January 31, 2010

Enough is enough...

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I’m really tired of this off season. First and foremost, I’ve had enough of Johnny Damon watch 2010. Where will Damon go? Will he go back to the Yankees? Will he grow his beard out? Will he eat a ham sandwich today? Good grief. Damon is like an aging rock star that’s forced to tour on the County Fair circuit as far as I’m concerned. Then again, I’ve just added to all the Damon talk with this post. Forgive me.

I’m also very tired of reading how one by one; the pundits and so-called baseball experts are picking the Seattle Mariners to win the American League West. Really? It’s not even February and some of you can’t even wait until Spring Training? What’s the hurry? It’s like they’re falling over one another to make sure they can pick Seattle before someone else does.

Rob Neyer of ESPN has the Angels winning just 81 games, six less than the Mariners. (CORRECTION - Neyer is commenting on CAIRO projections here - and not making them himself at this point).

Neyer give us some brilliant analysis. He did some in-depth research to tell us that “Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu are a year older.” Apparently, the rest of the league didn’t age. Go figure. Thanks Rob. By the way, you’re a year older too and your game seems to be slipping some as well. I’m just saying.

He also went on to say “Kendry Morales was probably over his head some last year.” When projections you don’t pan out (and Morales blew away all his projections last year), you get statements like that one. After all, something must be wrong if the projections are off, right? Year after year the Angels win more games than they’re projected to. It’s enough to make some people throw a hissy fit. I’m sure some will always under-project the Angels record because sooner or later they’re bound to be right – even if it’s just once.

To Neyer’s credit he does say that there isn’t much difference between the A’s projected 87 wins and the Angels’ projected 81 wins. He says “there are at least six games in play.” Whatever.

Dayn Perry of Fox Sports has also picked the Mariners to win the west. I really don’t know why I bother reading Perry or even following him on Twitter; because he seems to know as much about baseball as my cat does. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something and thought to myself, does Perry do any kind of research what-so-ever?

I guess the Mariners are the new favorite flavor so far. So be it. I really shouldn’t get so worked up about projections. I mean we’re talking about projections. Projections? Where’s Allen Iverson when you need him. He’d be the perfect guy to tell us how ridiculous this all is. I mean we’re talking projections.

I’m also done with reading all the Mark McGwire bashing. I don’t think he should get into the Hall of Fame, but I can’t believe some people want to deprive him of continuing on with a life in baseball. Some of the demands being thrown out by people in glass houses are really nauseating.

Critiquing apologies has become a new art form. It’s as of he just finished an ice skating routine (imagine that) and some writer turned judge wants to knock him down a peg or two because of the way he blinks his eyes. The comments are almost as crazy as picturing McGwire on ice.

By the way, it’s almost time for another Johnny Damon update. What do you have for me? I’m just kidding. Well, sort of any way.

One thing I’m not tired of, but I’m still wondering about is whether or not anyone has noticed that the “Billy Beane is a genius” talk doesn’t seem to be as prevalent these days. Whatever happened to that movie with Brad Pitt playing the role of Beane? I’m betting it was beat out by the sequel to Snakes on a Plane or something like that.

I have to ask is anyone else waiting with baited breath for the updated PECOTA projections? Earlier in the week they had projected the Angels to finish last and the A’s to finish first. Hey, are you thinking what I’m thinking? This must have been some sort of ploy to get the movie “Money Ball” back on the front burner.

Anyway, Baseball Prospectus (BP) is still working on getting a clue. Oops, did I just write that? I meant to say, BP is ironing out some problems they had with their initial projections. I guess the laughter kind of got to them or something. I guess you can gather that I’m waiting for the PECOTA projections for the comic relief it can provide.

Breaking news… you’re probably not going to believe me, but Allen Iverson just called me to say he couldn’t believe I was still talking about practice… I mean projections…

One last thing about PECOTA. Word on the street was that Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes were going to investigate the projections and ask the folks at Baseball Prospectus if they actually charged people for the work they do? Then again, can there be any penalties for catering to the fantasy baseball world? I mean think about – they call it FANTASY baseball for a reason, right?

Enough about what I’m sick and tired of.

A couple things I’m looking forward to include hearing Rich Thompson say “cheers” as he signs autographs for fans at Spring Training. Something about Australian accents and baseball players is kind of cool.

I’m also looking forward to Reggie Willits, Terry Evans, Chris Pettit and Peter Bourjos getting after it as they compete to make the 25 man roster. Something about healthy competition gets me going.

I can’t wait to see Torii Hunter interacting with fans. No one is better at engaging fans than Hunter in my opinion. ESPN the Magazine voted Joe Mauer as the fan friendliest player in baseball. That’s high praise, but I can only stand by what I’ve seen first hand and Hunter loves baseball fans.

Tomorrow is February 1 and that means spring training is just around the corner. How sweet it is that pitchers and catchers report in less than three weeks!

BallHype: hype it up!

January 30, 2010

It's never too early for baseball

Jered Weaver (Angels), Cesar Ramos (Padres), and Marco Estrada (Nationals) were among the Dirtbag alumni who returned to Blair Field today to participate in the Long Beach State Baseball team’s intra squad game.

Weaver started the game by facing three batters without allowing a hit and striking out the first man he faced. It was a brief outing for Weaver, who is one of 34 alumni who have made their way to the major leagues; a list that includes Evan Longoria (Rays), Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies), Jason Giambi (Rockies), Jason Vargas (Mariners), Bobby Crosby (Pirates) and others. Weaver was followed by Ramos, Estrada, Brett Lorin (Pirates), and Nick Vincent (Padres), who each pitched an inning.

I didn’t actually stick around for the whole game and other alumni were present; although it was hard to tell who was who. All in all, it was a nice day to be out at a ball park and Blair Field is a great little baseball stadium.

I’m a proud Long Beach State alumnus and love the tradition behind the Long Beach State Dirtbags.

What is a Dirtbag? Per the Long Beach State 49er baseball site: The unofficial nickname of Long Beach State 49er baseball team refers to the program’s style of play and success against higher profile programs. The moniker was first coined for Coach Snow’s first team in 1989 which was comprised of nearly all new players. Playing without a home field (LBCC, Cerritos JC and Blair Field), and practicing at a local all-dirt Pony Field, that team won its first 18 games and advanced to the 49ers first College World Series appearance. Then-infield coach Dave Malpass would take his infielders to the all-dirt field for their rigorous workout. The infielders would return to the regular practice field after their sessions covered in dirt. Thus the name “Dirtbags” was born. The name resurfaced again in 1993 when the 12-12 49ers rallied to win 34 of their next 41 games and finish three outs short of the National Championship game. The “Dirtbags” were once again a fan favorite at the 1998 College World Series as the country received a lesson in “Dirtbag” baseball.

For more information about Long Beach State baseball, visit their web site.

Pictured below are Cesar Ramos (upper left), Marco Estrada (upper right), Brett Lorin (lower left) and Nick Vincent (lower right)

More pictures of Jered Weaver:

The Dirtbags open their season at home on February 19 at 6:30 p.m. against the Pepperdine Waves at Blair Field; where incidently, Bobby Grich is a member of the Blair Field Hall of Fame.

Videos from today:

BallHype: hype it up!

January 28, 2010

What's in a song?

My wife Cheryl is great at making observations. She sees the deeper meaning in things and has the keen ability to call things to my attention that I would never have thought about if it weren’t for her.

Well, Cheryl has this thing about the song the Angels play during the 7th inning stretch at Angels Stadium. You know the song they play after “Take me out to the ball game?” It starts out with “Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby, Just to let me down and mess me around…”

In her opinion it’s an odd song choice for the Angels. I mean compared to the Dodgers’ song of “Don’t stop believing” – “Build me up Buttercup,” is like self full filing prophecy. The song is about disappointment and when you think about the Angels' post season record since 2002 the parallels to the song are kind of obvious.

The line “So build me up, buttercup, don’t break my heart” is like an Angels' fan plea to their team and yet; the last several years, a broken heart (as Cheryl points out) is something we’ve become all too familiar with.

Cheryl’s solution is a new song. What song screams Angels more than any other? What song would have people dancing in the aisles and kids smiling and singing along? How about singing, Hey, hey we’re the Monkees? The song ties into the whole rally monkey thing. It’s also easy to remember, sing along to and has a positive vibe as well. Dick Clark would probably give it a "95" or higher.

Hey, hey, we're the Monkees
And people say we monkey around.
But we're too busy singing
To put anybody down.

We're just tryin' to be friendly,
Come and watch us sing and play,
We're the young generation,
And we've got something to say.

Hey, hey, we're the Monkees
Hey, hey, we're the Monkees

Extra verse:

Hey, hey, we're the Monkees,
You never know where we'll be found.
so you'd better get ready,
We may be comin' to your town.

