My Angels followed up a four game sweep of the Mariners by taking 2 of 3 from the White Sox. All was good in Halo-ville. Then they got on a plane and entered the twilight zone, losing a make-up game to the Yankees and the first of 3 at Fenway. During both east coast games I was basically tortured by Mark Gubicza and Rory “Whose Side Are You On Anyway?” Markas as they kept referring to the games as “post-season previews”. Ugh. Not what I wanted to hear as once again, decent starting pitching was wasted by absent bats.
But as I started to seriously ponder my Angels’ post-season chances, I had to stop myself and consider the alternative to this dilemma. Granted, the Angels haven’t locked up the west but they are sitting 6 games ahead of the Rangers, giving them a more than fair shake all the way to the end. But so many of my fellow baseball fans have already had their hopes and dreams dashed as the dreaded “E” has shown up in their teams’ standings.
I’m sure fans of these teams will watch the remaining games…afterall, they’re fans. And there’s always a chance that their team will act as a spoiler and snatch the post-season away from one of their most hated rivals. There is a certain kind of pleasure in watching that happen. They’ll also watch simply because, once the season is over it’s a long wait until April of 2010. They may watch the play-offs and the World Series. Or maybe not. Sometimes there’s little interest in watching teams who may have smacked your guys around during the regular season celebrate in a heap of arms and legs in the middle of the field. That can be tough.
Diehard baseball fans will hang in there for all that October has to offer because their love of the game transcends their love for their own team. There’s no shame in that. They may also secretly harbor a bit of affection or respect for another team and will be quietly rooting them on in private. Sssshhh. I’ll never tell. I can understand that with a team or two.
Baseball fans may stick with it in October just to watch their most despised team go down in a ball of flames. Again, I can totally relate to this as well.
(That one was a toss up.)
And so today, I just wanted to express my sincere condolences to Rays, Jays, Orioles, A’s, Royals, Mets, Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Padres and Diamondbacks fans everywhere. I’ve been in your shoes. I know exactly how you are feeling. You gave it your all and fought the good fight. You observed every good-luck superstition you could. You yelled at your players, managers and front office personnel through your TV screen or in person at your ballpark.
You should be proud. Hold your heads up high. As a fan, you brought your “A” game. You held up your end of the bargain. You wore the gear, you flew the flag, you showed up at the ballpark, you skipped dinner with the in-laws to watch the game (good), you missed the birth of your third child because of extra innings (not-so-good). You gave it your all. YOU did not strike out looking with the bases loaded. YOU did not bobble an inning-ending double-play. YOU did not blow a save. YOU did not drop a routine fly ball.
No remorse. No guilt. No regrets. Sleep well this winter, my fellow baseball fans, knowing there’s always…well, there’s always…NO…I’m not going to say it. I’m not going to patronize any of you by throwing out that morsel of helpful advice, usually dished up by someone who doesn’t understand what it means to be a loyal fan. I’m NOT going to say “there’s always next year.” But what I will say is…there’s always the Angels!!! Well, if you’re examining other possibilites, let me give you my pitch (no pun intended but it’s appropriate, isn’t it?):
Great group of guys with catchy little nicknames like Figgy, Mighty Macier, Bam Bam, etc.
Not a prima donna among this bunch. It’s all about the team, NOT individual stats.
Cute little mascot that I swear, will grow on you.
The best manager in all of baseball. (Of course I’m biased. Duh!)
They OWN the Yankees. Need I say more?
I know the pain is still fresh, but I just want to give you something to think about in the off-season. Consider me an “Angels Ambassador”. If you’re thinking about making this life-changing move, leave me a comment or shoot me an email. I’d be happy to answer any questions or offer a little more persuasion, if that’s what it takes. Oh, and free thundersticks to the first 100 new fans who come aboard. (Must be able to pass a slightly invasive background check. Please have references available.)
Baseball…it keeps going and going and going…!
As planned, I headed out to the Big A for Wednesday’s day game, the last of three versus the Tigers. With my Angels in danger of losing 4 in a row, I had my rally monkey in tow and was ready to help my guys turn it around.
First of all, it was hot. Really, really hot. If you watched the game on TV, it I’m sure the stadium appeared to be practically empty. That was because nearly everyone with field level seats retreated up to the shade of the terrace level. Hardly any players were seen hanging out on the railing in front of the dugouts. They too opted for the shade-covered benches instead.
It may have been sizzling, but that stadium was a big, steaming bowl of yummy goodness! Torii Hunter had a two-run homer in the 1st, Joe Saunders looked great coming off the DL and we saw a couple great double-plays and Chone Figgins almost steal home. (Okay, so he AND the crowd missed the 3rd base ump call time-out…it was still a kick to watch and would’ve been the highlight of the game if he’d pulled it off!) Needless to say, I went to the game expecting a win and that’s exactly what I got.
Thursday night was another story. We were treated to the pre-game ceremony as Brian Downing and Chuck Finley were inducted into the Angels’ Hall of Fame. It was a very nice tribute to a couple of great players and the highlight reels were a trip down memory lane for everyone. It just would’ve been nice if the Angels could’ve won. Oh, and they didn’t just lose. They were shut-out. By Oakland. Ugh.
There’s not much to say about it. Once the game started and it wasn’t about Brian Downing and Chuck Finley anymore, it was all about Trevor Cahill. He was ON as he gave up just 2 hits in 7 full innings. Michael Wuertz pitched a clean 8th and Andrew Bailey got the save, giving up one additional hit. Ervin Santana had a decent outing himself, allowing the A’s only 2 runs in 6 innings and striking out six batters. Matt Palmer provided 3 innings of perfect relief. But the Angels’ offense just couldn’t get to Cahill. Torii Hunter had to bunt to get on base. I think that says it all. I must mention the incredible play Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar made in the 7th. If you haven’t already seen it on a high-light reel (it was #1 play of the day on ESPN), you really should check it out: Aybar and Izturis These two don’t get nearly enough credit. Even Torii Hunter called it one of the best plays he’s ever seen. The crowd clearly recognized brilliance when they saw it.
The game was another frustrating loss but it was a make-up game from April, the game that was to be played the night after Nick Adenhart’s tragic death. The Angels had a dismal month of April so we’ll just say “technically” it was an April game and move on.
I’ll just say, Friday night’s game began like an April game but ended like a 2002 October game. Kendry Morales had a solo HR in the 2nd but the A’s came right back and scored 5 runs in the 3rd after the Angels’ defense fumbled a couple of opportunities to get Trevor Bell out of the inning unscathed. The Angels were trailing 2-6 in the bottom of the 7th when their bats caught fire and blew the game wide open with a 7 run inning which included a 3 run shot by, again, Kendry Morales. When the smoke cleared, the Angels had won 11-7 and Kendry Morales had gone an amazing 5 for 5. He had a pair of doubles to go with his pair of HRs and tied his career high of 6 RBIs.
Ummm, no Tex. That’s SIX ribbies. You need two hands for that one.
Overall, it was a terrific come-from-behind win that seemed to wake up my boys and get them going. Combine the win with the Rangers’ loss to the Twins and the Angels are sitting 5 games ahead again.
After hearing the rumors all day, it was announced during the game that the Angels had acquired lefty Scott Kazmir from the Rays. Hopefully Kazmir will be just what the starting rotation needs to power through the rest of the season and beyond. He seems to have worked through any physical issues and had a strong outing in his last start, going 6 innings and striking out 10. In exchange for Kazmir, the Rays will get two promising prospects and…here’s the part that makes my stomach all queasy…”a player to be named later”. Those, without a doubt, are words no baseball fan likes to hear.
For those Rays fans who are mourning Scott Kazmir’s departure, it looks like I’ll be in your shoes very shortly. I know that being a fan means having to take the bad with the good. And it’s never easy.
