August 2014

Stomper Was Ahead Early, However the Rally Monkey Is Winning the Championship Rounds

There is simply nothing like the battle between the Angels and the A’s, the battle between California’s two American League franchises and founding members of the American League West. The A’s have an 8-6 season series lead, however the Angels are three games ahead in the American League West.

Before yesterday’s victory over the A’s the Angels had 80 wins, the first team to 80 wins this season, which is a perfect complement to the best record in baseball. At that point of their eightieth win the Halos were only one game behind the 2008 team and which had 81 wins in the same time span. The 2008 team netted 100 wins, the best record in franchise history.

A furious division battle does not come without its casualties, both Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs are out for the season. For the Athletics, Coco Crisp went down with an apparent neck injury last night while trying to rob a home run. The Angels being the classy organization that they are, did not initiate the home run fireworks that are customary as a result of the opponent’s injury.

I can not underscore the importance of creating distance now during this four-game series with only two more off days the entire season, the Angels need to create as much distance as possible in order to create a cushion to fall back on should things become even more interesting. This season is much different than the 2002 season which was the last time these two teams directly competed against each other for a postseason berth. The new wild card format allows the creation of a sudden death game which would be unfortunate should one of these two teams find themselves on the losing end, thereby magnifying the importance of winning the division.

With 16 of the 19 season meetings between these two foes in the history books, a gets more interesting every passing game, these two teams are the class of the division and the class of baseball. I may have a strong dislike for Oakland, but I wouldn’t want to be battling with any other team in baseball. My hatred is a result of the respect I have for the Oakland Athletics organization and their fans. May the best team win, hopefully the team wears red.

-ICE

An Extraordinary Win, An Extraordinary Loss

Following sports is like riding a roller coaster, a fan experiences indescribable highs and unbearable lows. This is the beauty and the curse of sports, the promise of what can be, and disappointment of what could have been. This is especially true in baseball, the excitement of a pennant race is like no other feeling that any other sport can produce.

The team with the best record in baseball, the Angels, increased their lead on the Oakland Athletics to 1 1/2 games. The Halos’ record now stands at 75-50, the promise is alive and well however it took a major blow today, with the loss of Garrett Richards. He suffered a left knee injury during the second inning of today’s game. Richards had to be carted off the field in a stretcher; and although the exact extent of his knee injury is not known as of yet, it is speculated that he will miss the remainder of the season.

Richards was in the middle of producing a spectacular season, his pitching performances were being talked about among the best in baseball, He was making a very strong case for the Cy Young Award in the American League. He was one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire season. Hopefully Richards can completely recover from his injury and return to display the dominance that he was showing the season in the future.

The loss of Richards further diminished an already thin starting rotation, Skaggs is already out with an elbow injury and won’t return until the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. C. J. Wilson is also struggling since his return from injury. It will be interesting to see where the Angels go from here.

Pitching does win championships, believe it or not, I do see some silver lining in all this chaos. Yes, the loss of Richards is devastating, there is no doubt about that. However Richards only has an impact on the game once every five days, it’s time for the offense to be the run producing machine that we all know it can be, as well as it is time for the rest of the pitching staff whether they are in the majors or the minors to step up. Now that we have a stronger bullpen compared to the past bullpens that the Angels have had in recent years, I really do not think that’s an unreasonable expectation. The September call ups are crucial to resolving this unexpected situation. This could have been much worse, we could have lost a position player that impacts the game every day.

The Angels have the best record in baseball, they are atop of the American League West, they Halos are being called upon to prove that none of these regular season accolades matter, they must rise above the adversity and the unfortunate situation and prove that they actually have the heart of a champion.

-ICE

There Is a Halo Around the Peak of the Baseball Mountain

Baseball is a mountain with only eight ledges, one for each division winner and two wildcards. In reality there are only seven ledges and one peak, the halo shines brightly around that peak. The Angels staked their claim August 16th to the best record in all of baseball they have been in possession of this record for the last two days, their current record is 72-50 statistically one percentage point ahead of the Oakland Athletics.

The American League West

W L PCT GB
LA Angels
72 50 .590 –
Oakland
73 51 .589 –
Seattle
67 56 .545 5.5
Houston
52 73 .416 21.5
Texas
48 76 .387 25.0

 

Coming into this season the goal of every Angels’ fan was to win the division after a long four-year absence from the postseason. The biggest question mark was the pitching staff, and whether it was strong enough to sustain the grind of the season. The bullpen issues were addressed with trades, and the emergence of Garrett Richards was certainly a pleasant surprise on the other hand, the pleasant surprises have been met with disappointment with the loss of Tyler Skaggs who will miss the rest of the season and the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, this could possibly leave the Angels with a shorthanded rotation next season.

