September 23, 2010

The view from down low

Last night was indicative of the Angels’ season. It’s not just that they lost, it’s about how they lost. They lost because their defense failed to execute and the result of that poor effort was two unearned runs and 2-1 Rangers victory.

The last two nights Cheryl and I decided to get some tickets down on the field level and we sat 20 rows behind the Angels dugout on Tuesday and 12 rows behind it on Wednesday.

What did we see?

Let’s start with Tuesday night. Ervin Santana was magnificent. He held the Rangers in check all night long on his way to a complete game shut out. I don’t know about you, but anytime the Angels shut out the Rangers, it makes me smile and Santana’s win was reminiscent of his division clinching performance last year against this same team.

Thank you Ervin and congratulations on your career high 17th win. You guaranteed us not having to see the Rangers eliminate the Angels from the pennant race on our home field. I know it’s a small victory, but I’ll take it. I would not have been able to stomach Ian Kinsler popping champagne in our house.

As great as Ervin was, the highlight of the evening was watching Hank Conger. I can’t wait for the day when he’s the every day catcher and Jeff Mathis is a distant memory. Granted, I’ll probably have nightmares about Mathis for the rest of my life, but as long as I’m able to wake up in a world where Conger is the catcher, I’ll deal with it.

Watching Conger motor around the bases on his triple was just fun to watch. The kid is a beast and I mean that in the best way. He’s going to hit a ton once he gets comfortable and he gives all Angel fans something to look forward to.

I have to tell you it’s still strange seeing Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver and Bengie Molina in opposing team colors. Of the three, I miss Molina the most. He’s easily one of my all-time favorites. When he was an Angel I had tremendous confidence in him every time he came to bat in key situations. He was the anti-Mathis in that he was extremely clutch.

In any case, it was a quick night. The game only lasted two hours and twelve minutes. Wouldn’t you know it, given our great seats. Oh well, we were grateful never-the-less given our late night adventure in Rancho Cucamonga the night before.

Wednesday night was down right frustrating. Cheryl and I got a bird’s eye view of Frandsen’s throw that went sailing into right field. It wasn’t even close. Let’s just be clear about Frandsen. He is not now; not has he ever been; nor will he ever be a quality third baseman. Let’s stop trying to make him into something he doesn’t have the capacity to accomplish.

In his brief stint at the major league level this year, I’m sure he has cost the Angels 3 or 4 games with his poor defense.

And then there’s Jeff Mathis. Maybe I should stop here before I say something I may regret. Nah, that wouldn’t be my style. I guess I'll try to temper my thoughts as much as possible.

The passed ball that cost the Angels the win was his sixth of the year. Now, you might think six passed balls is a lot, but think about this; there are 18 catchers with at least six passed balls. Of that group only four have caught fewer innings than he has, but none of them are being touted by their manager as being some sort of defensive genius.

His fielding percentage of .985 ranks as the 98th worst in major league baseball among all catchers. His seven errors ranks as 8th most even though he’s caught 100 less innings than the closest player above him with more errors. Imagine what kind of stats he’d have if he actually played more.

I’m as done with Jeff Mathis as anyone can possibly be. He has caused me more angst than Steve Finley, Shea Hillenbrand and Jeff Weaver combined and that’s saying something.

Speaking of angst, watching Juan Rivera up close the way we did made me appreciate how truly slow he really is. Watching him mosey in from right field after every inning was almost comical. I’m positive Bengie Molina could dust him in a foot race.

I will say this about good ol’ Tub of Goo though – he did get on base four times. He had two singles and two walks. The funny thing about the eight hits the Angels did get last night is that they all came at the hands of just four players, each of whom had two hits (Mike Napoli, Howie Kendrick, Rivera and Reggie Willits).

Did I mention Mathis was 0-4? Did I mention that he’s now hitting .189? Yes, I know Brandon Wood is just as bad this year, if not worse, but Mathis is in his sixth season. But, I digress…

Dan Haren Struggled. He threw 114 pitches over seven innings, but to his credit he battled and gave his team a chance to win.

Torii Hunter looks worn out. He left three men on base and even hit into an inning ending double play just when it looked like the Angels might make a game of it.

Jordan Walden hit 100 mph last night in route to a 1-2-3 8th and the rest of the bull pen did a fine job with the possible exception of Matt Palmer who took the loss with help from Mathis.

Before I stop writing about Jeff Mathis, I have to tell you that I had a revelation today. I think I might have figured out why Scioscia continues to play him despite all the evidence against that idea.

Scioscia is the pitch man for Howard’s Appliances. Howard’s sells TV’s. When people watch Jeff Mathis on television, they’re apt to get so disgusted that they’ll throw things at their sets. Think about it. They break their TV’s and have to replace them. Where do they go? They go to Howard’s. It’s a brilliant idea, don’t you think? That has to be the explanation.

Speaking of things I’m trying to figure out…

Kevin Jepsen(much to my surprise) looked good last night (1 inning, no hits, 2 K’s). That being said, I’m not sure how he was anointed as the set up man. He scares the crap out of me. I’m so used to him putting two or thee men on base every time he comes into the game that when he doesn’t I’m stunned. Scioscia’s loyalty towards him is almost Mathis-esque. That 1.43 WHIIP is alarming His walk rate per nine innings is up from 3.13 in 2009 to 4.70 in 2010. On the positive side, he is striking more people out, but the big concern is his control.

One last thing, we noticed that Scot Shields wasn’t in the bull pen at all during the game and he was hanging out in the dugout instead. Is he done? I mean, many of us have assumed that’s he’s done “stuff” wise, but is he physically done? In some ways this is kind of sad, if true because he’s the last remaining player linked to the 2002 World Series team.

And on that note, I’ll just say that all in all it was an enjoyable two nights down on the field level. This weekend we’ll be back in our regular seats.

Below are a few more photos from the game on Tuesday; including Mike Napoli going yard, Bobby Abreu having some fun, Jordan Walden throwing some heat and Hank Conger warming up.

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