I think Cheryl has a point. Oh and if this song is in your head for the rest of your day, don’t blame me.

BallHype: hype it up!

January 27, 2010

There's something about Joe

I’m predicting big things for Joe Saunders in 2010. I know that’s probably not a big surprise since I’ve gone on record several times to tell you all that I’m a huge Joe Saunders fan. Never-the-less, in this case I’m not just saying things just to say it.

Fact is I expect big things out of the rotation as a whole. I’ve already gone over my thoughts on Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir. Now it’s time to pump up the volume on Joe.

Look we’ve already seen glimpses of what he can do. He had an all-star season in 2008 and had he not been injured last year, he probably would have duplicated and possibly even improved upon that effort in 2009. Not being able to get full extension in his shoulder was a major contributor to his struggles. That’s not an excuse; that’s just the way it is.

Even still, we saw some good stuff from Joe last year; like the night he bested CY Young award winner Zack Greinke with a complete game, 1-0 shut out on May 9, 2009. You know what I loved about that game? Joe’s reaction when he won. When the game ended, Joe had that “boy that was fun” look on his face. It wasn’t a “look at me, I’m the great K-Rod demonstration;” it was more along the lines of “how about that” as he slapped his glove in celebration.

I loved it. Cheryl (my wife) loved it. He bested one of the top notch pitchers in the game. I’m sure I was yelling “that’s what I’m talking about!”

That night was vintage Joe. That was a guy with quiet confidence finding his way into the spotlight organically. He was just doing his thing and having fun doing it. You have to love that.

If you’re not a Joe Saunders fan yet, stick around – you will be.

He’s not the kind of guy who grabs headlines. Guys who pitch to contact rarely are, but let me tell you – Joe’s got game. I’ve lamented plenty of times about the great season he had in 2008 when he lead the Angels starters in wins and ERA. If he’s healthy (and I’m assuming he will be) I see no reason why he can’t get back to having another season like the one in 2008.

Now, I may be in the minority in that thinking, as people like Bill James seems to disagree. He projects Saunders to go 10-10 with a respectable 4.15 ERA and a FIP of 4.41. Most projections have him improving on his 2009 season, but none appear to have him coming close to what he did just two years ago.

I mean 10-10? Really? Someone get Vegas on the line, I need to put down a bet.

Joe is all of 28 years old and I believe he’s about to enter into the prime of his career. He showed how good he could be when he came off the DL last season. In the 8 starts after coming off the DL on August 26, 2009 he gave up three runs just once, two runs five times, didn’t allow any runs once and gave up a run on one other start.

He was Smokin’ Joe Saunders during that stretch. He went 7-1 in those games. Yeah, yeah, I know wins aren’t necessarily the best indicator of pitching success. So relax, winning seven games is a good thing. Trust me on this.

I believe those last eight games were more indicative of Saunders’ ability than most of the prior games when he was battling injury. Now, I may be a Saunders homer, but I don’t think that’s an unreasonable assumption, do you?

Here’s another thought; Joe will most likely be the #2, #3 or #4 starter and that means he will usually be facing other #2's, #3’s and #4’s. I have to say; I like his chances against those guys on any given night. Now, I know schedules don’t always pan out that way, but it isn’t a reach by any means.

So there you have it. I’m expecting big things from Joe Saunders. The 2010 rotation is going to be something special. I believe they will push one another and that there will be a friendly competition to out do one another. These are young guys, with a great deal of confidence and talent. They may be the best 1-5 staff in the big leagues.

Even though there has been an influx of top-of-the-rotation type guys coming into the AL West; like Cliff Lee, Ben Sheets and Rich Harden joining the likes of Felix Hernandez, I’ll take the Angels starting five over any other five starters on any other given team in the AL West. Can I get a boo-ya?

Now… about that Maicer Izturis signing. I’ve read where some Angel fans are wondering if Izturis’ well-deserved three year, $10 million contract spells some sort of bad news for Howie Kendrick and/or Brandon Wood. Well, in a word – no. However, the fact that some fans are even thinking that way is a great indicator as to how good Izturis is.

Might Maicer as Rex Hudler would say, “has skills.” He’s an asset and the Angels were wise to lock him up for three years. He’s much more than a bench player; he’s a solid utility guy who will easily get 300-350 AB’s. He’s also a very…. (now, get ready for this because I’m going to use one of those phrases that drives some stat heads crazy)… a very “clutch” hitter. Ooh, I think I heard a couple of veins pop on some foreheads out there.

It was time to pay Izturis and that’s not a bad reflection on Kendrick or Wood; it’s a great reflection on Izturis’ value to the Angels. That’s it folks; so, let’s not get crazy.

By the way, some of you may have noticed that the guy I was hoping the Angels would sign to fill in for the role formerly played by Robb Quinlan; Chad Tracy was signed by the Cubs.

I’m still trying to figure out who will end up backing up Kendry Morales at 1B. Izturis has 2B, 3B, and SS covered, but I can’t see a guy who’s all of 5’8” backing up Morales. So, who’s still available?

Well, there’s Hank Blalock (a popular choice among Angel fans); however, I think he’s a train wreck defensively and hits enough bombs to probably warrant a full time DH job somewhere else. Perhaps someone like Ryan Garko (who went to Servite High School in Anaheim) could fill that role.

Oh and before anyone brings it up (actually I’m too late on this), let’s just say “NO” to bringing back Darin Erstad for that role. I think there’s some kind of unwritten rule about guys who take out ads in the local paper to thank the fans when they leave, not being able to come back to that team. Those kind of good-byes are final, even though it was a tremendous gesture on Erstad’s part.

By the way, I’m still waiting for one of those from the guy who went to Boston, but I’m not holding my breath.

One last thing... today is my late father's birthday. I miss him more than words can say. I know he would have loved this blog.

BallHype: hype it up!

January 25, 2010

Come and get some swagger

Admit it. I know exactly what’s been on the minds of some of you Angel fans. You’ve still got that bitter taste in your mouth from an ALCS that seemed winnable. You’ve probably been focusing on what went wrong and some of you keep coming back to a guy who was supposed to make a difference. You keep coming back to Scott Kazmir. I’m right, aren’t I?

I know you’re wondering why the Angels traded for this guy. You’re thinking, “If this is the insurance policy for John Lackey’s departure; somebody got swindled.” You’re ready to call the baseball police or at least your local sports talk show to ask “What we’re the Angels thinking?”

I know the off season hasn’t gone like you hoped it would and you’ve got lots of things to get off your chest and the first item on your agenda is Kazmir. Go ahead and bring it.

Better yet, step into the batter’s box of public opinion and take your swings at Kazmir. You know you want to do it. You want to bash this guy because somebody has to take the blame and you’re thinking you know all about this guy and what he’s going to do or not do in 2010.

You want a piece of Kazmir? Like I said, step into the box, but know this and know it well; Kazmir is going to strike you out. In fact, he’s going to blow away that negative opinion and bad attitude you’re hanging on to. He’s going to make you wonder what happened. You’ll be shaking your head and looking over your shoulder and saying “Man, he’s pretty darn good after all.” And then, it’s going to happen; you’re going pause and a grin is going to find the corner of your lips and then that grin is going to turn into a Cheshire cat-like smile because Scott Kazmir just blew your mind by showing you what he can really do. I’m telling you that day is coming. You are going to learn that you were wrong and for one of the few times in your life, you’re actually going to be glad you were wrong and not be afraid to admit it.

Mark my words. Quote me all you want. Scott Kazmir is going to be an ace and he’s going to have a great season. In fact, I believe he’s going to have the kind of season that will make us forget about that guy who left town to pitch in Boston.

What’s that I hear? Do I detect a bit of skepticism? You want to know what happened to Kazmir in the 2009 post season. Well, it beats the heck out of me. Let’s just say that I don’t believe Kazmir’s 2009 season and more specifically his 2009-post season is indicative of what he’s capable of doing. 2009 will not define Kazmir; I believe it will motivate him to greatness in 2010.

I’m thinking all that because reports from Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required for whole article) indicate Kazmir is working hard to get back to being that top-of-the-rotation guy the Angels believe he can be. Word is he started working out one week after his season ended. Let me remind you that was three months ago. Kazmir is no slackey, err slacker.

This is a guy who’s clearly on a mission. I know, I know – that phrase gets used to death, but it fits with what’s going on here. According to Olney, Kazmir has been working on some very specific goals; things like strengthening his core, allowing him to repeat his delivery consistently. And that delivery is going to feature what he hopes is an improved slider. He’s working on a new grip to give his slider more spin.

What’s it all mean?

Let’s just say that Kazmir is working on stuff that isn’t going to show up in any of those projections that have become so popular. How could it? Did Bill James know that Kazmir was going to be stronger and more fit before he projected Kazmir to have a 3.90 ERA, a 3.84 FIP and 176 K’s in 2010?

