December 9, 2011

Who is Albert?

While most of the baseball world is analyzing and discussing the impact Albert Pujols will have on the Angles, the American League West and baseball as a whole, this blog decided to head off in a different direction.

As a fan, I know I will never have the opportunity to get to know Albert on a personal level and what I know about him will come from what I can find on the internet, experience through the media and watch from a far. Never-the-less, the quest to know the man is something I wanted to take on and I found my answers quite easily and now I'm going to share what I found with you.

Who is Albert?

He has been called the greatest player of our generation; a sure fire-fire, first ballot Hall-of-Famer and yet this is now how Albert wants to be remembered.

He is a three-time National League Most Valuable Player, a nine-time all-star, a two-time Gold Glove winner, a six-time Silver Slugger recipient, a two-time World Champion, and a former Rookie-of-the-Year. These are the kind of rewards that bring tremendous glory to a baseball player and yet- Albert would rather give the glory to someone else.

His nickname is “The Machine” because he does things on a baseball field that go beyond what normal human beings ought to be able to accomplish. He has a career OPS of 1.037, 445 career homeruns, and a career .328 batting average. And yet – Albert is fully aware of just how flawed of a “human” he really is.

Little kids idolize him; grown men and women adore him and his peers may even envy him, but he would rather all of them worship someone else.

Who is this man?

This is his testimony as posted on the Pujols Family Foundation web site:

"Over the last decade my life has radically changed. I went from being a kid with a dream in the Dominican Republic, to playing professional baseball, Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, and winning a Gold Glove and World Championship!

What has not changed is my love for Jesus Christ. In the spring of 1998, my soon to be wife, Deidre, began sharing with me the love of Jesus. My most exciting moment came when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life. If it weren't for Jesus, I would not be where I am today and my life would be without purpose. I've heard kids say they want to be just like me when they grow up. They should know I want to be just like Jesus."


This is who Albert is.

And this is his statement of faith…

It makes sense for the Pujols Family Foundation website to have information about what our foundation does, our events, and ways to partner with us. We obviously care greatly about people and families who live with Down syndrome, as well as those impoverished families I left behind in the Dominican Republic. But why “Faith?” Why is “Faith” the first word in our mission statement: “Faith, Family and Others?”
The answer simply is because our faith in Jesus Christ is the central point of our individual lives, our marriage, family and Foundation. Take Jesus Christ and faith in Him out of the equation and all those other things would not exist.

People have said to me, “Albert, I would give anything to be able to play baseball like you.” They may look at my abilities and think that being a great baseball player is the goal of my life. Believe it or not, baseball is not the chief ambition of my life. Becoming a great baseball player is important to me, but it is not my primary focus. Because I know the Hall of Fame is not my ultimate final destination.

My life’s goal is to bring glory to Jesus. My life is not mostly dedicated to the Lord, it is 100% committed to Jesus Christ and His will. God has given me the ability to succeed in the game of baseball. But baseball is not the end; baseball is the means by which my wife, Dee Dee, and I glorify God. Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I would also rather be known as a great husband and father than an All-Star baseball player. Perhaps one day I could be honored with an invitation into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. That would certainly be a boyhood dream of mine come true, but it is a far greater honor that one day I will be in heaven with God to enjoy Him forever.

How do I know that I will spend eternity with God in heaven? It goes back to the original discussion – Faith. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is my faith in Jesus Christ’s work in my life that grants me eternal life with God. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s why the mission of this Foundation is “Faith, Family, and Others.” It is because our faith is at the heart of everything we are and everything we do.

We have not yet mentioned the idea of “Others” found in our Mission Statement. This word is an important one as well. Jesus commanded in one of His last recorded statements: “Therefore go and make disciples . . .” You may recall 2006 if you are a Cardinals fan. The season culminated with the first World Series Championship in St. Louis in 24 years. For many FANS, it was the highlight of their year. However, if you asked me about the pinnacle of 2006, you would probably be surprised to learn that winning the World Series or winning my first Gold Glove at first base was not the highlight moment of the season for me. My personal favorite moment during that season was seeing two of my friends and teammates come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That was the peak of my year! Why are “others” important to us? Because they are important to God. “Others” were important enough for Jesus to die on the cross for them; they are much more important than a World Series ring.


Read his complete statement HERE

The accolades are impressive, the statistics are staggering, the contributions to his community are heroic, but these are not the things that define Albert; what he stands for and who he ultimately serves sets Albert apart from the world in which he lives in. His true reward is beyond this place and he simply wants others to know that they can join him at his ultimate destination. That’s who Albert is and it's extremely fitting that he can call himself an "Angel."

December 8, 2011

The swagger returns to Anaheim

This is a defining moment for the Angels. Albert Pujols is a once-in-a-generation type of athlete and the impact he can make on a team, a community and baseball as a whole cannot be over-stated in my opinion.

Pujols’ signing with the Angels is stunning news. Take the time to really let it sink in for a bit.

Step away from this post; close your eyes for a few minutes and think about it.

Is your heart beating a little faster?

Yeah, I know just how you feel.

When I heard the news this morning, I was climbing into my car; where I turned on the radio and I heard a voice say “breaking news…” Had I been driving my vehicle I may have very well driven right off the road; instead, I literally ran back into my home to tell Cheryl, who was so overcome with joy tears began to run down her cheeks.

When the rumors first surfaced about the Angels interest in Pujols, I tried to dismiss it. I went to Cheryl and told her about the rumors early on, but both of us agreed we shouldn’t get our hopes up. We had been down this road before; with the likes of Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford, etc., etc.

She’d ask me every now and then if there was any news and every time I read something, I’d mention it – but every discussion ended with “let not get our hopes up.”

Even though we tried not to - we still found ourselves dreaming of the idea of Pujols coming to Anaheim. How could we not? This is what you do when you’re a baseball fan and this was Albert “The Machine” Pujols we were talking about.

I mean he’s been called everything from the “Babe Ruth of our generation” to “the best player in the game today.” When his career is complete – he will most likely rank among the greatest players to ever set foot on a field.

As we all know - the rumors wouldn’t go away and we were slowly getting sucked in.

Yesterday, we took a small step of faith in our own little way. We put on our Angels bracelets. Our idea was that maybe it would bring us luck (even though we aren’t superstitious). More than anything it was a small act of solidarity. I know it sounds like a silly gesture – but it was a small bonding moment for a husband and wife who spend so much time following the Angels.

We aren’t your every-day, run-of-the-mill fans. We devote a lot of time and energy to our favorite team and if you’ve spent any time on this blog, you’d know how true that is. Today is a great day on so many levels for us.

For the past several years we felt frustrated with the Angels inability to acquire an impact bat. We watched a team with championship quality pitching fall short time after time because as good as the pitching has been, it simply wasn’t enough.

All of that changed today.

The Angels have yet to win a game with Albert; let alone play a game, but the expectations just went through the roof.

And let’s just start calling him “Albert.” From this point on – he’s simply Albert; not Pujols, not Albert Pujols, but simply Albert. It just seems fitting.

When I broke the news to Cheryl about Albert coming to Anaheim, I said to her “he’s the best player in the game today and a good man.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here once again – we really want to like the players who wear the uniform for the team we cheer for. Albert makes that easy.

We know that we don’t have any control over who plays for the Angels, but when someone this great on and off the field comes to our team – it really has an impact on us.

At some point in time, I’ll get into all of that as it relates specifically to Albert, but today – today, we are simply overwhelmed with joy and trying to put our emotions into words isn’t easy.

When Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Angels prior to the 2004 season, it prompted Cheryl and me to buy season tickets. When Torii Hunter signed prior to the 2008 season, we couldn’t have been happier.

Today, I’m stunned and almost numb. The thought of being able to watch a ball player as a great as Albert on a daily basis is just incredible. I hope I don’t ever take it for granted. I want to enjoy every single moment and savor each memory along the way.

I feel blessed and very lucky today. I get to watch Albert again and again and again. Every time I watch the Angels, I will get to watch Albert. Somebody pinch me.

As I drove to work today I flipped from one national sports radio station to another via SiriusXM and it was surreal to hear the Angels being talked about on a national level. Clearly, it was a new day and as I said at the start of this post – a defining moment.

The national media was going nuts.

Some experts and prognosticators already have the Angels in the World Series. Some were already discussing play-off rotations (after all the Angels also signed C.J. Wilson) and likely matchups with everyone from the Yankees and Red Sox to the Tigers and Rangers were on the table.

It was crazy and sort of thrilling all at the same time. My Angels… the team I grew up watching and cheering for was the talk of the entire baseball world. I loved it and couldn’t get enough.

Don’t get me wrong – the Angels have a lot of work to do and a lot of games to play before we can even talk about how good they are. I’m not predicting anything – because quite frankly most predictions are foolish. Last year – most folks assumed we would see the Phillies and Red Sox in the World Series and we all know how that turned out.

Nothing is guaranteed and I want to keep that in mind. That doesn’t mean I won’t get my hopes up because you can count on that happening for sure. Again, this is what baseball fans do.

As great as this day is – it’s still not as great as that feeling we had in 2002 when the Angels won it all. Titles aren’t won in December and I know that as well as anyone – but the dream of a title just became a little more realistic today. The idea is tangible; the goal seems realistic, but the task will still be difficult.

