Results tagged ‘ American League West Champions ’

The Big White Elephant in the Room

The Tampa Bay Rays took two out of three from the Angels this past weekend. I’m not going to include any statistics or try to explain away why the Angels lost, except for maybe one statistic that jumps out. The Angels have gone the last 22 innings without scoring a run. Despite a good outing by Zack Greinke in his Angels’ debut.

The dog fights of summer have really begun, this was supposed to be a two team race between the Angels and the Rangers. After the Angels signed then free agent Albert Pujols, the Rangers responded by signing Yu Darvish. The chest game between these two teams has gone on since this past off-season, with the Rangers coming off of two straight World Series appearances and being one strike away from winning the championship. The Rangers are doing everything they can to get back to the World Series, while the Angels are trying to reclaim the American League West as their own; much like he did last decade training titles with the Oakland Athletics. The Angels are also trying to make it back to the World Series on their 10th anniversary since claiming the 2002 World Series Championship.

The Oakland Athletics, all I can say is wow! Somehow they have managed to slip into second place ahead of the Angels by a half-game. They’ve only lost four games in the month of July, including a sweep of the New York Yankees in recent weeks. They have unexpectedly become relevant in the American League West. Can they keep it up? Who knows, the Angels are used to the battles with the A’s and the Rangers are used to the battles with the Angels; can the Rangers really handle fending off two teams? While the Angels are used to dealing with both the Athletics and the Rangers. So it is my belief that the Angels would have the upper hand in this scenario.

Tomorrow the Angels begin a big four-game series with the Rangers in Arlington, I wonder who Athletics’ fans will be pulling for in the upcoming series? On the one hand, they wouldn’t want the arch-rival Angels to get ahead of them in the standings given our history, but then again, they can ill afford the Rangers pulling away any further in the division lead. This should be very, very interesting.

For years now the American League West hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves, whether one calls it East Coast biased, or otherwise I guess the West Coast games are on too late for the sportswriters and they need their sleep since most of the time they are too busy covering the East Coast teams.

The situation has become very exciting, the Athletics have made it exciting for baseball fans outside this division to want to pay attention. For fans like me who have followed this division for as long as I can remember, it’s just another day at the ballpark. Long live the beauty of baseball!

-ICE

A Trip Back in Time to the Wild, Wild, West, Can “Yu” Handle It?

Let’s close our collective eyes for a moment and travel back in time to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the desk is settling into place as it cradles the infant evening and puts the sun to sleep with a lullaby eerily reminiscent to that of the theme from the good, the bad, and the ugly. A showdown is about to happen, between the misunderstood yet respected outlaws with a halo and the supposed law men who call themselves the Texas Rangers. Indeed it is the wild, wild, west. However, instead of gun belts imagine that it is A weapon called A pitcher’s arm throwing bullets or in this case, baseballs at nearly 100 miles per hour.

Now imagine both C. J. Wilson and Yu Darvish who are both noted gunslingers in their own right, adjusting the brim of their hat squinting their eyes both cautious yet conscious not to be the one to make the first mistake; if they do it could prove to be lethal for their entire team. As they concentrate on the task in hand; and nothing more, ignoring the wind’s tired whistle of loneliness and despair. They both know that a mistake could bring the roar of the thunder stick and a flash of lightning that sends one of these bullets out of the ballpark and can very well send their entire team to an early grave, with no one to mourn them. The inscription on the tombstone reading: “Here lies the Texas Rangers who were unable to defeat the young upstart outlaws called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who carried a halo and the blessing of God, because of this; the Rangers were unable to repeat as American League West Champions.”

This is the imagery that the beautiful game of baseball brings me, especially in the American League West during an important series or a postseason matchup. Both teams are immensely talented. The Angels are now only 4 1/2 games back of the Rangers, and I strongly believe that the showdown will continue until the last day of the season. That’s what makes these head-to-head matchups that much more important; not only for positioning in the standings, but also to get an upper hand on the psychological warfare that these two teams put each other through.

The American League West has always had an aura akin to that of the Wild West, whether it’s with the Rangers or the battles that the Angels had with the Oakland Athletics nearly a decade ago. Both the A’s and Angels seemed to trade punches, much like the Angels in the Rangers do now with the glaring difference that both the Angels and the Rangers have never had this much talent and firepower at their disposal at the exact same time. The Rangers seem to do it with cunning and experience, after all they have made two World Series appearances in a row, both losing efforts, yet coming as close as one can to winning without winning, being one strike away.

