fans a thumbs up and a tip of the cap.

Did I mention that the Angels won 12-3? I just loved the sound of that; 12-3 over the hated A’s.

Happy days are here again
Jack Cust cant’ field the Angels win
So razz the guy over and over again
Happy Days are here again

The third game of the series was a thing of beauty as Joel Pineiro looked magnificent in his complete game, 4-0 win. Pineiro only needed 98 pitches in the victory as he struck out five and only walked one batter.

Bobby Abreu went yard and the Angels had their sweep.

Don’t you love the sound of that? The Angles sweep. Even better, they swept the A’s. To top off a perfect weekend, John Lackey and the Red Sox lost. How perfect was that?

Happy days are here again
John Lackey lost, the Angels win
I’m so happy; I don’t know where to begin
Happy days are here again

Yes, I hate the A’s and sweeping them has been the biggest bright spot of the season to date. I could get used to this.

Mean while, this week’s True Grich award goes to Joel Pineiro who did not give up any earned runs over 15 1/3 innings in two games. I like this signing a lot.

In other news...

Between the games Cheryl and I managed to attend Tim Salmon's book signing at the Borders in Brea. Salmon's book is appropriately titled "Always an Angel" and we are looking forward to reading it.

There was a nice turn out to see "Mr. Angel."

When we finally made our way through the line to Tim - he looked up and saw my "Salmon Nation" shirt and said, "I've seen that shirt before." I reminded him that we sent him one; to which he said, "you're those people?" with a smile. He then told us that he as chest at home where he stores some special keepsakes and the Salmon Nation shirt is folded and put away there. Very cool.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 13, 2010

Catching flack is not as fun as catching a baseball

One has to wonder if Ryan Budde likes living on the edge. I mean, there is no quicker route to Mike Scioscia’s dog house than via the passed ball. Yesterday, Budde let two balls get past him and the mental lapses/failures in execution were part of the reason the Angels lost.

Budde also had a very embarrassing moment when he nearly walked off the field after the second out, thinking the inning was over with a runner on third at the time... That could have really set off Scioscia. Yikes.

When Angel catchers don’t do their jobs on the defensive side it reflects poorly on Scioscia (a former major league catcher himself). I would even venture to guess that he might even take this kind of stuff personally. Much is made about what it means to be a catcher in the Angels' organization and it should. These guys get put through the paces in the spring and the expectation is for them to be solid, fundamental players on the field.

Losing a game because of three unearned runs is the kind of stuff that turns hair grey. If this keeps up, the next thing you know - grown men and women will be pulling those grey hairs out of their heads.

Speaking of miscues, Kevin Frandsen isn’t winning over any fans. Okay, so he has a couple of base hits. Big deal. He’s also got two errors in two games. Now I know that third base isn’t his natural position, but he’s on pace to set some sort of record and we’re not talking about the kind you celebrate either. I'm beginning to see why he never stuck with the Giants and why he might have been released by the Red Sox before being claimed by the Angels. Just play Brandon Wood, please.

The way I see it, the Angels have had very few bright spots outside of Jered Weaver and Kendry Morales. Joel Pineiro has also had his moments; and a few others have been "okay," but the vast majority get a huge FAIL.

How bad is it? Mark Whicker of the O.C. Register points out that this year’s start is the Angels worst in 20 years.


All of this adds to the frustration and the level of angst is getting quite high. Quite frankly, I’d rather not be ranting on this blog every dang day. There isn't much joy in it.

So let’s have some fun….

Did you hear about how upset Bengie Molina is with ESPN? Apparently, ESPN showed a clip of Molina getting thrown out at the plate. That in and of itself, isn’t all that bad, but they decided to add some sound effects… like the music from the movie “Chariots of Fire”

Molina was so upset, he even blogged about it.

Shame on ESPN for trying to humiliate a major league baseball player! That’s what bloggers are for! I’m wondering if ESPN or Bengie read my post from a couple days ago titled There’s Slow and then there’s “Bengie Molina slow.” Just saying.

