A Tale of Two Angels

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Coming up on the twenty game mark, our Halos have quietly moved themselves towards the head of the pack, though you wouldn’t know it if all you read was the mainstream sports media outlets.  But you know?  That is okay.  Let the east coast bias continue to sally forth, the Angels will continue to quietly play solid baseball.  Next thing you know, the pundits will backtrack on their pre-season picks and talk about how the Halos never left.

Getting to the title of today’s entry, the worst of times had our starting pitcher going four innings, six runs off ten hits.  Not Ervin Santana’s best outing.  However, I would say the situational hitting played a bigger part of this loss, as the line up was only able to produce one paltry run while stranding eight and batting .125 with runners in scoring position.  Not so great.

The best of times came courtesy of under rated Matt Palmer going six innings giving up one run, earned, off three hits.  Situational hitting?  .500 with runners in scoring position resulted in fifteen runs.

Thing is, yesterday we had ten hits but only scored one run.  Today, five more hits netted us fourteen more runs.  Who has questions?

The youth brigade is off and running as well.  Mark Trumbo is tearing things up, with Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos in hot pursuit.  Today they went a combined nine for thirteen with nine RBI’s.  Again, who has questions?  This potentially puts Mike Scioscia in a quandry when Kendrys Morales comes back online

OTHER THOUGHTS:

While saddened, I am not surprised to hear that Brandon Wood was designate for assignment.  For the record, I will stick with my guns in saying that he never got a full chance and was mismananged.  Sometimes, though, change is good.  Fourteen years in the military have taught me that.  Also for the record, I expect Brandon will pick up somewhere and do well.

The Carl Crawford fumble had Halo’s fans up in arms, SUV’s swerving, and Starbucks spilling all over the place.  So far, his crazy expensive long term contract has netted the Red Sox nine hits, two RBI’s, and a ******** .143 batting average.  I’m sure he will find his swing, but I am guessing Sox fans are sweating a little over that, along with their five and eleven start. 

Jayson Werth has eleven hits with two RBI’s with a .200 average, but at least he has managed to draw eight walks.

Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea not to take out a third mortgage to get those guys.

Picking up Where we Left Off

And not picking up in a good way.  Teams of Angels past thrived off of situational hitting and lights out pitching.  Through the first four games of this season, the Halos are hitting somewhat decent, the team average thus far is .290.  But, as any stat-head will tell you, numbers can be deceiving.  With runners in scoring position, seven for forty-two for an embarrassing .167 average Forgive me while I fight through a bout of deja vu.  As much as I try to be an optimist about this team, they are making it very difficult.  Even the starting pitching is starting to scare me once you get through our big three.  Kazmir didn’t make it through two and Piniero will miss his first start.

It only took three games for Mike Scioscia to start changing up line ups and position players.  The “contact” line up went three for fourteen with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.  While there were no errors, the quality of play in the field with players at unfamiliar spots was not up to Angels standards.  Me personally?  I’m tired of what seems to be gimmick baseball.  Stack your line up with your everyday position players and let them play.

Finally, I am just about ready to declare the return of the arson squad with Fernando Rodney being the lead fire bug.  Today he managed to squeak out seven strikes from twenty pitches thrown, giving up two runs, walking three, and allowing two hits.  That added up to a blown save, the second blown save of the game, and the Angels third blown save in three games.  Also featured in the opening series of the season was two walk off home runs by the opposition Kansas City Royals.  The series total for the bullpen breaks down like this:  16 innings, 19 hits, 13 runs, 10 earned runs, 13 walks, 14 strikeouts, and the aforementioned three blown saves.  They have also managed to give up five home runs.

If Mike Scioscia cannot settle his line up, if we continue to strand runners in scoring position, and if the bullpen continues to hemorrhage runs, then it will be a very long season.

Dogs of the West Angels Open With a Win

It has been an incredibly busy month between the events all throughout Africa and the Middle East, the tragedy in Japan, the steady movement of Marine battalions in and out of Afghanistan, and my impending move back to southern California.  It is nice to be back on the blogs, and I am thrilled that baseball is finally back on.