The Angels also have the experience but they have the added bonus of youth, the young guns that rowdy outlaws need in Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Ernesto Frieri or as I like to call him “Ernasty” because of the filthy pitches he can throw at times.

The smell of burnt leather and burnt wood is in the air, Angel Stadium will be the site of this latest showdown, when the smoke clears and the dust settles a halo will shine brightly and above any Texas Rangers ‘remnants that is left. Man, I love the Angels! I also love baseball! Enjoy the showdown in Anaheim.

-ICE

 

Yu Darvish, Don’t Be Blinded by Albert Pujols’ Shiny New Halo

Let the gamesmanship begin, the Angels and the Texas Rangers started the game of one upmanship during the off-season. The Texas Rangers made it to the World Series two years in a row as the American League representative. The Angels responded by signing Albert Pujols to a 10 year contract, then delivering a crippling blow to the Texas Rangers by swiping their ace C. J. Wilson. The Rangers countered by bidding, winning, and singing Japanese phenom Yu Darvish, and now both teams are playing poker; neither team wanting to give away the hand that they strategically have. Both Wilson and Darvish were scheduled to face off during today’s spring training game. Alas, we will have to wait until the regular season and see the skills of the phenom from the land of the rising Sun, compete against the Halo.

Can it be a Rangers are just a little bit nervous in regards to the power of Pujols and the damage he can do in a hitters park like Rangers Ballpark in Arlington? Are they afraid that Albert Pujols will somehow tarnish Darvish? I think it’s neither, the Rangers are very wisely saving their aces until the games count, they want to win this poker game so they won’t keep their collective poker face on the table for as long as they can. The American League West will come down to a wild West style shootout. Where I believe the Halo war is from the ashes, and once again claim was rightfully theirs; the American League West Championship.

I don’t believe this sparring match will end in the regular season. Don’t be surprised if the American League wild card comes out of the American League West. I don’t believe the Rangers will go away that easy. But then again, neither will the Angels. I strongly believe that the American League West in the American League East are the two strongest divisions in baseball right now, and I don’t think one should pencil in the Yankees or the Red Sox or for that matter the Rangers just yet. The Angels will have a lot to say about how the postseason turns out before this is over. And when we look back at the 2012 season, at least for the Angels and Rangers the games began well before opening day, they began during spring training March 2012.

-ICE

Can Three Aces, A Few Offensive Jacks, and a Wildcard Give the Angels a Winning Poker Hand in the Upcoming World Series of Baseball?

Well here we are, there is seven games left to play in the regular season; and the dogfights for October are in full swing. The teams in the thick of their respective pennant races have reached full throttle; such is the case for the Angels as of today they are 5  games back from the division leading Texas Rangers, however, they are only 2 1/2 back out of the American League wild-card race.

 

There seems to be no stopping the Texas Rangers, when the Angels win, the Rangers also win. In effect, making it progressively more difficult for the Angels to win the division, due to the fact that all that’s happening is that the amount of games to be played a shrinking, and the need of having to rely on other teams make the Rangers have an epic melt down, which doesn’t seem to be happening.

 

What’s left for the Angels? Well, they are still very much alive in the American League wild card race. They are only 2 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, and tied with Tampa Bay for second place in the wild-card race. The Angels must keep winning and hope they get some help from of all teams the New York Yankees whose remaining schedule is exclusively against the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. It has it yet to be seen if this is even a remote possibility because with the Yankees clinching the American League East yesterday, expect them to start resting their players for their playoff run. Unless the Yankees’ substitutes can somehow pull it off, I don’t see how the Yankees supplementary players can match up against the starters of either the Red Sox or the Rays; especially considering that both teams very much want the postseason for themselves, and are not going to quit.

 

Who knows, stranger things have happened that’s the beauty of baseball. And for the Angels in particular it’s happened before, in 2002 the Angels had their worst start in franchise history, they recovered, while the Oakland Athletics won a Major League Baseball record 20 games in a row, the Athletics seemed unstoppable; like the 2011 Texas Rangers the Athletics were counting down magic numbers and their clinching the division was only a matter of time, but somehow the Athletics lost their division series against the Minnesota Twins and their division championship was all for not, while the Angels as a wildcard, defeated the New York Yankees, defeated the Minnesota Twins, and virtually came back from the dead against the San Francisco Giants in one of the greatest comebacks in World Series history, to win the 2002 World Series and become World Series Champions and as they say, the rest is history.

 

So who’s to say we can’t do it again? Especially with a team that we now have? We have spectacular pitching in Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana. In a five-game series we can virtually be anybody especially the New York Yankees since the Angels seem to be known around baseball as Yankee killers since we are the only team that holds a winning all-time record against the Yankees, in Major League Baseball.

 

Yes, it’s going to be a difficult road, nothing is for certain, but this is not a road the Angels have not been down before. The hunt for a red October begins, the Angels were the first team in Major League Baseball history to win the World Series as a wildcard. The Angels may find a way to do it again. May the shadows of 2002 a company them and aid them in their quest for a second World Series title. How special would it be not only unexpectedly won the World Series as a wildcard yet again, but also complete the journey during their 50th Anniversary Season. I know it’s a long shot, but like any true fan would think as long as  they are alive in the playoff race anything and everything is possible. Go Angels! Let’s light up the Halo and put a Halo over this upcoming World Series.

 

-ICE

Lack of Power Is Causing the Golden Halo to Flicker

[ updated May 30, 2011 9:38 PM ]

The American League West has the distinction of having all four of their teams lead in that category over the lowest team Earned Run Average in all of Major League Baseball number one through number four. The starting rotation for each of these teams is nothing to sneeze at. The offense however, at least for the Angels is a different story.

 

Over the last few days Angels’ broadcasters and fans alike, have been highlighting the lack of Angels’ offense. And I can’t really say I disagree even with the offense of explosion that allowed them to defeat the Kansas City Royals by a final score of 10-8 today, I would have to say that the increase in offensive production is more due to the weather conditions of today’s game rather than a sudden discovery of an offensive groove.

 

I am not for a minute taking away the Home Runs launched by Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos or the two Home Runs by Torii Hunter, who also was able to score his 1000th Run Batted in of his career. The Angels lack power not because they don’t have it, but because they haven’t discovered how to use it properly. Power in the lineup is something that develops naturally over time, it’s something that naturally happens. If one swings for the fences in every at-bat of eventually that player is going to over extend themselves and become tired and ineffective. Even with the signing of Russell Branyan who was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks but Angels total resolve the power outage at the Halo power plant.

Angels’ fans have pointed out on Angel talk that the Angels or in need of making a major trade or transaction, some callers were asking for reasonable trades, while some proposals by fans border on the ridiculous. I would venture to say these are fantasy owners that know nothing about the game of baseball.

 

Although I tend to agree that the Angels need power why not look for the answer within the organization? For example somebody like Mike Trout? Some would argue that he is not ready for the big leagues, I would argue on the other hand, that he is, keeping him in the minor leagues for two long may have a detrimental effect on his career, Brandon Wood is a prime example that I believe that the Angels kept Wood in the minor leagues too long and that may have hindered his development. Wood was eventually designated for assignment about a month ago.

 

There is a lot of money coming off Angels’ payroll next year perhaps they will be able to re-sign Jared Weaver to a long-term contract and keep their spectacular starting pitching rotation intact, and possibly pursue a power bat.

 

I think the issue is that a lot of Angels’ fans want to win now and don’t really see or care about their long-term welfare of this fabulous organization. I think it is best determine the direction that this team is going before we start talking about who were going to sign or trade for.

 

It’s still a long season and we all have yet to see where the Angels end up. I will tell you this much we are in a much better position this year than at the same point last season. Last year everything was falling apart, the Angels were free-falling in the standings and every facet of the game went wrong. Today all we have to complain about is the lack of power and lack of performance of some pictures in the bullpen. Like I said before, the power will naturally come, although we are lacking power we are still in the mix to contend for the American League West title. At this point in the season as an Angels’ fan what more can one ask for?

 

 

-ICE

Hunger for a World Series Championship Is Reborn in the Hungry Halos

What a difference a year makes, the Angels don’t look like the team they were a year ago, they look very hungry, non-complacent and ready to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs; the American League West championship. Maybe this is exactly what he needed, being a three-time defending American League West champions may have caused them to get a little too comfortable in that position. They were lacking the drive and the hunger to succeed last year.

 

Maybe it was the bullpen as everyone remembers the Angels collapse started with the bullpen last year. That translated into offensive fatigue add to that the injury to Kendrys Morales in early May, and one has a recipe for disaster.

 

Not making the playoffs last year seemed to really affect the Angels by reinstalling hunger for success, they kept veterans that were the leaders of the club last year such as Torii Hunter, Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, and infused some youth into the team, such as Hank Conger, Mark Trumbo, and Jordan Walden. The perfect mix of leadership and youth seems to be paying off. It is this mixture of talent that has allowed the Angels to put together a five game winning streak while at the same time mollifying the great start by the Texas Rangers.

