Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’

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

 

Alphabet Soup

The excitement of the new season is upon us, this is the time of year when all 30 teams are hopeful and optimistic about this season that’s just getting started. The time of year where standings don’t really matter as of yet. After all, nobody expects the Houston Astros to be in first place when the smoke clears, but as of now they’re in first place in the American League West with an undefeated record, granted they’ve only played one game, but those are the facts.

Now that I have failed miserably in my attempt for sarcastic humor, it’s now time to reflect on the Angels, that is what I write about, and that’s what you’re here to read. This entry will be relatively short since we’re only two games into the season and I really cannot talk about emerging patterns just yet. What I do want to talk about however, is my overall impressions so far.

First on my list, is Albert Pujols, for the first time since he signed as a free agent with the Angels, he looks to be a relatively healthy and pain-free and it is my hope that he returns to the former Albert Pujols that he was with the St. Louis Cardinals.

It is often said, that history repeats itself, this indeed is the case with Mike Trout who started the season the same way he started last season, a home run against “King” Félix Hernández in Trout’s first at bat of the season, proving that for the “boy wonder” or if you prefer “the kid”, royalty means absolutely nothing.

C. J. Wilson had a spectacular outing last night, working on his mechanics during the off-season and spring training must have worked. It’s one of the most memorable outings I have seen since Wilson donned the Angels’ uniform.

One other interesting fact is that so far this season the Angels have only scored three runs, one in the first game which they lost, and to win the second game which they won, all three runs were a result of the home run ball, although baseball fans including myself absolutely love home runs; they must find other ways to score.

Two games is a small sample but one can already see how good things can be when the Halos do well, and how bad things can get when they don’t do so well, this team reminds me of alphabet soup, one really doesn’t know which letters one gets in every spoonful, but you love the flavor just the same. I’m hoping that we get many “W’s” and very few “L’s”. Those W’s make the Halo soup taste much better.

The Angels have yet to come home but when they do, you can bet I will be there ready to live and die by every swing of the bat. Baseball is indeed America’s pastime. I am more than ready to go out to a ballgame. There is no need to take me out to it since by the time you arrive I will probably already be there.

-ICE

Look at the Pretty, Shiny Red Diamond

It is finally Opening Day! The day that every baseball fan awaits with excitement and anticipation of the season that has yet to be. I am no exception. As of noon tomorrow Pacific daylight Time I will be unavailable to the rest of the known world for about four hours, why? I will be entranced by the sheer beauty that is the baseball diamond, the crown jewel of all jewels; the only jewel that outshines all others.

The opening Day roster, the players who have received their major league Halo include: Pitcher Mark Lowe, Infielder Brendan Harris, and outfielder J. B. Shuck. Luis Jimenez, David Carpenter, John Hester, and Kole Calhoun have all been sent to the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate the Salt Lake City Bees, Ryan Madson and Andrew Taylor have been added to the 15 Day Disabled List, retroactive to March 22.

Coming out of spring training, this team still has one glaring concern; the starting pitching. Jason Vargas gave Up seven runs to the Dodgers in the middle game of the preseason Freeway Series. If the Angels do not remedy this soon, it’s going to be a long season for the Angels and their fan base. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t do any good for a team to have a potent offense if the pitching staff can’t hold any leads. The games are for real now, the meaningless exhibition season is gone; this is where it all begins. If the Angels don’t get a good start out of the gate it doesn’t matter how well they do the rest of the season, if they create too much of a deficit; it is very easily going to be a repeat showing of last season.

With that said, to me Opening Day represents optimism; and as such, I’m not going to focus on things this team needs to fix. Rather, I’m going to continue to enjoy the beautiful hypnotic enchantment that is provided by the beauty of the baseball diamond.

-ICE

The Fans Are Prepared, the Stadium is Prepared, Are the Players?

The Angels defeated the Milwaukee Brewers today 5-1 which is a nice recovery from the disaster that happened yesterday. The Angels had a 7-1 lead going into the third inning, they ultimately lost the game. Honestly, that is the least of my worries about this team.

