Opening Day brings the promise to every franchise in Major League Baseball, every franchise and their fan base, they believe in the promise of a World Series championship; as the season progresses the optimism evolves into realism and with each game that passes fans are able to see the progression or regression of their favorite team.
The Angels are 6-2, in their first eight games, are undefeated at home and are in first place in the American League West. I know it’s early, however in the last few seasons the Angels were notorious for starting off slow in April. This is clearly not the case this year, the Halos have already pulled off two tremendous comebacks one against the Seattle Mariners and last night against the Texas Rangers.
What is the difference? The difference is the Angels finally addressed the roster problems of the last few years, second base and left field, leading to a strengthening in team defense and offense, which are both spectacular, their base running has also improved more specifically their ability to go from first to third base with not much effort; starting pitching and the bullpen however, although not terrible; are still a little suspect. The most important ingredient of all is that they are having fun. Something I haven’t seen in the last few seasons.
As a fan it is very exciting to watch his team play they’ve demonstrated an uncanny ability to come back and win. I believe that’s a product of how much fun they’re having, and just playing the game without reservation.
There’s an excitement in Anaheim around his team that I haven’t seen in years, aside from the diehard Angels’ fans like me who are always excited. The fans support this year is making it very hard for visiting teams to come in to The Big A and win. That’s the way it should be, the Halo should always shine bright over Anaheim.
This is the time of year when baseball executives and fans alike, become analysts of the game we all love. We examine our past, live in the present, and secure the future. We all become engineers, trying to create a well oiled and flawless machine. We mix and match parts, hoping to find the right combination that elevates the machine into a championship performer.
The Angels are trying to do Exactly that, the recent transactions involving Danny Espinosa, Cameron Maybin , Ben Revere, and Luis Valbuena. These new players will be introduced to the machine in the hopes of raising its championship aspirations. The Angels are trying to address the present, especially left field. I myself am not satisfied by any of these acquisitions. Left field is an ongoing problem that has persisted for at least the last three years. In my humble opinion, this issue would have been resolved with a free agent acquisition. Mark Trumbo, a home-grown talent that would’ve served the Angels well and left field; unfortunately, the mistakes of the past led to their current situation.
These mistakes include the contracts of Vernon Wells, Josh Hamilton, C. J. Wilson, who had multimillion dollar contracts and never lived up to their end of the deal. These multimillion dollar disasters have made the team become more cautious, leading them not to go after a guy like Trumbo who in my opinion solves the left-field issue. Unfortunately, Trumbo re-signed a three-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles.
Although the Angels are working on the present, the future, more specifically the Hall of Fame future looks bright. Vladimir Guerrero missed being inducted as a Hall of Famer by a relatively small margin. His chances of being welcomed to the Hall of Fame next year are very encouraging. When Arturo Moreno bought the team in 2003, he made a huge splash by immediately signing Guerrero who was of great benefit to the team. The Angels need to put themselves in a position to be the aggressive team it once was, bringing back the success of the past, securing the present, and ensuring the future of this beautiful franchise.
A few days ago we got word from the blog section of Major League Baseball, MLB blogs, that they are moving us away from WordPress to Medium. To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about the move yet. I transferred my site over, and not only am I losing the URL that has been mine for years, but I losing the ability to reach people that perhaps don’t subscribe to Medium. The beauty WordPress of is that one is able to comment on a post without registering. I don’t know if that’s the case for this site but it doesn’t look like it. To top it off, I am losing the cool Angels’ background.
I don’t know if and how long I will stay with Medium; I’m going to give it a chance, however, I am also going to stay with WordPress as long as I can. I will be pulling triple duty, for this website, the new website, and my own website, until, If and when I shut the WordPress site down.
This is the second time Major League Baseball decides to move, when MLB blogs first started, we were part of MLB Advanced Media, the move over to WordPress was seamless, and it’s too bad that this is not the case this time around.
