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 I am back in business!

Given that the flash player produces snow on the MLB blogs 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 Angels Fall Victim to a Royal Flush

I thought this year was going to be different. The Angels had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs including the World Series. I thought this was going to be the year that the Angels finally made it out of the first round into the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2009. I thought this was the year that we were finally going to see the postseason version of Mike Trout.

The Angels had horrible offensive numbers, they were only able to muster six runs in the entire series four which, were home runs. They were a miserable two for 28 with runners in scoring position. The offense was anemic, not what one would expect for a team that led all Major League Baseball in runs scored this season.

It was a perfect storm, bad strategies by Mike Scioscia, and the inept offense, excellent Royals defense, and a short series. I question now and will question again the manager’s decision to play Josh Hamilton, Hamilton looked psychologically absent, away from the moment, an empty gaze, as he was just moving for the sake of repetition at the plate, his body language appeared to be nonchalant; he lacked the hunger and the drive that he so desperately needed to strategically dismantle the Royals’ pitching perfection. Granted, Hamilton was recovering from an injury, but this isn’t the regular season, it’s the postseason, the Halos didn’t have time to wait for Hamilton to get back into the groove. Collin Cowgill was a better option to take Hamilton’s place. I am puzzled by Mike Scioscia’s insistence to keep the Hamilton in the lineup when he was preforming so poorly, why mess up the team’s chemistry and cohesion? If one remembers when the Angels had their 10 game winning streak that help them capture the American League West title Hamilton was not in the lineup amidst that run.
.
The eighth inning of game two is another example of bad strategy, with men on base, Kole Calhoun was called on to bunt in 3-1 Count, to my recollection I have never seen him bunt before, why not let him swing away? He is a heavy hitter. Why try to reinvent the wheel in the middle of the postseason? Why not leave the bunting to a player who has done it before and is successful at it? This wasn’t the Angels team that we were accustomed to seeing in the regular season.

As my birthday winds down to a close today, I wish I had better news to write about. Taking nothing away from Kansas City, the Angels were outplayed and Kansas City was clearly the better team. The old cliché applies here, “there is always next season.” Hopefully the Angels make the right moves to be competitive next season. Indeed, the Angels fell victim to a Royal flush.

-ICE

The Angels Draw a King from the American League Wild Card Deck

The matchup for the American League Division Series is set. The Angels are set to square off against the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City won the American League wild card by defeating the Oakland Athletics in a game that will go down as one of the most exciting wild-card games in Major League Baseball history. The score was 9 to 8 in 12 innings. A hard fought victory for the right to face a celestial juggernaut in the Angels.

The Royals’ speed on the base paths last night was impressive. In a five-game series it’s going to be interesting to see how the Angels deal with said speed. The Angels however, play as a team and it’s going to be hard for the Royals to contend with the Angels bullpen and the Angels’ offensive prowess.

Game one is a golden opportunity for the Angels, with Kansas City using James Shields for the wild-card game, compile that with the Royals coming off a 12 inning battle with the Athletics; there is less pressure on Weaver. This series is truly going to hinge on whether or not C. J. Wilson can pitch a good game and whether or not Angels’ rookie Matt Shoemaker can handle the postseason pressure. Ideally if they can sweep the Royals in three games the Angels rotation problems would be minimized.

It’s going to be a fun series, will the Angels fly high? Or will a Kansas City King be crowned? In a five-game series anything is possible, but I sincerely hope that the hunt for red October continues, I’m definitely ready to get my red on! Please check back for Angels postseason entries.

-ICE

It Is Time to Get OctobeRED!

The hunt for a red October is here, the Angels are making their postseason push, Their 96 wins are the best in baseball. Halo dreams are running rampant amongst the fans, dreams that this team will win and bring their second World Series title to Anaheim.

Not all the dreams came to, however, the Halos must run the table in order to break the franchise record for wins. At this point, that is a minor accomplishment compared to what’s currently at stake. Now that the Angels have won the American League championship, they can shift their attention from the Oakland Athletics to the Baltimore Orioles with the goal of clinching home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the magic number is down to four, if the Angels can indeed accomplish this goal, the entire postseason including the World Series by virtue of the American League winning the 2014 All-Star game runs through Anaheim; as long as the Angels can stay alive in the playoffs.

