June 2011

The Freeway Series: More Than Simply a Battle for Interstate 5, a Battle to DefineTradition

In my last entry I referred to inter-league play as baseball’s Christmas, as fun as  inter-league play can be, nothing compares to the pageantry that is the Freeway Series.  I know I’m a little late in commenting about the Freeway Series especially since the Angels just swept the Washington Nationals; but on the other hand, this is the perfect time to comment since I can reflect on the first half of the series since I’m writing on the eve of the second half of the series. Writing during the midpoint facilitates the ability to juxtapose what went on against what to expect.

 

The Angels all-time record against the hated Dodgers is 48 to 35 favoring the Angels since their first meeting during the regular season on July 17, 1997 the inaugural year of inter-league play, to me, as an Angels’ fan, that is a beautiful number. Dodgers’ fans often boast that they are the better team just because they have five championships compared to the Angels one Ring. Although I would normally agree that a better team is defined by the of number rings they possess, in the Dodgers’ case, I must wholeheartedly disagree.

 

The Freeway series to me is primarily about the battle over Interstate 5 because the interstate defines California. Interstate 5 runs from Sacramento in the north to San Diego in the South, maybe even beyond (note to self: I must refresh my geography, remember to look it up on Google) Interstate 5 is the main artery that runs through California. California prides itself on tradition whether it’s the fact that California is the sixth largest economy in the world, (yes, California would be able to  function  as a small country on its own.) Or it’s wonderful whether, or even still defining its own moments in history, like landmark court cases and historical movements that often defines the course of history for the United States. Interstate 5 connects Anaheim to Los Angeles the two cities are only about 35 miles apart. The Freeway Series is about the battle for the heart and soul of Southern California. It’s about Orange County versus Los Angeles County, Universal Studios versus Disneyland, Santa Monica versus Huntington Beach, LAX versus John Wayne Airport, but most importantly it’s a battle to define tradition.

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers were originally the Brooklyn Dodgers who had a long standing rivalry with the New York Giants or now the San Francisco Giants. When both teams were imported to California, their rivalry was imported with them so that specific rivalry began in New York not Southern California. When those two teams get together they are simply rekindling something that they started in New York if one thinks about it there is nothing “California” about that rivalry. Throw the Angels into the mix however, in its quite a different breed of animal.

 

The Angels were founded in 1961 by a group of people interested in bringing an American League team to Southern California. they were a group led by country singer, “the singing cowboy” Gene Autry ; who owned a local Los Angeles radio station of the time. When he was approached by Major League Baseball who was interested in becoming Autry’s broadcast partner. Autry felt better suited to own a major league baseball team rather than just simply be broadcast partners with Major League Baseball, and the Los Angeles Angels were born; playing their first game at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles as a major league team on April 11, 1961.

 

The name “Angels” was derived from the nickname of the city of Los Angeles “the city of Angels.” Thereby establishing their native roots in Southern California and establishing a tradition that is not that of an imported team or imported reveries.

When the team moved to Anaheim for the 1963 baseball season they change their name to the “California Angels” not only establishing the roads in Los Angeles but expanding the roads 35 miles south by way of the Interstate 5 in Anaheim. California in major league baseball team to call its own. And that’s why I have such an affinity to the team like myself, the Angels regardless of the name they choose at any particular point in time for marketing purposes or otherwise, is a native Californian team. It has no ties or legacy to the East Coast, the team’s tradition was born and built in Southern California, not Brooklyn New York. I do not want to take anything away from the Brooklyn Dodgers, after all every single team in Major League Baseball has ties to the Brooklyn Dodgers by virtue of their retirement of Jackie Robinson’s number 42 in honor of his positive change in all of sports not just baseball.

The Freeway Series, is a very special time of the year for both the Angels and the Dodgers not only is it a battle for the right to claim the Southern California tradition as their own, but is a battle to establish themselves as the marquee team in the Los Angeles area.

 

Now that I have taken a look back at history just a little bit, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for these two wonderful hated yet respected rivals, will the Dodgers promptly resolve the McCourt saga? I hope the Dodgers are able to attract an owner similar to Arturo Moreno and owner who understands the beauty of baseball, and most importantly respects such a beautiful rivalry as the Freeway series. Perhaps a Mark Cuban? Although I may hate the Dodgers, I have a healthy respect for them and they deserve better. I wish the franchise and their fans all the best.

