December 30, 2010

Be back soon

I've taken a little break from ranting... er, blogging and will be back at it in the New Year. My apologies for not putting up some content in the mean time.

Hopefully, we'll get some news about Adrian Beltre soon and hopefully, that news will be about him signing with the Angels for a reasonable amount.

If he hasnt' signed with anyone by the time I get back to blogging, I'll ask the quesiton - Do you or don't you wan to play for the Angels, Mr. Beltre? It's time to turn the tables on this discussion, don't you think? Until then...

Happy New Year!

December 21, 2010

A tribute to Carolyn

Cheryl and I love to eat out and we definitely have our favorites like Jongewaard's Bake 'N Broil in Long Beach (which I have mentioned here several times).

Another place that we have frequented from time to time over the years is Gourmet Pie and Cafe. It's located in Los Alamitos on Katella Avenue. When I first found this little restaurant it was located in Cypress near the place where I used to live (before Cheryl). Cheryl and I have been going to this restaurant for more than fourteen years; in fact, we went there on our first date. I've been going there for about 18 years myself.

Sunday we learned that Carolyn Richards passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the young age of 42. The news was shocking. Carolyn and her husband Michael own Gourmet Pie and like all the posts on this blog, there is a baseball connection here.

Gourmet Pie is one of those places we go to now and then when the Angels are on the road. It's a nice place to get a meal and still catch a game on TV. Angel fans frequent the place all the time.

The news is incredibly sad. Carolyn leaves behind two sons and a family and community that will miss her greatly. We have a nice memory of Carolyn; she once gave Cheryl and me a menu to keep (from the original location) after she learned that we had our first date at her restaurant.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Richards family. It certainly puts all this baseball stuff in perspective, doesn't it?

Just in time for Christmas

My head is spinning. If you’ve been following the Angels off season as closely as I have, you’re probably a little dizzy as well.

We started this off season with some big talk from Arte Moreno. We crawled through the last two months by watching the Angels lose out on Carl Crawford, sign a couple of aging left handed relief pitchers, and making a significant offer to Adrian Beltre.

The latest rumors/news/whatever-you-want-to-call-this-stuff is that the Angels are after Scott Podsednik. Yes, that Scott Podsednik, the soon-to-be 35 year old outfielder.

Wait, it gets better. Joe McDonnell tells us that the Angels have dropped out of the Adrian Beltre sweepstakes. Boo-ya. Cue Kool and the Gang because it’s time to celebrate… if you’re a Rangers or an A’s fan that is. (Edit: this story changes by the minute... Angels out, Angels in, etc.)

According to McDonnell the Angels are also interested in closer - Rafael Soriano. Hip, hip… Zzzzz. I know the old saying that you can never have too much pitching, but the Angels biggest holes remain on offense. There's another saying that good closers are wasted on bad teams. Catch my drift? Every stinking year it’s the same old question – where are the Angels going to find a big bat?

Optimists will tell you that there is still time for the Angels to make some significant moves to improve the offense. I’m here to tell you that the options are getting slimmer and slimmer. Think about this – the longer it takes for the Angels to make a trade (assuming that’s the best route), they’re running out of trading partners. A lot of teams are filling their needs via free agency or through trades with other teams.

For example; the Angels have a surplus of catchers, but the market for catchers I getting smaller as one catcher after another has signed a free agent deal.

From my point of view, things don’t look good; they look bleak. It’s frustrating to watch and alarming as all get out.

My take is that we’ve heard a lot of empty talk that has been backed up with confusing and conflicting reports. Does Arte Moreno want to play big boy baseball or not? The honeymoon is over Arte. You’ve been put on a pedestal by Angel fans, but now you should be prepared to be peppered by tomatoes.

I have to tell you, I’m getting tired of blogging about the Angels off season. I feel like I’m bingeing in negativity and I don’t like it much. I’d much rather be making fun of the Rangers, A’s or Johnny Damon.

Maybe Santa Claus will come in and save the day and put a nice lead-off hitter and a big bat or two under the Christmas tree. Then again, maybe the Grinch intercepted them and gave to other teams in the division.

