December 18, 2012

It needs to be said...

I firmly believe the Angels are a better team with Peter Bourjos on the field.  So, I’m sure you can imagine that as the rumors surrounding the possibility of trading Bourjos circulate, I feel like standing on top of the 'Big A' and shouting “NOOOOOOO!” 

When most people look at Bourjos, they see a guy with “game-changing” speed, a great glove and not much more.  When I think of Bourjos, I think of Jacoby Ellsbury.  That’s right – Jacoby Ellsbury.

Both players are 6’ 1” and Bourjos weighs just ten pounds less (175 lbs.).  Bourjos happens to be four years younger than Ellsbury and in my mind – could be the same kind of player.  Ellsbury made his major league debut when he was 23; as did Bourjos.   In 2011 at 24 years of age, Bourjos gave us a glimpse of what he could become.

That year he hit .270 with 12 homeruns, 11 triples, 22 stolen bases, with a respectable 4.8 WAR.  That 4.8 WAR is better than 5 of the 6 seasons Ellsbury has had in the big leagues.  And when you consider Ellsbury didn’t have his break out season until he was 27 years old, it gives us reason for optimism.

Given the playing time and appropriate number of at-bats, Peter Bourjos could be a star in this league.  Is that a reach?   I don’t think so.  Maybe he won’t hit 32 homeruns like Ellsbury did in 2011, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit more than 20.  If you’ve ever seen Bourjos in person, one of the things you might notice is how muscular his forearms are.  Okay, I know that probably sounds strange, but I remember the first time I noticed because it really surprised me.  He’s not some skinny kid with a lot of speed.  He’s an athlete who was made to play baseball.

Look, I know that I’m the last person in the world who should try to play talent evaluator and I have no idea how to break down a player’s swing, but I have seen Bourjos do things on a field that help his team win ball games.  His background as the son of coach and as a player who had made adjustments at every stop in his baseball career, suggest to me that he could be something special.

We already know what he can do on defense and on the base paths and I think it’s time to see what he can do with 500-600 at bats as well.  The upside is too great to pass up.  I believe in Bourjos’ bat and I’m basing that on what he was able to do in 2011.  In three of the months of that year (April, June and August) he hit over .300; in fact he had an OBP of .340, .365, and .367 in those months as well.  Those numbers are good enough for me to believe there’s a lot of potential there.

There’s no question that an outfield that has both Trout and Bourjos in it would be among the best in baseball.    Factor in Josh Hamilton, who is no slouch as a defender and you have a group of players that will help the Angels pitching staff sleep better at night.

I know the Angels will most likely make a move to add pitching depth and that will come at the expense of one of their players.  Given the choice – I would rather see the Angels move 29 year old Kendrys Morales and keep Bourjos (and Mark Trumbo for that matter). 

Which lineup would you prefer; a line up with Trumbo as DH and Bourjos in CF or a lineup with Trumbo in LF and Morales at DH (take the poll on the right)?  Given the choice, I’ll take the one with Bourjos for the better all-around lineup. I understand that Morales helps balance the lineup as a switch-hitter, but he's going to walk next year and Bourjos just makes the team better as a whole, in my opinion.

It needs to be said; Keep Peter Bourjos!  Angel fans have already had to watch fan favorite, Torii Hunter go to another team; don't add insult to injury by trading Bourjos as well.  

December 17, 2012

Getting my geek on

My mind has been racing since the news broke about the Angels signing Josh Hamilton.  I began to look at some interesting facts (mostly statistics), ask some big questions and formulate a few predictions.  You could say I decided to get my “geek” on.  The results of that process follows below.

FACT:  The Angels have six players who have hit at least 30 homeruns in a season on their current roster: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Vernon Wells, and Kendrys Morales.  QUESTION: How many Angels will hit 30 or more homeruns in 2013?  PREDICTION: Realistically, I can see Pujols, Hamilton, Trumbo and Trout hitting more than 30.  There’s an outside shot that Morales could join that group if he makes progress in coming back to being the player he was in 2009 when he hit 34 homers.  Vernon Wells isn’t likely to get enough playing time to sniff the possibility of that many homers. 

FACT: Chris Iannetta and Howie Kendrick have both hit 18 in a season.  QUESTION: Perhaps the question we should be asking is how many Angels could hit more than 20 homeruns in 2013?  PREDICTION:  I’ll say five (Pujols, Hamilton, Trumbo, Trout, and Morales); although there’s an outside shot that eight (add Iannetta and Kendrick) could, if Peter Bourjos isn’t traded and has a break-out season.

FACT: The statistic that measures “total bases” is somewhat misleading in that it only includes singles, doubles, triples, and homeruns.  I would have thought that walks and stolen bases would be included, but they’re not.  I started thinking about this statistic as it relates to Mike Trout, who figures to cover a lot of bases in 2013.  Trout is often compared to Rickey Henderson, and Henderson’s single season high for total bases in just 285.  Trout had 315 last season; despite missing all of April.  The other player, Trout is often compared to is Mickey Mantle, who led the league in total bases in 1956 with his career high of 376.  Only 29 players have had more than 400 for a season, with the most being 457 by Babe Ruth in 1921.  QUESTION:  Can Mike Trout lead the league in total bases and how many will he have in 2013?  PREDICTION:  As much as I’d like to believe Trout could set some records here – he’s more likely to approach the 350 mark at some point, but there are other records he could assault….

FACT:  The single season record for most runs scored is 198 by Billy Hamilton in 1866 with 198.  Babe Ruth scored 177 in 1921 and Lou Gehrig scored 167 in 1936 and 163 in 1931.  The active player with the most runs scored in a single season is Alex Rodriguez with 143 in 2007.  QUESTION:  How many runs will Mike Trout score in 2013?  PREDICTION: He scored 129 in 2013 and it’s certainly feasible that he can score more than 150 in my opinion and given the lineup that will have Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton hitting behind him, it’s conceivable that he be in the top five for runs scored in a single season (167). 

FACT:  Albert Pujols is currently tied with Stan Musial and Willie Stargell at 28th all time for homeruns with 475. QUESTION:  Where will Pujols rank by the end of the 2013 season?  PREDICTION:  If Pujols hits 35 homeruns he would move up to 24th all-time with 510; which would put him one ahead of Gary Sheffield and one behind Mel Ott.  I predict he will hit 34 (four more than in 2012) and end up typing Gary Sheffield on the all-time list.

FACT:  Mike Trout has the highest single season WAR of any active player (10.7).  QUESTION: Well, the first question those who aren’t sabermetrically inclined is going to ask is what is WAR?  Per  WAR is a single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player (think AAA or AAAA) would add. Scale for a single-season: 8+ MVP Quality, 5+ All-Star Quality, 2+ Starter, 0-2 Reserve, < 0 Replacement Level Developed by Sean Smith of  With that in mind, the bigger question is what kind of WAR can Mike Trout put up in 2013?  PREDICTION:  Your guess is as a good as mine; in fact, it’s probably better since I couldn’t tell you how this statistic is computed to save my life, but it's fun to think that Trout could set a record here.

FACT:  Ichiro Suzuki set the single season record for hits in 2004 with 262.  QUESTION:  Could Mike Trout break the record?  PREDICTION:  I’ll say that’s somewhat unlikely, but not highly unlikely.  Look, Mike Trout is going to get a lot of plate appearance if the Angels lineup turns over as often as I think it will, given the lineup and when you consider that Trout is a good hitter, he’s got a shot at making some noise here.  He could certainly eclipse Darin Erstad’s record for most hits in a season by an Angel of 240 in 2000 and given his talent, I’m not about to sell him short.

FACT: Jimmy Rolling holds the single season record for most plate appearances with 778 in 2007.  QUESTION: Could Mike Trout eclipse that record?  PREDICTION:  This is obviously something that’s not in Mike Trout’s control, but given the lineup, he could certainly set a new Angels record; which is currently held by Darin Erstad with 747, which ranks 39th all time.

One of the more intriguing statistics to me (especially since the Angels have Mike Trout) is the statistic that measures power and speed.  The definition: Power/Speed Number 2 x (Home Runs x Stolen Bases)/(Stolen Bases + Home Runs) The harmonic mean of HR and SB. To do well you need a lot of both. Developed by Bill James.