 

As of yesterday they were both tied for first place in the American League West, the Angels lost 7 runs to 1; everybody who follows baseball knows that teams are going to win some, and they’re going to lose some. What concerns me at this point is not the win loss record because I strongly believe that the Rangers can and will be beat, I wonder to the condition of our starting rotation, he’ll fit their reorganization of bullpen seem to work and offense seems to have found their groove without Kendrys Morales. The starting rotation however will need work, which Joel Piñeiro out with an injury, the Angels are unable at this point to really assess what the starting rotation will look like. I hope they both are able to play very soon.

 

It is very intriguing how the Angels have managed to construct the beginnings of a catcher controversy between Hank Conger and Jeff Mathis, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times a few days ago Mathis requested a closed-door meeting with Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia regarding his playing time, I fail to see the controversy, Hank Conger is a young, hungry, enthusiastic, power hitter that is ready to help the Angels on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Mathis on the other hand, has been a sub . 200 hitter, in his career granted, he is an above average defensive catcher, but Conger is equal to Mathis on the defensive side, and is clearly better on the offensive side. Jeff Mathis is a good backup catcher, he has had an opportunity to prove himself the last few years, he hasn’t, so it’s time to make room for someone I can do the job for this team.

 

The Angels having no glaring holes at this point, but they do need to address certain small issue before they become good eye problems. Overall, the Angels were a far cry from the team they were last year. I believe that they will do great things; although it is a long shot I do believe with a few tweaks in the problem areas this team has the talent to win the World Series. Go Angels!

 

-ICE

Will the Angels’ Bullpen be a “Royal” Pain This Season?

Opening day, the crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, and the pop of a baseball snapping against a leather glove. Three games into the season, and the Angels are already 1-2. It is still extremely early. So to say that doomsday is coming is a little rash. However, for those that remember 2010 the Angels’ collapse began with the bullpen, granted I realize that the Angels have started the season with four players on the disabled list which two of them are pitchers; Joel Piñeiro  a starter, and Scott Downs a reliever. Regardless of who is on the disabled list, the Angels bullpen should be able to hold a lead given to them by stellar performances by the starting pitchers. In the opening game, Jared Weaver was spectacular and the bullpen was able to do its job on that particular day, since then it’s been the Angels’ bullpen who have blown relatively easy mathematical victories the last two games. First, a walk off home run given up by Michael Kohn yesterday, and then today the run given up by Kevin Jepsen which gave the Kansas City Royals the victory five runs to four.

It is becoming apparent that the Angels are faced with uncertainty in the bullpen this season. Will the bullpen be able to hold leads that a much improved Angel offense provides? Will the bullpen be able to help the starting rotation’s record accurately reflect how good the starting rotation will be this season? Who will be the Angels’ closer? Fernando Rodney? Who has looked pretty shaky so far this season, Michael Kohn? Jordan Walden? Rich Thompson? Hisanori Takahashi? Jason Bulger? I realize it’s still very early in the season, in Mike Scioscia is still trying to put the team together, however, with the exception of Walden and Takashi I haven’t seen anybody in the Angels bullpen that can reassure me that the game is ours.

The question thus becomes can the bullpen get it together before our stellar rotation or our hot bats and our Gold glove outfield defense cools off? Torii Hunter has recovered his power, much of that has to do with the acquisition of Vernon Wells both guys have me excited mutually on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. I feel that if we can get our bullpen to work right we should be able to contend for an American League West title this year if not more.

I look forward to writing more about wins this year and what went right, instead of what went wrong. Only time will tell. Go Angels!

-ICE

The Year of the Golden Halo Begins

As the Angels open the 2011 season, fans that I’ve talked to approach this year with a mixed bag of excitement and uncertainty. On the one hand it’s the year of the Golden Halo, the Angels’ 50th Anniversary season and on the other hand the Angels are beginning the season in an unfamiliar place for the first time in recent memory they will not be the defending American League West Champions.

 

For diehard fans like me I don’t mind it much, I remember when the Angels would inevitable losers of the major leagues, the team that everybody made fun of, there was evening we made poking fun at them postulating that only divine intervention would make them winners. Since 2002 obviously that is not the case, the Angels have made a consistent effort not only to be competitive but to also be contenders in the playoffs. Last year was her first bad year in a very long time, fans at him with management were very unhappy with the results and the organization has vowed to improve.

