August 30, 2010

A Bourjos night of baseball

Let be known that I traveled 979 miles (distance from Anaheim to Seattle) to see the Angels finally score some runs. It could have been a historic night for all the wrong reasons; but alas, it was not.

The Angels went 31 scoreless innings until Peter Bourjos went to work and hit a line homerun to center field to give the Angels a 1-0 lead in Seattle. The Angels record for futility is 33 innings, but thankfully it still stands.

Bourjos was a one man show; he was hit by a pitch, stole a base, threw a runner out at third for an assist, hit the homerun and later added a single. This night was his night; although, he did have one get past him (it was a tough play) that led to a Mariner run in the bottom of the 9th.

In the end the Angels finally won a game (it seems like it’s been forever) and beat the hapless Mariners 5-3.

The night was not without its keystone cop like moments (hello Erick Aybar), but all in all a good effort.

Leading that effort along with Bourjos was Ervin Santana who threw 7 2/3 innings, scattering eight hits, without giving up any walks and striking out four. Fernando Rodney got his first save since assuming the closer role for the departed Brian Fuentes.

The low points (I hate to go there) were led by Jeff Mathis, who went 0 for 4 while striking out once. Mathis also failed to throw Ichiro Suzuki out on two steal attempts. I know, I know he’s a defensive genius, right Mike Scioscia? Truth is, I doubt Mathis could throw out a beached whale before volunteers rolled it back into the sea.

Enough ranting for tonight.

It was a nice night for baseball at Safeco Field with a game time temperature of 65 degrees and 20,545 in attendance. In fact it was a Bourjos night. My chili dog was good and more importantly the Angels came out on top. Can’t ask for more than that.

I will try to post some photos from this game later on. The photos of Bourjos in this post are from Sunday’s game in Anaheim.

Worst team in baseball?

The Angels just might be the worst team in baseball. Oh sure, there are teams that have lost more games, but I think it would be hard to find another team playing as poorly as the Angels are right now.

It’s not just that the Angels are losing, but it’s the manner in which they’ve gone about losing games. They appear unfocused and uninspired. This is a team that falls behind early and stays behind. It’s as if someone ripped the heart out of the team and no one cares enough to get it back. In a word, this team has been gutless.

Am I venting again? You bet. Look, a lot of fans are in the venting mode right now and that’s a good thing. It beats the heck out of apathy and nothing is worse than an apathetic fan base. Those are the kinds of fans who stop caring and stop watching altogether.

Now if you want to vent there’s plenty of opportunity for that on the internet. Places like AngelsWin and Halos Heaven have message boards where fans can sound off, interact and discuss the Angels all they want. If you’re looking to voice your opinion on the sports talk circuit, my advice would be to avoid Angels talk with Jeff Biggs on AM 830.

Biggsy spends so much time trying to convince his audience that he’s not a “house man” and that he’s not “drinking the Koo-aid,” that he actually becomes the whole focus of his shows. Someone needs to tell Biggsy that it’s not about him.

Listening to Biggsy will just leave you even more frustrated than you already are because he’s going to give you Criticism Light – which isn’t very filling and certainly not satisfying either. His partner, Jason Brennan has been waiting and waiting for the Angels to go on a miraculous 15-4 run; and keeps pointing to this time period being the soft spot in the Angels schedule that could allow the Angels to go on a run.

I’ve got news for Brennan – the Angels are the soft spot in the schedule; not the other way around.

Enough about Biggs and Brennan.

As frustrated as I am about the Angels, I have to tell you that I’m writing this blog entry while on a plane to Seattle. Yes, watching the Angels get swept by the Orioles wasn’t enough punishment for me. I’ll be at the Angels/Mariners game tonight. As luck would have it; my work will put me in Seattle long enough for me to catch tonight’s game.

I don’t know what to expect. Ervin Santana is pitching and he hasn’t been the most consistent guy on the mound.

That guy has been very consistent; Jered Weaver, could be having one of the best seasons ever by an Angels starting pitcher if only his offense would show up.

More later… In the mean time, I'll be cheering for the Angels tonight at Safeco Field. It will be strange not having Cheryl with me. Oh and if the Angels lose again, you can blame me. The only game they won last week was the day game I couldn't go to. Go figure.

August 24, 2010

A loss is a loss, but I'm not at a loss for words

The folks that were so sure the Angels would overtake Texas are kind of speechless these days. They kind of mumble to themselves and say things like “there’s not much you can say about that” when referring to the latest Angels loss.

Me on the other hand, I’m really not at a loss for words.

Last night was a typical Angel game for 2010. Fall behind early and never recover. Sure go and mount a little rally, but come up short in the end. I heard something to the effect that the Angels are around 1-54 when trailing after eight innings. I don’t know how anyone expected them to come from behind to win the west when they can’t even come from behind in a game.

It’s not like they didn’t have their chances. Torii Hunter came up three times with runners in scoring position and came up empty every time. I wonder if he’ll have a closed door meeting with himself today.

Speaking of which, do those things really work? I mean you might see an immediate impact for a game or two, but the residual effect seems to be minimal to me. I mean if you’re having a lot of these things there are bigger issues involved aren’t there?

