Sunday, December 31, 2006
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Considering I've pretty much blown my wad on posting today, I'm struggling to come up with any deep insight into this signing, other than I think it's pretty damn good.
While Shea Hillenbrand has been hit or miss in his career, signing him to a 1-year contract pretty much ensures that we're going to get his best, as he'll be a free agent again next year and is certainly going to want to have good numbers for that contract.
And, as he can play 1st or 3rd base, this gives us a lot more solidity in the infield. While he's not the huge bat Arte promised us, this is another step toward bringing the offense up to where it needs to be.
So, welcome to the Angels, Shea! Come to play, come to win, and we'll love you here!
It hasn't been very widely reported (because it's not like this happened to David Ortiz or anything), but Juan Rivera broke his damn leg playing winter ball. That's right. Winter ball.
Just a few weeks after we read about the Cubs not allowing Soriano to play, Juan Rivera goes out there and shows us why. And with a break like that, there's no way he's going to be 100% by April.
So, where does that leave us? Keeping in mind that the Chinese use the same word for 'crisis' that they do for 'opportunity' (yes, I stole that from a movie, so not only am I unoriginal, but it may be wrong too), this is the perfect excuse for Stoneman and Arte to pull of that "something big" move that they've been talking about all year.
Now would be a great time to make a move that would have been impossible just a few days ago. Right now, we could make that trade for Manny Ramirez. We could sign Sammy Sosa and not worry about where to put him. We could let go of a pitcher to bring in a bat in the outfield, and we have every reason to do it.
This is very disappointing. I enjoyed watching Rivera mature into a major league hitter last year, and was looking forward to him in the outfield or DHing this year. But, fate works in her own way, and now that outfield is a lot thinner until he recovers.
So let's go, Stoneman! This is an opportunity, and we fans expect you to use it!
Friday, December 22, 2006
We've followed his leadership, and through him we've begun to believe. It's truly an exciting time to be an Angels fan, whether you've been here your whole life or have just caught on to how great it truly is to watch baseball in Anaheim with the 2002 World Series. Sure, we have just that one moment of past glory, but unlike other teams whose winning legacy only haunts them (Yankees) or whose recent World Series wins have negated decades of disappointment (White Sox, Red Sox), that first one was, for us, just a launching point. Seven games that proved to us that yes, we can experience the highest highs with our team, too.
With that, 2006 was (to me, at least) a great season. Not in terms of on-field success, as it certainly did suck to watch the playoffs this year and see three California teams competing for the ultimate prize and the Angels were NOT among them. It was great because missing the playoffs showed the true mettle of the current crop of Angels fans.
We collectively said "Well, we wish we'd have made it, but it was a great season nonetheless. We'll get 'em next year!"
And it's that attitude that makes me love Southern California fans all the more. I am very guilty of having an elitist attitude as an Angels fan. I get pissed when I think back to the lean years, back to the time when you'd see more of the opposing team's jerseys in the stands than you would of our own. I get pissed when I realize that the same people who came to the ballpark in 2001 to root against the Angels were there in 2002 rooting FOR them. I put myself on a pedestal, I break my arm patting myself on the back, I get awfully lonely up on that cross I put myself on when I talk about myself as a lifelong fan and look down at those who only came when the Angels started winning.
But then I realize that fandom is never an avenue to elitism. Sports and religion have a lot in common. They both require a great deal of faith. They both require absolute love of something you have no control over. And what enlightens you will not necessarily enlighten others.
So now I look at the newer fans not as "fair weather" but as new converts, men, women and children who have finally come into the light. And sure, many of them will fall by the wayside once again if the Angels do not continue winning, much as many people new to religion fall to the side when God does not answer their prayers. But for many of them, the 2002 World Series was a moment of supreme enlightenment, a moment that made them feel the spirit, and they are now hooked for life.
It doesn't matter if they've only been here for five seasons (or less). All that matters is that they feel the same way I do about this ball club.
Arte Moreno inherited a great team and a brand-new fan base when he bought this team. Yes, "brand-new" each of us, as even those who remember seeing games at Wrigley Field in LA or Dodger Stadium (or "Chavez Ravine" as they called it during Angels home games) were "born again" by the World Series win in 2002, erasing the cursed history of a losing team as well as putting each and every fan on a new, level playing field.
With that, Moreno has had a good grace period as owner, a great three-year honeymoon that included two Western Division Championships since his first full season as owner in 2004 and a damn fine run this season.
But, the honeymoon may finally be over, and if it is, it's due to that dreaded "foot in mouth" disease.
His promise of "something big" this offseason had us all titillated, all full of wonder and hope for 2007 as, unlike most every other sports franchise on the face of the planet, we have not yet learned to loathe and mistrust our owner. We got into the A-Rod fever, following every at-bat in the playoffs, reading every tabloid rumor about his relationship with the Yankees, and the Yankees relationship with him. We kept hoping that the talk coming from the Yankees was just a smokescreen, and that soon enough we'd bid adieu to Ervin Santana, Chone Figgins, and a prospect in order to have #3 (not that blasphemous #13 he wears in New York) at third base and protecting Vladamir Guerrero in Anaheim next year. We followed the bidding first for Aramis Ramirez, then Alfonso Soriano, each time getting taken by surprise when they signed with the Cubs.
We clapped politely when we signed Gary Matthews, Jr, but we knew he wasn't filling the desperate need for power hitting.
We knew he wasn't something big.
And now chances are we aren't going to see anything near what we were expecting from that comment. We are, undoubtedly, a stronger team than we were a few months ago. We've solidified our bullpen, making one of the best pitching staffs in baseball even better. Matthews has filled out a need for defense in Center Field.
But the need for a power hitter, something big, still looms.
And if we miss the playoffs again this year, you bet that statement is going to come back and bite Arte in the ass. Not only will it be played in headlines across the country, but it will run through the heads of every Angels fan as they watch four other American League teams battle it out in the playoffs next October.
Make no mistake, it will be a disappointing season if the Angels do not make the playoffs. God forbid, if they don't, fans will start to look to Arte Moreno with a jaded eye, with the beginnings of mistrust that permeate all other fan-owner relationships.
So, with that, how does Arte Moreno recover? The first, obviously, is to make that huge move. Trade for A-Rod or Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols. Yeah, I know, that ain't gonna happen. But somebody in the tier down from them, a player of the value of Aramis Ramirez or Alfonso Soriano. That'd do fine, as long as we don't get screwed in the trade.
But that is becoming increasingly unlikely. So, what else to do? Well, if a big acquisition doesn't happen, Moreno is going to have to "hang a lantern" on his problem, apologize to the fans for not coming through then spend all season making fun of himself for saying it. Already he has offered refunds to season ticket holders, but to me that seems a bit defensive. He just needs to remind us that he's going to constantly work to improve our team. (And lowering concession prices a bit as a peace offering wouldn't hurt, either.)
But, my friends, there is a third option. One that combines the two. At this point, an option he has is to follow the example of the A's in 2006. Give a former superstar a chance with a small contract with incentives. And right now, there's a perfect one on the market.