 

The acquisition of Vernon Wells should help a pretty potent outfield is expected this point that the Angels will rely primarily on their farm system to get them through this year. The potential in prospects Mike Trout and Hank Conger is infinite. Hank Conger was the most valuable player of major league baseball’s futures game, Mike Trout has been touted as an impact prospect in the Angels’ system in recent years.

 

The Angels have a huge challenge in front of them this year, primarily how to did defeat Boston this year? With the impact editions that the Red Sox have made such as Carl Crawford among others, I can’t help but wonder how the Angels overcome these challenges and assuming they find a way to defeat Boston how would they handle the team like the Philadelphia Phillies that have one of the best rotations in recent memory? These are issues that the Angels must address.

 

Overall I’m just excited that we are three weeks away from opening day in the baseball regular season, I can not wait for the best sound of the crack of the bat, the slap of the ball against the catcher’s glove, the roar of the crowd, the sound of the vendors yelling at the top of their lungs “get your peanuts here!” Among other sounds unique only to the game of baseball. Go Angels!

-ICE


The Angels Are the Rich Ugly Fat Kid That Is Picked Last, If Picked at All

In my season finale blog I mentioned that I would stay quiet until the start of the regular season unless something big happened during the Major League Baseball winter meetings or at some point during the off-season. Unfortunately my computer broke and I was unable to write sooner than today.

Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise because instead of a knee-jerk reaction I have had a chance to reflect on the Angels off-season transactions or lack thereof.

Since the big-splash signings of Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar before 2004, the Angels have become the ugly fat kid that is always picked last if he take all due to his lack of athletic appeal, the Angels have ended up being the aforementioned fat kid in negotiations for Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Paul Konerko and in trade talks for Roy Halladay and Miguel Cabrera.

Now the Angels can add Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee to that impressive list. According to sources cited in the Los Angeles Times the Angels were very competitive in the bidding for Crawford, the article goes on to say that it was a very hard decision for him. The reason he cited for Crawford signing with the Boston Red Sox was primarily because he wanted to stay in the American League East. If money wasn’t the issue what is it about the Angels’ organization that Major League Baseball players find unattractive?

It is a complete unknown to me, the Angels are a very attractive franchise with a great coaching staff and a superb owner; why then have they not been able to sign a big-name free agent with the exception of Torii Hunter since 2003? I attribute it to the Angels believing a little bit too much in their philosophy of homegrown talent. Yes, a great farm system is the foundation of an elite team however it is the mix of homegrown talent and market aggressiveness that create a championship team. The Angels in my opinion don’t believe in themselves and therefore project that insecurity to potential free agents, in essence they believe themselves to be that ugly fat kid that has rich parents and believes that he can buy friends just by throwing money at them. Until they change that perception of themselves don’t look for the Angels to sign any key free agents in the near future. They are not who they seem to believe themselves to be; they are better than that.

Up until last year we were the three-time defending American League West champions, granted all the injuries that we had last year hurt the team, not necessarily because of who was out, but because of the timing of those injuries. All the while the fan base myself included are very upset, we are the ones who spend our money to go watch billionaires employ millionaires to play a child’s game. The least any franchise can do is to try to put a winning product on the field.

The Angels have drawn over 3 million fans a season the last few years. The Angels’ attendance is only second to that of the New York Yankees; so it would be prudent for the Angels to at least pursue someone and if they fail, at least fail knowing that they gave it all they had; for example, before Cliff Lee agreed to a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Angels’ General Manager to was quoted as saying that he was content with the pitching staff and he didn’t foresee the Angels making any moves to improve their pitching any further than what they already had at that point. Really? They are content with the contract signings of Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi? The latter player has me thinking that he will be the next Brian Fuentes, we all remember how that turned out; I would be surprised if he wasn’t booed out of the stadium like Brian was. How the signing of those two players come anywhere close to signing a caliber player like Cliff Lee?

There is an old adage that defense wins championships; that still holds true signing Lee would’ve only helped the Angels especially since our bullpen was one of the worst in the major leagues last season, and it was the collapse of the bullpen that started the Angels downfall. Cliff Lee joining the Angels would have bolstered an already strong starting rotation, in turn the Angels wouldn’t of had to rely on the bullpen as much and negate any weaknesses that the offense would’ve had especially since they were unable to sign a caliber player like Carl Crawford.

With all that being said I’m glad that the organization does not spend their money recklessly, however give the Angels’ fans something to look forward to! This upcoming season is our 50th anniversary season. The Angels needed to make an impact, they clearly didn’t. I expected them to make the 50th anniversary season a memorable one Which they are, but for all the wrong reasons.

-ICE

%d bloggers like this: