March 17, 2016

Please Bring Back the Swagger

As I anticipate the start of the 2016 baseball season, one thought prevails above all others.  It rises above the overall success of the team even though it is directly tied to the team doing well.  It’s an emotional thought and one that comes from the very core of my Angels fandom.

I want to see Jered Weaver return to being Jered Weaver. 

Maybe it’s a pipe dream.  Maybe I’m opening myself up for disappointment.  Perhaps I’m fooling myself into believing this is even possible.  Yet, I hope.  Isn’t that what spring is all about; hope?

I admire Jered as much as it is possible for any fan to admire someone they do not know, but has watched for years.  I have lived and died watching Jered do his thing over the years.  I have celebrated every fist pumping end to a climactic inning that he’s been involved in.  I have winced with agony when well intended pitches have left the ball park faster than Jered can throw them.

Jered Weaver has been everything I could hope for in a baseball player.  He’s far and away my favorite pitcher of all time.  No question and without a doubt.

From the moment Jered Weaver stepped on the mound for the Angels, I have been engaged and committed to watching him pitch.  Perhaps it’s because; like me, he went to Long Beach State.  He's a Dirtbag. He’s a throwback.  He’s old school. 

There is a fire in him.  The kind of fire we all want to find within ourselves when the going gets tough or the task seem bigger than ourselves.   He’s the taller, thinner version of every underdog you've ever cheered for; be it,  Rocky, Rudy or whoever.

He’s a lot of things, but he’s also uniquely just Jered.  There isn’t any flash to his game, just swagger.  Oh the swagger.  You have to love the swagger.  He reminds me of the gunslingers you see in the movies.  There’s a little bit of Clint Eastwood in him.  No nonsense.  No messing around. But plenty of attitude of the don’t-mess-with-me kind.  

Jered is what happens when intensity meets coolness and the two join forces.  That’s Jered.  That’s so Jered.

I always felt like everything was going to be okay when Jered took the mound.  I know I wasn’t going to get cheated as a fan because Jered was going to give everything he had to the effort.  No moment was too big.  His confidence inspired me to believe.

And I still believe. 

I’m not writing this as a eulogy.  I’m writing this because I want Jered to be successful as much as any fan can want anything.  I want to see that sneer again.  I want him to walk off the mound pumping his fist and screaming at himself.  I want to yell… “That’s what I’m talking about” again.

I’m not ready to say good-bye.  I’m ready to say hello again and "Hell, yeah - that’s the dude I know! That’s Jered Weaver and he just shut your team down."  I want him to remove all doubt and shoot that look (you know the one) at all the naysayers. 

Make no mistake about it, I want the Angels to win.  I just happen to believe winning will be all the sweeter with Jered being Jered.

If the Angels are lucky enough and good enough to win it all and they happen to do it without Jered, I’ll feel a bit empty.  It’s like any big moment – you want to share it with the people you love.  It would be like the Angels winning in 2002 without Tim Salmon.  Can you imagine?  Of course not.

So, as I prepare for the season that is fast approaching, I keep hoping.  I keep praying.  I keep watching.  Even more than all of that, I have raised my expectations; knowing full well what comes with that.

Let’s do this.

March 8, 2016

Choosing to Believe

I’ve made a decision.  As long as Albert Pujols is able to step on a baseball field, I’m not going to count him out.  I’m just not going to do it.  I don’t care what anyone says or anyone thinks, I will continue to believe that Albert is capable of doing great things.

Everyone knows he had off season foot surgery.  The funny thing (at least to me) about that is that from the moment that was made public; fans, experts, insiders, etc. started to write him off.  They said he wouldn’t be ready for opening day.  They said a lot of things that were made to cast doubt on what kind of season he would have.

Not me.  Never.  No way.

There are some people out there (you know who you are) who will look for any little thing to pile on when it comes to Albert.  These people have an agenda.  I guess they don’t feel like he’s lived up to his expectations and more importantly (for them), his contract.  I get that. 

What I don’t get is the notion that some people think he doesn’t care.  That doesn’t make any sense to me what-so-ever.  There is no way Albert has achieved what he has achieved in his career without caring.  Talent alone doesn’t make you a Hall of Fame candidate.  The great ones are driven.  They play with a chip on their shoulder.  They play with something to prove every time they step on the field.  I believe that.

Albert has said that if he doesn’t feel like he can play at a high enough level, he’ll retire before the end of his contract.  I believe him.  Some of you (again, you know who you are), don’t.  Whatever.