Winning championships are never easy and that’s probably what makes them so special. It’s all about the journey and our journey just got a little more interesting – it’s the stuff memories are made of.


History may very well be on the horizon; in the mean time, the "swagger" is back in Anaheim.

Are you kidding me?

The news is true - the Angels have signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. If you've come here looking for a post from me, please be patient. I will have plenty to say - but just not yet. I need to absorb what happened before I can put my thoughts and emotions into words. This is epic and I want my words to be more than noise... so again - please stay tuned.

December 5, 2011

So long Jeff Mathis

There’s something great about waking up in the morning and knowing that Jeff Mathis will not be in the Angels lineup in 2012 and beyond (Jeff Mathis was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays).

You could say that such knowledge puts a smile on my face and a little extra pep in my step. You could say the air smells a little cleaner, the sun feels a little warmer and even the bird poop on my windshield looks like a little piece of art. Yes, life is just a little bit better overall.

The collective sigh of relief that Angels fans let out far and wide might have been a cause for the wind storm that hit parts of Pasadena, Monrovia, Arcadia, and beyond last week. Never has there been a trade that made Angels fans this happy and more importantly this relieved.

It’s a new day and the possibilities are endless. This blog will probably be a kinder, gentler place now that Mathis is gone. Now, if they could only get rid of that hideous “Buttercup” song… Then again, I guess you can’t win them all.

So, let’s take a look back and highlight the accomplishments of Jeff Mathis…



… And that about covers it.

In conclusion – let’s just say that I feel your joy Angels fans. Fellow fans emailed me with the news one after another… People I know couldn’t wait to share the good news. Heck, my wife’s cousin Larry, who is a Red Sox fan even sent a note. He remarked how “quick” the trade happened – to which I had to respond... It was a few years later than we wanted!

I’m not going to miss Jeff Mathis, the player. I don’t know Jeff Mathis the person; but I have to believe he too is a little relieved. He gets a fresh start; albeit, the Blue Jays have a very solid and very young (26 in January) catcher in J.P. Arenciba.

As for who Mathis was traded for… does anyone really care?

Christmas has come early and 2012 is looking pretty darn good. Jerry Dipoto, the new Angels’ GM is winning the hearts and minds of Angels fans everywhere with the moves he’s made thus far.

About 72 days till pitchers and catchers report.

November 29, 2011

Catch this

Maybe it’s just me, but I have found the Angels’ Hot Stove season a bit interesting (albeit slow) so far. If you follow mlbtraderumors.com or twitter or any number of web sites, you may have heard about the Angels search for a catcher.

Adding fuel to the "catcher speculation fire" was Scott Miller of CBS Sports who wrote “With ex-Angel Mike Napoli's October exploits for the Rangers serving as a sledgehammer reminding everyone how short Los Angeles is behind the plate, the Angels are hoping to fill the void this winter. They do not view Hank Conger as being close to a finished product yet, and Bobby Wilson is a backup. The Angels are expected to non-tender Jeff Mathis.”

Miller also tweeted “Angels are casting a wide net and being very aggressive in looking for a catcher, multiple sources say.”

It’s become very clear that replacing Jeff Mathis behind the plate has become a priority and quite frankly that’s a good thing. We’ve seen names like Ryan Hanigan of the Reds and Chris Iannetta of the Rockies as possible trade candidates.

Both are options that have some potential. Iannetta is 28 years old and had a .370 OBP last season and .357 for his career. Hanigan is 31 years old and had a .357 OBP last season and .371 for his career. It's funny how each player’s career OBP matches the other’s performance from 2011.

I assume both are temporary solutions until Hank Conger is ready; although, Hanigan isn’t eligible for free agency until 2015 and Iannetta in 2013. Personally, I like Iannetta a little bit more because of his age and the idea that he wouldn’t block Conger’s path in 2013.

In any case - I find this whole shopping for a catcher thing fascinating on many levels. While most Angels fans are on C.J. Wilson watch, I’m waiting to see what happens with the catching situation. I actually start to smile and my eyes light up when I think about 2012 without Jeff Mathis. I am trying very hard not to get too excited because nothing has happened just yet; however, the possibility of it all makes me happy and maybe even a little giddy.

I also have to wonder what is going through Mike Scioscia’s mind. The domino effect of what happened with Mike Napoli almost blows my mind. It’s as if the Angels have admitted (without actually doing so publicly) that trading Napoli was a mistake and that they are now scrambling to fix that error.

One thing seems obvious to me – the free agent catchers don’t appear to be of any interest to the Angels and that’s probably a good thing. I mean look at who’s out there. Kelly Shoppach has a career .315 OBP and Ramon Hernandez is 35 and will be 36 next May… and those two are among the best available. Yikes.

I’m also very curious to see if Jeff Mathis is actually non-tendered and not resigned. As much as I want to believe this going to happen, I will only believe it when it becomes a reality.

November 11, 2011

Grand slams and unbridled joy

Today's post has absolutely nothing to do with the Angels, but has everything to do with the baseball.

Please indulge me as I talk about my other baseball blog - The Baseball Docent.

I started The Baseball Docent a while back in hopes that it would be outlet for me to talk about baseball in general and not necessarily about the Angels. I knew going in that it was an ambitious idea because it's hard enough trying to keep up with one blog, let alone two.

My goal with the blog has really been to engage others - be it friends, colleagues, acquaintances, other bloggers, baseball fans, etc. to tell their stories. What kind of stories? Just about anything goes... but things like why you love baseball, a favorite baseball memory or just about anything fun, inspiring or even off the wall.

So why do I bring it up now?

Well, I re-launched Baseball Docent today and I'm going to ask that if you enjoy True Grich, that you also give The Baseball Docent a try. It's not a site that people regularly visit - so I'm trying to jump-start some traffic to it by inviting you (and hopefully your friends) to check it out.

So jump on over and let me know what you think. Today's entry is about grand slams and unbridled joy. Now, how can you resist that?

November 10, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me

I’m an old fashioned guy. When I was growing up I always addressed my parents’ friends as Mr. and Mrs. (insert last name here). It didn’t matter if their kids called my parents by their first names, I just didn’t do that. It’s how I was raised and throughout my life I have always maintained that decorum.

For me it’s a matter of respect and I think that’s something that is severely lacking in society today. A lot of people don’t seem to respect a whole heck of a lot these days and it bothers me.

The world has changed so much during my lifetime and while some people may say it has “evolved” – I’m not so sure that’s the right description. It seems to me we’ve become world of “getting” and not “giving” and this even true when it comes to respect.

Even in the world of sports that’s become painfully obvious in my opinion.

I grew up in an era when sports were filled with classy individuals; athletes I respected and admired like Bart Starr, Jerry West, and Nolan Ryan. I always liked tough, no-nonsense guys and if they their game had a bit of a flare to it; even better. Guys like Barry Sanders, Pete Maravich, and Ozzie Smith caught my attention because their game was exciting and their play did all the talking for them.

Now-a-days they call that being “old school.” Well, that’s me.

So why do I bring any of this up in an Angels baseball blog? Good question.

As soon as the season ended and quite frankly probably even a little before that – I started thinking about the off-season and what the Angels should/might/could (take your pick) do. Like most fans, my mind has gone a million different directions.

Inevitably names start to pop up in all the usual places – message boards, columns, blogs, sports talk shows, etc. Most of the talk about players, center around their statistics; both old school stuff and sabermetrics.

While all of that is interesting and important, I don’t think enough time is spent talking about a player’s character or “make-up” if you will. Some will argue that stuff like that doesn’t matter and yet – “character” probably had something to do with the demise we witnessed in Boston this year.

I would imagine a player’s character is something front office personnel and baseball managers actually do consider, but I also get the impression that if the statistics are good enough, the “intangibles” don’t seem to matter as much. I mean how else can you explain why guys like Milton Bradley and Jose Guillen received multiple opportunities at the major league level?

I started thinking about all of this (at least more than usual) after I read something (and unfortunately, I can’t remember where) about the way the Texas Rangers front office goes about their business. I can’t remember if it was an interview with Jon Daniels or Thad Levine, but what I read got my attention.

I read something to the effect of how much a player’s “make-up” goes into their decision process. I don’t remember the specifics, but I know that I liked what I read. In fact – I’ve read a lot of stuff about these two that I found to be impressive and even refreshing.

Obviously, I don’t know Jon Daniels or Thad Levine. All I have are impressions of who they are and what they’re like based on what I’ve read, heard or seen. Never-the-less I’ve seen enough to draw my own conclusions.

It seems to me that these two respect the game of baseball a great deal and they want to surround themselves with people who do the same.

Which brings me to the Angels front office; after all, this is an Angels' blog.

I like what I’ve seen so far from Jerry Dipoto; in fact, I like it a lot. From the moment Dipoto spoke to the media as the Angels new GM, he has come across as a professional in every sense of the word. I like the fact that he sounds like a man with a strategy for getting the Angels back to where they should be.