The Angels have had struggles, but every baseball fan knows that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint; like every team the Angels have, and will go through peaks and valleys and at this point the Angels are in front of the marathon pack.

Most Angels’ fans would be ecstatic with a postseason berth, given the drought of the last four years, but to achieve the best record in baseball is more than anyone could have imagined. It’s not enough to have the best overall regular-season record, because in the end that doesn’t really matter, although I must say it feels extremely good to be able to say that. In the five years of this blog has been in existence, in its various incarnations, my statistical/analytical mind hasn’t stopped to enjoy the view, I must say that the view from up here is spectacular. The view from atop of the American League West is awesome, however the view from the peak of the mountain is simply breathtaking. This unexpected surprise is great!

-ICE

Real Red Versus True Blue: A Beautiful Rivalry

“Good morning, it’s a beautiful morning! It’s that time of the year where for the next four games blue skies turn red and the only thing visible from the Sun is its Corona, also referred to as its Halo. There’s nothing more beautiful in baseball than the Freeway Series, the series where both teams remain true to their colors . The Angels will win and remain red hot, while the Dodgers lose and always remain blue.”

 

This was a status update/poem I posted on my personal Facebook page yesterday morning. The natural rivalry between the Angels and the Dodgers is special. I can sit here and write about the Angels 5-0 victory over the Dodgers last night or the interesting interactions between Albert Pujols and Yasiel Puig; however I will save that for the end of the Freeway Series, especially since I will be there for the last two games of this year’s home at home series at Angel Stadium. I will have a lot of game specific things to talk about once the series is over.

 

I have previously posted about the various aspects of this series; the history, the fan bases, the marketing, and the rivalry itself. Yesterday it dawned on me, what about the  identity crisis that exists for both sides? Specifically the different perspectives that exist over the use of the name “Los Angeles”?

 

It’s no secret that the name change from the “Anaheim Angels” to the ” Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” was purely a marketing strategy, to directly compete with the Dodgers, some fans like myself are okay with the name change because after all the original name was the Los Angeles Angels. Although I myself prefer the California Angels just because that’s how they were referred to when I was growing up. Other Angels’ fans hate the name change arguing that Anaheim is not even in Los Angeles County and thus the Angels should not carry the name. It’s about the only thing that all Dodgers’ fans and some Angels’ fans agree on.

 

One would conclude that this is a fight over the name, and who has the right to use it, although that may be partially true. It’s really a fight about independence and identity. The Angels and Dodgers once shared Dodger Stadium before the Angels moved to Angel Stadium. Both teams never really liked sharing the Los Angeles spotlight, one team seeks to reclaim the city of its birth, while the other forges its identity from its success in its adopted city that it now calls home.

 

Looking at the rivalry from Orange County’s perspective the issues here are a little different, the city of Anaheim and Orange County adopted this team as its own, upon the Angels move to Angel Stadium, this is our team and Orange County residents don’t like necessarily to share their team with Los Angeles, forging their own identity; arguing that the Dodgers are an import from Brooklyn and are not the area’s real team. Dodgers’ fans counter by arguing that they are the true Los Angeles area team, stemming from the team moving to Los Angeles in 1958 versus the Angels joining Major League Baseball three years later. Dodgers’ fans completely negate the Angels existence prior to 1961, while it’s true that the Angels did not join Major League Baseball until 1961 the team existed prior to joining the major leagues in the Pacific Coast League, which predates the Dodgers move to Los Angeles.

 

Yes, it may be marketing, but the marketing is based on the history of this beautiful rivalry. The irony is that both sides refuse to recognize the arguments of the opposing side, and they each want to decide  how the other side identifies itself in relation to the name “Los Angeles” the beauty is that what both sides fail to realize is that their collective histories are intertwined and the history of one, cannot be described without relation to the other. Hence, creating a beautiful binary relationship between these two teams. A beautiful complex complementary history.

 

It’s more than the Freeway Series, it’s more than the battle between interleague natural rivals, it even more than the battle to define how the name “Los Angeles” is used. It goes beyond a battle for supremacy, a battle between red and blue or bragging rights, it’s a beautiful story, that can only be told through a game called baseball.

 

-ICE

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