Results tagged ‘ American League West Championship ’

29 Halos in 29 Ballparks: Oaktown Power, Halo Number One, The Oakland Coliseum

The beauty of baseball is indescribable. It is often referred to as “the thinking man’s game”. Each ballpark has its own unique feel, traditions, character, and environment, a unique aura that is not shared with any other ballpark in the major leagues. In an earlier entry, I stated that I would leave 29 Halos in 29 ballparks, is only fitting that I start with the Oakland Coliseum.

The Oakland Coliseum was the first ballpark that I had the opportunity to visit outside of Angel Stadium. It is a very unique ballpark, the last remaining ballpark in Major League Baseball that still is a shared facility with the NFL. I was very lucky to live near a ballpark in the Angels’ division during my college years. I tried to go to the Coliseum every time the Angels visited the Athletics. For the very first time and only time so far, I went to a game that the Angels weren’t participating, in that venue, the Athletics hosted the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Oakland Coliseum itself, is very accessible. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) subway train has a station right outside the ballpark. It’s really nice to arrive without having to worry about paying for parking. Upon arriving at the station, one can already feel the green and gold soul that resides within the unique confines of that ballpark.

Upon entering the gates, one gets emerged in the pageantry of the ballpark whether it’s the sound of the bats during batting practice, and/or the drummers warming up in the left-field bleachers. The drummers are just regular fans that one day brought their drums into the ballpark and have been there ever since, supporting the team they love.

The ballpark itself is very accommodating; it is one of the few ballparks that I know of, where a wheelchair using patron can sit in the first level on the field. (As a result of a successful lawsuit by fans) and were one can sit with their companion for half of the regular price. I used to sit there all the time, in section 115 row 20, seats 20 and 21. I still have fond memories of the Oakland A’s’ Usher, Rodney, who would give me a hard time, but was also very fond of conversation. From what I understand, he is still there.

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The Oakland A’s fans are very passionate. As every baseball fan should be. I distinctly remember for the Angels’ games people would walk in with rally monkeys at the end of the stick hanging from a noose. The beautiful women of Oakland would walk into the ballpark wearing devil horns, and the kids would shout At the top of their lungs, “let’s go Oakland!”

As an Angels’ fan I was very lucky and spoiled to have the experience that I had in that beautiful ballpark. I was able to see the Angels clinch the American League West championship in two consecutive years, 2004 and 2005. In 2005, I met the Angels current owner, Arturo Moreno the very night the Angels clinched the division title. A fond memory that I still carry with me today.

Arturo Moreno and Isaac Lopez

Eight years have passed since I left the Bay Area, however I still hold the Oakland Coliseum very close to my heart. I hope that I will one day be back to once again partake in the beauty of Oaktown Power.

-ICE

Songs of the Baseball Season

Baseball is full of tradition, from singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch to the Phillie Phanatic, and everything in between. New traditions are established: such as the Presidents’ race in Washington D. C. leaving the Nationals’ fans asking themselves, “when is Teddy Roosevelt going to win a race?”

Other teams such as the Angels are trying to build questionable traditions such as singing “Build me up Buttercup” by the Foundations during the seventh inning stretch, similar to the way the Boston Red Sox use to sing “Tessie” and now sing “Sweet Caroline”.

I have several quarrels with “Build Me up Buttercup”, first and foremost, the song is one of disillusionment, the singer is complaining about being let down by the girl that he is interested in. Although this is a catchy tune, I don’t believe this song is appropriate to fire up a crowd as big as 45,000 people. The Los Angeles Dodgers use “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey which seems appropriate for the moment.

However, “Build Me up Buttercup” is appropriate for how the Angels preformed this season. After a disastrous month of August, the Halos came roaring back in September, at one point they were victorious in seven games in a row. They ultimately fell short and were knocked out of postseason contention by the Texas Rangers, losing the game 9-2.