I am calling the Angels the dogs of the west this year.  This is due to the overwhelming assessment by many a baseball pundit that the Rangers will repeat.  Last year, the flavor around this time was Seattle.  This year, the cool aid is Texas flavored with an Oakland chaser.  The Halos?  Most have them third, largely a product of a significantly off year.  That is perfectly okay with me.  Growing up an Angels fan in the 80′s, I am used to my team being the underdogs.  Honestly, this is not a bad thing.  The pressure is off, and the division is theirs to win for a change, and it is the Rangers to lose.

With that being said, here are some early thoughts:

The Rangers will be involved in a lot of games with a score of about ten to eight.  What side of the score they tend to be on will be directly proportional to how many at bats Michael Young gets.

Oakland’s pitching looks scary.  If their bats can be average then I think they have a legit chance to contend late in the season.

The Angels will be involved in a lot of games with a score of five to three.  Which side they are on depends on the pen.  Shakey today, my biggest concern still.  By the way, someone please tell Fernando Rodney his cap is crooked.

Professed Angels fans and Jeff Mathis haters are smack in the middle of a moral dilema right now.  Are they happy that their team won or upset because the “worst catcher in baseball history” went two for four with a home run?  I know, it’s only one game, but I can’t help it.

Jered Weaver looked great.  Defense looked great.  Starting pitching and defense will carry this team.

Speaking of looking great, the bullpen did not.  Weaver’s six and a third innings with two hits, two walks, six K’s and no earned runs was matched with Takahashi, Walden, Jepsen, Kohn, and Rodney going a combined two and two thirds innings with five hits, four walks, four K’s and two earned runs.  This will work against the Royals.  Up against the Rangers, Yankees, or Red Sox and the score is six to four with a goose egg in the win column.  The pen has to protect leads.

Three for thirteen.  That was Halo batting with runners in scoring position.  This was the other thing that fell unusually quiet last year.  Pitching, defense, and situational hitting is what will make this team great.

I will leave it here.  It’s a little thin on anything really analytical, but to be honest, I have the rest of the season to crunch numbers.  Right now, I am just happy that the season is on, the Angels have won their home opener, and all is right with the universe once again.

How Do I Title the Garret Anderson Retirement Entry?

I recently read an article written by Joe Posnanski regarding the late great Duke Snider.  Admittedly, I knew little of him, other than associating him as one of the game’s great centerfielders.  However, there was one passage within the article that immediately caught my attention.  Mr. Posnanski was comparing Carlos Beltran’s and Raul Ibanez’ playing style in the outfield.  Over the same stretch of real estate, Ibanez looked like he was running for his life uphill, against the wind dragging an anchor.  Beltran, on the other hand, was silky smooth like a Lena Horne track and a scotch on the rocks on a cool summer night.  (For the record, those are my comparison descriptions, not Mr. Posnanski’s).  To get to the point, he identifies Carlos Beltran as the better outfielder, further stating:

“And yet … I have absolutely no doubt that Beltran has been booed countless more times for his defense than Ibanez. Why? Well, in part because Beltran has the curse of gracefulness. Beltran never quite looks like he is giving full effort. He never seems to be pushing against the edges of his potential. There may be some truth to this — maybe Beltran has not always given full effort, and maybe he has not always lived up to his potential. But who does? Anyway, he is trying much harder than it looks like he’s trying.”

The curse of gracefulness.  Garret Anderson instantly came to mind.  Never looked like he was running that fast, or swinging that hard.  I remember local media ripping him for lack of hustle.  To make another admission, I was not a Garret Anderson fan back in the late nineties.  Back then I was an Erstad, Salmon, and DiSarcina guy.  It seemed like we always had a crowded outfield and Garret was always talked about as a potential trade candidate.  I was all for it, especially after watching Erstad try to single handedly take down the centerfield wall.  That was more my style.  When they traded Edmonds rather than Anderson, I was baffled.  How could they trade the guy that made arguably the greatest centerfield catch ever over the guy that trotted around in left?

You see, I had been fooled by the curse of gracefulness.  I, like many others, mistook his smooth style and quiet demeanor as lackadaisical and aloof.  I mistook his often bland expressions as those of boredom.  Man oh man, was I wrong.

