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 formerly a 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.


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.


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.


29 Halos in 29 Ballparks

A child who likes baseball often dreams about hitting a grand slam home run in game seven of the World Series to give their favorite team a come from behind victory, and/or pitching a perfect game to secure their place in baseball history. Yes, a child dreams; as we reach adulthood those same dreams evolve, perhaps we may not get an at-bat or ever touch the pitching mound, but we want to be in the stands watching our favorite team winning game seven of the World Series.

I hope that one day I am able to witness the Angels win the World Series live at the ballpark, but until that happens, I have decided to put a more attainable yet challenging goal in front of me. This goal may take a few years to complete, but it’s something I would like to do within my lifetime.

I was fortunate to go to college in the Bay Area, for a young man who grew up in Orange County, it was quite a fulfilling experience. While in school, I got a little homesick from time to time, I really looked forward to every time the Angels had a road trip to the Oakland Coliseum, I attended as many games as I could, watching the Angels play on the road was like bringing a little piece of home to the Bay Area.

The child within me started to dream, wondering what it would be like to see the Angels play at the old Yankee Stadium, unfortunately they tore down the original Yankee Stadium before I could see the Angels play there. It was at that moment, that I got the idea to leave 29 Halos in 29 ballparks.

Originally, this was something that was on my proverbial “bucket list” something that is very personal. However, upon further examination, I decided to include this blog to chronicle my journey. I may or may not complete this during my lifetime, but I will do my best to try and share it with all of you. Taking in a game at the National League ballparks will be more difficult since the Angels don’t visit all the National League teams every year.

I have already left two metaphorical Halos in my seat, the first one of course, at the Oakland Coliseum, and one last night at Dodger Stadium. I will chronicle each one, in a separate entry, describing the unique environment of every game, every team, and every Stadium.

I look forward to sharing my experience with you, the Oakland entry will be a little dated since it’s been a few years since my last visit. The first two entries, will be forthcoming. I hope all of you will find this journey as enjoyable as I will. Two down, 27 to go.


The Angels Are Singing The Dodger Blues

How blue can you get? The Angels are asking their fans that very question, they are playing with that sweet, yet painful sting of the B.B. King classic.

After a hot start coming out of the All-Star break, the Halos handed over the American League West to the Houston Astros. The Angels have lost five straight, and eight of their last nine. To make matters worse, the Angels lost the first two games of the Freeway Series to the cross-town rival, Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Halos were playing well, both as a team and as individuals. Which is impressive, considering the turmoil that the Angels have gone through with the resignation of their General Manager. This team has shown resilience not only to stay afloat, but take over the American League West, couple that with individual success, specifically the success of Mike Trout, who became the first player in Major League Baseball history to be the most valuable player of an All-Star game in consecutive years.

The Angels didn’t make the big splash during the trade deadline that the fan base was accustomed to in recent years, however, they quietly made moves. The Halos sought to improve themselves and with the acquisitions of David Murphy from the Cleveland Indians, David DeJesus from the Tampa Bay Rays, and Shane Victorino from the Boston Red Sox. These three outfielders were brought aboard to try to negate the disappointing contribution this season by Matt Joyce.

The Angels are not playing as well as it may look, if one looks at the head-to-head record against all the division leaders in the American League, the Astros, the Royals, and the Yankees, the Halos have a record of 5-17 in the head-to-head match ups with the division leaders so far this season.

I will be attending my first Angels road game of the season tomorrow against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium for the first-half finale of the Freeway Series, I am really not interested in how much more blue the Angels can get, rather, I would like to think that tomorrow will be the genesis of the Angels returning to greatness and becoming red-hot again.


DiPoto Turns in His Halo

Originally I was going to write about the seafaring Grinch from Seattle who stole Christmas, referring to the Angels’ “Christmas in June” promotion. I thought it would be fun to discuss my impressions. I was almost done writing the entry and I was deciding what pictures to include in the post, when the surprising but not unexpected news broke, “Jerry Dipoto resigns as Angels’ General Manager.” There it was, the news that changed the entire destination of this entry. I guess it wasn’t meant to be, the sudden course correction within the Angels’ organization is more relevant.

Rather than talk about my personal opinions on the inter-office dynamics of the organization and the reported tension, real or imaginary; between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, I would like to concentrate on Jerry Dipoto’s legacy and impact on the Halos. ESPN,, MLB network, and Fox sports have talked at length about the tumultuous relationship between the Manager and General Manager, if one wants to know more about the inter office dynamics of the situation, I strongly suggest you go to one or more of the sources that I cited above.

Jerry Dipoto was brought aboard in 2011, upon his arrival, he made an immediate title wave of a splash, he signed then free agent Albert Pujols to a 10 year contract. He also ensured the future of the organization by coming to terms with Mike Trout on a six-year contract extension. He also brought aboard C. J. Wilson to bolster the Halos’ pitching staff, then he traded for Zack Greinke who was eventually lost to free agency. Jerry Dipoto also traded for Andrew Heaney, who is now on the major league roster and is starting to pay dividends for the Angels.

