September 16, 2015

Are we havng fun yet?

This post is dedicated to my young friend – Evan, who is the son of a long-time friend of mine who happens to be an Angels fan living in the heart of Dodger country in the San Fernando Valley.  Evan recently came to a game and told me how much he liked my blog and then nudged me about my not writing much.

Well, Evan – I have lots to say, but unfortunately, I haven’t had time to say it…  So, this one’s for you.

Here are some thoughts and observations on all things Angels…

The 2015 version of the Los Angeles Angels is one of the most frustrating teams of recent memory.  Sure, there was a time when the Angels didn’t always play meaningful games in September and even though the Angels are doing that – they don’t “feel’ like a play-off team at all.

Yes, there was an all-too-brief period when they looked like world beaters going 17-3 over a 20 game span, but was just a blip in a season of disappointment and anxiety.  It’s so bad, that part of me can’t wait for the season to be over and I never want baseball season to end. 

In true “buttercup fashion” (why do you build me up, just to let me down), the Angels teased me yet again this past weekend by winning the first two games against the Houston Astros before blowing a 3-0 lead with two outs and two strikes in the 9th to lose 5-3.  The loss was devastating.  It was horrific.  And sadly, not all that surprising.

I’ve come to expect the worst of this 2015 team and that’s not fun.  I want to believe they’ll rally and pull out a miracle, but my gut says otherwise.  I can view the baseball world through rose-colored glasses as well as anyone – but not this year. I nearly didn’t buy post-season tickets – but had to succumb to it because with my luck – the Angels would defy me and make the post-season without me and I can’t have that.  That being said, I waited until the last day to make that commitment. 

So… here are some thoughts on this year’s squad and they will be in no particular order…

Fernando Salas is the new Kevin Jepsen.  For the life of me, I don’t understand how in the world Salas can be second in appearances to only Joe Smith.   To date, he’s appeared in 61 games with an ERA of 4.34.  Seems like he comes out of the pen for just about any situation.  Things usually go bad when he comes in with men on base.  I admit, I’m too lazy to look up the stats to verify that – but there must be a reason I roll my eyes every time he comes into a game.

More CP-58, please.  That’s my nickname for Carlos Perez who appears to be the far better option at catcher than Chris Iannetta.  I can’t believe it’s taken nearly a whole season for Mike Scioscia to come to that conclusion.  Perez definitely has more upside and I just feel better when he’s behind the plate and "Joe Base Stealer" is on first.

Better late than never, but come on!  It took C.J. Cron a while to find his way into the everyday lineup, but it finally looks like the Angels have found their DH and some additional pop in their lineup.  Even still – as he started to heat up, it took Scioscia a while to recognize he’s the best option regardless of whether there’s right hander or left hander on the mound.  If only he and his bat had found their way into the lineup from day 1 on – this season might look a lot different.

Let’s see – 3 observations so far and it looks like I’m blasting Mike Scioscia in each of them.  Well, before you Scioscia-haters get to excited – read this…

It’s time for the Angels to give Scioscia the kind of baseball players that fit his style.  The fact that Erick Aybar leads the team in stolen bases with just 11 is a clear indicator to me that the roster is not constructed to fit Scioscia’s style of baseball. 

Stop. I see you out there.  Don’t even go there.  Don’t even tell me it’s up to Scioscia to adopt to the lineup he’s given…  I’m not buying it.  I want a roster that has guys who love to force the issue, guys who put the ball in play instead of looking at strike 3 (more on this in a bit).  Guys who are on a mission to go from first to third whenever possible and constantly put pressure on the defense.

And speaking of defense – I want a roster full of guys who can flat out pick it.  A team that doesn’t require late-in-the-game defensive replacements.  I hate sloppy play and this season has been like one big "sloppy Joe" of a season. 

Now, forgive me as I head into the deep part of the pool to talk a bit about Mike Trout.  No question – he’s the best all-around player in the game and from all indications will be a Hall of Famer one day.  And yet… (Don’t you hate when people do this?)… There are times when he makes me crazy.

I want to turn Trout lose.  I want him to be a little more like Rickey Henderson and a little less like Jim Rice.  Both are hall of famers, but one had the distinction of being a disruptive force.  Teams had to go out of their way to figure out how to keep Henderson off the base paths.  Teams may have “feared” Rice as so many of his advocates will tell you – but Henderson was pure chaos.  He could beat you with his bat and his legs and there usually wasn’t a darn thing you could do about it.