That's right, Sammy Sosa. I know that, were I to have scores of readers, I'd probably get lambasted for this suggestion. Yes, I'm aware of his past. Yes, I'm aware of his abysmal 2005 season. To make it clear, I have full knowledge of the baggage he'll bring with him.
But with that, he's shown he is serious about coming back. And, with that baggage behind him, we can get him on the cheap, just like the A's did with Frank Thomas last year. We're a contender every year, and Sammy has never been on a champion, so it shouldn't be tough to sign him to a 1-year, incentive-laden contract.
It's a gamble, but if we're paying him a base salary of near what Thomas was paid last year, then we're out a very small amount if he's a bust. If he has a comeback season like Thomas did, Arte Moreno and Bill Stoneman will look like geniuses.
Of course, there's the whole steroids issue. I personally think it's a non-issue. Even if he was more juiced than a Welch's factory, there's no way he's stupid enough to still be on it, especially after he watched his teammate Rafael Palmiero destroy his legacy with a positive test in 2005. If Sosa fails a doping test, it's 100% on him, and he knows that.
Sure, people will be reluctant to embrace him. But if he comes to Anaheim, does some duty at DH, a bit in the outfield, and maybe some at first base, and hits 30 or so home runs, he could be exactly what we need.
Besides, it would be really neat to see somebody hit a big milestone home run, like Sosa's 600th, in "The Big A."
This isn't the answer to Arte's "something big" promise. But it could pull his ass out of the fire for making that comment, and it's a very low-risk proposition for the Angels.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
One of the reasons I have such ample opportunity to pursue a blog project like this is because I am, for lack of a better term, unemployed. That is, I have no job that brings income and the ability it gives to partake in American capitalism that comes with said employment. However, I do in fact have a job. My father is a paralyzed veteran, and has been in a wheelchair without use of the lower half of his body for more than 40 years. And I live at home and take care of him.
With him sick, as he's been for a few weeks, I lose interest in everything that normally occupies my downtime. With him in the hospital, while I gain a bit of personal freedom, I lose my sense of purpose.
He's OK, and should be home in a few weeks, but his lifestyle is going to have to drastically change. For the first time, his blood test results showed poor function of his liver. Considering that in the past five years he's developed a painkiller addiction like he's competing with Rush Limbaugh, I'm frankly surprised that it's taken this long.
With that, my sob story is over, and onto a bit of sad (if ultimately good) news.
There's a moment in recent Angels history which haunts every die-hard, obsessive Angels fan, though nobody outside Orange County remembers it. While everybody remembers the 2004 ALCS, where the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to spank the Yankees into the biggest choke in playoff history and went on to sweep the World Series from the St. Louis Cardinals, very few remember the 3-0 sweep the Red Sox handed the Angels in the ALDS.
And even fewer remember the way it ended.
In extra innings, David Ortiz came to the plate in Anaheim. Wanting to play the odds, Mike Scioscia wanted to bring in a left-handed reliever to pitch to the lefty Ortiz, which, considering how clutch Ortiz has been, was a smart managing move.
The Angels had no left-handed relievers.
Not a one.
So, Scioscia brought in the only lefty he did have. Starter Jarrod Washburn.
Who promptly threw one pitch. Which Ortiz belted over the right-field wall.
So, needless to say, while our pitching has only gotten better since the 2002 World Series, our lack of lefties in the bullpen has been an Achilles heel to us for many a year. And while Siebel is a prospect (a 28-year-old prospect, but a prospect nonetheless), it's nice to have a southpaw when needed.
So, while I'll miss Brendan Donnelly and wish him luck, I think this was a smart move. Let's all cross our fingers, knock on wood, and pray that I'm right.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
But, with that, it should be noted that Daisuke Matsuzaka signed a 6-year, $52 million contract with the Red Sox today, less than 24 hours before the negotiation window closed and he would have to go back and pitch in Japan for another year.
So, with that, the Red Sox have now spent over $100 million on a guy who's never thrown a ball in North American baseball.
If I ever have a son, I'm teaching him to throw from the time he can pee.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Danny, I'm sorry you no longer live in the area, as I can think of nothing I'd rather do this summer than take you to a game, have a beer or two, and enjoy watching our Angels and the fans at Angel Stadium.
That's the beauty of baseball, and all sports for that matter. Cheering for a team is one of the greatest common denominators out there. For all I know, SecondBestDad and I could have polar viewpoints on politics, religion, sexual preference, or anything else people can have opinions on. We could be from completely different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. We could be two people who never would, nor never should, meet each other.
But, with our love for a baseball team, none of that matters.
Because from the time the umpire shouts "Play Ball" to the last out of the game, we have everything in common.
And it's like that with any team, any sport, and any fan.
So Danny, when you read this, I'd appreciate it if you'd shoot me an email to email@example.com. I don't have mailing lists or any crap like that, so don't fear for your email inbox (though I should fear for mine after posting that!)
It's just such a nice thing to meet new fanatics.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
For Danny, AKA Secondbestdad - My one fan.
Earlier today, I logged in and found this comment to my "Winter Meetings" post:
Flash back to 1990. I was a sophomore in High School, going into my Junior year as that summer was dominated by the California Angels. My friends and I made the trip to Anaheim Stadium enough that you'd think we had season tickets that year. We'd head up to the ticket counter, buy the $3 tickets in any section they had available, then sneak down and sit on the field. We went to maybe thirty or forty games that year, cheering a team that had no chance to make the playoffs but had nonetheless earned our fandom and our hearts. On September 14, we watched an event that has been replayed every year since before the Home Run Derby as Ken Griffey Sr. hit a home run in the first inning, followed by his son, Ken Griffey Jr., in the very next at bat. At the time we thought it was cool, neat, a curiosity, without realizing how monumental the back-to-back home runs by father and son really was. We watched Jim Abbott pitch, knowing even then at such a young age that we were seeing something miraculous. We watched Mark Langston struggle in his first season after signing a huge contract. We saw Lance Parrish and Bert Blyleven in their last hurrah in the Major Leagues, as well as the waning years of Wally World.
But above all, we were there to see Dante Bichette.
We weren't the only ones. Dante was a HUGE fan favorite. Sure, he was a part-time outfielder who struck out more than a blindfolded Reggie Jackson and he hit only 15 home runs that year, but to us it felt like 50. It almost seemed like every game we went to where Dante actually played, he'd knock one into dead center field. Our only complaint was how much Bichette sat.
We wanted more of him. So, of course, the Angels traded him.
And it wasn't that they traded him. It was that they traded him for Dave Parker, a 40-year-old has-been who had no chance to contribute but part time at DH.
Were we surprised? Not a bit.
This was par for the course with the Jackie Autry era Angels. Whereas William Wrigley, when he built Wrigley Field for the Cubs, knew that he could not guarantee a winner, but could guarantee a good experience at the ballpark, Jackie Autry's philosophy might have been "I don't care about a winner, I care about asses in the seats" and fulfilled that by getting big names in Angel uniforms. Now, that wouldn't be too far off the modern day Yankees, but the Angels got these superstars when they were cheap: In other words, when they were well past their primes.