FACT: Alex Rodriguez has the highest score in this category at 43.91.  Mike Trout’s 2012 performance ranks 25th with 37.22 and is the best among any Angels all-time.  It’s also the highest score for 2012.  The list is peppered with guys who have gone 30/30 or better (30+ homeruns and 30 or more stolen bases) Rickey Henderson ranks 4th all-time with a 42.36 and since Trout is often compared to him, I’ll ask the QUESTION:  What will Mike Trout do in 2013?  PREDICTION: If Trout hits 30 homeruns again and steals 60 bases, his score would be 40.  I don’t think that’s unreasonable and there’s a good chance he could do better than that.  A score of 40 would put him 10th all-time.  A-Rod’s score was based on a season where he hit 42 homeruns and stole 46 bases.  Forty homeruns might be within Trout’s reach; however, I’m betting that it’s more likely that his stolen base numbers go up instead.

One of the lists a player doesn’t want to be on is the list of number of times they grounded into a double-play (GIDP).  FACT: Jim Rice holds the record at 36 times and he did that in 1984.  Albert Pujols is tied for 17th on this list with 29 GIDP in 2011.  Howie Kendrick did this an alarming 26 times in 2012 – which tied him for second place last year with Michael Young.  Interestingly, the AL MVP, Miguel Cabrera led the league with 28.  QUESTION:  Are any Angels candidates for this dubious distinction in 2013?  PREDICTION:  Let’s hope not; in fact, let’s predict that no Angel will make the top 5 in 2013.  *Gulp.*

In anticipation of the ball flying out of the ball-park whenever the Angels are on offense in 2013, I thought it would be interesting to see who has led the league in homeruns per at-bats.   FACT: Last year, Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins lead the majors with a homerun every 12.14 at-bats.  Josh Hamilton was third with a dinger every 13.07 at-bats.  Albert Pujols finished second in this category in 2010 and 2009.  In fact he’s been in the top ten, six out of the last nine years.  The single season record holder is Barry Bonds who homered an astonishing once in every 6.52 at-bats.  QUESTION: Will an Angel lead the league in this category in 2013?  PREDICTION:  Given that half the games are played in Anaheim where the ball doesn’t travel particularly well at night, I’d say that’s not likely.  Consider this – Jim Edmonds made the top ten list three times after leaving Anaheim and going to St. Louis.  Troy Glaus is the one recent Angel to make the list and he did that in 2000 with a homerun every 11.98 at-bats.   Note: Albert Pujols is 9th all-time with a homerun every 14.57 at-bats in his career and Troy Glaus is 48th all-time with a round-tripper every 16.91 at-bats.

We could do this all day and given the projected line-up for the 2013 Angels, we might find some areas where the Angels could indeed have a record breaking season.  I guess we'll see, won't we?

December 14, 2012

Oh my Josh!

When the news broke about the possibility that the Angels were going to sign Josh Hamilton, I felt excited and nervous at the same time.  Excited that one of the best hitters in baseball might be coming to Anaheim and concerned about the cost that might come with such a signing.  I know most fans don’t consider the cost, but I’m not most fans….

It didn’t take long for us to learn that the Angels would be signing Hamilton for five years and $125 million.  Two more years than any other team would reportedly go for.

It was at this point that it was time to take a deep breath.

If I’m eight years old, I’m jumping for joy and saying “We got JOSH HAMILTON!!”  In fact, that’s what most Angel fans are probably doing and rightfully so.  On the other hand, some of us are realizing that Arte Moreno just walked into the big stakes poker room and pushed all his chips in on the table and when that happens – there are only two possible outcomes.  Either, you win big or you lose big.

This is the price of doing business as a big time franchise, with huge expectations and an owner who wants to win at all costs and a fan base that can become disengaged and uninterested if their team isn’t winning.  Having great players like Mike Trout isn’t enough to fill the stands to capacity – for better or worse, it’s all about winning.

Win and the fans keep coming.  Don’t win and you’ll find tickets on StubHub for a $1. 

Like it or not, the Angels are playing “big boy baseball.”  Players like Arte Moreno operate in a different stratosphere.  Teams with revenue streams like the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers view the world in a different way.  They’re not interested in waiting for tomorrow if the chance to win today is right in front of them.  They’re willing to gamble on today and if you’re faint of heart that scares the crap out of you.

If you are focused on what might happen four, five, six-plus years from now – you’re going to hate the idea of contracts like those given to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols.  If you’re focused on the possibility of what might transpire this coming season and the next 2-3 years, you’re smiling like a Cheshire cat.

You see for some fans – there’s no down side to a signing like Josh Hamilton or even Albert Pujols for that matter.  If the Angels become champions, fans will show up to be a part of the party.  If they fail – most of those fans will find other things or even other teams to occupy their time.  The die-hard fans, the ones that live and die with their team will be left to suffer through seasons where aging stars play out the twilight of their careers.

Like I said earlier – it’s all about wining and I’m grateful that my favorite team has a chance to win it all right now.  Winning isn’t easy and even though some teams try to take a short-cut by signing incredible players to unbelievable contracts – nothing is guaranteed.  I know that, you know that and the Angels certainly know that.

So you’re probably thinking - why all the angst, right?  Live for the moment; ride the wave, right?

 I wish it was that easy.  When the Angels signed Vlad Guerrero  in 2004, I was all in; in fact that’s when Cheryl and I bought season tickets.  When they signed Albert Pujols, we had visions of championships like you wouldn’t believe.  In both cases, our expectations weren’t met and we were incredibly disappointed.

When baseball season rolls around – and I’m talking as early as when pitchers and catchers report – Cheryl and I will invest a lot of time and energy to being fans.  We simply hope that investment pays off and that the journey to get there is a lot of fun, filled with incredible memories.  That’s asking a lot, but that’s what it’s all about.

I will admit, when the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke I felt a slight twinge of jealousy.  I knew that feeling of having hope and excitement the Dodgers were feeling.  I had resigned myself to believing the Angels would not be making that kind of splash and that what we had was going to have to be good enough.

The Angels have missed out on some big free agents during the Arte Moreno years.  Names like Paul Konerko, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford, Carlos Beltran and others slipped away because the price was too high.  Despite that, the Angels managed to stay competitive.  Arte Moreno even started to get the reputation of being somewhat “cheap” and even though that sounds absurd (all things considered) that was the buzz on the message boards and call-in shows. 

It’s amazing how all of that has changed. 

Now, if Arte wants a player – Arte is going to get that player.  Funny, but as a fan – that takes some getting used to.

Well, here we go.  Welcome to Anaheim Josh Hamilton.  Now, get to work and bring us that championship we all want so badly.  Please.  Pretty, please.

November 14, 2012

Profoundly disappointed...

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”

Torii Hunter is a Detroit Tiger and a great many Angel fans are heart-broken today - Cheryl and me included.  We are disappointed like you wouldn’t believe and when I say we, I’m not pretending to speak for all Angel fans – just my wife Cheryl and me.

The disappointment in the Angels not resigning Hunter is monumental for us.  It is heart breaking to see someone like Hunter who has had such a positive impact on our fan experience leave.

What’s worse – we feel like the Angels lied to their fan base.  Arte Moreno intimated that resigning Torii was important.  Mike Scioscia said it was one of their top priorities.  And yet – when push came to shove, it was reported that the Angels offered Hunter a one-year, $5 million contract that Hunter found “disrespectful.” 

Yes, we know that anyone saying that being offered $5 million is disrespectful sounds silly, but it’s all about context and regardless of whether or not you think Hunter was politically incorrect is irrelevant to us right now.

The gaping hole left behind by his departure isn’t likely to be filled.  There’s no mistaking the void left behind for fans, the community, the Angels clubhouse and more.  Torii Hunter is one of those rare individuals who mere presence brings joy and today a big chunk of our joy was decimated.

Angels’ baseball will be a little less interesting for Cheryl and me.

There are so many things we will miss about Hunter and to list them all would take far too long; however, we will try.

