April 24, 2013

Things are getting interesting

Michael Roth will make his first major league start tonight against the Texas Rangers and Yu Darvish.  Darvish is a potential Cy Young Award candidate. Roth is a year removed from pitching in the College World Series (CWS).  It’s a match up that’s tailor made for baseball.

It’s David vs. Goliath.  It’s the stuff that makes baseball compelling.

Some things you should know about Roth… he’s from the University of South Carolina (USC) – where he was the winner of the President’s Award; the most prestigious honor given to a South Carolina student-athlete.  He is also the winner of the 2012 SEC's Boyd McWhorter Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year award as well as 2012 SEC Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.  The kid has talent and brains.

Roth made eight career CWS starts; so he’s used to pressure.  He holds the record for innings pitched in the CWS with 60.1 career innings.  His career ERA in the CWS is 1.49 – 5th lowest among all pitchers who have at least 30 career innings in the CWS.

Roth is one of the best pitchers in USC's and the CWS' history.  He has the pedigree to be a success and I have a feeling he will be up for tonight’s challenge.  In fact, I’m fired up about it because there’s a lot of potential for a great story here.  It’s must-watch stuff in my opinion.

For more details about Roth's career at USC - click HERE.

Speaking of "much-watch-stuff"… last night’s walk off homerun by Howie Kendrick was awesome.  I’m always curious as to why people would leave a tied game going into extra innings.  I mean, when you think about it – from the bottom of the 9th on, there’s that chance you could be a part of something special – like a walk-off homerun, base hit, etc.  Sure, Cheryl and I didn’t a lot of sleep last night, but it was worth it.

Had the Angels lost it probably wouldn’t have been worth it – but that’s the chance we took.  I’m not saying we never leave early – but when the only thing that is standing in our way of watching what could be a great finish is sleep – we say, “Let’s do this!”  

This season has been a tough one so far; so moments like the one last night are extra special.  That’s part of the journey; that’s baseball at its best.  Being there for the experience is what it’s all about.

April 23, 2013

The Big Chill

The chill I felt in my bones last night was magnified by the achiness I felt in watching A.J. Pierzynski go yard against Ernesto Frieri to put the Texas Rangers ahead for good.  Nothing is worse for a baseball fan than to see the player he likes least do something great and enjoy doing it in the process.  Pierzynski’s go ahead homerun came complete with a fist pump as he rounded first base.  He was in his element, that’s for sure.  Watching it all unfold leaves you feeling helpless and adds to the frustrating of what have already been the longest 18 games I can remember.

The moment something bad happens, you start thinking of scenarios for your team to come back.  As I looked ahead I saw Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols due up.  Perfect; or so I thought.  Bourjos gave the home crowd something to hope for when he led off with a solid single, but that would be all the offense the Angels would muster in the bottom of the 9th.

Texas dominated the game with 15 hits to the Angels’ 9.  The Angels even added two errors for good measure.  And yet; the game was winnable – it was there for the Angels to win.  Ahead 6-3 going into the top of the 7th, I felt pretty good.  Sure there was a twinge of uncertainty, but this team had just swept the Tigers and was on the right track, right? 


You know what’s tough?  The waiting.  From the moment the team loses a tough, winnable game to the next time we’re in the stadium for the first pitch seems like forever.  The time in between games is the toughest part of being a fan that lives and dies with every victory and loss.  It’s agonizing and the image of Pierzynski rounding the bases triumphantly just makes it worse.

As I was getting up this morning, I thought about how expectations have changed so much for Angel fans.  When I was a kid, I didn’t really think about whether or not my team was good enough to win it all; I just enjoyed each game as it came along.  Oh to be 8 years old again.

Losing is never fun, but when you’re a kid you wake up the next day and you really don’t think about it.  Instead you might think about the cotton candy you ate, or the autograph you got from a favorite player. 

I’m going to try and not think about last night’s loss much today and just look forward to the first pitch of tonight.  It’s probably easier said than done; especially if one of my pesky Dodger friends decides to needle me today.  Never-the-less, there’s a lot of baseball to be played and hopefully the good times far outweigh the bad.

