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.