Results tagged ‘ Rangers ’

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

Tarnished Halo, Tattered Wings

As a baseball fan, one expects to see their favorite team go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys. During the season a team must learn to pace themselves; in essence they must play the chess game that is baseball, put the chess pieces in the right position in order for a team to attack when the moment is right.

The Angels find themselves in this exact metaphorical scenario described above, they are currently 12 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West, fourth in the division, with 10 players on the disabled list with various injuries. The Halo is tarnished and the wings are tattered. The situation may look bleak to outsiders, yet this may be the perfect time to position the test pieces for an attack.

Starting tonight the Halos play their next 13 games against division rivals, which involves two teams that are sub .500 the Oakland A’s and the Houston Astros. This may be the perfect time for the team to strike as there are high hopes that the contribution of the newest Angel, Tim Lincecum, will give this team a much needed lift in the pitching rotation with three-fifths of the starting rotation on the 60-day disabled list with long-term injuries. Tyler Skaggs who was expected back within the near future has hit a snag in his rehabilitation forcing the Halos to find other more creative options.

It is well-known among baseball’s purest that the key to a successful team is pitching, something that the Angels clearly do not have at this moment. It is looking highly unlikely that C.J. Wilson will be able to make a meaningful impact this season due to the setbacks that he has had; based on the fact that this is the final year of his multi-million dollar contract it is very doubtful that he will have a meaningful impact for the Halos.

Can this team stay consistent for this 13 game stretch? It all depends if this team can come together at the right moments. It is not time yet to worry about the division leader, the Texas Rangers, since they have been on fire and look unstoppable at the moment; but, they too will fall into a valley that may allow the Halos to gain some ground. If the Angels can use this 13 game stretch to their advantage, we may have an interesting division race after the All-Star break, but in order to do so, the Halos must shine again and their wings must heal if all this is to come to fruition.

-ICE

I’m Not Back in Black, It’s Red Instead

I’m usually very active in the off-season, during spring training, leading up to the regular-season. However you haven’t heard from me since January of this year. The motherboard on my laptop went out yet again; I was fed up with the same component breaking down again, it turned out that it was going to be nearly a $350 repair; so instead of forking over the $350 I decided on the advice of my brother to construct an aftermarket computer. First, I want to thank him for building it for me, now if the computer breaks down I only have to replace a component for a desktop, which makes it much cheaper to repair, and thus my downtime will be limited, appropriately; I have dubbed the device “Ruby Red” since the computer is red. “Ruby” will hopefully last longer and I don’t have to repair her as much due to the aftermarket components. Yes, to paraphrase one of my favorite bands, AC/DC “I’m back!”

 

It’s a brand-new season, the Angels find themselves 12-14 in the beginning of May not including the game tonight that will be played in just a couple of hours. They are currently three games back of the first-place Texas Rangers. Teams typically use the month of April to tweak the roster, technique, and strategy. The baseball season begins in earnest in May.

 

What is my biggest concern for the Angels’ thus far? It still is left-field. Both Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava find themselves on the 15 day disabled list, essentially shattering Mike Scioscia’s platoon plans. The sample size on Shane Robinson is too small to really know if he will have a positive effect on the position. Daniel Nava is expected back sometime in early May, while Gentry isn’t expected back until mid June. It wouldn’t matter much anyway since Gentry’s batting average is only .147 in 34 at-bats over 14 games. In contrast, Nava has a batting average of .286 in 14 at-bats over eight games, again it is small sample size, however the sample size is large enough to understand that Craig Gentry should not be platooned with Nava. A platoon does not work in general in my opinion because it does not allow a player whomever it may be, to settle into their respective position.

 

I’m still perplexed as to why the Angels did not re-sign David Murphy, who is an above average left fielder. In my opinion he was a better option for the Angels. Murphy is not a marquee name but he would be a nice stopgap in the left-field position. After being released by the Red Sox during spring training, he was a free-agent until April 14 when he signed a minor-league deal with the Minnesota Twins. Murphy subsequently retired from baseball on April 25.

 

I’m maybe not back in Black, but it’s red instead; Angels’ red; now that the season has begun in earnest it’s going to be interesting to see what the Angels come up with to resolve the left-field situation.

 

-ICE

 

Who Needs a Yule Log, When One Has a Hot Stove

I am back wearing my Christmas halo, my microphone broke since my last post, and it’s taken me a while to find a compatible microphone for my voice recognition software. It’s good to put the metaphorical pen to paper again; or in this case microphone to word processor.