As we closed out the nineties and moved into the 2000′s, I began to see him in a different light.  I think a lot of it had to do with some significant events in my own life.  In 1997 I joined the Marine Corps.  In 2000 my first daughter was born.  As I worked full time at a bank, was a Marine Reservist, and went to school at night to finish my degree, I really started to appreciate hard work and tenacious determination.  As I discovered that good things do not come easily, I started to really see and appreciate just how great Garret Anderson was as a player and an individual.  During the time when sports stars were more interested in making cell phone calls from end zones and steroid fueled sluggers were busy inflating their heads (literally and figuratively) and home run numbers, there was Garret Anderson. 

You never knew how good he was because he never talked about it.  Pretty much no one outside of Anaheim knew how good he was until the 2003 All Star game.  It was the ALCS in 2002 that really made me a fan of his.  He closed out a game three win against the Twins with a sliding catch in shallow left……and he smiled!  And not just any smile, it almost jumped off his face!  He did have a personality!  My daughter and I, then two, danced in the living room.  She had no idea what was going on, but we were having a blast.  After that, he slowly crept into my consciousness.  My previous assessments of aloofness and a lax attitude were replaced by a quiet leadership style, hard work ethic, and an easy going confidence that appeared to be contagious.  And man, he just kept on hitting!

Incidentally, Garret Anderson became my daughter’s favorite player.  She almost got his autograph at a 2007 game but lost out in the mass of kids (and adults) as he walked over to the stands.  When games were on, I would yell when he was up to bat, and she would come running in to watch, cheering when he got on base, and sulking off if he did not.  I was very thankful that she had chosen an athlete to admire that was not a self-absorbed diva mega star, but a blue collar all around solid guy.  GA never made a bad headline, gave back to the community, and just played the game.  The curse of gracefulness transgressed the field of play and permeated his personal and professional life outside the diamond.  Of all the curses to have, this one is not bad.  Not bad at all.

So how do I title this entry?  This bloggers favorite player retires?  Nope, Bobby Grich is my all-time favorite.  Sorry Garret, he got there early on.  You will have to come back as a coach to beat him out.  All time Angel’s great?  Too generic.  All around great guy?  It states the obvious.  The curse of gracefulness?  I feel that would take away from both the recent passing of the Duke and Anderson’s retirement announcement.

No, I think I will leave the title as is.  Over the course of his career he inspired in me many emotions, from general dislike, to frustration, followed by indifference, respect, admiration, and finally, dismay when he was let go by the Angels.  I will forever argue that letting him go was a mistake.

So Garret, thank you for being a great player for a fan like me to follow, for being a great role model to our youth, and for setting a shining example that it is not about accolades or contracts, but how you play the game.  Enjoy your time with the family, and the deserved well wishes from the fans, coaches, and peers. 

This Angel’s Fan Believes Albert Pujols Passed up a Golden Opportunity

I hesitate to make this post.  It is a little more personal than I like to get.  Well, if you are going to be a writer then sometimes you have to put it out there, right?

 

I will disclose up front that the majority of my knowledge regarding the upcoming subject is based almost entirely upon what I have read on major news sights and syndicated sports writers columns.  However, as a casual observer of baseball outside of the greater Anaheim metropolitan area, and a father of two impressionable young daughters, I have an opinion of the Albert Pujols affair.

 

By all accounts Mr. Pujols is one of the nice guys, the good guys, if you will, of baseball.  He does not make headlines outside of the game.  He is not linked to steroids nor do you hear about off field escapades.  Mr. Pujols does much for the community and gives back significantly the riches his skill set has afforded him.  In a word, commendable.  Additionally, his career numbers to this point are, as quoted by multiple baseball folks smarter than me, “first ballot hall of fame.”

 

Albert Pujols has also stated that he wants to stay in the only city that he has ever known as a professional baseball player.  So when he says that he wants to complete a contract extension prior to the season?  Absolutely!  The last thing that you want is that eight hundred pound gorilla hanging around your locker room for the entire season……in other news:  The St. Louis Cardinals signed an eight hundred pound gorilla just prior to spring training to an undisclosed dollar amount.

 

I recently came across this quote in a Tom Verducci column:

 

“Albert is not someone who is about the money,” said a baseball source close to Pujols. “He has enough and his charitable work is amazing. He has flown doctors and dentists to the Dominican to give kids there access to health care. But he is someone with intense pride. He has worked hard to turn himself into the best hitter in baseball and he’s earned the right to be treated that way in negotiations. It’s not about greed with Albert. I think it’s pride.”