Let’s do this.

April 16, 2013

This staff has "priors"

I’m going to ask the big question...  Will the Joe Blanton signing for two years and $15 million be among the worst in Angels Baseball history?  It’s a legitimate question at this point, isn’t it?  Face it – when the one thing people tout about you is that you’re an “innings eater” – there’s probably not a lot of upside to what you can bring to the table.

Meet Joe Blanton – “innings eater” and all around good guy.  This is a guy who gave up 29 homeruns (something else he’s known for) last season in the National League.  Not the best quality in a starting pitcher, wouldn’t you say?  These are the things we all knew going into the season.

As spring rolled around, we also heard a lot about his workout regime.  We even heard he was “in the best shape of his life.”  He lost 30 pounds.  And while that’s all well and good – what about his pitching?  All I can tell you that so far, this season – it’s bad; in fact, it’s monumentally bad and that's a phrase I haven't used since Jeff Mathis departed.

I mean what did we expect from a guy who had a 4.71 ERA last year and a 5.01 ERA the year before that?  For all the good things Jerry Dipoto has done so far – this signing is looking very Tony Reagins-esque.   Blanton has an 8.59 ERA so far… Granted it’s early – but our “innings eater” hasn’t gone beyond 5 innings yet; which is probably a good thing because there is no telling how high his ERA would be if he did.

Blanton has given up six homeruns in 14.2 innings thus far.  He’s on pace to give up about 10,000 homeruns at this point - give or take a hundred.

Meanwhile, the Angels passed on Kyle Lohse; heck, they even passed on Joe Saunders.  Saunders had a rough debut for the Mariners (giving up 4 earned runs in 4 innings), but hasn’t given up any runs in his 13.1 innings since his season debut.  Who else did the Angels pass on?  How about Carlos Villanueva (Cubs – 0.64 ERA thus far), Ryan Dempster (Red Sox – 2.65 ERA thus far), and Jeremy Guthrie (Royals – 3.55 ERA thus far) among others?  We're not talking Zack Greinke here - we're talking about others who are more than serviceable.  

For me - Joe Blanton was a bottom-of-the-barrel guy.  Not a guy you sign in December when so many other better options were available.

And to think they traded away Ervin Santana, who is spotting a nice 2.45 ERA after three starts to go along with 19 K’s in 22 innings.  Now that’s an innings eater.  Granted, Santana made us all crazy with his inconsistency - but at least he was great some of the time.

The pitching has been frustrating to watch so far.  Only Garret Richards has made it into the 7th inning.  When I think about all those years where good to great Angels pitching was wasted with a mediocre offense, it makes me crazy.  To make matters worse it will be a good 4-6 weeks before Jered Weaver comes back.

It’s hard for an offense to get going when it finds itself down after one inning every game (or what seems like every game).  It’s exceptionally discouraging for fans to watch.   I mean even the Marlins starting rotation has a 3.52 ERA thus far. 

Maybe the staff will find its groove.  Maybe Joe Blanton will be the innings eater he’s been advertised to be.  Maybe… maybe… maybe…   I have a friend name Dan  who loves to use the term “priors” (he's a police detective, of course).  It’s a great way to judge a person based on what they've done in the past and it's a great way to make a point.  Whenever someone tries to get away with something, Dan would say - "You've got priors."

Well… Blanton has priors (for a high ERA and for giving up tons of homeruns); Tommy Hanson has priors for diminished velocity and a high ERA in 2012; Jason Vargas has priors for giving up a whopping 35 homeruns last year; and C.J. Wilson has priors for giving up too many free passes to batters.  It’s hard to feel optimistic about this rotation when all of them have a history for poor performances.

A lot has to change for this rotation to be good.  That makes me nervous.  There’s a lot of “if this – then that” in this group.  The Angels need career bests from some of these guys.  Heck, even something that’s just slightly better than their career averages would help.  I hate that because there’s not a lot of hope in that.

I hope (there's that word again) they prove me wrong.  I hope we get to October and marvel at the job Dipoto did to put this staff together.  I just don’t have much faith in that happening.