All my followers are encouraged to follow me on my new website over at medium: medium.com/Angels-MLBlogs-com. It is essentially the same URL this website with medium.com in front of it. Or you can follow me on my own website Isaac-Lopez.com/Angels. I am definitely not leaving WordPress, especially since I’m not convinced Medium is for me. However, I am willing to give it a shot. I encourage all my followers to keep following me on WordPress since I’m not shutting down the site just yet. I just wanted to let everyone know ahead of time that the shutdown of the site is a possibility.
Through the annals of baseball there have been players that have defined the game; players whose impact on the game is so great that one cannot talk about baseball without mentioning these giants of the game. Players like Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. It takes a very special player to be mentioned among these greats. A player must do something so astonishing that the event has an effect not only on the baseball fanatic but on the casual fan alike.
Mike Trout is becoming one of those players even at this young age. Since his debut in the major leagues he has impacted the game in ways fans would not have been able to imagine much less predict. He has been either the winner or runner up in the American League Most Valuable Player Award race in each of the last five years. He was the 2012 Rookie of the Year, a two-time American League Most Valuable player in 2014 and 2016, back-to-back All Star Game Most Valuable Player in 2013 and 2014, and a Silver Slugger Award winner in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
However, an impact player is also measured by the intangibles of the game; the ability to perform in a clutch situation when it matters most whether it is the big hit or the two sky-walking catches that he is remembered for the most. The first one in Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland and the second one at the Big A in Anaheim. He reminds me of Hank Aaron in his humble approach to the game. It is not often that a player this talented is this humble. It is a very refreshing thing to see.
Some would argue that an MVP is measured by the impact that a player has on his team. Furthermore that an MVP can only be measured by the collective success of his team. I would argue however, that it is quite the opposite. An MVP should embody not only the impact on his team but the sustained success of the impact of the individual player. A player may have a good year but it is that sustained success that a player is remembered for.
The Angels were a sub .500 team this past year. How long can the team continue in this way? Marquee players such as Trout need a good nucleus around them something that Angels franchise has yet to provide. Baseball is referred to as a show. How long can the show continue like this in Anaheim?
It is my sincere hope that the Angels’ franchise realizes the caliber of player that they have on their hands. While I am sure they do realize it their actions have yet to reflect adaptation to the class of talent in Trout.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame will have Vladimir Guerrero on the ballot for the first time this coming year. There is no question that Guerrero will be a hall of famer. The only question is if he goes into the hall as a Montreal Expo or as an Angel. The Angels organization must do everything in their power to make sure that’s the question that surrounds Guerrero is never the same question that will surround Mike Trout if and when he enters the Hall of Fame.
For those that have taken the time to read the description of my blog. you know that I have described writing about the Angels as my sanctuary. Writing helps me relax, focus, and it gives me clarity. This entry is one of those times. I lost a maternal aunt on October 21, my mother was especially close to her, and although she never read any of my entries because of the language barrier, we would often talk about my writings, about the Angels and general, and my love for baseball she was a huge sports fan herself, she especially enjoyed Mexican soccer, my entire family is going to miss her very much. For obvious reasons, I wasn’t able to write about the Chicago Cubs victory shortly after the World Series. Hopefully. this entry makes up for lost time. This entry is dedicated to my aunt Rogelia.
Now on to baseball, for those of you that have read my entries you may remember that I stated that I would write about other teams on this website as long as I can relate it in some way to the Angels. I’m proud to say this is one of those cases. the Chicago Cubs have more connections to the Angels then baseball fans realize.
Most diehard Angels’ fans know the relationship between the Cubs and the Angels. In 1961 the Angels were born and although it is true that the Angels played their inaugural season during this time, the Angels existed before then as a team in the Pacific Coast League as an AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The O’Malley family the then owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers bought the rights of the name “Angels” from Philip K. Wrigley the then owner of the Chicago Cubs. The O’Malley family who in turn sold the rights to Gene Autry and the Angels became a major league team; before the construction of Angel Stadium and even before the Angels moved and shared Dodger Stadium, the Angels played in 1961 season in Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. It can be argued that metaphorically speaking the Cubs are the proud parent of the Angels because of their collective intertwined histories.