Really?  He requires the salary to satisfy his pride?  I am generally not one to put too much credence into single source reporting, but this is not single source.  There have been multiple reports that say basically the same thing:  Albert wants the salary that recognizes his current status as the greatest hitter playing baseball.  If he really wants to stay in St. Louis then why does getting paid three hundred million dollars over ten years matter?  He will have just gotten done making well over one hundred million on the current contract at the end of this season, not including incentives and endorsements.  Once you are a millionaire that many times over does it matter? Three hundred million for ten years versus, say for arguments sake, two hundred million for seven years.  Who cares!  This is on top of the hundred million plus you have already made!

 

Albert’s words state that he wants to be a Cardinal for life.  Albert’s actions state otherwise, he wants monetary confirmation he is the best in baseball.  Apparently, his ridiculous numbers are not argument enough.  If the Cards pay what he is asking, who will play around him?  You cannot win with one uber paid mega star surrounded by a farm team.  Ask the Rangers how that worked out for them.  If some team is stupid enough to give him ten years at thirty per, paying him into his forties, then his words were just that:  words. 

 

Albert Pujols has passed up a golden opportunity to be one of the truly great good guys of baseball.  He could have taken another home team discount, which would have paid him many more millions yet again.  That would have been good for the team, good for the city of St. Louis, and good for some of the best baseball fans in the country.  A home team discount allows the Cardinals to put a team around Mr. Pujols and make them dangerously competitive every season.  A home team discount allows Mr. Pujols to go down in history….HISTORY….as one of the true baseball greats that set records, and stayed true to himself, his team, and his city.

 

But it is no longer about the fans or city of St. Louis.  Now, it is about the contract that Ryan Howard just signed with the Phillies.  It is about the contract that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers and later the Yankees.  In this day and age, your greatness is not measured by statistics, but by the size of your contract.

 

To bring this diatribe to a full circle closing, I am the father of two young daughters.  My oldest is ten years old and has already told me she wants to play baseball, not softball.  Her favorite players have been Garret Anderson and Torii Hunter.  It makes it hard for me as a father to preach the team concept when money so obviously takes precedence, when you have players saying they support the team, but they have to do what is right for them.  Yeah, not everyone makes the multi millions, and this is not meant to be an indictment of all players.  I believe the majority are happy to play the game and earn an above average living.  However, according to the MLBPA homepage frequently asked questions section, the average player salary in 2009 was $2,996,106 and the league minimum in the same year was $400,000.  Not too bad considering the state of the national economy today.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a U.S. Marine Captain with thirteen years of service; you can Google my base salary.  It is difficult for me to relate to or understand this multi million dollar problem set.

 

A scathing review of one player in one situation?  Perhaps.  Mr. Pujols and the Cardinals may come to an agreement at some point that works for both sides and the icon stays put.  And really, who am I but just your average fan on the outside looking in?  I look for actions though, not words.  This is how I currently see it from my sub $400,000 per year vantage point.

OTHER THOUGHTS AND NOTES:

Since this is an Angel’s blog, I should finish off with some Halo’s talk.  It is refreshing to see our veteran beat writer Lyle Spencer dishing out updates at the cyclic rate.  How hard it must be to spend spring in Arizona, talking daily to Angels of past, present, and future, and getting paid to boot?  Blogging has made me realize just how hard it is to write on a regular basis, but I have to say I envy the guy with the access he has.

I really like Hank Conger.  From all I have read and seen, he has a level head, an intelligent approach, and the capacity to run the field from behind home plate.  I know Mike Scioscia is constantly high on Jeff Mathis, but Jeff has to know if he does not consistently produce his days are numbered.  Competition is a good thing, and I have Hank as a dark horse candidate to break the opening day roster.

Sketchy reports indicate Brandon Wood worked on his hitting this winter with folks that do not wear Angels red during the regular season.  Regardless of the validity of this, I hope the kid shakes off whatever rally monkey camped on his back all last season.  No longer the minted future at third, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.  I still say he should be given a look at short, his natural position and less pressure to produce power numbers.

Crazy long post, but if you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts.  Looking forward to opening day!

What if Arte Didn’t Say It?

When Arte Moreno indicated at the end of last season that he would do whatever it takes to bring winning back to Anaheim, people danced in the streets in preparation of becoming the west coast second coming of the Yankees.  Okay, so maybe there was no dancing in the streets.  There was, however, an extreme surge in expectations that we would land some serious free agent firepower.  I will admit I was excited to see what a significantly expanded payroll could put on the field.