Regrettably it’s been a few months so there’s a lot to cover, it’s the holiday season, and because time is limited; for this entry I’m just going to cover the highlights of the off-season that stood out to me. I will expand on the rest of the activity that I don’t cover in this entry at a later date.

On November 12, 2015, the Angels acquired shortstop Andrelton Simmons and catcher Jose Briceno in a trade for fan favorite, Erick Aybar, promising young pitcher Sean Newcomb along with another pitcher Christopher Ellis. Yes, Simmons can be considered a young phenom, the way he flashes the baseball glove is eye-catching, definitely highlight reel material. However, I worry that his handling of the baseball bat isn’t up to par. Simmons may have a longer contract then Erick Aybar, but Erick is a solid defender in his own right, he is more patient than Simmons, he is a clutch switch hitter, and is less likely to pop the ball up in a crucial situation; something that Simmons is prone to do.

The price paid for the acquisition of Simmons is a little steep for my taste, not only did we lose Erick Aybar but the Angels also lost Sean Newcomb. Newcomb is a promising young pitcher, so much in fact that Angels’ fans were wondering whether he was ready to join the pitching staff at the major-league level late last season, although he was not ready, he was very close; and with the Angels’ farm system being as thin as it is in my opinion the trade hurts the Angels more than it helps. While I agree that minor-league prospects don’t always pan out, the Angels need Newcomb, not only because as the old saying goes “you can never have enough pitching”, but also because the Angels pitching staff is on shaky ground as it is, and to count on Weaver or Wilson to carry the pitching staff is simply not realistic anymore, thus, magnifying the need for Newcomb.

The Angels are not only in trouble for what they have done, but they are also in murky waters for what they haven’t done. Earlier this week, Angels’ owner Arturo Moreno was quoted in the local paper stating that it was unlikely that the Angels would pursue a big name free agent outfielder. I have a few issues with that, first the big question is what is this team going to do in left field? The Angels haven’t had a solid left field presence since Garret Anderson. Shall I go down the list? First, on the list is Hideki Matsui, who joined the team when he was well past his prime. Vernon Wells, big contract, little to no results. Josh Hamilton, more of the same the only difference is that the Halos are still paying for him to play for the division rival Texas Rangers. Yes I know I neglected to mention Bobby Abreu; this is due to the simple reason that I feel that unlike the players previously mentioned Bobby did contribute substantially to the Angels and shouldn’t be lumped with the aforementioned group of players.

Second, the Angels need to come up with a long-term strategic plan, cross the luxury tax threshold and responsibly sign a big-name free agent like Yoenis Céspedes to plug the gaping hole in left field, or hold on to promising prospects like Newcomb and forgo players like Simmons. It’s impossible to have it both ways.

The Angels complicated matters further by trading away another promising pitcher to the Washington Nationals. Trevor Gott for Yunel Escobar, who is not a very impressive third baseman defensively, he is a natural shortstop. Here again the Angels are giving up a young hard throwing right-hander, for a questionable third baseman. The Halos in my opinion would be better off re-signing David Freese to a contract in order to resolve the issue at third base.

I would stop short of saying that the Halos’ hot stove is burning hot, it’s more like lukewarm. However it can definitely get considerably hotter. All that needs to be done is for ownership and the front office have to decide which direction they want to go, and commit to going in that direction. For a team that has drawn 3,000,000 fans for more than a decade, the very least Angels’ fans deserve is a clear commitment from ownership and the front office whenever direction they decide to go.

Merry Christmas, and happy holidays and a happy new year!

-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

One Strike Away from a Sweeping Change

There are 20 games left, including tonight’s game. We are definitely in the home stretch of the baseball season. The Angels find themselves 4 1/2 games back of the Houston Astros. The standings would look drastically different today had Mr. Murphy Law not been in uniform.

Murphy’s Law was in full effect yesterday afternoon, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. The Angels had a 3-0 lead in the top of the ninth inning, with two outs and one strike away from sweeping the Houston Astros, had this result come to fruition the Angels would only be two and a half games behind the Astros. The Astros were able to score 5 runs in the ninth inning to win the game 5-3. Taking nothing away from the Astros, the Angels would have won the game had it not been for a freak occurrence.

Taylor Featherston made an infield play with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the ball gets stuck in the webbing of the baseball glove, after a spectacular diving stop, he was unable to make the play; in my mind, that was the play that was the turning point in the Angels loss to the Astros.

This is indeed, the playoff stretch; there is nothing that the Angels could have done differently. They were able to take two out of three from the Astros and the Rangers, the two teams who are in front of them in the standings.