Dave Parker, Lance Parrish, Bert Blyleven, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson. That's just a short list off the top of my head of past-their-prime superstars that ended up (and, in many cases, ended their careers) in Angels uniforms. And while most were free agent signings, not all were.
It seemed for a long time that every time a young Angel was approaching stardom, he'd be traded away shortly before his contract came due. Time and time again we'd grow to love a player, only to see him shipped out and kicking our ass in Anaheim the next year. And those who went to the National League, back before interleague play? Unless we played them in spring training, we were never to see them again, as the only way to do so would have been in the World Series.
Back in the old PCL, The Los Angeles Angels were the main farm team for the Chicago Cubs. It seems that in the 80's and 90's, we were the main farm team for most of Major League Baseball.
Disney coming in as owners in the mid-90's didn't help this a bit. Their theme park philosophy ascribed to their sports ventures put stupid "beer-league softball uniforms" (a la Chris Berman) on the players' backs and dancing teddy bear mascots on the dugout roof, but didn't add much to the lineup or rotation. Disney tried to make it a pleasurable experience, but was never concerned with winning as they should have been.
Of course, this argument is blown out of the water by the 2002 World Championship. No, not really. If you look at that team, it was filled with nothing but farm-grown Angels, most of them young, and other castoffs from other teams. It was not talent that brought them to the World Series so much as it was teamwork and immaculate team management.
It's because of this history that I can understand the shyness of GM Bill Stoneman when it comes to trades, even when it means missing opportunities. As a fan, though, I have that natural 20/20 hindsight and have criticized him for failure to move in the past.
Dallas McPherson, Casey Kotchman, and Rob Quinlan have all seemingly passed their expiration dates and will continue to deteriorate in value for trade. It's easy to criticize Stoneman for not trading one or more of these guys when their value was high, but any Angels fan who knows team history gets very nervous when trades for young players are mentioned, and I am not an exception. Having electrifying young talent on a team that usually tosses it aside at the nearest opportunity is new to us, and we want to hoarde it like a kid with Halloween candy.
So when talks of trading young stars like Chone Figgins and Ervin Santana come up, we geta little hesitant.
There is not a trade out there right now that would not make me nervous. Chone Figgins has proven that, though he's an exciting utility player, as a full-time player he's a jack of all trades, master of none. And while Ervin Santana led the team in wins last year, we are absolutely stacked with good, young pitching, and the loss of one pitcher in a trade would not hurt us as it would most other teams. In fact, if it brings in the power at the plate that we so desperately need, it would probably be a great move.
But there's still that image of Jackie Autry dancing around in my head.
So every time I hear a trade mentioned, my armpits sweat a little bit. I feel a bit like a virgin on prom night: I know I'm going to have to eventually, so why not cross my fingers, roll the dice, and hope it turns out for the best?
It's the virtue in being a baseball fan, in loving something absolutely that we have no control over whatsoever. You hope for the best, and earn the right to complain when it turns out for the worst.
After all, with Arte Moreno in the owner's box, there's always next year.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Starting tomorrow morning, Mickey & Company won't be the most entertaining thing in Disneyworld, Florida as the owners, general managers, and everybody remotely affiliated with Major League Baseball congregates for the Winter Meetings.
It's been a long time since an off-season has created as much excitement as this one has, and thus far it appears that endless rivers of cash that have been flowing into the coffers of free agents is just the tip of the iceberg.
Expect the next few days in Orlando to become a feeding frenzy of press and franchise posturing as the 2007 offseason continues to be much more interesting than the 200 MLB season. Keep checking your local team's blog and every baseball news site you can think of, as the rumors will keep piling on, flooding the internet and pushing reputable baseball news to the furthest backburner. Expect your favorite team to be bragging on top of the highest nosebleed seat about the amazing deals they made, or facing the press and explaining why your team didn't get a slice of this pie.
I just hope I can expect a baseball season starting in April that has been filled with the mystery, suspense, and intrigue that this off-season has produced thus far.
And I have a feeling that whether or not those hopes come true hinges directly on what Bill Stoneman and Arte Moreno can pull off in the next four days.
Here's hoping that, come Friday, every Angels fan has a smile so big that their cheeks will still be sore in August.
Here's hoping that whatever they pull off, whether we fans agree with it or not, turns out to be exactly what we need.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Not every year can be a winning one, and sometimes you start the season knowing your team won't be playing for a championship. But sometimes it's enough just to kick the snot out of another team and dash their championship hopes, especially if it's your hated rival.
And it's oh-so-sweet when you're a huge underdog, and the team you beat and deny a chance for a championship has a sense of entitlement, acting like they own the damn trophy.
So, while Trojans fans tonight are trying to convince themselves that playing in the Rose Bowl is just as good as playing for the NCAA Division 1 Championship, and that they're the better team because they won the PAC 10 title, all that matters is what happened on the field at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this afternoon, where the Bruins stopped USC cold, along with their championship dreams.
In honor of that, I present to you the UCLA Fight Song (Click HERE to listen)*
“Sons of Westwood”
We are Sons of Westwood,
And we hail the Blue and Gold;
True to thee our hearts will be,
Our love will not grow old.
Bruins roam the hills of Westwood,
By the blue Pacific shore;
And when they chance to see a man from USC,
Ev’ry Bruin starts to roar.
U! (3 claps)
C! (3 claps)
L! (3 claps)
A! (3 claps)
U-C-L-A! Fight! Fight! Fight!
*Clickies today in Baby Blue, to honor my UCLA Bruins
Thursday, November 30, 2006
It seems that being bored and poking around youtube.com isn't such a bad thing sometimes.
Four short months from now, baseball will return and the highlights of Vladamir Guerrero will stream online just like this one.
Just imagine how many will see if Bill Stoneman and Arte Moreno get a power hitter to protect him in the lineup...
Monday, November 27, 2006
But alas, I started typing and discovered that I had a lot more to say than I thought I did. I also found that I was getting a bit tired, and as I hadn't written what I had intended to. With that, I could either wrap it up quickly and do a half-assed job, save it as a draft and finish it later, or just continue it later.
I don't particularly like starting off a post and then finishing it in a hurry, leaving much of what I intended to say badly miscommunicated or omitted. And as I haven't been writing much lately, what with there being little Angels news or items to comment on, I felt that something had to be posted yesterday.
Hence the two parts. My apologies.
With that said, I offer up a review of the three sites I use for the majority of my baseball news.