All I know is the Angels have a bit of a Public Relations problem on their hands. How bad is it? If you’re on Twitter – check out the hash tag: #ArteMorenoLies. It’s getting to the point where Scott Boras doesn’t look so bad and Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins look like the Key Stone cops. Just saying.

December 15, 2010

Yes, I'm beating a dead horse

On October 5, 2010 I saw a headline in the LA Times that grabbed my attention. It read “Arte Moreno is mad, and he’s going to do something about it.” It was just the kind of thing a fan and especially a season ticket holder wanted to see from the owner.

The column, written by Bill Plaschke had some interesting quotes from Moreno. Here are several of them:

First Plaschke wrote “Did the owner of an underachieving Los Angeles major league baseball team just tell me that he was angry, disappointed, and would spend whatever it took to return his team to the playoffs?”

Moreno’s reply? "Yes," Arte Moreno said... "That's how I feel. That's what I'll do."

More quotes from Moreno:

"If you want to continue to perform at the highest level, you have to keep building the business," Moreno said. "And that's what I intend to do."

"We know where our weaknesses are, we know where we are thin, we know where we have to go to market," Moreno said. "It's going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we're committed to winning."

"You're not in the playoffs, you're not a happy person," Moreno said. ''I just don't like losing, and we're going to make adjustments."

"We're trying to improve how we operate, from the baseball side," he said. "We were thin this year. We didn't have the depth we needed. Everything starts with how we draft and how we develop, and we will do a better job of that."

"Championship teams develop their players like we have, we know that," he said. "But sometimes when the prospects aren't there, you have to bridge that area, and I'm willing to do that."

The fans need to see that we are doing something..."

"Am I going to go down to talk to the press and say I'm mad?" he said. "I was always taught that you wash your dirty laundry at home. Yes, we want to communicate to the fans, but in this case, the fans can see what's going on."

Read those quotes again and let them sink in.

Two months have passed. What have we heard since then? Just crickets….

We know what has happened since that time. Yup. The Angels signed two left handed relief pitchers on the down side of their careers One will be 35 by opening day (Scott Downs) and the other will be 36 (Hisanori Takahashi).

The Angels missed out on Carl Crawford and now seem to be held captive by Scott Boras over the negotiations for Adrian Beltre.

In the mean time – Tony Reagins has made statements like signing Takahashi was a big splash… His latest gem came in an interview with Terry Smith (which you can hear on where he makes a statement along the lines of signing Takahashi, Downs and getting a full season of Dan Haren and Kendry Morales is like signing four free agents.


I guess Tony Reagins really thinks we are idiots. I expect this kind of spin from a politician, but not from a baseball general manager with a season ticket base that is as large as the one the Angels enjoy. We deserve better.

Let’s see, on one hand we have an owner who basically tells us he’s going to do what he needs to do and on the other we have a GM who acts like everything is hunky dory. Imagine Reagins as the captain of the Titanic and telling his passengers, “we’ve just run into a little ice and we’ll be at our destination in no time.” What Captain Reagins neglects to tell his passengers is that the “destination” is the bottom of the ocean.

Is the ship really sinking in Anaheim? No, not really – I like to exaggerate a little for effect. Is it taking on some water right now? Yeah, I think so. Are they working frantically to correct things? I sure hope so, but appearances are not encouraging.

The longer this off season goes without any really solid good news… I mean the kind of news that makes a fan pump his fist, and say, “that’s what I’m talking about…” the more anxious we become and the more we focus on empty statements like the ones above.

I’m trying to imagine what Moreno is thinking these days. Is he still mad? Is he apathetic? Confident? Concerned? Frustrated? Or is he still motivated to get things going in the right direction?

I want answers, but I’m not likely to get t hem. I basically have to sit here, be patient and wait to see what happens. In prior years, I haven’t had much of a problem with doing exactly that, but my gut keeps telling me we may be headed for a repeat of 2010.

I hope I’m wrong. I would love to be dead wrong about all of this. I would prefer to find out I was paranoid for no good reason, but the bits of information that make it out into the public for our consumption leaves me more pessimistic than I’ve ever been.

