May 20, 2011

Check your attitude

The Angels had a bad week; boy did they have a bad week. They had losses that were humiliating, frustrating and even downright embarrassing. I think that about covers it right?

Now, you’re probably thinking I’m about to rant like there is no tomorrow and really let off some steam. Well if you predicted such behavior, you’d be wrong, my friend.

Now, I do enjoy a good rant every now and then and I’ve been working on a Jeff Mathis rant that will make your ears turn red, but I’m not going down that road today. I know most Angel fans are beside themselves right now and some of them are downright angry or worse, they’re ready to throw in the towel.

Not me. After all; I kind of like going against the grain every now and then anyway.

When the Angels return to the stadium tonight, I’m going to be there with a smile on my face and a positive attitude in my head. I know this is a cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway: the baseball season is a marathon.

Ever run a marathon?

I haven’t, but I know someone who has. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you might recall an interview I did with Ryan Cavinder, who is a Media Relations Representative with the Angels. In addition to his busy life with the Angels, he also happens to be an accomplished marathoner. Last weekend, he ran back to back marathons. Yes, he ran a marathon on Saturday and turned around and ran another one on Sunday.

So, what does that have to do with anything?

If you read Ryan’s blog (Escape the Ordinary) you will get a sense of some of the trials and tribulations he goes through when he’s running. I believe the stuff he goes through is almost necessary in order for him to feel the joy and sense of accomplishment he also receives when running. I imagine that if running long distances were easy, he wouldn’t find it as appealing.

Running a marathon rarely goes without some adversity along the way and if marathoners stopped running any time something didn’t go as they hoped or planned, they’d probably never finish. The important thing is to keep pushing forward.

It’s all about the journey and every journey is that much more interesting when “stuff happens.”

So, the Angels had a bad week. It was a week I’d just assume forget. It was horrendous by every stretch of the imagination and yet, I’m not worried. Sure, I may be a little annoyed, but my goal is to not let it show when they are back home this weekend.

My plan is to give the Angels my full support and to be there to cheer them on to victory. I know that sounds a little corny, but I also know that when I have a bad day or a bad week, the last thing I want to hear is more negativity. It doesn’t matter if the team deserves my positive energy or not.

I want this team to win and I want this journey through 2011 to be both interesting and fun. I’m willing to accept the good with the bad for the chance to experience the ride that is a season of baseball.

We’ve got a long road ahead of us. How will you attack the days and months ahead? I plan to attack them with a smile on my face; after all, I’ll be watching baseball and given everything else that is going on in the world today; I really can’t complain too much because my team hit a little bump or two in the road.

When you think about it - if you're going to show up at the stadium, you might as well expect the best. There's nothing worse than being around a bunch of people who act like Eeyore. Let's have some fun and let's get back to the business of doing our small part in helping this team win.

Let’s do this. Go Halos!

Programming note: Earlier in the week, Cheryl and I were invited to an Inland Empire 66ers game. I hope to have a post up about that great experience soon... so please stay tuned.

May 13, 2011

Morales is gone, but it's Jeff Mathis that must go

I was sitting in the stands last night watching the Angels and the White Sox when I heard something on the radio that didn’t sound too good. It was all kind of fuzzy because I wasn’t really focused on what was being said. When I finally got wind of the news that Kendry Morales was going to miss the 2011 season, my heart just sunk. I felt like someone just punched me in the stomach.

When I caught my breath, a million things raced through my mind… Will he ever play again? Wow, I’m glad we have Mark Trumbo. And then, I began to think of players who might be available via a trade for one reason or another. Albert Pujols? Prince Fielder? Crazy talk, right? Both long shots at best. 514 Fanatic - Terry (who was sitting behind me) threw out David Wright as a possibility. Hmmm.

My mind was all over the place and my mind wandered all game long. Who would the Angels have to give up to acquire someone? Better not be Mike Trout, I thought.

And then it hit me.

Once again the Angels were in need of a “big bat.” It seems like every year it comes down to this “big bat” thing, doesn’t it? I thought back to the off season and how Tony Reagins claimed getting Morales back was like signing a big time free agent. So much for that… I thought.

Something else hit me when the Angels entered the tenth after giving up a two-run lead in the 9th and I began to think of who could come off the bench to hit. Reggie Willits was already in the game and the other options didn’t offer much hope. I began to focus on the depth or should I say lack of depth the team had. The bench last night consisted of Alexi Amarista, Willits, Bobby Wilson and gulp… Jeff Mathis.

It was at that moment that I wanted to scream.

There’s no way the Angels can afford to carry three catchers for the rest of the year. Jeff Mathis has to go. He’s a human sink hole and he’s going to suck the life out of the offense and the joy out of Angel fans. He’s just painful to watch.