Then came the Crawford fumble.  That was soon followed by the Beltre bobble.  Angel’s fans wrath went schizophrenic, blasting all corners of the Halo’s clubhouse and front office.  I am pretty sure at some point Angels beat writer Lyle Spencer bore some responsibility for the 2010 third place face plant.  For my own part I criticized Tony Reagins, Arte Moreno, and was not a fan of Erick Aybar or the bullpen.

But what if Arte Moreno had said something like “It was a disappointing season, we will take a look at our club and the personnel we have on hand, and make moves that will improve our team for 2011.”  With that statement, instead of columns bemoaning an abysmal offseason, an alternative universe editorial may look something like this:

TEMPE AZ — Angels pitchers and catchers reported to training camp today after an offseason that went from productive to bold risk.  The bullpen was improved with two veteran lefties as Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi look to stabilize a shaky 2010 showing.  However, those moves were overshadowed by the surprise trade with Toronto that brought Vernon Wells and his monster contract to the Big A for catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera.  That trade, first predicted on the MLB blog site Mo’s Angels, was the answer to productivity issues after the Halo’s fell out of the Crawford and Beltre derby.  With the return of Kendry Morales to form, the two through five spots with Bobby Abreu, Kendry Morales, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells has some potential potency.  Along with who will the leadoff hitter be, two other big questions to be answered this spring training will be who claims third base and primary receiver positions.  Despite those questions, with the improved pen and added bat, coupled with an arguably top five rotations in baseball, the Angels look to contend and reclaim their top spot in the American League west.

I’m Going Back to Cali….but not Young

This week I am pretty excited for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is that I have tentative orders to MCAS Miramar.  Yep, I am coming back home to California.  Not only will it put me back near family but I will be able to see games at the beloved Big A yet again on a regular basis. 

The second reason why I am thus far having a good week is watching the unfolding drama in Texas. 

A quick recap for those of you who may have spent the last few days reading more about Lindsey Lohan’s latest debacle rather than America’s true past time.  It has come to light in recent days that Michael Young is now demanding a trade and has insinuated that he is unhappy with how the Ranger front office has treated him in the past few months.  Moving on.

Does anyone else get the feeling that they signed Adrian Beltre just to keep him from the Halos?  When the Rangers signed Beltre out of nowhere the first question that got asked was where was the club house captain Michael Young going to go?  The answer was designated hitter and a “super utility” role.  I did some research and discovered that none of the line up positions includes the super utility man.  Basically, Young is off the field.  It is a well known fact that no one really wants to become a designated hitter.  See Vlad Guerrero on that topic.  Then, Mike Napoli shows up, who will fill a catcher/first base/designated hitter role.  Does anyone else see a trend here?  Or, if you put your conspiracy theory hat on, maybe they have been setting the table for moving Michael Young? 

Regardless of what the Ranger front office intentions or agenda was, they are now in a very awkward position.  On the one hand, they have to trade a guy with a very hefty contract remaining, and have no real leverage since that cat is out of the bag.  How can you work a deal when the other side knows that you are in a tight box already?  On the other hand, if Texas cannot move him, now they have a very disgruntled club house leader that has publicly announced he cannot see himself continuing on with the organization.  One thing that was attributed to the Rangers success last season was the unity of the team to themselves and the club.  Currently, that cohesion appears to be in danger of disintegrating before spring training even gets underway.

Despite the offensive upgrade that Michael Young would bring to the Angels, I do not see the Covina native heading this direction, and that is a good thing.  Lyle Spencer was dead on in his analysis of what Young would bring to the table.  His home and away splits expose what most of us know; the Rangers play in a hitter friendly ballpark.  You then couple that with his glove, which is average at best.  I usually get critiqued for this, but I will take an average, even a below average hitter, for an above average to elite defender.  When you add on to this $48 million over three years for a guy already in his mid-thirties and this deal does not look so desirable after all.

So, let us review.  The Rangers have an upset club house leader demanding a trade, but he is not really tradable at this point.  The end result is a potential team chemistry disaster in the mixing and it is only February.  Oh yeah, does Texas have a pitching staff?  If I am a Texas fan I am concerned, and as an Angels fan that makes me giddy.