For many people the Angels’ season ended yesterday October 4. For me, the season ended in the top of the seventh inning in the game versus the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, September 30th. Mike Scioscia made a questionable move, replacing second baseman Johnny Giavotella who was a principal reason why the Angels had a 5-3 lead at the time, mainly because of the home run; in favor of Taylor Featherston who committed a costly error by mishandling and dropping the ball; a play that would’ve been routine for Johnny G. Featherston’s error allowed the Oakland Athletics to extend the inning, and in the end win the game 8-7.

Mike Scioscia has made many questionable decisions this season; he underutilized David Murphy in the Texas Rangers series, his reason for doing so? Matchups, according to Scioscia Murphy did not provide the appropriate matchup for left-handed pitching; however Murphy had an extraordinary average against such pitching. As a former Ranger, David Murphy is familiar with that ballpark, if Murphy was in the lineup, perhaps this entry would be discussing the upcoming Wild-Card game or reflecting on back to back American League West division titles.

The seven-game win streak built a fan base up, and bad managerial decisions by Mike Scioscia let us down. This begs the question: “why do you build us up Buttercup, just to let us down?”

One thing is clear however, Mike Scioscia needs to refine his decision-making skills because he is the primary reason why the Halos lost September 30th, and by extension he is a primary reason why the Angels are not making a postseason run this year. Yes, the injury to Houston Street was a big as far as the closers role. However, the effect is minimal compared to bad managerial decisions which Mike Scioscia is clearly guilty of.

It was not all doom and gloom however, for the first time in Angels’ history two players hit for at least 40 home runs; Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. I’m sure that both players would be more than willing to trade in those accomplishments in exchange for a World Series ring.

The off-season has officially begun, the Angels have officially hired a new General Manager Billy Eppler the Assistant General Manager from the New York Yankees. I will expand on his hiring as well as reflect on all season activities and personnel changes in future entries.

Which team will I be supporting on the road to the World Series now that the Angels are out? This is probably the easiest answer of all, I wholeheartedly will be supporting the Chicago Cubs, not only would it be wonderful to see their over 100 year drought end, but I would also be supporting a connection to the Angels in Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, who is a former member of the Angels’ coaching staff.

The post season is upon us, as for the Angels’ fan base, we will have to wait yet another year to put on our postseason Halo.

-ICE

The Angels Fall Victim to a Royal Flush

I thought this year was going to be different. The Angels had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs including the World Series. I thought this was going to be the year that the Angels finally made it out of the first round into the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2009. I thought this was the year that we were finally going to see the postseason version of Mike Trout.

The Angels had horrible offensive numbers, they were only able to muster six runs in the entire series four which, were home runs. They were a miserable two for 28 with runners in scoring position. The offense was anemic, not what one would expect for a team that led all Major League Baseball in runs scored this season.

It was a perfect storm, bad strategies by Mike Scioscia, and the inept offense, excellent Royals defense, and a short series. I question now and will question again the manager’s decision to play Josh Hamilton, Hamilton looked psychologically absent, away from the moment, an empty gaze, as he was just moving for the sake of repetition at the plate, his body language appeared to be nonchalant; he lacked the hunger and the drive that he so desperately needed to strategically dismantle the Royals’ pitching perfection. Granted, Hamilton was recovering from an injury, but this isn’t the regular season, it’s the postseason, the Halos didn’t have time to wait for Hamilton to get back into the groove. Collin Cowgill was a better option to take Hamilton’s place. I am puzzled by Mike Scioscia’s insistence to keep the Hamilton in the lineup when he was preforming so poorly, why mess up the team’s chemistry and cohesion? If one remembers when the Angels had their 10 game winning streak that help them capture the American League West title Hamilton was not in the lineup amidst that run.
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The eighth inning of game two is another example of bad strategy, with men on base, Kole Calhoun was called on to bunt in 3-1 Count, to my recollection I have never seen him bunt before, why not let him swing away? He is a heavy hitter. Why try to reinvent the wheel in the middle of the postseason? Why not leave the bunting to a player who has done it before and is successful at it? This wasn’t the Angels team that we were accustomed to seeing in the regular season.

As my birthday winds down to a close today, I wish I had better news to write about. Taking nothing away from Kansas City, the Angels were outplayed and Kansas City was clearly the better team. The old cliché applies here, “there is always next season.” Hopefully the Angels make the right moves to be competitive next season. Indeed, the Angels fell victim to a Royal flush.

-ICE

It Is Time to Get OctobeRED!

The hunt for a red October is here, the Angels are making their postseason push, Their 96 wins are the best in baseball. Halo dreams are running rampant amongst the fans, dreams that this team will win and bring their second World Series title to Anaheim.

Not all the dreams came to, however, the Halos must run the table in order to break the franchise record for wins. At this point, that is a minor accomplishment compared to what’s currently at stake. Now that the Angels have won the American League championship, they can shift their attention from the Oakland Athletics to the Baltimore Orioles with the goal of clinching home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the magic number is down to four, if the Angels can indeed accomplish this goal, the entire postseason including the World Series by virtue of the American League winning the 2014 All-Star game runs through Anaheim; as long as the Angels can stay alive in the playoffs.

There is some concern however, with the injuries to Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and the shortcomings of C. J. Wilson, the Angels are shorthanded and will have to rely on a strong bullpen to make a deep push this postseason. It can be done, if one recalls the 2002 World Series team the Angels did not have a stellar starting rotation to speak of, they relied on the bullpen; and that’s what is going to happen again this year.

The time has come to focus, celebrate, relax, and prepare; it is time to get OctobeRED! Go Angels!

-ICE

One Can Find Heaven in Seven

It is that time of year, the time of year where the dog days of summer and division races are replaced with magic numbers and the hunt for October. The hunt for a red October that is, a red October that includes a Halo. The Angels have a seven game lead over the Athletics and the magic number to clinch the division stands at 14. In other words, any combination of Angels wins or Athletics losses that add up to 14 will clinch the division for the Angels. Ultimately all the Angels would have to do at this point would be match the Athletics record for seven more games, and the division receives a Halo on the American League West Championship.

The Halos have some points of concern however, they have yet to find a legitimate starter to replace Garrett Richards in the starting rotation, they also have to find a way to ease the pressure on the bullpen for the postseason run; the bullpen is being taxed way too much. If the Angels don’t find a way to resolve these issues, their postseason run will be relatively short and no Angels’ fan ones that after a four year postseason drought.

If the regular season were to end today that playoff picture in the American League would look like this:

The divisional round for the Angels would be an all American League West series. The Halos would pay the winner of the wild-card play in game between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners, the other bracket would pit the Baltimore Orioles against the Kansas City Royals. Essentially, regardless of the outcome and American League West representative is guaranteed for the American League Championship Series. Hopefully that representative will be the Angels.

A seven-game lead, plus a magic number of 14; both numbers are multiples of seven. One can definitely find heaven in seven.

-ICE

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

Without a Doubt the Best Player of This Generation is Trout

Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and now one can add Mike Trout to this impressive list. All the players listed above were game changers not only for the respective teams but for baseball as a whole. Mike Trout’s resume includes: The American League Rookie of the Year, two-time American League Most Valuable Player runner-up, and three-time American League All-Star in only his third year in baseball. His newest accomplishment is most valuable player of the All-Star game. Quite an impressive career thus far for a player who is only 22 years old; given all his accolades, it is equally as impressive that his ego hasn’t stockpiled concurrently with his accomplishments. Trout’s attitude is refreshing.

I know I am a little late on posting my reaction regarding the All-Star break, especially given the fact that an Angels’ player was involved so heavily in the festivities. However, I wanted to wait until the much rumored pending transaction would materialize; it did, Houston Street is now part of the Halos’ bullpen. The acquisition of Street solidifies the bullpen, the team’s glaring weakness and biggest question mark in recent years.

Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for a dog fight for the right to claim the American League West championship. This is reminiscent of the battles the Angels and A’s have had in years past. These teams are not only competing in the division, but they are competing with transactions; matching each other punch for punch akin to a boxing match that neither competitor wants to lose.

Both teams are building team chemistry quite successfully. It’s no coincidence that these two teams have the two best records in baseball. I truly believe the Angels have the edge however, they lead all of baseball in runs scored, they strengthened a weakness called the bullpen, with the acquisition of Houston Street. The Angels now have options whether it’s Houston Street, Jason Grilli or Joe Smith they now have weapons in the bullpen. However there is one greatest advantage above all other advantages, his name is, Mike Trout.

-ICE

Get Your Red on

“Get Your Red on” this is a slogan to the marketing campaign that the Angels have embarked on in the 2014 season. I like it a lot. No, it’s not because red is my favorite color since I was a kid, although to me that’s icing on the cake. Overall it’s a very smart marketing strategy especially when juxtaposed against the “Think Blue” campaign employed by the cross-town rival the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Perhaps the campaign is appropriate, until last night the Angels were a perfect 6-0 when wearing the red alternate uniform until their first loss last night in that uniform against the Oakland Athletics. The Angels have slightly changed their uniform, a change that I must say I like a lot. The Halos will wear red shoes and red belt during their home games this season at least when wearing the red uniform. I hope they include this change for road games as well. I believe that it adds to the team’s identity much like the blue shoes add to the identity of the Dodgers or the white shoes that add to the identity of the Athletics respectively.

The Angels may have lost last night, however I really enjoyed the excitement brought on by last night’s game between these two American League West rivals there something about this rivalry that cannot be duplicated with the rest of the teams in the American League West. Maybe it’s the proximity between the two cities, maybe it’s the fact that these are the two California American League franchises, or maybe it’s the best explanation of all, these two teams captured 10 of the last 12 American League West titles.

Perhaps the rivalry was magnified by the fact that Albert Pujols hit his 496 career home run, a shot that went into the beautiful night sky. The green and gold elephant seems to bring out the best in the Angels and vice versa.

These two teams also share another commonality, they are known as the “other” team in the region. They live in the shadow of their bigger more famous brother, the Dodgers and the Giants respectively. Yet, it seems that their little brother steals the spotlight and has had success more often than their older, cockier sibling. Our National League counterparts cannot say that they’ve traded shots with each other 10 of the last 12 years. They may be known as a bigger rivalry, but their rivalry hasn’t been as competitive over the years. I have a healthy hatred for Oakland, in other words, I love to hate them. It’s not the same if both teams are not at the top of their game. The best part? The baseball season is young and the Rally Monkey and Stomper have a lot of sparring yet to do.

-ICE

Stomper Is Ahead of the Rally Monkey on the Score Cards

Baseball is a lot like boxing, the longer a fight goes, the later rounds become exponentially important. The American League West division race is much like a boxing match, especially the second half of the season where less than half the games are left. I mentioned in a previous entry a strong start coming out of the All-Star break would be especially important for the Angels. I said that numbers now matter.

The Angels started off strong by taking two of three from the Oakland A’s, the Halos needed to sweep the A’s in Anaheim and in Oakland in my opinion, in order to make any sort of meaningful progress in the division race. After losing ground by dropping the last game of the series against the A’s at Angel Stadium, then the Angels dropped two out of three against the Minnesota Twins. To add to the problem, the Angels have lost two out of four in the current series against Oakland at the Oakland Coliseum. The best they can hope for is a series split by winning tomorrow’s game.

Yes, baseball can be like a boxing match at times, it is quite possible that the Angels will receive a knockout blow by possibly losing Albert Pujols for the rest of the season due to his ongoing condition of plantar fasciitis. He left Oakland and returned to Southern California in order for doctors to run more tests, dare I say it doesn’t look good. He may have to go on the Disabled List for the rest of the season.

I can’t help but question the thought process that led to the poor handling of the situation. The team knew that this injury would be an ongoing problem; they should have rested number five, early during the start of the season. I realize he is a competitor, but I also realize that the Angels have invested a lot of money into his contract for him only to be able to play at half strength. The Angels knew that they would meet him late in the stretch run, and I question why they didn’t act accordingly. Now because of what I consider to be a poor decision, the team and their fan base are suffering the consequences.