As you have no doubt by now noticed, the majority of links I post on this site come from SI.com, and there's good reason for that. Sports Illustrated has long been the preferred magazine for most sporting enthusiasts, with its rich history of beautiful photography, timely publication, and detailed articles, and its website is no different. While most of the news posted at SI.com is the same you'll fins anywhere, copied off the AP wire, it's the touches that make the magazine so great that keep me coming back to their website. Nearly every article from the print edition can be found online, and at no cost. Their "Truth & Rumors" section is updated often, drawing from newspapers across the country and keeping the baseball mind occupied in these cold November days. Their articles delve into the world behind the field for the teams, the sports, and the players. And best of all, there is very little you need to pay for. Some articles on SI.com require you be a subscriber to read, but these are very few and, for most sports fans, unnecessary for their enjoyment of the site.
SI.com is the perfect site for your average sports fan. It doesn't choke you with statistics or assume a level of knowledge with the game or its players. It doesn't base its articles or layout on what demographic group it presumes you belong to. And, as stated before, it doesn't require you to subscribe to the magazine to enjoy it.
Sports Illustrated has something for every type of sports fan, but very clearly has a special place in its mission statement for the more esoteric fan. The photography is often chosen for the beauty of the moment captured, not the statistical importance. It's for the fan who goes to a baseball game and appreciates the poetry of the game. The one who allows every sense to indulge once they walk through the gate. The smell of the hotdogs, the way the sunlight glistens off the grass, the sound of a wood bat making contact in batting practice. SI is for everybody, but will be loved by those who look beyond the game.
Hence why all my links lead there.
The Sporting News. Of the Big 3, this one is the Nintendo to Sony & Microsoft, the AMC to GM & Ford. It's the last on the list of popularity, but first in the hearts of its fans. And while the layout of the site and the magazine are quite far removed from the experience at SI, The Sporting News is a site and magazine that should not be overlooked.
Unlike SI, The Sporting News doesn't rely so much on the human interest story. It doesn't have the team of writers publishing articles more akin to literature than journalism. It gives you the facts mixed with a little opinion, and allows you to make your own choices.
The first thing you notice about the web site for The Sporting News is how interactive it is. If you register, you set up your own personalized experience on the site. You have your own blog, your own fantasy sports site, your own personality. Every article on the site, from blog entries to the main news, allows for responses from the community, and allows the community to rate those responses and blog entries.
In other words, it allows full immersion in the web site.
Sportingnews.com is your local sports bar of web sites, and the person comfortable in a sports bar will be right at home here. It's a place to go to debate everything that is sport, and to find compatriots in your fandom and belief. It's a place to be seen and heard. And while it offers little difference in the news posted on other sites, the ability to comment on that news makes this a place to go to gauge the overall feeling of what's happening in the sporting world.
Ah, ESPN.com, the bane of my existence. Everything about this page, magazine, and channel reeks of the "18-to-45 year old male" demographic. Flashy graphics, expectations that the reader's attention span is about three seconds long, and a heavy reliance on fantasy stats and articles really make this the place to go if Maxim magazine is your type of periodical and you can't get enough World Series of Poker.
But the problem lies in what the casual surfer can get out of ESPN.com: Nothing. The same news articles pulled off the AP wire are there, free to view by all. But nothing else is. Any rumor, any article written by one of their staff writers, anything but the basic news you can find anywhere requires you be an "Insider," subscribed to their magazine, in order to view.
And as much as I'd love to read Peter Gammons or the occaisional juicy rumor they throw up there, there's no way I'm paying to do so.
I can understand having some extras up there to encourage subscribers and give those who pay a little more, but when they basically make it so you can't access anything on the site without dropping a credit card number, they expect too much.
I don't pay for internet porn. Why should I pay for baseball news?
With that, you have my humble opinions on the three major sports news web sites. As there is little out there in the world of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I figured it might be worth explaining why you constantly get clickies from SI.com.
Hopefully, you have no need to wonder any longer.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Already we're forgetting how much work it used to take to come by information. Ten years ago, if you wanted to know something, you had to hunt the information down. You'd have to go to a library or bookstore, open up the encyclopedia, or otherwise search for that you were curious about. Now, it's only a matter of typing it into a search engine.
This is not the major change in human society, though. This change came not from the ease of learning new things. It came from the expanded desire for information that comes from the ease of finding it. In the days of libraries and reference books, a person who suddenly becomes curious about something will often temper that curiosity based on the immediate need for the knowledge. For example, if I were reading an article in Sports Illustrated that mentioned Rogers Hornsby, I may be curious to know more about him. But, if I lack the required literature necessary to do an even rudimentary amount of research into the man, I'd have to go outside my home to get that information. If it's a burning desire to know about Hornsby, I'll go down to the library and search him out or head to the bookstore and buy a book. But if it's just a passing wonder, the amount of work required to get that knowledge will be too much and I will not pursue it.
The internet has changed that.
The need for information is instantly sated with a computer in my home and an internet connection. Without leaving my home, without working, I can fulfill any curiosity I may have about any subject.
Along with this comes a much faster news cycle. No longer do we need to rely on our morning paper or local news when something happens around the world. News is now immediate, hitting your web browser nearly as soon as it happens. And while this is not much of an improvement over the bug news stories like the Kennedy assassination or 9/11, which cause stations to break into their programming schedules with live news, this is significant for news items which are nowhere near as important and earth-shattering.
Like sports, for example.
Though sports news has been made more immediate and instantaneous by 24 hour sports stations like ESPN, the internet has made a sports junkie's life so much easier. Instantaneous updates of live scores and other sports news makes us less likely to rush out and grab the morning paper to see the scores and moves we may have missed the night before. Now, all it takes is a venture to one of my bookmarks, and no longer do I have to wait for the sports section or the next Sportscenter.
Without constant updates from the sports news world, a blog like this would not be possible.
To be continued...
Thursday, November 23, 2006
In honor of this holiday, I offer up to the readers of this blog the biggest Turkey in Angels History:
Here's a test you can use to see if the person you're talking to is a real Angels fan, or simply a bandwagonner: Simply bring up the subject of the photo posted above. If they are a true Angels fan, their breathing will get short and rapid. Their pupils will dilate, their nostrils flair, and as the hairs on the back of their neck as their eyes narrow and they recount to you that in 2002, after the Angels had just won Game 7 of the World Series, and when Angels fans were happier than they ever expected to be, they hauled this succubus onto the field to give the World Series trophy to the Angels that seeing that just about ruined the whole night for them. While no self-respecting Angels fan wasn't a little heartbroken that Gene Autry didn't live to see that moment, we knew that if it weren't for Jackie's meddling with the team in the 1980's we may have had one long ago.
In Orange County, many people will tell you that they don't need to read Genesis 3:6 to get the idea that a woman brought evil into this world. They can make a pretty good point of it through Jackie Autry and Georgia Frontiere.
And any Angels fan who's been here for all the losing seasons as well as the recent winning years will tell you that, as FOX can't seem to broadcast a baseball game without showing all the celebrities in the audience (most of whom just happen to be at the game with great seats AND starring in the new TV series FOX is pushing), nor can they trust the game itself to provide enough drama, so they always try to find a human interest side. And in 2002, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver kept reminding us about "The Cowboy" and how much he loved his Angels.