A lot has been said and written about the Angels former GM Tony Reagins. I’ve often heard the phrase “over-matched” or “in over his head” when he’s being described or evaluated. Reagins came through the Angels’ organization as an intern and for better or worse; he was never really given any respect. At the same time, I always thought that Reagins didn’t give any respect either. Funny how that works.

The way he answered questions and generally communicated with the media made me think he didn’t have much respect for others. He didn’t respect the fans and tried to sell us the idea that the Angels made their big splash with the signings of Hisanori Takahasi and Scott Downs.

Most everything he did – seemed unprofessional. I’ve ranted about how he has handled things on this blog many times and rather than rehash all of it; let’s just say; I’m glad it’s a new day.

With Jerry Dipoto, I have a newfound confidence in the future of the Angels. There’s a new, fresh attitude that’s apparent. I have no doubt that he and his staff will be able to clearly evaluate what needs to be done and then go about the business of making it happen.

Like Daniels and Levine – I don’t know Dipoto. However, watching, listening, and reading about these folks gives me a sense of things. I never got the sense that Reagins knew what he was doing. I get the opposite impression with Dipoto.

Whether I’m right or wrong is anyone’s guess.

You see I want to like everything and everyone associated with the Angels. I find being a fan much more enjoyable when I actually like the people associated with my favorite team. I never cared much for Frankie Rodriguez and I was happy to see Jose Guillen leave town.

At the same time, I know that I have no control over who the Angels will acquire, but it’s my hope that this doesn’t include players I would rather not cheer for.

In case you’re wonder, that means that I’m less than enthusiastic about the team going after someone like C.J. Wilson – whose mouth grabs a lot more headlines than his arm does.

Maybe I have it all wrong and Wilson is just funny and not the jerk I’ve made him out to be in my mind. Maybe I’m just jealous because his team has had the kind of success I am used to seeing in Anaheim and have now missed for two years.

I mean here I am talking about how great Daniels and Levine are and yet I’m bashing one of their players, right? Well, Wilson was in the Rangers’ organization before Daniels and Levine arrived and if they don’t resign him, I’ll make note of it and think back to what I’ve written here.

I know I took the long way to tell you that my hope is the Angels don’t sign C.J. Wilson, but it was a journey I really wanted to share with you.

Oh and for the record – if and when Ian Kinlser becomes a free-agent, I hope the Angels pass on him too.

As for whom I hope the Angels do sign… I haven’t made up my mind yet. As to whom I think they will sign – I really have no idea. There’s this new guy in charge named Dipoto and I’m just going to respect the idea that he’s going to make the moves that puts the Angels back where they belong – a top of the AL West.

October 28, 2011

Shearing the sheep

Sometimes baseball fans are like sheep. They play follow the leader or in the case of baseball opinions – follow the popular consensus. Someone assumes they have the answers, voice their opinion and before you know it – it becomes the popular opinion. That’s been the case in and around Anaheim lately.

The moment Tony Reagins resigned as the general manager of the Angels and talks began about who might replace him – the sports talk shows, message boards and every conceivable media outlet was a blaze with the idea that none of it mattered because Mike Scioscia was the "real" general manager.

Baloney.

Seriously, sometimes I wonder if the vast majority of baseball fans ever came up with an original thought of their own.

Let me explain something that hopefully will make sense to those of you who having been crying “baaaaah” lately and let me do it by looking at a team that’s about to play a 7th game in this year’s World Series – the Texas Rangers.

When you watch the Rangers – the camera seems to always find Nolan Ryan in the crowd. Nolan Ryan is one of those larger than life personas. He has the reputation of being his own man and a no-nonsense kind of guy. Kind of like Mike Scioscia. Whenever the baseball public talks about how good the Rangers are – they give most, if not all of the credit to Nolan Ryan. After all, he’s clearly the face of the franchise.

Well, the truth of the matter is that the Rangers are where they are today because they have a brilliant young general manager named Jon Daniels. He’s the man responsible for putting the current Rangers roster together, but since his face isn’t necessarily recognizable to the television viewing audience – it’s Ryan’s mug that constantly receives face time and as a by-product of that exposure – it is he who also receives most of the credit.

Who is the face of the Angels? You got it – Mike Scioscia. Scioscia like Ryan isn’t responsible for making roster moves – what they have done (each in their own way) is instill a mentality and a philosophy on how to play the game. They’re responsible for setting a tone and attitude more than anything. And because they have that role – a lot of people have made the very false assumption that their “control” extends to personnel issues as well.

I can see how people would make that assumption (IF they’re 8 years old and believe everything they see, hear and read).

Its funny how the public has this need to assign blame or give credit to just about everything that happens and they don’t necessarily put a lot of thought or research into the process.

Mike Scioscia recently took the baseball talk circuit and made it clear that he only has the time and ability to manage, period.

Those who have already made up their minds otherwise; won’t buy it. Those that like Scioscia found reason to believe him.

Think about this – the baseball season is a grind. For a manager there isn’t much time for anything other than preparing for a game, playing a game and then traveling to the next one. Think about how much time a manager has to spend reviewing scouting reports, making out a lineup, checking on the health and attitude of his team, etc. And on top of that keep abreast of what’s happening within his team’s minor league system.

Does anyone really believe Scioscia has the time (or the energy for that matter) to evaluate the talent on other teams and make recommendations as to who the Angels should acquire? It doesn’t make any sense what-so-ever. I can’t imagine Scioscia staying on top of the waiver wire or reviewing the statistics and tape of players all over baseball, including those in the National League.

Does he have input? I would hope so. I can’t imagine any manager not having some kind of input into player personnel decisions.

Every franchise has a face. It is often the face of that organization that gets all the credit or all the blame for how well or how poorly that team does.

Mike Scioscia is responsible for a lot of the Angels’ success. He’s also accountable for a lot of the team’s failures as well. Both of those things are related to what he does on the field – either in a game or on the practice fields at spring training and not about him being some kind of defacto general manager. When you really think about it – the idea is more than a little silly.

And before you try to equate this to what happens in the National Football League (NFL) with people like Mike Holmgren or Bill Parcells; stop. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to kiwi. They’re not even the same shape and you really don’t need me to explain how they’re different; do you?

Come on; admit it. When you think about the idea that Mike Scioscia is really the team’s GM – you have to laugh, don’t you?

So... here we are - Jerry DiPoto, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks is about to be announced as the Angels new GM (announcement will be Saturday). Those who believe Scioscia is the real GM will look at this guy as an inexperienced man who will have to defer to the larger-than-life Scioscia. Those who believe it's a new day will look at DiPoto as a breath of fresh air, who comes with a diverse background and the ability to help change the direction of an organization.

I'm optimistic and hopeful. How about you?

October 12, 2011

Nap-oh-please make it stop

I can’t take it. It’s hard to watch and even harder to reconcile in my head. How in the world did Mike Napoli end up in Texas? Yeah, I know “how” – I should ask “Why?” Okay, I know the “why” as well; I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around it all.

Every time I hear an announcer or an analyst talk about what a fantastic hitter Napoli is with two strikes or how he doesn’t chase the high fast ball anymore or how good he’s been behind the plate, etc., etc., my head wants to explode.

If you’re an Angels fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s utterly painful to watch. It’s like being a little kid standing in your front yard while all the neighbor kids pile into a mini-van to head of to Disneyland and your left behind sad and jealous because you could have gone too, but your parents didn’t pay attention when plans were being made (not that this actually happened to me).

How did this happen? Crap. I’m doing it again. I’m asking questions that I know the answers to. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t understand it and I doubt that I ever will.

This creates a problem for me. You see, I like Mike Scioscia. Heck, I think he’s the best thing to ever happen to the Angels. Yeah, that’s right – EVER. It’s just that I can’t reconcile my appreciation for Scioscia with the fact that he let Mike Napoli go.

Now I know that no one is perfect – especially baseball managers and general managers. They all make mistakes and every move has some risk involved; but never-the-less, I can’t let this one go.

I mean if the Angels had simply decided it was time for Hank Conger; maybe, just maybe I’d understand. I mean I understood the thought process behind letting Troy Glaus go because Dallas McPherson appeared to be ready. And even though that didn’t work out, I could justify it in my head.

But… Napoli leaving to make room for Jeff Mathis? The same Mathis who could be non-tendered any day now?

If I could, I would kidnap Scioscia and lock him in a room; inject him with some truth serum and start asking questions.

Was it personal Mike? Was it really about his defense? Does his family make better Italian food than yours? Does he buy his appliances at Best Buy instead of Howard's? What was it really? I've got to know.

Face it; the complete turn-around of Napoli has been astonishing. He could always hit homeruns, but now he’s turned into Johnny Bench. He’s not the same guy he was in Anaheim and I’m not so sure he would have ever become who he is today had he stayed in Anaheim.

And about that…

What’s that all about? Is Mike Scioscia that hard on catchers? Is Mickey Hatcher really that inept? Yes, I know – I’m doing it again with the obvious questions… you think you know the answers; but do we really? No, really; I don’t want to hear the speculation of a bunch of sheep who spout the same nonsense that everyone else does. I want some real answers.

Unfortunately, I’ll probably never get the answers I want… (I’m thinking about the truth serum idea again).

Hmm.