I want teams so focused on Trout when he's on base that they’re not paying as much attention to who is in the batter’s box.  You see, I don’t see anything wrong with putting the best hitter on your team in a position to get the most at-bats.  He’s not only the best hitter, he also has the best chance of getting on base (when he’s no looking at strike 3). 

Yeah, I just went there.

I don’t have any hard data to back this up (remember, I’m lazy), but I can’t stand watching Trout take strike 3 in big situations or any situation for that matter and it appears to me that this happens all too often.  Swing the bat!  For the love of baseball, swing the bat!

I’m not here to tell Mike Trout how to play baseball – but someone please explain to me why he almost always looks at the first pitch.  I think it was very telling when he was mic’d up at the all-star game and came back from an at bat and said, “I really wanted to swing at the first pitch, but couldn’t pull the trigger.” 

What is going on in his head?  This started out as being a not-so-big deal, but I think it has gone a tad bit out of hand.  I know he recognized this and worked on it in spring training, but he’s back to falling behind in the count early and often. 

Look, I count my lucky stars every day that I get to watch Trout play on my favorite team.  I know I’m blessed and beyond thankful, but that doesn’t mean, I can’t nitpick just a bit.

I’m selfish.  I want Trout to dominate the highlight reel every night.  I want people around the country to get sick and tired about hearing how great he is.  I don’t want to hear how Josh Donaldson is the front-runner for the MVP award.  Heck, no – that’s not going to do anything for the Trout Legacy.  I want total domination.  I don’t want it to even be close. 

I want Trout to go 40/40.  Heck, 40/60+ would be even better.  I want opposing fans to think that every time Trout is on base – he’s destined to score.  I want Dan Patrick saying, “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”  I want to people paying tribute to the late Stuart Scott and give us a “boo-ya” every time Trout does something great.

I don’t think I’m asking for the impossible.  Mike Trout was born for greatness. Time to put him in a position to be just that.

And now on to more observations and comments…

Johnny G. – get well soon, but when you’re ready, please forgive me for wanting a better option at second base.  I get the fans’ appreciation of “Johnny Baseball” as Roger Lodge affectionately refers to him, but I miss Howie Kendrick.  Yes, I know he had that deer-in-the-headlights effect in the post season, but his bat and defense were a solid part of the Angels and both have been greatly missed in 2015.  How about we bring him back in 2016?

Sorry Grant Green and Taylor Featherston – but your upside isn’t close to what Kendrick brought to the table.

I’m not certain that Featherston was worth a Rule V pick.  Having him on the roster all year has definitely limited the team’s options in my opinion.  I hope I’m wrong about that (I know he’s finally starting to hit with regular playing time), but I won’t be surprised if this becomes a regrettable move.

Erick Aybar – you will always be Gilligan to me.  Pujols’ little buddy – still has the propensity to do something great one moment and something absolutely unfathomable the next.  I continue to question his baseball IQ and the thought process he uses to make decisions on the field.  No doubt the talent is there – but the decision process doesn’t quite match the ability.

I wouldn’t be terribly upset if the Angels found another option at SS.  I might one day regret that statement, but I’ll take my chances for now.

Ever been at the game and heard a group of fans in the upper level yelling “Cal-hooooun” (think Ya-hoooo) whenever he comes to bat?  That’s a small group of dedicated fans who are in the Kole Calhoun admiration society.  Is there a harder worker baseball player than Calhoun? That was a rhetorical question because of course, there isn’t. 

Any baseball fan that doesn’t love Calhoun simply has issues and needs professional help.  Calhoun is the prototypical Scioscia player.  He may not be the fastest guy on the planet, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in effort.  He gets to balls in the outfield that mere mortals never come close to.  He’s the consummate teammate and openly celebrates the success of his teammates.  He smiles.  He has fun.  It’s clear he loves to play the game and fans like me – can’t get enough.

One thing I’ve had enough of is the revolving door in left field.  We’ve seen a plethora of guys trotted out there over the years.  Everyone from Juan Rivera to Vernon Wells to gulp… Matt Joyce.  I had high hopes for Matt Joyce, but that move just turned out to be ugly all the way around.  It reminded of the season Scioscia kept trotting Steve Finley out to center field despite his not being able to hit his weight. 

The guys the Angels brought in mid-season – David Murphy and David DeJesus haven’t exactly worked out great either.  Murphy has had his moments and is adequate, but he’s not necessarily the kind of guy you want batting in the middle of your lineup.

