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’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. 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


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?