Does the Deck of Playoff Cards Have a Wildcard with a Halo?

A deck of playing cards comes with two jokers, often people do not use these jokers and they put them aside separating them from the deck. Traditionally the jokers are a pair of cards; they are considered the two traditional wild cards in the deck. Today, I will not discard them.

 

This metaphor is applicable to the game the baseball; just like in a deck of playing cards there are two wild cards. These wildcards are currently blank, including today’s game that is yet to be played; there are only a dozen games left for the Angels in this baseball season, and the race for the American League wild card is tight.

 

As of today, the face of each wild card read “the New York Yankees” and “the Minnesota Twins”. However, the Angels are only one game behind, due to the loss that the Twins suffered against the Yankees today, which means by the end of today if the Angels win, they will only be one half game out of the second wild-card with 11 games to go.

 

In order to determine if there is a Halo in the playoff deck, one must examine the four suits that the deck contains in order for their wild-card to be of any help towards the creation of a championship hand in this metaphorical game of cards. 12 cards (games) are yet to be dealt; with such a high number of cards left the creation of a winning hand is likely. However, equally as likely is that a losing hand which can be produced at  the end of the season.

 

The Heart

 

The heart is in my opinion the most important suit, the Halos produced more than 40 comeback wins so far this season, leading Major League Baseball they also led the majors in stolen bases prior to the Cameron Maybin trade. There is no question that this team has the talent and the heart to make sure that one of those blank wildcards reads “Angels”.

 

The Spade

 

Although there’s no question about this team’s heart, the spade has not been kind to the Angels. The Halos have survived virtually all year without a pitching staff. Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, and Tyler Skaggs have been injured in some combination or another for the entire year. This is virtually our entire starting pitching staff. With the exception of Matt Shoemaker, the rest of the starting staff is back. However, due to length of time they were gone, they have been unable to be the starters that they really are. Although the Angels have been hit hard by the spade there are still enough cards in the deck to turn their fortunes around.

 

The Clover

 

When the team is hit this hard by the spade, you need a little luck brought forth by the Clover. The Angels’ patchwork and strategic positioning have allowed them to somehow stay in contention even with all the injuries to key positions. With 12 cards left, the Angels must make their own luck and take advantage of golden opportunities when they present themselves, something that they did not do yesterday when the Twins lost to the Yankees. The Angels did not close the gap, they lost yesterday’s game six with three due to bad game management by Mike Scioscia, in certain situations he left players in two along and took others out too early. This can not continue if the Angels are going to let the Clover do its magic.

 

The Diamond

 

The clover’s magic must work; the diamond suit in the deck must assure that. The diamond has been kind to the Angels. A diamond represents the value which the Angels have obtained the acquisitions of Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips, by acquiring these solid players, they Halos have strengthened their weak spots which will allow them to increase their chances of obtaining a winning hand, although I must admit I was very disappointed when Cameron Maybin was traded in order to make room for Justin Upton on the roster. I believe the Angels had a better option by letting go of Ben Revere instead of Cameron Maybin, slim as he is affectionately called; gave the Angels speed at the top of the lineup, it is the team’s ability to run the bases that renders opposing starting pitchers less effective; something that needs to happen to be successful in the playoffs.

 

It is the right combination of the four suits that will determine whether one of the wildcards will have a Halo on its face. It is an undeniable fact that wildcards always make card games or in this case the Major League Baseball playoffs more interesting. Baseball wildcards cannot be simply discarded like the jokers in the deck of cards. However, all the other card suits must combine for a wildcard to be effective. In the Angels case, there are 12 cards remaining in order to create a winning hand.

 

-ICE

 

 

 

A Perfect Storm of Circumstances Creates Franchise Defining Moments for the Angels Organization

 

There are specific moments in the history of a sports franchise that defines the direction and the legacy of the franchise decides to pursue. The moment one of sports’ fan can look back and say “that was the moment that changed everything for this franchise.” Good or bad, those moments are cherished and learned from.

 

The Halos have encountered two such moments; the first, Albert Pujols joined the 600 home run club. He hit the 600th home run of his career on Saturday, June 3, 2017 against the Minnesota Twins, off of former Angel, Ervin Santana. It was a historical home run for the reason previously stated. However, it was also history making since “the Machine” is the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit number 600 as a grand slam home run. He is also the first foreign-born player (the Dominican Republic) to join this exclusive club. For me, it was personally special because he hit it on what we call in Mexico my Santo (my saint day) a day of St. Isaac according to the Mexican calendar. Albert definitely deserves his place in history as a future Hall of Famer, although it would be nice for the Angels’ fan base to see him win a few rings with the Halos.

 

Albert Pujols is of course not the only superstar the Angels have; they also have Mike Trout, a young and very talented player. Mike Trout is out with an injury for the first time in his career. He will be out of the lineup 6 to 8 weeks from the time of his injury. I believe however, this is a mixed blessing for the Angels that the organization must take advantage of and learned from. The Angels franchise has been spoiled the last few years, they benefit from the talents of this young phenom. Since this is Trout’s first time on the disabled list since being called up to the major leagues, this provides a unique opportunity for the Angels to see what the game would be like without Trout if he were ever lost to free agency. Hopefully this little preview will underscore the importance of building around the face of the franchise.

 

If the Angels don’t learn from this mixed blessing, this may be the defining moment that determines the future direction of this wonderful franchise; The moment, which an Angels’ fan looks back and says, “that was the moment that changed everything for this franchise.”

 

-ICE

The Halo Shines Bright Over Anaheim

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.

 

-ICE

Examining the Halo: the Past, the Present, and Future

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.

 

-ICE

The Angels’ Ace is Pitching Extra Innings

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.

 

-ICE

The Question That the Angels Must Never Answer

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.

-ICE

The Cubs World Series Win Shares Layers of Connections with the Angels

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 in 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!

 

-ICE

 

It’s Time for a Change in the Halo Recipe and/or the Chef

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.

 

-ICE

 

 

 

 

The Tale of Two Halos

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.

-ICE

Do the Angels Face a Check or Checkmate?

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.

-ICE

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