I do realize that it is indeed spring training; and yes the games are meaningless. However, with 10 days left in the preseason as of yesterday, it is now less about who makes the opening day roster; and more about fine-tuning the starters. The pitching as a whole is horrendous. To say that C. J. Wilson was knocked around would be an understatement. He is projected to be the number two starter behind Weaver, with the number three, four, and five starters still in question; it is especially important that Weaver and Wilson do not falter.

It feels like a dose of déjà vu, the Angels’ starting rotation and bullpen are not living up to the expectation. The starting rotation seems to be inept at holding leads that they’re elite offensive squad provides.

I’m not going to harp too much about the starting rotation since I’ve already talked about my disappointment in the pitching staff this year; in previous entries. It goes without saying that the Angels need to find a solution to what they haven’t been able to solve in recent years. Improve the pitching and this team will contend for a World Series.

There is a big difference between contending and competing, it is my belief that the Angels have been using these two terms as interchangeably the last few years. It isn’t enough to compete, they must be able to contend. It doesn’t seem to me that the Angels are anywhere near the ability to contend, at least not with the current configuration of the pitching staff. The trillion dollar question is, are the Angels’ players truly prepared for the upcoming season? They have nine days to figure it out, I for one, sincerely hope so.

-ICE

The Mirror Image

1-7-2, that is the Angels’ record this spring; under normal circumstances this record would be concerning, that is; until one remembers that it is spring training. Yes, on one hand the games are meaningless since they don’t count against the overall regular-season record. On the other, these games do have meaning since each team can see which players are going to fill their respective regular-season rosters.

Watching the Angels’ play this season I’m hopeful that I’m looking into a mirror. I believe this metaphor fits the Angels aptly. When one looks in the mirror, one sees a reflection; a reflection by definition is a reverse image of oneself. Thus, my hope is that we are looking at a reverse image of last season.

If one remembers last season, the Angels did pretty well during spring training, leading to high expectations from the fan base; including myself. They started off slow and never really recovered. It is my hope that this season is in fact the mirror image of last season. In this sense that they continue doing terrible during spring training when the games really don’t count and picked themselves up during the regular season. Granted the Angels just started using their mainstream players in the last couple of days, however I am much rather would see them struggle the rest of spring training if it means they will have success during the regular season into the postseason.

Even if the Angels continue to struggle the rest of spring training, I have already got my Spring Training wish this year, a 10-6 shellacking of the Los Angeles Dodgers which included a mammoth Home Run by Josh Hamilton.

The goal during spring training is for staff and players to prepare themselves and be healthy for the upcoming regular-season. The Angels are doing both things very well, thus making their spring training record irrelevant.

-ICE

I Don’t Want Peanuts or CrackerJacks, Give Me the Baseball Glove and the Baseball Bat

Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout speak to the media at Angels Spring Training. (Photograph Credit: Major League Baseball, http://www.Angels.com)

Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout speak to the media at Angels Spring Training. (Photograph Credit: Major League Baseball, http://www.Angels.com)

The smell of freshly cut grass is in the air, the wet color of red clay that distinctly characterizes the infield and the warning track igniting the dreams of baseball fans around the major leagues and the world. The fire that warms the soul fueled by the flames of excitement. The core element that is part of the foundation of every baseball fan. Indeed, this is the year that their respective team wins the World Series.

For this Angels’ fan, the feeling is no different, opening day is but a few short weeks away and in 2013 the Angels organization as well as their fan base has high expectations. No, I’m not talking about those bandwagon fans whose members seem to thankfully decrease with every passing season; I’m talking about diehard fans like myself who weren’t even aware that a bandwagon existed. You see, before Matsuiland, ToriiTown or even the Trout Farm, existed Wally World. I am lucky enough to have experienced one World Series championship in my lifetime but certainly I am yearning for more.

The Angels have no shortage of talent in recent years, this off-season they have added Josh Hamilton, Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton, and Ryan Madson just to name a few. The Angels had no shortage of offensive firepower last year however; both the starting rotation and bullpen were disastrous it was my contention this off-season that not exercising Dan Haren’s option for the 2013 season was a mistake. He had an off year and he wasn’t completely healthy. It has yet to be seen if both Blanton and Hanson can shore up their less than stellar starting rotation from a year ago.