By the way, even though I do make fun of Bengie's lack of speed - you should know he's my all-time favorite catcher.

Meanwhile, over on the Baseball Think Factory site, some sabermetric types were going at each other pretty good over the new debate about whose better – Jered Weaver or Felix Hernandez?

A like a closer look at the statistics between the two shows us they’re not all that different. The article begs the question as to whether or not Jered Weaver is an ace or if Felix Hernandez is just an innings eater (as Weaver has been described from time to time). The point of the piece is to challenge the perception of two pitchers as they previously existed. It's an interesting discussion and kind of humorous as well.

What’s really funny are the shots some of sabermetic types take at one another in the comments section of the article. This is kind of a common practice among this group in my opinion. Then again, I like taking a shot or two now and then too. Difference is I really don't take myself nearly as seriously as some of them appear to.

In any case, I could have saved them all a bunch of time on this. I don’t need any statistical analysis to tell me that Jered Weaver is an ace. He does all the things that aces do. He stops losing streaks. He pitches well in big games. He has “top of the rotation” stuff and is a leader in the club house. He hasn't always been an ace, but he most certainly is one now.

Weaver has always been hyped, but never embraced. Even after coming out of Long Beach State; where he had an amazing career, some “experts” labeled him as “over-rated” and even projected him to be nothing more than a #3 starter at best.

Weaver has never really been considered a power pitcher. He’s basically been a fly-ball pitcher for most of his major league career. If you’re not a power pitcher, you’re usually not considered a top of the rotation guy.

Well, Weaver is changing the labels that were previously attached to him. Now, he also has some statistics to back up the idea that he is indeed an ace. Last year he reached a career high in strike outs with 174 which placed him among the top 24 in all of baseball and 10th in the AL. He also currently leads the AL with 59 K’s. His ERA is 2.47 and batters are only hitting .219 against him.

Now, some sabermetric types will dig deeper to demonstrate their belief that he’s still not an elite pitcher, but what’s the point? He’s clearly the Angels’ ace and has a shot to be the starter for this year’s All-Star game in Anaheim (I'll be hyping this idea a lot so get used to it).

As for the comparisons to Felix Hernandez... I could care less. All I know is that the two have gone head to head seven times and the Angels have won five of those contests. Now, I know enough to say that using wins as any kind of criteria to determine whose better is enough to send the sabermetric types into a hissy fit, but I like mentioning it anyway. And if you noticed, I didn’t say Weaver was better (although I might secretly believe that).

Let’s just say that when the two square off, I like the Angels' chances.

Side note: I feel much better now that I've posted something that wasn't necessarily a "rant" about the Angels' play of late. Whew!

Oh and to those of you who stumbled on this site today when googling Bengie Molina and the word "slow" - I'm glad you found this blog; even if it wasn't intentional. :-)

BallHype: hype it up!

May 12, 2010

Scot Shields is so last decade

A million thoughts go through my mind every time someone emerges from the Angels bull pen. Sadly, those thoughts haven’t been positive of late.

Last night as Scot Shields jogged onto the field I felt something very appropriate. I felt numb. You see, every time Shields enters a game, we can hear Linkin Park’s “Numb” over the loud speakers. It’s an umistakeable tune that has become a trademark of Shields’ warm up routine.

Now I know it’s just a song, but have you ever listened to the words?

I'm tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless lost under the surface
Don't know what you're expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes

Again, it's just a song and it's not actually written or sung by Shields; however, he did pick it for some reason. Which begs some questions...

Really? You’re tired Scot? Don’t you want to be an elite pitcher any more? There was a time when you were exactly that; in fact, you even made the all-decade team as the top set up man in all of baseball.

And if you think you’re feeling faithless, imagine what we fans are going through. I see a lot of people with their heads in their hands or else they’re shrugging their shoulders and saying “really?” when you enter the game. They’re not cheering when you come in; they’re holding their breath.

