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.