Somebody get Bengie Molina on the phone. I want to ask him what it was like playing for Scioscia. I’m serious – Molina was the total package and I’d love to get his perspective.

Can anyone validate what happened? Anyone? Hello?

Meanwhile, baseball marches on.

As great as the postseason has been so far; and let me tell you – it’s been utterly spectacular; I still feel a little empty. Actually, make that a-whole-lot-of empty because the Angels failed to get there for the second year in a row and every time I turn on a Rangers game I see signs like “Year of the Napoli.”

Josh Hamilton even made a comment that had something to do with who the Rangers might get from the Angels this off season after watching Vladimir Guerrero last year and Napoli this year contribute to their success. That wouldn't be so funny if it weren't so true.

Seriously… this isn’t fun at all. Oh sure – Rangers fans are yucking it up pretty good, but most die-hard Angels fans are suffering here.

You hear the praise being heaped on Napoli and you sit there starring at the T.V. numb and utterly stunned. And just when you think you’ve come back to your senses – you watch him hit a homerun or throw a runner out or do something that makes you plant your face firmly in the palm of your hands.

And the truth of the matter is that you can’t really hate Napoli for his success. He didn’t choose to be in Texas – he ended up there. I have no problem booing the likes of Ian Kinsler or CJ Wilson, but I can’t muster up any animosity for Napoli at all and let me tell you - I've tried.

He was never one of my favorites, but that’s probably because I knew he wasn’t one of Scioscia’s favorites. Why Mike; why?

We see Napoli having success and we are hopeless to do anything about it.

Our nightmare has been Napoli’s dream come true. Not only did he have a fantastic season, he even put an exclamation point on it when his team ended the year in Anaheim – where he hit four homeruns in that final series. It was like watching a movie in slow motion.

It feels like Angel fans are being punished over and over and over and over and… well, you get the picture.

If Texas goes on to win the World Series I’m not going to be very happy about it (the thought just makes me want to puke), but a small part of me will be happy for Napoli (a really teeny tiny part of me). If it happens (Texas winning *gag*) my emotions will again be in conflict; happy for Nap and disgusted that it happened in Texas.

Regardless of what happens; 2011 season has been sort of a coming-out party for Napoli. It truly has been his year (just like those signs say).

It’s like he was freed from a boss he hated even though he was doing something he normally loved to do. When you hear him interviewed he seems to be having fun. He seems to have found the joy again and I can’t help but be happy for him. He probably never deserved the amount of criticism that was thrown his way; especially, when we compare how much praise has always been given to Mathis.

It just doesn’t compute and I doubt that it ever will.

So here we are… while Ranger fans chant Nap-o-li, Nap-o-li; we Angel fans watch in quiet (or maybe not-so-quiet) anguish. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The funny thing is that even though the Angels are in the process of a massive face lift – as they go about looking to replace Tony Reagins and an-ever-growing cast of thousands (scouts, front office personnel, etc.) – I can’t get the whole Napoli thing out of my mind. It’s as if I am looking for some kind of closure; a valid explanation, if you will before I can “turn the page.”

Oh well… Approximately 124 days till pitchers and catchers report. It’s going to be a long off season. Buckle up.

October 3, 2011

Making sense of it all

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Angels under the ownership of Arte Moreno is that they always find ways to surprise me. This was never truer than when Tony Reagins resigned last week as the team’s general manager.

It was a move that most Angels fans wanted in the worst way and yet those same folks (including me) probably doubted it would happen in the near future. So when the news first hit the internet, I had to do a double take. And when I realized my eyes weren’t deceiving me – I threw both fists up in the air and let out a “Yes!” I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day.

Reagins seems like a nice guy. I mean he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would kick his dog after a bad day at the office and even though I didn’t care much for some of the moves he made or didn’t make; I couldn’t say that I actually disliked the man per say.

Granted, I didn’t really want him to continue on as the Angels’ GM, but I had kind of accepted the idea that he would.

Now, I don’t know Reagins and I’ve never had more than a three or four sentence conversation with him; so I’m really in no position to judge the man’s character, but I will say that he did project a certain image that I didn’t care a great deal about.

It appeared to me that there was a certain arrogance about him. I wouldn’t say he was “cocky” per say, but more along the lines of an arrogance born out of naivety. There were times when I thought he’s either really not that bright or just plain arrogant. The whole Carl Crawford debacle made that more evident than ever (I blogged about it: HERE)

That whole episode made it virtually impossible for a lot of people to ever take him seriously again. He seemed over-matched and again – arrogant; almost defiant in his own failures. And let’s be honest – he failed at monumental levels. He failed like Jeff Mathis failed as a hitter. Just saying.

So here we are; the Angels are in search of a general manager and speculation is rampant. As soon as the news hit the fan; names like Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman and Billy Beane were being thrown about as if they were the only names Angels fans had ever heard.

Personally, I believe all of those names are pipe dreams and in the case of Billy Beane it’s even laughable, if you ask me.

What’s even more laughable is the popular opinion that Mike Scioscia calls all the shots and that whoever the GM is or will be – will be taking their orders from him.

Really?

While I do find it believable that Scioscia has a tremendous amount of input regarding personnel issues; I can’t fathom a scenario where he would actually perform the duties of a GM from behind the scenes. Think about it.

If the Angels really wanted to Scioscia to take on the responsibilities of a general manager – they’d most likely come right out and say it. I don’t see any reason to try and hide something like that what-so-ever.

Do I believe the GM seeks the blessings of Scioscia? You bet. I would be that’s true (seeking out the opinions and blessings of managers) in most cases throughout major league baseball. That only makes sense (unless you’re Sandy Alderson or Billy Beane), who are notorious for enforcing their will).

All of this feeds into the idea that someone like Theo Epstein could never co-exist with Scioscia. While I don’t believe for a second that Epstein is leaving Boston (where he grew up cheering for the Red Sox) to come to the left coast; I will say that having Scioscia as the manager would probably be the least of his worries.

Think about the players Epstein has acquired over the years via trades, free agency or the draft? Are there any that you think Scioscia wouldn’t want? Adrian Gonzalez? Carl Crawford? Dustin Pedroia? Jacoby Ellsbury? Anyone?

Okay, I could see Scioscia not wanting a guy like J.D. Drew who makes Garret Anderson seem like an overachiever when it comes to effort and maybe he wouldn’t exactly welcome John Lackey back with open arms, but you get the idea.

Seriously, Scioscia would embrace Epstein or anyone who could arm him with those kinds of weapons. I also believe that Epstein would in turn embrace the knowledge and wisdom of someone like Scioscia who has demonstrated the keen ability to get the most out of his players (Although, I would love to hear a conversation between the two about Jeff Mathis).

In any case, it’s all moot because I don’t believe Epstein is coming to Anaheim. Chicago? Maybe, but not Anaheim.

So who are the top candidates? I really don’t know enough names (other than the retired Pat Gillick or the Dodgers’ Logan White) to venture a real guess.

All I know is that I hope they’re on board soon so that the Angels can hit the ground running when the Post season ends and the Hot Stove Season begins.

September 29, 2011

No small victories

For all intensive purposes the Angels’ season ended on Monday, September 26 in game 160; however, there were still two games left to be played. Fans would still show up over the next two days, pay their hard earned money to watch baseball and say good-bye to the 2011 season.

What did they get for their money?

Monday night they got a 10-3 drubbing by the Texas Rangers, complete with two Mike Napoli homeruns. Somebody remind me why the Angels decided to give up on Napoli and go with Jeff Mathis. Anyone? Hello?

Then came last night.

September 28, 2011 may go down as one of, if not the greatest nights of regular season baseball in the history of the game. Four games (Red Sox vs. Orioles, Rays vs. Yankees, Braves vs. Phillies and Cardinals vs. Astros) had enormous postseason implications and four others including the Angels vs. Rangers had implications on home field advantage (the other 3 being Brewers vs. Pirates, Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers and Tigers vs. Indians).

As the evening unfolded – an epic night would ensue.

In Anaheim – Angels fans showed up hoping for a small victory. An Angels win would give the Detroit Tigers home field advantage in the first round of the post season and more importantly send the Texas Rangers on the road to New York to face the Yankees.

Compared to what else was going on in baseball on this evening – it was small potatoes; however, given the way the whole season went for Angels fans – it was something worth hoping for.

No such luck.

Not only did the Angels fail to give their fans a small victory – they lost it in the worst possible way; at the hands of Mike Napoli.

Napoli would account for all three of the Rangers runs with a solo homerun and a game-winning two run shot (his 30th) in the 9th inning off closer Jordan Walden.

As Napoli rounded the bases in the 9th inning, he did a little stutter step before hitting third base and then crossed home plate and proceeded to chest bump and high five his teammates like he had just won the World Series. That’s not a condemnation of his actions; merely an observation.

Who could blame him?

Watching Napoli round the bases twice in the same game was like having salt rubbed into an open wound. It wasn’t fun at all; in fact, it was painful. Given the monumental struggles of Jeff Mathis this season and quite frankly for his whole career – the Mike Napoli show was enough to drive any fan to the brink of insanity.