And to do so, they showed his poor widow Jackie, wearing Gene's trademark white cowboy hat, sitting in the owner's luxury box at the Big A.
If she'd have sat with the fans, she'd have been lynched.
And now, as the "Honorary President of the American League," we have to see this shrew handing the American League Championship trophy to the winner of the ALCS every year. I loved seeing her mispronounce Jim Leyland's name this year after the Tigers won the pennant. And I'm sure it was due to the incredible amount of hate psychically directed to her from all the true Angels fans watching.
So today, I officially declare Jackie Autry as ths blog's "All-Time Biggest Turkey in Angels History."
And, in the spirit of this holiday, I offer up something I am grateful for:
I am very thankful that Jackie Autry is no longer affiliated with this team.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I'm not sure why the first instinct any blogger has after not posting for a period of time is to open a post with "Sorry I haven't posted in a few days." I suppose it's just an easy way to start off the creative process and explain the absence of updates. But for a few blogs, though, most are read by just a few people, and the writer is generally the only one with an emotional investment with the blog. Any readers a small blog may have tend to expect that updates are sometimes sparse, and as they don't pay for the services of reading a blog, don't demand much in return.
So no apology from me.
It's time to get a bit excited! After a week of watching the big bats and star free agents sign with the Cubs and hopes of the Angels landing the star power of Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano evaporating in a mist of overspending and an inflated free agent market, the Angels got their first piece of the pie today by signing Gary Matthews Jr. today. The centerfielder, who had a great contract year (stats here) with the Texas Rangers this season, adds the defensive ability we need at center field, and a good bat at the top of the order.
Or, at least he does based on last season.
Pardon me if I don't order my #14 Matthews jersey from the Angels team store quite yet. Sure, he made headlines this year and drew the interest of numerous teams with his free agency this offseason, but thus far there hasn't been much from Matthews to suggest that he's the player we need. He's 32 years old. And he's had exactly one stand-out season, which just happened to be the season before he hit free agency.
And we've signed him for $50 million over five years.
It's not a bad signing. If he continues to play the way he has over the last two seasons, he'll be a valuable asset to the Angels. But throughout his career he's been a journeyman player who never truly broke into the league. And now he's finally hit his stride at 32, and we're hoping that he continues to play just as well.
Sure, we got him for much cheaper than Alfonso Soriano. But I get that feeling once again that I felt with the Autry and Disney Angels. We've passed up on the big star and picked up somebody just to show that we're making an attempt, to satiate the fans. Like in '97, when Mark McGwire wanted to be traded to the Angels and we passed, only to pick up Mo Vaughn in '99 to quell the complaining in the fan base because we knew we could have seen McGwire hit 70 home runs in '98 in Anaheim.
But, I must remind myself that the free agent market ain't over, and that there are trade possibilities as well. And we've now taken care of one of the most gaping holes in our lineup: Centerfield.
As it stands now, the Angels will have Garret Anderson in left, Matthews in center, and Vladamir Guerrero in right, with Juan Rivera at DH and rotating with Anderson and Guerrero. This doesn't offer a cure for the offensive woes the Angels have. Soriano and Aramis Ramirez were so attractive because they had the power hitting ability the Angels need. And Matthews, while a .300 hitter with some speed and great defense, is no power hitter.
This signing, though, does make the recent bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka and the rumored interest in signing Barry Zito make more sense. We go have a stacked starting rotation and a deep bullpen (in fact, three days ago the Angels signed right-handed middle reliever Justin Speier), and if Bartolo Colon comes back healthy this year, we'll have an excess of Major-League quality starters. Signing Barry Zito would make the staff better, but wouldn't be the answer we need, as it doesn't matter how great your pitching is if the offense isn't scoring.
But signing Matthews frees the Angels up in one big area: Chone Figgins. Matthews will be the leadoff hitter, an area where Figgins has faltered, batting .267 this year. Figgins will not have to play outfield in '07, and if the roster doesn't change, the Angels have a competent third baseman and good candidate to take Adam Kennedy's batting position at 9th in the order and still field a better team than they had last year.
But, if the Angels can sign Zito or another decent starter, or even trade for one, that frees up a lot fo room in trades. A lot of teams are interested in Ervin Santana, and to be able to package him in a trade with Chone Figgins, the ability to bring in a power-hitting infielder in a trade becomes very likely.
Anybody know of a guy currently playing 3rd base for a club and city that doesn't appreciate him?
Give me a while. I'll think of one.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
In about twelve hours from this post time, the biggest college football game of the year will start. Michigan vs. Ohio State, the #1 and #2 teams in the nation, will face off in a contest that is so hyped that stories have appeared in mainstream news about celebrities who are unable to acquire tickets. The hype all week has been akin to the Superbowl, and this is just a regular season game.
Were I writing a football blog, I'm sure I'd be in heaven now. I'd have probably started this in MS Word for easier editing. I'd go through several drafts to ensure not only the complete absence of spelling and grammatical errors, but also to make sure my prose has the correct tone and flow. When finally posted here, it would clock in at a few thousand words and would (in my mind, at least) be worthy of an essay contest, of something you'd see in Sports Illustrated.
But alas, this is a very narrowly focused baseball blog, concentrating on a mid-level club of my passion that is struggling to become one of the big boys in the Major Leagues.
Therefore, I have little to write about.
But right now, I am watching "Field of Dreams." And that's all the reason I need to write tonight.
This movie is a chick flick for guys, a tear-jerker that women just can't grasp in the same way we can. Sure, there are women out there who love this movie, women who are moved by it, women who even count it among their favorites. But while the movie can be enjoyed by all, the experience of it is very distinctly male.
And it could not have been made about any other sport.
This has nothing to do with the father-son angle, or the Iowa cornfield, or any other plot in the movie. It is solely due to the poetry, the lyricism, of baseball. Baseball transcends the boundry between life and art with a fluidity not found in any other sport or game on this planet. And it's hard to say exactly what it is that lends baseball to this predisposition.
I've seen every major pro sport played in this country live. In the 1990's, I went to more NHL games than I did MLB games. My dad and I used to have season tickets to the LA Rams, before they abandoned us for the move to St. Louis and we both quickly learned to hate them as God hates sin. I've been dragged to a couple Laker games at the Staples Center.
With that, I've played every sport. Little League baseball. Pick-up basketball with my friends in high school. Pre-season JV football, before some idiot lost control in the weight room and dropped a 45 lb. weight on my foot from shoulder height. And hockey. Boy, did I love to play hockey. I'm one of the few in Southern California who learned to skate on ice, rather than roller blades. I started playing ice hockey when I was 15 years old, right before it became popular, and continued on and off for nearly 15 years, until my Army injuries forced me to stop. I loved playing hockey.
More, even, than I loved playing baseball.
But of these sports, it is only the baseball diamond that I romanticize. When I went to see the Rams, I didn't dream of running out of that tunnel like Daniel E. "Rudy" Ruettiger. I didn't dream of hopping over the boards at the old Great Western Forum and skating on the ice in front of 16,005 seats, empty or filled, wearing my old CCM Tacks. And I certainly never dreamed of lacing up a pair of Air Jordans and shooting some free throws on the hardwood at the Staples Center.