We will miss his smile, his sense of humor, his genuine love of the game and the way he interacted with fans.  We will miss his commitment to community, to helping others, to the way he led by example on and off the field.  We will miss Torii Hunter because he made watching baseball that much more fun and every time he stepped in front of a microphone he made us smile.

In an era where celebrities are celebrated in some perverse way for being rude, obnoxious or even deceitful – Hunter was a breath of fresh air.  He was and remains one of the “good guys” and it’s a shame that he’s no longer an Angel.  It’s absolutely a darn shame.

The past five seasons went by too fast and the promise and potential that they held evaporated into thin air.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Personally; Torii Hunter became my all-time favorite player; in fact, he’s easily my all-time favorite athlete. 

So yes, we are disappointed.  We’re heart broken.  We are even a little angry.

This isn’t the first time that a fan-favorite was shown the door in Anaheim.  It happens all the time and that’s part of the business of baseball.  We get that.  It doesn’t mean that we have to like it much.

The silver lining in all of this is that Hunter’s departure paves the way for Peter Bourjos to get a legitimate shot at having an impact.  The same Bourjos that Hunter gracefully stepped aside for after 9 consecutive gold-glove campaigns in center field.  Vintage Torii.

We are huge Peter Bourjos fans… but that doesn’t diminish our disappointment in Hunter’s departure at all.

It’s not that we’re upset that the Angels lost a great talent in the prime of his career (we know he’s 37).  No, it’s the fact that the Angels lost a good man; a God fearing man who would have a tremendous impact on the world around him regardless of what he did for a living.

This is going to be a long off season and today, it’s difficult to look ahead to spring.  The only thing that can make any of this a little easier is if the Angels bring back Joe Saunders and that would be a nice Christmas gift.  

October 29, 2012

Admiring perfection

I don’t care what anyone else has to say – the 2012 World Series was compelling.  I don’t think that a series has to be a see-saw affair to be worth watching.  The Giants were a likeable team with plenty of un-sung stars who came together as a team to deliver a championship to their fans. 

The fascinating thing about this Giants team wasn’t just what they did in the World Series, but what they had to overcome to get there.  As a baseball fan, I enjoyed the journey very much.  To top it off, no one really saw it coming.  A sweep on the surface of things may not seem very exciting – but when it comes in such an unexpected fashion – it can be very exciting. 

Make no mistake about it – this was a great World Series for a variety of reasons.  It was "perfect" in many ways.

The Tigers had the bigger names in Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder – but as all of us have seen first-hand – that doesn’t necessarily buy you a seat at the big boy’s table.  It’s a lesson that we learn over and over again.

I enjoyed this series because of the exposure it gave to names like Marco Scutaro and Ryan Vogelsong and how we got to learn about their stories; their struggles and what they had to do to get to where they are today.

I was very pleased that most of the baseball analysts and experts picked the Tigers and were proven wrong.  I even loved how Joe Buck and Tim McCaver discounted the Giants’ pitching – something that in and of itself was a head scratcher for sure.  It was nice to see them come back and acknowledge that mistake publicly.

I loved the fact that even though the Giants dominated – they looked beatable.  I mean, I bet you thought your favorite team could have given them a better challenge, right?  Let’s be real – when you look at the Giants on paper – they don’t astonish you and they certainly don’t scare you.  If that doesn’t give all of us hope for our own teams, nothing will.

I love the fact that Bruce Bochy is now being mentioned as a possible Hall of Famer.  I love that Sandy Alderson (formerly of the Padres) didn’t see the potential in a guy like Bochy.  Padre fans know what I’m talking about. 

And trust me, as an Angel fan who had to watch Mike Napoli come back to haunt his former team for the past two years – it’s kind of nice to see someone else feel the burn of losing someone that goes on to do great things. 

I love the idea that most people probably thought Hunter Pence had a better chance of winning a title with the Phillies than with the Giants.

It’s a beautiful thing to see a guy with a nick-name like Kung Fu Panda win the World Series MVP award.

Yes, there are many reasons to embrace this World Series as one for the ages.  It was a series that re-emphasized the importance of good pitching and good defense. 

I must admit, I get a little bit of pleasure in knowing that some Dodger fans are feeling the sting of seeing their rivals win titles in two of the last three years.

I can appreciate what the Giants did and the way they did it.  It may not have been the kind of edge-of-my-seat entertainment we have all come to enjoy, but it was grand never-the-less.  

Most of all, it makes me anxious for next year.  I can’t wait for the next story to unfold and I hope that next year it will be the Angels who rise to the occasion.  Oh boy… I can only hope.

October 24, 2012

Unremarkable, but amazing

I’ve never been a fan of Marco Scutaro.  In fact, when he played with the Oakland A’s and A’s fan would chant “Mar-co…. Scoot-a-row” like one would chant “Mar-co Po-lo,” I found the practice annoying.  In turn, I would do my own version of that by saying “Mar-co…” and then follow it up with a nice quick “sucks.” 

Childish?  You bet.  Hey, sometimes you have to find ways to amuse yourself.

Well, that was then and this is now.  I’m not here to bash Marco Scutaro in any way.  Instead, I’m here to say that I like it when guys like Scutaro grab the spotlight come play-off time.  I’m a fan of the unpredictable, especially when an unsung ball-player does something to garner the attention of everyone watching for all the right reasons.

Scutaro is 36 years old.  He’s never been an all-star. He’s never won a batting title or even a Gold Glove.  He’s been grinding out a career since 2002, an unremarkable career at that.  He never hit more than 12 HR’s, has had just one double-digit stolen base season (14 in 2009), and has only made one other post-season appearance (2006 with Oakland).

For Scutaro to shine the way he did in the NLCS is amazing.  He became the first player to ever have six multi-hit games in the championship series.  He hit a whopping .500 in 28 AB’s.  To say he was in the zone is an under-statement.  His  NLCS MVP award is the first award he’s ever won in the big leagues.

I love it. Don't you?

He may not do anything in the World Series and it won’t matter because his team wouldn’t be in it without him.  That’s right – the Giants probably wouldn’t have made it to the World Series without Marco Scutaro.  That’s crazy when you think about it.

Think about this – he started the season in Colorado and was traded (with cash) to the Giants for Charlie Culberson on July 27.  Who’s Charlie Culberson?  He’s a second baseman with a minor league career batting average of .262 over six seasons.  His career OPS is a mere .695. 

Again... who’s Charlie Culberson?  He’s a former first round pick of the Giants (51st overall pick in 2007).  Perhaps Culberson will go on to have a solid MLB career.  Perhaps not.  In any case – he will be the answer to the trivia question “Who was traded for Marco Scutaro in 2012?” for years to come.

What's funny is that most people probably thought the acquisition of Hunter Pence was the big splash the Giants needed.  Who would have thought that it would be Scutaro who had the biggest impact after all?

Scutaro has been traded for the likes of Kristian Bell, Graham Godfrey, Clayton Mortensen and others.  He could have gone his entire career without really being noticed, but now – now, he’s the toast of San Francisco.

Isn’t baseball great?  Think about it.  Marco Scutaro waited ten years to have the biggest moment in his career.  He’s a singles hitter; in fact – he led the NL in singles with 147.  It’s the first time in his entire career that he ever led a league in any offensive category what-so-ever.

You can’t make this stuff up.  Isn’t his story, great? 

Now, I don’t anything about Scutaro, the man – but his name has to be well known to baseball fans everywhere by now.  In a an era when some players make what seems like $6 million a game, Scutaro made that for this season (his biggest contract ever).  Good for him.

So here we are… I’m an Oakland A’s hating Angel fan, who remembers Scutaro from his days in Oakland well.  I used to mock him whenever he came to Anaheim and here I am singing his praises. Go figure. Go Scutaro!

October 22, 2012

Not so fast

What does it say about the St. Louis Cardinals that despite losing Albert Pujols to free agency that they are in the NLCS?  I mean, we’re talking about the player many have described as the best hitter of our generation, right?

More importantly, what does it say about Albert Pujols?

I know this is a hot topic among Angel fans and baseball fans in general.  When you look at the surface of this discussion – you can come to some easy conclusions, right?  At the very least – you can ask some pointed questions…

Is Albert Pujols over-rated?