Let's look at two of Moreno's statments again...

First: "The fans need to see that we are doing something..."

Correction Mr. Moreno, we want to see that you are doing something significant and we don't want Mr. Reagins spinning us a load of crap.

Second: "Am I going to go down to talk to the press and say I'm mad?" he said. "I was always taught that you wash your dirty laundry at home. Yes, we want to communicate to the fans, but in this case, the fans can see what's going on."

We see what's going on all right and we're not happy. What really makes us angry is when Reagins talks to us like we're idiots and tries to play spin doctor. He's better off just keeping his mouth shut all-together.

At the end of the day, you need to remember the old saying "action always speaks louder than words."

December 13, 2010

Surprises abound

It’s been a few days, but I’m still reeling from the Carl Crawford news.

I know I should let it go and move on because there’s plenty of off-season left, but I can’t. Here’s the thing – the way the deal went down just doesn’t sit well with me. Sean McAdam wrote a detailed accounting of how the Red Sox acquired Crawford and it doesn’t paint Tony Reagins in the best of light.

The story is interesting on many levels and speaks volumes about the way the Red Sox go about their business and I mean that in a good way. Like I said last week – the Red Sox play big boy baseball and after reading McAdam’s column, images of Carlton Banks continue to dance in my head when I think about Tony Reagins. I'm not happy about this image; it just is what it is.

The gist of the article is that the Red Sox identified Crawford as their #1 off season target when they began to fall out of contention in the AL East. The dedicated a scout to get as much "intel" on him as possible. They wanted to know about his game, his character and personality, etc.

They had a plan and they paid attention. They didn’t ignore the chatter about his aversion to playing in Boston and had a face to face discussion about the whole thing. They were smart and methodical.

In the end, they made Carl Crawford want to go to Boston and the Angels… well… they were left red faced and screaming (my perception). It’s getting to the point where it seems like the Angels aren’t as cool as they think they are and players are looking elsewhere when all things are equal (like money).

The whole thing just makes me anxious. I’ll admit it. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Tony Reagins right now. That being said, he has plenty of time to convince me otherwise, but the best offensive options in free agency are disappearing and I’d rather not see the Angels gut their minor league system via a trade for a quick fix.

Signing Adrian Beltre is critical. Yeah, I said critical. Even still, he won’t be enough. The Angels can’t afford to go into the 2011 campaign with Juan Rivera/Bobby Abreu in left field and both Peter Bourjos and Jeff Mathis in the lineup with something to prove offensively.

The longer the Beltre talks go on, the less confident I feel. I fully expect to read about another missed opportunity that got away from the Angels because of a deadline, a cross look, take-it-or-leave-it offer, a broken promise, egos or some other crazy scenario. Scott Boras must be loving this because he has the Angels right where he wants them.

Say whatever you want about Boras; but at the end of the day, he often looks like a hired gun who has just slapped the town sherriff silly.

Now, I’m a rational guy. I know it’s only December 13, 2010. I know there’s time, but there’s this feeling in my gut that didn’t get there because of something I ate. The uneasy feeling is the result of what my friend Dan (a retried San Diego detective) calls “priors.” In other words, Reagins track record of late isn’t comforting and neither is that of Arte Moreno for that matter.

The perception isn't pretty.

They give me the impression of being over-matched and over-confident. The reports from the Winter Meetings were of Angel executives talking as if they already had Crawford on their roster. Stuff like that makes me cringe and shakes my confidence in the front office to the core.

Now, all that can change in the blink of an eye… but as I stare at my computer and frequently check – I’m not blinking. I’m not getting wide eyed either. I’m feeling like I’m falling asleep and when I wake up; it will be 2010 all over again.

I hope I’m wrong. I’m not used to being this pessimistic, but last season took its toll on me. I keep looking back to last year when I proclaimed the Angels had gotten older and slower and had lost their ace… and then my tune changed as the weather got nicer and spring came calling. Looking back I see now that my initial gut reaction was right last off season and I was foolish to ignore my instincts.

I’m not going to make that mistake again.

I know I don’t have any control over what the front office does, but I can certainly form an opinion about what they do or don’t do.

