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

From the Freeway to the Freak

I know I am a little late with this entry, but there is no point in writing about baseball if one does not enjoy life; that is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks. I’ve enjoyed myself spending time with my family. However, I haven’t forgotten my loyal readers.

 

First, a few comments about the Freeway Series, I really enjoy inter-league play; especially the Angels/Dodgers rivalry. Natural rivals always bring out the best in teams in my opinion, and this year was no exception. This year, it was a four-game home at home series starting in Los Angeles and ending in Anaheim. The Angels took three out of four games. It’s always fun to hear the Stadium Buzz no matter which team is up to bat. The environment can not be duplicated, when these two teams play it always feels like a World Series game. Hopefully I am able to witness an Angels-Dodgers World Series in my lifetime. My only wish is that Major League Baseball would schedule the Freeway Series as a six-game series; 3 home games for each team that are played on consecutive weekends. That way, people like me who really enjoy the series can go watch all six games with less difficulty. This year, all four games were during the week making it difficult for people like me to travel between Los Angeles and Anaheim. The very special highlight of this year’s Freeway Series is meeting a beautiful, lovely, and interesting young lady; Angela, she is an example of the beautiful nuances and wonderful surprises that baseball brings.

 

Join me while I take the Freeway Series off ramp as I transition from the freeway to the freak, Tim Lincecum signed a one-year deal with the Angels on May 20th. The contract includes incentives. I am optimistic about this contract. Yes it’s a risk; Lincecum is coming off hip surgery. However, at this point with three members of the Halos’ starting rotation on the 60 day disabled list, the only bad risk is no risk; especially if this team is going to contend in any fashion, this team is too talented not to contend.

 

If this team expects to contend, they must be able to correct an alarming statistic, the Angels are 0-16 this year when their lead is two runs or less. This is especially important when games are close and games carry a bit more weight later on in the year.

 

The journey of baseball is a special one it can take you up and down freeways, across Bay Bridges, and even allows you to ride the subway. Baseball is a wonderful vehicle that allows one to explore the nuances and wonderful surprises in life.

 

-ICE

Update: May 29, 2016; after the completion of yesterday’s game the Angels are now 0-17 when the lead is two runs or less.

The Angels Are Caught in a Playground of Nightmares

There are numerous clichés that one can use to refer to this baseball season for the Angels; a recurring one for the Halos is, “baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.” Unfortunately this is nothing new for the Angels. They have started off slow in previous years. The Halos as of yesterday, are in third place in the American League West. However, this time around the Angels find themselves temporarily trapped in the playground of nightmares.

 

The Seesaw

 

This first piece of spine tingling playground equipment is the seesaw, the Angels swept the defending World Series Champions Kansas City Royals; in a previous home stand, the Angels were swept one entire home series, by losing six straight against the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals. In only to rebound after falling victim to the home sweep, they swept the then first place Seattle Mariners in Seattle. The Angels continued their way up by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-6 yesterday in the first game of the home at home Freeway Series. Hopefully the seesaw will stop soon, however, only time will tell.

 

The Injury Carousel

 

This second skin curdling piece of equipment is the worst of the two. The Angels as of this morning have seven players on the disabled list, with outfielder Daniel Nava expected to be the eighth player to join the list very soon. Three of the seven are part of the starting rotation and all three are on the 60 day disabled list. The Angels’ closer, Houston Street is also part of this list. The Halos are definitely riding the carousel of tears.

 

Hopefully the Angels will find the way out of this playground of nightmares very soon. There is a rampant rumor that they are close to contractually soliciting the assistance of The Freak to assist them out of the playground. If they Halos do end up coming to terms with the former San Francisco Giants pitcher, Tim Lincecum, I will have a forthcoming reaction to this occurrence.

 

-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

 

The Essence of Halo Nature

Human nature is unpredictable; it is basic yet complex, logical yet chaotic, fascinating yet at times disappointing. It is this essence and the interplay between these opposing forces that spark various thoughts, ideas, and philosophies for many millennia. Human nature allows one to think about probabilities and possibilities; it gives one a choice; to think logically, or to think creatively.

Baseball is a thinking man’s game; there is not a more perfect narrator for human nature than baseball. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dual between the pitcher and batter, the managers, or the front office; human nature is the ever present variable. It determines the difference between indecisiveness and insecurity.

There is not a better example of the various aspects and complexities of human nature than the current off-season that the Angels are experiencing. The Angels clearly had roster needs, and the market was full of players that could have satisfied those needs, especially in Left Field, yet despite those clear needs the Angels decided to do nothing of impact. They are opting instead to platoon Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava.