The connections don’t end there, current Cubs’ manager, Joe Maddon was on the Angels’ managerial staff as a bench coach when the Angels won the World Series in 2002. In a touching tribute to his father, he wore the Disney era Angels baseball cap that once belonged to his late father. Who never saw him win the World Series; a touching and proud moment both for Maddon and the Angels’ fan base.
108 years is a long time to wait, this Angels’ fan would like to congratulate the Chicago Cubs’ fan base for their win, loyalty and dedication to their beloved Cubbies. It is very well deserved, at least for this diehard Angels’ fan and my brother it was a beautiful moment. Congratulations Cubbies!
The Halo is closed for repairs; it will reopen in early April. Hopefully when it reopens it will be vastly improved. The Angels finished the season with an 8-2 record over the final 10 games. While that was a positive sign, it was too little, too late in my humble opinion.
To say the Angels must improve is an understatement, they had an injury-riddled starting rotation and bullpen. I cannot recall one game this season when the pitching staff was at full strength; since they Halos don’t have much of a farm system to speak of, they couldn’t replenish any deficiencies on the team. The left-field experiment was a disaster; I feel that was the team’s weakest link this year.
Mike Scioscia has become complacent since 2009 he hasn’t shown anything of significance, nothing that makes this team stand out from the pack. He needs to find a way to ignite both the team and the fan base, I do not deny that he knows his baseball, unfortunately, it isn’t enough. Mike Scioscia reminds me of a chef that substitutes French fries when the recipe clearly calls for exotic Cajun fries. In other words, it is not enough to know the game of baseball, when the brand of baseball is clearly bland; he needs to find a way to add some flavor and distinction to this baseball team. I feel that although he has a wonderful baseball mind, he has lost his creativity, the Halos cannot afford for the chef in the kitchen lose his ability to create distinct flavors, especially with the team as talented as this one.
How can the recipe be changed? First and foremost, the Angels need to address left-field. There is really no big name out there in the free-agent market this year that is an instant game changer, with the exception of perhaps Mark Trumbo. Some argue that he is not consistent enough at the plate to make much of a difference, and while I do see the substance of the argument, we don’t have much of a farm system to draw from; although Mark Trumbo is not a marquee name out there, he is a former Angel, he knows the system and given this year’s free-agent market he is the best option.
Will this change in ingredients add any flavor to the recipe? Let’s hope so, for the sake of both the team and the fan base. The chef must create a more potent championship recipe, if he cannot do so, he must be escorted out of the baseball kitchen.
The Angels have had an interesting season thus far; there are instances when it’s the best of times, yet there are other instances when it’s the worst of times. The Angels have been decimated by injuries at the absolute worst time. A few examples are C. J. Cron, who went down right when his bat was warming up, or Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney both of whom are essential to the Halos’ success. Yet another example is the missing contribution of C. J. Wilson who was unable to throw a single pitch this season because of injury. With three-fifths of the starting rotation out of commission it’s surprising that the Angels have been able to function much less stay together as a team. At one point this season they were down 19 ½ games in their division with little hope of recovery.
In contrast, shortly before the All-Star break the Angels somehow managed to slowly bring it together with contributions of the now injured C.J. Cron. At one point they were able to string together 34 runs over four games before losing the pre All-Star break finale.
Since the All-Star break the Halos have come roaring back. They have yet to lose a game post All-Star break. They swept the division leading Texas Rangers and now move on to face the Houston Astros and continue this hopeful remarkable comeback. The Halos are now 11.5 games back begging the question if they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
It is no secret that the Angels don’t have much of a farm system which necessitates them to be sellers in order to rebuild such a devastated system. If this is indeed the case who would be on the trading block? Matt Shoemaker, who so far has had the best season of anyone in the rotation. Hector Santiago, who is arguably the heart and soul of the pitching staff. He plays the game with an unmatched passion which I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” What impact will Tyler Skaggs have on this team when he is ready to come back from injury? How will the injury to Nick Tropeano impact the rotation?