There is some concern however, with the injuries to Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and the shortcomings of C. J. Wilson, the Angels are shorthanded and will have to rely on a strong bullpen to make a deep push this postseason. It can be done, if one recalls the 2002 World Series team the Angels did not have a stellar starting rotation to speak of, they relied on the bullpen; and that’s what is going to happen again this year.

The time has come to focus, celebrate, relax, and prepare; it is time to get OctobeRED! Go Angels!

-ICE

One Can Find Heaven in Seven

It is that time of year, the time of year where the dog days of summer and division races are replaced with magic numbers and the hunt for October. The hunt for a red October that is, a red October that includes a Halo. The Angels have a seven game lead over the Athletics and the magic number to clinch the division stands at 14. In other words, any combination of Angels wins or Athletics losses that add up to 14 will clinch the division for the Angels. Ultimately all the Angels would have to do at this point would be match the Athletics record for seven more games, and the division receives a Halo on the American League West Championship.

The Halos have some points of concern however, they have yet to find a legitimate starter to replace Garrett Richards in the starting rotation, they also have to find a way to ease the pressure on the bullpen for the postseason run; the bullpen is being taxed way too much. If the Angels don’t find a way to resolve these issues, their postseason run will be relatively short and no Angels’ fan ones that after a four year postseason drought.

If the regular season were to end today that playoff picture in the American League would look like this:

The divisional round for the Angels would be an all American League West series. The Halos would pay the winner of the wild-card play in game between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners, the other bracket would pit the Baltimore Orioles against the Kansas City Royals. Essentially, regardless of the outcome and American League West representative is guaranteed for the American League Championship Series. Hopefully that representative will be the Angels.

A seven-game lead, plus a magic number of 14; both numbers are multiples of seven. One can definitely find heaven in seven.

-ICE

The Angels Give the A’s an Elephant Sized Sweep

The best record in baseball, 30 games over .500, a six and one home stand, and an elephant sized sweep of the Oakland Athletics; the best case scenario happened, a five-game lead in the American League West; which yesterday, turned to a 4 1/2 game lead in the American League West with the Angels being idle and Oakland winning last night.

An 18-8 record from this point on would break the franchise record for most wins in the season with 101. An 101-61 record would be nice, but does something like that really matter? Of course not, however it would be a nice feather in our collective cap. What really matters is going deep in the playoffs and possibly winning the World Series.

With 26 games left, the season is far from over and the Angels still play Oakland the last week of the season for three games at the Oakland Coliseum. The Angels need as much breathing room as they can get. A specially with the acquisition of Adam Dunn, who looks who to replace Yoenis Céspedes. The Oakland A’s are not the same team without him. For the A’s this trade looms big for them for all the wrong reasons, but perhaps, all the right reasons for the Angels.

It is September 2, the September call ups are over, the Halos called up 11 players which will hopefully solidify this roster. The dog days of summer are here, the division races are amazing. Hopefully when the smoke clears, the Angels will still remain on top.

-ICE

Stomper Was Ahead Early, However the Rally Monkey Is Winning the Championship Rounds

There is simply nothing like the battle between the Angels and the A’s, the battle between California’s two American League franchises and founding members of the American League West. The A’s have an 8-6 season series lead, however the Angels are three games ahead in the American League West.

Before yesterday’s victory over the A’s the Angels had 80 wins, the first team to 80 wins this season, which is a perfect complement to the best record in baseball. At that point of their eightieth win the Halos were only one game behind the 2008 team and which had 81 wins in the same time span. The 2008 team netted 100 wins, the best record in franchise history.

A furious division battle does not come without its casualties, both Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs are out for the season. For the Athletics, Coco Crisp went down with an apparent neck injury last night while trying to rob a home run. The Angels being the classy organization that they are, did not initiate the home run fireworks that are customary as a result of the opponent’s injury.

I can not underscore the importance of creating distance now during this four-game series with only two more off days the entire season, the Angels need to create as much distance as possible in order to create a cushion to fall back on should things become even more interesting. This season is much different than the 2002 season which was the last time these two teams directly competed against each other for a postseason berth. The new wild card format allows the creation of a sudden death game which would be unfortunate should one of these two teams find themselves on the losing end, thereby magnifying the importance of winning the division.

With 16 of the 19 season meetings between these two foes in the history books, a gets more interesting every passing game, these two teams are the class of the division and the class of baseball. I may have a strong dislike for Oakland, but I wouldn’t want to be battling with any other team in baseball. My hatred is a result of the respect I have for the Oakland Athletics organization and their fans. May the best team win, hopefully the team wears red.

-ICE

An Extraordinary Win, An Extraordinary Loss

Following sports is like riding a roller coaster, a fan experiences indescribable highs and unbearable lows. This is the beauty and the curse of sports, the promise of what can be, and disappointment of what could have been. This is especially true in baseball, the excitement of a pennant race is like no other feeling that any other sport can produce.

The team with the best record in baseball, the Angels, increased their lead on the Oakland Athletics to 1 1/2 games. The Halos’ record now stands at 75-50, the promise is alive and well however it took a major blow today, with the loss of Garrett Richards. He suffered a left knee injury during the second inning of today’s game. Richards had to be carted off the field in a stretcher; and although the exact extent of his knee injury is not known as of yet, it is speculated that he will miss the remainder of the season.

Richards was in the middle of producing a spectacular season, his pitching performances were being talked about among the best in baseball, He was making a very strong case for the Cy Young Award in the American League. He was one of the most pleasant surprises of the entire season. Hopefully Richards can completely recover from his injury and return to display the dominance that he was showing the season in the future.

The loss of Richards further diminished an already thin starting rotation, Skaggs is already out with an elbow injury and won’t return until the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. C. J. Wilson is also struggling since his return from injury. It will be interesting to see where the Angels go from here.

Pitching does win championships, believe it or not, I do see some silver lining in all this chaos. Yes, the loss of Richards is devastating, there is no doubt about that. However Richards only has an impact on the game once every five days, it’s time for the offense to be the run producing machine that we all know it can be, as well as it is time for the rest of the pitching staff whether they are in the majors or the minors to step up. Now that we have a stronger bullpen compared to the past bullpens that the Angels have had in recent years, I really do not think that’s an unreasonable expectation. The September call ups are crucial to resolving this unexpected situation. This could have been much worse, we could have lost a position player that impacts the game every day.

The Angels have the best record in baseball, they are atop of the American League West, they Halos are being called upon to prove that none of these regular season accolades matter, they must rise above the adversity and the unfortunate situation and prove that they actually have the heart of a champion.

-ICE

There Is a Halo Around the Peak of the Baseball Mountain

Baseball is a mountain with only eight ledges, one for each division winner and two wildcards. In reality there are only seven ledges and one peak, the halo shines brightly around that peak. The Angels staked their claim August 16th to the best record in all of baseball they have been in possession of this record for the last two days, their current record is 72-50 statistically one percentage point ahead of the Oakland Athletics.

The American League West

W L PCT GB
LA Angels
72 50 .590 -
Oakland
73 51 .589 -
Seattle
67 56 .545 5.5
Houston
52 73 .416 21.5
Texas
48 76 .387 25.0

 

Coming into this season the goal of every Angels’ fan was to win the division after a long four-year absence from the postseason. The biggest question mark was the pitching staff, and whether it was strong enough to sustain the grind of the season. The bullpen issues were addressed with trades, and the emergence of Garrett Richards was certainly a pleasant surprise on the other hand, the pleasant surprises have been met with disappointment with the loss of Tyler Skaggs who will miss the rest of the season and the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, this could possibly leave the Angels with a shorthanded rotation next season.

The Angels have had struggles, but every baseball fan knows that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint; like every team the Angels have, and will go through peaks and valleys and at this point the Angels are in front of the marathon pack.