Tuesday night Mark Trumbo came up to bat on two occasions where a runner was on second base and first base was open. Mathis was in the on-deck circle. In each case, the White Sox intentionally walked Trumbo to face Mathis. You know what happened next…. Mathis’ ineptness has never been as obvious as it was Tuesday night. He is a glaring weakness and the Angels can’t afford such things any longer.

Last night, I had to wonder if things could get any worse. We had the devastating news about Morales, the Angels blew a lead and Jeff Mathis was still on this team.

Now, about that blown lead; I don’t expect Jordan Walden to save every game he enters, but I will be honest with you when I say that if I never see Kevin Jespen again, I won’t be disappointed. I have never understood the fascination with this guy. He hasn’t shown me much and I really hate the idea of him wearing Troy Percival’s #40. I just don’t think Jespen is a major league level relief pitcher at this point; at least not in key situations.

Look, the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers aren’t going away. These two teams are going to be in the hunt all season long and it’s going to be an out and out dog fight. The margin for error is small and after the Morales news, it got even smaller. When your bench consists of two smurfs (Amarista and Willits), a guy who hardly ever plays (Wilson) and the human sink hole (you know who) you’re in trouble.

Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells aren’t getting any younger. They’re going to need a break every now and then and this bench isn’t going to give the Angels a whole lot of wiggle room. Wells is already on the DL and if Abreu and/or Hunter get hurt, it’s really going to get ugly.

Something has to happen and it has to happen soon. Like yesterday. I don't want to wait and see what this team can do without Morales (not that I have any control over it); instead, I'd rather see them do something proactively to get better.

The team has a solid pitching staff and a bull pen that’s capable of getting the job done. I’d even venture to say that this rotation is a championship quality rotation. The Angels need to capitalize on the pitching they have and put an offense together that will allow them to compete into October.

The post-season is along ways off; however, I don't want to lose sight of October in May.

May 10, 2011

Checking in

The 2011 baseball season is 41 days old today and when the day is done, I will have seen 20 games (in person), including trips to Kansas City and Arlington. Cheryl has been with me for all but one of those games. We’ve already seen more games than most sane people do in a year.

I recognize that we may be a little crazy. Then again fan is short for “fanatical” and if we are anything, we are just that – fanatical.

Next week, while the Angels are away Cheryl and I will make our first ever trip to see the Inland Empire 66ers as guests of the team for a special “Bloggers night.” If you’ve never been to a minor league baseball game, you should give it a try; it’s very fan and family friendly and a ton of fun.

So, here we are on May 10, the Angels are in first place and it’s time to check in. I know I’ve written several posts, but today is all about really checking in, taking stock, reflecting and just chatting in general.

We’ve seen a lot of stuff and taken a lot of mental notes along the way. First of all, it’s absolutely awesome to see the Angels a top of the Western Division. Even though it’s early, it’s still nice just the same.

I’ve noticed quite a few things in my first 41 days of the season; including things I didn’t expect to see and things I’ve never seen before.

So far… we’ve seen Peter Bourjos hit two stand-up triples in a single game. We saw Dan Haren throw a one-hitter and Alexi Amarista and Tyler Chatwood make their major league debuts. We’ve seen more of Hank Conger than we ever thought we would (and that’s a good thing) and we’ve seen Mark Trumbo make an early case for Rookie of the Year honors. We’ve seen Jered Weaver take the next step in what is shaping up to be a tremendous career and Mike Scioscia even managed a milestone of his own with his 1,000 win as a manager (although we missed that).

We thought we’d have seen Kendrys Morales on the field by now and now we have no idea when we will have that pleasure. We didn’t expect to see Vernon Wells hit below .200 and now he’s hit the disabled list. We’ve seen more than enough of Scott Kazmir, but he’s sure to show up again at some point in time.

Along the way, we’ve celebrated our birthdays at the stadium (the Angels lost both games), eaten a few hotdogs, met Angels alums Eli Grba, Albie Pearson, Bob Lee, Roger Repoz, Moose Stubing and Scott Lewis for the first time and got reacquainted with Mark Langston, Troy Percival, Rod Carew Chuck, Finley, Bob Boone, Rex Hudler, Tim Salmon and Shigetoshi Hasegawa as well.

Sadly, we’ve lost a few 514 Fanatics this year – as some of them did not renew their tickets for one reason or another. Our section has been a little less festive and even those that returned haven’t been around as much as in years past. We seemed to be a little more spread out; however, it hasn't stopped us from making the best of the times at the ball park.