In contrast would the Halos have the heart to take apart a team that appears to be chemically coming together with an unmatched chemistry that was far delayed? Will they be able to find some way to improve this team and still have enough pieces to exchange? There is an old baseball adage that states you have to give up something to get something. Who will the Angels give up that would both have minimal impact on the team and still get someone of value back in order to help this team succeed?
If the Angels find a way to reconcile this conflicting enigma I believe they have enough to create a solid base to build on for next year, if not, by some miracle make up the division deficit and attempt to contend this season.
The answer lies in resolving the contradicting tales of these two Halos and finding a conclusion to this developing novel which has the potential to become a classic masterpiece of a season. How will the tale end? On one side will this be a reflection on a successful season? Or a tale of how a string of injuries derailed this cast of characters? How long will this novel be? Are we reaching the final pages? Or are there many pages yet to be written? My sincere hope is that it is the latter.
It is Friday, July 1, 2016, we are a little more than a week away from the All-Star break and a little more than the month away from the trade deadline; to say that the Halos are in trouble this season is a monumental understatement. They played a chess game of baseball and were unequivocally decimated.
In the previous entry I alluded to the fact that the Angels had a 13 game stretch against sub .500 teams within the American League West. I used the game of chess as a metaphor to describe the Halos perfect opportunity to strike, or at the very least put themselves in the position to attempt a strike within the division. Unfortunately for the Angels, they did exactly what they could not do. They went from 12 and a half games back in the beginning of the 13 game stretch to 18 1/2 games back by the end. The Angels’ record, 3-10; they wasted this golden opportunity.
There is an infinite list of problems with this team this particular season. Most Angels’ fans are going to point to the desolate condition of the starting rotation. While that may be true, there is a statistic that jumps out.
If one goes back to the beginning of the season and my rough calculations are correct, the Halos have a record of 5-31 when leading a game by three runs or less. Yes the starting rotation is in shambles however, the offense isn’t responding very well when they’re needed the most.
The long list of injuries to various players is also pointed as a determining factor for this team’s performance this season. I’m not quite sure that if this team was 100% healthy they would do much better. The problem is much bigger than just the injuries, it’s the management.
In January of 2009 Mike Scioscia signed a 10 year contract extension through 2018. He has been the manager since the 2000 season in a span of 16 years so far he has only brought one World Series championship to this franchise. (2002) Yes, he does have the highest winning percentage of any manager in Angels’ history. However, winning percentages are rarely remembered, what is remembered is championships. Mike Scioscia has not been handed average players during his tenure. These players include Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Torii Hunter, just to name a few. In reality, he hasn’t found a way to win.
In my eyes, Mike Scioscia has become a bit complacent, he gets paid whether the Angels win or lose. There are numerous examples of the manager making the wrong decision, at the wrong time; for example, earlier this season, just as Matt Shoemaker began his uplifting turnaround, Mike Scioscia took out Shoemaker during a game when he was pitching very well, Mike Scioscia then proceeds to turn it over to the bullpen that in turn loses the game for Shoemaker.
Mike Scioscia’s obsession with using Cam Bedrosian out of the bullpen has cost the Angels a number of winnable games. Cam does not seem to be ready for the big lights of the major leagues; yet Mike Scioscia insists on using him in clearly the wrong situations. It is the introduction of this relief pitcher that causes the first domino to fall in a losing effort.
In my humble opinion Mike Scioscia also causes a negative effect on the franchise, again, this is due to the length of his contract; his complacency, and the amount of power he holds within the organization. Billy Eppler is a good general manager; I take nothing away from him. However, there was no need to replace Jerry DiPoto, the current Seattle Mariners’ General Manager and the former Angels’ General Manager. Jerry was forced to resign due to alleged disagreements in philosophy with Mike Scioscia. The result? The Mariners are 10 games better in the standings than the Angels are this season.
The Angels virtually have no pieces to trade at the trade deadline. How will this team get better? The injuries will heal, aside from some needs, this team is very talented. Where do the Angels go from here? They have no flexibility. They are losing the chess game of baseball very badly. In this chess game, do the Angels face a check or checkmate? Only time will tell.