I shy away from making any predictions prior to the start of Spring Training; I usually wait until the first few games of the preseason are played. It’s way too early to get into a discussion about end of the season standings and postseason appearances, for now I am just longing to hear the roar of the crowd the crack of the bat, and the slap of the ball against a leather baseball glove.

-ICE

Yu Darvish, Don’t Be Blinded by Albert Pujols’ Shiny New Halo

Let the gamesmanship begin, the Angels and the Texas Rangers started the game of one upmanship during the off-season. The Texas Rangers made it to the World Series two years in a row as the American League representative. The Angels responded by signing Albert Pujols to a 10 year contract, then delivering a crippling blow to the Texas Rangers by swiping their ace C. J. Wilson. The Rangers countered by bidding, winning, and singing Japanese phenom Yu Darvish, and now both teams are playing poker; neither team wanting to give away the hand that they strategically have. Both Wilson and Darvish were scheduled to face off during today’s spring training game. Alas, we will have to wait until the regular season and see the skills of the phenom from the land of the rising Sun, compete against the Halo.

Can it be a Rangers are just a little bit nervous in regards to the power of Pujols and the damage he can do in a hitters park like Rangers Ballpark in Arlington? Are they afraid that Albert Pujols will somehow tarnish Darvish? I think it’s neither, the Rangers are very wisely saving their aces until the games count, they want to win this poker game so they won’t keep their collective poker face on the table for as long as they can. The American League West will come down to a wild West style shootout. Where I believe the Halo war is from the ashes, and once again claim was rightfully theirs; the American League West Championship.

I don’t believe this sparring match will end in the regular season. Don’t be surprised if the American League wild card comes out of the American League West. I don’t believe the Rangers will go away that easy. But then again, neither will the Angels. I strongly believe that the American League West in the American League East are the two strongest divisions in baseball right now, and I don’t think one should pencil in the Yankees or the Red Sox or for that matter the Rangers just yet. The Angels will have a lot to say about how the postseason turns out before this is over. And when we look back at the 2012 season, at least for the Angels and Rangers the games began well before opening day, they began during spring training March 2012.

-ICE

Kendrys Morales and the Comeback Kids

Baseball in the post-steroid era, this is a very interesting time to be a baseball fan because one hears stories about 50 and 100 game suspensions due to drug violations a player missing time because of a violation is expected. However, when a player misses time because of injury, one anxiously anticipates that players return; especially when said player brings power to a lineup, and quite possibly his absence explains the reason why misses the postseason two years in a row.

This is the case for the Angels and Kendrys Morales, Morales was back in the lineup yesterday after nearly a two-year absence; he went two for three and seemed to move on the basis very well. In particular, he moved from first base to third base on a play very fluidly. Will Morales ever be 100%? If he does return to form his power combined with that of Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and a possibly a resurgent Vernon Wells, the Angels are sure to be an offensive juggernaut.

It will be interesting to see how teams will adapt to Kendrys’ switch hitting power, or if he will even have the same hitting power at all. There is great uncertainty, yet great anticipation of what this player will be able to contribute to his team. Will he be able to relax knowing that with Pujols, Trumbo, and Wells in the lineup is power will not have to carry this team? Or will it be a competition between the heavy hitters in the lineup? PTMW can possibly be a powerful force for the Halos and this is without considering what Torii Hunter will bring to the table.

This looks like is shaping up to be a very fun season, so I invite you to join me during this baseball journey of 2012 in routing and supporting the Angels. We are about a week away from Opening Day, contrary to what people may say about football; baseball truly is America’s pastime.

-ICE

Scrappy Doo and Pujols Too

Growing up as a kid in the 1980s was a really fun time. Watching Gilligan’s Island, He-Man, and Scooby Doo was all a kid could really ask for. In the later episodes of Scooby Doo they introduced a character named Scrappy Doo, Scooby Doo as pint size nephew who was small in stature but had the heart of a lion. Scrappy had a phrase “puppy power” when he was about to embark on something that may be over his head.