But the most exciting part of this week is the likelihood that I will pull orders returning me to southern California where I will be able to return to my regular routine of attending Angel’s games as much as possible.

Fans, it’s going to be a good year.  Get ready for some baseball.

 

Wells Trade is a Wash for Mo’s Bold Predictions, So I’ll Make Another

On January 2nd I posted some bold predictions.  The first predicted our signing of Adrian Beltre, the second theorized a potential trade with the Blue Jays to bring Vernon Wells to the happiest place on earth.  To be quite honest, I figured the Wells thing was a total long shot.  The only reason why I made it was because I saw a potential win/win deal between a club looking for a bat and another club looking to free up some cash.  When I saw the headline last night, my initial reaction sent two cats scrambling for cover and my wife running in looking for the fire.

Yep, I called it.  Please allow me a moment to bask a bit in my Nostradamus-esque prowess of reading the baseball tea leaves.  Still basking……..yeah, warm like the earnly morning Hawai’i sun.  Okay, back to work.

So, when the Texas Rangers signed Adrian Beltre it was opined by many a frustrated fan that the 2011 American League West title was a forgone conclusion for Texas.  Now that the Angels have signed Vernon Wells, it appears that we will actually have to play the 2011 season and see who wins.  If baseball history has taught us anything, the teams that are supposed to win do not always see glory in the fall classic.  Case in point is the most recent between Texas and San Francisco.  Who called that one?

I see a couple of second and third order effects with this move.  One is the potential of the best defensive outfield in baseball.  Peter Bourjos is set up pretty well for success having a pair of gold glovers on his left and right between Wells and Torii Hunter.  Wells on grass vice turf can only have upside as well.  The wild card here is how well the swift youngster can perform against a full season of major league pitching.

With Napoli gone that leaves Jeff Mathis as the primary catcher.  Considered by some fans as single handedly bringing down the Angels last season, he now has a great opportunity to silence his critics.  Is he really better than his wrist injury or is he a below average ball player that Scioscia over protects?  I think he will rise to the occassion, Jeff has nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

Finally, Bobby Abreu looks to be the designated hitter and quite possibly the lead of man.  While I am not thrilled with him leading off, I am not convinced Erick Aybar can handle that roll, nor do I think Bourjos is a current answer.  Guess we will just have to see how that plays out.

Currently, I am one and two in my bold predictions.  The Wells trade gave me my one victory but in sending Napoli, I lost out in another.  Thus, a wash. 

Here is my follow on bold prediction, probably my longest shot of yet.  Cashman to the Angels as the new GM?

Bold predictions prior to spring training

To break in the New Year, I thought that I would make some dark horse and otherwise very bold predictions on what may go down prior to spring training.  Go big or go home right?

1.   The Angels sign Beltre.  The mystery team never emerges.   The Halos sign him to an incentive laden contract of five years at $70 million with an option for six.  In the aftermath, Beltre vows that he will prove he can produce over the course of a contract.

2.  In a surprise move, Reagins works a trade of Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar to Toronto for Vernon Wells, with the Blue Jays picking up some of his remaining contract.  The acquisition of Callaspo allows Jose Bautista to move to right field where he reportedly feels more comfortable and can utilize a strong arm.  Aybar provides them with some infield depth and an option at lead off.  The move also frees up a lot of cash for the small market team coming off a solid season.  Wells moves to left field, putting Bobby Abreu at the DH spot and also the leading contender for lead off.  The change of venue works wonders, much like Vladdy moving to Texas, and Wells hits to expectations.

3.  With Aybar gone, a dog fight erupts at shortstop between Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood with the latter having another strong spring and winning out.  With the pressure off to produce power numbers, Brandon Wood tightens up his stance and figures out off speed low and away pitches.  The Wood/Howard Kendrick combo will be one of the best double play duos in the majors this season.

4.  Peter Bourjos struggles at the plate, but improves steadily as the year goes on.  His sub-par production at the plate will be overlooked due to highlight real defense in center, one of which will rival the June 1997 Jim Edmonds catch in Kansas City.

5.  Mike Napoli catches the front three of the rotation with Mathis on the back two.  Though Napoli will overshadow his good friend offensively, Mathis will throw out more would be base thieves in fewer opportunities.