The Halos had their choice of opting for Yoenis Céspedes, Jason Heyward, or Justin Upton; all of which, are premier Left Fielders; all they had to do was surpass the 189,000,000 dollar luxury tax, something that Angels’ owner Arturo Moreno, was not willing to do. Now the Angels find themselves in a situation where they are at the mercy of other teams in baseball, with a depleted farm system they do not have any real options in the minor leagues, and now must rely on trades to address any additional shortcomings.

However, in order to do so now they must give up a piece of the team in order to get something back, rather than just parting with contract money. Granted, free agents can be expensive and an organization can at times put themselves in the situation where they overpay a player for underperformance. On the other hand, in the Angels situation one would expect that they would learn from both the Vernon Wells and Josh Hamilton contractual catastrophes. In comparison, all three players mentioned above are relatively young, and are in their prime, and all three of them produced impressive offensive numbers this past season and show no signs of decline.

Are the Angels satisfied with another average or subpar season? How does the organization justify raising prices on season ticket holders and the average fan this coming season? The fan base was told in previous years that the organization wants to wait for a strong free agent market, how much stronger can the market get? Yes, this team can compete as is, but can they legitimately contend? It is my current belief that this team cannot contend as it’s currently constructed. If an organization doesn’t have a strong farm system, which the Angels do not, then the next logical course of action is to go after a free agent that fits a glaring need; something that the Angels did not do.

It seems that the organization is going in the opposite direction; the Halos traded Efren Navarro to the Baltimore Orioles for cash consideration. Navarro was a spark plug in the Halos locker room. He was a backup first baseman but he also played some left field which would have helped the Angels’ situation should Nava and/or Gentry not work out in left field.

Indecisiveness is when one is presented with various feasible options and one cannot decide which option to go with. insecurity is when one is presented with the only clear option and one does not take action up on it. It is my strong belief that the Angels are very insecure as an organization.

In the past few seasons they have failed to balance short-term success with long-term sustainability. A shortcoming that they must address in the immediate future, the Angels’ fan base is getting restless, impatient, and annoyed. We have every right to be, the face of the franchise, Mike Trout has been through three General Managers since he was called to the major leagues. This shows tremendous instability as an organization.

Human nature is a fascinating a variable, it is a mental chess game within oneself; for Angels’ fans when our love for baseball is brought into the equation, human nature transitions to a fascinating metamorphosis, it becomes Halo nature. It is this Halo nature that drives our passion, love, and that times critique of this team. Halo nature allows for indecisiveness, but not insecurity. This organization needs to find out what the essence of Halo nature means to them.

-ICE

2015 MLB.com/blogs Top 100

To my family, friends, readers, and supporters:

After a hiatus by MLB.com in 2014, they brought back the top 100. Due to your consistent and unwavering loyalty I once again made MLB.com’s top 100 blogs for 2015. These words cannot convey the degree of honor and gratitude that I have toward all of you. I am humbled to realize how much people enjoy my writing and my rants. I am thankful to God that he gave me the gift to express my love for the Angels through my writing. I am truly thankful to all of you. I’m curious to see how high I can make this website climb, but I can’t do it without your support, again thank you. Go Angels!

 

-ICE

MLB.com Blogs

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Spring Training is just around the corner with the first pitchers and catchers set to report on Feb. 17, and everyone has big goals for 2016 in Major League Baseball. Here’s something you might want to set as a goal for yourself: making the annual MLB.com/blogs Top 100 list. Here are the blogs that had what it took to do that in 2015, by category. Congratulations to the MLB.com/blogs Top 100, based on Unique Visits measured by Major League Baseball Advanced Media from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2015. If you made the list, make sure you add your Top 100 badge to your sidebar, with the link to this post. That goes for everyone: active players, front offices, groundskeepers, fans, photogs and broadcasters!

FANS
1. The Baseball Collector
2. Universo Béisbol
3. The Brewer Nation
4. Around the Horn Talk
5. Cook & Sons’ Baseball Adventures

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2015 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,300 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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

29 Halos in 29 Ballparks: Dodgertown, Halo Number Two, Dodger Stadium

Sunday, August 2, 2015, that was a day I left Halo number two in my seat; as I watched the Angels take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. My lovely cousin and one of her children were kind enough to accompany me into Dodger Stadium. She asked me not to wear red Angels’ paraphernalia in order not to stand out. So what did I do? I wore original blue Los Angeles Angels paraphernalia to blend in a little better and at the same time to support my team. That strategy seemed to work very well; most Dodgers’ fans had never seen the original Angels’ logo before. Some thought it was an alternate Dodgers logo, while others didn’t know what to make of it.

 

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Upon arriving to Dodger Stadium the very first visual impression was breathtaking. This Stadium sits atop of a hill overlooking a valley, it is quite a scenic view. One learns very quickly that it takes a long time to get in and out of Chavez ravine, but the time spent inside the ballpark is completely worth the sacrifice. We got there a little late due to traffic, by the time we arrived, someone had taken our seats. The Dodgers’ Guest Relations department was very accommodating. Rather than move the people from our seats, we were given upgraded seats; once everything was settled we ended up in the first row, field level, down the third-base line. Complementary food was included with our ticket.