Before his at-bat in the 9th, I turned to anyone who would listen and said, “I wish someone would plant a fast ball on his ‘squatter’ (his rear) just to send him a message that he’s looking a little too comfortable.” No such luck.

Napoli went yard instead. What a miserable way to end a season.

Meanwhile the Baltimore Orioles (a team that had a much worse season than our own Angels) gave their fans a send-off to remember by knocking the Boston Red Sox completely out of the postseason. While Orioles fans left their stadium, wanting more and looking ahead; Angels fans left their stadium totally deflated and more than done with 2011.

Quite the contrast.

For an excellent recap of the evening through the eyes of an Orioles fan – please read Justin Klugh’s piece on FanSided.com’s “Call to the pen.” The link is here: Stupid Orioles. Klugh is one of my favorite bloggers and really nails it.

And so the 2011 season ends with a *sigh* and a whimper; kind of like a Jeff Mathis at-bat.

September 27, 2011

Faithful till the end

Last night in the 8th inning when the Rangers expanded their lead to 4-2, Cheryl looked intently at the action on the field and said, “We still have six outs.”

When Erick Aybar singled in the bottom of the 9th, she gripped my hand tightly. She didn’t want the season to end just yet. When Russell Branyan came to bat, the intensity was too much for her. She let go of my hand to cover her eyes and said “I can’t watch.”

It was soon after that moment that the ball went sailing past Rangers’ catcher Yorvit Torrealba and the crowd let out a roar. She looked up, looking for the ball and asked what happened. I told her the ball got past the catcher and Aybar was now on second.

She was excited and nervous at the same time – but she was into it; boy was she into it.

Maicer Izturis flied out.

Then Peter Bourjos singled to drive in Aybar, Cheryl’s adrenaline was pumping big time. She let out a yell, clapped and pumped her fists. Her body language said “We can do this.” She still believed.

I wanted to believe too, but as I sat and watched the game unfold, I was already done. My emotional tank was empty and I was waiting for the inevitable.

As Howie Kendrick struck out to end the game and the Angels play-off hopes, I felt a little sad – not for me, but for my wife who was faithful to her team till the end.

Sure, she had her moments when she was utterly disgusted with the team and may have even verbalized the idea that she too was done at certain times during the season – but her actions said otherwise.

All season long, she didn’t understand how this team could not play better. She knew they were capable and her desire for the team to win never wavered. She saw the flaws in the team as clearly as anyone. She would often say, “We need a big bat! They keep saying they’re going to get one, but here we are again…” Never-the-less, she still believed they could get it done.

She never failed them, but unfortunately, the Angels failed her.

It took 160 games for the Angels to be eliminated, but they broke our hearts all season long. Time after time – they lost games they should have won. The team failed on so many levels; offense, defense, bullpen, front office…. It was hard to watch, but we watched just the same.

A tremendous season for Jered Weaver and really solid seasons by Dan Haren and Ervin Santana were wasted. Pitching this good should be in the post season. It’s a darn shame they’re not going to have that opportunity this year.

Now that the Angels have been eliminated – Cheryl and I will become Diamondback fans for the rest of the year. It is our sincere hope that Joe Saunders gets a ring – a championship ring. Who knows, we may even make a trip out to Arizona to see a game or two. We’ll see.

It’s a long time till spring rolls around. We are exhausted. We started this journey in Kansas City for opening day on March 31. We attended tons of games and even made trips to San Bernardino to see the 66ers and trips to Texas and San Diego as well. I even made a trip to Dodgers Stadium. I should probably count how many games we saw and at some point, I just might. We didn't miss many.

We tried our best to look at this season as a story unfolding before our very eyes and it was just that; only problem was there was no happy ending.

All year long I have written in this blog that the margin for error was ever so small. After 160 games, that really came to be true.

We’ve been season ticket holders for a short time; only since 2004 – but we’ve been spoiled with five post season appearance. Not going to the playoffs for two years in a row hurts like heck and as I said before – I don’t ever want to get used to this feeling.

I’m a lucky man; my wife loves Angels baseball and we get to share this great game together. When all is said and done – baseball has provided us with lots of memories and we have been blessed to be a part of this season and others. It’s all about the journey and we can’t wait till the next one begins.

In the meantime, I will still be blogging and Cheryl will still be right here by my side feeding my ideas and keeping tabs on the Hot Stove season.

September 26, 2011

The day after

It’s over. I’d love to be wrong, but I’m afraid I’m not. Yes, the Angels could win the next three games and the Red Sox could lose their last three and the two teams could end up in a tie for the Wild Card, but let’s be realistic; that’s not going to happen. Add in the fact that Tampa Bay is also in the hunt and it really looks impossible.

Yesterday’s loss wasn’t the kind of “epic” finish I was hoping for. It was a colossal disappointment to say the least. I think the best word I saw to describe what happened was simply “stunning.” I’m sure that most fans felt like I did as they left the stadium yesterday –numb. I’m sure some probably felt angry or frustrated as well, but I have to believe the overwhelming majority of fans simply felt like the wind had been knocked out of them.

Like most fans, a million or more thoughts have gone through my mind in the last day. A lot of “what if’s” and would, could, should a’s as well. We all know what the issues are and assigning blame and ranting about it probably isn’t going to do a lot of good. Sure, it might be therapeutic to some degree, but I’m not up for such a task right now.

My thoughts are more about guys like Torii Hunter, who is running out of time to get that World Series Championship he wants so badly. I’m thinking about what Jordan Walden must be going through. He started the year hoping to just have a role and found himself in the closer role and then being somewhat of a scapegoat for the team’s failure in the biggest loss of the season. I know players are conditioned to “turn the page” – but yesterday’s game has to stick with him a bit.

I keep thinking about the long road ahead for guys like Vernon Wells, who probably wish Spring Training was next week; so that he could get to the business of becoming his old self again. I wonder where Mike Trout will start the 2012 season and if Bobby Abreu is too old and simply not good enough to be an everyday player any more. I wonder if we will ever see Kendrys Morales in a game again and wish I would get some news about his rehab.

I can’t stop wondering what Mike Napoli is thinking and how a smile must come over his face when he think about the season he’s had with his new team. I grimace at the thought of Ian Kinsler gloating.

I question the abilities of Tony Reagins and whether or not he’s the right man to get this team back on track. I continue to believe that Mike Scioscia is the best manager in baseball and I actually marvel at the job he did this season, given the lack of offense his team produced.

I’m not angry in the least. Monumentally disappointed? You bet. I know that some folks will talk about how this team exceeded most expectations, but that doesn’t mean much to me.

Somehow, we all have to move forward; fans, players, coaches, front office folks, etc. I have no idea what direction the team will take this off season and even though I’m capable of making some of my own suggestions and/or predictions, I just can’t muster enough energy to tackle that right now.

At the end of the day this team just didn’t get the job done. I have mixed emotions about it all – but most of all I’m simply disappointed and just plain sad. Every year since 2002 has shown us all just how hard it is to get to the top. Most of us assumed 2002 was only the beginning and that the Angels would become some sort of a dynasty. Luck hasn’t been kind to the Angels since 2002 and unfortunately, I think luck is an important element in any championship run.

I really believed the Angels had a great shot at winning it all in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Each ended in total disappointment. Even though this team didn’t look particularly great on paper – it had its chances; it really did. It just didn’t happen.

All I know right now is that I don’t ever want to get used to this.

September 19, 2011

What dreams are made of...

I want an epic finish to the 2011 season. Yeah, that’s right – I want those last three games at home against the Texas Rangers to be intense, awesome and unbelievable.

Yeah, I want to reach for the golden ring… reach for the sky… baby just spread your wings.

I want to be overcome with emotion when all is said and done. I want to be inspired to tears. I want to watch the Angels drench one another in champagne and party like it’s 1999.

So baby dry your eyes, save all the tears you’ve cried. Oh that’s what dreams are made of. 'Cause we belong in a world that must be strong. Oh, that's what dreams are made of.

And these last ten games could very well be the stuff dreams are made of. It may very well be an extremely disappointing week, but I will dream of a better outcome instead.

I’m imaging Angels stadium being descended on like a Van Halen concert from back in the day, where fans are clamoring for a chance to be a part of the experience.

For just a few minutes - use your imagination and think about the possibilities....

Who’s with me?



I'm going to be eight years old this week and hope for a miraculous finish. I've been saying "what if" for several weeks now.

This team has taken hits in the media, from fans and even from bloggers like me. Well, it's time to move forward - forget what has happened and start working on what's going to happen.

The time is here. It's go time. Let's do this. It's time to start winning.

September 18, 2011

Reunion in San Diego

I will never forget the day (July 25, 2010) I had to tell Cheryl that the Angels had traded Joe Saunders to the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a difficult task to say the least and something I wrote about the following day.

One of the hard parts about being a fan is knowing that you have no control over what your favorite team does on and off the field. Losing Joe was tough enough; not having a chance to say “good bye” made it all the tougher. At the time of the trade Cheryl and I had talked about the fact that Joe would be in Arizona and we would see him either at spring training or at a D-Backs game in Los Angeles or San Diego.

We finally got around to making that happen yesterday with a trip to Petco Park in San Diego to see the D-Backs take on the San Diego Padres. We usually make at least one trip to Petco every year, but this one would be special. I wanted to make sure we had a chance to say “hello” to Joe and put some thought and effort into making that happen.

I purchased two tickets in what the Padres call the “Third Base Coaches’ Box”- next to the camera well that sits next to the visiting team dugout. I bought seats in the front-row next to the field. Again, I wanted to make sure we could see Joe.

We arrived at the stadium two hours early when the gates open for a Saturday night game. We made our way to our seats and waited. As the Padres finished up their batting practice, D-Backs began to make their way to the field to stretch. Joe wasn’t among the group. I knew he’d eventually make his way out and was probably taking it easy; knowing he would be pitching on Sunday.

Yes, we decided to attend a game that Joe wasn’t pitching because our goal was to say hi and if Joe was scheduled to pitch, he’d be too focused on that.

Then it happened. Fans were gathered in the corner of the D-Backs dugout getting autographs and Joe was among those signing for fans. We made our way over, but were too far back to talk to him. We waved and that moment we had hoped for occurred; Joe looked up and recognized us and a smile immediately came over his face and he waved. Cheryl yelled “We miss you Joe” and turned her back to him to show him we were wearing his name on the back of our 2008 All-Star game shirts. Joe shook his fist postively and mouthed “all right” to us.

It was shortly after that moment that he left the dug-out and headed out on to the field. We quickly made our way back to our seats and Joe came over to say hello. He immediately reached out to shake my hand and as Cheryl approached, he put both his arms out wide to give her a big ol’ bear hug.

It was a special moment for sure. I snapped a photo of the two and we chatted for a short minute before he headed out to the field before he could “get in trouble.” We asked Joe about his daughter Mattea and he quickly informed us they had another (Avellina). He also said, “I want to try for a son pretty soon as well.” And with that he was off to shag balls in the outfield.

On his jog back in from batting practice he gave us one last wave and we wished him “good luck on Sunday” and he was off into the dugout.

As the lineups were being announced we could see Joe on the front of the steps of the D-Backs dugout clapping and firing up the players. He appeared in his element and entrenched in his new role as a veteran leader on his team; a team clearly headed to the post-season.

We miss Joe Saunders and seeing him again was special. Clearly, Joe himself is a special individual as he was nominated this year for the Roberto Clemente Award; which recognizes a player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field. When the Angels lost Joe Saunders, they not only lost a solid left handed starter, they also a great citizen of the community as well.

In any case - the Diamondbacks lost the game, but I’m betting they win today when Joe takes the mound. We wish him well and will be cheering for the D-Backs as they march towards the post season.

We’ll definitely make the effort to see our favorite pitcher again.

Meanwhile the Angels were busy losing to the Baltimore Orioles to fall 4.5 games behind the Texas Rangers, who beat the Seattle Mariners. I've got a few choice things to say about the slide, but I'll get to that later.

September 13, 2011

Thinking out loud

When Cheryl and I left Angels Stadium Sunday we knew we should feel pretty good about taking two out of three from the Yankees; however, we felt a little empty instead. A sweep would have been so much sweeter and remaining a game and a half back of the Rangers was just much more manageable in our minds.

A couple days have passed and the Angels now find themselves three games back after a disappointing loss to the stinkin’ A’s while the Rangers were idle. Listening to AM 830 a bit this morning, I wasn’t surprised to hear Roger Lodge had received an email from an Angel fan in Rancho Cucamonga who was throwing in the towel. There are always a few who look for immediate gratification and get discouraged when things don’t line up just perfectly.

If Cheryl and I had thrown in the towel every time things didn’t go just right for the Angels, we would have cashed out a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong – riding out this rollercoaster is tough at times – but we ride it out in hopes of a huge reward in the end.

We want more than anything for those last three games in Anaheim against Texas to mean something. I really don’t want to have to write another “Dear John” letter this year. Just saying.

The road to the end of the season is going to be difficult. Not just from a baseball schedule perspective, but from a fan’s perspective. Being in a pennant race is fun, but I’d much rather have my team leading as opposed to chasing. There’s definitely an emotional toll in living through this race for the play-offs.

How do we deal with it?

We are doing all kinds of crazy things while following this race. I tune into Ranger games on XM Radio. I’m constantly checking scores on the blackberry. We’ve even go so far as to water a plant in our yard called a “Texas Ranger” in hopes it will bring us luck. Don't laugh, it actually works quite a bit (not that we’re superstitious because we really aren’t).

We even do cheers for the teams that are facing the Rangers. Speaking of which… Let’s go CLEVE-LAND! Beat the RANG-ERS!

What shirt do we wear? Which hat should I put on? If we find a penny or a nickel or any money at all – we think of it as good luck for that day’s game. We even have a strange and funny thing called the Rally Bladder (check the link for details).

Does it really have an impact? Well… there have been some funny and strange coincidences, but no – of course not (at least I don't think so) - it’s all part of being in the race and part of the tradition of being a baseball fan.

We grasp for ways to impact the outcome of games; knowing full well, we can’t possible accomplish such things. It’s just part of the fun and I’m sure you have some traditions/routines of your own.

When all is said and done, it’s really all on the team.

And if I stop to think about the team long enough – I’m actually amazed that they are where they are. They did little to upgrade an offensive from 2010 and their bullpen has been suspect at times. Still, we fans want what we want and nothing short of a division title will suffice. I mean, the team has come this far – why give up now?

I also must admit that having guys like Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo, and even Mike Trout and more recently Jerome Williams have added a lot of excitement to this year’s edition of the team. They’re fun to watch and easy to cheer for.

We really don’t want to end this season in September and the thought of such a thing is just downright depressing.

I’ve talked a great deal about the margin of error being slim and sometimes when I stop and think about the times the Angels appeared to have “given away” games, I get a little crazy and a whole lot of cranky.

Losing too many games to Seattle and Oakland is just downright inexcusable. Adding to my anxiety is the return of Jeff Mathis to a starting role in three of the last four games. Every time he shows the smallest glimmer of hope, Mike Scioscia seizes the opportunity to play him more. It really has become almost comical and a huge source of fan angst all season long.

Never-the-less, we press on.

I know the offense has flaws, but this team has such great pitching that it would be a crime to waste it. I want to see Weaver and Haren going back to back in a play-off series against anyone. I’ll take my chances with those two and Ervin Santana anytime and anywhere. It’s just that this team needs to find a way to get there.

I'll be honest, I’m leery of the trip the Angels have to take back east and I’m fearful that it could all go horribly bad in Baltimore and Toronto. I hate feeling this way, but this team has a way of sapping one’s confidence at any given moment.

One can only watch Vernon Wells or Jeff Mathis fail in key hitting situations only so many times. It just takes its toll.

For every Mark Trumbo walk-off homerun, there seems to a few bonehead errors by Erick Aybar or a base running blunder by Torii Hunter or some other miscue that leaves Angels fans pulling their hair out.

Look, I know fans have unrealistic expectations in that we expect our team to execute every play flawlessly. I get that. I know players aren’t perfect and are bound to make mistakes, but when you’re in a pennant race – it doesn’t ease the pain and frustration of watching your team lose winnable games. Do you feel me?

So here we are with sixteen games left in the regular season. I’m nervous and excited at the same time. I’m skeptical and optimistic at the same time. I’m a walking, talking contradiction.

Every now and then I flash forward and think about next season, but I usually dismiss that train of thought because I want this year to count.

I know some baseball fan bases go years and years without any joy (Hello Cub fans). I know that the Angels had an awesome run in the last decade. That being said, I just hate losing and having a baseball team that’s not relevant in October just plain sucks.

Cheryl and I are emotionally invested (as always). We are willing to risk disappointment because we want to experience the joy of 2002 all over again. We’re greedy that way. It was just too much fun and something we want to experience again and again. Anything less will just be a let down.

Sure, life will go regardless, but winter is a lot more tolerable when you can call your team “champions.” 2010 was awful for so many reasons – that go beyond baseball. Let's just say that w could really use a great 2011. I don’t know if we deserve it, but we want it just the same.

I’m not going to make any excuses for what we want and I’m certainly not going to apologize for it either. We want a championship and at the very least, we want to watch our team in October, period.

I don’t know how we’ll get there, but I do believe we can get there. Yes, I really do. How about you?

September 9, 2011

An old adage gets put to the test

There’s an old adage in baseball that “good pitching beats good hitting.” I’ve heard that expression ever since I can remember and even though it’s not absolutely true, anyone associated with baseball has been spouting that little mantra for years.

Well that claim is going to be tested this weekend at Angels Stadium. It’s the ultimate challenge of good pitching vs. good hitting. The Yankees lead major league baseball in runs scored with 778 (as compared to the Angels who have scored 586). The Angels have the lowest ERA in the American League at 3.58.

The Angels have given up just 118 HR’s all year; second lowest in the American League. The Yankees have hit the most homeruns in MLB with 200. Curtis Grandreson has 38 and Mark Teixeira has 36. Eight Yankees have hit double digit homeruns including Robinson Cano with 25 and Nick Swisher with 22. Think about this – the four I just mentioned have combined for more homeruns(121) than the entire Angels team.

To make things even more interesting, the Angels will be sending their three best starters, who have all been exceptionally tough at home. Jered Weaver has a 1.87 ERA in 13 games at home; Dan Haren – 2.68 in 14 games and Ervin Santana – 2.96 in 16 games. Our top guns are headed to the mound for an epic show down.

Something has to give.

You can crunch numbers all day long… you can look at all kinds of splits and matchups until your calculator explodes. At the end of the day; it’s still all about the Angels pitchers against the Yankee hitters and whether or not that old adage about pitching vs. hitting holds up.

That being said – don’t be surprised if the Angels end up winning games 10-9 or something strange like that; because quite frankly, that’s baseball at its unpredictable self.

This series couldn’t have possibly lined up any better for the Angels rotation. Weaver goes on Friday; Haren on Saturday and Santana on Sunday. The Angels best against the most explosive offensive team in baseball. Baseball fans everywhere will get a chance to see how these two teams stack up in September. It’s a classic matchup in every sense of the word.

I’m anticipating a play-off like atmosphere at the stadium. These are crucial games for the Angels who are trying to run down the Texas Rangers who head into the weekend with a 2.5 game lead.

Like the Rangers, the Yankees also boast a 2.5 game lead in their division (over the Red Sox) and although their play-offs hopes are not in doubt – they’re striving to win the division and best record in the American League which would give them home field advantage; something every team covets.

The Yankees rotation will lead off with ex-Angel Bartolo Colon who is having somewhat of a resurgent season. He has a 3.72 ERA, but hasn’t won a game since July 30 and his ERA during that period of time is 5.00. On Saturday C.C. Sabathia will be vying for his 20th win of the season and figures to be the Angels toughest challenge in the three games. Of course, now that I’ve said that – the Angels will probably score 15 runs against him (let’s hope!). On Sunday the Yankees send out another reclamation project in Freddy Garcia who is also enjoying a nice comeback season with a 3.50 ERA.

Here’s the thing… we can look at these matchups all day long, but the bottom line is that these games mean a heck of a lot more to the Angels because of their position in the AL West pennant race. My hope is that Angels Stadium will be rocking with Angels fans; wearing red and being loud. Nothing disgusts me more than seeing our house full of fans from the opposing team.

Angels fans need to come to the stadium fired up and ready to rock and roll. We fans can make a difference and even though we don’t have any control over what happens on the field – we can certainly make the environment one that’s inspiring to our players. The Yankees need to know they’re in our house and Angels fans need to represent.

I’ve been thinking about this all week… Weaver, Haren and Santana. No excuses. These are big games and our best have to step up. If you can’t get excited about this – you might as well call it a day.

Angels vs. Yankees baby! Let’s do this.

September 8, 2011

Perfect after all

If the Angels had lost to the Seattle Mariners last night and wasted an absolutely tremendous effort by Jerome Williams, I probably would have lost my mind.

Today I feel like I could lose my mind over the lack of national coverage regarding his effort. I often find it funny and somewhat frustrating when I look at what the national media chooses to focus on.

Despite his story; which is amazing – and his performance (in a pennant race no less) some folks chose to focus on Guillermo Moscoso instead.

Folks like Fox Sports had headlines about Guillermo Moscoso flirting with a no-hitter (he gave up two hits in 8 2/3). I then checked Yahoo Sports and didn’t find any headlines about Williams. Nothing even on Yahoo’s Big League Stew. Stinkin' A's....

ESPN? Are you kidding me? Of course not… but Moscoso gets another headline on their site.

MLB.com? Nope.

I’m not saying the game didn’t get any coverage at all… but given Williams’ effort, you’d think he’d make a few headlines.

Finally – Sports Illustrated stepped up to the plate and delivered on giving some credit, where credit was due… “Williams stars as Angels rally past M’s in the 8th” blog.

I then searched Google to see if I could find some more… and found that USA Today had this piece: “Unlikely Jerome Williams making a name with Angels.

On a local level – Mark Saxon of ESPN-LA wrote a great piece titled “Jerome Williams: You couldn’t make this stuff up.”

If you don’t know Williams’ story – you should check out some of the pieces from the LA Times:

Angels FYI: Jerome Williams back in the big leagues

and...

Jerome Williams is still pinching himself about chance with Angels.

In short, Williams was a first round draft choice of the San Francisco Giants in 1999. Pitched in 76 games from 2003-2007 and then found himself on the outside, looking in.

After stints with a few minor league teams, trips to play in Taiwan, Puerto Rico and Mexico and then with two independent league teams, he finally made his way back to the majors. Along the way he battled an injury to his shoulder and weight problems. It's quite a comeback.

He didn’t just squeak in either – he’s actually having an impact which makes his story all the more compelling.

This is the kind of story that fans absolutely love. We love under-dogs and when they end up on our favorite teams doing everything they can to help our team win – its perfect match. Cult heroes are born in such a manner and Williams is fast becoming a fan favorite. After the way he pitched last night; how could he not?

Williams wears #57 – which was the number worn by Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez. It would be a nice additional note to this story if Williams has the same impact on the Angels post-season effort that K-Rod had in 2002.

It’s the stuff movies are made of… forget “Moneyball” – this is a much more compelling story, if you ask me.

Last night Williams put an exclamation point on his return to the big leagues. Given how often teams go looking for pitching, it’s a testament to the Angels scouting system that they found Williams and were able to sign him.

Williams is another part of the story (this season) that is unfolding before our eyes. Williams didn't have a perfect game and he didn't throw a no-hitter (he gave up one hit in eight innings), but his story is all so perfect just the same.

Are you reading this book? In other words – are you watching this pennant race? Every game has something unique to offer. We're making memories here folks. Where are you?

September 6, 2011

What if?

Hello “Swagger” my old friend; it’s really good to see you again.

I’m definitely feeling it; yes, I am. Call it confidence. Call it pennant fever. Call it whatever you want; it’s all good.

The unmistakable aroma of an American League West pennant is in the air and if things go just right, we’ll be tasting victory once again. There’s nothing like a little three game winning streak to get the adrenaline going and I’m getting more and more excited with each passing day. How could I not?

Think about where this team was a year ago; heck, think about where they were August 18, 2011.

My confidence has been fueled by an old, late arriving friend... It took a good long while for him to get here, but from what I can tell the Angels Offense has finally arrived. Better late than never, right?

The Angels have really been swinging the bat. I’d run down the numbers for you, but quite frankly – you can look that up yourself! It’s all about Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos and even Vernon Wells. Sprinkle in some Mike Trout and you’ve got a recipe for success.

Any struggles the team had earlier this year seem like a distant memory. It’s all about the now and right now – the Angels offense is rolling. Mark Saxon of ESPN LA wrote that “Vernon Well is hitting .383 with eight extra base hits in his past 12 games.”

If ever there was a barometer for the Angels’ offense, it’s right there with Wells. When Wells and Hunter are hitting the Angels are simply a better, more dangerous team. Speaking of Hunter, I’m actually proud of the way Torii Hunter has risen to the occasion. It really warms my heart to see him playing so well. Just look at his smile and you know – you know he’s feeling it too.

Right now, when the Angels have run scoring opportunities, I feel like they’re going to capitalize. I don’t need to look at their statistics. I don’t need to know what their history is with runners in scoring position or how they’ve faired against certain pitchers over the season. I just feel like this team is competing and that’s all I can ask.

Yes, I feel that swagger again.

Most people and even some Angels' fans seem to have counted this team out and given the way the season has gone, it’s easy to understand why. The home crowds have been lighter and some season ticket holders have even gone so far as to not order play-off tickets. I don’t think Cheryl and I would ever forgive ourselves if we passed on the opportunity to be a part of a special play-off run.

What if? Seriously… what IF?

Now, I understand sometimes life just doesn't allow you to do certain things – but if you love baseball and nothing is holding you back – you need to pay attention.

Right here; right now, the Angels are quietly making a push. I see it. I feel it. This is real folks. This is a good old fashioned pennant race. Some of the national sports media might be ignoring it, but that doesn’t mean you should too.

If you’re an Angels fan and you’re not excited; check your pulse. Yes, its gut wrenching at times, but the thrill of a pennant race is one of the best things in sports. This is what baseball is all about. You gotta love it.

The eventual champion in any sport often come out of nowhere. It’s become common place for the experts to be wrong and the teams that emerge victorious are often the teams no one expected. You can project and predict till your blue in the face, but when all is said and done - things happen that aren't necessarily explainable, but are often magical.

Think about the possibilities.

Ask yourself… what if? What if this ends up being like 2002? Stranger things have happened. I know it seems like a long shot to some of you - but wouldn't it make for an incredible story? How often do we get to take part in something that special?

All I want is that chance. How about you?

Don't make excuses, don't say "but..." - and leave your skeptical self in the closet. Just keeping asking yourself - WHAT IF?

August 31, 2011

It's time

The audition is over. It’s time to hand Mike Trout a leading role on the Angels baseball team. It’s time to sit back, relax and…. Check that. It’s time to sit on the edge of our seats and watch the accolades and awards roll in. Mike Trout has “box office” written all over him. This is the kind of player people pay to see play.