 

As far as the future of the Angels, well, it’s the 50th anniversary of the franchise, and after a poor offensive start the bats are starting to warm up; especially Vernon Wells who has been on somewhat of a tear for the last few games. The Angels have spectacular pitching, and they just took two out of three from the Seattle Mariners, two out of three from the New York Mets, two out of three from the Florida Marlins, two out of three from the Dodgers and just swept the Washington Nationals. The battle between Jared Weaver and Clayton Kershaw the respective aces of each team should be an excellent match up on Saturday night. Overall the American League West championship is still a very real possibility for the Angels despite a poor start; the halos are only 1 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers. As of now the golden Halo shines bright.

 

-ICE

Major League Baseball’s Christmas Is Finally Here

It appears that the Angels are finally coming around, taking two out of three from the Mariners and the first game yesterday against the New York Mets. The Rangers are finally starting to lose, giving the Halos an opportunity to capitalize on this reversal of fortune.

 

Joel Piñeiro received his 100th win of his career, one of many positive milestones that are happening for the Angels. The offense is finally beginning to at least warm up, and Vernon Wells is beginning to grow comfortable in an Angels’ uniform.

 

Inter-league play has always been kind to the Angels. They have the best overall record amongst all the teams in Major league baseball in inter-league play, and yesterday’s performance against the New York Mets was not the exception. After three games against the New York Mets, they go on to play the Florida Marlins in Miami, the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, they come home to host the Washington Nationals, and finish inter-league play against the Dodgers at Angel Stadium.

 

Over the years I have stated that inter-league play is my favorite time of year of the Major League Baseball calendar, and I must say that continues to be the case. It has a special flair, flavor, atmosphere, that cannot be matched, even with the proposed realignment being talked about in baseball circles, I don’t believe that inter-league play will lose its flair one bit. Remember regardless of how many times the American League faces the National League; the results of inter-league play doesn’t have a direct effect on how each league shapes up at the end of the season other than an indirect effect by virtue of the win-loss record, Major League Baseball doesn’t factor in head-to-head match-ups between each respective league when it comes to playoff positioning.

 

Inter-league play is a fun way to measure how a prospective team from each league measures up against another team, a World Series preview, what would happen if the Angels were ever to meet the Dodgers in a World Series featuring the Freeway Series?

 

Inter-league play is one of my favorite things to write, about lucky for me the Angels flourish in inter-league play; hopefully during this wonderful part of the season the Angels can take advantage of a clear strength, to overtake the Texas Rangers and ultimately win the American League West Championship.

 

-ICE

Chronicles of a Diehard and Faithful Angels’ Fanatic

When one has a favorite team, and becomes a diehard fan, one signs a contract of sorts. One promises to be a fan regardless of the ups and downs a team may go through. In exchange, the team gives a fan a connection to wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.

It seems that fans are losing faith in the Halos, and I can understand why as of today they are 5 1/2 games behind division leading Texas Rangers and the offense is struggling; however, let me put everything into a analytical perspective. Let me first address the Texas Rangers, have no doubt that the Rangers are where they deserved to be in credit needs to be given where it is due. The Rangers are a spectacular team.

In my previous entries I pointed out the Halos’ shortcomings this season, in this entry I want to put everything into a more palatable perspective. The Angels so far have been involved in eight extra inning games including the loss to the Tampa Bay Rays last night. Yesterday was also their 15th game in which there has been a one run differential between the participating teams, most of which the Angels have come out on the losing end.. What does that say about the Angels? If the Angels were able to come out on the other side of the situation; and things would have gone a little differently I would be discussing a much different story right now. Although the team has glaring problems, they are on the cusp of greatness.

For those of you that read my blog last season, most of you know my feelings towards Brian Fuentes. In the alternative I suggested that Fernando Rodney become the Angels’ closer. I’m glad to say that the Angels made the right decision in getting rid of Brian Fuentes, should the same be done with Fernando Rodney? I would argue no, for the simple reason that when the Angels severed their ties with Brian Fuentes, Fernando Rodney was there to take his place. The problem then becomes if Rodney is indeed released then who would take his place in the bullpen? I think Rodney struggles is more endemic of the Angels’ overall situation rather than his personal struggles. When Fuentes was let go the Angels were a much different team, I don’t think the same can be said if they decide to release Rodney.

I strongly believe are still feeling the effects of losing Kendrys Morales last year, he was supposed to be a potent power hitter Morales was supposed to help the Angels this season. However, due to complications with his ankle that was not to be. Now the Angels are expecting him by spring training of 2012. Not the news the Angels are looking forward to. It seems like his teammates have not been able to get the freakishness of his injury out of their heads, that’s one of the many reasons why the team is performing the way it is up to this point in the season.