But there's not a ballfield I've been to that I didn't want to touch the field.
I'm an adult now. I'm thirty-two years old, and even if I had been blessed with the size and talent necessary to play baseball in the Major Leagues, it's far too late to make that a reality. My dreams of pitching a no-hitter, or hitting that walk-off home run in the 7th game of the World Series are long gone.
But every time I enter a Major League park, I feel as though I'm entering a cathedral. I want to feel how spongy the grass is beneath my feet. I want to hear the grinding crunch of the infield dirt as I walk on it, and feel abrasive grit of it as I rub a handful into my palms. I want to step on the first base bag, toe the pitching rubber, run back toward the wall and feel as the grass turns into warning track beneath my feet.
I can't go to a baseball game without having to fight an urge to make a run for it, to see how much of that I can experience before the police tackle me to the ground and arrest me.
And that's just one reason why baseball has a deeper connection to my soul than any other sport.
Would anybody have cared if Ray Kinsella had plowed under his cornfield to build a gridiron? My guess is the audience would have thought he was as crazy (and stupid) as his brother-in-law (played by Timothy Busfield) did. Would it have been a great movie if he had put in an ice rink? Would Terrance Mann (or, in the novel, J.D. Salinger) have come to Iowa to see the basketball court the voices told him to build?
The baseball diamond is the only reason this movie worked. We bought into a magic baseball field spawning long-dead ballplayers from the rows of corn because we know that a baseball field has a magic to it all by itself.
This was demonstrated in "Field of Dreams" by Shoeless Joe Jackson, the Black Sox, and eventually, Ray's dad John Kinsella appearing.
It's demonstrated in our lives every time we walk up a tunnel in our nearest Major League stadium and see the sunlight glinting off the grass and hear the crack of a wood bat hitting a ball.
A few years back, I made a January trip to Baltimore to visit an old friend I served with in the Army. Having never been to Baltimore, I was anxious to see the city, visit Edgar Allen Poe's grave, eat some crab cakes.
But more than anything, I wanted to see Camden Yards. The grass was brown, we were the only people walking the brick street between the stadium and the B&O Warehouse where, in the summer on 1995, the numbers switched from "2130" to "2131" as Cal Ripken Jr. became baseball's ironman against (you guessed it) the Angels.
I was amazed at how narrow the alley was. I always envisioned it as a wide street that separated the stadium from the offices, but it's a rather narrow pathway. I loved the little brass plaques embedded in the ground for every home run hit out of the stadium on the right field side. I pressed up against the bars, trying to squeeze myself through like Robert Patrick in "Terminator 2" as I stared in at the empty ballpark. And though it had been more than three months since a game had been played there and would be a few more before the season began again, the faint echoes of the crowds, the muted cracks of Louisville Sluggers, the distant calls of hot dog vendors, they all rang distantly in my ears.
A few blocks away was Ravens Stadium, and I didn't care a bit.
"Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."
-Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones)
"Field of Dreams"
Thursday, November 16, 2006
But, with that, our old friend John Heyman at SI.com is mentioning our Angels in his rumor column again. I got a bit excited, as the article talks about the Red Sox looking to trade Manny Ramirez, and I thought that would be a good topic for an article here (it would be). Instead, it was just another rehash of how Arte Moreno wants promised something big, and how the Angels are making a move for Soriano, and how much trouble we're going to have pulling that one off.
I'm going to be a lot happier when we finally make a deal for somebody. Whether we sign Soriano or trade for Ramirez, I'll feel a bit better with big bat we need.
And I'll have something to write about...
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Just for the rights to negotiate a contract with him.
I've never seen Matsuzaka pitch, except on Sportscenter or other news programs shoing a few clips of him in the World Baseball Classic or striking out batters in the Japanese league. Therefore, I have no real reason to believe or doubt the hype surrounding him.
But something just doesn't sit right with me in this situation. It's going to cost the Red Sox upwards of $100 million to sign him.
Is it just me, or does that seem a lot of money for an unproven prospect?
Sure, he's no high school kid, no Brien Taylor (hopefully). He's had a few years of professional baseball.
But the Major Leagues are a lot different than those in Japan. The players are bigger, stronger, faster, better than those across the Pacific Ocean. The best in the world play on the thirty Major League teams. The level of competition is much higher.
And while he may be a very talented pitcher, it's an awful big gamble when you're putting up $75 million to $100 million for three seasons for a pitcher who has never thrown a ball with Bud Selig's signature on it.
Which is why I'm happy that the Boston Red Sox won the bidding, since we apparently made a run at him.
Do the Angels need an unproven $100 million pitcher? Nope. I'm hoping our bid wasn't to make a serious run at Matsuzaka. I'm hoping it was to drive the price up a bit, make him more expensive to the team that eventually lands him. Or for possible trade bait.
I guess I'm just hoping that we didn't enter the bidding because the Angels are trying to be like the Yankees.
It seems that we're on the path to simply throwing money at all our problems. And while signing free agents can be very beneficial to a ballclub, if Arte Moreno is just throwing money around to bring prestige and respect to the Angels, something is very wrong.
Especially as the strategy hasn't worked all that well recently for George Steinbrenner.
But then, maybe I'm underestimating the Red Sox. Perhaps they're not in this to get one up on the Yankees. Maybe they're a bit smarter than that.
The whole posting system for Japanese players seems a bit funny to me. The Red Sox put in a bid for around $45 million just for the rights to negotiate a contract with Matsuzaka. Once this bid is accepted, they have 30 days to negotiate a contract.
And if they can't come up with one? They get their money back.
So, suppose you're Theo Epstein, the Red Sox GM. Your biggest rival in the AL East is the Yankees, and you know they're desperate for pitching and have endless piles of money to throw at it. When Matsuzaka comes up, you know the Yankees will try to get him.
With that, what is there to lose in going after him? I'm sure Epstein is seeing the dollar signs in signing Matsuzaka. The advertising money brought in when the Mariners signed Ichiro Suziki turned into a gold mine. There are Japanese ads in Yankee Stadium for Hideki Matsui. Tour groups used to bring Japanese tourists to Dodger Stadium when Hideo Nomo came here in the mid 90's.
But also, he's keeping a potential Ace out of the Yankees lineup.
And with that, what does he have to lose? If he fails to sign Matsuzaka, he gets every penny of that $45 million back.
Hell, he could even sabotage the whole thing just to keep him out of a Yankee uniform for 2007. He could tell Scott Boras that he's not willing to give Matsuzaka more than the league minimum, in which case Matsuzaka will be pitching in Japan for another season.
Perhaps I've seen too many Oliver Stone movies.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I was hoping to write this entry with a bit of excitement and a lot of hope, but it isn't going to start that way. But alas, Aramis Ramirez signed a five-year deal to remain with the Cubs. I really wasn't expecting this one. As late as yesterday it was reported that he'd turned down a 5-year deal with the Cubs, and that the Angels were prepared to make an offer as early as today.