As for expectations… let’s see Scot.; we’re expecting you to get some outs, not walk anyone, field your position and keep the team in the game. Not giving up three run homeruns would also be nice.

We’d basically like you finish an inning without giving up any runs. Then again, what should we expect from a guy who can’t even finish his name? I mean, why is there only one “t” in your first name? Just asking.

(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)

I don’t know about “every step,” but every pitch (or close to it) definitely looks like a “mistake.” The kind of mistake that good hitters take advantage of. And yeah, you’re caught in the undertow all right. Thing is; you’re pulling the team under with your performances of late.

I've become so numb I can't feel you there
Become so tired so much more aware
I'm becoming this all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

The feeling is mutual. I felt numb last night after that three run blast you gave up to Evan Longoria. Who are you? Where is the Shields with wicked stuff? The guy batters on opposing teams said had the best stuff and was hardest to hit? Where is that guy?

Can't you see that you're smothering me
Holding too tightly afraid to lose control
Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
And every second I waste is more than I can take

The more I think about this song, the more I shake my head. What’s motivating about it? It’s an odd choice, don’t you think? It’s also like some sort of self-fulling prophecy.

Shields you've fallen apart right in front of us. Where’s the swagger? I thought you hurt your knee not your arm. Song and lyrics aside; something is wrong. This is not the Scot Shields who dominated the last decade.

I’ve heard a lot of theories about your ineffectiveness. Some think you're just done. Some think you just need to throw more to get back in the groove. Problem is that you can only really do that in live game situations and the Angels can’t afford to let you enter in key situations and when you’re 15-20 every situation is basically a key situation.

There’s not a lot of margin for error. Let me say it again… the Angels are 15-20. That’s ugly; plain and simple.

So here’s the deal Scot. I know Mike Scioscia is going to continue to trot you out there. He needs to know if he’s going to get anything out of you this season. Fans aren’t going to like that much; in fact, they’re going to hate it and and we’re all going to suffer for it. We’re going to suffer when we listen to the call-in shows and visit the message boards.

I’m a patient guy. I need to see some signs of life Scot. Give me something. Show me some guts. I don’t want to see that deer in the headlights look. I want you to compete.

In the mean time, the song should go. There’s nothing motivating or inspiring about it; just like your pitching Scot. I don't want to be left numb after you pitch. I expect better. As fans we deserve better.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 11, 2010

There's slow and then there's 'Bengie Molina slow"

I need to rant just a tad bit today.

If you do a few simple searches on the internet you can find all kinds of information that will tell you how statistically bad the Angels’ defense has been this year. You can look up stuff like UZR (ultimate zone rating) and other kinds of analysis on FanGraphs or other sites dedicated to sabermetrics.

All those things paint a certain picture for sure, but I have to tell you I don’t have to know any of that to realize the Angels’ defense stinks this season; especially in the outfield.

Every time a fly ball is hit at either Bobby Abreu or Juan Rivera it’s an adventure. Not a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” adventure, but more of a “Key Stone Cops” kind of adventure. Neither guy is fast nor very athletic and when they do manage to make a catch, it’s like a “look what I found” moment. I often wonder who’s more stunned... me or them?

Last night Juan Rivera looked like he was auditioning for a remake of the movie “Bad News Bears.” I made the comment that he was really “leaking oil” as he tried to run toward a sinking line drive by the Rays’ Reid Brignac in the 7th inning. Rivera came up short and ended up making an error (amazingly only his second of the year).

Later on when he did make an nice running catch of a ball hit by Willie Aybar in the 10th inning, Cheryl said, “now, he’s not only leaking oil; he’s out of gas too.” In other words we both thought that play took a lot out of Rivera. Like I said earlier; balls hit to the outfield are “always an adventure.”

It’s kind of funny, but it’s also really, really sad. I’m actually concerned.

I still believe that Rivera missed a routine fly ball in Fenway last week that cost the Angels a game, but I digress.