Some of you; heck, a lot of you are standing and yelling at the top of young lungs – YES, he’s over-rated!

Not so fast.

Look, before we even get into this discussion – I would like to point out that this isn’t the first time a genuine super-star has left a team only to find that his former team had tremendous success the following season without him.

Alex Rodriguez left Seattle following the 2000 season when the Mariners won 91 games.  The following season the Mariners won an incredible 116 games without ARod while the Rangers only won 73.  Same thing happened again when ARod left Texas following the 2003 season when the Ranges won 71 games and improved to 89 wins the following season without him.

Does that make ARod any less of a player? 

Ha! Don't think I didn't hear that snide comment of yours!

Personal opinions about his character aside; from a purely statistical point of view, ARod has been one of the best offensive players in the game.  The fact that the teams he left ended up winning more games without him is probably more coincidence than anything and as fun as it is to level the blame at his feet (and that is big time fun) – that idea is suspect in my opinion.

Same goes for Albert.  The Cardinals are simply a great organization.  Not only are they winning without Albert, but also without Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa and one of the most respected pitching coaches ever in Dave Duncan.

I think it says more about the Cardinals than it does about Albert.  Rather than point any fingers at Albert, I think we should simply praise the Cardinals.

Think about it.  Isn’t it more appropriate to say that the Cardinals won in spite of losing Albert rather than because of losing him?

I think it is.  Give credit where credit is due... the Cardinals are great.

So, let's stop with the Albert Pujols bashing and get back to enjoying the fact that the Texas Rangers and Oakland A's (like the Angels) are also watching the post season from home.  Just saying.

October 15, 2012

2012 Concession Speech

My latest post is on Yahoo's Big League Stew.  Thanks to Kevin Kaduk for asking me to do this again.  It's always fun, but it's something I'd rather not do!  Why?  A blogger from each team is only asked to do this when their team is eliminated from the championship picture.  Got it?

In any case - there's always next year!

October 5, 2012

Mark my words

I don’t know who is going to win between the Rangers and the Orioles today, but I do believe one thing; Joe Saunders will pitch well.  Mark my words.

How do I know this?  It’s really quite simple.  Whenever the so-called experts and baseball analysts of the world come to a consensus on a prediction – they’re usually wrong.  It’s uncanny the way that happens.  I can’t even begin to count how many times their predictions fall short.

It doesn’t matter if their logic is based in sabermetrics or in something more “old school” – they get it wrong a lot.

And to my point - few, if any of them are giving Joe Saunders any kind of a chance.  

Look, I know the “numbers” look bad for Joe.  The experts will tell you that he’s never won in Arlington and his career ERA is above 7.  As a huge Joe Saunders fan, I find some comfort in that because that’s in the past and today is a new day.  Whenever the experts present past performance as a reason for predicted failure, I have to smile.  I mean c'mon - this is America, where the under-dogs always has a chance, right?

After all; life is unpredictable; so why shouldn’t baseball be as well? 

Well, it is and that’s why I believe on this day – we can throw the statistics out the window and believe in the person that is Joe Saunders.  I may be wrong, but I honestly believe Joe will pitch well and give his team a chance to win.  Yes, I’m biased and no, I don’t have any deep analysis to back this up.

This has been a crazy season.  So much of it was totally unpredictable.  Be thankful for that.  If it were that easy to predict outcomes, life – let alone baseball, wouldn’t be much fun.

I’m not an Orioles fan (obviously), but my wife Cheryl and I are huge Joe Saunders fans (and that’s been well documented on this blog).  Are we nervous?  You bet.  Are we excited?  Absolutely. 

Even though our beloved Angels aren’t in the post-season – today’s game holds a great amount of interest for my wife and me.  We’ll be watching, cheering and hanging on every pitch Joe throws.

You have to love post-season baseball.

October 2, 2012

More than anything

Okay so the 2012 season didn’t turn out the way all of us Angel fans hoped.  More on that soon, but today I want to focus on something that is dear to my heart (and my wife’s Cheryl’s as well) and that’s Torii Hunter.

Whenever I think of Torii Hunter it’s easy for me to become emotional.  He makes me laugh because quite frankly – he’s just very funny.  He makes me smile because he has a joyful spirit and you can’t help but smile whenever you are around him, hear him speak or see him interacting with people in general.

Torii Hunter represents everything that is good about baseball and his life is a model for how we should all approach life.  Torii Hunter has sincere appreciation for his life and all the things he’s been able to do with it.  He is philanthropic, humble at the core of who he is, and he is always uplifting others.

My admiration for the man is well documented on this blog; in fact, some might say that I go a little over-board with my praise.

So why blog about Hunter again?

I don’t know what the future holds; although there seems to be some good indications that he will be back with the Angels next year. 

And while I am extremely disappointed with the Angels’ season, I’m even more disappointed for Torii.  I sincerely hope he gets the opportunity to play in a World Series.  If ever there was an athlete who deserves that opportunity, it’s Torii Hunter.

I’m not alone in that thought and Hunter has become very much beloved among the Angels’ faithful.

So here’s the deal…. This can’t be Hunter’s last season because more than anything – I want to have an opportunity to be at his last home game; knowing it’s his last home game and give him the proper respect he deserves.  I want to stand and applaud and say “thank you” – even if he can’t hear me and even though he’ll never know how I feel.  I want that, my wife Cheryl wants that and the many Torii Hunter fans out there want that too.

When Tim Salmon retired – we were fortunate to have that opportunity.  When David Eckstein was non-tendered or even when Joe Saunders was traded – we didn’t have the chance to say “good bye.”  I know that’s just the way it works sometime, but in Torii’s case – I hope more than anything that we have that moment to stand and celebrate his time in Anaheim.

 The days to come in the off season will be long; too long.  It will be painful to look back on all the lost opportunities and struggles of 2012. 

My only hope is that we receive news that Torii will be back (and we hear it soon) and that will give me and Cheryl something to look forward to.

September 24, 2012

It's a matter of trust

This just in - Mike Scioscia doesn’t see the game of baseball the way you and I see it.

Thank God for that.

I find it absolutely ridiculous that a great many fans think they know more about how to manage a baseball game; let alone an entire team or organization better than the people already doing it. 

The way I see it, Fantasy Baseball has made fools of us all.  Yeah, that’s right – I think that just because some people play fantasy baseball and a few have success at it – they think they know everything there is to know about managing a lineup, putting together a roster, etc., etc.


Worse yet is the fan who played a little organized baseball or coached a little league team or touched the game in some way.  They too feel like given the opportunity, they could do a better job.

Right.  Sure thing.  Too bad you can’t see my eyes rolling into the back of my head right about now.

There are nuances and subtleties about baseball that you and I can’t possibly even fathom and every time we think we know more about the game than people like Mike Scioscia – someone should slap us upside the head.

That doesn’t mean that Mike Scioscia is perfect.  There is no such thing as a “perfect manager” in my opinion.  Face it – every fan base spends a certain amount of their time second-guessing the every move of the manager of their favorite team.  It’s what we do – it’s a part of the baseball fan culture.

So… when Arte Moreno came out over the weekend to let the world know that Mike Scioscia and for that matter – Jerry Dipoto would be back for next season, I let out a huge sigh of relief and I actually smiled. 

I can’t think of another person in this big ol’ world that I would rather see managing the Angels than Mike Scioscia.  I know that’s not the popular sentiment right now, but I’m not necessarily one to follow the crowd.

Does Scioscia make me crazy every now and then?  You bet.  Do I scratch my head and wonder why he does certain things?  All the time.

Here’s the thing – when I look at his entire body of work – how he carries himself as a human being (and not just as a manager), I feel good about Mike Scioscia, the man.  That’s where it all starts for me.  We can sit here and argue about the on-the-field decisions Mike makes from now until the cows come home and that’s all well and good; but for me it comes down to the fact that I trust Mike Scioscia to make what he believes is the best decision for the team.

Let me emphasize this – he’s making the best decision based on his body of knowledge of the game.  Not Arte Moreno’s, not Jerry Dipoto’s, not Joe Fan in the stands – not anyone else’s but his own.  When Scioscia goes to make a decision – he’s factored in everything he’s ever learned about the game and he definitely has a philosophy that he’s developed over the years.  I trust that process.