As a baseball fan, one expects to see their favorite team go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys. During the season a team must learn to pace themselves; in essence they must play the chess game that is baseball, put the chess pieces in the right position in order for a team to attack when the moment is right.
The Angels find themselves in this exact metaphorical scenario described above, they are currently 12 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West, fourth in the division, with 10 players on the disabled list with various injuries. The Halo is tarnished and the wings are tattered. The situation may look bleak to outsiders, yet this may be the perfect time to position the test pieces for an attack.
Starting tonight the Halos play their next 13 games against division rivals, which involves two teams that are sub .500 the Oakland A’s and the Houston Astros. This may be the perfect time for the team to strike as there are high hopes that the contribution of the newest Angel, Tim Lincecum, will give this team a much needed lift in the pitching rotation with three-fifths of the starting rotation on the 60-day disabled list with long-term injuries. Tyler Skaggs who was expected back within the near future has hit a snag in his rehabilitation forcing the Halos to find other more creative options.
It is well-known among baseball’s purest that the key to a successful team is pitching, something that the Angels clearly do not have at this moment. It is looking highly unlikely that C.J. Wilson will be able to make a meaningful impact this season due to the setbacks that he has had; based on the fact that this is the final year of his multi-million dollar contract it is very doubtful that he will have a meaningful impact for the Halos.
Can this team stay consistent for this 13 game stretch? It all depends if this team can come together at the right moments. It is not time yet to worry about the division leader, the Texas Rangers, since they have been on fire and look unstoppable at the moment; but, they too will fall into a valley that may allow the Halos to gain some ground. If the Angels can use this 13 game stretch to their advantage, we may have an interesting division race after the All-Star break, but in order to do so, the Halos must shine again and their wings must heal if all this is to come to fruition.
I know I am a little late with this entry, but there is no point in writing about baseball if one does not enjoy life; that is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks. I’ve enjoyed myself spending time with my family. However, I haven’t forgotten my loyal readers.
First, a few comments about the Freeway Series, I really enjoy inter-league play; especially the Angels/Dodgers rivalry. Natural rivals always bring out the best in teams in my opinion, and this year was no exception. This year, it was a four-game home at home series starting in Los Angeles and ending in Anaheim. The Angels took three out of four games. It’s always fun to hear the Stadium Buzz no matter which team is up to bat. The environment can not be duplicated, when these two teams play it always feels like a World Series game. Hopefully I am able to witness an Angels-Dodgers World Series in my lifetime. My only wish is that Major League Baseball would schedule the Freeway Series as a six-game series; 3 home games for each team that are played on consecutive weekends. That way, people like me who really enjoy the series can go watch all six games with less difficulty. This year, all four games were during the week making it difficult for people like me to travel between Los Angeles and Anaheim. The very special highlight of this year’s Freeway Series is meeting a beautiful, lovely, and interesting young lady; Angela, she is an example of the beautiful nuances and wonderful surprises that baseball brings.
Join me while I take the Freeway Series off ramp as I transition from the freeway to the freak, Tim Lincecum signed a one-year deal with the Angels on May 20th. The contract includes incentives. I am optimistic about this contract. Yes it’s a risk; Lincecum is coming off hip surgery. However, at this point with three members of the Halos’ starting rotation on the 60 day disabled list, the only bad risk is no risk; especially if this team is going to contend in any fashion, this team is too talented not to contend.
If this team expects to contend, they must be able to correct an alarming statistic, the Angels are 0-16 this year when their lead is two runs or less. This is especially important when games are close and games carry a bit more weight later on in the year.
The journey of baseball is a special one it can take you up and down freeways, across Bay Bridges, and even allows you to ride the subway. Baseball is a wonderful vehicle that allows one to explore the nuances and wonderful surprises in life.
Update: May 29, 2016; after the completion of yesterday’s game the Angels are now 0-17 when the lead is two runs or less.