Results tagged ‘ American League Wild Card ’

Red Brooms, Red Birds, and Cincinnati Reds

For those that don’t know, red is my favorite color independent from the Angels, to me it represents the color of passion, dedication, focus, and love. Red is very versatile, it makes its presence known, it can’t be ignored, and can’t be overlooked.

 

Over the last couple of series, the color red is very meaningful for the Halos. The red of this Saint Louis Cardinals who showed their red particularly to Albert Pujols their love for Albert was evident in three-game series in Saint Louis, as an Angels’ fan, I appreciate passionate fans such as Redbird fans.

 

The Angels also are metaphorically seeing red as in having to play seven games in two of the last remaining stadiums with artificial turf, Tampa Bay, (St. Petersburg) and Toronto, Ontario Canada home of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays respectively; and last but certainly not least red brooms as in the sweep of both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.

 

I postulated in my previous entry that the Angels have time to turn things around and that it had to start with a statement to the best team in baseball record wise, the Los Angeles Dodgers; indeed they did. The Halos went on to win their next seven of nine games, they went on the three-game losing streak and then swept the Cincinnati Reds. As of right now, officially halfway through the season through 81 games the Angels sit 41-40, although the situation is not ideal, considering all the injuries they continue to deal with this year they are still well within striking distance of the American League wildcard.

 

They start a four-game series today with their chief American League rival, the Oakland Athletics, the Angels must unequivocally improve their record within the division to make this season is successful one. They must become metaphorically speaking red-hot, in order to tinge the playoffs with Angels’ red.

 

Red, an unequivocally beautiful color, representing passion, focus, and love. The Angels must have the passion and focus to improve this season, and  love for the game to be successful.

 

-ICE

Taking the Interstate 5 South: the Freeway Series 2019

One of the most majestic images in baseball is the baseball field itself, the luscious green grass making its presence known to all that take their time to breathe in its beauty; the intoxicating spell that casts upon its observers enchanting them and leaving them wanting more. The grass whose edges tease the infield dirt as if the grass was a forbidden lover that the dirt was not allowed to touch in public for fear of not exposing their torrid love affair. The seats surrounding the two lovers, gather in a convention as if they were gods waiting decree their verdict upon the lovers, this is what goes on in every baseball stadium, when the stadium is empty and it’s in its most natural state, this is baseball nature.

 

This is all about to change however, as a blue wave invades the peaceful serenity of Angel Stadium, the levers hide in horror as their natural state dissipates for nine innings, perhaps more and is replaced by a ruckus blue invasion force that threatens their most sacred inner peace. Luckily they have red defenders that seek to quell the assault on their way of life.

 

This is the essence of the Freeway Series, this is what makes the Angels Dodgers rivalry unique and beautiful. A little more than 30 miles separate the two cities and a little more than 28 miles separate the two stadiums. Proximity makes all the difference because it adds certain elements to the rivalry that the Dodgers and Giants rivalry will never have.

 

The Dodgers have the best record in all of baseball at the moment, while the Angels are 30-34; various injuries to Justin Upton, and Andrelton Simmons as well as injuries to various members of the pitching staff have slowed their progress.

 

The Angels are 14-21 against the American League West, they at 13.5 games back out of first place, in four games out of the second wildcard spot. There is still plenty of time to turn things around, however it must start tonight.

 

I believe that beating the best team in baseball would give them a much-needed boost of morale, not only because it Dodgers currently hold the best record in baseball, but because of the rivalry, a small contribution of giving the Dodgers two losses would give the Angels the energy to turn things around.

 

When Angel fans fill the seats tonight, they must do their best to defend home-field advantage, they must protect the two star crossed lovers so they can continue their forbidden love affair uninterrupted; by doing so, they add to the beauty and the legend that is baseball as it has been for the last 150 years.

 

-ICE

The Injury Bug Is Feasting on the Halo

One of the wonderful things about being a diehard Angels’ fan for more than 30 years is that one learns to appreciate the good times and the bad; from winning the World Series in 2002 to finish a magical season that started 6-14, two finishing 41 1/2 games out the first place in the American League West in 2001. One win away their American League championship in 1986 after reading the series 3 games to 1, who can forget the infamous one-game tiebreaker game for the American League West championship in 1995 after the Angels had an 11 game division lead on August 3 with one month to go.

All these highs and lows has helped me appreciate when the Angels are doing well, I often mention to my fellow baseball fans that I don’t understand why the modern fan base (those who became fans because of the 2002 World Series championship) are so hard on this team; is it because they never experienced the dark times? Or is it simply easier to follow a team when it’s on top? From 2002 until the end of the 2009 season the Angels have experienced success relative to their history of being such lovable losers.

Now it seems that since 2009 the Angels have been plagued with bites from the injury bug in the past, players such as Tyler Skaggs, Garrett Richards, and Matt Shoemaker, don’t seem to be all healthy at the same time, which has really hindered the potential of this team. All three starting pitchers have dealt with long-term injuries at one point or another. This team is very talented on paper but the injury bug has not allowed them to flourish as a team.

The Halos at one point in the season had a Major League Baseball leading 24 players on the disabled list at the same time, no team, regardless of how much talent they may have can recover from that very easily. Although the Angels have gotten some players back slowly others replace them on the list such as Albert Pujols will likely miss the rest of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. It seems like the injury bug loves take a bite out of the halo.

Shohei Ohtani, the young phenom two-way player was originally supposed to be shut down on the pitching side for the rest of the season to allow his grade 2 elbow sprain to heal, the Angels 18 games back of the division leading Houston Astros. There is no reason to risk aggravating his injury any further since the Angels have really nothing to play for being this far back this late in the season. The wildcard at this point seems out of the question as well. The Angels organization, should be taking this time to develop young players that they brought up during the September call ups, and setting the foundation for a better season next year. Shohei Ohtani clearly lost his velocity towards the end of his outing last night. It perplexes me why the Angels would risk making a bad injury situation even worse; granted, Shohei Ohtani may have wanted his opportunity at history since after he is outing this night he is the first major-league baseball player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to pitch 50 innings and hit 15 home runs. “Showtime” has marked his patient history there is no reason to risk his future and that of the organization’s any further.

As a diehard Angels’ fan for over 30 years I have seen my fair share of peaks and valleys with this team, I am a strong believer that the Angels should take the time to regroup and heal, this is not the time for rest decisions, is not the time to allow the injury bug to take one more bite out of the halo.

-ICE

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

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