They must not allow this loss to completely demoralize them, it would be nice to control one’s own destiny, however, this is a luxury they don’t have; all they can do is win the majority of their games, and hope that they get help.

This is becoming exceedingly difficult given where we are in this season. The Astros and the Rangers play each other in a four-game series, starting tonight. Therefore, regardless of what happens between those two teams; the Angels must keep winning if they hope to gain any ground. The Angels have one more series remaining with each team, in Houston and in Arlington, a three and a four-game series respectively. The Angels must sweep these two series, in case they don’t get any help from other teams in between.

4 1/2 games back, with 20 games to play, it is a scary proposition, however anything can happen until the final out, of the final game, is called. If one needs any proof; just look at the result of yesterday’s game.

-ICE

Josh Hamilton Trades in His Halo for a Cowboy Hat

Well, things have come full circle for Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was traded back to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations. While I realize this entry regarding the issue is a little late, I wanted to wait until the storm passed before I made my comments.

For those who read my entry when Hamilton was acquired, I questioned the Angels’ organization’s ability to handle Hamilton’s off field issues. I inquired as to how they would react should Hamilton have a relapse of is well documented substance abuse problem. I guess I got my answer. The Angels were unable to handle that which was a well-known possibility. Trading him back to a division rival, while being responsible for all but $15,000,000 of Hamilton’s $125,000,000 contract.

Why would the Angels’ organization take the risk of basically giving Hamilton back to a team where he has had success? The Angels are essentially taking the risk of a player beating them and paying him to do so. It doesn’t make sense. When the trade was being negotiated, the Angels pulled all of Hamilton’s merchandise from the team store even before the trade was completed. A head scratcher indeed.

Before one starts feeling sorry for Hamilton, I believe that he should be held responsible for this fiasco as well. Hamilton stated during the Rangers press conference that his support system was not as good with Angels as it was with the Rangers. According to Los Angeles times, Mike Scioscia responded to Hamilton’s remarks. The Angels’ longtime manager stated that it was Hamilton himself who decided to downsize his support system while in Anaheim, relying almost exclusively on his soon-to-be ex-wife Katie Hamilton, family, and close friends.

Neither side is completely responsible for the circus, both parties have responsibilities as to how the situation turned out. The Angels have been punched in the gut, but they can’t say, that they were blindsided and didn’t see it coming. My hope of this entire situation is that it doesn’t come back and bite them in the end.
For the Rangers’ fan perspective on the situation please visit “One Strike Away Twice” on the MLBlogs network. http://40yearrangerfan.mlblogs.com/2015/04/27/its-josh-its-gonna-be-something-weird/

-ICE
related articles:http://angels.mlblogs.com/2012/12/13/josh-hamilton-trades-in-his-cowboy-hat-for-a-halo
http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-angels-manager-mike-scioscia-comments-on-josh-hamilton-press-conference-20150428-story.html

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

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

The Beautiful Glow of the Fire Lit Halo

The Halo is on fire, indeed glowing beautifully. The Angels find themselves 3 1/2 games back of the Oakland Athletics; however, that’s not the story. The Angels have stayed pretty close to the A’s throughout the season. The story lies in how they have kept up with them.

The Angels have the second-best record in all of Major League Baseball, second only to the team they are chasing. They do have the best home record in all of Major League Baseball with an impressive 32-15 record, this record includes three home sweeps and an 11 game home winning streak, along with 27 come from behind wins. It is extraordinary how they’ve been able to keep up with the A’s and not be able to overtake them yet.

Part of their success is attributed to Garrett Richards who possesses a 10-2 record and a 2.71 Earned Run Average in 18 starts for the Angels. It’s amazing how someone can be this good and still not make it to this year’s All-Star game, for that matter it’s amazing that a team can be this good and only have two representatives so far in The Midsummer Classic.

The sports networks often cite the American League East as a class of baseball. It is actually the American League West. The top two records in all of baseball reside in the American League West. It may be the West Coast bias, it may be that the American League East just happens to have two of the most storied franchises in baseball in the Yankees and the Red Sox. That certainly isn’t the case this year, and once the Texas Rangers recover from this year’s injury plagued season, the AL West may continue its dominance over baseball next year.

Yes, the dog fights of the summer are here. Pull out your popcorn, it should be a good division race between the Angels and Athletics. Can the monkey keep the rally going and blaze past Stomper? I truly believe that the Halos will. As baseball fans, let’s sit back and take in all the sights and sounds of the best division in all of baseball.

-ICE

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