I’m pretty much over the people who have taken it upon themselves to hate on Albert every chance they get.  Hating on certain ball players has become a new favorite pastime for some.  I don’t get that (unless we’re talking A.J. Pierzynski, of course).

I believe Albert always gives his best effort.  I know he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, but I believe some of those things are about circumstance and certainly not about effort.  When I look at Albert, I see a proud man who takes his job very seriously. 

Obviously, I don’t know him personally – but neither do most if not all of you reading this.  We don’t know what he thinks, what motivates him or what’s going on in his life.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and just believe that he’s doing everything he can to be the best player he can be.

His contract is what it is.  Get over it.

So, as the season inches closer – I am looking forward to seeing what Albert will do.  I’m going to root for him.  I’m going to be optimistic and positive.  I’m going to wear his name on my back to games.  I’m even going to expect greatness; yes, greatness. 

I love come-back stories.  I love it when good people prove doubters wrong.  I admire those who do the unexpected.  I champion those who exceed expectations and defy the odds. 

The story is yet to unfold.  I can’t wait to see what happens.  I know I may be disappointed.  Then again, I might not.  Regardless, I’d rather stay positive and expect greatness than be that guy who’s just negative for the sake of being negative, never happy and always looking for the sky to fall. 

That’s just not me. 

Baseball is supposed to be fun and this is what I choose to do as a fan. 

March 6, 2016

Good Baseball Hunting

Something is different.  Usually when pitchers and catchers report, I get a little extra pep in my step.  I usually feel a little more optimistic about everything.  I’m usually in a little bit of a better mood and I’m looking forward.

It’s March and the teams are in full spring training mode. Games are being played and competition is taking place and guess what?  I haven’t even looked at a single box score or searched the internet for any little tidbit of baseball news; at least not to the extent I usually do.

I know Albert Pujols is ahead of schedule in his recovery from off season foot surgery; and although that makes me smile, I’m just not where I usually am at this point in time.

Baseball isn’t taking up much, if any time in my head right now.  I’m guessing as opening day gets closer things will change, but I don’t know for sure.

At a recent chalk talk held for season seat holders with Billy Eppler; the new Angels’ general manager, I heard some things that were encouraging.  First and foremost there is a movement towards a return to Angels baseball, Mike Scioscia style. The Angels are making a point to acquire Scioscia’s type of players; guys who put the ball in play, go first to third and play good defense.  I love that. 

In many ways that news is better than any “big splash” signing the Angels could have made in the off season.

Even still… something is different.

What’s puzzling, is that I can’t tell you why it’s different.  I mean, I’m excited about getting to watch the best player in baseball continue to do amazing things in Mike Trout.  I’m excited about seeing if Jered Weaver can bounce back from a disappointing season and re-emerge as the guy we have always counted on.  I’m just not as excited, I guess.

Is this what happens when your team doesn’t have a certain level of success anymore?  2002 seems like a million years ago.  The run of consecutive division championships seem like a lifetime ago. 

Is it because the team hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years?  I really don’t know.

Maybe it’s because there isn’t a Torii Hunter type of guy who makes me laugh and smile.  Maybe it’s because there isn’t a Joe Saunders, who Cheryl and I were able to connect with on a certain level.  Again, I don’t know.

As I write this – it’s like I’m thinking out loud.  I’m asking questions and feeling certain things and I’m trying to figure out why.

I’m not feeling the anticipation of great baseball to come.  I don’t have any real expectations.  I have hopes for good things, but I am not sure what to expect.  I’m not sure I’m ready for the grind and if the Angels struggle, I’m not sure I’m ready for the negativity that comes from the fan base when that happens.

They say baseball is America’s favorite pastime.  It’s been more than that for me for quite some time.  It’s been an obsession of sorts.  Not so much this year; at least, not so far.

Maybe this is better.  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Maybe something will happen that I didn’t see coming and baseball will be fun again. 

Ah yes, maybe that’s it.  Maybe I’m waiting for baseball to be fun again.  Maybe I need to be around like-minded fans who are all about the Angels.  Our season seat section has shrunk considerably from where it once was when we had so many regulars surrounding us every game.  It’s a sliver of what it was.  I miss that a lot. 

Maybe we can engage whoever will be sitting around us this year.  Maybe we can add on to our “summer family” like the one Jimmy Fallon’s character talked about in the movie “Fever Pitch.” 

One can hope…