To compound my anxiety – Keith Law broke down the Scott Downs signing (subscription required) and he makes some good points that don’t speak well of the whole thing. My eyes narrowed as I read about how Downs only threw in the high 80’s as visions of Brian Fuentes danced in my head. Law went on to say “I'd bet good money he ends his career in a specialist role.” Ouch. $15 million for a specialist? Double ouch.

I’m anxious. I’m not throwing in the towel or proclaiming that the sky is falling; but then again, I’m kind of afraid to look up.

Tonight we learned that the Cliff Lee sweepstakes ended in a surprise. As the negotations went on and on - we were lead to believe that the Yankees and Rangers were the front runners for Lee. We then learned that there was a "mystery" third team. When the news came out that the mystery team was the Phillies; a lot of people dismissed the idea.

This is what the writers and insiders do consistently... they miss the boat.

If you haven't heard - the Phillies signed Lee. Lee took less money and fewer years when all the experts thought he'd simply go to the highest bidder. Turns out the time Lee spent in Philly last year, were the happiest baseball days of his life. Who knew?

Well, we know who didn't know....

Baseball is unpredictable and this off season is proving to be as unpredictable as the season itself. I have no idea what will happen next, but my hope is that the Angels get in the game and stop watching other teams get better.

December 9, 2010

Blue Horseshoe loves the Red Sox

When the Angels failed to make the playoffs this past season we heard how upset and angry Arte Moreno was. When the Red Sox failed to make the play-offs they got busy and did something about it.

Even though opening day is months away and there is plenty of off-season left for the Angels to do something, the news coming out of Boston regarding their signing of Carl Crawford to a 7-year $142 million contract says a lot about the major league baseball landscape.

Baseball is a business and if you look at all the teams as if they were stocks, you would realize that the Angels stock just dropped and the Red Sox portfolio just went nuts. One could say the Angels’ “brand” just took a hit and their fan base, especially their season ticket holders just got punched in the stomach… again.

That’s right; again.

Two years ago it happened when the Angels lost out on Mark Teixeira. Last year Angel fans took one in the gut again when Lackey signed with the Red Sox. Yes, this is becoming all too familiar.

Even though losing out on Teixeira ultimately paved the way for Kendry Morales and even though John Lackey had one of his worst statistical seasons ever; it doesn’t diminish the pain Angel fans feel at the time of those events.

Yes, we can still look forward with optimism, but we’re more likely to be a little more jaded instead.

The rumors about the Angels being a lock to sign Crawford were just too good to be true. If you have spent any time reading this blog, you know how I feel about analysts, “insiders,” columnist and beat writers and their predictions; they’re worthless. Most of these people should spend their time reporting baseball news and not predicting it. But what are we going to do? People love predictions…

Baseball “insiders” aren’t’ really insiders at all are they? I mean, there isn’t a Bud Fox in the bunch.

When this kind of bad news hits, the results are predictable. First there is shock, then there is anger and frustration and then any number of things can happen; be it panic, depression or denial I’m really not here to explore any of that. I just know each Angel fan will deal with this differently.

My concern revolves around one central character and that’s Tony Reagins. Is it just me or is it possible that he’s actually Carlton Banks from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?” I ask because the Carlton character often seemed to be out of touch with reality.

I get the impression that Reagins operates with an air of arrogance and/or ignorance. When the Phillies signed Jayson Werth to the ridiculous 7-year, $126 million contract, Reagins said it wouldn’t have any impact on how the Angels do business. I don’t know, but that sounds either arrogant or ignorant to me. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, the fact that he said it is kind of alarming.

When the Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett reported that Reagins said, “I think I already made a huge splash with (Hisanori) Takahashi,” Reagins said. “He adds a lot of value to your club.”- I again had to question the mind set of Reagins. Did he say that with a straight face? Seems to me that would be the response of a little kid who didn’t get his way and was looking for a way to justify what just happened.

I mean for days we heard the Carl Crawford was the Angels #1 priority. Then when they don’t’ sign him, we are told that Takahashi was the “big splash?” Come on, you sound like a swap meet vendor trying to convince us that his designer goods are for real.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not bashing Tony Reagins (well, maybe a little), I’m simply questioning his mind set. I’m not looking to see him replaced; I just want to understand where he’s coming from.