As the season moves forward, I believe the defense; especially in the outfield will continue to be an issue and the Angels can’t afford poor defense when pitchers like Joel Pineiro and Joe Saunders really rely on it.

Rivera is so slow, if he were to participate in the “steal third” promotion for kids at Angel Stadium, he’d come up short. As Cheryl would say, “he’s almost Bengie Molina slow.”

I’d even venture to say that Torii Hunter seems a step slower this year. Perhaps he’s feeling some side effects from his off season hernia surgery. I really don’t know. What I do know is that when the Tigers were in town; watching Austin Jackson run down fly balls was like watching a younger version of Torii Hunter. Just saying.

Where am I going with all of this?

I don’t normally do this; but I can’t help but think about the upcoming class of free agents. Carl Crawford anyone? I’m thinking he’d look pretty good in red.

Help is also in the minor league system in Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout; although, there’s no telling how far away they are from making an impact at the major league level. Trout isn’t even at Rancho Cucamonga yet and is spending his first full season at Salt Lake City this year.

I’m also thinking about Jayson Werth of the Phillies. He’s already wearing red; however, he needs to dawn some Angel red next year. Again, just saying.

If you came to this blog looking for some comments about Brian Fuentes’ pathetic performance last night; I’m sorry to disappoint you. I will admit that it was very painful to watch, but he really hasn’t pitched that much this year and I’m willing to give him more rope.

Yeah, I’m drinking the Mike Scioscia kool-aid on this one. If he can get it together, the bull pen will be that much better. We still don’t know what the Angels are going to get from Scot Shields and depth is an issue. The Angels need Brian Fuentes to be good and so I’m going to hope for exactly that.

On a bright note, Trevor Bell looked solid in his 2010 debut last night. He even appeared to have a little bit of swagger and I haven’t seen much of that coming out of the bull pen this year.


BallHype: hype it up!

May 10, 2010

The week in review May 3-9, 2010

The offense is not getting it done. Quite frankly, neither is the pitching, but more on that in a bit.

Batting averages for Angels with double digit at bats for the past seven days:

Kendry Morales - .222
Bobby Abreu - .192
Erick Aybar - .231
Howie Kendrick - .200
Torii Hunter - .136
Hideki Matsui - .136
Juan Rivera - .238
Mike Napoli - .316
Brandon Wood - .105

As a team the Angels hit a pathetic .216 for the week.

In looking at the season to date, the team is 26th (out of 30 teams) in OBP. Even though they’re 14th in homeruns with 30, they’re 23rd in runs scored and 21st in OPS at .706.

Their offensive woes are compounded by horrible pitching. The Angels rank 26th in the major leagues with a 5.09 ERA. They’ve given up an AL league high 41 homeruns. Every time I turn around a guy who hasn’t hit a homerun this season is getting his first one of the year against Angels pitching. Reggie Willits is starting to wish he could hit against this staff. I’m just saying.

Blah, blah, blah. Plain and simple – the Angels stink right now. The outfield appears old and slow; they’re not tearing it up on the base paths and the pitching; especially the bull pen has been suspect. Every time a reliever comes into the game they start issuing free passes to first base. It’s as if they’re offering some sort of time share presentation at first base and all you have to do is step into the batter’s box and you’re on. It’s maddening.

So this week’s True Grich Award goes to Jered Weaver, who was the lone bright spot in a week of underwhelming performances. That being said, there was nothing underwhelming about Weaver’s one start. Weaver shut out the Mariners for 7 1/3 innings while striking out 7.

Weaver is currently tied with Ricky Romero of the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL lead in strike outs with 47. He has a fantastic 2.66 ERA over 7 games. I know it’s early, but we should be talking Weaver up as the potential AL starter for this year's All-Star game.

Who’s with me?

BallHype: hype it up!

May 8, 2010

Weaver makes a birthday wish come true

When I woke up yesterday morning I was hoping that I would find that the Angels seven game losing streak was just a dream; a nightmare if you will. That obviously wasn’t the case.

