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.


  1. Good read, I echo your thoughts and don't get me started on Aybar et al.

  2. 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.

    Ahem. But the view from 20,000 feet looks pretty good.

  3. Rob,

    I don't understand your comment. I'm a little slow... please explain.

  4. Sorry, just being a little snarky about Trumbo's four strikeout game in the first installment of the Seattle series; in fact, he was in a mini-slump coming into that game, so that he was 1-for-16 at the end of that string. But, yeah, he's overall been way better than anyone, myself included, had hoped for. His plate discipline really seems to have taken a quantum leap this year, something Jeff Sullivan wrote about earlier in the year: it looks like Trumbo is swinging at far fewer pitches out of the strike zone.

  5. The two Angels who really disappoint me this year are Kendrick and Aybr. Kendrick more. I'm still waiting for the batting champ to show up. This year he acts like none of it matters. It's just baseball. By the end of the season things will balance out. Really? Maybe they won't. At least start working harder and act like you care. I don't expect them to be perfect but you can tell when players really aren't trying very hard. Those two just got big extensions. Maybe if they had to work for their next year they'd do better.

  6. Bob in section 514June 13, 2012

    If you want to see what it looks like when an entire team plays to their absolute full potential, you should check out some of the LA Kings highlights from the past two months. It's amazing how much good can happen when there is accountability and strong leadership in an organization. The Kings management was astute enough early on to realize that the team was not responding to their coach and that a change was needed. The rest, as they say, is history.

    I agree with you about Pujols but what you didn't mention is that a strong field manager would not tolerate such laziness and, unfortunately, when the so called team leader is going through the motions, others tend to follow his lead.

    Just perhaps, if the Halos had a strong manager in the dugout who could get in Albert's face rather than resting on his 10 year old laurels, we'd see a better effort from the $240 million man, as well as those that surround him. Isn't that part of a manager's job???

  7. Is it part of a manager's job? Certainly if we are talking about a high school team, but when it comes to a major league baseball team - I'm not so sure. Albert Pujols is not alone in what we perceive as a "lack of hustle" - it seems to be wide spread throughout the game. Would I prefer they play hard every moment? Yes. Is that realistic? I don't know. And at the end of the day, I'm not sure it's the difference between winning and losing.

    Mike Scioscia doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who "get's in anyone's face" and that style of coaching/managing seems to be outdated (even Terry Collins has mellowed). Regardless, I'll take my chances with Scioscia.

  8. and just so we're clear... the way a player runs down the line doesn't really concern me as much as you might think. I just brought it up as a part of my observation regarding the differences between the way players approach the game. It's not necessarily something I get that worked up about.

  9. Bob in section 514June 13, 2012

    I'm glad you have clarified for me that Scioscia (or any major league manager, for that matter)is in no way responsible for getting maximum production from the talent he has been given to work with. I'm also glad you're ok with spending your time and money watching "lack of hustle" and that it's ok as long as it's "wide spread throughout the game." At least you have acknowledged that I am not hallucinating. Instead, you have confirmed what I am observing but state that you are ok with it. You have helped me understand why I enjoy attending my son's high school games much more than watching this very talented Angels team underachieve and go through the motions. And, sadly, I do not expect this to change as long as Scioscia is at the helm. Go back and look at some videos of the 2002 Angels. It wasn't only their World Championship that made us fall in love with them-- it was the way they approached the game-yes, like a "high school team." Their scrappiness blended with the talent they had carried them to heights that no Halos team has seen before or since. And hustle and scrappiness are not outdated concepts in baseball (except maybe around Angels Stadium the last 2 1/2 years) despite your reply above. Just watch the Nationals or even the lowly Orioles and how they approach the game-how refreshing and fun to watch this season!

  10. Good grief Bob. You're as cranky as ever. I would think you'd be in a better mood after the Kings won the cup.

    Thanks for putting words in my mouth. There's a lot of things I don't like - I just don't get nearly as worked up about them as you do. The difference between us is that I don't dwell on the negative nearly as much as you do. You seem to revel in it. Heck, even during Weaver's no hitter - you acted like you wanted Callaspo (or Collapse-po, as you call him) to screw it up in hopes that it would lead to him being dropped or traded.

    I don't have the energy or desire to continue this conversation with you.

    It's clear you're not a Scioscia fan. I get it. We all get it. Whatever.

  11. Bob in section 514June 13, 2012

    Seeing Juan Rivera hit a game winning HR against the Angels would make anyone cranky :-)

  12. Bob - at the end of the day I don't think it's realistic to think managers are going to get in the face of players who don't run to first base at full speed. Right or wrong - that's just not going to happen.

    It's kind of crazy to get that worked up about it.

    As for the 2002 Angels - that team had players like Garret Anderson who had the reputation of being "lazy" for his entire career... But "we" forget that because the team won it all.... Just saying.

  13. Regarding Juan Rivera... This is absolutely true.