Power at 3rd base is something we can desperately use, but power is the imperative word. And while what many think was the best fit for the Angels in the free agnet market is now gone, there are others out there.
Soon enough we'll see a big signing and/or big trade bringing a big name to tha Angels.
But not this morning.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
You have a good club in San Diego, and I'm glad we're not in the same league, as it would be quite bittersweet to root against you. I'm sure you'll be a success down there, and it'll be much easier to find an excuse to see a game at Petco this year.
Thank you, Bud. Thanks for taking a group of pitchers nobody had heard of and turning them into one of the greatest rotations in baseball. Thank you for making Francisco Rodriguez the best young closer I've ever seen. Thank you for making Bartolo Colon a Cy Young Award winner. Thank you for making John Lackey an ace. Thank you for everything.
But especially, thank you for your part in the 2002 World Series Championship. It couldn't have happened without you.
Thank you for making this such an amazing time to be an Angels fan.
Because we had a national election yesterday, I feel that this is the perfect opportunity to talk about voting. And, to show how good I am at the segue, I'm going to give my opinions on voting as it pertains to baseball.
There are more than a few types of voting in baseball, but I'm going to concentrate on two: All-Star and Hall of Fame.
Baseball is the American sport, and as such it makes sense that at least one aspect of it is democratic. I don't feel that the fans should have equal representation when team decisions need to be made. For example, I wouldn't want a community vote whenever a free agent needs to be signed, nor would I want a poll to come up on the Jumbotron asking fans to text their vote for who's going to replace the starting pitcher from the bullpen. But the All-Star game is a game for the fans, and the tradition of allowing fans to vote for the starters is a time-honored tradition.
There are many arguments against this, but the one I hear the most (because my dad makes it) is that it's a popularity contest rather than a true All-Star roster. It's true that we fans tend to elect the same people over and over again, even when we probably shouldn't. As aging stars move past their prime, it's hard for us fans to let go of their youthful exploits on the diamond, and we keep voting them to the team.
But that argument is flawed in that it assumes the All-Star Game is truly played by a roster that is all stars, as in the best players at their respective position. It is not. It is a roster of fan favorites, regardless of skill. Those who argue for skill above stardom would have you believe that an All-Star movie featuring only Academy Award winners would be automatically more satisfying than one starring actors and actresses never likely to be nominated, much less win one.
While the analogy may be a bit outdated, I'm sure that the majority of movie-goers would much rather see a film with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone than most anything you could get a bunch of Oscar winners to sign on for.
The point of the matter is that it takes more than stats to get elected to the All-Star team, as it should. Cal Ripken Jr. was a perennial All-Star not for his stats, but because of the intangibles surrounding his streak, his attitude, and the love fans had for him.
But this does not mean that the (hypothetical) rookie from the Devil Rays that nobody outside of St. Petersburg has ever heard of who is tearing up the league doesn't deserve a slot on that team and a chance to shine on a world-wide stage. This is why we have the reserves, which the fans DO NOT vote for.
The problem with that, though, is that as it stands now, the manager of the All-Star game picks them. Other than the eight starting fielders and, when held in American League parks, the Designated Hitter, the manager who led his team to the league championship, to the World Series, the year before. So, in Pac Bell Park next year, Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland will manage All-Star teams of players (mostly) hand-picked by them.
While this is supposed to be like the Electoral College of baseball, a last-chance opportunity to correct the mistakes and ommissions the fans make in their voting, it is usually far from that. The most recent example was last year, when Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen filled the roster with many of his players, most of whom will never have a chance of attaining the popular vote of the fans.
This is a problem for me, as I don't want to see the All-Stars plus Ozzie's Stars. I want to see a true All-Star game. So how to fix this?
What, you think I have all the answers? Don't you think that, if I did, I'd already have an office next to Bud Selig's?
No, of course not. They never listen to people who, though they may make sense, don't own baseball teams.
And I'm done antagonizing the two or three readers I have, so at this point I say "Just kidding" and offer the suggestion I have.
OK, so you have the starting rosters of the All-Star game. It's perfect as it is. It lets the fans, we who pay the bills, have a say in the game. It gives us a sense of attachment to it, a reason to tune in. There's already the requirement that each team must be represented on its league's roster, which ensures that even though the Royals may have no All-Stars on their squad, they have one on the All-Star team.
With that said, is there a way to get better diversity to the All-Star teams, to ensure a better representation of players? Perhaps the players themselves could vote on the second eight, or the managers of every team in the league vote on them. Or limit the number of players from one team (other than those the fans vote for). I'm sure this is a subject that, if addressed, will be subject to countless hours of meetings between the owners and players of MLB. Perhaps it's better just to leave it the way it is, as it's just one game per year.
While I'm unsure about fixing something that may not even be broken, the Hall of Fame voting never ceases to piss me off. After being retired from the game for five years, a player becomes eligible for Cooperstown enshrinement, pending a vote by his peers. And by "peers" I mean "sportswriters."
How fair is that? Are sportswriters truly the best judges of players? These are a group of people who make their living critiquing the work of others. In Hollywood, the biggest award show of the year is the Academy Awards. The "Critic's Choice" awards or whatever the hell they are don't get a prime-time live broadcast, as nobody really cares what the critics think. We know they're out of touch with the average movie watcher, so the Oscars get the big show.
And who votes on the Oscars?
The same people who get nominated for them.
Perhaps that's how it should be in Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. Rather than putting the entire fate of a player's potential Cooperstown enshrinement in the hands of the press, perhaps the people who actually played the game should get a say. Suppose there's a player who hates the press (I know, BIG stretch of the imagination) but is well respected by his peers and has the stats that would normally put a player over the top. If the press truly doesn't like him, he may not get enshrinement when he deserves it, if at all.
And it may be easier to pallate not having Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame if those living members and eligible players (more than 10 years in MLB, I believe) didn't want him there.
Sure, you have the Veteran's Committee, but that doesn't kick in until twenty years after a player retires. A lot of deserving people have gotten into the Hall of Fame because of the Veteran's Committee.
For a good example of this, ask your local sportswriter why Bert Blyleven isn't in the Hall of Fame. Keep in mind that the man played on crappy teams his whole career. 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts. He's the only player with more than 3,000 K's not in the Hall of Fame. Well, except for those who are still active.
Names like Schilling. Clemens. Johnson.
You know, losers like that.
Something really needs to be done about the Hall of Fame voting. There is no reason why baseball players can't do the job as objectively as sportswriters.
All I know is that, were I a sportswriter with a Hall of Fame ballot, I'd either vote for them all or toss my ballot into the wastebasket. And that decision wouldn't be made on a year-by-year basis, either. I'd do that for every ballot I received.
The sportswriters get the Cy Young, the MVP, Rookie of the Year already, plus others.