It also happened to be Cheryl’s birthday and she started her day by saying “All I want for my birthday is an Angels’ win.” In the back of my mind, I thought the odds were pretty good for that to happen because I couldn’t see the Angels losing eight in a row. Plus Jered Weaver was going up against “King Felix” (Felix Hernandez) and even though Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the game, we had two things going for us.

First of all I knew that when Weaver faced Hernandez head to head the previous six times, the Angels went 4-2. I also knew that Weaver was having a solid season himself and that he’d be looking to atone for his last outing.

Well, Cheryl got her wish. Not only that, she almost received a bonus gift as well. Weaver took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. I was disappointed Weaver didn’t give her a no-hitter for her birthday, but she’s pretty happy with an 8-0 shut out.

Weaver has been the lone bright spot in the rotation and has clearly embraced the role of team ace. Last night he did what ace’s do; he stopped the team’s losing streak. Weaver currently leads the AL in strike-outs and although it’s early I think there’s a chance he ends up being the AL starter for the all-star game coming to Anaheim in July.

Weaver should have made the team last year and it would be only fitting to see him start this year’s mid-summer classic. We still haven’t forgiven Joe Maddon for that slight. And we haven’t forgotten that neither Chone Figgins nor Brian Fuentes even got in the game.

Speaking of Maddon, his Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in baseball right now and they’ll be in town next week. I’m hoping we have huge crowds all dressed in red for the games taking place this coming Monday through Wednesday.

But before we even get to those there are two more games with Seattle. Beating the teams within the division is critical. Today Joe Saunders has a chance to get on the right track. I honestly believe we’ll see an improved performance. I know he’s not as bad as he’s shown thus far.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 6, 2010

Well, so much for that

I wanted to beat John Lackey in the worst way. The problem with that desire is that I had no control over whether or not the Angels would go out and do that for me. All I could do was listen on the radio and hope (be thankful for that).

By the time I got home to watch on television, Lackey had already exited the game and I got to watch Jason Bulger add to my anxiety by giving up a double and walk before getting out of the bottom of the 7th inning. Brian Fuentes would add to my angst by giving up one of those “no-doubt-about-it” homeruns to Adrian Beltre. It was the kind of homerun where you know from the moment its hit that it’s long gone and all you can say is “he got all of that one.”

As the Angels came up in the top of the 9th, I wasn’t holding out much hope. I had already begun to get that sick feeling in my stomach. Granted, it wasn’t as bad as when the Angels were eliminated in last year’s ALCS by the Yankees, but it was bad enough. I felt numb. I had gone beyond frustration and was entering into a mild form of depression.

You see this season has been a disaster so far. My favorite pitcher – Joe Saunders has had all of one good outing and his ERA is among the worst for starting pitchers.

It also doesn’t help that Johnny Damon (who I despise) hit a walk-off homerun and basically had his way with Angels’ pitching. To add to my misery Brandon Wood has struggled out of the gate and even worse, the hated A’s took a series from my Angels in the first week.

Now I believe better days are ahead and I know every season has its ups and downs, but the start of this season has been a drain.

Here we are on the 6th of May looking up in the standings at Texas and Oakland; and as bad as all of that is, today all I can really focus on is stinkin’ John Lackey. He won round one and I don’t like it much.

In some ways, yesterday’s game was about righting a wrong. It was about shutting up a guy who doesn’t have the common sense to leave an organization gracefully. Then again one could never really associate the word “grace” with Lackey.

And don’t think I’m not keenly aware that some of the traits I loved about Lackey as an Angel thoroughly irritate me now. I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy in that, but I’m not going to apologize for it. It is what it is.

You know, it’s funny - when I see highlights of Vladimir Guerrero hitting one of his own “no-doubt-about-it” homeruns, I can smile and say “good for him.” I can’t do that with Lackey. I just can’t. He ticked me off. He annoys me and even though I know I should let it go, I would rather see the Angels exact a toll on his butt and give us fans some revenge.

Well so much for that.