For all of Jerry DiPoto’s wheeling and dealing, the Angels never won a playoff game under his tenure. He was an aggressive general manager, who believed in the modern baseball concept of saber metrics, the volatile and conflicting mixture between saber metrics and old-school fundamental baseball philosophies, did not allow Jerry DiPoto to execute his vision for this team.

Upon the General Manager’s resignation, the Angels brought back a name from the past, former General Manager Bill Stoneman, he was at the helm when the Angels won the World Series in 2002. He also was the general manager who hired Mike Scioscia; so there is familiarity there, however, he is not known as an aggressive general manager, so I don’t expect the Angels to do much at the trade deadline. They could use aggressiveness out of the General Manager’s office, particularly with this team, and this time of year. I’m not a proponent of proceeding into the future by reaching into the past, unless one is trying to correct a mistake, this is definitely not the case with Bill Stoneman.

Perhaps Jerry DiPoto was very strategic in his actions; he picked the proximity to the trading deadline in order to make a point. This is purely speculation on my part; however, if I am right he definitely got his point across. One thing is for sure, the Angels’ organization is in disarray. It will be interesting to see how this set of circumstances affects the Halos’ playoff possibilities for this season. One thing is abundantly clear however, uncertainty has descended over Anaheim.

Happy Independence Day!


The Machine Is Producing Baseballs with Angel Wings

I equate baseball to listening to a symphony, both in baseball and the symphony there are a lot of moving parts that come together to make a whole. While the cello and the violin players are at the top of their game on this particular night, the trumpet and the trombone players are out of steam due to being hung over from drinking one too many vodka shots at the local bar the night before. When these conditions come together, the symphony doesn’t sound as good as they would if all the instruments were in tune.

This analogy is applied to baseball, all parts need to be working together in order to create a complete whole. Albert Pujols and Mike Trout are the string players of this Halo Symphony, Trout is only second to Pujols in home runs with 18, while Albert leads the Angels and the American League with 23 home runs; 15 of which have come in the last 24 games alone. The machine is definitely producing baseballs with angel wings.

Unfortunately this is not the case for the rest of the team, the Halos are only one game above .500 at 36-35, and 13-13 over the last 26 games, in essence, Albert’s production is negated by the team’s inability to function as a symphony. The rest of the team hasn’t given the pitching staff enough run support, so far this season coming into today’s game the Angels have scored 288 runs compared to 279 runs allowed in the same span; this is a net difference of only +11 runs so far this season. This explains why this team is only one game above .500 the Halos are just doing enough to stay afloat, and they’ve only been able to do that because of the resurgent Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols’ Home Run streak cannot last forever, he’s bound to cool off. The Angels must find ways to take advantage of this, and supplement the machine’s production while they can.

The machine is producing, but the question is, will the Angels use the wings that he is producing to fly high and take over the American League West division lead? Or will they use the wings just to stay afloat?


The Flickering Halo

It is often said that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint; others say, you can’t win it in April, but you can lose it in April. One describes patience, while the other describes focus and urgency. I believe, that there is a balance between the two perspectives, however patience can only be afforded during the first month and a half of the season in order not to rely on other teams collapsing the second half of the season and thus, a given team is able to control their own playoff destiny.

Through 58 games, the Angels are 29-29 an even .500, with the 59th game in progress. They are 4 1/2 games back of the surprising Houston Astros, in the American League West, Houston is a team that seems to be leaving orbit and coming back to earth, the Astros have lost six straight.

The Halo is flickering, sometimes it is very bright, as evident by a sweep of the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium, and sometimes the Halo is completely dark, as the Angels were swept by the Yankees in New York. The Halos also lost two out of three games to The Tampa Bay Rays. The series with the Rays was sandwiched in between the two appearances of the broom.

Why is a team that is so talented on paper only .500? Some site the lack of production from the offense since all but two of the combined 32 home runs between Albert Pujols and Mike Trout have been solo home runs.

While that is absolutely true, I would point to something else, if one juxtaposes the runs scored versus runs allowed, one sees the issue. So far this season, coming into today’s game, the Angels as a team have scored 233 runs; the Angels pitching staff as a whole has allowed 232 runs this includes unearned runs. This is a net difference of only +1 run. To me, this explains a lot, the Angels don’t need to add another bat they simply need to shore up their pitching and defense. It doesn’t really matter if this team can average 25 runs a game if the opponent can score 26. A big bat wouldn’t make much of a difference.

What can be done? Barring a major successful blockbuster trade, not much can be done. However, the Angels do have Andrew Heaney in the farm system, he is currently in AAA with the Salt Lake City Bees. He has a 6-2 record with a 4.39 Earned Run Average, he might not be ready for the majors just yet, but he is an option to improve the pitching staff.

There are 102 games left in the season, including the game in progress, and while that is true that baseball is a marathon, the Angels need to get themselves within striking distance of leadership of the division very soon.


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.

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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?



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