The depth of the batting lineup has hurt the Angels all year long and when David Freese went on the DL, it was really magnified.  I like Freese’s presence in the lineup and his post season experience is a huge plus.  Then again… am I really talking post season?

Freese also happens to be a free agent after this year and I hope the Angels bring him back.  The pickings are slim for 3B and he’s solid enough.  I’m not sure Kaleb Cowart or any of the other Angel farm hands are ready to assume that position just yet.

The guys who have tried to fill Troy Glaus’ shoes since he departed in 2004 include Chone Figgins, Dallas McPherson, Maicer Izturis, Edgardo Alfonzo, Shane Hillenbrand, Robb Quinlan, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Nelson, and Freese.  It’s been a revolving door and I’ll keep Freese, thank you very much.

And then there’s the pitching.  Truth be known, I’ve had a hard time adopting C.J. Wilson as an Angel.  I still think of him as a mouthy Texas Ranger from back in the day.  It’s like when the Lakers signed Karl Malone.  Are you kidding me?  I’m supposed to now cheer for a guy I hated because he changed uniforms?  I have a lot of issues with Wilson.  Perhaps I’ll get into another time, but quite frankly – I can’t wait to see him move on.

I liked the additions of Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, but I like the idea of adding someone like David Price in 2016 even more.  Heaney has been pretty good at times, but I’m not sure he was worth losing Howie Kendrick.  I’m not going to bag on either guy, but they aren’t the kind of guys a team wins pennants with at this point in their careers.  The Angels had to count on them a little too much, in my opinion.

I think we all counted on Garrett Richards a little more than we should have.  We expected him to return to is pre-injury form and it didn’t happen.  He’s pitched well, but not at the one-of-the-five-best-in-the-American-League well.  It was unfair of us to think he was going to be that good after returning.  He’s still a solid pitcher and I expect him to be just as good or better next year.

Hector Santiago was an all-star this year.  Go figure.  The guy struggles to go more than five innings and he’s picked to play in the mid-season classic.  I’m happy for him and I like the guy a great deal, but he just doesn’t give the team enough innings.  Every time he takes the mound – you know the bullpen is going to get some work.  He’s fine as a fifth starter, but the Angels asked him to be more than that.

Ok, so I saved Jered Weaver for last.  If you’re looking for me to blast the Dirtbag in anyway, you’re going to be disappointed.  Yes, Weaver slipped a lot in 2015 and he wasn’t as effective as he needed to be, but I refuse to blast the guy in any way.  Weaver will be done when Weaver decides he’s done as far as I’m concerned.  I have too much admiration and respect for a guy who has given Angel fans so much to be thankful for. 

Jered Weaver is always going to hold a special place in my heart.  Watching him throw a no-hitter was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in baseball.  And even though he hasn’t pitched like himself this year – there were games when he was as good as he ever was and his defense let him down.  That wasn’t always the case – but it happened more than it should have.

Call me a Weaver apologist.  I admit it. 

Now, about that bullpen…

I already touched on my disdain (for lack of a better word) for Salas.  I don’t have a lot of issues with the rest of the pen, but I wish Mike Morin was used more.  He was pretty good last year and I thought he should have made more appearances this year.

I keep waiting for Cam Bedrosian to be the pitcher everyone thinks he can be.  The guy throws hard, but he hasn’t been able to harness control of all his pitches.  He makes me nervous… like Kevin-Jepsen-nervous every time he comes in a game. 

I don’t have much to say about the rest of the pen, except to say – they weren’t the issue this year.  I’m happy to have Huston Street – even after he blew that 3-0 lead Sunday… Stuff like that just happens. Even Troy Percival blew ten saves one season.

Now about those “ten things” I mentioned in an earlier post (something else Evan wanted an update on)….

Cheryl and I made it to a Nationals game at Petco Park. The night we went Harper didn’t homer, but had homered the night before and would again the night after.  Go figure.  It was nice to see the young star in person never-the-less.  We almost had one of his foul balls when one landed near us – but it wasn’t in the cards.

When the Dodgers came to town – so did their fans… in mass.  It was not fun and Cheryl and I didn’t even go to the last game of the series.  We had enough from the previous two nights.  I just hate it when Angel fans disappear for the free-way series. 

We only made it to one Padre game – the schedules just didn’t match up right for us.  When the Padres were home – the Angels we usually home too. Maybe next year… but then again – that team didn’t turn out to be nearly as entertaining as anyone had hoped.