I need to get over this and I will. There are too many other things in life that are more important for me not to. And fortunately, there's a lot of baseball yet to be played.

My hope is that when all is said and done the Angels will find their way to the World Series and John Lackey will be spending some of his $80+ million on a nice vacation during that time.

I guess we’ll see about that, won’t we?

I’m not used to six game losing streaks; at least not since Mike Scioscia put his thumb print on the organization. I’m starting to recall what it was like to be an Angel fan for all those lean years and I really, really don’t want to go back to that place.

So what has to happen for this team to turn it around? I’m not sure. I guess I haven’t really given it much thought because I never thought it would come to this. I keep telling myself it’s early and there’s time and thankfully that’s all still true.

On the bright side (if there is such a thing); all of this gives me more to blog about.

Like all the wanna-be GM’s that are coming out of the wood work. These are the folks who think that just because they’ve played in a fantasy league or two they now have all the answers. You know the type.

Well, fantasy baseball has made fools of these people.

In the fantasy world, people trade and drop players on a daily basis. A guy goes 0-4 for and they get waived. A guy hits two homeruns in a game and it's time to pick them up. Fantasy Baseball is the play ground for those who are prone to knee jerk reactions.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they stayed in that world, but nooooo – they have to make their way to internet message boards and sports talk radio.

I actually heard a guy the other day suggest the Angels trade for Ryan Braun. Really? I admired Terry Smith for not laughing out loud. You see, in the fantasy world players like Braun are always available, but in the real world of major league baseball they’re not. Why would the Brewers want to trade Braun? Never mind. Let’s just say fantasy baseball is appropriately named.

We also have people believing that the Angels as an organization just don’t want to win bad enough and aren’t willing to do what it takes go all the way. That’s pure dog poop and I just have to wonder if these people actually believe the words coming out of their pie holes.

These are also the folks who will eventually stop watching/going to games and only come back when times are good again. Whatever. They have a right to spend their free time anyway they want. I can’t say that I’d want to be in the same stadium with them anyway. I suppose I should thank them now for not subjecting me to their nonsense.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand being frustrated. I also understand the need to vent, but let’s be somewhat rational (said the crazy blogger).

Winning a World Series isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. Every time the Angels fall short some fans go off the deep end. Heck, every time the Angels lose a single game some of them go ballistic.

All we can really ask is that the Angels put together a team that has a realistic chance of going all the way. I still believe they have.

Now, if they’d only play like it, I’d have a little more peace.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 5, 2010

Bring me the head of John Lackey

Tonight’s contest against the Red Sox may not be the most important game of the year and in the grand scheme of things it’s not a make or break deal either; but make no mistake about it, it’s The Biggest game of the year (to date) for me.

I’ve been waiting for this day for a while now.

The Angels face off against John Lackey and I can’t wait. I want his head on a platter (figuratively of course). I want him to feel the fury of an offense that’s hitting him like he’s putting it on a tee for them. I want balls flying over the Green Monster and players racking up extra base hits by the truck load. I want to see Lackey doing some big time rubber necking as balls fly to all the places where Red Sox aren’t.

For some of us fans this game is personal. We feel like Lackey gave us the finger and we don’t like it much.

I’ve tried to let it go, but every so often I read another new quote or see another little interview with Lackey that raises my ire. The latest came from Mark Saxson of ESPN Los Angeles. Saxson quotes Lackey… "It's different. The way they preach the team game and giving it up for the team. That's a little suspect," Lackey said. "You're supposed to give it up for the team. When the time comes, they might not want to give it up for you."

I get it. The Angels didn’t offer Lackey the contract he thought he deserved and he went to the highest bidder. Even though I was upset I might have gotten over it in time, but it seems like every time I turn around Lackey is shooting his mouth off with little back handed and even some not-so-back-handed slaps at the Angels and/or their fans.

Whatever. Just pound him today. I like Mike Napoli’s attitude. Napoli said “We're not friends now," Napoli said. "He's on the other side. I'm going to try to get him."