And guess what?  He’s accountable to those decisions.  He doesn’t point fingers or blame anyone else.  He owns his decisions.  I respect that.

Winning isn’t easy.  It shouldn’t be either.  If it was – it wouldn’t be so special.

I’m okay with Mike Scioscia failing every now and then because I believe he learns from his mistakes like all successful people do.  Again – winning isn’t easy; although, some fans look at a roster like the Angels’ and think that it should be.

Am I frustrated with the Angels 2012 campaign?  You better believe it.  But here’s the thing – my frustration is with the individual performances of some of the players and not Mike Scioscia.  I respect Scioscia’s ability to make decisions and I understand that he can’t control the outcome once he makes a decision – it's up to the player to execute.

When Scioscia took Zack Greinke out of the game in his last two starts and inserted Ernesto Frieri – the results were horrific.  Most fans saw that as the last straw and were ready to run Scioscia out of town. 

Not me.

Would I have taken Greinke out?  Probably not; but again, Scioscia doesn’t see the game the way you and I do.  There's a point there folks...

Zack Greinke can’t throw a complete game every time he goes to the mound.  Heck, one can even argue that he might not be able to do that even once a year.  He’s only had 12 complete games in 229 career starts and none since 2010.

Easy for us to sit back and say – Greinke should have pitched a complete game in his last two outings.  Perhaps he should have, but given what Scioscia knows about Greinke, he didn’t let him and I’m good with that. You might think you know better - but you don't.  Sorry, but you don't.

Did I like the outcome?  No.  Absolutely not.  I hated it.  

That being said, I can accept it and even understand it.  Every decision comes with risk.  I believe Scioscia weighed the risks and made his decision based on his knowledge of the game. The decision and the results are two separate things in my mind.

Is this starting to sink in yet?  You see - I'm comfortable with Mike Scioscia, the man and therefore; I'm comfortable with the decisions he makes. The results are almost irrelevant.  It's really that simple.

I’m betting that given the same set of circumstances in Greinke’s next game – Scioscia will bring in Frieri or someone else to close the game.  Not because he’s stubborn; not because he wants to prove a point, but because he wants to give his team the best chance to win the game.  I trust his motives and I trust them more than I do the popular opinion of the fans who think they know better.  It’s that simple for me.

When and if that time comes I know - fans will boo.  They will break furniture and cuss like sailors.  They will have a hissy fit like no other.  

Me on the other hand; I’ll be laughing (on the inside) and hoping the player executes the way he should.  If not – I’ll blame the player and not Scioscia because again, I trust his ability to make the right call.  Mike Scioscia didn’t ask to earn my trust, but he has it just the same.

You on the other hand... not so much. Just saying.

September 6, 2012

I still hate the A's, but I do love blogging

When it comes to the Angels I almost always have something to say; however, when it comes to blogging about it, I don’t always make the time.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want to write about them – it’s just that sometimes life has a way of getting in the way of all the things you want to do every day.

I have to admit that writing a blog and keeping it up is hard work.  I was reminded of that when I read a piece recently by one of my favorite writers – Joe Posnanski who wroteabout the passing of a long-time Atlanta Braves Blogger named MacThomason.

In his piece, Posnanski wrote about the difference between all the blogs that are out there “…the real difference between them is the commitment. Few last. The idea of writing every day about your favorite baseball team fits right into the ‘sounded good when I started’ category.”

How true.

I knew that going in.  My goal when I started was to have some staying power in this game and not fade into oblivion.  It hasn’t been easy.  When I go a few days or even a few weeks without posting, I feel guilty.  I feel like I’m letting a few loyal readers down.  I even get nudges every now and then when I don’t post.

So – today’s post is for those that nudge and in a small way for Mac Thomason who had a great deal of staying power – even in the midst of fighting for his life. 

When I started this blog, I started out by telling the world how much I hated theOakland A’s.  That first post took place nearly three years ago and as I write this today – it’s the A’s and my disdain for them that inspired me to blog now.

There are lots of disappointing things about this season and there are plenty of things that make me want to rant and scream, but the one thing that bothers me more than anything else is the fact that the Oakland A’s are in a pennant race.

Are you kidding me?

I would be perfectly happy if they faded into the darkness of never-never land and became absolutely irrelevant till the end of time.  No such luck.

Lucky for me – my Angels just swept the A's (to ease some of my pain) and if everything goes the way I hope – they’ll do the same thing in four games next week.  Now – that; would make me smile.

I’m not going to go back over all the reasons I don’t like the A’s – you can find that in my original post from 2009

Here’s what I have to say today about the A’s.  They’ve had a good run, but quite frankly – it’s time for it to end.  Billy Beane is not a genius and there isn’t going to be a miracle in Oakland this year.  I know the hordes of Beane admirers are hoping for something more, but it’s going to end soon.  It has to.

Look – believing in Billy Beane is only going to give you false hope.  Save yourself the agony and realize that although he’s made brought a lot of attention to sabermetrics – he hasn’t found all the answers and I’m guessing he isn’t going to. 

Don’t look at me like that.  I’m telling you the truth.  That team isn’t going to win a championship in the near future, period.  Their story might make for a good movie, but it makes for a lousy season.  Just saying.

By the way – if there are so many stinkin’ Billy Beane fans, why don’t they show up at home games?  They might as well rename the ball park Tombstone – because it’s as a dead as it gets.

Enough about the A’s.  I really want to talk about my Angels; our Angels.

I know they’re not out of the woods yet – but they’re showing signs of life.  I like it.  In fact, I love it.  Now, I know some of  you would much rather ignore the recent play and focus on all the bad stuff that has taken place all season long and to that I say…Meh... 

Even when I’m at my lowest point in a season – the last thing I want to do is sit around and complain about my team with other fans.  Sure, I’ll write about it – but to actually engage in that kind of a discussion with other people is about as appealing as being stung by a hundred hornets.

There are few things I dislike more than complaining about my favorite baseball team with other fans.  Even when I’m totally dissatisfied, I can’t stomach hearing complaints from other fans for some reason.  Angels talk with Terry Smith after an Angels’ loss is nauseating.  That old saying about "misery loving company" is lost on me.

So here’s the deal; I know it sounds cliché, but let’s just take things one game at a time.  Next up is the Detroit Tigers who in many ways mirror the Angels.  Here’s a team with a big payroll and huge expectations… they signed Prince Fielder to a monster contract, have some really solid pitching with guys like Justin Verlander and yet – by most people’s standards – they’ve under-achieved. 

The Angels post-season hopes have a lot riding on every game they play from here on out and with the Tigers and the A’s coming to town, I’ll be disappointed if the stadium isn’t rocking.  Our team is playing meaningful games in September and that’s what it’s all about.  Who’s with me?

August 29, 2012

Finding joy in a season of struggles

I know, I know, trust me; I know exactly how you feel.  

You’re frustrated.  You’re disappointed.  You’re confused and you’re even angry.  You keep asking yourself or anyone that will listen - how can a team with this much talent be this inconsistent?  You want to assign blame.  You’re ready to fire any combination of Mike Scioscia, Mike Butcher, the Rally Monkey and Vernon Wells.

I get it.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  Like I said, I know.

I don’t have any answers for why the Angels are in the predicament they’re in.  Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t.  That being said, I do have some thoughts and even some questions for you; yes – questions for you.

Let me ask you – can you enjoy a baseball season where your team doesn’t make the post season?  I know the quick answer might be – “No way” – but stop for just a second and think about the question in a deeper way.

Have you enjoyed watching Mike Trout burst onto the scene like a hurricane?  Have you enjoyed Mark Trumbo’s sophomore season as a middle-of-the-lineup-force-to-be-reckoned-with?  How about the season Jered Weaver has put together?

Look – I know nothing compares to a team that is winning and winning often, but the cold hard fact is that only one of the thirty teams in Major League Baseball will be a champion.  Don’t take this the wrong way; because I am in no way throwing in the towel.  I’m just asking some questions and sharing some thoughts.