We got to see Troy Tulowitzki more than we thought after his trade to Toronto.  I made an effort to get his autograph one home game – getting there early, etc. – but it was to no avail.  I didn’t have it in me to do more than one long day at the stadium.  Maybe next year.

No Evan Longoria autograph either… I just didn’t make an effort.  Joe Saunders left the Mariners and never saw the major league roster, A.J. Pierzynski was off my radar all year (hooray!) and it continues to be an absolute joy to watch Mike Trout day in and day out.  Regarding Saunders – I fear he may be done as a major leaguer, but we’ll see.  Lefties have a way of sticking around…

As I attempt to finish off this post, it’s Tuesday night and the Angels are losing to Seattle 3-1 in the 7th and David Murphy has homered for the second night in a row.  I guess he’s trying to make me look bad after my comments in this post.  He’s been the lead-off hitter the last two games and you know how I feel about that. 

Trout just struck out swinging in the 8th to make the third out with two men on… Ugh.

Anyway – the season seems to be slipping away.  Texas is in first place and that makes me want to puke.  I don’t have a lot of animosity for the Houston Astros, but I don’t care for Texas at all… not quite as much as I hate the stinkin’ A’s – but they’re high on my list just the same.  It’s bad enough that the Angels have been horrible.  Texas surging at the end of the season just makes it worse. 

This season is fast becoming a real downer.  Wait, I take that back… it hasn’t been fast.  It’s more like a slow, agonizing, and painful experience.  That being said, when it’s over – I’ll still miss it because it’s still baseball.

That’s all I have for now.  I will definitely make an effort to write more – even as we head into the off season.  I have lots of topics rolling around in my head – it’s just a matter of sitting down and pounding them out.

Thanks to Evan for the nudge – I felt pretty guilty about letting down anyone who is kind enough to actually take the time to check in on this blog. 

February 28, 2015

Ten things

Call them goals.  Call them things I’d like to do or see.  In any case – they’re just ten things I’m looking forward to or hoping to see in 2015.

1. I’d like to see a Nationals game and get my first in-person look at Bryce Harper.  I know he’s somewhat polarizing, but I think he’s a heck of a talent and I enjoy the way he plays the game.

2.       See more red at the stadium when the Dodgers come to town.  Last year was one of the worst and I hated every moment of the beat down the Dodgers put on the Angels.  This “goal” is out of my control, but I can certainly encourage my fellow Angel brother and sisters to get their red on. 

3.       Never miss a Jered Weaver home start.  I just love watching him pitch and I know he’s not going to be around forever – so, I need to see as much of “Weave” as possible.  I usually don’t miss his starts as a rule and I want to continue the tradition.

4.       Get to a few Padres games.  I like the buzz the team created with all the additions they made and I’m in… I’d like to see some of their games. Their stadium is one of Cheryl and my favorites anyway.  Good chance I’ll combine this one with the Bryce Harper goal.

5.       Hope that by the time the Rockies get to Anaheim (May 12 & 13) that Troy Tulowitzki is healthy.  I have an affinity for Dirtbags and I don’t know how many more times I’ll get to see this fellow Long Beach State alum.  A bonus would be to get his autograph…

6.       I have to wonder if this will be Torii Hunter’s last season; therefore, I will try not to miss any of the Twins games when they head into town on July 21, 22 & 23.  It will be appropriate to see him in a Twins uniform once again.  I have the utmost admiration for Mr. Hunter.

7.       Joe Saunders signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.  My hope (and I’m sure Cheryl’s hope too) is that he makes the roster and we get to see him down in Anaheim.  We’ll have to make it a point to get down to the bullpen (he’s trying to make the team as a reliever) to say hello.  His career is winding down and he’s given us a lot of great memories. 

8.       Boo A.J. Pierzynski early and often. Oh wait, he’s now with the Atlanta Braves.  Is this guy ever going to retire? I hope he stays in the NL all season long or just gets released.  A guy can hope, right?

9.     I’d really like an Evan Longoria autograph.  If I could just get one from him and Tulo this year, I’d be pretty stoked.  I know some people think it’s silly – but it’s all about having that moment with a player and creating a memory.  A photo with both of them would be even better.

10.   More Mike Trout.  I don’t want to take it for granted that we get to watch the best player in baseball day in and day out.  I love his humbleness, his hustle and the way he has fun playing this great game. 

So, there you have it.  Nothing crazy like attending all 81 home games or eating 81 hot dogs.  Of course, I hope the Angels win the west and go all the way – but that goes without saying.