Here’s the deal. I don’t want to see Lackey smiling when it’s done. I want his head to be in his hands as he looks at the ground dejected and beaten. Yeah, that’s right. It will make moving on a little easier.

Speaking of moving on… isn’t it time Seattle moved on without Milton Bradley?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Milton Bradley doesn’t deserve to wear a baseball uniform. Mike Salk from ESPN Radio in Seattle reported that Bradley left the team in the middle of the game last night.

More from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times: here

What can I say that hasn’t been said before? Is it time to quit on Bradley and let him find another line of work?

BallHype: hype it up!

May 4, 2010

Today's word of the day is "embarrassing"

Yesterday’s game against the Red Sox inspired me to come up with a few more words to describe the Angels’ play of late. “Embarrassing” tops the list, followed by “frustrating.” We’re talking the kind of frustration that leads to one putting their foot through the television (not that I’d actually go that far, mind you).

It was just bad.

Now I believe that at the end of the season; when the Angels have completed 162 games they will be on top in the AL West. Never-the-less, that doesn’t make watching them struggle the way they have of late any easier. Losing to the Red Sox is always awful; getting blown out by the Sox is down right demoralizing.

It’s especially demoralizing when you realize the Red Sox are trotting out guys named Darnell McDonald a career minor leaguer who’s 31 years of age. And who’s that in left field? Why it’s Bill Hall, who hit .201 last year and .225 the year before that.

Oh wait, it gets better. Hall and Adrian Beltre hadn’t homered this entire season; that is until yesterday when both went yard. The Hall homerun was especially disturbing. Mark Gubicza pointed out on the FSW broadcast that Hall was late on every pitch (fouling several off). So what does Saunders and Mike Napoli do? They throw him a change up. Yeah, that’s right – let’s throw Hall a pitch he can catch up to; after being late on the hard stuff.

Every Sox starter had at least one hit and all but Victor Martinez and Marco Scutaro had at least one RBI. Every player scored at least one run – including Jonathan Van Every who came into to pinch run. I know, Van who?

When the game was finally over, we found Joe Saunders sporting a 7.04 ERA, Matt Palmer with a 6.75 ERA, Brian Stokes with a 5.93 and Jason Bulger who actually lowered his ERA to 6.30.

How bad was Joe Saunders? Rumor has it that the Sox bat boy asked to get in the game as a pinch hitter. I'm just saying.

This game also happened to be the ESPN Monday Night game. So not only did the Angels stink – they got to stink in front of a national audience.

I kept going back and forth between the ESPN broadcast and the one on FSW. ESPN’s was actually in real time, while FSW’s had a seven second delay. So, I got to experience the nightmare twice on just about every at-bat.

In comparing the two broadcasts, I will say that ESPN puts a lot more production into their broadcasts and the picture seemed crisper to me. FSW had the better camera angle, being directly behind the pitcher, where ESPN was off the right shoulder of the pitchers.

It’s also clear that ESPN loves the Red Sox. They inserted interviews with John Lackey on at least two occasions and none that I can recall with the Angels. They also showed a clip of Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter in 2007. You also have to love (not really) the way they always show Theo Epstein in one of the luxury boxes. ESPN was really dolling out the Red Sox love yesterday.

At least I didn’t see Ben Affleck or Stephen King for a change.

This team is hard to watch right now. Hopefully, they’ll turn it around this evening when Ervin Santana takes the mound and for goodness sake, please beat the snot out of John Lackey on Wednesday before I lose my mind.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 3, 2010

The week in review April 26 - May 2, 2010

What can I say about a week where the Angels went a pathetic 2-4? I believe the word "pathetic" kind of says it all, doesn't it? How about "uninspired" or just plain "horrible?"

There really isn't a way to sugar coat the review of the past six games. We went from the high of seeing a walk off bunt by Howie Kendrick to win the last game of the series against the Indians to getting swept in Detroit by the Tigers.