I do realize that the Angels have their share of injuries, mainly Jason Vargas, however Albert is a big part of the Angels’ future plans and the team is not acting like it. I take solace in that history can repeat itself. The Halos must ironically take a page out of last year’s Oakland A’s playbook. If I recall, the Oakland A’s were in a similar position this time last year and won the division championship. At the very least the Angels must concentrate on winning one of the two wild-card spots and make a playoff push that way. They did that in 2002, and we all know what resulted. The Angels have the championship pedigree, but like any true champion they must come back in the later rounds and when the fight.

-ICE

Related Articles: http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/07/13/the-symphony-of-the-numbers-game
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/04/12/stomper-mercilessly-stomps-out-the-rally-monkey-then-swept-him-away
http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-angels-albert-pujols-aggravates-foot-injury-20130727,0,612262.story

Update: Albert Pujols will likely miss the rest of the 2013 season

http://www.latimes.com/sports/baseball/mlb/angels/la-sp-0729-angels-athletics-20130729,0,4351670.story

Zack Greinke Has Gone from Being Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader

It turns out that Zack Greinke went from promising Jedi Angels red to the dark Sith of Dodgers blue. Greinke signed a six-year $147 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fact that he signed with the Dodgers especially stings.

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Zack Greinke delivers against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Zack Greinke delivers against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Los Angeles Dodgers new right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke, left, talks to the media as team owner Magic Johnson laughs, right, after during a baseball news conference at Dodgers Stadium Club,  Tuesday, Dec.11, 2012, in Los Angeles. Greinke moves up the freeway to join the Dodgers' starting rotation in a $147 million, six-year deal after spending part of last season with the rival Angels. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Los Angeles Dodgers new right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke, left, talks to the media as team owner Magic Johnson laughs, right, after during a baseball news conference at Dodgers Stadium Club, Tuesday, Dec.11, 2012, in Los Angeles. Greinke moves up the freeway to join the Dodgers’ starting rotation in a $147 million, six-year deal after spending part of last season with the rival Angels. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

All things considered it could have been worse, he could have joined the Rangers. At least this way, over the next six years, we will only see Greinke twice a year when we play the Dodgers and that’s if and only if his spot is due up in the Dodgers’ rotation. Juxtaposing that against the possibility that Greinke going the Rangers, where were the Angels would’ve had to deal with him several times of year will Greinke would have a direct influence on whether or not the Angels reached the playoffs. All in all, I believe the Angels dodged a major bullet.

I am perplexed by the Angels decision-making this off-season when it comes to the roster. Let’s flashback to the off-season last year. I stated that I was cautiously optimistic about Albert Pujols contract. A 10 year contract for an offensive player seemed a little much for me, even if he is the greatest offensive player of this generation. I was concerned at that time for the Angels payroll flexibility. The Angels inability to at least compete with the Dodgers’ offer to Greinke really bothered me.

In baseball, successful teams are based on the ability of the starting rotation to pitch deep in a game and the bullpen to hold leads. Explosive offense doesn’t mean much if the opponent can exploit porous pitching. The Angels needed to same Greinke; not because he was the biggest name on the free-agent market, but because the Angels have gaping holes in the rotation. Greinke would have plugged at least one of those holes. The loss of Greinke magnifies to a an even greater extent the loss of Dan Haren.

The Angels tried to rectify the losses of the pitching staff by acquiring Joe Blanton. Frankly, I’m not impressed. World Series championships cannot be bought. A good example of that is the San Francisco Giants, aside from Buster Posey, I’m sure that unless one is a diehard Giants’ fan; the casual baseball fan cannot name anyone else on that team. When one thinks of the Giants, one thinks of the team before they think of any individual player. I wonder how the Angels’ organization will be able to justify their actions if they don’t make the postseason for a third year in a row.

In the American League West, which is possibly the toughest division in baseball. The Angels cannot afford to just coast and hope that the dominoes fall in their favor. Take a look at the results last year. Many around baseball expected for the American League West crowned to be adorned with a cowboy hat or a halo, only to discover that a white elephant would be King in 2012. The Angels cannot expect any other team to just rolled over for them simply because they have big names on paper. In 2013 is a requirement in my opinion to add a halo not only to the American League West crown, but also the World Series trophy.

-ICE

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