February 18, 2015


On January 27, 2015 I took a day off from work to go fishing.  I always take that day off each year in remembrance of my father, who passed away in 2007.  Bass fishing was one of the things we both loved to do (although we rarely ever did it together).  It’s funny – I feel as if he’s with me now though every time I go fishing and especially on January 27.

This time around, I took a detour.  I didn’t find myself on a lake focused on catching fish.  My life has been incredibly busy with work, the passing of my mother and all the other things that fill up one’s life.  Fishing requires a lot of focus and it’s not enjoyable when your mind is racing all the time. 

My wife Cheryl came up with a great idea for me and a way that I could still feel connected to my father.  I went to the movies, but not to see just any movie – to see “American Sniper.”  My father spent nearly 30 years of his life in the Marines and this was exactly the kind of movie, he would love.  The fact that it was directed by Clint Eastwood would make it that much more appealing to him.

What a movie.

As I walked out of the theatre, I felt a little bit numb.  I knew the movie had an effect on me, but I wasn’t sure what that was.  I kept saying to myself – “nobody died today.”  I kept saying that because I thought no matter how bad my day is, no matter how busy work is or how complicated life is in general – at least, nobody in my family or in my circle of friends – died today.

I saw my father take his last breath.  I saw my mother do the same and I watched her suffer and struggle along the way as she battled pulmonary fibrosis.  I saw my father-in-law Charles battle cancer and I was there when he took his last breath.  Those were horrible days.  Three of the worst days of my life.  Everything else really isn’t that important when you put things into the proper perspective.  And that’s what the movie did for me.  It reminded me of proper perspective.

Sometimes we focus on things that in the grand scheme of things aren’t that important.  They’re not life and death matters. 

I haven’t stopped thinking about American Sniper since I saw it.  I haven’t stopped thinking about Chris Kyle and the thousands of others who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.  We’re the land of the free and home of the brave and Chris Kyle represented the very best of that.

What a person.  What a hero.  What an American.

The movie made me want to shake the hand of every solider and veteran I could find.  It made me want to just say thank you, thank you, thank you.  There aren’t words enough that can fully capture the gratitude I have for our veterans.  I’m the product of a military family and I have always respected the armed forces, but sometimes even I need a little reminder.  I don’t think I’ve thanked the men and women who serve enough.

I thought about a time a few years back when I was in Seattle for business.  It also happened to be a time when the Angels were in town to face Seattle.  I was staying in a near-by hotel and after work, headed to the game.  I was in the elevator when an older gentleman joined me.  He was wearing a baseball cap with a Navy logo and the name of a ship he must have served on.  I commented on his hat and he provided me a little background. 

As we hit the ground floor and prepared to step out, I reached out to shake his hand and I said, “Thank you for your service.”  The man looked stunned.  His reaction surprised me, as he gathered himself and said, “No one has ever thanked me before.”  He was very moved by those five little words.

I walked away thinking how sad that here was a man who looked to be in his 70’s and no one had ever thanked him for his service.  How could that be? 

I was about to go do something very American – watch a baseball game and I couldn’t believe that no one had ever thanked this American for what he did.

I love baseball.  I also love my country.  Maybe the two go hand in hand.  I think about the great Americans who not only played baseball, but also served their country.  People like Ted Williams and Jerry Coleman and I feel like the game and the armed forces are somehow connected.  I love it when veterans are recognized at baseball games and are asked to stand and be recognized.  I love it when Navy Seals parachute out of the sky to deliver the American flag before a game and I still get chills when Marine Corp fighter pilots fly over the stadium during our National Anthem.

How lucky am I that I live in America and get to enjoy America’s favorite pastime? How lucky am I that individuals like Chris Kyle have made it possible for me to live the life I live?  How tragic that his life was cut short and that his family has to live on without him.

Baseball will be back soon.  Pitchers and catchers will report in less than a month.  It’s been a long winter and I can’t wait for baseball to be return.  That’s one of the great thing about baseball; it always returns.  Not so with some of the men and women serving overseas in our armed forces.  You might even say they might not return so that baseball can. 

Think about that.

I’ll be thinking about Chris Kyle when I head to the stadium this year.  I’ll also be thinking about my father, who I don’t recall ever thanking for his service – which included two tours in Vietnam. I probably took it for granted – just like the friends and family of the gentleman I met in Seattle.   Shame on us; shame on me.