You know times are tough when I start taking shots at Hunter. Hunter is my favorite player, but even he’s not immune to a little criticism now and then.

So… I’d really like to know what Scott Kazmir’s problem is. Is it mental, mechanical, physical or spiritual? Is it all of the above? Or is it something completely different? RaysIndex makes some bold claims about why the Rays traded Kazmir to the Angels.

Pitching is such a mystery and the Angels pitching has been a huge puzzle all season long. Seems like some of these guys; like say Ervin Santana have been taking us on roller coaster rides for years. One day he’s awesome. The next he’s mediocre, then comes the horrible outing, followed by the game when he has dominating stuff. Trying graphing his ERA for the past six years; it looks like a mountain range.

This is a team that came close to going to the World Series last year and this year they’re about as far away from being that team as Jeff Mathis is to hitting even .250. Why does Mathis still have a job? I’m never going to understand the “man crush” Mike Scioscia has on him. After six seasons Jeff Mathis has a career .200 average. I suppose we should be happy that he’s at least hitting his weight. Hmm. I wonder what would happen if he gained 50 pounds?

Look, I know that Mike Napoli isn’t going to win any gold gloves behind the plate, but playing Mathis over him is ludicrous.

Really want to know something crazy? In 2008 Mathis hit .194 and he followed that up in 2009 by hitting .211. That translated into him being able to more than double his salary through arbitration from $450,000 to $1.3 million. I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up.

So last night Mike Sciosica decided to put Juan Rivera at first base. Yes, Tub of Goo himself was making his first ever start as a first baseman. When you think about it, if he has to be on the field that might be the best place for him. I mean first base probably requires the least amount of athleticism. Of course, I’d rather he not be on the field at all, but I’m just crazy that way.

You see Juan Rivera can’t be any good. Why? He doesn’t play “D” and if you take the “D” out of good, you’re left with goo. Thus the nickname “Tub of Goo.” I should have thought of this earlier. Doh!

I told you I wasn’t at a loss for words. This team has given me a lot of material to work with this year.

On the bright side; and yes, there’s always a bright side. I love watching Peter Bourjos run down fly balls. It has already gotten to the point where I expect him to catch everything and I mean everything. When a foul ball is hit into the upper deck, I check the nearest tunnel to make sure Bourjos isn’t about to run out and make the catch.

Terry Smith (Angel radio play by play announcer) was commenting last night that he’d like to see a foot race between Bourjos and Carl Crawford. Poor Terry doesn’t get it. Bourjos is so fast, a better race would be between him and Top Fuel Funny Car. After all; Bourjos doesn’t have feet, he has wheels.

Speaking of wheels… wheels roll and last night the Angels rolled over big time. Catch the 9th inning? The Rays closer, Rafael Soriano only needed nine pitches to close out the game. He threw nine strikes and struck out the side. That’s about as perfect as you can get. By the way, Soriano will be a free agent at the end of the season. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

In closing, I'd like to wish Tim Salmon a happy 42nd birthday today. We miss you Timmy!

I'd also like to remember Nick Adenhart, who shares Salmon's birthday. Nick would have been 24 years old today. He too is missed dearly for entirely different reasons. Let's never forget.

BallHype: hype it up!

August 23, 2010

Everyone loves a parade

There seems to be this sentiment out there that if you don’t believe the Angels are going to win the west, you’re basically giving up on the team. Personally, I think that’s a bunch of baloney. Giving up would basically mean stop watching and most of all, stop caring.

That’s certainly not the case with me.

The way I see it, the Angels just aren’t good enough this year to overtake Texas. They continue to struggle to score runs and they just can’t seem to beat the better teams in the league. I don’t have to build a case against their chances; they’re done that on their own.

The perfect segue for another rant? Not today.

I’d like to go back to a happier time and that would be July 13, 2010 when the All-Star game came to Anaheim. More specifically, I’d like to share Cheryl and my experience at the Red Carpet Parade.

We were in New York for our first Red Carpet Parade and I have to admit the one in Anaheim pales in comparison. After all, the one in New York included multiple Hall of Famers and there were times when the parade came to a stop and gave fans the chance to interact with the players.

I remember teasing Tony Gwynn (who is a big supporter of El Cajon Ford in San Diego) about riding in the back of a Chevy truck. He had a good time with my comment and said something to the effect that he hoped they wouldn't see this.

We didn’t have any opportunities like that. The players whizzed by in the back of trucks, tossing out baseball cards and other chotskies along the way. They were often looking down into the bags that held all the goodies when they went by.

We kept wondering if they were going to a fire. A few did manage to wave and smile and acknowledge the fans.

As Ian Kinsler went by I couldn’t resist yelling “Get off our road!” and when Carl Crawford went by I was sure to let him know how much we wanted him in Anaheim next year.

We stood next to a Yankee fan and his son, who were actually very nice. They had traveled out from Atlanta (the dad is originally from New York and had the accent to prove it). They did their part by booing the Red Sox players. We (Cheryl and I) did our part by booing the Yankees (like Derek Jeter) Torii Hunter threw them some Yankee Fuzzy Dice, much to their surprise (and delight). Cheryl and I ended up with some Angel fuzzy dice, also to our own delight.