Many fans believe this is the reason why the Angels are a third placed team, however I’m taking a vastly different approach yes, I concede that their way the Texas Rangers are playing right now, it will be extraordinary difficult yet not impossible to overtake the Rangers by the end of the season. I remind everyone that last night was only game number 64 of an 162 game season. The Angels’ chances are not over by any stretch of the imagination. However they will need to find a way to get out of this psychological funk that they are in. As a diehard faithful fan, I have to believe that things will turn around for them. It is often said that baseball is a game of inches, the same thing can be said for the psychology of baseball, the Angels are not getting blown out by any means they just have to correct the mistakes; and swing the pendulum in their favor so as they continue to add to their extra inning games and one run differential statistics the Angels are the ones that must come out on top.

Perhaps with the Angels need is to actually get away from Angel Stadium, this upcoming road trip involves inter-league play. The Angels the Angels have done well in inter-league play and maybe this is exactly what they need to get back to their winning ways.

-ICE

The New York Yankees Do Not Fear Any Major League Baseball Team… Well, Except the Angels

The Angels continued their winning ways against the New York Yankees beating them on Friday three runs to two. Jared Weaver had a stellar performance, and the Yankees can’t seem to find a way to beat the Angels. The Angels are the only team in Major League Baseball to hold an all-time winning record against the Yankees, and for some reason the Angels always seem to do well against them. I sincerely hope that we continue to do so, however, the Angels should not define their season on whether or not they were able to beat what some people refer to as “the evil empire.” Saturday night the Angels were edged three runs to two on, Sunday they were beaten five runs to three.


Although the Angels have a stellar rotation with pitchers like Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, Joel Piñeiro, among others is currently in the top four rotations in baseball when it comes to team earned run average, I’m a little concerned about various aspects of the offense such as taken advantage of game situations which are in the Halos’ favor more specifically their inability to score runs when given the opportunity. In Friday night’s game alone they left 15 men on base. That just will not get the job done. Base running mistakes are creating unnecessary outs. Another key aspect is situational hitting. The Angels seem to have forgotten what that is, a good example of this would be the last few at-bats of Torii Hunter over the last couple of games. I’m not trying to criticize him in fact he is one of my favorite players of all time. However his batting technique definitely needs some tweaking; he needs to shorten his swing a little bit and put the ball into play and trust his teammates to bring him in. Instead, over the last few games he has tried to put the Angels ahead by attempting to hit the ball using a Home Run swing, opposing pitchers now adapt to this swing of his and are now by starting to throw unhittable balls.

 

 I just wanted to highlight as what I as an Angels’ fan can be corrected rather quickly, in order to keep us from falling further behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West. When the series started with the New York Yankees, the Angels were only 1  1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers we have now fallen to 4 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers. I would definitely consider this a mini free fall, but it is one that can be stopped relatively easily.

 

In my 29 years as an Angels’ fan, this year I attended my first Boston Red Sox game,  and my first New York Yankees game ever. I have already described the Boston experience in an earlier entry, now it’s the Yankees turn.

 

Unlike the Red Sox series, the Yankees series felt like a true home game which is the way it should feel when you’re home. I didn’t feel outnumbered this time. It was more like both teams were evenly represented and equally as loud. But just as I mentioned in the Red Sox series, I can’t help but wonder who truly has a connection to the New York area. I met Derek, who actually is from the Bronx and cheers for his team with a passion. He is a transplanted Yankee fan, who works in Southern California. He was a very nice man and I must say that I had a lot of fun meeting him.

 


Overall, I must say the Yankees’ game made me yearn for the start of the second half of Inter-League Play, especially when the Angels play against the cross town Los Angeles Dodgers. I definitely plan to go to a Angels-Yankees series again very soon.

 

This was definitely a tough series against the New York Yankees especially since the Cleveland Indians were unable to keep the Texas Rangers from exploding and opening a wider lead in the division. Where were the impressive, unstoppable, Indians this past series with the Rangers?

 

 That’s the beauty of baseball, the Angels will have to take the attitude of an old adage, “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.” Go Angels!


-ICE

The Angels Decide to Take the Scenic Route on Their Way Back Home

The Angels definitely know how to work the media. They make even an off day newsworthy. The team jet had to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles international Airport instead of John Wayne Airport in Orange County. KNBC in Los Angeles reported that the jet had to land at LAX due to a hydraulic problem with the jet’s landing gear. No one was hurt and the team is doing fine. They may want to invest in some state-of-the-art Angel wings. Go Angels!

-ICE

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