No, he didn’t. You can’t measure stuff like this and if one could factor this stuff in; wouldn’t it stand to reason those projections (courtesy of FanGraphs.com) are shy of what he really might do?

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I’m thinking boo-ya! Heck yeah, Kazmir is going to blow his projections away and then some.

Look, most projections already have Kazmir showing significant improvement over his 2009 season. And that’s without factoring in the work he’s doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m learning to appreciate sabermetrics, but sometimes things happen that you just can’t predict. Kazmir is throwing a wrench into the projections by doing work that’s going to make a huge difference in how he performs.

It’s time to expect big things from Kazmir. Time for roto geeks to move Kazmir up on their draft sheets (myself included) and for Angel fans to flock to the team store to buy his jersey.

It’s also time to wipe that bitter taste of losing in the ALCS from your lips and time to start thinking about a better season in 2010. Come on, you know you want to believe. Spring is almost here and being optimistic will put a little extra pep in your step or even; dare I say… a little swagger!

BallHype: hype it up!

January 22, 2010

Different Stokes

I don’t know what kind of Christmas Brian Stokes had, but his new year is off to a great start. Stokes leaves an organization (the Mets) that appears to have no plan and no clue for how to make their team better and ends up at one of the best run baseball teams in the major leagues.

To top it off, Stokes is from Southern California (he attended Jurupa Valley High School in Mira Loma) and will have an opportunity to play in front of friends and family on a regular basis.

In case you didn’t know - earlier today it was announced that Gary Matthews, Jr. (GMJ) was traded to the New York Mets for a relief pitcher named Brian Stokes. As part of the deal, the Angels will pay GMJ all but $2 million of the remaining $23.5 million (GMJ gets a $500K signing bonus as part of the trade) on his contract.

Ouch. That’s a lot of cash for what ends up being a really bad investment.

Never-the-less, it was deal that had to be done and the fact that the Angels got anything at all in return is somewhat of a miracle.

So what does this trade mean for someone like Matt Palmer? Given the addition of Joel Pineiro and now Stokes, Bill Plunkett of the O.C.Register speculates that it could be a bad week to be Palmer. Palmer could potentially find himself back in Salt Lake City pitching for the Angels AAA affiliate Bee’s.

If Palmer ends up back in Salt Lake City, it will be a shame. I’m not saying that’s not where he belongs. As a fan, I just have empathy for his situation.

If you listened to Jeff Biggs’ interview last night on AM 830’s The Drive, you got a look into the personality and character of Palmer. Palmer nearly walked away from the game prior to last season, but instead became one of the feel-good stories of 2009.

Palmer joined the rotation under the toughest of circumstances; having to replace Nick Adenhart, who died tragically. He handled himself incredibly well, all things considered.

Palmer is the kind of guy you want to root for as a fan. Judging from the interview last night, he sounds like a devoted husband and loving father of three. He’s also a humble man and someone who loves to share his faith with others. He pithced beyond anyone's expectations in 2009 and quite frankly hasn’t done anything to warrant a trip back to the minors; however, his future suddenly looks very different.

What ends up being good news for Stokes could end up being bad news for Palmer. Such is life.

One has to wonder if Palmer will hang in there if he has to head back to the minor leagues. Palmer will be 31 next month and time is running out for him to have a meaningful career.

Personally, I hope he sticks it out. It’s unlikely that the Angel starters will make all of their scheduled starts and Palmer provides depth. He’ll just have to wait for his opportunity yet again. When you think about it, it would probably best for the Angels to have Palmer in the minor leagues as a starting pitcher. It would be easier for him to be called on to step into the rotation, rather than having to do a spot start as a reliever.

That being said, I’m not so sure Stokes should be the clear cut guy to get that spot in the bull pen.

When you take a look at their numbers, I’d say Palmer had the better year. Palmer had a lower ERA (3.93 to 3.97). Even though those ERA’s aren’t all that different, Palmer has to get higher marks for pitching in the American League. Palmer also had a lower WHIP (1.319 to 1.564), and one could argue that Palmer is much more versatile. Palmer can start, pitch in long relief and even has experience as a closer (at lower levels).

On the other hand, those who use sabermetrics would probably make the case for Stokes over Palmer. Stokes had a lower FIP than Palmer (4.63 to 4.70), but the numbers are close. Stokes also projects better than Palmer (according to Bill James, CHONE, and Marcel - which you can look up on FanGraphs).

Side note: If you’re wondering what in the heck FIP is, I would encourage you to read The Daily Something's explanation of FIP. As a sabermetric novice (at best) myself, I found the post from one of my favorite blogs to be most helpful.

I have to believe both players will have an opportunity to compete for a spot in the bull pen in the spring. There's also a chance Scioscia will have a twelve man pitching staff, which would give both players a chance (but that's unlikely).

As a fan, I have the luxury of showing bias here and I will personally be rooting for Matt Palmer. He's won me over.

By the way, let me be the first to call the new Angel reliever, Brian "Different" Stokes and let's imagine him looking at Reggie and saying, "what you talkin' bout Willits?"

Forgive me, I couldn't resist.

Today's trade also has an impact on the outfield situation. The battle for the fourth outfielder position will be waged between Reggie Willits, Terry Evans and possibly Chris Pettit or Peter Bourjous.

I know Willits is a fan favorite, but I'd really like to see Evans get a shot. He seems to have more upside than Willits. There's also a possibility that both could make the team or the Angels could look to the free agent market to find that piece.

Much of this depends on how many pitchers Scioscia decides to have on his roster.

January 21, 2010

Feeling a little better about Pineiro

I was trying to follow up on yesterday’s headline with another Clint Eastwood movie reference, but I don’t think “A fist full of dollars” or “High Plains Drifter” really fits the topic of Joel Pineiro; although, I could probably work with the fist full of dollars reference, but I digress…

Okay, so I’ve had a little time to digest the Joel Pineiro signing and I’ve had a chance to read and listen to some reactions. I can honestly say that I feel better about it today than I did yesterday.

Now that doesn’t mean I wasn’t pleased with the signing to begin with. I’m just “cautiously optimistic” as I wrote yesterday.

One of the reasons I feel better is because I read “Why Joel Pineiro was Good Last Year" on Halos Heaven’s blog. From Halos Heaven: “Joel Pineiro sucked until he developed a two-seam fastball. He didn’t have one until 2008, and then it became his go-to pitch in 2009, when he basically ceased using his four-seam fastball (which doesn’t have much movement). In 2007, he used his four-seam fastball 54% of the time. 36% in 2008. 11% in 2009. Meanwhile, he basically didn't HAVE a two-seamer in 2007 and prior, with it only being 3% of his pitches in 2007, but then 23% in 2008, and then a whopping 59% in 2009.”

The inspiration for the post came from an earlier posting by FanGraphs’ Dave Allen, who goes into a lot of detail about the evolution of Joel Pineiro and ir's definitely worth reading.

Bottom line, I feel good about the signing. I’m still not jumping up and down with excitement, but I’m pleased (the last time I jumped around like a crazy man; the Angels had signed Torii Hunter).

A funny thing about yesterday’s post; it apparently caught the attention of Jeff Biggs at AM830, who was kind enough to mention it on his show today. Biggs read some of what I wrote about his reaction to the signing. Unfortunately, it sounded like Biggs thought I was “ripping” him, when in fact I really wasn’t.

I just think Biggs was making the signing out to be a little bit bigger deal than it really was. Again, it was a nice pick up, but not earth shattering by any means (at least not in my opinion). In any case, he and I exchanged emails and it's all good. He doesn't really think I was ripping him after all.

I would have not have even known about "Biggsy’s" mention of True Grich, but my wife Cheryl happened to be in the car and listening when it happened and called me. I only got to hear a little bit and have to admit, it’s kind of strange hearing someone talk about you on the radio when you can’t respond. In any case, it was very nice to be mentioned and hopefully, I’ll have a chance to call into the show one of these days and to meet Biggs in person.

The fact that there is a station even talking Angels baseball at this time of year is pretty awesome. It wasn't that long ago that this would have only been a dream for Angel fans.

January 20, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly in signing Joel Pineiro

Reports are circulating that the Angels have signed Joel Pineiro to a two year, $16 million contract. Pineiro went 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 2009. If you listened to “The Drive” this afternoon with Jeff Biggs, you’d think the Angels just won the lottery. I don’t necessarily share that view, but think this could be a fairly good move for the Angels.

Let’s take a look an objective look at the addition.

First of all, Pineiro had a solid 2009 campaign. He only walked 27 batters in 214 innings. His 1.1 average of walks per nine innings was the lowest in the league. Pineiro made 32 starts; had three complete games and two shut outs. His 1.145 WHIP was outstanding and he only gave up 11 homeruns. Just about everything he did in 2009 was pretty good.

You’d think I’d be jumping up and down for joy, right? Well, color me optimistically cautious. You see I’m a little skeptical of one-hit wonders. Pineiro was never this good in his previous nine seasons. Granted, he had his moments in 2002 and 2003, but it’s those other years that have me somewhat concerned. 2006 and 2008 were particularly bad years for Pineiro. He had a 6.36 ERA in 2006 and 5.03 ERA in 2008.

Perhaps he’s finally figured it all out; at least I hope so. That being said, you have to remember that I’m still recovering from the Gary Matthews, Jr. signing. Face it, Matthews cashed in after one good season and hasn’t come close to that one good season since. I’d feel better if Pineiro had been more consistent over his ten year career.

Jeff Biggs kept calling the deal a “steal” at two years and $16 million. He kept lamenting that Pineiro was seeking a Randy Wolf-like contract at three years and $30 million. Okay, he signed for less, but is that because he’s not nearly as good as he thinks he is or is Tony Reagins just shrewd? I mean if Pineiro really is as good as Wolf, why didn’t he get Wolf-like money? It’s a fair question, don’t you think?

How many times have we heard that pitching comes at a premium? Why didn’t he get better offers from more teams? I’m just asking.

Another question I have is how much of his success came because of where he pitched and who his pitching coach was in 2009? I think most experts would agree that Dave Duncan, the Cardinals pitching coach is probably the best in the business. I mean this is a guy who turned around Jeff Weaver in 2006 and Kyle Lohse in 2008. My concern is what happens to Pineiro when he doesn’t have Duncan looking over his shoulder? No offense to Mike Butcher, but I’m not certain any other coach can get the same results.

Pineiro is not a strike out pitcher and that usually means the margin for error is a lot slimmer. Hitters put the ball in play when they face Pineiro and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Granted plenty of “ground ball” pitchers like Pineiro are successful, but it’s just another thing to consider.

I do like Pineiro over Matt Palmer as a starter and moving Palmer to the bull pen is a good thing. This move gives the team some much needed depth and buys Trevor Reckling some time to develop.

Don’t get me wrong; I think this is a good signing for the Angels. It’s just not the “holy cow” moment some people are trying to make it out to be.

January 19, 2010

Hot Stove news on Angels; past, present and future


The buzz this week is mostly about arbitration and who’s avoiding it and signing deals with their respective teams. For the Angels, two of the eight eligible players have signed; Jered Weaver for $4.265 million and Howie Kendrick for $1.75 million. That’s a $3.8 million raise for Weaver and a $1.285 million raise for Kendrick.

Especially nice raise for Kendrick, who has NBC Sports' Craig Calcaterra points out is “a lot of money for a guy they won't let hit against righties.” Stay tuned in 2010 Craig; the Angels are going to get their money’s worth. I’ve got a good feeling. Besides, if Izturis steals AB's away from anyone, it will most likely be Brandon Wood.

I’d really like to see the Angels lock up a few of their guys and buy out some of their arbitration and free agent years. They did this with Ervin Santana last year.

In other Angel arbitration news, Sam Miller posts in the OC Register blog (with credit to Ed Price of AOL) that Erick Abyar is asking for $2.75 million and the Angels are offering $1.8 million. Maicer Izturis asked for $3 million; $2.3 was offered.

And then there’s Jeff Mathis, who asked for $1.3 million and is being offered $700K. Funny thing about Mathis is that most players ask for raises after a great season, but he’s doing that after a great post-season. You have to wonder if he’s turned the corner, in which case he’d be deserving of $1.3 million, but if he reverts back to his regular season batting numbers, even $700K seems like a bit of a stretch (okay, maybe not).

I still don’t get the whole argument that he’s so good defensively. I know all about the pitching ERA thing being lower than Mike Napoli’s, but how many times did he air mail balls into center field when runners stole second base? I mean if the Giants were in the AL West, even Bengie Molina might have stolen a base or two on Mathis.

More arbitration numbers: Joe Saunders asked for $3.85 million and was offered $3.6 million (made $475,000 in 2009). They're so close, a deal is likely to get done soon.

Still waiting on numbers for Mike Napoli and Reggie Willits. Hmm. Now, this is just my opinion, but I find it interesting that their numbers aren’t surfacing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up being replaced by Bobby Wilson and Terry Evans. I’m just speculating, of course.


Speaking of ex-Angel Bengie Molina has turned down the latest contract offer from the Mets (Per Buster Olney on Twitter) and has resigned with the San Francisco Giants for $4.5 million (which is reportedly less than what the Mets offered).

Other ex-Angels still looking for work include: Bengie’s brother Jose, Adam Kennedy, Orlando Cabrera, Robb Quinlan, Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Paul Byrd, Jon Garland, Dustin Moseley, Kevin Gregg, Jose Arredondo, Justin Speier, Shane Loux, Jeff Weaver, Bartolo Colon, and Jarrod Washburn.


Baseball America has released their list of the Angels' top prospects. Topping the list is catching prospect Hank Conger. Conger received high marks in their “tools” category ranking him as the Angels’ best hitter for average and plate discipline. Rounding out the top five are outfielder Peter Bourjos (who was a topic of the Roy Halladay trade rumors), outfielder Mike Trout (featured on a previous post here), Trevor Reckling (stud left handed pitcher), and right handed pitcher, Garrett Richards (who BA considers to have the best fastball and curveball in the Angels’ system).

AngelsWin also put out their top 50 list of Angels’ prospects and Trevor Reckling tops their list. The folks at AW project Reckling to start the year in Salt Lake City where he will be of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).

Rounding out their top five are Hank Conger, Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, and second baseman, Jean Segura (who interestingly enough didn’t make BA’s top 10). Segura is very young, but does show great promise (from what I've read).

The highly respected John Sickels has a list as well.

Mike Trout tops his list, followed by Hank Conger, Trevor Reckling, Garrett Richards and Peter Bourjos. Trout get’s the top grade of the group with a B+ (as does Conger). Sickels really likes the upside of Trout and likes Conger’s bat.

Having never seen any of these guys in person, other than a few of them for just a little bit at Spring Training, I can't offer up any opinions of my own. However, I will say the guy who excites me the most is Trout. It's been a while since the Angels developed an outfielder with his kind of potential. Reckling is also fascinating, given his young age and early success.

Stay tuned...


Angels sign Mike Napoli for $3.6 million and Reggie Willits for $625,000. Well, so much for my speculation...

January 18, 2010

Drawing my own conclusions on Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire’s return to baseball has me conflicted. On one hand I was kind of ignoring all the opinions and comments surrounding him. On the other hand, I feel like I need to form my own opinion and take a stand on not only McGwire, but the whole steroid issue.

You see whenever someone brings up McGwire or steroids, I never really know what to say. I have lots of different views on multiple levels regarding the whole subject and at the same time; I find the whole conversation to be somewhat tiresome.

Perhaps you are like me and are wrestling with the same issues. Well, I think it’s time (at least for me) to sort through all the thoughts running through my head and come up with a concrete opinion. Hopefully it won’t be nearly as painful as I’ve made it out to be in my head.

So here I go…

First of all when the word got about all the steroid use in major league baseball, I was very disappointed (to say the least). I always hate it when any sport makes more headlines off the playing field than on it. Never-the-less, I refused to let steroids steal my enjoyment of the game of baseball. I still continue to watch and immerse myself in America’s favorite pastime.

Only problem was I kept hearing this annoying chatter going on in the background about steroids that just wouldn’t go away. I’d think about it from time to time; get a headache and then go back to ignoring it. Well, I’m not going to do that any more.

I’m betting/hoping that some of you (who share my “pain”) can relate to the process I'm about to go through.

I think doing steroids is wrong on many levels. Most of all, it’s illegal and unhealthy. I believe those who have used steroids need to be held accountable for their actions and they should have consequences attached to what they’ve done. The problem is that’s easier said than done.

Fact is we don’t know who all those people are and many of us are uncomfortable with assigning judgment to players who have not been proven to have actually used it. Also, every time we start trying to form an opinion on one player, all the other players suspected of using steroids get lumped into the conversation, along with a whole host of “what if’s.” The discussion becomes confusing and at times overwhelming.

The problem even goes beyond that (okay, maybe this is more painful than I thought).

Judging people isn’t something a part of our society really enjoys doing much these days. For some, the lines seem to have blurred to some degree about what’s right and what’s wrong and the whole political correctness thing has gotten out of control. “Tolerance” is the new favorite word and it’s become “uncool” to pass judgment.

Well, that makes me crazy. For the most part, I don’t think the lines are really all that blurry, if you take the time to analyze things. Face it; darkness hates the light. Anytime you try to shed the light on the truth; those who want to cover it up try to turn out the lights.