The players weren’t the only ones participating in the parade; the mascots were out in full force as well. It’s too bad the Angels don’t have a mascot. I guess we’re too cool for that. Whatever…

Some of the mascots I recall included Junction Jack (Astros), the Swinging Friar (Padres), Phillie Phanatic, Bernie Brewer, Billy the Marlin, D. Baxter the Bobcat (Diamondbacks), Gapper (Reds), Mariner Moose, Mr. Met, and Dinger (Rockies). I’m sure there were others.

Brian Wilson (below, left) of the Giants was amped up pretty good. He was standing behind the truck’s cab raising his fists in the air and throwing goodies into the crowd. Corey Hart reminded me of Chewbacca from Star Wars (below, right). I kept looking to see if Harrison Ford would be sitting next to him.

One surprise (at least for me) was seeing a calm, cool and smiling Jose Valverde (above left). He seemed very different from his on-the-field persona, where he appears to be a crazy man who might throw at a batter’s head at any time. I also thought the rookie-phenom Jayson Heyward (above right not in uniform) looked older than I thought he might.

Is it just me or does Ichirio (left) look a little bit like the Rally Monkey? Just saying.

The players weren’t alone. Many had family, friends or girlfriends along for the ride. It was kind of funny to watch them. You would have thought some of them believed the parade was for them, while most seemed to be soaking it all in and just enjoying the ride.

We soaked it all in too. Despite not quite living up to the Red Carpet Parade in New York; it was still a lot of fun. The fans were in a good mood and most of the players seemed to enjoy being a part of the festivities.

Some more pics below include Josh Johnson (Marlins), Josh Hamilton and his family (Rangers), Joe Mauer (Twins), David Wright (Mets).

You know I have to give some props to the Long Beach State DirtBags who were representing! Below are Evan Longoria (Rays) and Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies) who is sporting a mullet (link is to a very funny commentary from Vin Scully about "mullets").

More photos; below are Vladimir Guerrero (Rangers), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays), and Nick Swisher (Yankees).

The biggest cheers for the day was reserved for the Angels' own Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver (as it should be).

Last, but not least are pictures of David Price (Rays), Ryan Howard (Phillies), Joaquin Soria (Royals), and the always classy Adrain Gonzalez (Padres).

Good times for sure. I'll be posting more stuff from the All-Star Festivities in the near future. I've got pics from the Homerun Derby and the All-Star game itself to share with you.

BallHype: hype it up!

August 20, 2010

Miracle in Minnesota. Oldest living man hits a triple

Jim Thome is about 115 years old. He hadn’t hit a triple since 2004; that is until June 28th of this year when he hit one against the Detroit Tigers. One would think the chances of him hitting a second triple in one season had to be about as likely as Reggie Willits hitting his first homerun. We’re talking long odds and slim chances.

It was darn near impossible to consider such a feat; unless of course, Juan Rivera happened to be playing left field and Thome decided to hit one… say in the direction of the man I’ve come to call a Tub of Goo.

I didn’t see it happen, but I had a very vivid picture in my head as Terry Smith of AM830 made the call. The ball went skipping off Rivera’s glove and if it had lips it would have been laughing all the way to the wall as Jim Thome, the 115 year old DH (okay he’s really a week away from his 40th birthday) went chugging into third for his second triple of the year. It wasn’t just his second triple this year; it was his second triple in nearly six years. SIX YEARS!!

It’s a good thing I wasn’t watching this on T.V. because there’s a chance I would have picked up the nearest object and flung it at the tube. Instead, I was listening to the call on the radio while driving, which was probably a heck of a lot more dangerous. A lesser man would have driven their car off the road or into a tree. How I managed to stay cool is beyond me. It could have been ugly.

Imagine having to explain what happened to a Highway Patrolman. I’m sure all I would have to do is utter the name Juan… and before I could even say his last name, the officer would say “never mind sir, I totally understand.” Heck, he’d probably give me a police escort all the way to the funny farm.

I can hear him now. “Lock him up boys, another victim of listening to the call of a fly ball hit to Juan Rivera while driving.” Friends shouldn’t let friends drive while Rivera is in a ball game.

Juan, Juan, Juan. Oh how you test me. You’ve made me come up with new ways of saying the word “stink.” Words like putrid and horrific fly off my tongue like they can’t wait to leave my mouth. Luckily I don’t swear, but I swear you make me want to in the worst way.

Rivera has some sort of super hero like powers. He can single handedly destroy the euphoria of a victory that came less than 24 hours ago.

I wish the Juan Rivera story ended here, but there was more (of course). Rivera, major league outfielder that he is, also lost a ball in the grey sky that ended up landng a good 30 feet behind him. That one left me speechless.

I know... I know I’m being too harsh, right? Wrong. Juan Rivera may not have lost the game, but he sure made the defeat all the more painful. He’s good that way.