Here’s what I know.  On many levels this season has been incredibly fun for me.  There was the Jered Weaver no-hitter and the fine individual performances of Mike Trout and Jered Weaver.  I have savored every moment of Torii Hunter’s season; knowing this could be his last in Anaheim. 

And yet… there’s an empty feeling that goes along with all the good times and it’s the feeling we have all come to know when the team struggles, under-achieves and just plain sucks.  It’s a horrible contrast in realities.

Still… this season isn’t over and if the Angels can make it to a wild card play-in game, they have a shot.  At this point in time, I’ll take that.  Just give them a shot; that’s all I ask.

If last season taught us anything about baseball; it’s that the season really is a marathon and that until your team is mathematically eliminated, anything can happen.  It’s a beautiful thing.  It can also be agonizing.  Watching a team this good – struggle, isn’t easy to do and judging by the attendance, many of you have definitely checked out.

And then there’s last night.

I know there are lots of other games I could talk about – such as the 14-13 triumph in Boston, but I’m going to bring up last night for the simple reason that we (Cheryl and me) were there.

When the Angels fell behind 5-2 in the sixth things looked grim, but if you’ve been following this team, you know that they seem to be hitting Clay Buchholz pretty good this season.  That gave me a little hope; albeit, just a bit. 

When the Angels closed the gap to 5-4, the spark of hope got a little brighter.  And then it happened...

Cheryl turned to me and said “We’re going to win this game; I’ve already played it out in my mind.”  You know what?  I believed her.  I didn’t say it at the time – but deep down, I knew I’d be reminding her of that statement after the game.

And then it happened… the Angels came from behind in the bottom of the 9th for a walk-off win.  With one out- Erick Aybar was hit by a pitch.  Alberto Callaspo (who is under-appreciated in my opinion) walked.  Mike Trout singled and Aybar scored.  With runners on first and third; up steps Torii Hunter who delivered a sacrifice fly to score Callaspo to win the game.

Walk-off wins are about as much fun as you can have at a baseball game and last night was all that!

Sometimes I think Cheryl takes the losses harder than I do; so when she sees something or feels something about a game, I take notice.  It’s fun to watch.  She starts out by giving the players tough love – telling them how bad they are (not to their face, but just out-loud of course), but as soon as they do something positive, she’s cheering and high fiving everyone around her.

On a night when the weather was horrible (it was hot, muggy and the heat coated us like a heavy blanket), something cool happened – a walk-off win - over the Boston Red Sox no less.  More than that – a memory was created and a little bit of joy took place.  As we walked out, Cheryl realized she had called it… she called the come-from-behind win.  It was perfect.

That’s what baseball is all about. 

Even in the midst of a season of struggles, we can still manage to have a little fun and a heck of a good time anytime we’re at a game.  How about you? 

See you at the ball park.

July 16, 2012

Checking in long enough to bash Keith Law

Ever notice that the baseball season just rolls along with or without you?  I’ve been more than busy lately and haven’t had time to put any thoughts on paper for a while.  Never-the-less, the baseball season is moving along.  Shocking, right?

So, call this my better-late-than-never, just-past-the-half-way-point-of-the-season – check-in post.

Okay, so are you pinching yourself every time you watch Mike Trout play a baseball game (my arm is black and blue)?  Can you believe that this amazing young man is on our favorite team?  I mean – there aren’t enough superlatives to describe how great he is, let alone how much fun he is to watch.  And let’s really put the emphasis on “fun.”

If you haven’t been to a game yet to watch Trout – you owe it to yourself to make it to the stadium.  In fact, load up the car with kids, parents, grand-parents, whoever because Mike Trout is a once-in-a-generation type of player.  Be sure to warn them all that when Trout does something spectacular –you might give them a shove… like a - did –you-see-that? – kind of a shove.  It could get dangerous.

Believe the hype – better yet, go see what all the hoopla is all about for yourself.

I’m not kidding folks.  Every time he steps on the field he’s liable to do something absolutely spectacular, be it in the batter’s box, on the base paths or in the outfield.  Trout is so good he could leave Chris Berman speechless. 

If there’s a player in baseball who is more fun to watch than Mike Trout, I sure would like to see him.

And then there’s Mark Trumbo… and before I get to singing his praises, I have a bone to pick with ESPN’s Keith Law.

Keith Law hates Mark Trumbo.  I don’t know how else to say it, but he just does.  At least that’s the impression I get every time I read something Law has to say about Trumbo. 

Take this bit from his July 2, 2012 post on ESPN about how Trumbo didn’t deserve to be on the All-Star team.  “If you're obsessed with current-season performance, Austin Jackson certainly belongs on the team over Mark Trumbo, a disaster with the glove whose early-season walk-rate spike has disappeared.”

Come on Law – lighten up.  I really think you take yourself a little too seriously.  Mark Trumbo is an absolute blast to watch.  He hits absolutely mammoth homeruns, plays the game hard (ever watch him run down the line?) and is the kind of player who absolutely should be in an All-Star game.  Besides Law – the game is for us fans – not people like you who don’t know how to have a good time or appreciate the game for its true beauty.  Just saying.

Law loves to accentuate the negatives.   Granted, he knows more about baseball and how to break down players better than I ever will – but sometimes he goes a little too far with his “campaign to be right.”

I know I should care less about what Keith Law has to say – but there’s something about his pompous attitude that rubs me the wrong way.  I generally respect him as a talent evaluator and usually enjoy reading his work (especially when he focuses on a player’s mechanics), but sometimes he’s just a little twerpy to me.  Sorry.

As right as he’s been about Mike Trout – and he’s been dead on; he’s been just as wrong about Mark Trumbo – but he’ll never admit it.

Trumbo is one of the bright spots in the game and one of the young stars of the game who deserves more praise and less bashing by the likes of Keith Law in my opinion.  Mark Trumbo makes me smile so much my face hurts.  He’s given me a lot of moments of unbridled joy this season than Austin Jackson will give anyone in his whole career.

Anyway… enough with Keith Law.

Okay – so how about Mark Trumbo Angels fans?  We all knew he was going to be good – but hasn’t he exceeded all of our expectations?  Come on – when he’s up to bat – do you leave your seat at the stadium?  Do you get off the couch at home?  Of course you don’t.

By the way – when Austin Jackson comes up to bat… well, you know.  I mean - let’s say nature comes calling and Jackson is up to bat…. given my options – I’m heading to the john.  When Trumbo is up, I’m holding it for as long as it takes. 

Trumbo has that Reggie Jackson (no relation to Austin by the way) quality about him.  You know that if he gets a hold of one – it quite possibly is going to be of the jaw-dropping variety.  The show he put on at the Homerun Derby was must-see TV.  He’s simply impressive.

So… here we are 89 games into the season and the Angels are trailing the Texas Rangers by 5 games.  Most of the experts talk about the Angels in Wild-card terms, but I’m not giving up hope on a Western Division title.

The fact that so many analysts and the like are penciling the Rangers in as division champs actually makes me feel pretty good.  Face it – more often than not, these folks are just wrong.

I’m not discounting how good Texas is.  I mean I do consider them to be the second best team in the American League.  I just like the Angels’ pitching and the offense has shown signs of being really good when it has to be.  I never feel like the team is out of a ball game and I haven’t had that feeling in a while.

Look these two teams are going to square off 13 more times between now and the end of the season.  A lot can happen just in those 13 games alone.  I can’t wait to watch every one of those games.

Let’s just say I like the Angels chances.  I didn’t like them much last year or the year before, but this year has a different feel to it.  Maybe it’s the vibe I’m getting from my rose-colored glasses.  Maybe it’s the euphoria of watching a little more than half a season of Trumbo and Trout.  Whatever it is – doesn’t really matter.

The last two post-seasons have been a miserable experience for Angel fans forced to watch other teams or not watch at all. 

I believe this year can be special (how that’s for deep analysis?).  Deep down – you do too, don’t you?  The journey continues folks and every game is a new adventure.  It’s time to get to the ball park and let yourself love baseball like never before.