Baseball…the road will never be the same.
My Angels completed their sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays today and it put me in such a chipper mood I thought I’d walk home from work.
Okay, not really. But I was singing in the car the whole way. Does that count? It was a great series for many different reasons. I’ll start with the obvious…we won all three games. Monday night was a back and forth battle as each team took turns scoring all the way until the 7th inning when Vladimir Guerrero hit his second homer of the night.
It was no ordinary homerun…it was Vlady’s 400th and as it turned out, was the game winner. How cool is that? Big Daddy Vlady is back!
Monday’s game may have been all about the offense, but Tuesday night’s game was a rubber match. Ervin Santana went toe-to-toe with David Price but the Angels eventually got to Price whereas the Rays were left lifeless by Santana.
He threw a complete game giving up only 3 hits in the 6-0 shutout. 5 of the Angels’ 6 RBIs came courtesy of Jeff Mathis and Reggie Willits, hitting in the #8 and #9 spots. Mathis came inches from having the Angels’ first grand slam of the season. He and Willits were perfect in the clutch but truly the night belonged to Santana. Ervin the All-Star is back!
Wednesday’s game marked the MLB debut of right-hander Trevor Bell. The 22 year-old was impressive through 5 and 1/3. The Angels were down 4-2 when Mike Scioscia pulled him but had Scioscia known what the Angels bats had in store for the second half of the game, I suspect he would’ve let Bell stick around.
In the bottom of the 6th, Gary Matthews, Jr. connected for a 3 run shot that literally got the ball rolling. That was followed up with Howie Kendrick’s own 3 run homer in the bottom of the 7th, which turned out to be a 5 run inning. Angels’ relievers allowed a combined 3 hits, 1 a solo HR to Pat Burrell given up by Jose Arredondo, who has rejoined the team after doing a little time in triple A. With a final score of 10-5, it was just one of those games that was a blast to watch. It had something for everyone, great pitching, great hitting, a few stolen bases and a couple of long balls thrown in for good measure. And once again, we got to watch a rookie make it to the big time. I always get a kick out of that.
The Angels are traveling to Baltimore Thursday and on Friday they play the first of 20 consecutive games without a day off. They are currently sitting 5 games ahead of the Rangers but I’d hardly call that a comfy cushion. I’m just glad they’ve been playing well on the road as they meet up with the Orioles, Indians and Blue Jays during this next road trip. I’m also loving the way each game is a sweet surprise as far who’s contributing the big hits. And my Torii Hunter is expected to be ready for Saturday’s game. I ask you, Angels fans…does it get any better???
Baseball…Play. Laugh. Grow.
Thursday night’s game with the Rays didn’t go very well. Ervin Santana wasn’t able to put together a start that even came close to resembling his last start against Detroit. But that’s okay. He’ll get ’em next time. Sadly, the Angels only had 4 hits tonight. Maybe if they just practice extra hard tomorrow, they’ll do better against the Padres. And the Angels’ relievers? Well, it wasn’t their night either. They can toss the ball around before the game tomorrow and work out the kinks. Before taking the field, they can all gather together for a group hug and give a big, rousing “Go Angels!” cheer.
But what I hope most of all, is for Brian “The Man” Fuentes to have some really, really good games. Oh, that Brian…what a guy! You know, he just might be my very favorite Angel!
Okay, let me explain. No, I’m not sick, drunk or taking any kind of medication that might impair my normally rational thinking. It’s much worse. I’ve been busted. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ve been caught with my hand in the cookie jar of “fair-weather fan-ness”.
As I was watching the game tonight, I logged in to my blog. I immediately noticed I’d had more traffic than usual. I thought perhaps, with the new feature that makes blog suggestions at the end of an entry, new readers might have been directed to my blog. Just in the last few days I know I’ve been introduced to many other blogs I had not previously stumbled upon because of this feature. Wondering how other games were going, I pulled up the MLB.com main page to check the scores. And then I saw it. In the bottom left hand corner of the page…big, bold and in black and white…
“I don’t think Mike Scioscia read
my last post. If he had, he might
have considered my idea of using
Matt Palmer as a reliever.”