I am not good at setting line ups, but this is my S.W.A.G. (scientific wild **** guess) on what all these scenarios, if they all come together, may look like.

1.  Bobby Abreu, DH

2.  Kendry Morales, 1B

3.  Adrian Beltre, 3B

4.  Vernon Wells, LF

5.  Torii Hunter, RF

6.  Howard Kendrick, 2B

7.  Mike Napoli, C

8.  Brandon Wood, SS

9.  Peter Bourjos, CF

 

And those, Halos fans, are my dark horse predictions.  Bring on spring training!

My New Year resolutions for the Angels

To reiterate for the record, my knowledge of baseball consists of being a long time fan and a box score and stat junkie.  My playing time consists of little league baseball and two seasons playing short in a soft ball league in Riverside.  I blog because it is fun.  Now, as we get ready to ring in 2011, here are my resolutions.

For myself, I will stop bemoaning how bad we were last season, consider that shark jumped.  We get it, Mathis did not have a great season, and his value offensively and defensively is debatable.  Wood was too slow getting into the major league groove to warrant the consistent plate appearances he needed.  Additionally, there was a competition between Erick Aybar and the bull pen over who was the better matador for errors and allowing base runners to score.  Check.  Elvis has left the building.

For Arte Moreno I have two.  The first is please drop Los Angeles from the team name.  As an Anaheim native and longtime resident of Orange County, I take pride in the fact that I am distinctly non Los Angeles when it comes to sports.  In the old days I rooted for the Rams over the Raiders.  I rooted for the Ducks when they came to town over the Kings.  The only time I ever rooted for a truly Los Angeles team was in the 1988 World Series, and that was more because I was pulling for geography over my much despised northern California nemesis Oakland A’s.  The Angels are not a Los Angeles team; we are an Orange County team.  We are geographically and culturally removed from that other market up the freeway, something which we take pride in.  Might I recommend either returning as the Anaheim Angels, or perhaps the Southern California Angels?

The second for Mr. Moreno is doing something to generate more revenue so we can be more competitive for top tier talent.  I am not suggesting we become the Yankees or Red Sox and throw money around to keep up with the Jones’s.  However, I am growing weary of talking like a big market team while acting small market.  By all means, continue to make sound business decisions, but there is nothing wrong with having the surplus cash on hand to push the ante as necessary for either that certain free agent or reinvesting in the young talent.  Despite living in Hawaii, I make every effort to make it back to the mainland to catch a couple of games when I can.  I would pay five percent more on ticket prices to see someone like Beltre or Soriano playing for us.

For Mike Scioscia, pick a line up.  I will wager a case of Fire Rock Pale Ale that the Angels led the majors in batting order variations.  This is especially true for young guys like Brandon Wood and soon to be Peter Bourjos, they need consistency and rhythm.  When constantly moved up, down, in, and out of the lineup how can they find that?  And for the love of Gene Autry make Mike Napoli your primary catcher!

Tony Reagins, I am sure that you are a great guy to hang out and have a beer with, but you are killing me right now.  To be perfectly honest the winter meetings were not your finest hours.  I understand you do not hold all the purse or decision strings.  However, you are the General Manager; you have to get into the fight.  As a U.S. Marine I completely understand the importance of operational security during missions (negotiations).  Sometimes a little shock and awe works too.  Just sayin.

Finally, to all my fellow bloggers, posters, and commenters, cut Lyle Spencer a little slack.  He is a beat writer for the Angels.  He gets his stories from the front office, the coaches, and from his personal relationships with the players.  He has more access and insight than any of us, not to mention he has been writing since I was in diapers.  For those that label him a “brown nose” or a “puppet” of the Angels organization, consider this: “Angels beat writer” is not a columnist gig.  I am not sure that he can write whatever he feels like.  Doing so would likely cost him access and relationships with the players and staff.  You get three guesses what that would lead to and the first two do not count.  For us working stiffs, we all toe the company line in some way.  It is called job security.  There are definitely times when I have to bite my tongue and just say yes Sir.  With that being said, how many of us working stiffs find a way around the company line?  Find a way to subtly stick it to the man?  So yeah, some of his articles may have a party line feel to it.  They are also laced with tidbits of sagacity and perspective about this great team and game that we are all so passionate about.  You just have to read between the lines.  We are lucky to have him.  Again, just sayin. 

Happy New Year Angels fans!!

 

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