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The very first thing one notices is that unlike other ball parks where walls are traditionally green, the walls at Dodger Stadium are blue, beginning the psychological warfare with visiting players and their fans; adding to the enchantment and mystique of the ballpark.

One thing that was very unique about the game was the between inning entertainment, something that I had only seen at a minor-league game, when the Salt Lake Bees played the Sacramento River Cats. A gentleman wearing a generic red hat, was given the opportunity to receive a free Dodgers’ hat, if he could guess the location of a ping-pong ball under one of three Dodger hats. In my humble opinion, this was the only thing that in my eyes that took away from the richness of the experience of the Dodger lore.

While we were sitting in our seats, I was able to have a very pleasant conversation with one of the Dodgers’ ball girls, #91 Danielle. This was definitely the most pleasant highlight of the entire experience at Dodger Stadium for obvious reasons.

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In both Angel Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum I was privileged to step onto the field, Dodger Stadium was not the exception. I am honored to say that I was able to continue that tradition by stepping on the field at Dodger Stadium.

Due to the fact that our seats were on the field, wheelchair access is only accessible through the halls of the clubhouse, exposing the rich tradition of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Access to the area was very restricted. The people that were waiting in the hall as we were leaving our seats appeared to be the players’ families.

 

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As far as the game, the good news was that even though we got there late, we were able to enjoy a lot of baseball because the game went into extra innings. Kole Calhoun hit a home run to left field in our direction causing a tie, making me and the rest of the Angels’ fans that were visiting explode with happiness. The bad news, the Angels lost the game 5-3, allowing the Dodgers to complete the sweep.

Overall my experience at Dodger Stadium was amazing, based on unique and unusual circumstances I was able to have an experience that I was not expecting; an experience, that I will unlikely repeat.

I visited Dodgertown, and given another opportunity I would be glad to visit Dodger Stadium again; this time however, it will be to watch my Angels win.

-ICE

29 Halos in 29 Ballparks: Oaktown Power, Halo Number One, The Oakland Coliseum

The beauty of baseball is indescribable. It is often referred to as “the thinking man’s game”. Each ballpark has its own unique feel, traditions, character, and environment, a unique aura that is not shared with any other ballpark in the major leagues. In an earlier entry, I stated that I would leave 29 Halos in 29 ballparks, is only fitting that I start with the Oakland Coliseum.

The Oakland Coliseum was the first ballpark that I had the opportunity to visit outside of Angel Stadium. It is a very unique ballpark, the last remaining ballpark in Major League Baseball that still is a shared facility with the NFL. I was very lucky to live near a ballpark in the Angels’ division during my college years. I tried to go to the Coliseum every time the Angels visited the Athletics. For the very first time and only time so far, I went to a game that the Angels weren’t participating, in that venue, the Athletics hosted the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Oakland Coliseum itself, is very accessible. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) subway train has a station right outside the ballpark. It’s really nice to arrive without having to worry about paying for parking. Upon arriving at the station, one can already feel the green and gold soul that resides within the unique confines of that ballpark.

Upon entering the gates, one gets emerged in the pageantry of the ballpark whether it’s the sound of the bats during batting practice, and/or the drummers warming up in the left-field bleachers. The drummers are just regular fans that one day brought their drums into the ballpark and have been there ever since, supporting the team they love.

The ballpark itself is very accommodating; it is one of the few ballparks that I know of, where a wheelchair using patron can sit in the first level on the field. (As a result of a successful lawsuit by fans) and were one can sit with their companion for half of the regular price. I used to sit there all the time, in section 115 row 20, seats 20 and 21. I still have fond memories of the Oakland A’s’ Usher, Rodney, who would give me a hard time, but was also very fond of conversation. From what I understand, he is still there.

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The Oakland A’s fans are very passionate. As every baseball fan should be. I distinctly remember for the Angels’ games people would walk in with rally monkeys at the end of the stick hanging from a noose. The beautiful women of Oakland would walk into the ballpark wearing devil horns, and the kids would shout At the top of their lungs, “let’s go Oakland!”

As an Angels’ fan I was very lucky and spoiled to have the experience that I had in that beautiful ballpark. I was able to see the Angels clinch the American League West championship in two consecutive years, 2004 and 2005. In 2005, I met the Angels current owner, Arturo Moreno the very night the Angels clinched the division title. A fond memory that I still carry with me today.

Arturo Moreno and Isaac Lopez

Eight years have passed since I left the Bay Area, however I still hold the Oakland Coliseum very close to my heart. I hope that I will one day be back to once again partake in the beauty of Oaktown Power.

-ICE

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