April 26, 2011

You should have been there

If you are a baseball fan you owe it to yourself to see what very well could be a historic season in the making for Jered Weaver. I know he’s only pitched six games and there are tons of games yet to be played; however, what Weaver has done in those six games is nothing short of extraordinary. I’m talking about seeing someone who is having an absolutely incredible season thus far.

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe what’s taking place right before our very eyes. Most superlatives are overused; but in this case, every one of them is justified.

It doesn’t matter if you believe he can maintain what he’s done so far. Think about the “what if’s…”

This could be one of those seasons that people will remember for years to come and you can’t afford to miss the chance to say, “I saw Jered Weaver in 2011.” Think about it.

He’s currently 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA. He leads the league in wins, ERA, strike outs (49), complete games (2), and innings pitched (45 2/3). He has dominated the league thus far. Stuff like this doesn’t happen every day. It may be a once in a lifetime occurrence. Again, just think about it!

Yes, I’m fully aware that it has only been six games; however, I implore you to take any opportunity you have to see him pitch this year because it just might be the performance of a lifetime; I’m talking about one for the ages.

Yes, I’m excited. Yes, I’m even fanatical and you should be too.

There was a time when Nolan Ryan would fill a stadium every time he pitched. That’s what should be happening with Weaver right now. The fact that there were only 37,115 in attendance last night in Anaheim is an embarrassment, in my opinion.

You should have been there.

It doesn’t matter that it was a Monday night. It doesn’t matter that they were playing the Oakland A’s. If you want to see what has a chance to be one of the greatest seasons a pitcher has ever had – you need to find a way to make it to the stadium when Weaver is on the mound.

I'm sure anyone who was at the stadium last night, was glad they were; unless they're an A's fan of course, but then they have bigger problems. Just saying.

Ride this wave folks. This is your chance. Forget what I said earlier and don’t just" think about it;" JUST DO IT.

History doesn’t take place at your convenience. The incredible isn’t something you can schedule, but you can plan to see what is possible and it’s possible that Weaver will have (at a minimum) one of the greatest seasons for an Angels' pitcher ever. It could happen and don't you want to experience that?

If you have a child or know a child – you owe it to them to see Weaver and explain the significance of it all.

More than anything, you owe it to Jered Weaver. This man has become the leader of this team and he deserves to pitch before a packed house every time he starts a game; especially in Anaheim.

Do you hear me?

If you only get to one game the whole season – make sure it’s his game. Don’t come alone. Bring your friends, your family, your neighbor, your mailman, your dentist, your gardener, or anyone that has a pulse.

Am I over-reacting? You bet I am. I’m beyond excited because this is absolutely without question a ton of fun. Watching Jered Weaver pitch is about as much fun as you can have at a baseball game. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Angels fan or not – if you are a baseball fan, you need to see Weaver pitch this year.

I will now climb down from my soap box and let you get back to your mundane, routine and boring life (just kidding). Let me put it to you this way - I bet that I had more fun than most of you did last night. You should have been there. Don’t let the chance pass you by again.

Photo Above is from Opening Day in Kansas City.

April 24, 2011

Let's just turn the page

I can't remember four more miserable days in a regular season than what Cheryl and I saw from last Thursday through today. We've seen losing streaks before, but losing four in a row to the Boston Red Sox is just a brutal thing to watch and we watched all four games at the stadium.

Losing to the Red Sox is bad enough, but when you add on the fact that Angels Stadium was over-run with Red Sox fans it makes it that much worse. We've been to Fenway Park in Boston and the fans there are nothing like the fans that show up in Anaheim. A lot of the fans that show up here are all kinds of obnoxious and give Red Sox fans every where a bad name.

A lot of Angel fans stay away from the ball park when the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers come to town because they don’t want to deal with their fans. Personally, these are the kind of games that I would hate to miss and I wish more Angel fans showed up at the park. It’s embarrassing to see our house in such a state.

It is what it is. Whatever, I guess.

The games were hard to watch and to be honest with you; I’d rather not get into it on this blog. I’m not much in the ranting mood today. Let’s just say that “turning the page” as Mike Scioscia loves to say, sounds like the right thing to do. I mean we even lost to John Lackey...

I think I’d much rather look forward.

Speaking of that, the Angels announced the names of the bands that will be playing after five selected Saturdays this summer. I will admit, I hadn’t heard of most of them, but the one group I am familiar with – is the one that is the least “main stream.” They’re a contemporary Christian band called Mercyme and they will be playing in a post-game concert on August 20, 2011.

Even though I’m very excited that the band will be in Anaheim, I do find it kind of funny that their lead singer – Bart Millard is actually a huge Rangers fan. Oh well, no one is perfect.