Most Angels’ fans would be ecstatic with a postseason berth, given the drought of the last four years, but to achieve the best record in baseball is more than anyone could have imagined. It’s not enough to have the best overall regular-season record, because in the end that doesn’t really matter, although I must say it feels extremely good to be able to say that. In the five years of this blog has been in existence, in its various incarnations, my statistical/analytical mind hasn’t stopped to enjoy the view, I must say that the view from up here is spectacular. The view from atop of the American League West is awesome, however the view from the peak of the mountain is simply breathtaking. This unexpected surprise is great!

-ICE

Real Red Versus True Blue: A Beautiful Rivalry

“Good morning, it’s a beautiful morning! It’s that time of the year where for the next four games blue skies turn red and the only thing visible from the Sun is its Corona, also referred to as its Halo. There’s nothing more beautiful in baseball than the Freeway Series, the series where both teams remain true to their colors . The Angels will win and remain red hot, while the Dodgers lose and always remain blue.”

 

This was a status update/poem I posted on my personal Facebook page yesterday morning. The natural rivalry between the Angels and the Dodgers is special. I can sit here and write about the Angels 5-0 victory over the Dodgers last night or the interesting interactions between Albert Pujols and Yasiel Puig; however I will save that for the end of the Freeway Series, especially since I will be there for the last two games of this year’s home at home series at Angel Stadium. I will have a lot of game specific things to talk about once the series is over.

 

I have previously posted about the various aspects of this series; the history, the fan bases, the marketing, and the rivalry itself. Yesterday it dawned on me, what about the  identity crisis that exists for both sides? Specifically the different perspectives that exist over the use of the name “Los Angeles”?

 

It’s no secret that the name change from the “Anaheim Angels” to the ” Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” was purely a marketing strategy, to directly compete with the Dodgers, some fans like myself are okay with the name change because after all the original name was the Los Angeles Angels. Although I myself prefer the California Angels just because that’s how they were referred to when I was growing up. Other Angels’ fans hate the name change arguing that Anaheim is not even in Los Angeles County and thus the Angels should not carry the name. It’s about the only thing that all Dodgers’ fans and some Angels’ fans agree on.

 

One would conclude that this is a fight over the name, and who has the right to use it, although that may be partially true. It’s really a fight about independence and identity. The Angels and Dodgers once shared Dodger Stadium before the Angels moved to Angel Stadium. Both teams never really liked sharing the Los Angeles spotlight, one team seeks to reclaim the city of its birth, while the other forges its identity from its success in its adopted city that it now calls home.

 

Looking at the rivalry from Orange County’s perspective the issues here are a little different, the city of Anaheim and Orange County adopted this team as its own, upon the Angels move to Angel Stadium, this is our team and Orange County residents don’t like necessarily to share their team with Los Angeles, forging their own identity; arguing that the Dodgers are an import from Brooklyn and are not the area’s real team. Dodgers’ fans counter by arguing that they are the true Los Angeles area team, stemming from the team moving to Los Angeles in 1958 versus the Angels joining Major League Baseball three years later. Dodgers’ fans completely negate the Angels existence prior to 1961, while it’s true that the Angels did not join Major League Baseball until 1961 the team existed prior to joining the major leagues in the Pacific Coast League, which predates the Dodgers move to Los Angeles.

 

Yes, it may be marketing, but the marketing is based on the history of this beautiful rivalry. The irony is that both sides refuse to recognize the arguments of the opposing side, and they each want to decide  how the other side identifies itself in relation to the name “Los Angeles” the beauty is that what both sides fail to realize is that their collective histories are intertwined and the history of one, cannot be described without relation to the other. Hence, creating a beautiful binary relationship between these two teams. A beautiful complex complementary history.

 

It’s more than the Freeway Series, it’s more than the battle between interleague natural rivals, it even more than the battle to define how the name “Los Angeles” is used. It goes beyond a battle for supremacy, a battle between red and blue or bragging rights, it’s a beautiful story, that can only be told through a game called baseball.

 

-ICE

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 66 other followers

%d bloggers like this: