Results tagged ‘ Garrett Richards ’

Are the Angels Preparing a Winter Wonderland or Preparing for the Brunt of Bitter Old Man Winter?

The holiday season invokes different emotional reactions from different people, some people think about spending time with loved ones, others think about the family gatherings, the food, the games; while still others think of the lights the holiday decorations and the overall spirit of the season.

 

Baseball fans however, have an added bonus during the holiday season, the Major League Baseball winter meetings. The winter meetings can only be described one way, opening a holiday gift early. This is the time a year select front office personnel from all 30 teams get together in one place and discuss anything pertaining to the upcoming season; primarily free-agent signings and trades. Some teams going to these meanings with the intent of making a splash, while others stay relatively quiet.

 

This is the case of the Angels this year, unlike years past, they haven’t made an eye-opening transaction during this year’s winter meetings, on the contrary, I believe this year has much more uncertainty than years past. The Halos lost Garrett Richards to free agency. Richards signed a contract with the San Diego Padres, Shohei Ohtani is recovering from off-season Tommy John surgery and is unable to pitch this upcoming year, although he will be in the batters’ box this upcoming season. Parker Bridwell, a once promising Angels’ pitcher is no longer available because he was claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees. Injuries combined with these transactions make the Angels’ starting rotation questionable at best.

 

The Halos number one priority should be starting pitching, and/or pitching in general. This position is there Achilles’ heel as of late. They’ve had more of their fair share of pitching woes and it doesn’t seem that this year will get any better.

 

If that wasn’t enough, the Angels need help in the infield, they had Ian Kinsler’s veteran presence in the infield. I believe they gave up on Kinsler too early, alternatively, keeping Kinsler would have helped the Angels at the very least determine whether he deserved a longer-term contract to shore up the infield. His absence now not only leaves question marks in the infield for next season but it also creates a huge hole that the Angels need to fill; combined with the team’s pitching needs, I don’t see how they can possibly fill all these holes and expect to not only compete, but contend. Something they must do if they want to keep Mike Trout happy and in an Angels’ uniform in the long-term, especially for a team that does not want to go over Major League Baseball’s luxury tax.

 

It seems that the Halos are trying to do too much at the same time, this is a combination of bad contracts over the years with several players that have put them in this bind. How does one find the pieces they need to contend well still have enough money to sign the greatest player of this generation in Trout, long-term? This is a conundrum that the Angels face, a conundrum that won’t be easy to solve. I believe that in order to keep Trout and be contenders at the same time they must go over the luxury tax. The Halos are already asking a lot of the Angels’ fan base when it comes to paying to spend time at the ballpark, the least they can do is begin to show us that our investment of time and money is bearing fruit. The organization has two choices, create a winter wonderland or prepare for the brunt of bitter old man winter.

 

-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

 

 

 

The Tale of Two Halos

The Angels have had an interesting season thus far; there are instances when it’s the best of times, yet there are other instances when it’s the worst of times. The Angels have been decimated by injuries at the absolute worst time. A few examples are C. J. Cron, who went down right when his bat was warming up, or Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney both of whom are essential to the Halos’ success. Yet another example is the missing contribution of C. J. Wilson who was unable to throw a single pitch this season because of injury. With three-fifths of the starting rotation out of commission it’s surprising that the Angels have been able to function much less stay together as a team. At one point this season they were down 19 ½ games in their division with little hope of recovery.

In contrast, shortly before the All-Star break the Angels somehow managed to slowly bring it together with contributions of the now injured C.J. Cron. At one point they were able to string together 34 runs over four games before losing the pre All-Star break finale.

Since the All-Star break the Halos have come roaring back. They have yet to lose a game post All-Star break. They swept the division leading Texas Rangers and now move on to face the Houston Astros and continue this hopeful remarkable comeback. The Halos are now 11.5 games back begging the question if they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

It is no secret that the Angels don’t have much of a farm system which necessitates them to be sellers in order to rebuild such a devastated system. If this is indeed the case who would be on the trading block? Matt Shoemaker, who so far has had the best season of anyone in the rotation. Hector Santiago, who is arguably the heart and soul of the pitching staff. He plays the game with an unmatched passion which I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” What impact will Tyler Skaggs have on this team when he is ready to come back from injury? How will the injury to Nick Tropeano impact the rotation?

In contrast would the Halos have the heart to take apart a team that appears to be chemically coming together with an unmatched chemistry that was far delayed? Will they be able to find some way to improve this team and still have enough pieces to exchange? There is an old baseball adage that states you have to give up something to get something. Who will the Angels give up that would both have minimal impact on the team and still get someone of value back in order to help this team succeed?

If the Angels find a way to reconcile this conflicting enigma I believe they have enough to create a solid base to build on for next year, if not, by some miracle make up the division deficit and attempt to contend this season.

The answer lies in resolving the contradicting tales of these two Halos and finding a conclusion to this developing novel which has the potential to become a classic masterpiece of a season. How will the tale end? On one side will this be a reflection on a successful season? Or a tale of how a string of injuries derailed this cast of characters? How long will this novel be? Are we reaching the final pages? Or are there many pages yet to be written? My sincere hope is that it is the latter.