Mercyme is a wonderful group and since today is Easter, I thought I’d share one of their songs with you.

Happy Easter!

April 22, 2011

Apparently, Gilligan made it off the island after all

I know it’s only April 22, but I like seeing the Angels on top of the American League West. Seeing the team get off to a good start sure beats the alternative and given the way the team performed last year, I don’t know how Angels' fans might have handled a poor start.

That being said, it’s unfortunate the Angels could not extend their lead to 1.5 games and now find themselves with just a half game lead over the Texas Rangers (who were idle yesterday) after losing 4-2.

Boston’s Josh Beckett looked good last night; in fact, he was scary good. It was obvious that just about everything had to go right to beat him last night; in other words, the margin for error on the Angels side was very small. Enter Erick Aybar.

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll be saying it again and again time and again; Erick Aybar makes me crazy. I have come to refer to him as Gilligan as in the character from Gilligan’s island. Let’s just say that if the game is on the line and its outcome rests on Aybar’s decision making process, we’re in trouble.

Last night, as you are probably well aware by now – Aybar tried to stretch a double into a triple in the 8th inning. The score was tied and there weren’t any outs. As Aybar was running the bases it was painfully obvious to me (and probably to the other 37,003 fans in the stadium) that he had little if any chance of getting to third safely; at best it would be close and considering the circumstances (tie game in the 8th inning with no outs) it was totally unnecessary and extremely foolish for Aybar to “go for it.”

Imagine Aybar on a desert island; he'd never find a way off. In fact, he could get lost going down a one way street... but I digress.

Even though Beckett was on his game last night and the Red Sox totally out hit the Angels (8-4), the game was winnable. It’s frustrating to see the team lose "winnable" games. Granted stuff like that is going to happen, but it’s hard to stomach just the same. The division title will most likely be a dog fight all season long and every game matters. It wouldn’t surprise me if the west was won by the smallest of margins.

On the bright side, it was great to see Tyler Chatwood continue to progress nicely. It’s also encouraging to see Hank Conger settling in as a big part of the team. Any time we get a little less Jeff Mathis it’s a good thing. Just saying.

Angel fans have to feel good about the contributions of the "young guns" like Chatwood, Conger, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo. The farm system which has been much maligned of late, seems to have produced some key components that are contributing to the team’s success in a big way.

On another note, how awesome was it to see Troy Percival at the stadium last night? Percival was there as part of the team’s 50th Anniversary Celebration to throw out the first pitch and then sign autographs for fans. Cheryl and I had Percy personalize an 8 x 10 for us.

Percival is one of our all-time favorites (yes, we have many) and I always loved his “old school” approach to baseball. I loved it when Percy would just challenge batters with his best stuff and basically say, "here it is, hit it if you can." Scott Kazmir could learn a thing or two from Percy.

I’ve enjoyed the 50th anniversary celebration so far and it’s been great to see so many of the alumni back at the stadium. Percy has easily been my favorite so far.

April 20, 2011

Wishing Brandon Wood all the best

If you’re one of those people who have booed Brandon Wood over the past couple years, I will bet that you’ve never met Brandon Wood. I’m also willing to bet that Brandon Wood has a lot more class than you.

Wood was designated for assignment yesterday and while some Angel fans are probably popping open a bottle of champagne, I am saddened by the news.

Wood’s struggle on offense is well documented and of epic proportions compared to what was expected of him. For most fans that’s most likely all they’ll remember about the 26 year old. Even though his release is justified, I am still very disappointed.

You see, even though statistics are critically important in baseball, there’s more to the game than just numbers for fans like Cheryl and myself. It’s about the experiences we have with our team and Wood has always made our experience special.

Wood has always and I mean always taken the time to stop to sign an autograph or pose for a picture over the years, especially at spring training. He was consistently up-beat, constantly smiling and never showed any signs of a player struggling. He was and is the consummate professional in that regard and I admire and respect him a great deal.

I know a lot of you could probably care less that Brandon Wood is a nice guy. The bottom line is that he didn’t perform at the level he needed to. I get that. I understand that. I don’t even disagree entirely with the need to designate him for assignment; I’m merely disappointed and saddened by the news.

At the end of the day, like most of you – I want to see the Angels win and I want to see players on the roster that will help contribute to winning. That being said, it’s also important to me that I like the players on my favorite team. Granted, that doesn’t always happen – but it definitely plays a role in my enjoyment of watching the team I root for.

I never embraced Francisco Rodriguez. I didn’t like his antics and his attitude and I especially found the way he interacted with fans (after 2002) to be especially unpleasant. Rather than go into details, let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed when he went to the Mets.

I’ll take it a step further. Growing up in Southern California, I was a die-hard Lakers fan; in fact, the Lakers were my favorite team in all of sports. Now, I don’t even watch the NBA. Why? I don’t like a lot of the players. I stopped following the Lakers and the NBA as a whole when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant continued to make more headlines off the court than on it.

It just got to the point where I could not separate the person from the athlete and just couldn’t cheer for the Lakers anymore.

I’m not saying that baseball is perfect and not without its own cast of characters; however, I do seem to find many more athletes that I do enjoy in major league baseball than elsewhere. Plus baseball teams have 25 man rosters and I find for every Milton Bradley that pops up now and then there are many more Torii Hunters or Vernon Wells’ throughout the game that are admirable men of character who love the game, make an impact in the community and do so many positive things.

I make note of these things all the time on this blog. My fandom for Torii Hunter is well documented here; as is my disgust for the likes of Milton Bradley.

So on this day, the day after Wood was designated for assignment, Cheryl and I are a little sad.

You know what? We are not the only ones. Judging by the reactions I’ve read from his teammates, a lot of them are saddened as well and to a man, they all seem to wish him the best.

So even though most fans might be happy with this move; Cheryl and I aren't like most fans and we too wish him all the best.

I will close with this: Lyle Spencer of mlb.com does a fantastic job of putting Wood’s situation in the proper perspective on his Rally Monkeys blog entry titled “Wood can find redemption.”

April 19, 2011

Keeping it real

In an ideal world Jered Weaver and Dan Haren would pitch every night. In an ideal world both of them would at least be scheduled to pitch against Texas. In a really ideal world Jeff Mathis would… well, you know.

Well, the world is anything but ideal and that pitching scenario isn’t going to develop for us this week. Last night Ervin Santana took the mound; tonight it’s Matt Palmer and finally on Wednesday – Weaver will be on the hill. That shouldn’t stop the Angels from taking care of business; although, they failed to do that yesterday.

I admit, I was pretty darn excited about the game, but by the time I got home to see it, it was out of hand. It happens. Thankfully, they’ll play each other another 18 times over the course of the season.

That’s 18 more opportunities to right a wrong in my book. It just bothers me to see Texas in the position they’re in; a top the division and the favorites to win the west. I’m accustomed to hating the A’s and I’d really rather not have to loath the Rangers as well. I’d much rather see the Angels put the beat down on the team from Arlington and for me to not have to give them a second thought.

Wishful thinking, I guess.

What makes it worse is how some Angel fans are so darn fickle. I mean, judging by the message boards, some blogs and the call-in shows – some Angel fans are ready to jump off the deep end. This should never surprise me and yet it does every now and then. We’re sixteen games into the season folks and the Angels are off to a pretty darn good start; all things considered.

162 games is a lot of games and were bound to have some ups and downs and some highs and lows. Disappointment is going to hit us every now and then and we can only hope that when all is said and done – we’ll still be watching the Angels in October.

Never-the-less, I’d really love it the Angels managed to beat the Rangers in… oh say, the next 18 times they face off. If that’s not doable (or realistic), I’d at least like to see someone put Ian Kinsler on his hind parts with a brush back pitch or a hard slide into second base. Just saying. Oh, and I’ll settle for winning at least 15 of the next 18 against the new division darlings; thank you very much.

While I’m making requests, please don’t make me watch Mike Napoli come to the plate with a chance to do any kind of damage. Trying to follow the action on my blackberry while riding on a train yesterday afternoon was enough to make me lose my mind. Napoli was up with two men on and my blackberry wouldn’t update me. I kept refreshing and seeing the same count and situation for what seemed like an eternity.

When I finally was able to catch up to the action, the Angels were down 3-0. The only good thing about that was finding out that Napoli wasn’t the one doing the damage. Small consolation, but I’ll take that just the same.

Napoli not coming through with runners in scoring position is vintage 2010 stuff, but I’d rather not have to deal with the possibility just in case. So, again – keep the bases empty when Napoli comes to the plate ok?


So Matt Palmer takes the mound tonight and I know some of you aren’t expecting much. Well, this is exactly the kind of game that the Angels end up winning. I’m not making any bold predictions, but I do have a good feeling about tonight. So... Go Angels! Let’s do this. Enough said.

April 16, 2011

Hank Conger is "it"

Mike Scioscia won’t admit or commit to it; but he has to be thinking it. Just about every Angel fans wants it and you know the baseball analysts would probably recommend it. It’s time to make Hank Conger the #1 catcher.

It’s actually beyond time, but we’ll take what we can get these days.

Is it just me or is it blatantly obvious that Hank Conger is the best man for the job of starting catcher? I mean offensively there’s absolutely no contest. It’s not even close. Conger has two homeruns and is hitting .286 and has struck out just four times. Jeff Mathis on the other hand is hitting below his career average; which is hard to do when you consider that his career batting average is .199; he’s hitting .192 while striking out eleven times.