Now I know this whole conversation could get derailed right here and we could get into this long debate about what’s right and what’s wrong and what standard is being used to make these decisions.

Forget that. I’m not here to do that. I’m going to assume we all have some basic understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong.

Before I move on, let’s get something straight. I know that no one is perfect (myself included). We all make mistakes and sometimes we use poor judgment in making decisions. That doesn’t mean we can’t recognize right from wrong or even call someone on it when they’re doing something wrong. Make sense?

I know this is yet another place where a lot of people get hung up. They think that since they’ve screwed up a time or two, they themselves have no right to tell others when they’ve screwed up. I say, get over it.

You know the old saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”? Let’s use that standard and it will make it easier for us to move forward. It’s okay to be against something we were guilty of at one time, as long as we recognize it was wrong then and it’s still wrong now. Wrong is still wrong.

So where does that leave us with Mark McGwire?

McGwire has admitted using steroids. He’s also apologized for it. Now as Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated points out – a lot of people have a problem with McGwire’s apology.

Posnanski wrote, “I didn't agree with or even follow everything McGwire said, but I never thought that was the point. I never thought apologizing was an Olympic sport with stoned-faced people judging how straight his toes were pointed and if he made too big a splash. McGwire is not a public speaker. He's not a philosopher. He's not a politician. He is not even an especially open person. He is a guy who dedicated his life to hitting baseballs hard. Expecting him to become Hamlet doesn't seem fair.”

Posnanski feels like it’s time to forgive McGwire and I agree with him.

That doesn’t mean I think he should be allowed into the Hall of Fame. For me forgiving McGwire means he should be allowed to pursue his work with the Cardinals and move on with his life. I don’t need to know all the details of his steroid use and I’m not going to spend time crucifying him for it either. He admitted it was wrong. No need for me to hammer home the point. I’m also not going to critique his apology and quite frankly; like Posnanski, find that exercise ridiculous.

Now that being said, I’m not saying McGwire shouldn’t be allowed into the HOF either.


Hear me out. There are so many different sets of criteria being used by those who vote on the HOF that the whole thing has become somewhat of a joke (at times). I mean one could go absolutely insane reading and listening to why a writer voted for or didn’t vote for a player. The whole process is very subjective.

So here’s my thing. If someone thinks that McGwire should be left out of the HOF because he used steroids, I’m fine with that. If someone believes that his numbers were HOF worthy in an era when the perception is that everyone was doing steroids, I’m fine with that too. I don’t necessarily agree, but I’m fine with people coming to that conclusion.

Remember, everyone has their own criteria for HOF consideration anyway. The process is already flawed; steroids just make it even more complicated and since everyone has their own process anyway; what does it matter?

To make matters more confusing, we also have suspicions about a lot of players, who haven’t been proven to use steroids and/or also haven’t admitted using them either. There is also the big “worry” that someone could get into the HOF that just didn’t get caught.

Well, I say you have to judge each player on a case by case basis. Think about this; doing so is actually no different than what HOF voters are doing now.

HOF voting is what it is. Some people think Bert Blyleven belongs in the HOF (me too) and some don’t. Those people are using different criteria (right or wrong) to make those decisions. Same thing applies to each individual suspected of using steroids. The whole process lacks consistency to begin with. Why should judging suspected steroid users be any different?

I know there’s this underlying need to have a blanket policy on all of this, but I don’t think that’s possible. It’s icky. It’s complicated. It’s a lof of things, but it’s also worth continued discussion.

Okay, so maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t given my actual opinion on McGwire just yet. And maybe you’d like to push me a little and ask me if I would vote for McGwire (assuming I had a vote).

Well, I would vote no to the HOF. Why? It goes back to my belief that there has to be consequences for his actions. He received plenty of accolades for what he did at the time, but now it’s time to be held accountable. I believe there has to be a downside for what he did and the consequence should be no HOF induction.

This is where someone throws in the argument that some and possibly many or most of the pitchers he was facing were also using steroids. You’ve heard that argument… the “everyone else was doing it” argument. To that, I go back to that old saying that “two wrongs, don’t make a right.” No blurred lines for me on this issue.

If this ultimately means there isn’t a lot of representation in the HOF for the “steroid era;” so be it.

Next, one might ask what the consequences are for all the other players who used steroids that never put up HOF numbers. Quite frankly, I don’t know (health issues aside) and I’m not going to think about it much. I don’t have time to worry about all that. Cop out? Not really. I’d have to address each player on a case by case basis and that’s not an exercise I’m planning on engaging in on this post.

So, back to McGwire. In my opinion, he shouldn’t get into the HOF; however, I’m fine with him pursuing a life in baseball. For better or worse, he apologized for his actions and like I said earlier, I’m not going to critique his apology. He used steroids. He admitted it. He apologized for it. As for the timing and motives; only McGwire and God know the answers. McGwire didn’t have to say anything and I’m inclined to give him some credit for coming forward on his own. Time to move on.

As for all the others; it really does come down to making a judgment on a case by case basis. Let’s just say that if a player is known to have used steroids, I’d rather they didn’t get in the HOF (assuming their numbers qualify them). If they’re suspected of using steroids; I’d have to weigh the evidence for or against them. I know that being put on trial in the court of public opinion is hardly ideal, but the whole HOF process is a trial of sorts anyway.

Am I leaving myself open to criticism and possible mistakes? Yes, but you also have to remember, I’m not actually voting (unless you count my future contributions to the Baseball Bloggers Alliance).

So there you have it. I think using steroids is wrong, regardless of the era and culture of that time. I think those who use it need to face the consequences for their actions. If they are compelled to apologize, I will respect that and not try to give too much thought to their motives for doing so; especially if they come forward on their own accord, as opposed to being caught first (an important distinction in my mind).

It won’t change my opinion on whether or not they’re HOF worthy, but it will allow me to move forward.

January 16, 2010

Baseball and Apple Pie

There’s a little family owned restaurant in Long Beach that my wife Cheryl and I have been going to for many years called Jongewaard’s Bake n Broil. They were established in 1965 and have been serving up delicious “home cooked” meals ever since.

So, why am I writing about a restaurant in a baseball blog? It’s kind of a long story, so bear with me.

The restaurant was founded by the Jongewaard family and Roger Jongewaard is a noted baseball scout. Roger was honored this evening by the Professional Baseball Scout’s Foundation (PBSF) at their 7th annual “In the Spirit of the Game” Dinner/Auction Event. Roger, along with Larry Barton, Jr., Marty Keough, Gary Nickels, Charlie Silvera, and George Zuraw received the “Legends in Scouting Award” – which is the PBSF’s equivalent of the Hall of Fame.

Roger has worked in major league baseball or more than forty years. In 2005 he was hired by the Florida Marlins as a professional scout. He spent nearly 20 years with the Seattle Mariners holding a variety of positions including Vice President of Scouting and Player Development from 1989-2003.

So, you might be wondering how does a Scout get into the PBSF’s version of the Hall of Fame.

Well, consider this… In 1987, Roger was responsible for convincing the then owner of the Mariners; George Argyros, to draft Ken Griffey, Jr. – when Argyros really wanted to sign a younger pitcher from Cal-State Fullerton named Mike Harkey. Roger is also responsible for the Mariners signing Alex Rodriguez in 1993 – when some thought Darren Dreifort should have been the first overall pick.

Other players signed by Roger and/or by the staff he oversaw in Seattle include Tino Martinez, Jason Varitek, Jose Cruz Jr., and Gil Meche. Jongewaard also signed current Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane when he was a scout for the New York Mets, along with another player of note; Darryl Strawberry.

Roger is no stranger to awards. He’s received many honors, including being the recipient of the Baseball America Roland Hemond Award for Lifetime Achievement in Baseball in 2004. He was also honored in 1999 by the Topps Company for his Distinguished Service to Baseball; and was inducted into the R.B.I. Hall of Fame’s Los Angeles chapter in 1996.

To top it all off, he has a great restaurant to boot.

Over the years, Cheryl and I have become regulars at Bake n Broil and have gotten to know Roger’s son-in-law Andy Child, who is married to Roger’s daughter Kristin and helps manage the restaurant. Andy is a Dodger fan and despite our interests in different teams we have enjoyed getting to know each other (Andy even comes to Angels Stadium from time to time). Anyway, Andy had mentioned to me that his father-in-law was a baseball scout; something I thought was pretty cool, even though I never gave it a lot of thought.

Well, a couple years back I was reading the book “Money Ball” (yes, even though I hate the A’s) and came across Roger’s name. He was prominently mentioned as the scout who signed Beane out of high school. All of a sudden it hit me; that this Roger Jongewaard was Andy’s father-in-law. I mean how many scouts named Jongewaard could there be? Okay, I may have been slow on the uptake, but it eventually registered with me.