The anticipation of a classic pitching duel between Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander on Sunday didn't live up to expectations; granted, Verlander pitched a fantastic game. And did you read Weaver's lips as he was pulled from the game? He clearly didn't like being pulled.

We keep waiting for this team to start clicking on all cylinders and it just hasn't happened yet. I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little restless; just a tad bit mind you. Fortunately, no one in the AL West is running away from the pack.

The week ahead has the struggling Boston Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners on tap. the Angels will avoid Josh Beckett in Boston, but stay tuned for an interesting match up between Joel Pineiro and John Lackey on Wednesday.

Before we move on to this week, I'd like to award Torii Hunter with this week's True Grich Award. Hunter had a team high .500 OBP and .450 batting average. He also drove in six runs and had 18 total bases. Honorable mention goes to Brandon Wood who hit .381 for the week.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 2, 2010

How to ruin my day with one swing of the bat

I didn’t see it when it happened. To be honest with you, I was listening to the game on the radio and I had dosed off for a bit while the score was 2-2 and Fernando Rodney had just finished pitching the 8th inning. When I awoke, I heard something about Scot Shields giving up the walk off homerun and I promptly turned the radio off.

It wasn’t until later that night while watching Baseball Tonight on ESPN that I actually saw it.

Imagine my horror. As I watched Johnny Damon launch a walk-off homerun beyond the right field fence, my face went blank. I looked at the T.V. and immediately thought of this blog and how I have consistently made Damon the target of many a snarky comment. Then I uttered the words… “Thank you Scot Shields for ruining my day.”

So here’s the thing about making any player the consistent subject of ridicule. Sometimes stuff like that will come back to bite you in the butt. It’s not like Damon is a crappy player who isn’t capable of delivering moments like the one he had yesterday. Nope. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I dislike him so much. He's actually pretty good.

It simply wouldn’t be much fun if Damon was a horrible player that constantly looked bad on the field (although it is a nice thought).

So you’re probably wondering why it is I dislike Johnny Damon so much.

I have multiple reasons. First of all, he’s greedy. Yeah, I know, I know you can’t blame a player for wanting to get the most money he can. I understand and agree with that. It’s just that Damon has always appeared to me to be sort of a mercenary. I get the impression that he’d play for Cuba against the United States if the price was right.

When he left Boston for the Yankees he made it sound as if New York was exactly where he always wanted to be. This past off-season he turned down a nice contract from the Yankees and ended up signing with the Detroit Tigers for less. He didn’t do it because he wanted less money; he and his agent Scott Boras miscalculated the market for his services and he had no other choice.

Of course, in true Damon like style, when he signed with the Tigers he told everyone that this was his first choice all along. In other words, Damon has this habit of talking out of both side of his mouth.

Damon also got my attention at the first World Baseball Classic. When Team USA played in Anaheim, Cheryl and I went to some of the games; afterwards, we waited where the players exited and caught the bus back to their hotel. Some of the players would walk to rented cars and drive themselves. Damon was one of them.

As he walked through the crowd, not stopping for anyone requesting an autograph, one fan yelled out “Johnny – you’re the man!” Damon stopped, looked at the crowd and said, “Yes, I am.”

It just struck me the wrong way. Maybe he was being funny; but something told me he really believed this. And I suppose on some level it’s not a horrible thing for an all-star baseball player to believe that, but to admit it out loud seemed bush league to me.

Damon will probably continue to torment me with his play. He’s already thrown out Angel base runners on at lest two occasions this year; despite the fact that he “throws like Mary.” He’s also hit extremely well against the Angels.

I guess I will take some solace in the fact that he’s doing all this while not in pinstripes, but it doesn’t really provide me with much comfort.

I’ll continue to make fun of Damon on this blog. I know, you might be thinking that I haven’t learned my lesson and you’d be right. At least Damon isn’t the only player who is the subject of my ridicule.

This coming Wednesday the Angels will face John Lackey for the first time. Stay tuned.

BallHype: hype it up!