Oh.my.gosh. Instead of getting a kick out of having my blog mentioned on the main page of MLB.com, I am mortified. Who the heck am I to second-guess Mike Scioscia? Last time I checked, I had not played 12 years of professional baseball. The only World Series ring I own is a replica giveaway from Opening Day 2003. I manage an office, not a major league ball club. But most importantly, I was sounding like the kind of fan I dislike the most: the know-it-all fan who honestly believes they could do a better job of managing a team than the hugely qualified person who is currently doing it.
Ironically, that isn’t who I am. Not at all. Anyone who knows me can vouch for that. I am the first to defend my Angels to anyone and everyone. I don’t like to hear anyone bad-mouth them, no matter how badly they’re playing. If anything, I should be attending AAA meetings…Angels Apologists Anonymous. I admit, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion that comes with being a fan. Lately, Angels fans have had to deal with frustration and disappointment instead of the joy and satisfaction we’ve grown accustomed to over the last 7 years or so.
I need to reacquaint myself with supporting a team that’s not necessarily poised for a playoff appearance. Lord knows, I’ve done it before and I can do it again…if I must. I haven’t been over-the-top outrageous with my remarks, but a few more losses like these last two in Tampa Bay and I might’ve been headed down that dark and ominous path. But I promise going forward, I will resume my role of devoted fan and cheerleader, because rain or shine, win or lose, I love these guys and I always will. Nothing will change that.
What’s that? Even Brian Fuentes? Oh, him. I’m trying, really I am. I don’t know why we’re just not clicking. I know I’ve been tough on him. No, you’re right…his stats don’t warrant my nickname “The Closer Poser”. Okay, I’ll stop calling him that. Yes, I’ll give him another chance. My motto? Yeah, it’s “Once an Angel, always an Angel…except for Jose Guillen.” That includes Mark Teixeira. Nice while it lasted, huh? Okay, Brian. If you can hear me…I’m ready to make another go of it. No more nicknames, no more “help wanted” ads for a new closer in the Orange County Register. I’m willing to try if you are. Please, Brian, send me a sign!
PS – Matt Palmer will START tonight’s game vs. the Padres! Don’t worry, Mr. Scioscia. I know I had nothing to do with this!
Baseball…the power to take charge.
I don’t think Mike Scioscia read my last post. If he had, he might have considered my idea of using Matt Palmer as a reliever. As it stands, there isn’t a start anywhere on Palmer’s horizon. While I’m not happy with this, I understand the reasons. But we all know there are times when a starter is just not having a good day. Maybe they don’t have their “stuff” or their head’s not in the game. Sometimes it’s a physical issue. I remember being at game 5 of the ALDS in 2005 when ace starter Bartolo Colon suddenly left the game in the top of the 2nd inning due to shoulder inflammation.
The collective gasp that went up from the sold-out crowd registered on the richter scale. This was game 5…do or die…versus the Yankees! When rookie Ervin Santana took over I told my dad, “If he somehow pulls this off, it’ll be the biggest story tomorrow.” He did and it was.
Now, I’m not comparing Wednesday night’s game to a deciding game of a play-off series, but when it was clear in the 2nd inning that Big John Lackey was having big trouble, I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect opportunity to bring Palmer in and see if he could turn things around. It didn’t happen and Lackey gave up 5 runs. When he gave up a home run to start the 3rd, I thought maybe NOW I’d see Palmer. Nope. When Lackey was finished after 5 (funny, but I would’ve swore he went 7…it felt like the torture lasted that long), he’d given up 9 runs. The Angels didn’t score after the 4th and every time Joe Maddon came out to change pitchers, I was jealous.