Mathis’ OBP (.185) is actually lower than his batting average and that’s hard to do! Leave it to Mathis to stand out for all the wrong reasons (let’s not forget the day he went 0 for 6 hitting and trying to throw out base runners in Kansas City).

Defensively, it’s not that close either. Conger has a 1.000 fielding percentage and Mathis is at .982. Mathis has an error and a passed ball charged to him and Conger doesn’t any such blemishes. Wait, it get’s better. Opponents have stolen 11 bases off Mathis and only 3 off Conger. Let’s just say that when Mathis is behind the plate, opponents have a track meet on the bases.

Oh it’s time all right; it’s beyond time for Conger to assume the role as the top catcher on this team.

By the way, it was reported today that Jeff Mathis had a closed door meeting with Scioscia before the game. I'm guessing, it was to give his blessing to Conger taking over. Then again... probably not. Torii Hunter; Jeff Mathis is not.

Next up... let’s hope its Tyler Chatwood taking over Scott Kazmir’s spot in the rotation. Seriously, Scioscia is on a roll right now and is making all the right moves. As I’ve said before, I believe he’s really managing differently this year and I like it a great deal.

Chatwood was impressive today; going seven innings while giving up just five hits and two bases on balls. His lone mistake was a pitch to Carlos Quentin that was absolutely crushed; however, to his credit – Chatwood didn’t fall apart. The kid has poise and confidence and his talent is definitely major league caliber.

I know it’s early in the season, but these two guys are giving Angel fans something to think about and to definitely cheer about as well.

And don’t look now, but the Angels are just a game back of the Texas Rangers; the same Rangers that started the season red hot; the same Rangers some were ready to declare the American League West champions.

Analysts were falling over themselves as they heaped tons of praise on the Rangers when the season started. I was growing a little tired of hearing terms like “dominating” and “impressive” when pundits discussed the Rangers. Some people thought they were going to run away with the west and it looks like that’s just not happening.

Again, I know it’s early, but things are going well right now and Angel fans couldn’t be happier and guess who’s up for the Angels when they leave Chicago? Yup… the Texas Rangers. Game on folks. Things are getting interesting; very interesting. Just saying.

PHOTOS: The photographs in this post are from April 11, 2011; the night Tyler Chatwood made his major league debut.

Shameless plug: If you enjoy True Grich, please visit my other blog: The Baseball Docent as well. Thanks.

April 12, 2011

Ten games in and a ton to go

I can’t stand it. In fact, I’m sick and tired of it. If I hear one more fan go off the deep end about Vernon Wells, I might lose my mind.

Last night while driving home from the game I tuned in to hear Terry Smith taking calls on the post-game show on AM 830 when a guy calls in to ask when the Angels would get rid of Vernon Wells. This guy claimed to be a “big fan” and a “big critic” at the same time. Instead, he sounded like a "big idiot" in my book. I’m sorry, but that’s exactly what went through my mind as I listened to this guy go off.

This “big fan” tried to compare Vernon Wells to Gary Matthews, Jr. Hello? I would not have blamed Smith had he hung up right then and there. Smith merely chuckled a bit and then addressed this guy’s mini-rant. Smith is a better man than I am and clearly has more patience for this kind of thing.

Let me remind everyone that we are ten games into the season. Ten games folks; just ten - not 80 or even 50 for that matter.

Yes, Vernon Wells is hitting .091. Big deal. If you actually believe he’s going to stay around this number for the rest of the year, you’re the one who’s actually lost their mind.

Enough of that topic.

By the way, it was great to hear Smith doing the call-in part of the post-game show again. He does a great job and handles callers as well as anyone in the business.

So… here we are ten games into 2011 and I’ve made a few observations.

I’ve taken note of how quickly Mike Scioscia has moved Fernando Rodney out of the closer role and Jordan Walden into it. I’ve also noted the way he has used all three of his catchers in Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson and Hank Conger. Perhaps Jeff Mathis does not have the strangle hold on the position that I thought. One can only hope.

I’ve also noted that Kevin Jepsen who spent all of 2010 with the big league club was sent down to Salt Lake City. I was surprised by that move; although, Jepsen was probably more surprised than I was. Just saying. In any case, I like it.

All of these moves make me believe the Angels and perhaps more specifically Mike Scioscia has a sense of urgency about 2011. I get the impression that 2010 probably ate at Scioscia all off season and he’s not going to play the wait-and-see game this year.

The move to put Scott Kazmir on the DL is also telling. Perhaps Kazmir is really having some back trouble, but one might speculate that Scioscia just didn’t want to trot him back out there at this point in the season.

I’m telling you, something is different about the team’s approach to personnel this year.

This brings me to Tyler Chatwood.

Let’s just say that this young man could be special. I love his make-up and the way he battled back last night after giving up four runs in the first two innings. He only gave up four hits which is somewhat impressive; it’s just too bad two of them happened to be homeruns.

He didn’t get rattled and held his own. He didn’t light the world on fire, but he served notice that he’s not intimated and he will be back. I think he has something to build on and should get better over time; be it this year or whenever he gets more of an opportunity.

I love seeing Angel pitching prospects get their shot. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for Cheryl and I to show up early and take photos of their debut from the moment they walk on to the field to warm up to the first inning and beyond.

I’ll post those photos in the near future. Between late nights at the ballpark, sleep and work - keeping the blog up to date is a bit of a challenge. I can tell you right now, I won’t be posting after every game because that task would make me lose my mind faster than the people calling into the post-game show. What I will do is try to keep the blog as up to date as I humanly can and keep things relevant.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’m not a big analysis guy and my posts are definitely from a fan’s point of view and often about the fan experience itself. I think we’ll all be better off if I try to keep the blog fun and focus on things you’re not likely to find on other blogs or fan sites.

I mean, my credentials as an analyst are about as solid as a Jeff Mathis throw to second base. In other words, I will often miss the mark.

Take Howie Kendrick for example. This off season I will admit that I was ready to ship him off to parts unknown in hopes of obtaining a piece that would help the Angels. I proposed making Alberto Callaspo the second baseman and using Howie to acquire a third baseman or another piece that would make the team better.

Given Howie’s start that proposition looks pretty foolish, even though we are only ten games into the season. I even said Howie was “expendable.”

Well, what do I know?

In any case, that doesn’t mean I won’t be making suggestions in the future and I’m certainly not backing off my “Jeff-Mathis-is-horrible” stance either. I’m just noting that I’m apt to make mistakes and get things wrong from time to time… just like everyone else. Difference is I don’t have a problem admitting it.

Speaking of Mathis, don’t think I didn’t notice his epic failure in Kansas City on April 3 when he went 0 for 6 at the plate and 0 for 6 in trying to throw out runners. I’m just glad I wasn’t in Kansas City to witness the debacle. I certainly noticed it; I just decided to give Mathis an early season pass.

Okay, truth be known, I wasn’t ready to start ranting so early in the season. That may all change at any given moment though; so stay tuned just in case.

April 10, 2011

A night to remember in more ways than one

Yesterday marked two years since the tragic loss of Nick Adenhart. April 9, 2009 was a day that we will never forget. Two years later Matt Palmer would take the mound for the Angels to face the Toronto Blue Jays. In many ways, Palmer’s start was somewhat fitting; for it was he who was added to the rotation in 2009 to take Adenhart’s spot.

Palmer didn’t fare well; however, the night would prove to be memorable for all the right reasons as the Angels would prevail in fourteen innings to beat the Blue Jays 6-5 in walk-off fashion.

You know winning a ball game in walk off fashion is one of the most exciting ways a team can win. That obviously only happens in the bottom of the 9th or in extra innings; which begs the question – why did so many Angel fans leave last night?

The evening started off with more than 43,000 fans, but as the night grew longer and the air turned colder thousands of them left and when Peter Bourjos doubled with two outs in the bottom of the fourteenth only a few thousands remained. Those that left missed Maicer Izturis' hit to right field that sent Peter Bourjos racing home to beat Jose Bautista’s throw to the plate for the winning run.

Baseball doesn’t get any better than that.

Sure you can watch it on television and even see the highlights, but nothing beats seeing it live. So again, I can’t understand why so many fans decided to leave early. It was a Saturday night for goodness sake. Even my mother-in-law who is a grandmother (she wouldn't like it much if I told you her age) managed to stay for the whole enchilada.

We even met a nice family from West Virginia who was attending their first baseball game ever and they too stayed till the end.

The family is part of “Families on the Road.” They weren’t leaving until one team or the other won. These brand new baseball fans had the right attitude.

All I’m saying is that when you leave a game early, when outcome is still in question you risk missing one of the great moments in sport.

Was it worth staying for five hours and three minutes in the cold? No doubt about it.

April 9, 2011

Opening Night in Anaheim

Cheryl and I love opening day and this year we were very blessed to be at two of them; first in Kansas City and then again last night in Anaheim. There’s something special; even magical about one of the best days of the year.

We started our day early with a trip to the stadium mid-day to check out the new merchandise in the team store and then stopped by to say hello to Steve Mason of ESPN 710 who was about to start a live remote from under the hats and then to AM 830’s Roger Lodge, who was doing a marathon session from 7:00 a.m. until the pregame show at 5:00 p.m. Kudos to AM 830; this is the kind of stuff that builds tradition.
After a quick trip home, Cheryl and I returned to the stadium; ready for a night of good old fashioned Angels baseball. We were greeted by the Budweiser Clydesdales and a sea of fans dressed in red.

Last night marked the beginning of the Angels 50th Anniversary Celebration and what better way to start off the festivities than to have Eli Grba, the first Angel to ever throw a real pitch, throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the opener? Grba, who is now 76, threw the first pitch to Arte Moreno.

It was a tad bit chilly (game time temperature was 54 degrees), but no where near as cold as Kansas City was on March 31. Opening night came complete with player introductions, the traditional display of the flag covering the field, a fly over and more.

I was standing close to the field snapping pictures when I sighted Hank Conger warming up in left field. I will admit, my eyes grew wide and my heart raced just a bit knowing the young man was getting an opening day start. What a thrill it must have been for him and his family.

One of my favorite moments at every game is when the pitcher and catcher emerge from the bullpen and take their slow walk to the dugout before the game. It’s sort of symbolic in some ways as two warriors prepare for battle. Santana looked like he was ready for business as usual, while Conger appeared to be soaking in the moment.

The game began and our 50th Anniversary Season was under way (again). Eli Grba even took some time during the game to sign autographs for a hundred or so lucky fans. Cheryl and I talked a bit with Tim Mead and complimented him on the night’s activities. We met some Angel fans in line including a couple of kids who were attending their first Angel games ever with their dad. How cool is that?

“Torii Town” made its debut in right field. Gotta love it when fans do something creative like that and I can’t think of a better player to celebrate than Hunter.

The game was pretty uneventful and unfortunately the Angels did not prevail. 514 Fanatics John and Linda, John and Ann, Bo and Mary, Dave and Kim, Steve and June, Dori and Vic along with our friends Jim and Paula were out to support the Halos.

The night went quickly (two hours and thirty five minutes) and the first of 81 home games was in the books.

Player highlights included two hits from both Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick (who is now hitting .429). We even had a tub of goo (Juan Rivera) sighting; he even managed a couple hits (go figure).

And so it begins…

Below are a few more photos from opening night including Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos; Vernon Wells; player introductions, and Kendrys Morales.

Baseball is finally here and we are looking forward to the 50th Anniversary Celebration and a return to post season baseball. Yes, post-season baseball. Look out Texas!

April 6, 2011

A "Closer" for the people

The news spread quickly. It hit the internet like a wild fire, went out over the radio with a bang and was announced on television as well; Jordan Walden, the 6’5”, 235 pound right-hander out of Fort Worth, Texas was assuming the role as the Angels’ closer for the time being.

It was inevitable. Everyone knew it was coming; just ask them. Just about every blogger, sportswriter and Angel fan wanted to take credit for being the first to predict this scenario. Really? Like I said, everyone knew it was coming.

Truth be known; Fernando Rodney should have never even been signed by the Angels. I questioned the Angels’ interest back on December 22, 2009. At that time, I focused on the fact that his strike outs per nine innings had declined over the previous few years at an alarming rate. Rodney had peaked in 2008 when his ratio was 10.9. It dropped to 7.3 in 2009 and then again last year to 7.0.

This was a power pitcher who was losing his “power” and ability to strike men out in key situations.

My direct quote from that blog entry: “When you look at his numbers and factor in his age, it’s easy to conclude Rodney may be in decline. The Angels would be wise to pass on this free agent.” Truer words have never been written. Just saying.

That all being said, I dare to ask the question, is Jordan Walden assuming the closer role a good thing? On one hand, it is nice to have someone who has the ability to shut down a team and actually close out games in a dominating fashion. On the other, Rodney’s demise hurts the overall depth of the bullpen and makes it a tad bit weaker.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Rodney remain the team’s closer; however, I am pointing out the idea that his failure has ramifications and should not be a cause for celebrations.

Okay, who am I kidding?

Jordan Walden assuming the closer role is a cause for unbridled joy. After enduring years of Francisco Rodriguez and then Brian Fuentes; where Angel fans had to wear a seat belt in order to handle the roller coaster ride each put us through, it’s as if new life was just breathed into the lungs of every Angel fan near and far.

In Jordan’s brief stint at the major league level last year, his strikeout rate per nine innings was an astounding 13.5 (granted it was only over 15 1/3 innings). His current rate (keeping in mind he’s only pitched 3 1/3 innings is 16.2

Is he likely to maintain that? No, but one has to be excited about the Texan who can touch 100 mph on the radar gun now and then. One just has to hope he can bring more than a big time fastball to the table; after all, this is the major leagues and pitchers need more than one pitch to be truly successful.

I’d say the outlook is bright.

This development coupled with the fact that Scott Downs may begin a rehab assignment any day now gives all of Angel fans some hope that the bullpen will not be a major source of concern; at least one can hope that’s the case. Downs is projected to be the team’s set up man and if he can duplicate his numbers from Toronto, it will all be good.

Next up... "everyone" will comment how they predicted this would be Howie Kendrick's break-out season.

Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly okay because if that's the kind of conversations we're all having, it's all good.

April 5, 2011

We're not in Kansas (City) anymore...

Cheryl and I (along with her cousin Larry and his wife Cathy) were in Texas Saturday and Sunday. Now, one might ask, what’s a couple of Angel fans doing in a place like Texas?

Well, we were on the second half of our baseball road trip with Larry and Cathy (who are Red Sox fans). Our plan was to catch two Angel games in Kansas City and two Red Sox games in Texas.

Judging by the way the Angels have played the last three games in Kansas City, we were probably better off not being in Kansas City for the last two games. More on that in a bit….

Cheryl’s Uncle “Ken” also joined us for a game in Texas. Ken has lived in Fort Worth for a long time; however, this was his first trip to the stadium. He was very impressed; as were we.

In any case – watching the Texas Rangers host the Boston Red Sox had me extremely conflicted. I don’t like either team and I couldn’t find a way to root for either side. It was an odd experience to say the least.

To make matters worse, we got to watch the Rangers hand out their American League Championship rings to the players, coaches and front office in an elaborate ceremony. Good times… not. We also got a look at players who were supposedly “targets” of the Angels off season in Carl Crawford (for Boston) and Adrian Beltre (for Texas). More fun… not.

Don’t get me wrong – it was great to see the stadium and to be at a ball game. The circumstances were just a tad bit odd all the way around.

It was odd seeing Mike Napoli in a Rangers’ uniform and it was even worse watching him launch his second bomb of the season into the outfield seats. Napoli had quite a series and his two homeruns (only one of which we witnessed) combined with Jeff Mathis’s continued unimpressive play left Cheryl and me feeling a little empty. I hate to think about the huge numbers he might put up in Texas. It’s almost scary.

What’s an Angels fan to do?

I will say this – the highlight of the trip to Texas was seeing John Lackey get hammered by the Rangers offense. I mean, I thought Texas was going to run out of fireworks (the stadium shoots off fireworks every time one of their own homers). Lackey looked like he was throwing batting practice and even though I dislike the Rangers; I will admit feeling a bit of satisfaction watching Lackey get knocked around like a rag doll. Yeah, I supposed I’m still a tad bit bitter. (Photo to the left is Lackey probably trying to blame the baseball for his woes... just saying).

I have to tell you the way the Rangers handled the Red Sox in their opening series was pretty dang impressive. It may only be early April, but the Rangers look like a team to be reckoned with. They’re definitely playing big boy baseball in Texas.

The photos below are of Adrian Beltre blasting his grand slam, Ian Kinsler rounding third after blasting his second (of three homers in the series), and former Angel Darren O'Day going side arm.

Stadium observations:

Cheryl and I are slowly making our way around the country to see all the stadiums. Over the past several years we’ve been to 16. The sixteen include: Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Old Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, The Metro Dome, New Comiskey, Safeco, Coors Field, AT&T, Oakland Alameda Coliseum, Petco Park, Chase Field, Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium and now Kauffman Stadium and the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

So… what did we think about Kauffman and Arlington? Kauffman Stadium is simply a beautiful place to watch baseball. The scoreboard in center field is absolutely stunning. The overall design and feel of the stadium exudes baseball. This stadium is easily one of my new favorites. It was easy to find the information I wanted to see (score, pitching information, batting information, out of town scoreboard, etc.).
Two statues can be found in the outfield concourse; one of George Brett and the other of Frank White. There is also a statue of Ewing and Muriel Kauffman.

I really can’t say enough good things about Kauffman Stadium.

As for the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington – it was impressive in many ways. From the outside, it reminds me a bit of Coors Field and as you walk up to the stadium, there are staff standing outside with “May I help you?” signs which was a nice touch. They also came in handy.

Cheryl’s Uncle “Ken” needed a little assistance getting to our seats and the staff at the stadium was very accommodating.

Inside; like the outside is very picturesque and has a touch of the old stadiums with the support poles in right field. The suites in centerfield are kind of out of place in my opinion and appear to be very far away.

One of the cool features was the visitor’s bullpen. You could basically stand directly above the catcher and look down into the bullpen as players were warming up. Cheryl got some cool pictures of Jason Varitek.

There were tons of stuff for kids to do which is kind of nice; but if they’re not there to watch the baseball game, what’s the point? Just saying.