Speaking of good; what good is Dan Haren? Haren is sporting a 4.55 ERA. And the man the Angels traded for Haren? Well, good ol’ Joe Saunders has a 4.24 ERA since going to Arizona. Neither is lighting it up, but let's not forget that Joe was Cheryl and my favorite.

I’m not a math guy, but even I can see that Haren is kind of picking up where he left off in Arizona and that’s not a good thing. Here’s some more math for you. Dan Haren is making $8.25 million this year. Compare that to Saunders’ $3.7 million. Wait, it gets better – Haren will make $12.75 million next year and that same amount again in 2012. Saunders will most likely have to go to arbitration to get a slight increase in his salary.

And to think some people actually wonder why I’m cranky this year. It’s one thing to take Cheryl and my favorite pitcher away from us, but it’s another to replace him with someone who doesn’t appear to be any better and costs the team a boat load more money.

I know the experts all loved this trade and because they love it so much, I even tried to justify it in my head; all the while hating to see Saundo leave. Well now, I'm getting grumpy.

Danny Boy; it’s time you started to show me something. The honeymoon is over and it’s time for you to live up to the hype. Cheryl and I even bought shirts with your name on it. Don’t make us regret that decision more than we already do. We wanted to show our support. Don't make us want to show you the door.

These are not good times. I’m just saying.

BallHype: hype it up!

One out of ten never felt so good

I’m such a homer sometimes that it doesn’t take much to get me excited about the Angels. While it’s true I spend plenty of time ranting about this or that, my heart always wants to cheer instead of jeer. That’s just the way I roll.

Never mind losing the first nine encounters with Boston. Never mind being 7 games behind Texas. Forget all that because last night the Angels put together a solid game to win their last regular season game of 2010 against Boston.

Can I get a boo-ya? How about a simple Woot!?

There was something about last night’s win that was just so incredibly satisfying. Maybe it’s knowing that Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu took it upon themselves to hold a closed door players-only meeting. After which, Hunter guaranteed us that we would see a different team.

I will admit I was a tad bit skeptical when I heard about the meeting. Hadn’t there been other closed-door meeting this year?

Well, what do you know? It worked. The Angels actually came out and chased Josh Beckett to the showers. Anytime that happens, it’s a beautiful thing. I don’t know what it is (actually I do), but for some reason (maybe because I think Beckett is just a jerk); I get a lot of pleasure in Beckett struggling.

I’m going to savor last night’s win. More than that, I kind of feel like it gives Angel fans bragging rights for the year over Boston. If you look at it like a Heavyweight Title Fight, my thought process makes a lot of sense. It’s all about the last time the two teams faced one another.

Feel free to use that one with any Red Sox fans you know. I’m sure they’ll get a kick out of it.

Okay, so here we are with 40 games left in the season and the Angels trailing the Rangers by 7 games. The Rangers are trying to let the Angels back into the race by playing crappy baseball. It’s really nice of them to do this don’t you think? Now if the Angels would just capitalize on all this, we’d have something.

Quite a change in attitude I’m having, huh? I know what some of you are thinking… ol’ James is back on the bandwagon. If you’re thinking that, you would be wrong because I don’t hop on or off the wagon. I’m always pulling for my favorite team. It’s just that there are times when I’m not overly happy with them. It’s really that simple.

I’m not about to predict a miraculous come from behind rally to over take the Rangers. I’m just celebrating the moment.

This team still has glaring holes and it still has an uphill battle ahead. The Minnesota Twins are a dang fine baseball team and this three game series is going to be a battle for the Angels.

One game at a time. Bet you never heard that one before, right?

Look baseball is a whole lot more fun when your team is playing well and right now, I’m just hoping for just that. I don’t want to see them rolling over. If they’re going to go down, I want them to go down swinging. Let’s not make it easy for Texas.

Go Halos!

BallHype: hype it up!

August 19, 2010

Good Wood hunting

Mention the name Brandon Wood to an Angels fan and you’re likely to hear a moan, a scream or a sigh. To say he’s been a disappointment and hasn’t come to close to living up to expectations would be an understatement. He’s been that bad. Most fans can’t understand why he’s still on the roster.

Well, I’m here to tell you why.

I believe that third base is one of the hardest positions to fill in all of baseball. That’s right, really good third basemen are few and far between.

Let’s take a look at some of the players currently covering the hot corner around the league.

There are basically four (possibly five) elite third basemen in all of baseball. They are Evan Longoria (Rays), David Wright (Mets), Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals), Alex Rodriguez (Yankees) and to a slightly lesser degree Michael Young (Rangers). I say slightly lesser because Young’s power numbers are inflated by the ball park that he calls home (16 of his 19 homeruns have come in Arlington).

Wright is signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012; Zimmerman is signed through 2013; Young; and Longoria are signed through 2013 with the Rays holding club options that go through 2016 for the former Dirt Bag.

There are two individuals who have had one or two good years; however, they’re wildly inconsistent from year to year. They are Mark Reynolds (Diamondbacks), currently hitting .214, and Adrian Beltre (Red Sox). More on Beltre in a bit.

Several individuals who are in the twilight of their careers include Scott Rolen (Reds), Chipper Jones (Braves), Aramis Ramirez (Cubs), Mike Lowell (Red Sox), Miguel Tejada, and Pedro Feliz (Astros). Lowell and Tejada (both 37 years old) will be free agents this off season. Ramirez has a $14.6 million player option that he’ll surely exercise.

Some not so impressive names include: Kevin Kouzmanoff (A’s), Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays), David Freese/Felipe Lopez (Cardinals), Casey Blake (Dodgers), Jayson Nix (Indians), Chone Figgins (Mariners), Wes Helms (Marlins), Ian Stewart (Rockies), Wilson Betimet (Royals), Brandon Inge (Tigers), Omar Vizquel/Mark Teahan (White Sox), Casey McGehee (Brewers), Chase Headley (Padres), Jorge Cantu (Rangers), Ty Wiggington (Orioles), and Placido Polanco (Phillies).

I think we can agree that none of these names I just mentioned are the kind of corner infielders other teams are clamoring for. We can add the Angels’ Alberto Callaspo to this mix as well and since he’s basically in the same category as those I just mentioned – it would be pointless to acquire any of them.

Young guns trying to make an impact include: Josh Bell (Orioles), Chris Johnson (Astros), Pedro Alvarez (Pirates), Brooks Conrad (Braves) and Danny Valencia (Twins). None of which have set the world on fire as of yet.

Throw in guys like Joe Crede, Josh Fields, Eric Chavez, and Garret Atkins who are either injury prone or have declining skills and you will see that the landscape for a highly productive third basemen isn’t pretty.

So I ask; if not Brandon Wood, who from the list above can the Angels have a reasonable expectancy of acquiring?

Of all the names listed above the only semi-appealing name that will be a free agent in 2011 is Beltre. Now, knowing what we know about Beltre – is anyone willing to give the 32 year old a long term contract? I’d say that’s a risky proposition.

Want to go younger? There are two 29 year old soon-to-be free agents in Wilson Betimet and Jorge Cantu. Pardon me while I yawn. These two look like stop gap answers at best.

So I'll ask again; who can the Angels acquire to play third base? Right now, the current options are either Alberto Callaspo or Kevin Frandsen (if you’re not considering Wood). Neither of whom offer the kind of offensive production the Angels need.

This is why the Angels aren’t giving up on Brandon Wood, nor should they. The Angels have invested a great deal of time in Brandon Wood and there’s an old saying in baseball that no one knows their players better than the team who currently employs them.

Face it; the Angels have never been shy about letting players walk when the time was right (remember the nightmare that was Shea Hillenbrand?). If Brandon Wood doesn’t make it here, I’m willing to venture a guess that he won’t make it any where.

There’s a reason Brandon Wood is still on this roster. He just might be the best option; no matter how much of a long shot some Angel fans think he might be. The key is whether or not the Angels can unlock the potential that he represents. I know, call me Captain Obvious.

Word is that he’ll be playing Winter Ball some place and then come back next year for another go. Now, Wood has not taken well to winter ball in the past, but here’s hoping this year will be different.

All I’m saying is Brandon Wood has to succeed. He has to be the long-term solution at third base. Callaspo is not the answer. At best, he’s a low end insurance policy. Kevin Frandsen? Please, don’t even go there.

I know that Brandon Wood hasn’t given fans much of reason to believe he’s capable of getting the job done. I understand the frustration with him. Never-the-less, I am pulling for the guy. He’s just the kind of guy I can get behind because I like the way he goes about his business. He doesn’t sulk or make excuses. He’s always been nice at spring training and I just like the guy and so does my wife Cheryl.

The way I see it, the Angels must see something there. Mike Scioscia sees something there and for better or worse I’m holding on to that.

BallHype: hype it up!

August 16, 2010

It's the offense, stupid

Angel fans haven’t been this frustrated in years. Watching the Angels play baseball is akin to being staked to the ground under the grueling desert sun with army ants attacking you. It’s agonizing.

And yet – there is a certain group of fans who refuse to look at the evidence and actually discuss the short comings of this year’s team. They’d rather focus on those of us who are critical of the team rather than the team itself. Sure they might brush upon the subject of poor play now and again, but they’re mostly consumed with the people who are not a part of the problem – other Angel fans.

Well, I’m here to tell you the truth about the 2010 version of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The problem is simple. It’s the offense stupid.

That’s right – every player with the possible exception of Torii Hunter is under performing (and even Hunter is under performing - just to a lesser degree). Compare the offensive statistics of every player and you’ll see a huge drop off. We’re talking Grand Canyon sized gaps in performance.

Erick Aybar is hitting 41 points lower than 2009 (.271 compared to .312), Juan Rivera is down 30 points, Howie Kendrick is hitting 21 points below his .291 average from a year ago, Bobby Abreu's average is down 27 points, Hideki Matsui is hitting 23 points lower, Mike Napoli's batting 18 points lower, and the list goes on and on.

Do the math. It isn’t pretty.

The Kool-Aid bartenders of the world (you know who you are) have been telling us what a great second half performer Matsui is and how the Angels players have all this great experience and have played in big games, but fail to tell us how that will actually translate into winning games on the field.

There for a while the Kool-Aid drinkers went on and on about not being worried and how there was plenty of time left in the schedule and how Texas will fade.

This group ignores the facts. They neglect to acknowledge the Angels poor play against the better teams in the league. They talk about June (The Angels’ one good month) like it was 2002, but ignore the other months like they never existed.

I get a little tired of hearing about this being the "Golden Era of Angels baseball. " I get that. I agree with it. That doesn’t mean I can’t be critical of what they’ve done this year. It’s not that I’m ungrateful; I’m just fed up with this season. So don’t try to change the subject.

Jeff Biggs of AM 830 likes to deflect the discussion by telling us that Arte Moreno wants to win as badly as anyone. Hello? What does that have to do with the price of spam in Hawaii?

The front office has had a really bad year. Not because they let Vlad Guerrero, John Lackey and Chone Figgins walk. Those were understandable moves. What makes this year such a disaster is their failure to anticipate those losses and/or adjust to them.

And then there’s Darren Oliver which in my opinion may have been the biggest goof of all. We all know that good relief pitching is one of the most valuable commodities in baseball. Oliver had been solid for all of his three years in Anaheim. He was probably the best pitcher on the team in 2009 next to Jered Weaver.

So what did the Angels do? They failed to offer him arbitration. They let him walk. In my opinion the front office got a little full of themselves by believing Oliver would come back for less money than he would get in arbitration. They were wrong and Oliver is having yet another fantastic season – only he’s doing this in Texas.

Forget Vlad, Figgy and Lackey – how can anyone explain letting Oliver go so easily?

Don’t answer that. It doesn’t really matter.

Again, the front office has had a horrible year. Yes, I know they’ve done wonders since 2002, but I’m not here to do a recap of the decade. I’m here to talk about this season. This isn’t the time to do a retrospective of the past and to pat each other on the back. It’s a time to step up and be accountable.

The players need to held accountable because they’ve under achieved. Mike Scioscia needs to take some blame because he drives the organization. Tony Reagins needs to held responsible because his team has been exposed for its lack of depth.

And then there’s everyone’s favorite whipping boy – Mickey Hatcher. When other teams go into the kind of a hitting funk like the Angels’ have this last year – their batting coaches get fired. I’m just saying.

The hitting woes of the Angels are of catastrophic proportions and that cannot be emphasized enough. Again, do the math.

Forgive me for not thinking that this Angels squad has a shot this year. As much as it hurts me to say this – Texas is simply the better team.

By the way, I'm curious what you think of Jeff Biggs. Please take my poll located to the right of this post.

BallHype: hype it up!

August 13, 2010

Thank you Veterans

Major League baseball has always taken the time to thank the men and women who are serving this country at home and abroad. Every Sunday home game at Angels Stadium (and at some ball parks - at every game) - fans take time to honor our service men and women by singing "God bless America." It's a great reminder to us all.

I think it's important to thank our Veterans often and sometimes we don't remember to do that unless there's a special holiday or occasion.

Well, I wanted to take time today to say "Thank you Veterans" - not because today is a special day, but just because any day is a good day to take time to say "thank you."

BallHype: hype it up!

August 12, 2010

Off day fodder

If you were at the Angels/Rangers game on July 30 you might remember seeing a boy participating in the Angels “Steal 3rd” promotion that night. You’d remember it vividly because as he started to run, he fell and then got up to continue running with his arm dangling by his side. It was painful to watch; in fact, the Angels’ trainer came out of the dugout to take the boy off the field.

Many of us have wondered what happened to the kid. Sam Miller of the Orange County Register is trying to follow up. He’s also posted this video of the incident on their Angels Blog site.

As disturbing as that video is, here’s another disturbing picture (from Reuters)...

Yes, that’s Francisco Rodriguez, also known as Frankie or K-Rod being escorted by New York’s finest. What’s even more disturbing than even the photo is the report that K-Rod has a "history of violence." Frankie has allegedly had physical altercations with his girlfriend and her dad in the past; this, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

I must admit, I was tempted to make light of this ordeal; however, domestic violence is no laughing matter and I’m saddened to hear that Frankie would be involved in such things.

To be honest, I was never a big fan of Frankie and I often found it difficult to cheer for him. I never liked his over-the-top celebrations and his general attitude. Never-the-less, this is still extremely disappointing news.

Moving on...

In case you’re wondering, I’m still planning to recap more of the All-Star festivities which includes the parade, the Homerun Derby and the All-Star game itself. I have so many photos to sort through, it just takes time.

That’s it for an off day. Back to baseball tomorrow. Angels and the Blue Jays. Hope you’ll be out at the ball park wearing red!

BallHype: hype it up!

More "Signs"

The Kool-Aid will be flowing today. There will be folks jumping back on the Angels bandwagon after their sweep of the Kansas City Royals. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because anything that keeps people watching and going to Angel games is a good thing. I’m just observing.

As great as all of the recent wins are – let’s not get carried away. Those victories came against the Kansas City Royals who are tied for last in their division. Granted, this is what the Angels are supposed to do, but let’s not make it out to be some sort of season changing milestone. It’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is still winning, but again – let’s just keep it in perspective.

Today is an off day and that’s going to give Angel fans too much time to think and talk. Trust me, between now and Friday night the hype will be back. The battle cry will be along the lines of “Here come the Angels; we’re rolling now…” Sounds great. I hope it’s true. Just don’t look for me to lead that parade.

I’ll leave that to people like Jeff Biggs.

Biggs did the post game show on the radio yesterday and he is back to dolling out the hype. He’s saying “the pressure is off the Angels now.” Funny what a sweep over a team who is tied for last in their division can do. Kool-Aid is being served and people like Biggsy are playing bartender again.

Personally, I don’t feel the need to hype every victory as some sort of proof that the Angels are about to make things interesting. I can simply enjoy the victory as simply that – a victory. If they continue to win, I’ll be very pleased and if they don’t, I won’t be too surprised. I’m just trying to be somewhat objective here. I will simply continue to watch and attend as many Angel games as I can (which will be a ton), cheer loudly and not look too far ahead.

The Angels are still 7.5 games out (as of this posting). They’re still 7th in the AL in runs scored and 10th in OPS as a team. These numbers don’t induce much confidence.

Just saying.

That being said, this weekend will be a good test. The Blue Jays are a solid offensive team. They lead the AL in homeruns and should the Angels handle them, I may actually think the Angels are giving me a reason for optimism and an opportunity to believe.

In the mean time the Rangers will be hosting the Red Sox. I hate to do this, but it’s all about the team; so here it goes… GO SOX!

Did I really just write that? That’s just so wrong.

I blame the Angels for putting me in this position. I’m scoreboard watching and cheering for the likes of the Yankees, A’s and Red Sox. I feel dirty. It’s not enough for me to just cheer my team on to victory; I have to hope teams I really despise also do well against the Rangers. Oh well… that’s baseball.

On a completely different note (after all, it is an off day)… I was reading some thoughts about Dallas McPherson on AngelsWin. Yes, that Dallas McPherson. He’s still toiling around in the minor leagues and is currently with the Sacramento River Cats of the Pacific Coast League. He’s part of the Oakland A’s farm system.

McPherson has been on somewhat of a tear lately, hitting four homeruns in August. He appears to be healthy – at least for the moment (which has always been an issue for him).

The reason I bring him up is not because I think he could help a club win ball games, but because any discussion about McPherson reminds me of the 2002 movie “Signs” that starred Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.

Phoenix played a character named Merrill Hess, who was best known as a guy who hit monster homeruns in the minor leagues, but also set records for strike outs. In my opinion, McPherson looks a little like Phoenix and the Hess character kind of describes him to a tee.

What do you think?

All I’m saying is that if we are ever invaded by aliens, Dallas McPherson should get called up, but probably not until then.

BallHype: hype it up!

August 11, 2010

Signs of life

Last night was like old times. The stadium was full and blanketed in red (sixth sell out of the season), the Angels had good pitching (Dan Haren got his first win as an Angel), they ran the bases aggressively and even managed to squeeze home a run.

It was simply a fun night to be at the ball park. The 514 Fanatics were also out in force for “Break out the Red” week. Bo & Mary, John & Linda, John & Ann, Jeff, Bob, Stephen, Dori, Wendy, Nick & Patty and others were out in force to cheer on the Halos.

Oh how I had missed these kinds of evenings.

We even were treated (yes, I said “treated”) to a Brian Fuentes save, but not before fans moaned as he trotted in from the bull pen. Yes, it was a vintage night of Angels baseball for sure.

Despite all that, as we look at the standings today – with 47 games left in the Angels’ season – we see the Texas Rangers with an 8.5 game lead. Is there enough time?

If you read the message boards and listen to sports talk radio – there are plenty of people trying to give Angel fans hope. They’ll point to the fact that Texas still has games left with the “Beasts in the East” – Yankees, Rays and Red Sox. They’ll point out that the Angels and Rangers will tangle in seven of the final fourteen games.

I’m all for having hope. I would love for nothing more than the Angels to be playing meaningful games in September. The thing is – I’m not that optimistic. I’m just not.

It would be one thing if Kendry Morales was still in the lineup or if Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera and Hideki Matsui were having years like they had in 2009. Fact is they’re not. Virtually every player has under performed or under achieved this year. I can’t see them flipping the switch to make a run. They haven’t given me any reason to believe they’re capable of doing that.

These are desperate times.

We’ve come to the point where the Angels lineup is basically what I would call “make shift.” Let’s be honest, a lineup with Maicer Izturis as the #5 hitter isn’t the kind of lineup any of us had probably envisioned for this team.

That’s not a knock on Izturis because he’s a fine player. Thing is, he’s a fine role player and not the kind of guy who should be in the lineup every day, let alone batting in the heart of the order Besides, I keep waiting for him to break.. When he made a diving catch last night, I fully expected to learn that he’d be put on the DL today because he’s just fragile.

This lineup lacks pop and until last night – they weren’t manufacturing runs. Like it or not the offense is stagnant and requires maximum effort every night just to compete. Too many things have to go right because there doesn’t appear to be a lot of three run homeruns in the tank.

And then there’s the glaring fact that the Angels haven’t been very good against the best teams in the AL. You could look it up….

I will say this – for all the whining people do about Brian Fuentes, he’s one of the few bright spots on this team. He’s saved 17 of his last 18 games. He’s only blown four saves all year. I love to yell “B.F.F – Brian Fuentes Forever” whenever he walks in from left field. I guess I’m just contrary that way.

Now just because I’m not feeling confident about the team doesn’t mean I love them any less. I haven’t stopped going to games and I certainly haven’t stopped cheering. I still watch and hope, but I’m also trying to keep it all in perspective.

If all we get out of the rest of the season is the emergence of Peter Bourjos and a return of Scott Kazmir to his old self, I’ll be somewhat happy. In the mean time, I will look for more games like last night’s game and hope for the best.

More games like last night’s and I’ll have something good to focus on and perhaps a reason to believe.

The Angels have a video they show from time to time at the games with music from The Bravery singing the song “Believe.” The chorus is "So give me something to believe." At this point in time, that’s all I’m asking for. Last night and the past few games have been a good start. I’d just like a little more of that. Is that too much to ask?

What are we waiting for? What are we waiting for? So give me something to believe…

BallHype: hype it up!

August 10, 2010

Faster than a speeding bullet

Tradition. That’s the word that’s been used as the theme for the 2010 season... Well, if there’s one tradition the Angels can point to more than any other, it’s having a history of fast, athletic center fielders; guys who can really get after a baseball.

Names like Jose Cardenal, Mickey Rivers, Gary Pettis, and Chad Curtis have covered center field like white on rice. Others such as Devon White, Jim Edmonds, Darin Erstad and Torii Hunter have approached legendary status for their abilities to rob hitters of homeruns, haul in sinking line drives to deny hitters of extra bases, and collect Gold Gloves.

The latest in this long line of center fielders is none other than Peter Bourjos. Bourjos’ name became known to many Angel fans for the first time last season when he was mentioned as a possible trade piece in the Angels attempt to acquire Roy Halladay. It’s no wonder. The kid plays a mean center field.

Bourjos is a 23 year old out of Park Ridge, Illinois where he was a 10th round draft pick by the Angels in 2005.

Last night, Angel fans got their first “official” look at Bourjos in Angels stadium (he made an appearance during the pre-season freeway series as well).

So, how fast is young Peter? Let me break it down for you…

Bourjos is so fast, the FAA has declared center field a “no fly zone” and the United States Air Force has issued a stern warning that any fly balls in the PB (Peter Bourjos) Zone will be terminated with extreme prejudice.

That’s right – Bourjos is that kind of fast.

He’s so fast, that he’s a threat to make it to second base on a walk. He’s so fast, that runners trying to tag up from third base on fly balls hit to him are often stunned to find him waiting for them at home plate for the tag.

If the Coyote had his kind of speed, the Road Runner would be toast.... err, lunch.

Let me put it to you another way. What does it say when Torii Hunter a nine time Gold Glover volunteers to move over to right field? It says that Peter Bourjos is the real deal and you'd better believe it.

Bourjos is so fast that once he gets on first base, he’s a threat to score from there on a squeeze play. Once a ball is in the air, he can run into the stands, sell some popcorn and then run back on to the field to wait for the fly ball to land softly in his glove.

He’s fast enough that he can catch fly balls in front of Juan Rivera. Okay, that’s not saying much,but this has actually happened since his call up. Let's just say I breathe a little easier knowing he’s patrolling center field.

Last night as we were watching young Peter’s Angels Stadium debut, 514 Fanatic Bo (also known as HaloBo from his comments on this blog) commented that” he’s faster than a rat running down a high wire.” I say “you can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”

Imagine an outfield with both Mike Trout (see the post prior to this one) and Peter Bourjos. That will be one high octane duo.

Yes Angel fans the future is looking bright. We have the kind of player in Bourjos that baseball fans just love. The kind of guy who only has one gear and that’s full bore. We love players that hustle and play great defense and it’s clear that Bourjos is going to be a fan favorite.

Speaking of fan favorites; Garret Anderson was designated for assignment by the Dodgers yesterday. Okay, I know many Angel fans have had kind of love/hate relationship with Garret over the years, but let’s be clear about one thing… Anderson owns virtually every significant statistical record for the Angels.

Even though I’ve never been a huge Anderson fan myself, I fully recognize his contributions and accomplishments as an Angel. Why am I bringing this all up? Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Angels sign Anderson for the rest of the season to let him retire as an Angel.

I think it would be a fitting way to pay tribute to Anderson for all he has meant to the Angels franchise. The rosters will be expanding in September anyway and wouldn’t it be nice to have the opportunity to thank and recognize Anderson as he moves on to the next phase in his life?

Moving on is something Don Wakamatsu the manager of the Seattle Mariners is doing today after the being fired by the Mariners yesterday. You know who really should be fired? All those so-called experts who picked the Mariners to win the AL West. I’m just saying.

Photos of Bourjos in this post were taken at spring training this year.

BallHype: hype it up!