This is not Dallas McPherson. This is not Brandon Wood. This is our Ryan Braun; our Josh Hamilton. Believe the hype; Mike Trout is crazy good. He is built like a bull and runs like a cheetah.

It’s time to play him every day. You can’t hold back greatness. Sitting him would be akin to asking Daniel Day Lewis to only do T.V. commercials for Purina puppy chow. Sitting him would be a crime. It wouldn’t be fair to him. It wouldn’t be fair to the team and it certainly wouldn’t be fair to us fans. We want this. We need this.

We understand there may be risks involved in playing a 20 year old in pennant race, but we will take our chances. We believe Trout is up for it. Let it happen.

Please Mike Scioscia; for the love of baseball – do not continue to platoon Mike Trout. Just play him. I’m sorry Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells, but you should now be reduced to some sort of a platoon role; unless Wells continues to hit well. In that case, Bobby… you’re going to have to sit. This isn’t personal – it’s baseball.

Scioscia has a history of platooning young players. He did it with Casey Kotchman and he’s doing it again with Hank Conger. Lately, he’s doing it with Mike Trout. This has to stop and it has to stop today.

Baseball writers, bloggers, message board scribes, and the like are all stating the obvious. It’s time. Don’t mess this up. Everyone knows it’s time – analysts, players (past and present), coaches; everyone…. Even my cat knows it and you don’t want to mess with my cat.

Now some of you are going to remain skeptical. You think you’re the voice of reason and you’re cautioning everyone to not get too excited. Well, truth be known – you’re basically a party-pooper.

Mike Trout isn’t a science experiment. This isn’t about medical research with life or death implications. This is about baseball and baseball is supposed to be fun. So if you’re holding yourself back and worse yet – trying to hold others back; I invite you to lose yourself in the sea of Mike Trout hysteria; let the phenomena wash over you like a giant wave and embrace the moment.

Players like Mike Trout don’t come around every day. Join the chorus of fans who are chanting “Play Mike Trout” and have fun.

After all; with all due respect to that crazy radio commercial that touts the same phrase, but this is the biggest no-brainer in the history of man-kind.

Last night, we got a glimpse into baseball’s crystal ball. We have seen the future and the future is Trout. More importantly, the future is now. Trout went from knocking on the front door to the major leagues, to driving a truck through it.

I’m not taking anything away from our other young players like Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Conger. No sir, they’re all going to play huge roles in this pennant race and beyond – but every ensemble has to have a star and Trout has that written all over him. Bourjos and Trumbo are definitely game changers; but Mike Trout is a season and franchise changer. Let him play.

I’m usually very conservative when it comes to young players. I’m usually willing to wait on their talent and not be among those fans that are in a hurry to see what a young player can do. Trout isn’t your average prospect. He’s regarded as the best prospect in baseball by many.

It’s time. This season hangs in the balance and the best players on the team need to be in the lineup every day. No one can tell me Mike Trout isn’t among the best players on this team.

It’s simply time.

August 30, 2011

Random thoughts from the last four games

Friday:

Why isn’t Mike Trout in the lineup?

I think somebody else is occupying Dan Haren’s body. He’s looking more like Scott Kazmir tonight…

I hate you Gilligan (Erick Aybar). That botched double play cost us four runs.

I really hope this is the start of something good for Vernon Wells.

Why did the Rangers want to trade Michael Young? Seriously...

11-0? Really? Good grief.

I just knew Russell Branyan was going to homer for some reason.

Seven runs are nice, but not so much when the other team scores 11. I hate moral victories.

Why didn’t Mike Trout start this game?

I hate the Rangers.

Saturday:

Come on Ervin.

Trout is starting… I like it.

I guess Bobby Wilson will be catching Ervin Santana for the rest of his life.

The way Vernon is hitting – some people will start saying he’s under paid…. Then again, probably not. I'll take what we can get just the same.

Say... Peter Bourjos shaved his head? Makes me wonder if Torii Hunter followed up on our discussion back in January. Check out the video from that post.

Thank you Mike Napoli. That’s the way I want to remember you (throwing error).

Really? David Murphy? Good grief.

Jordan Walden continues to blow saves and the Angels faithful continue to look the other way. Why?

Thank you Hisanori Takahashi.

Two back!

Sunday:

Really? Jeff Mathis has to catch Jered Weaver EVERY time?

Why isn’t Mike Trout in the lineup?

Thank you Jeff Mathis. Wait, did I just say that?

Howie Kendrick… I see you hitting like an all-star. If only you were this good all the time.

How does a slow guy like Bobby Abreu successfully steal so many bases?

Good grief. I hate it when it all goes so bad, so fast.

I hate the Rangers.

Monday:

Why isn’t Mike Trout in the lineup?

Nice to see you Hank Conger, I almost forgot what you look like.

Peter Bourjos hitting 8th? Really?

I really like the uniforms the Mariners are wearing tonight.

Hey Joel, we’ve seen this before. My wife Cheryl doesn't like you very much.

Thank you Mark Trumbo. If you’re not the Rookie of the Year, something is very, very wrong.

I thought Dustin Ackley was struggling?

So much for the lefty vs. lefty deal… Mike Carp just went deep.

I think we can still win this thing.

Maybe not.

Thank you Mark Trumbo for keeping hope alive.

Vernon Wells can do it.

I guess not.

Side note: Turns out Bourjos' shaved head is explained in this LA times piece.

August 29, 2011

The hard way

There’s an old saying that if you want something done right, do it yourself. This is probably true in most cases with some possible exceptions being any plumbing work that needs to be done at your home or things like surgery.

In any case – the Angels had the perfect opportunity to take care of the team they were chasing themselves. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. In seven games with the division leading Texas Rangers, the Angels only managed to win two games; and yet, they find themselves a mere three games behind.

As you probably know by now (because just about every person with any interest what-so-ever in baseball keeps pointing to it), the Angels schedule sets up pretty nicely down the stretch as compared to the Texas Rangers. Without going into a whole lot of detail; let’s just say the schedule definitely favors the Angels and most fans are clinging to the idea that the Angels have an easier road.

And then there’s that three game series at the end of the year when Texas comes to Anaheim to conclude the regular season. The west may very well be determined in the final three days of the regular season.

This is not the time for the faint of heart.

The Angels could have made things a lot easier on their fans if they had just taken care of the Rangers in the last two weeks; but no, this team likes to do things the hard way. They’re virtually impossible to understand and figure out. Jonah Keri went so far as to ask the question “How the hell do the Angels keep winning?”

If you’re an Angels fan, you know full well that the Angels are the anti-sabermetrics team and they find ways to win in spite of statistical anomalies and they have long baffled stats heads everywhere. It’s no wonder they’re somewhat hated in certain circles.

Keri’s piece isn’t news to us; in fact, it’s something many of us celebrate. I love the fact that this team usually does better than the sabermetric community predicts; in fact, it’s a beautiful thing.

That being said, I’m not enamored with the idea that the Angels can make up those three games by playing a weaker schedule. Quite frankly, I'd rather not focus on it. Why?

If baseball and even more specifically being an Angels fan has taught me anything; it’s that all too often, you cannot predict outcomes by how things look on paper. The optimist in me is clinging to the idea of the Angels having a “weaker” schedule, but the competitor in me, really wishes the Angels would have just taken whipped the collective rear ends of the Rangers.

For me, it’s much more appealing to go through something to obtain a goal rather than going around it. That being said, when all is said and done it really won’t matter much to me how the Angels win the west; so long as they actually do win it. I’m just saying doing it the hard way is going to cost me some sleep and provide me with a ton of anxious moments. I’m not a fan of anxiety; then again, who is?

So… what do we do?

Angel fans need to forget whatever the team has done to this point. Forget the fact that Vernon Wells and Jeff Mathis have struggled mightily this season. Resist the temptation to scream for Mike Scioscia to start Mike Trout every game (granted, I don't know if I can do this myself).

Forget about the struggles the pitching staff has had from time to time. Forget about the mental lapses of one Erick Aybar and don't even roll your eyes when Fernando Rodney comes into a game.

Don't worry about the fact that the Angels are 19th in runs scored and 22nd in on-base percentage.

Put it all out of your mind because at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. All that matters is what happens from here on out.

Take Keri’s piece to heart and know that this team finds ways to win in spite of everything and I do mean EVERYTHING. In spite of numbers, in spite of opinion, in spite of logic or anything else. I keep talking about “letting the story unfold” and that’s exactly what we should do. So pass the TUMS and simply enjoy the ride; even if it gives you an ulcer along the way.

I know, I know... we have this need to try and figure things out before they happen and to try and predict how things will turn out. I get it. It's human nature.

At the same time, I can tell you that it’s an exercise that will absolutely make you crazy when applied to the Angels. Just don't even go there. Be in the moment and just let yourself experience this season one pitch at a time.

The way things are going, it will all come down to the last game of the season where we find the Rangers and Angels tied and Jeff Mathis will hit a walk off homerun to give the Angels the American League West pennant.

That scenario would send the sabermetrics nation off the deep end. Think about it; calculators would explode and computers would melt into a pool of red goo. Think of the number of speechless analysts sitting there with blank looks on their faces.

If that doesn't make you smile, nothing will. Go Angels!!