The ballpark also has a very nice statue of Nolan Ryan in centerfield. Some of the interactive stuff was pretty cool too. When the opposing pitcher is in trouble, they play Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and the stadium is lit up with... guess what... a "ring of fire." They also have the crowd sing along to "Deep in the heart of Texas." Homeruns by the Rangers bring out the Texas Flag (see the photo) and the atmosphere is like one big baseball party to say the least.

Overall, I will say it was a little too busy for my tastes though. It was hard for me to find the information I wanted to know at any given time. I had to constantly search the stadium for whatever I was looking for and never got used to it.

It was also very crowded. Granted they had 48,000 and 46,000 plus at the two games, but the walk ways and concourse were basically elbow to elbow. There was a long line into the main team store and it took way too long for the staff to even let us in.

Good food could be found everywhere; although, the one thing I really wanted – an ice cream bar dipped in chocolate never happened. The first night I was told the machine was broken and the second game I was told they were out of chocolate. Whatever…

The worse part about the stadium was getting out of it. It took us nearly an hour to get out of the parking lot the first night and we were told, this is pretty much the norm. And I thought Dodger stadium was bad; but at least no one got beat up in Texas… (What's that all about?)

All in all, it was an awesome trip. In preparation for our trip, I contacted several bloggers from both Kansas City and Texas and I would like to thank all of them for their suggestions and help. Our trip was that much better because of their willingness to provide insight and recommendations.

In no particular order, I would like to thank:

Brian McGannon of Royals Kingdom
Nick Scott of Broken Bat Single
Matt Kelsey of i70 Baseball
Wally Fish of Puckett's Pond
Dan Edmonson of Chicken Fried Baseball
Steve Helsing of 40 year Ranger Fan

About the Angels play... well, what can I say? They certainly gave Royal fans something to hope for in their team. To their credit, the Royals played well - but le't's face it; the Angels bullpen was simply awful. If this is the revamped bullpen that's supposed to be all that, well then... I'm not impressed.

I will say that Howie Kendrick looks like he's ready to become the player we hoped he would be one day and Jered Weaver looked like he was in mid-season form. The offense looks pretty good overall and right now it's all about the bullpen.

One more thing about the bullpen and more specifically Kevin Jepsen. I'm sorry, but his wearing #40 which was last worn by Troy Percival isn't sitting well with me. And to make it worse, Jepsen isn't doing anything to justify his wearing such a special number. Just saying.

April 1, 2011

What a difference a day makes

The weather was perfect (game time temperature was 62 degrees); the seats were awesome (six rows from the field, just beyond third base) and yet somehow it all went so wrong as the Angels fell to the Kansas City Royals 2-1.

Losing is bad enough, watching your team lose in walk-off fashion in an opponent’s stadium is not the best experience you can have for sure.

It’s kind of hard to explain and something Cheryl and I never experienced before. There’s something about being far from home while watching your team go down the way the Angels did that’s just surreal.

Again, it’s hard to explain. In case you don’t know the details – Kila Ka’aihue hit a homerun in the bottom of the 9th off Michael Kohn to give his team the walk-off win.

In many ways, game two was quite contrary to the opener. First of all there were only 13,302 fans in attendance (as opposed to 40,055 on Thursday) and it was a fast game; lasting just two hours and twenty-three minutes (as opposed to three hours and fifteen minutes the day prior). It was seventeen degrees warmer and the thing that was most different… the Angels lost.

I guess going 162-0 wasn’t realistic.

Highlights of the game included Mark Trumbo getting his first hit of the 2011 season; Howie Kendrick going yard in the first inning; Dan Haren pitching seven solid innings and Jordan Walden coming through in a clutch situation with two strikes outs in the 8th. It was also nice to see Erick Aybar get a couple of hits.

Low lights?

Let’s just say that Jeff Mathis looked a little more like the Jeff Mathis we saw last year; going 0 for 3 and air mailing a throw into centerfield while trying to throw out a runner stealing second; and of course the walk-off homerun given up by Michael Kohn. The Angels went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and just couldn’t get things going.

Sadly, we won’t be at the game on Saturday as the Angels portion of our road trip ends.

We started the day with a trip to the Negro League Baseball Museum (unfortunately, you can' take photos inside the museum) and the Harry S. Truman Library.

Along the way we ran into several Angels fans; some from California, some from Oklahoma, Kansas and other places around the country. We even ran into Hank Conger’s dad, who was with Chris Pettit’s dad at the Negro League Baseball Museum. Also at the museum, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles, Lyle Spencer of MLB.com and Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier in the day while having breakfast, we saw Mickey Hatcher walking down a street in the Country Club Plaza area of Kansas City.

More details will come later. Right now, I need to get some sleep before yet another early flight….