Results tagged ‘ American League Wild Card ’

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

 

 

 

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

Fallen Angels

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Is this true? Does an object fall harder from a greater vertical distance? Gravity is a constant, therefore, no matter if we’re talking about a feather or a bowling ball, they both fall at the same rate, perhaps the mass of the bowling ball makes a greater impact, but it doesn’t fall any harder than the feather.

After battling with the Houston Astros for most of the season and switching between first and second place in the American League West, the Angels now find themselves in third place as of today 5 1/2 games back of the Houston Astros. After a horrible August, the Halos survived, the offense has not produced as well as it should and the bullpen may be overstretched, however things are not always as they seem.

Yes, the Angels may have spiraled, and yes, the Angels are a far cry from the 17-3 run they made around the All-Star break; nevertheless, this isn’t a random occurrence. Two things happened which led to this sudden drop in the standings.

Mike Trout went down on July 30 when he hurt his wrist diving for a ball in the outfield, the wrist may be better, however his timing at the plate is off since the injury, he hasn’t been able to drive the ball on a consistent basis, it is because of this, that he hasn’t been able to play at the level that we are accustomed, nevertheless, until he can get to the point where he can dominate a game at any given time, the Angels are going to struggle.

David Freese went down on July 22 he was hit by a pitch, without Freese, there was no one to solidify the bottom part of the lineup, after Trout and Pujols. There was no real transition between the middle and bottom part of the lineup, add to that, Mike Scioscia’s unnecessary and reactionary revolving lineup. This clearly explains the Angels sudden drop in the standings.

We are in the latter stretch of the baseball season, by now, championship teams have their lineup set, and each player’s role defined in preparation for the September call ups; thus, making it easier for a team to plug-in the newly arrived players into their respective defined roles.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen with the Halos this year. This is why the volatility of this team continues. Yes, the Angels are not mathematically out and there’s still plenty of time to catch the Houston Astros. And yes you can win the World Series being a Wild-Card team. The Angels proved that in 2002 by being the first team ever to win the World Series as a Wild-Card. Notwithstanding, the Angels need to define their collective identity, if they expect to make a deep run in the playoffs. They may slip into the postseason as a feather, however, they need to have the impact of a bowling ball.

-ICE

The Angels Draw a King from the American League Wild Card Deck

The matchup for the American League Division Series is set. The Angels are set to square off against the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City won the American League wild card by defeating the Oakland Athletics in a game that will go down as one of the most exciting wild-card games in Major League Baseball history. The score was 9 to 8 in 12 innings. A hard fought victory for the right to face a celestial juggernaut in the Angels.

The Royals’ speed on the base paths last night was impressive. In a five-game series it’s going to be interesting to see how the Angels deal with said speed. The Angels however, play as a team and it’s going to be hard for the Royals to contend with the Angels bullpen and the Angels’ offensive prowess.

Game one is a golden opportunity for the Angels, with Kansas City using James Shields for the wild-card game, compile that with the Royals coming off a 12 inning battle with the Athletics; there is less pressure on Weaver. This series is truly going to hinge on whether or not C. J. Wilson can pitch a good game and whether or not Angels’ rookie Matt Shoemaker can handle the postseason pressure. Ideally if they can sweep the Royals in three games the Angels rotation problems would be minimized.

It’s going to be a fun series, will the Angels fly high? Or will a Kansas City King be crowned? In a five-game series anything is possible, but I sincerely hope that the hunt for red October continues, I’m definitely ready to get my red on! Please check back for Angels postseason entries.

-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

The Duality of Baseball

Baseball is a game of duels, there is a dual between pitchers, it can also exist between pitcher and batter, as well as between base men and base runners. There also exist a certain duality within the game.

The Angels are experiencing such duality, Albert Pujols hit his 500th career home run in Washington DC against the Nationals. The number 500 appears again as the Angels are trying to get back to a .500 record, a threshold they haven’t been able to accomplish since the opening day of 2013. Which is simply astonishing given the talent on this team. The team cannot get all three facets of the game to work at the same time. When the offense is on fire, the pitching cannot hold leads; this problem is manifested by the performances of the bullpen, a unit that can’t seem to get it together. The positive? The Angels lead Major League Baseball in Home Runs with 36 more than any other team in both leagues. Yet somehow they haven’t been able to translate the positives into wins.

The future is not bleak for this team, the ingredients are there, Josh Hamilton will eventually be back and give both Albert Pujols and Mike Trout much-needed protection. In contrast to recent years the Angels now have relatively healthy players to complete the original winning formula that was conceived. Once they resolve their bullpen issues they should have a winning record, and eventually I am hopeful that the many dualities that I’m currently observing become one distinct singularity, which manifests itself as a World Series Championship at the end of the season.

-ICE

The Halo is Burnt Out For the Rest of This Season

18.5 games back in the division and 16 games back out of the wild-card race. Barring some sort of miracle it safe to say that the Angels season is over. Yes they may be still mathematically able to make the playoffs, but to expect three teams to falter in the division and a plethora of teams to falter in the wild-card race is unrealistic. It is improbable, but not impossible.

I could feasibly sit here and write a novel sized entry describing in detail what went wrong this year, but I don’t think my readers would have time for that, nor do I have the energy to speak into the microphone for that long. I took some time to concisely think about the factors that led up to such a disastrous season and it came down to two things, bad personnel decisions and bad contracts. My loyal readers already know that given the choice, I much rather see the Angels be eliminated from contention in early September rather than mid to late July. That is unfortunately what happened this year.

Bad Personnel Decisions

The Angels’ General Manager did a horrendous job in putting this team together this year. Our pitching staff as a whole is in shambles; with the exception of Weaver, Wilson, and Vargas no one else on the pitching staff has preformed consistently. Signing Joe Blanton to a contract magnified the Angels’ General Manager’s poor decision-making. In my opinion, Joe Blanton didn’t add much intimidation factor to this pitching staff. That was my feeling when the Angels gave Blanton a contract, and his performance this season simply proved my point.

The Albert Pujols injury situation was handled very poorly by the Angels organization. I realize that Albert is a competitor; however it’s the Angels’ responsibility to step in and do what was in the best interest of the organization if they had put Albert Pujols on the Disabled List in the beginning of the season. Perhaps we would now have him available for a late postseason run, but as the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20; however it would be impossible to argue that the Angels could not foresee the situation as a possible scenario. They should have done what they could to avoid this scenario from developing.

Bad Contracts

Ryan Madson, the Angels gave him $3 million for him to sit and do nothing. I questioned his contract from the very beginning. I personally would be very hesitant to sign a player coming off Tommy John surgery. He ended up not playing one inning for the Angels this season which ultimately led to his unconditional release. In other words, the organization paid a player $3 million to be a spectator. I wonder if the Angels’ organization would be willing to give me a 3 million dollar contract for just one season, I wouldn’t be able to play a single inning either, but at least the team can rest assured that my love for them is unconditional.

Josh Hamilton, for those of you that read my earlier entries, you know that I’m not a big fan of the Hamilton contract, $125 million over five years is a lot of money I had several concerns, my chief concern was his inability to handle a big market pressure situation, he is nowhere near the player the Angels expected to get, but the organization cannot say that they didn’t see this possibility developing. I publicly stated that this exact situation was a possibility, and I’m not a General Manager or a professional baseball scout.

A better business decision in both cases would have been to offer an incentive based contract given each player’s respective history. This type of contract would have protected the Angels’ long-term interest; unfortunately this wasn’t done in either case.

To exacerbate this matter even further, it has yet to be seen how these bad contract decisions affect the Angels ability to re-sign Mike Trout and lock him up to a long-term contract. If anybody deserves this type of money it is Trout, who in my humble opinion is the current and future face of the franchise much like Tim Salmon was in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

What is Mr. Moreno going to do? Obviously things cannot remain status quo; he has invested a lot of money in the long-term success of this team. I am sure he is very frustrated, I’m sure he knows that the Angels’ fan base is also very frustrated.

-ICE

Related Articles: http://angels.mlblogs.com/2012/12/13/josh-hamilton-trades-in-his-cowboy-hat-for-a-halo
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/05/09/keep-the-trum-bombs-coming
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/07/31/trying-to-fix-a-dim-halo
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/05/05/the-angels-use-the-home-run-boom-to-dodge-the-broom
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2012/12/12/zack-greinke-has-gone-from-being-anakin-skywalker-to-darth-vader
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2013/02/13/i-dont-want-peanuts-or-crackerjacks-give-me-the-baseball-glove-and-the-baseball-bat
http://angels.mlblogs.com/2012/12/07/youre-a-mean-one-mr-grinch

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

The Angels Versus the A’s: the Rich Rivalry Possibly Renewed

Let me get this straight, as of tonight there are three American League West teams contending for two playoff spots…. Wow! What a crazy baseball season this is. The Halos find themselves on the outside looking in, with the loss of tonight’s second game of the doubleheader and the Athletics winning; the Angels must win out the remaining three games of the season and rely on the Rangers who already secured at least a wild-card berth to sweep the A’s in the last series of the season.

The introduction of the new wild-card system guaranteed game 163 every year as two teams duke it out in a play in game to determine which team would represent the American League wild-card. Who knew that we would see a potential game 164 to select the participants in game 163, and the survivor would be the wild-card? Wow… that’s the view baseball it allows excitement until the very end. Although the Angels are on the outside looking in and now it’s very unlikely that they will make a postseason appearance, I have always been of the mindset that I rather be eliminated from contention in early October than in late July.

However as of tonight being does have done that they have survived, and in the unlikely event that the chips fall in their proper places the Angels and the A’s gnome each other once again, this time with everything on the line. Yes, the Rangers are very good, but there’s something about the red and green rivalry that lights the fire in the pit of the stomach of fans from both sides. California’s two American League franchise battling each other for the right to live another day. I know it’s very unlikely, but the fact that this new playoff system created this condition is a good thing.

Let’s hope that the Angels have three consecutive wins left in them in that Texas and organization that is still competing for the American League West championship, is able to sweep the A’s.

-ICE

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