When I read about some of Roger’s accomplishments, I was very impressed. Andy had never let on what a “big deal” his father-in-law was. When I mentioned to Andy that I had read about Roger in “Money Ball” – Andy said, “Yeah, that’s him.”

Earlier this year Andy told me that Roger was being inducted in the PBSF’s version of the Hall of Fame and when Cheryl and I (along with her parents) were in the restaurant this evening, Andy mentioned that Roger would be receiving his award this evening.

When I got home this evening I couldn’t wait to go online and read about the PBSF. I also did a little research on Roger as well; thus this blog entry.

By the way, if you love home cooked styled meals at a very reasonable price (who doesn’t?) and/or great breakfasts, incredible desserts (like lemon lush pie or German chocolate cake); you owe it to yourself to visit Bake n Broil. They’re located at the corner of 37th and Atlantic in Long Beach. It’s one of our favorites and we go there at least a couple times a week.

How good are the desserts? Good enough for major leaguer Ian Kennedy’s (formerly of the Yankees, now of the Diamondbacks), who’s wedding cake came from the restaurant. You could say Bake n Broil is the home for baseball and apple pie.

Roger and his wife Carol eat there on occasion as well and I was told by Andy they stopped by the restaurant this evening before heading up to Los Angeles for the big night.

Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to write more about Roger Jongewaard in future posts. In the mean time, I’d like to wish Roger big congratulations for the prestigious honor he received tonight and to thank him for his wonderful restaurant.

January 14, 2010

A fan's guide to the Cactus League

If you’re a baseball fan and you’ve never been to Spring Training, you owe it to yourself to go. Trust me on this, you’ll have the time of your life and wonder why it took you so long to get there. If you’re an Angels fan and you live in Southern California, you can easily drive to Tempe, Arizona in five or six hours. I’m telling you; it’s worth the trip.

There’s really nothing like Spring Training; especially the Cactus League in Arizona. For about a month, baseball fans from across the country converge on the greater Phoenix area to get their first look at their favorite teams. This year, 15 teams will be a part of the Cactus League.

The Angels, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, A’s, Mariners, Rockies, Rangers, Cubs, White Sox, Indians, Brewers, Royals, Diamondbacks, and Reds (who join the Cactus League for the first time this year) all play in the Cactus League.

The time to plan is now. Many teams have already put their tickets on sale and others will soon follow. A great starting place is on the official Cactus League site. The site has a trip planner, where you can look at schedules for all the teams over the period of days you plan to be in Arizona. The site also has maps for your convenience.

At Spring Training you’ll see all your favorite players; including some of the best prospects within each organization and even some alumni from your team. For the Angels; Bobby Grich, Gary DiSarcina, Jim Abbott, and Tim Salmon are some of the players I’ve seen in the past coaching and helping out.

The stadiums are small and intimate; game tickets are reasonable and there usually isn’t a bad seat in the house. Some stadiums have areas in the outfield where you can put down a blanket and enjoy the game sitting on the grass with your family. It can be pretty warm in the spring and the sun can be intense; so be sure to bring a hat and some sun block. Most of the stadiums don’t have a whole lot of shade; so be prepared.

Lodging is plentiful and you can find a wide range of prices and types of accommodations. There’s just about everything from resorts to a five star hotels to motels or inns. I have to warn you though; this is an important time of the year for the local economy, so be prepared to pay slightly higher prices in most cases. If you don’t mind driving a bit, you can usually find reasonable places to stay.

There are tons of choices for places to eat. You'll find everything from chain restaurants to places unique to the area. A couple of favorites of my wife Cheryl’s and mine are T.C. Eggington in Mesa for breakfast, Matt’s Big Breakfast in Phoenix (be prepared to wait at least an hour), and Don & Charlie’s in Scottsdale for steak, ribs, fish and chicken. This place is a must-see for baseball fans; as it has one of the largest collections of sports memorabilia west of the Mississippi. We’re talking wall to wall stuff and the food is great as well. You're also going to need to make reservations well in advance (more than a week).

Other favorites include Honey Bear’s (various locations) for BBQ, Cooper’s Town (a restaurant own by famed rocker Alice Cooper and part owner – Randy Johnson). Word is Cooper himself comes in from time to time to have tuna casserole (made from his mom’s recipe). The servers at the restaurant even wear eye make-up just like Cooper.

Downtown Tempe isn’t far away from Tempe Diablo Stadium and you can find an Uno’s Pizza (just like you’d find in Chicago), ice cream parlors and other assorted restaurants. Tempe is the college town for Arizona State and there are always people out at night walking around the main drag

Now, let’s focus on game days. It’s a good idea to arrive at the park early – even before they open the gates. At Tempe Diablo Stadium, non-starters for the day and most of the pitchers head out to the practice fields a few hours before the game. These fields are somewhat accessible to fans. You can watch players doing drills, stretching, taking batting practice, etc. It’s also a great time to hear some of their conversations. Players are generally loose and can be seen and heard joking around and generally having a good time.

Last year during one of our trips, Mike Scioscia was getting on Mike Napoli for not running the bases hard enough and to the end. He asked the crowd, including Angel prospect Hank Conger’s dad to let him know if Napoli was “dogging it.” There are lots of priceless moments like this, if you’re willing to put in the time and really soak up the experiences.

When the Angel players make their way back to the stadium, they walk behind a barricade back to the stadium. This is an ideal time to get an autograph or a picture.

If you want an autograph, there are some important things to know. First of all, be patient. You never know when or who might sign and there is usually a lot of waiting involved. Players and coaches are more likely to sign when they’re done working out and not as likely when they’re heading out to get their work in. Keep in mind, there’s always a chance that players and/or coaches won’t sign on any given day and if you know that going in, you’re less likely to be disappointed.

Angels who are usually pretty good about stopping for an autograph include Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver, who are two of the best. If you spend enough time at Spring Training (a few days), you should have a fair amount of success getting some signatures. Be prepared. That means having stuff ready to go. Sometimes that even means being mobile. There are times when players and even coaches (especially Mike Scioscia) will ask you to walk with them as they sign an item for you.

If you want a player to sign the “sweet spot” on your baseball, be sure to specify; otherwise, you will probably get a signature some where else on the ball. If you’re trying to get signatures on a “team” ball – be sure to keep track of who’s already signed. Nothing is more embarrassing than asking a player to sign your ball only to have them tell you they already have.

For a baseball, blue ball point pens are the best. Don’t use a sharpie. Sharpies are prone to fade over time and can even bleed into the cover a bit.

An important tip about getting autographs is that you will have more success if you ask a player to “personalize” an item. That way, they know you’re not going to take their signature and try to sell it some where. If you’re like my wife and I and collect for your own personal memories, you’ll enjoy personalized items even more. It’s a good idea to write out how you want an item personalized. Make it easy for the players.

Once the gates open, you can venture into the stadium and try and get some more autographs. It’s always a hit or miss situation. Sometimes players will sign for you when they’re warming up and sometimes they’ll do it as they’re leaving the game. Unlike during the regular season, a lot of the regulars come out after a few innings (the later in the Cactus League season, the later they come out). Sometimes they’ll stop along the first base line to sign (but you’d have to be sitting close by) or as they enter the tunnel that leads to the club house. I have to warn you that it can get really crowded at this time and not the best time to get an autograph.

If you’re really diligent, you can also head out to the parking lot. Some players will stop and sign for you when they’re driving out. Parking is limited in the player’s lot and some of the minor league guys will park out in the general area and walk to their cars. They’re usually pretty good about signing at this time, but you have to be on your game and know who’s who. It’s easy to recognize the major leaguers, not always as easy to recognize guys who have been in the minors. Keep in mind that some players will leave before the game even ends.

Scioscia is usually the last to leave and that can be several hours after the game is over, but has been known to stop and sign for fans.

Getting autographs and photos are a big part of the Spring Training experience, but there are other enjoying aspects of it as well. The people you meet are some of the nicest around. Most of them are big time baseball fans and some travel long distances to get to Arizona.

The people working at the stadium are great too. Many of the workers are retired “snow birds” who have a million stories to share. Everyone is generally in a good mood and optimism is definitely in the air.

Again, if you love baseball – you need to be there.

January 13, 2010

All good things must come to an end

Okay, so who was the last player to sign with the Mets as a free agent and have a good season? Good question, right? Well, now that Bengie Molina is on the verge of signing with the Mets, he’s probably going to basically tank as a ball player. I mean, come on – isn’t this the team players go to, to cash in and then fade away? Yeah so, maybe I’m exaggerating a little...

I don’t always comment on players on other teams (unless I just despise them), but I can’t resist this one and besides, Molina is an ex-Angel.