Let the baseball players decide whom among them should be immortalized.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
When I finally made the decision that I was going to write this diary and started looking around at various other sports blogs and bloggers, I came across a page chronicling the journey of a few guys across the continent a few summers back when they had visited every Major League park (and many Minor Leagues, too) in North America.
Aside from letting me know that there are a lot of Simpsons fans in Albuquerque, I read something that just didn't sit right with me.
Of course, I had to go right to their comments on the Angels. As I read through their words and ratings, I was struck by a quote they made. In writing about the ingame entertainment at Angel Stadium, they say "[T]heir 'Calling All Angels' intro video gives you the feel that this team has a lot of tradition when in fact they do not" (Crappy video here).
My first reaction was to get indignant, and self-righteously think to myself Well, obviously they know nothing of the Angels. Then, I thought the better of it and sighed as I realized they were right, to an extent. We really are lacking an aura of history around this club.
But then I started thinking about it more, and I thought Well, how many teams really do have a lot of tradition? Sure, you think about historical baseball, and the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers spring right to mind. But then you have a team like the Phillies, who have been around for over 120 years and have exactly as many World Series Championships as we do. Of all the expansion teams from 1961 on, only the Mets, Blue Jays, and Marlins have more World Series Championships than we do, and each of them only beat us by one.
As I thought more, I began to wonder what makes a team have tradition and history, and the concept was really too intangible for me. As an Angels fan, I love my team's history. Our history of mediocrity. The blown ALCS in 1979, 1982, AND 1986. We gave Nolan Ryan a place to develop into the greatest pitcher of his generation. And, of course, the 2002 World Series, a championship that was like screwing a sex symbol: We'd always dreamed of it, but we never expected it.
With that said, every ballpark you walk into is filled with history. The players who have taken a field, the asses that have sat in the seats, the announcers and writers that have given the game a voice in the press box. And while a Yankees fan may scoff at an Angels fan using the words "Tradition" and "History" to describe our club, it doesn't take away what has happened on our field and with our team.
(Just ask any Yankees fan how well that "Tradition" or those 26 World Series Championships have helped them in the 2002, 2005, and 2006 ALDS...)
A few pics of our beloved "Big A" under construction
So this coming season will be the 42nd the Angels have spent in Orange County. The stadium has since seen three versions (the original, the 1980 NFL retrofit, and the 1997 retrofit) and three names (Anaheim Stadium, Edison Field, Angel Stadium), and the Angels have had four names in that time (Los Angeles Angels, California Angels, Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).
Forty-two seasons. Eighty-one games a year in the stadium (less in those annoying strike-shortened year).
That's a lot of history.
Mickey Mantle played in Anaheim Stadium. Think about that next time you're there. "The Mick" stood in the same batters boxes (he was a switch hitter, afterall) that the Angels stood in during the 2002 World Series. He patrolled the same Center Field that Chone Figgins did this season, and in the last few years of his career played at the same first base (well, the position, not the actual base) that is used today.
He hit four home runs at Anaheim Stadium, though back then there were no bleacher seats and apparently went into an executive or player parking lot. Three of them were hit in 1968, his final season, when he had only 18 total. While Mickey Mantle was not known for being a fan-friendly guy (especially after he retired and as evidenced by the signed baseball pictured above*) and probably would have been throwing back bottle after bottle of Budweiser in the clubhouse than playing at Anaheim Stadium, nonetheless part of the mythology and history of Yankees #7, "The Mick," happened at Anaheim Stadium.
*While I cannot personally vouch for the authenticity of this autograph, it was sold through www.historyforsale.com, a company whose reputation hangs on the authenticity of the items it sells.
Box Scores of Mantle's Home Runs at Anaheim Stadium:
August 7, 1967
April 18, 1968
June 16, 1968
August 12, 1968
And while most of us remember Hank Aaron on the Milwaukee and then Atlanta Braves, he played the last two years of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he DH. And, as it turns out, Hank Aaron not only made baseball history, but set the Major League Home Run record at Anaheim Stadium on June 16, 1976 with his 749th home run. Of course, he broke his own record a few games later when he hit #750, but for a while the all-time home run record was set against the Angels at Anaheim Stadium.
Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs in his career, the most of all time. And while Barry Bonds may break that record in 2007, while Aaron's record still holds, one of those home runs, a small part of that history, was hit at the stadium where we go to see our beloved Angels.
When it comes down to it, team tradition and history may be important, but are vastly overshadowed by the tradition and history of baseball itself.
Teams may fold, Major League Baseball itself may dissolve, but so long as there are children in this country and this world, so long as there are adults trying to recapture their youth, there will always be baseball.
For it is they that are the carriers and teachers of that history.
Friday, November 03, 2006
This is starting out to be an interesting offseason, and part of what is making it so is Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese pitching phenom and MVP of the World Baseball Classic last spring. He and his "gyroball" (a pitch thrown, supposedly, like a football) are expected to make a big splash in the Big Leagues, and it is rumored that it will take a bid of $20 - $30 MILLION just for the right to negotiate a contract with him. His initial contract may cost the team he signs with up to $100 million. That's an awful lot of money for a guy who has never thrown a pitch in the MLB.
And thankfully, the Angels have taken themselves out of the running for him. It's not that I have that North American prejudice about baseball players. In the last decade, all those preconceived ideas about Asian athletes have wasted away with not only the success Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and dozens of others have had in Major League Baseball, but the fact that you now see players with "Nguyen" on their jerseys in the NFL, and that Yao Ming is a star with the NBA's Houston Rockets.
It's not that I fear he won't be the star everybody thinks he'll be, either. Everything about the guy shows he's the best pitcher on the market this winter, even with Barry Zito, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettite declaring free agency.
It's that we don't need another starter, particularly one that will cost us $100 million. And the problem is that, with the record-setting year and the money coming in from revenue sharing, this could really blow up out of proportion. This could very easily turn into not just another bidding war for a great prospect, but a "whose dick is bigger" contest between owners, whether they need him or not. And while it never hurts to have another starter, with a pitching-deep team like the Angels, it's a waste of money.
For this same reason, I'll be upset if we bid on Barry Zito. Sure, Zito had some great years with Oakland, but considering that we had fine pitching in all of 2006 even without ace Bartolo Colon, do we really need to spend that money on a free agent lefty who has shown noticeable decline the last three seasons?
The answer is no.
But we desperately need hitting.
And thankfully, there's a bunch of sluggers this offseason who have declared free agency or are appetizing trade bait.
We're mentioned twice in today's "Truth & Rumors" at SI.com. The first mention is about a slugger we're NOT interested in (unless nothing else pans out and he's still available): Barry Bonds.
You know, now that I get into that, I feel it's something that is going to require its own post. So more on Barry later.
But for the second item in "Truth & Rumors," it's nice to see that Adam Kennedy is leaving on good terms. Howie Kendrick is a good young player and should fill in nicely for Kennedy at second base. It's a shame to see "AK" go, but at least it's on good terms.
God speed, AK. I hope you find success wherever you land (probably St. Louis. They love ex-Angels.)