Cheryl has been busy baking and bringing cupcakes and other goodies to share with our neighbors in the stands. Other fanatics have brought goodies of their own from time to time and even though are numbers have dwindled, we are never lacking for food and fellowship in 514.

Baseball games at Angels' stadium are much more than just baseball games for us. We get to spend time with friends, family, etc. Over the years we’ve seen fanatics get married, have children, celebrate milestones, birthdays and even pass away. The experiences are not limited to what happens on the field for us and quite frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We never know what's going to happen at a game; be it on the field or off. Last night we learned that fellow fanatics Jeff and Lena are expecting their second child. Looks like their son Elijah is going to have a sibling in October. I guess there's more than one way to recruit new fanatics!

May 5, 2011

Happy days are here again

Two days ago it seemed like the Angels would never, ever win a game against Boston again. Angel fans far and wide were in a state of deep depression; despair was everywhere. Even though they days were getting longer with summer approaching, they seemed darker than ever.

And then it happened.

Despite the gremlins (Right, Bill Plunkett?) the Angels managed to pull out an improbable 5-3 victory in a 13 inning roller coaster that went nearly eight hours (including a 2.5 hour rain delay). Had they lost that game, I shudder to think of what Angel fans might have done next. Yes, it was that bad.

And then today… just a few hours later – the Angels would put on their hitting shoes and knock the living daylights out of John Lackey on their way to an 11-0 win. It was a beautiful thing.

And this; yes, THIS is why I love baseball. Just when you think you have it all figured out; just when you think all hope is lost – a game is played, player compete and the outcome that once seemed so predictable – takes an unexpected, almost unfathomable turn and surprises you. This game can turn a dark day into a happy one, just like that.

The Angels had 18 hits today. Lackey gave up ten of them and eight of the eleven earned runs. His ERA rose to 7.16 and just like that, the world seems like a better place. Food tastes a little bit better, the traffic seems a little bit lighter and peace on earth is sure to follow.

Oh the joys of being a baseball fan.

Embrace this one folks. The two wins were therapeutic. They virtually wiped away all the disappointment and frustration of the last two years and breathed hope into our lungs. And did I mention that John Lackey got his butt whipped?

This team has shown us something this season; its resolve. This is the kind of thing that builds champions. No matter how down the fans may have sunk, it’s apparent, the players kept at it and never gave up. Make no mistake about it – this was big. It was huge. It was important and perhaps when all is said and done, we will look back at the past two days as the turning point in 2011.

I can't wait for the next game and the next one after that. I can’t wait for more of this year's story to unfold before my eyes.

May 3, 2011

Just make it stop

Every now and then I will walk on to my train for a ride to work or ride home and something vulgar will hit me in the face that’s so strong it can make my eyes water; the smell of an individual who hasn’t showered in some time.

This morning was one of those moments. I couldn’t get out of the area fast enough. There’s nothing worse than being trapped in a situation that you can’t get out of. All you want to do is escape or just make it stop.

Last night was like that. I got home yesterday just in time to see the Red Sox put up six runs in the bottom of the 7th. I didn’t know whether to scream, cry or put my foot through the television. I just wanted the beating to end.

Losing is bad enough; losing to the Red Sox is worse; and having them pound the daylights out of the Angels pitching is about as bad as it gets for an Angels fan. The Yankees may have been Pedro Martinez’s daddy; however, the Red Sox have simply owned the Angels the last two years.

It’s a horrible feeling. It’s depressing, discouraging and painful. More than anything it’s utterly frustrating. The Angels are 1-14 against the Red Sox over the last two years. They’ve been totally dominated and that’s just not a good feeling at all. It’s like watching a Chihuahua trying to outrun a greyhound.

I don’t know about you, but with every fist pump, high five and tribal-like scream the Red Sox players make after a run scored or a base hit, my distaste for all things Bostonian just grows by leaps and bounds. I used to say, we’ll get them next time – but that thought seems kind of empty right about now.

Beating the Red Sox in the 2009 ALDS was gratifying and it helped alleviate a lot of pain caused from past failures, but this latest streak of losing has almost wiped all the satisfaction that brought completely away. Losing all these games isn’t the end of the world, but it sort of feels like it.

It’s like getting knocked down and then having someone stand over you saying, “Don’t get up.” You can’t help but get up again and when you do, you find yourself back on the ground with the same person standing over you again. After a while you find yourself unable to get up no matter how much you want to.

This is the part of being a fan that’s just tough to handle some times. You can’t stand to watch the carnage and yet you can’t stand to not watch just in case something good happens.

So what’s the point of this post? I guess I just needed to vent a bit; to voice my utter frustration with the team’s inability to beat the Red Sox lately.

I know this streak of bad luck isn’t going to last forever; but dang if it doesn’t feel like it.