Face it, Molina has been playing with “house money” for a while now. He’s gotten more mileage out of that big body of his than anyone would have ever imagined. He’s been a leg injury or a pulled hammy just waiting to happen, but he’s stayed pretty healthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Bengie Molina when he was on the Angels. He’s easily my favorite Angels catcher of all-time, but when the Angels let Bengie walk after the 2005 season, teams weren’t exactly pounding down his door to sign him. There were rumors that the Mets were interested prior to the 2006 season, but some how, some way Bengie had to settle for a one-year deal with Toronto. I thought then that the writing was on the wall, but he’s managed to do just fine the last four years.

For the last three years, he’s made a living in San Francisco, serving as their clean up hitter for part of the time. Now, Bengie has always been a pretty good clutch hitter, but a clean up guy? Who saw that coming? He defies logic. Like I said, Molina has been living on borrowed time and the team that’s about to pay for it is the Mets.

Time is about to catch up with Molina and the Mets’ have the track record to prove it. I know that’s a little harsh, but I don’t think I’m too far off (without actually looking up specific players). I mean, I sometimes wonder if teams back off a player when they hear the Mets are interested because it's some sort of sign that the player is going to basically suck. I mean we all thought the SI cover was a jinx, but it doesn't have anything on a Mets player contract.

Even if the Mets weren’t as dimwitted as they’ve been portrayed, the idea that a 35 year old catcher is going to keep going strong is doubtful.

Molina has been kind of incredible when you think about it. How does a guy fail to get as few as 20 walks in a season, despite having 497, 530, and 520 AB’s in the last three years? If Bengie has to keep hitting his way on base, he’s eventually going to stop getting on base, right? And when you’re coming off a season when your OBP is just .285 – the margin for error is small.

I’m looking at Bengie’s big body and thinking he could use a break once in a while and strolling down to first base after being walked might prolong those legs of his.

Word is Bengie wanted to stay in San Francisco – I’m guessing that's because he might have found someone who runs the bases slower than he does in Pablo Sandoval. Then again, Sandoval is a pretty good athelete for a big guy. In any case, I guess he won’t have to worry too much about being in the spotlight in New York because the best thing about his going there is that there are so many under achievers on that team that he might not stand out that much.

I wish Molina the best, but I have a feeling his career is about to take a dive. I wouldn’t necessarily think that if Molina was signing elsewhere, but we’re talking the Mets, who may be worse than the U.S. Government at spending and wasting money. I’m just saying... The Mets are a nightmare; no wonder NY is the city that never sleeps - it's way too scary to shut your eyes.

The real reason McGwire did steroids

Mark McGwire admits to using steroids; which is no surprise. He gave reasons relating to "injury," but I have evidence he did it for other reasons.

Do you remember this commercial?

It was funny then and it's still funny now, in my opinion.

That's about all I have to say about McGwire and I guess I really haven't said anything. There is definitely plenty being said about McGwire and his admission and one interesting piece comes from Craig Calcaterra of Circling the Bases. You can check out the link for yourself, but it's basically saying that the Maris familly (as in Roger Maris) and Hank Aaron have forgiven McGwire. Draw your own conclusions and observations. I'm moving on (at least for now).

January 11, 2010

Blog Update 1-10-2010

Just a quick head’s up to let you know that True Grich Blog posts may be a little sporadic this week. My apologies.

You can always subscribe to an RSS feed or follow True Grich via twitter at twitter.com/truegrich – whenever a new blog goes up, so does a tweet alerting followers.

Quick update: By now you’ve probably heard that Aroldis Chapman has signed a six year, $30.25 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds. I guess that “will sign any day now” rumor was legitimate after all; however, the word that the Blue Jays and Angels were frontrunners, might not have been.

It’s nice to see a small market team like the Reds taking a risk, albeit a pretty good one on Chapman as opposed to someone like the Yankees, Red Sox or Mets for a change. That has to give Reds’ fans a little hope and something to look forward to. Good for them and I hope Chapman helps that organization down the road.

To the Reds’ credit, they out bit teams by being creative. Per mlb.traderumors the Reds’ contract will be spread out over ten years and not have a big impact on their 2010 payroll.

I still wish the Angels had signed Chapman, but at least he didn’t sign with someone else in the AL West or in the AL at all for that matter.

The best news of the day is that we are a day closer to pitchers and catchers reporting.

January 9, 2010

Lyle Spencer makes a case for Weaver

Imagine my surprise today when I logged onto the Angels web site to find a piece by mlb.com's Lyle Spencer titled, "Who is Halos' ace? Leave it to Weaver." I was surprised for a variety of reasons.

First of all, I was happy to see a veteran baseball writer like Spencer also making an argument for Weaver. Makes me feel like those voices in my head aren't so bad after all. It was also funny to see the title of Spencer's piece as being similar to my own (Leave it Weaver/Lead it to Weaver). In case you're wondering, I'm not making any crazy assumptions and actually find the coincidence kind of cool.

Spencer makes a convincing case for Weaver becoming the Angels' new ace by comparing Weaver's numbers to those of Lackey's at similar stages in their careers. I'm not going to rehash those statistics here; you can simply read all about it on the Angels' web site. The important point of his article is that Weaver actually has better numbers at this point in his career than Lackey did at the same point in his.

In other news, it's being reported by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that Vladimir Guerrero is about to sign a one-year $5 million contract (plus incentives) with the Texas Rangers. I'm sure Ranger fans are excited about seeing Vlad in Arlington since he's always hit so well there; however, I would temper their expectations because Vlad's success there probably had more to do with his facing the Rangers' pitching staff more than it did the stadium itself.

I have to ask, what's with this trend of ex-Angels signing contracts within the Western Division? Last year it was Orlando Cabrera and Adam Kennedy signing with the A's and this year we've seen Chone Figgins head off to the Pacific Northwest and now Vladimir Guerrero in Texas; not to mention the trade that sent former Angel Casey Kotchman to the Mariners. I don't know about you, but I am not into having reunions at every home stand in 2010.

If you're wondering what the latest is on Aroldis Chapman, you're not alone. It's hard to get a handle on the truth. Where's Jack Nicholson when you need him? That bit about him "signing any day now" looks like any day means any day this year. The Red Sox have supposedly "pulled back" on their pursuit.

Pitchers and catchers report for sping training on February 18 in Tempe, AZ. Perhaps Chapman will sign by then. No doubt it will be "breaking news."

January 8, 2010

Lead it to Weaver

A “leader” is someone who is known to inspire others. Leaders rise to the occasion and embrace the biggest moments and do not let fear stand in the way of achieving their goals.

Angel Blogger Garrett Wilson of Monkey with a Halo posted on his blog today about the Angels need to replace the leadership of John Lackey; something I whole heartedly agree with. What I disagree with Garrett about is his opinion that the Angels “aren’t going to find that in a rotation populated of players who are all 28 years old or younger with no more than six years of MLB experience.”

Garrett claims “What they need is a battle-tested veteran who commands immediate respect by just stepping on the rubber. How that player performs is almost inconsequential as long as he sets a proper example.”

Again, I couldn’t disagree more.

I see a leader emerging on the Angels staff in the form of Jered Weaver. I laid the foundation for this belief on October 10, 2009 just after Weaver had finished beating the Red Sox in game two of the ALDS in my “Rock on Jered Weaver” post.

In that post I discussed several critical moments in the career of Weaver when he not only emerged victorious, but showed great maturity and the ability to inspire others. One example I specifically wrote about was the game following the tragic death of Nick Adenhart:

I will never forget the first Angles game after Nick’s passing. It was April 10 and Jered was on the mound. He gave up one unearned run and threw six and two thirds innings, while striking out eight Red Sox; leading the Angels to a 6-3 victory. It was an emotional game and Jered Weaver had become a leader right before our eyes. It wasn’t a role he asked for. It was something he was destined to become.

In my opinion, age is irrelevant when it comes to leadership. It’s more a matter of attitude and ability. Leaders are often born of circumstance and opportunity. When Kareem Abdul Jabbar went down with an ankle injury in the 1980 finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, a rookie by the name of Earvin "Magic" Johnson emerged as not only a star, but a tremendous leader. Again, age or being a "veteran" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being a leader. In Weaver's case, his opportunity has just arrived.

Face it; no one wants to follow a guy who can’t walk the walk; especially this day and age. People don’t want to listen to a winner, they’d rather watch one. Weaver has accepted and met every major challenge in his baseball career. He’s been told his delivery is problematic and should lead to injury. He’s heard through every step in his major league career that the “next level,” be it AA, AAA or the major league level would be a tougher road for him to travel. Experts have questioned how effective he can be as a “fly ball pitcher.” Time and time again, he’s managed to emerge better than people might have expected.

Weaver has more wins than Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley, Jon Lester, and James Shields; some of which have become or have been projected to be #1 starters and all of which made their major league debut the same year as Weaver. Of those four, only Lester has a slightly better post season ERA (2.57 to 2.61) than Weaver.