-ICE

Like Mike, If I Could Be Like Mike

In all sports there are athletes, and there are phenoms, a phenom is that special player that takes his or her respective sport by storm and immediately makes an impact. Mike Trout is indeed a phenom. On April 17, 2015 Trout became the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to reach 100 home runs in 100 stolen bases. I am reminded of a song in an advertisement back in 1991 by Gatorade, a commercial that featured Michael Jordan shortly after the Chicago Bulls beat my Lakers; as the Chicago Bulls captured their first ever NBA title. The jingle went something like this:

“Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be
I dream I move, I dream I groove
Like Mike
If I could Be Like Mike”

Mike Trout could be considered by many, as this generations’ “Mike” this young 23-year-old has brought excitement to the Halos’ franchise. Children of my generation idolized Michael Jordan, I imagine that young baseball players idolize Mike Trout.

After taking two of three from the Mariners, being swept by the Royals, and taking two of three from the Rangers; the Angels are positioning themselves to take two of three from the Astros with a win tomorrow. Garrett Richards makes his return to the Angels’ starting rotation after suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year. I am anxiously awaiting his return especially after a shaky start by Weaver and Wilson. Aside from the sweep by the Kansas City Royals the Angels have started this season well. Hopefully the addition of Richards can greatly improve this team.

As the Halos make their way home after tomorrow’s game, I can’t help but wonder what other milestones and achievements will Angels’ fans be witness to, this season?

-ICE

The Halo on the Horizon

It’s that time of year, when certain sights and sounds begin to hit one’s eyes and ears like notes of a John Williams Symphony. The electricity awakens one’s senses and sparks a relentless and untamed fire of the imagination. A new season is on the horizon, and so it begins, as the first breath is drawn that feeds the fire of every baseball fans’ soul.

Pitchers and catchers report February 19, the Halos didn’t make any headline grabbing moves this off-season, but they have a solid foundation to start the year. They now have payroll flexibility that they didn’t have before to make any additions if necessary. They were able to avoid arbitration with all nine of the arbitration eligible players.

There is still a lot of unanswered questions, how will the bullpen perform this year? Will Josh Hamilton finally live up to his contract? Will C. J. Wilson be an asset or a liability? Will Garrett Richards return to form after his devastating season ending injury of last year? Will the Angels have a diamond in the rough that they can plug in at second and third base? Will Matt Shoemaker be able to sustain the dominance that he demonstrated during his rookie campaign? Will be Angels be able to sustain or surpass the baseball best record of 98 wins from last year? Will there be any unexpected pleasant surprises this season? These are only some of the many questions that will be answered this season.

The fire is smoldering, the flame is coming, the spark will ignite the first time the bat makes complete contact with the baseball. So look upon the horizon, look into our eyes, and one will see the Halo that Burns and surrounds our soul.

-ICE

Happy “Halo”days!

After a long involuntary absence, The Angels’ Ace is back on the pitching mound ready to throw more fireballs. The motherboard of my laptop went out. So I have been unable to write for a couple of months now, months of agony, it’s very difficult to program another computer to recognize voice recognition now that my motherboard is repaired and I am back in business!

Given that the flash player produces snow on the MLBblogs website this time of year. I decided to write a holiday themed post, I will be discussing Halo gifts received (awards) and the Halo gifts exchanged (trades) then I will discuss my letter to Santa Claus hopefully there will be gifts waiting for me under the Angels tree this year.

“This is so exciting, which gift shall I open First?”

Let me start with the obvious one, congratulations to Mike Trout for winning the 2014 American League Most Valuable Player award. After two years straight of being a runner-up for this award he finally gets it. I guess the third time is the charm.

Speaking of runner-ups congratulations to Matt Shumaker for being the American League Rookie of the Year runner-up, the committee did well in considering him. If it wasn’t for his performance, I don’t know what the result of this past season would have been. He saved the Angels’ season, and his contribution was definitely a critical one which allowed the Halos’ to claim the best record in Major League Baseball this past year.

If Garrett Richards’ season had not ended early, I believe he was a strong contender for the American League Cy Young Award.

Gifts Exchanged

The Winter Meetings for the Angels was largely uneventful in comparison to years past. Although none of their transactions were headline grabbers, I do want to concentrate on one transaction in particular, more specifically the Howie Kendrick trade to the Dodgers. The truth is I’ve never been in love with Kendrick’s bat, in fact my friend Shaun jokingly teases me saying that Kendrick is my favorite player. I’ve told him on numerous occasions that I simply want an upgrade at second base, especially during the postseason when Kendrick seems to leave his bat at home. However, I’ve always respected Kendrick’s defense, the Angels now have a gaping hole at second base defensively. I honestly think that Grant Green is definitely not the long-term answer.

Another transaction that I find intriguing is the acquisition of Matt Joyce from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Kevin Jepsen the long-time reliever that was drafted by the Angels. I think Joyce can contribute immediately to the Angels’ organization and make the Halos better. What does this mean for C. J. Cron? Only time will tell.

Dear Santa,

Now for the wish list, of course Max Scherzer and James Shields are at the top of the list, but it’s unlikely that the Angels can make a run at either one. This team has been plagued with a history of bad contracts in recent years, another long-term contract is not what this team needs.

Part of the Christmas spirit is to be selfless, so Santa please give Josh Hamilton a hitting instructor for Christmas since he is far removed from his MVP season with the Texas Rangers.

Santa, I would like Jason Grilli, and Gordon Beckham back in an Angels’ uniform. They were the motor of this team this past season, and these two players would be good for the overall competitive spirit of the club.

The ultimate wish would be a World Series trophy this year, this is the one gift that all Angels’ fans can enjoy. This also would be the best way to spread holiday cheer that would last a lifetime. Happy “Halo”days!

-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

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