Curiously this cartoon reminds me of Angels baseball in a way; the phrase “puppy power” can now be replaced with “Pujols Power” unlike scrappy, there’s nothing small about Albert Pujols but I think juxtaposing these two images is appropriate because I think the rest of Major League Baseball is in over their heads with this entire Angels team.

Granted, I understand that it’s only spring training but we have already seen what Pujols Power can do, he is already belted three Home Runs in this preseason, and I am not talking little dinky shots either, I’m talking about mammoth Home Runs. For those of you that have not had the opportunity to really check out what Pujols has done this preseason I invite you to take a look:

Pujols’ Solo Home Run

I’m curious how the American League is going to deal with Albert Pujols, are we going to see teams treat him like Barry Bonds during his time with the San Francisco Giants? While they pitch around him? Or will teams take their chances and pitch to him? How will the Texas Rangers pitch to him in their ballpark? Since the ballpark in Arlington is a hitters park. It will be interesting to see what happens during the course of the season.

Tomorrow the Angels face the hated Los Angeles Dodgers, with Pujols back in the lineup, will they avenge the ugly 9-1 loss of a few days ago? It’s a great time to be a baseball fan, and an Angels’ fan in particular. Go Angels!

-ICE

The Five Seasons of Baseball

As any true baseball fan knows, the Major League Baseball cycle consists of five phases of what I call the five seasons of baseball; more like mini seasons.  Spring Training, the first half of the season, the second half of the season after the All-Star break, a postseason and finally the off-season.

 

With that being said, Major League Baseball is in the transitionary period between the postseason, which I see as a last phase of the cycle, and the off-season which is a first phase that begins a new baseball year. The Angels as an organization have already made news in both of these cycles with Mark Trumbo winning The Sporting News American League Rookie of the Year for 2011 as voted by his Major League peers.

The Halos have also selected Jerry Dipoto as the new Angels General Manager. the former Diamondbacks Vice President was signed to a five-year deal. I have yet to do research on his background since news of the selection only hit the media yesterday, and he was formally announced as the General Manager today.

 

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of General Manager he turns out to be. I can sit here and dissect everything he said during the press conference today. But obviously as we all know playing to the media versus actually following through with what you state are two different things altogether. I honestly hope he is an aggressive general manager that can bring a plethora of championships to this organization since he seemed to understand during the press conference that this is the direction the organization wants to go, win championships.

 

How does Jerry Dipoto do that? Well, first and foremost he is not building a fantasy team. So to those Angels’ fans that argue that we should go after both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder; are being a bit unrealistic. First how do you plan to use to first baseman? Especially with the bounty of first baseman that we already have, I am mainly talking about Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. The argument that’s been floating around in the media and various blogs is to convert Mark Trumbo to third base. Although that’s entirely possible, and I do as he that move happening, what do we do with both Pujols and Fielder? Both individuals are going to want to play every day. How do the Angels handle that balancing act and their personalities? Second, I don’t think it would be wise for the Angels to sign both players from a financial standpoint, if you stockpile at one position that doesn’t leave enough room to rebuild the bullpen and perhaps add another arm of the starting rotation. Which in the case of the bullpen especially, it needs to be revamped, most of the games that ran away from us this past season was because our middle relief was atrocious.

 

Jerry Dipoto talked about the building are minor-league farm system which I completely agree with, let’s find and develop our own homegrown talent and pay them what they deserve rather than look for a high profile and high paid free agent, however, before that can happen I think it is quintessential to make the passive fans to believe once again in the Angels product so they can spend their money this would in turn allow the organization to gather the money necessary to do everything they need to do. But in order to do that they need to be able to get butts in the seats.

 

Well, that’s all for now if anything of note happens in the off-season this is the place to read about it, for example, if the Angels sign a key free-agent, make a big trade, because one thing is for certain they can’t even dream about getting back to the postseason without aggressively filling in their weak points.

 

-ICE

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