Why wasn’t Scioscia making a pitching change?!? Heck, I might not have been upset to see Brian “The Closer Poser” Fuentes making an entrance. It couldn’t possibly get any worse than it was? Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind and I was gripped by fear. What if Mike Scioscia thinks his own bullpen stinks so badly that even he doesn’t want to pick up the phone to bring in a reliever?
Was he okay with Lackey’s 9 runs because he was afraid if he brought in Bulger, Oliver or Speier the Rays might score twice that? What does he know that we don’t know? And now what??? Where do we turn for relief pitching? Here?
What about here?
Hey, don’t laugh. I think the unique over-the-shoulder delivery could really throw batters. And the single ones won’t want to make contact. If Mike (Scioscia) and Mike (Butcher) don’t get the bullpen turned around, and fast, the Angels will continue to hover around the .500 mark all the way to the end of the season. Sure, Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. But they could always try my idea:
Oh, wait! Speaking of quarterbacks…isn’t this guy available? And doesn’t he have a pretty good arm?
It was definitely a team effort Tuesday night when the Angels beat the Rays. Jered Weaver was his usual reliable self and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings. He admitted the Florida humidity got to him and sapped his strength. He said had to change his jersey between innings because he was sweating so much. Not the “dry heat” we’re used to here in So Cal. Maybe the humidity moistened the rusty joints of the Angels hitters because they were able to combine for 12. They scored 2 runs in the 1st, helped along by 2 boo boos committed by the Rays.
Let’s face it. With the AL’s worst bullpen, the Angels need to catch their breaks wherever they can get them. In what ultimately was a one run game, watching Darren Oliver load the bases in the 7th and Jason Bulger give up a first pitch homerun to Ben Zobrist in the 8th, gave me my usual gameday anxiety. The difference was, things actually went the Angels’ way. When Carlos Pena hit a bullet down the right field line with the bases loaded, he should’ve had 3 RBIs. Instead, Kendry Morales stuck his glove out and stopped that ball dead in its track. He even looked a little surprised that the ball was in his glove as he stepped on first to double off Evan Longoria. I had to replay it 3 times to believe it myself.
And Brian “The Closer Poser” Fuentes had to be grateful for that game-ending double-play because it’s not like he’s coming in throwing strikes. Ironically, Jose Arredondo, who had my vote at the end of last season to take over when Frankie Rodriguez left, was sent back down to Salt Lake today, more depressing evidence of continuing bullpen woes.
My feel-good guy of the season, Matt Palmer, has lost his spot in the starting rotation with Lackey, Santana and now Escobar all returning from the DL. I’d like to see him get some innings of relief work. He’s definitely proven himself and we’ve seen his ability to pitch his way out of real trouble, a skill that current relievers haven’t seemed to master. Bottom line, he’s got the stuff so let him bring it!
Today was draft day. Call me old-fashioned but I’m a huge fan of the draft. I’m not talking sports. I mean this draft:
In my line of work, I encounter hundreds of young men seeking employment. On one end of the spectrum, I have to note gang affiliations based on neck tattoos and question gaps in previous employment due to time in the state pen. On the other end, I have to get used to being called, “Ma’am” and hear about extensive and valuable training received while in the military. Barring a Chinese invasion, I don’t see a mandatory draft being reinstated. Too bad. I’ve seen firsthand what a couple years of military service does for a young person. I’ve seen the discipline, the self-esteem, the pride. Before I’m labeled a war-mongering, right-winger (I’m not), let me ask you this: If you were a prospective employer, who would you rather I send you?
Back to baseball…okay, as I said, the Angels must capitalize on any break that comes their way to compensate for their inconsistent bullpen. They did tonight, turning Rays’ errors into runs. With Texas taking a beating from Toronto (0-9), the gap is once again closing. But this is far from a 2 team race as Oakland has steadily gained ground, winning 8 of their last 10, including a 7 game win streak. In the east, the Red Sox and Yankees are battling head-to-head for the top spot and no one’s running away with it in the central. It’s June and it’s still anyone’s game.
Baseball…never let them see you sweat.