June 20, 2012

Vote Halos

Angel fans, I have a bone to pick with you.  For whatever reason when it comes to all-star voting – you (okay – we) are an apathetic bunch.  By in large our fan base lacks passion and that really shows when it comes time to putting Angels on the all-star team. 

It’s a darn shame that Tim Salmon never made an all-star team.  As one of the teams with the best attendance, there really isn’t an excuse for that gigantic mistake.  We felt content to leave it up to the players and coaches to see to it that Salmon made a team instead of voting him in as a starter.  That didn’t work out so well now did it?  Look, I was as guilty as anyone in that case.  I admit it and I regret it.

As a fan base – we suck sometimes.  I don’t know how else to say it.  Sure, we can fill up a stadium when it’s play-off time, but we don’t do the other things that make a fan base great.  Look, I know some of you are great fans, but by in large – we just don’t support our team in all the ways we should and one of those is by voting for deserving Angels when all-star ballots are available.

You know where I’m going with this don’t you?

Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout deserve to be all-stars; more than that – they deserve to start, but in order to make that happen they have to be voted in. 

Now, if you call yourself a die-hard Angels fan and you haven’t voted for Trumbo and Trout – shame on you.  Seriously, it’s not that hard and no one (at least not me) is asking you to vote 1,000 times.  I’m not even asking you to vote a 100 times (although that would be nice).  All I’m asking is that you vote the 25 times Major League Baseball will allow you to vote (on-line) per email address.

Doesn’t Trumbo and Trout deserve as much?

The only Angel who is in the top five of votes for any position thus far is Albert Pujols and he’s fifth among American League First Basemen. 

I’m not asking you to vote for Albert (Paul Konerko is much more deserving in my opinion) and I’m not asking you to stuff the ballot with all the Angels.  All I’m asking is that you vote for the two guys who have given you the most joy this season and that’s Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout.

When you look at the league leaders in statistics, you’re going to see Trumbo and Trout well represented.  Trumbo is 10th in batting average (.326), 9th in RBI’s (47), 6th in OPS (1.009), and tied for 11th in homeruns (16).  Trout is 6th in batting average (.337 – just qualified last night with enough plate appearances), his .929 OPS is 14th best, he’s 4th in stolen bases (19) and is playing gold-glove caliber defense.

Did I really need to cite those stats to you? 

Look at this way – both players are having phenomenal seasons – if everything goes the way they should they will both have fantastic careers.  Trout has already been compared to several Hall of Famers and although it’s early in both their baseball lives – they are laying the foundation for careers of significance.  When all is said and done – part of their legacy should be as all-star game starters.  Not just participants, but as starters.

Do you hear me?  Does that resonate with you at all?

Let’s not leave it up to the players and coaches.  Let’s not forget the mistakes we made in not making sure Tim Salmon made a team.

Think about the players we never voted on to the squad as starters and then left for another team where they voted them on.  Players like Jim Edmonds (2000, 2003, and 2005) and David Eckstein (2005).

The list of players who we voted on to the starting squad is small.  It includes Vladimir Guerrero (2004, 2005, 2007), who undoubtedly benefited on his popularity long before he became an Angel; Troy Glaus received enough votes in 2003 (one of his worst seasons), but failed to get voted into the starting lineup in 2000 and 2001 when he had monster seasons hitting 47 and 41 homeruns respectively.

Wally Joyner made one all star start in his career and that was in 1986; his rookie year.  Don Baylor only made it once; his 1979 MVP season.

Heck, Bobby Grich was only voted on as a starter once (1982) as an Angel (he was also voted on in 1976 as a member of Orioles). 

Angel fans loved Darin Erstad.  Did he ever get voted on as a starter?  Nope. Bengie Molina?  Nope.  Jim Fregosi?  Nope.  Garret Anderson?  Heck no.  Sure some of them made all-star teams, but it wasn’t because of Angel fans.

How about players who have been all-star starters prior to coming to Anaheim – only to not get voted on the starting squad again?  Well, there’s Torii Hunter for one.  Vernon Wells is another (okay, not the best example). 

There are players who continued to have success in the voting prior to and during their Angel careers – but they’re Hall of Famers – Rod Carew (4 times) and Reggie Jackson (2 times).  Even Fred Lynn had one all-star start as an Angel (1983), but had five prior starts as a member of the Red Sox.

Over time, Trumbo and Trout will get more and more of the national vote.  Their talents are too good to be ignored and it’s only a matter of time before the whole nation begins to appreciate them and recognize them as bona fide stars.  In the mean time – it’s up to us to push them into the spot light.

Look at the current vote leaders in the American League.  Do you really want a team full of Texas Rangers?  Just saying.

One last thing – some of you will whine and belly ache when the national media ignores the Angels or doesn’t give enough love to Angels having great seasons or even a great game and yet – when given the opportunity to push those players into the view of a national audience yourself (via all-star voting) – you sit on your hands.

Let’s do this folks.  #VoteHalos  Vote online now.

June 15, 2012

The Saturday night dilemma...

Saturday night is going to be one of those nights that is filled with mixed emotions.  The Angels will be playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in a game that will mark the homecoming of Joe Saunders.  As regular readers of this blog know; Cheryl and I are absolutely huge Joe Saunders fans.  To top it off, it also happens to be Joe Saunders’ birthday.

We knew that sooner or later this day would come and it wasn’t necessarily something we were looking forward to.  We have a great deal of affection for Joe and always want to see him do well; however, Saturday night will be the one time Cheryl and I will not hope for “all” the best for Joe.  Sure, we want him to pitch well, but at the end of the day or in this case – the game, we want to Angels to emerge victorious.

A 1-0 Angels’ victory would be just fine with us – especially if that one run came after Joe leaves the game.  Actually, the Angels could win 10-0, so long as those 10 runs come at the expense of the D-Backs bull pen for all we care.

Joe is having another solid season so far.  He has a 3.48 ERA and is on pace to surpass his best seasons for strike outs (49 in 75 inning so far).  Normally a contact pitcher – he’s striking out 5.9 hitters per nine innings which is his best mark since 2006.  His walks per nine innings is 2.3 which is the second lowest of his career.

All in all –Joe is having a solid season and yet – he remains the subject of trade talks and is seen by some as someone blocking the way for the D-Backs biggest pitching prospect Trevor Bauer.

Joe’s not a sexy pitcher. He’s not a power pitcher with a big arm and a ton of strike outs.  He just gets the job done. 

Okay, so that last statement just got me an eye roll from the sabermetric types didn’t it?

Look, for whatever reason – Joe defies the expectations of a lot of “experts” which in my mind isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s one of the things I love about Joe.

One thing you can’t argue is that by-in-large, he keeps his team in ball games.  You can count on him for a good 200 innings a season and that in and of itself, is something to be proud of.  I would even venture to say that he is vastly under-rated.  And yes, I know I’m biased.

In any case – Saturday night will be interesting to say the least.  Should I wear my Joe Saunders D-Backs shirts with an Angel hat or should I wear my Joe Saunders Angels shirt instead? Or should I wear my Joe Saunders All-Star jersey from 2008?   Hey, these are important decisions (for both Cheryl and me)!

Look – Joe is one of the good guys and Cheryl and I are always going to be fans of his.  We’re Angels' fans first – but if ever there was a close second – the D-Backs (when Joe is pitching) is it.

Good luck Joe – but Go Angels!

Check out this link for other previous blogs related to Joe Saunders

June 14, 2012

Remembering Roger Jongewaard

This has been a tough week. Monday night I learned that Roger Jongewaard (long time baseball executive) passed away from a heart attack. This news came on the eve of the two year anniversary of my wife’s dad’s passing – Charles. Charles never met Roger Jongewaard, but he was a big fan of Jongewaard’s Bake ‘N Broil’s boysenberry pie.

The news and anniversary both took place while the Angels were playing the Dodgers – which is oddly coincidental because when Charles passed away two years ago – the same two teams were facing off. What makes it even stranger is that five years ago, when my own dad passed away – the Dodgers and Angels were playing then too.

Needless to say, whenever the Angels and the Dodgers hook up – our minds tend to go back to the death of our dads. And now to have the death of Roger Jongewaard to boot; well, it’s beyond words.

I had the privilege of interviewing Roger Jongewaard in 2010 and let me tell you it was as close as I’ve ever come to baseball royalty. This is a man who was a giant in the baseball scouting world – but even more importantly – he was a man who was beloved by so many people.

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times called Jongewaard “a seminal figure” and went on to write that “everyone in the game knew and revered him.”

Scott Miller of CBS Sports wrote “Jongewaard was an old-school gentleman, both well-respected and well-liked by colleagues. With him goes an era.”

Rick Rizz a Mariners’ broadcaster said "The thing that stands out is that for his first 12 years every one of his first-round picks made it to the major leagues..."  "He was a dedicated baseball man. Baseball was his life. He knew talent, and to have a guy like this in the organization for that long of time was absolutely wonderful for this organization at that point."

Rizz went on to say "It is a sad loss, not only for the Mariners but for baseball. He knew everybody," Rizz said. "A sad, sad day." Indeed.

Mariners’ President Chuck Armstrong had this to say… "You look at our success during that period of time in the drafts and players we brought in. He was really a scout's scout. I used to laugh with him that he could tell you who each prospect's mom went to senior prom with. His mind was a mental computer and talent evaluation was the best I've ever run across in this game. We were lucky to have him for those years."

USA Today's Bob Nightengale published this obituary.

Per Nightengale: "You go back and look at his track record, it was amazing," said Minnesota Twins veteran scout Ken Compton, who was hired by Jongewaard and spent 18 years together with the Mariners. "His baseball exploits are deep and long, but he really cared about his employees."

And this…"He was everything you'd want to be in a man," says Boston Red Sox special assistant Gary Hughes, a longtime associate of Jongewaard's. "He was quiet, humble and unbelievably efficient. The best at what he did for a long, long time."

Ryan Divish wrote this in the News Tribune “In the often cutthroat and back-biting world of Major League Baseball, Jongewaard was a gentlemen first, baseball scout second. He was beloved and, more important, respected by his co-workers, colleagues and adversaries.”

Tuesday night, I received a call from Roger’s son-in-law Andy who called me to make sure I had heard the news (which I had). Andy knew I really cherished my interview with Roger and wanted to make sure I had heard. Andy didn’t have to do that, but that’s the kind of man Andy is and that’s the kind of family Roger was a part of - always thinking of others.

Roger had a great many accomplishments and if you read the articles I’ve linked to above, you’ll get a sense of what a great baseball man Roger was. Clearly, you will also get the sense that he was even a greater person.

Roger is survived by his wife, Carol, and four children -- Terry, Janice, Kristin (Andy’s wife) and Don - and 12 grandchildren. Sadly, his daughter Dyan preceded him in death in February after battling cancer.

More about Roger Jongewaard: HERE

June 7, 2012

Head shakes and face palms

Baseball is a funny game. The very moment you think you have some it figured out; it baffles you again and again. The only thing we know for sure is that on any given day, anything can happen. The routine can become an adventure, the spectacular can look routine and when all is said and done you wind up shaking your head in amazement or with your face planted in the palm of your hands in total frustration.

As baseball fans all we can do is enjoy the ride, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Take the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. For the life of me, I can’t figure this team out. Doubt anyone else can either.

This is a team that continues to find ways to beat themselves; be it with poor defense, poor base running, poor plate discipline, poor situational hitting… you name it. It’s just hard to watch. But "watch" is exactly what we do and after a while - one starts to form some opinions...

I’m writing this blog on the fly. In other words, I’m basically writing whatever comes into my head. This seems like the best route to go today because quite frankly, I haven’t found the inspiration to write about anything specific lately and thus the absence of posts in recent days.

So what’s on my mind?

Let me start with Mark Trumbo. Are you kidding me? Most Angel fans thought he was good, but I doubt any of us really knew he was going to be this good. He’s clearly the most valuable player on the team to date and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

Mark Trumbo makes me smile. In fact, he might even make me a little giddy from time to time. When I think back to the comments that were made by a great many baseball analysts as to why he wasn’t as good as Eric Hosmer of the Royals and how his plate discipline was going to limit his production, etc., etc. I just smile. You might even catch me laughing out loud once in a while.

Like I said earlier – baseball is a funny game and despite the best efforts of those who like to do projections and such – sometimes, stuff just happens that defies expectations. Thank God for that.

And then there’s Mike Trout. Once again… are you kidding me? Everyone who pays any attention what-so-ever to baseball knew he was going to be good. I mean the whole baseball world kept telling us as much – but even still, here’s a 20 year old doing things that just aren’t supposed to be possible when you’re that young.

But you know what I like best about Trout? His smile. He flashes it a lot. He’s having the time of his life (as he should be) and winning over fans by the boat load. It’s refreshing to watch a young player play the game hard, without fear and have fun doing it. His production is tremendous and I have to pinch myself every time I think about being able to watch him for the next several years because if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up.

Now, let me tell you something that I really, really love about both Trout and Trumbo. I absolutely love the fact that they play the game at full speed all the time. When they hit a ball on the ground, they bust their rear ends down to first base – every time. They never take a play off and if there’s anything that a fan appreciates more than anything – its maximum effort all the time.

You know who doesn’t do that?

I know you know who doesn’t, but I’ll say his name just the same – Albert Pujols.

I hate that. I hated the fact that I had to even write that. He’s not alone in that category, but he certainly stands out in my mind.

I know he’s older than Trout and Trumbo. If I wanted to, I could probably come up with all kinds of excuses why it’s okay that he doesn’t hustle down the line every time he hits the ball, but I won’t. It bugs me and it bugs my wife Cheryl too who is quick to point it out every time it happens.

It bugs me because I see guys like Josh Hamilton play every moment like it might be his last. It bugs me because no one is willing to call him on it. It bugs me just because this is the kind of thing that annoys me to no end.

There, I said it.

Like I said earlier – I’m just writing about whatever comes to my head and that includes stuff that I’ve been holding on to all season.

In fact, I picked up something early on that bugged me about Albert. It was the third game of the season against the Royals. It was the bottom of the first and Howie Kendrick was on second base. Albert was up to bat and Jonathan Sanchez uncorked a wild pitch. As the catcher was scrambling for the ball and Kendrick was making his way to third base – Albert had his head down, scratching the dirt with his feet to prepare for the next pitch.

In other words – he was NOT giving any direction to the base runner; instead he was focused on his at bat and nothing else. It seemed odd to me; even out of character.

It was the first moment when I found something that bugged me about Albert. Am I nitpicking? Probably. Hey, it’s what a fan does when he sits down to try and find something to write about for his blog.

Maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of this than I should. Heck, I probably won’t bring it up again – but today is one of those days to just let some stuff fly.

Now with all that being said – let me tell you something else that I noticed about Albert and it happened last night.

Like I said earlier – when you think you have something or someone figured out – something happens that makes you rethink everything.

In any case – in the bottom of the 9th after Albert had doubled and tagged up and run to third on a fly ball (showing good hustle) he stood at the base and looked to be cheering Kendrys Morales on who was up to bat.

It was a small thing – but I loved it. It was the first time that I noticed Albert looking like he really wanted to win a game.

I’m not saying he doesn’t want to win every game – I’m just saying it was the first time I personally noticed Albert acting like he really cared.

Please don’t take any of this the wrong way. I’m absolutely thrilled to have Albert on the Angels and I am looking forward to watching him play for the next ten years. I really and truly am excited about it.

Let’s just say that I’m still trying to understand him as best as any fan can. Maybe I never will understand him completely, but it won’t be for a lack of trying.

If you have spent any time on this blog at all – you know that this is what I’m all about. I’m not about statistical analysis (although I will dabble in that once in a while) and I’m not about any kind of in-depth player evaluation or analysis, etc. I’m about the fan experience and that’s what makes True Grich the blog that it is – for better or worse.

I absolutely love Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. I am still trying to love Albert Pujols. I believe in time I will feel the same way adoring Cardinal fans felt about him for all of the years he was in St. Louis. I’m still looking for reasons to embrace him. Time will tell.

Please note that I haven’t been totally honest here. I didn’t write down everything that came to my mind. That would have involved a long Erick Aybar rant. I’ll spare you from that for now. Just saying.