I hated to see Lackey leave. I am still somewhat bitter about the whole thing; however, I am gaining optimism and perspective about it as time goes by. Lackey’s leaving will allow for tremendous growth on a staff filled with talent. There is bound to be a new dynamic among this group and I see them growing closer and stronger over time. Are they the next Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux and fill in the blank (Avery/Kile/Hampton, etc.)? I don’t know. What I do believe is that Weaver could very well emerge as the guy who’s most likely to take the reigns as the lead dog of this group.

Garrett concluded his blog today with “Those youngsters are all badly in need of a strong-willed mentor to look up to and the championship hopes of the Halos may very well depend on the pitching staff fully embracing the bulldog mentality to take their games to the next level. I don’t know if the Angel front office realized that when they let Lackey get away but if they don’t find a way to replace his leadership, they are going to find out what a gross miscalculation they made come next season and it won’t be pretty.”

I say it’s time to let these eagles fly. Three of them (Santana, Saunders, and Kazmir) have been all-stars and Weaver should have been one as well in 2009. They know what’s at stake and what they have to accomplish. There isn’t a need for someone else to come in and tell them what they already know; the Angels success will rise or fall on their shoulders. School is out; it's graduation time and the teacher has left the building. Time for the "students" to get down to business.

In closing I just want to say that even though I disagree with Garrett on his opinion about this particular subject; I do think he has a fantastic blog and would encourage readers of True Grich to also pay a visit to Monkey with a Halo; you’ll be glad you did.

January 7, 2010

The Quest for a "5"

It appears the Angels are in search mode for a fifth starter I know, I know… I can see you yawning now because it’s not exactly the kind of headline grabbing news you expected this off season. Well, whether or not they’re actually looking depends on what you read or who you listen to. Clearly someone has to step up to join a rotation that will include Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana.

Now, if you believe the company line from Tony Reagins about being “fine with the lineup they have” – the Angels will be looking internally among Matt Palmer, Sean O’Sullivan, Trevor Bell and Anthony Ortega. I can hear the “bor-ing” chants now.

Of that group Palmer clearly has the best chance to make the opening day rotation; however, I believe his best role would be in long relief.

Now if you don’t believe the “company line,” there are a number of possibilities still looking for work. The most popular rumor comes to us from Sam Miller of the OC Register, who posted on the OC Register’s Angel blog that sources have the Angels and Blue Jays as the front runners to land Aroldis Chapman from Cuba. Reports have contract offers at $21 million (as of yesterday).

Really, Toronto? They have money to spend? On a guy who would cost $21 million and be at least a year or two from making the bigs? The same team that recently cut payroll? I’m just asking… And is it really a choice between the Angels and Jays? I mean I could write a whole blog and then some about why if those are the two choices, the Angels have to be a slam dunk. Forgive me, I’m just thinking out loud here.

Even Peter Gammons believes the Angels will sign Chapman.

That being said, there are no sure things. We even learned today the Boston Red Sox are still in the mix, at least according to Gordon Edes of ESPN. There are also reports that a decision could come any day now. Of course (again depending on what you want to believe), you can probably even take that with a grain of salt.

The interesting thing about Chapman (again depending on who you believe, etc.) is that he’s either close to being ready for the major leagues or will have to start his career in the lower levels of minor league baseball. I find it highly unlikely that this 21/22 year old (I’ve seen him listed at both ages) could step on to any major league roster and contribute in 2010. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’d be a great sign and I do believe the Angels are interested; I just don’t think he’s an option for the 2010 rotation.

So, let’s move on; shall we?

Lyle Spencer of mlb.com answered questions from fans recently and was broached about the possibility of the Angels signing Jon Garland, who pitched for the team in 2008. Spencer wrote “My sense is that the Angels intend to acquire a fifth starter in free agency and nobody in the market makes more practical sense than Garland. There is the element of familiarity with the club and its catchers, from his 2008 season in Anaheim, and his remarkable durability. You plug the guy in and forget about that spot in the rotation. He never misses a start.”

Spencer continues, “Garland had a slightly better year statistically overall with the D-backs and Dodgers in '09 -- his ERA fell from 4.90 to 4.01 -- than with the Angels. He's 30, and he'll give you 200 innings and 10-15 wins. The only question is whether he'll accept a deal that will fit him into a relatively tight Angels budget with eight arbitration cases waiting to be resolved.”

I have to agree with Spencer; Garland makes a lot of sense. Now I know the majority of Angel fans are focused on whether or not the Angels can acquire a top of the rotation guy; however, I think it’s more realistic to see them going down this road. I know it’s not as “sexy” an option to most fans, but the Angels have never been about what’s necessarily popular with their fans (and I’m okay with that).

The question with Garland is most likely going to be about money (no big surprise, right?). Last year Garland made $7.25 million; that after making $12 million in 2008 with the Angels. He then hit free agency in 2009 (declining arbitration from the Angels) and found the market for his services to be not as lucrative as he believed it would be. He probably would have earned more than $7.25 million had he accepted arbitration. Live and learn, right? Well, given his improvement in 2009 (as noted by Spencer); he’s most likely looking for more money than he earned in 2009 and probably more than the Angels will be willing to pay him as well. I believe, if Garland does sign with the Angels, it will be because the market has proven to be a tough one once again.

There are a number of other free agent pitchers still out there as possible options. The most popular target among fans is probably Ben Sheets, who is coming off an injury, but has a lot of upside. Sheets missed all of 2009, but is a three-time all-star with a career 3.72 ERA. It’s easy to see why so many fans are interested in him.

That being said, I have to ask; why aren’t there any rumors about clubs being interested in Sheets? I mean the hot stove season has been basically void of news on Sheets. Am I missing something? Perhaps teams are a little gun shy. Who knows?

It would make sense to me if the Angels aren’t interested in the risk. Consider this; Sheets made his debut in 2001 along with C.C. Sabathia, Roy Oswalt and Carlos Zambrano to name a few and despite missing all of 2009, he has logged the fifth highest number of innings for his class (1,428). You can view that total two ways. One, he’s durable or two; he has a lot of miles on his arm.

Then again, if you look at his 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons you will see that he only managed 22, 17 and 24 starts in each of those years; calling his durability into question.

In any case, I just can’t see the Angels going down this road. Sheets has enough upside that he will probably seek a guaranteed deal and the Angels don’t appear to be in the “lets take a chance” mode at the moment.

The next most intriguing free-agent might be Joel Pineiro, who is looking to cash in on his most productive season as a starting pitcher. In 2009 Pineiro tied his career high for games started with 32 (he last started that many games in 2003 with Seattle) and had a solid 3.49 ERA. However, Pineiro only struck out 105 pitchers and doesn’t possess the kind of power arm Mike Scioscia covets.

Like Sheets, Pineiro is 31 years old and has only a few more innings under his belt (1,456) despite making his debut a year earlier than Sheets. It should also be noted that Pineiro has spent some time in the majors as a reliever.

In any case (again depending on who you believe or don’t believe) the Angels have been speculated to have interest. I can’t see it. Besides, the last time the Angels signed a player after they had a breakout season they ended up with Gary Matthews, Jr. You’d think they’d be a little gun shy. I’m just saying.

Two other options Jarrod Washburn (35 yrs. old) and Doug Davis (34 yrs. old) are past their prime and don’t figure to receive much, if any interest from the Angels. You can also throw Erik Bedard into the mix, but he’s only managed 15 starts in each of his last two seasons. Others include Bartolo Colon (been there, done that), Braden Looper (and his 5.22 ERA from 2009), and two interesting options in Noah Lowry (who missed parts of 2008 and 2009 with injuries), and Vicente Padilla (the guy who threw deliberately at Vladimir Guerrero while pitching for Texas).

Now, my friend and fellow 514 Fanatic Bo, would love to see Padilla in an Angels uniform. Me? Not so much. You have to remember I have this thing about players who supposedly hate your team one day and then are on it the next. Besides, even though Padilla pitched well for the Dodgers (3.20 ERA), you can’t dismiss his 4.92 ERA while pitching for the Rangers in the same year.

Now, I am intrigued by Noah Lowry. What interests me is his 2005 season when he had a 3.78 ERA in 33 starts to go with 172 K’s in 204.2 innings. If he’s healthy (always a big IF), he could be a less expensive option than say Ben Sheets.

If you have a stomach for risk, there are actually plenty of options among the old and recently injured (that sounds like baseball’s version of a soap opera, doesn’t it?) – like Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mark Mulder, yadda, yadda, yadda. Again, I don’t think the Angels are likely to roll the dice on any of those types of players.

Needless to say the prospects for a #5 starter aren’t looking very promising. I wouldn’t blame the Angels for looking internally for a solution because it would be cheaper and that role could rotate between several guys during the season and then be re-addressed by the trading deadline, if necessary.