In the meantime, I’m going to break one of my rules and actually make a trade suggestion… How about Bud Norris of the Astros?  How about Luis Jimenez  for Norris?  Jimenez has made a very impressive debut at the major league level, but with Kaleb Cowart just a couple years away – Jimenez might be expendable (they both play 3B). 

You see that?  I’ve been reduced to making trade proposals after just 13 games. I'm as bad as those callers who throw out crazy ideas to Terry Smith on the radio after a game.  Good grief.  

April 15, 2013

Josh gets his wings

Maybe you've seen the Nike shirts that read "Josh gets his wings."  It's a clever play on words, given Hamilton's background and his faith in God.  The reality is that Josh has well documented struggles and also highly publicized faith.  Sometimes the two have come in conflict with one another.

I don't know about you - but I can't think about Josh Hamilton the baseball player without thinking about Josh Hamilton the Christian.  I started thinking about that recently and wanted to see if I could read about his testimony and to my delight - I found this video....

I'm usually not a fan of players who come from rival teams who end up on my favorite team. I never liked the idea of Karl Malone as a Laker (for example). In Hamilton's case - I can't help but root for him.

April 12, 2013

First time, last time

Last night was the first time Mike Trout did not lead off since he was called up from the minors to jump start the Angels in 2012.  I hope it’s the last.  The way I see it; the Angels didn’t get in gear last season until he joined the lineup.  If this team is going to start winning; it’s clear to me – Mike Trout has to start playing like… well, Mike Trout.  No pressure, kid.  It’s becoming somewhat obvious that as Trout goes, so goes the Angels.  They need him at the top of the lineup creating all kinds of havoc.  He hasn’t started doing that just yet, but once he does – the team should respond accordingly.

You know the Angels are struggling when Mike Scioscia starts tinkering with the lineup.  Some seasons that’s a daily occurrence and nothing makes Angel fans crazier.  Look, I understand the team needs a spark, but putting Alberto Callaspo (the under-appreciated Callaspo, at that) isn’t the answer.  Trout needs to lead off every game.  Just to make sure, let’s not stop there.  Trout should probably be the first one on the bus, the first one in the locker room every day, the first one to sleep every night, the first to wake up every day, etc., etc.   It can’t hurt, right?

Angel fans are restless. This is what happens when expectations are high.  The Angels set the expectations and now it’s time for them to live up to it.

I don’t want to hit the panic button; I really, really don’t; however, nine games in and my fingers are twitching.  To make matters worse, the “fire Mike Scioscia” chatter is making me crazy.  The whining and complaining among Angel fans is almost worse than the losing.  I understand where it’s coming from, but it gets really old; really fast.

And then there are the Dodger fans who make sarcastic comments about the Angels and/or those that try to throw a little pity our way.  Nine games have never felt so long.

One thing is for sure; the combination of the Angels losing games and the fans going off the deep end about it all is more than I can tolerate.  Something has to give and I’m not about to stop going to games or watching away games on the tube.

So… everyone take a deep breath and exhale slowly.  Repeat.  Repeat again.  

Feel better?  

Yeah, I didn’t think so…

April 10, 2013

Opening Nightmare

Maybe it’s just me, but last night felt like 2012 all over again.  Am I over-reacting?  Perhaps, but the feeling I had in my gut was all too familiar.  It was a combination of angst, frustration, nervousness and a sick feeling that this is going to be the norm.  Sure, it’s a knee jerk reaction – but it feels very real.

Mark Lowe and Kevin Jepsen have already given me reasons for concern about the bull-pen and that’s something I was hoping wouldn’t be an issue in 2013.  The melt downs haven’t been small, they’ve been grand.  Nothing is more demoralizing than watching a reliever give up a huge homerun.  It’s deflating and painful to watch.

I keep trying to focus on happier times ahead… times when Josh Hamilton goes yard and Ryan Madsen is shutting the door on a game, but it’s hard to imagine those scenarios when your team is getting their teeth kicked in.  It’s like trying to find a “happy place” in the midst of chaos.

Enough already.  I’m ready for some winning.

And I’m going to say something that’s been on my mind since the day the Angels signed C.J. Wilson.  It’s hard for me to warm up to the thought of C.J. Wilson in an Angels' uniform.  I didn’t like him much when he was a Ranger and quite frankly, he makes me nervous.  This is a guy with a wide range of interests (just check out his web site) and you’ll see what I mean.  I’m not certain baseball is his highest priority. 

Wilson is a fascinating person, but I’m just not sure he’s ever going to be a "great" baseball player.  I imagine he could be successful at any number of things – but I have to wonder what he would be like if he really focused and dedicated himself to one specific thing, oh like... I don't know... baseball?  Again, he just makes me nervous and I get the impression he might over think things out there.  It’s just my own speculation, so take it with a grain of salt.

On the bright side – I’m really enjoying the play of Peter Bourjos.  I’m certain he’s going to be a really good player and a huge contributor to the team.  Again, you can mark my words on this one.  Giving him the every day job in CF was just the right thing to do.

Comments on Opening Night:

Logistically… Parking was a nightmare.  Cheryl and I didn’t get to the game as early as we had hoped and the external lots were a mess.  They were full and we didn’t know this until it was too late.  Traffic patterns made it extra tough around these venues.

We got to the game in time for the first pitch, but nothing else.  That was unfortunate.  The Stadium itself wasn’t much help.  Two escalators were out of commission – one on each side of the stadium.  Really?  You can’t have these things operational for Opening night?  I’ve come to expect such things…

At the end of the night I tried to get some pocket schedules and the kiosks and team store were out of them.  Again… really? 

On the positive side – I loved the way the fans welcomed Josh Hamilton to Anaheim.  Angel fans were awesome that way last night. I’m guessing he appreciated it too; especially after the reception he received on his return to Arlington. 

The best thing about last night is that it’s over and there’s another game to play tonight.  Come to think of it, there are 155 more to play!  Time to get after it!

April 9, 2013


If you’re like me, you’re probably very happy that Opening night has finally arrived in Anaheim; however, you’re probably not pleased that the Angels start their first home stand with a 2-4 record.  Face it, we didn’t endure a very long off season to see the team get off to a bad start and quite frankly – it’s unacceptable.  So are the 36 strikeouts by Angel batters in the first three games.  And the six errors in the same series? C’mon; that’s not Angels’ baseball.

And then there’s the trip to Texas.  I’m sorry – but I really wanted Josh Hamilton to respond to the Ranger fans with some thunder from his bat.  I wanted him to go yard and trot around the bases while Ranger fans looked on and realized he was gone for good and how much they were going to miss him.  Instead – he gave Ranger fans what they wanted and that irked me to no end.

By the way Ranger fans - you can chant "Baseball town" all you want - it doesn't change the reality.  You're a football town and you always will be.  So don't get upset with Hamilton telling the truth.  What's the big deal.  Everyone knows the truth.  Embrace it and move on.

Sunday night was especially painful.  Yu Darvish wasn’t himself.  And we’re talking about a guy who may very well give Justin Verlander a run for his money when it comes to the Cy Young award.  A golden opportunity was wasted that night.

And for goodness sakes – if you’re going to give up a 3-run homerun to someone – for the love of baseball – don’t let it be Ian Kinsler (Or AJ Pierzynski for that matter).  Kinsler rounding the bases and pumping his fist was hard to watch.  It was painful and yet I can’t get that stinkin’ image out of my head.

I know it’s early… but we said that last year when the team got off to a horrendous start.  I don’t want to watch history repeat itself.

I don’t want this team to just show up and expect to win.  We’ve seen that before and it doesn’t work.  I want my team to play with a chip on its shoulder.  I want players that have a hunger in their gut to prove people wrong and have an “us against the world” mentality.

My expectations are high.  I want the Angels to kick butt and take names.  I want some intensity and not silly grins and giggling in the dugout. 

It’s Opening Night and I’m ready for some baseball.  I’m ready for some old’ fashioned Mike Scioscia baseball where the offense constantly puts pressure on the defense and runs come in waves.  I want at least two out of three against the stinkin’ A’s and a sweep of the Astros.

My expectations are high.  I won’t settle for mediocrity.  That’s unacceptable.  I’m fired up and I can’t wait for the game.  It’s go time people.  Let’s do this.  

April 2, 2013

Opening Day Thoughts

There were times this past off season when I thought the 2013 baseball season would never get here.  Checking baseball sites like mlbtraderumors.com every few minutes can be taxing and hunting for nuggets of baseball news can be exhausting.  I get to a certain point when the only thing that can pull me out of the dull drums of winter is real, live baseball.  That’s usually where Spring Training comes in; however, Cheryl and I didn’t get the chance to do that this year.

We managed to fit a little bit of baseball in by going to see the Nebraska Cornhuskers (coached by ex-Angel Darin Erstad) play the U.C. Irvine Anteaters and while that was fun; it made me miss baseball even more.

I got to a point where I didn’t want to read about baseball any more.  I can only read so much about how great the Dodgers are supposedly going to be and how Oakland is the favorite in the AL West.  Not that I care because I usually feel better when the experts don’t pick the Angels.  It’s just that I get annoyed with the hype.

I didn’t really even want to talk about baseball much and I didn’t even want to blog about it.  I just needed the season to start.  I’m sure a lot of you felt the same way.  There’s just no substitute for the game itself.  It's like being in a long car ride as a kid and constantly asking "Are we there yet?" 

Well, we're there!

So… we got a taste Sunday night when ESPN had the Rangers at the Astros.  I didn’t get to watch the whole game, but knowing baseball was being played was almost enough for me… almost.  The icing on the cake was in the Astros beating the Rangers, that’s for sure.

Opening Day is special, but it’s a lot more special when you can actually be at the stadium.  In a perfect world – Cheryl and I would have been in Cincinnati for the opener, but that wasn’t going to be the case.  Instead – I had to arrange my schedule to be near a TV around 1 p.m. to see a little bit of baseball and then continue to follow the game on the radio while in my office.

Opening Day should be a National Holiday.  I mean, c’mon – it would make our lives much easier if that were the case.

I’m usually pretty good at listening to a game and working at the same time – but when it comes to Opening Day – that’s a task that’s much harder than I’d like it to be.  The Angels didn’t help the situation any by playing a nail-biter.  I’m telling you, 161 more like yesterday’s game and I’ll be a basket case if I live that long.

A lot of things go through my mind during a game like yesterday’s 13 inning marathon.  At some point I started to wonder what kind of negative impact losing an extra-inning game would have on the rest of the season.  I know, I know – but I’m only human.

I tried to not second guess Mike Scioscia and the moves he made.   Okay, maybe I let myself indulge a little bit here and there – but it didn’t matter because everything worked out in the long run.

As the game wore on, I kept thinking about how happy Dodger fans must be after their big win over the Giants and how I would hate that if the Angels were to lose.  I’m perfectly fine with Dodger wins so long as I get to enjoy an Angel win at the same time.  Yeah, it’s silly – but there’s nothing worse than a gloating Dodger fan.  Just saying.

Yesterday’s game provided me with some valuable take-aways.  The bull-pen might just be good enough.  Yeah, it’s just one game – but it’s certainly nice to see them get off to a good start.  It’s also nice to know that Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton or Mark Trumbo don’t have to be heroes every game in order for the Angels to win.  It was nice to see Chris Iannetta come up big and comforting to know there are other guys on the team who can carry the load now and then.

It was great to hear Mark Langston paired up with Terry Smith.  I look forward to hearing the two of them on a regular basis.

And then there’s Jered Weaver.  Kudos to the LA Times’ Bill Shaikin for his piece on Jered’s opener.

Shaikin rightfully acknowledges how good Weaver is even when he doesn’t light up the radar gun.  Watching Weaver pitch is a thing of beauty.  He’s becoming more like Greg Maddux every day and that’s definitely a good thing.

Game one is in the books and I’m looking forward to a lot more “good things” in the games to come.  You know me, I always talk about enjoying the journey of the baseball season and thankfully; we all get to saddle up for another adventure.

Baseball is back, baby.  Go Angels.  Make me proud.