Angel fans are watching you Tony and we have a news flash for you. The offense is broken. Fix it.

The Red Sox just demonstrated that they play “big boy” baseball. Your move Tony. We already know what the Yankees are willing and capable of doing. We also saw that the Texas Rangers are serious about doing whatever it takes. What are you going to do?

And for the record... YES, I'm in the knee-jerk reaction mode right now. Just saying.

December 6, 2010

The five players I will miss one day...

I’ve been a little under the weather lately and thus the lag on this blog. Today, I’m a little shell shocked from all the activity that took place over the weekend. I was pretty much un-plugged and disconnected all weekend and missed the news about Jayson Werth, Adrian Gonzalez, Lance Berkman, Shaun Marcum, Derek Jeter, Mark Reynolds, etc., etc.

Rather than repeat what everyone else is basically saying about all the deals; let’s just say that a lot of what actually happened is once again very different from all the speculation that lead up to the actual deals. That kind of makes me nervous, given how so many people are predicting that Carl Crawford will end up in Anaheim.

Time will definitely tell.

The Winter Meetings have begun; well at least for most everyone not named the Angels. Apparently, Tony Reagins is in route today. I’m sure this will add to the anxiety most Angel fans are feeling these days.

My own thoughts on all the moves relate to what it must be like to be a San Diego Padre season ticket holder right about now. They just lost the best player on their team and one of their all-time greats, period. Padre fans, I feel for you. Your team just went from being one game away from the post-season to obscurity. I’m not saying that to be harsh. I know that just has to hurt. It has to hurt on many levels because Gonzalez was so great in your community and such a solid citizen all the way around.

The void created by players like Gonzalez leaving is absolutely huge. I’m thinking of all the little kids who think of him as their favorite player. It just makes the careers of people like Tony Gwynn or the Angels own Tim Salmon all the more special in that they stayed in one place for their whole baseball life.

All of this makes you appreciate what you have while you have it.

Baseball players come and go. Some leave an indelible imprint while they play the game and some fade into the sunset without a second thought. Well, I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot lately and Adrian Gonzalez leaving and Derek Jeter staying gave me even more reason to think about it.

I was thinking there are some baseball players who I will really miss once they retire or leave the game and I probably have taken some of them for granted. I mean, you get used to seeing certain players do certain things and even though some of those things are incredible, you don’t necessarily realize it at the time. Again, we take them for granted.

So, I came up with a list of the five players I will truly miss when they leave the game of baseball (Angels past and present excluded). I’ll miss them for different reasons, but I’ll miss their contributions just the same.

Number 5 on my list is Todd Helton.

Like I said earlier, it’s unusual these days for one player to spend his entire career with one organization; especially when that career spans a great number of years. Todd Helton has been a Colorado Rockie for fourteen seasons now. He’s a five-time all-star with more than 300 career homeruns and a career batting average of .324. He is for all intensive purposes the face of the Colorado Rockies. When I think of the Rockies, he’s the first player that comes to mind.

He’s what I would consider ‘old school” and from what I can tell, he seems to be a pretty funny guy....

Todd Helton isn’t going to the Hall of Fame (and he’s not going to win any Oscars), but he’s been the model of consistency for years. There’s something to be said about a guy who shows up day in and day out, plays hard, hits well, plays good defense (3 gold gloves) and plays the game the right way. I like the fact that I’ve always been able to associate him with the Colorado Rockies. When he’s done, I’ll miss him because in this day of free agency and the need for some players to seek the biggest possible contract, he’s an endangered species.

Number 4 on my list is Alberto Pujols.

What can you say about a player who hits anything and everything?

After all, Albert Pujols is a machine.

I don’t k now if Pujols will be a Cardinal for his entire career, but part of me hopes so. I’d say that with Mark Teixeira in New York and Adrian Gonzalez now in Boston for years to come, the number of teams that can actually afford and might need Pujols just got smaller.

Pujols is so great that when he’s just “very good,” we think he’s having an off season. He had a fantastic 2010 campaign with 42 homeruns, a .312 batting average and a 1.011 OPS and he finished second in the MVP voting.

It’s gotten to the point where we expect him to perform at such an elite level that a season like the one he just had seems sub-par (even though it’s certainly not).

He’s just the kind of player you expect to do something amazing every time he comes to bat. He’s probably the guy you’d least like to face when the game is on the line and yet, he’s the guy you most want to see at the same time.

Number 3 on my list is David Ortiz

One day, I will miss David Ortiz the way Laker fans miss Larry Bird. If you're a Laker fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about. He has been a pain the rear of Angel fans for years now and because of that I will miss him slightly more than Pujols. Crazy, I know.

When David Ortiz is up to bat with the game on the line, bad things happen. Bad things like walk off homeruns and game winning hits.

Willie McCovey hit 18 grand slams in his career. Not the most by a player, but when I was a kid and McCovey came to bat with the bases loaded, it seemed like he hit a homerun every time. It got to the point where every time McCovey came to bat, I had to watch. There are only a handful of players who have commanded that kind of attention from me; Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell, and Mike Piazza come to mind (I know, I know... but I loved to watch Piazza hit).

Even though Ortiz has only half as many career grand slams as McCovey, I think of him like I used to think of McCovey.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t shed any tears when Ortiz walks away from the game, but I will miss him because he represents a big part of the rivalry that has existed between the Angels and Red Sox.

Number 2 is Mariano Rivera.

Like Ortiz, I have this thing about great players on the teams I hate. If they play with class and aren’t arrogant I appreciate them.

Closers are so unpredictable. One year they’re flawless and the next they’re a disaster, but not Mariano. Nope. This guy is the model of consistency and even though Eric Gagne was once known as “Game Over” – it’s Rivera who truly deserves that distinction and nickname.

He’s the guy who gives Yankee fans a reason to breathe a sigh of relief. He’s that steady, calming presence that makes you believe everything is going to be okay because he’s in the game. He’s so great and yet I he doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves in my opinion.

Check out these videos of “Mo.”

Who made who more famous?

It’s all about “the cutter.”

Who will I miss more than anyone once they’re gone from the game of baseball (Angels, past and present excluded)? Why it’s Ichiro.

Everything he does seems effortless and yet if you know anything about Ichiro, you know that he’s worked extremely hard to make it seem like it’s effortless.

Check out this piece by Brad Lefton in 2003.

Here’s an excerpt:

Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena had a hunch about Ichiro Suzuki. Pena didn't think the Mariners right fielder was as tense on the field as his often-steely face might otherwise indicate. Pena was building his theory on some casual observations he had made: Ichiro seemed to exhale when swinging the bat, whereas other players tensely grit their teeth; and the soft sound of Ichiro's footsteps approaching first base in full throttle was different than the heavy clumps he was used to hearing. But an exchange between the two at Comerica Park last season simply blew away Pena and confirmed his hunch.

After Ichiro singled for the first time in a game, Pena seized the moment. As the two were getting set for the next pitch, Pena initiated a casual conversation, like first basemen often do. "I asked him a question, and he answered, `Absolutely,' as he was taking his lead." Pena recalls. "The next thing I knew, he was gone with the pitch, stealing second. I mean he was halfway to second base almost while he was still talking. Other guys, if you say something to them when they're about to steal, they won't talk to you because they're tense. They know something's about to happen, and they've got to focus. I couldn't believe he went on that very pitch. He's so relaxed, he can do that."

Former Mariners manager Lou Piniella saw Ichiro up close for two years and knew early on that Pena's hunch was solid. "Ichiro works very hard at his game, but at the same time, he's very relaxed and he's very confident. He really has the mental part of the game under control."

I don't understand why more players don't train like Ichirio. He is rarely ever hurt and looks like he can play well into his forties.

Here's some fun stuff for your viewing pleasure...

Ichirio is a special player. If you stop to think about what he's accomplished, the way he's done it and all he may continue to do, it's simply amazing.

So there you have it... who willl you miss when they're gone?