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.

-ICE

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.com, 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!

-ICE

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?

-ICE

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.

-ICE

Josh Hamilton Trades in His Halo for a Cowboy Hat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like Mike, If I Could Be Like Mike

In all sports there are athletes, and there are phenoms, a phenom is that special player that takes his or her respective sport by storm and immediately makes an impact. Mike Trout is indeed a phenom. On April 17, 2015 Trout became the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to reach 100 home runs in 100 stolen bases. I am reminded of a song in an advertisement back in 1991 by Gatorade, a commercial that featured Michael Jordan shortly after the Chicago Bulls beat my Lakers; as the Chicago Bulls captured their first ever NBA title. The jingle went something like this:

“Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be
I dream I move, I dream I groove
Like Mike
If I could Be Like Mike”

Mike Trout could be considered by many, as this generations’ “Mike” this young 23-year-old has brought excitement to the Halos’ franchise. Children of my generation idolized Michael Jordan, I imagine that young baseball players idolize Mike Trout.

After taking two of three from the Mariners, being swept by the Royals, and taking two of three from the Rangers; the Angels are positioning themselves to take two of three from the Astros with a win tomorrow. Garrett Richards makes his return to the Angels’ starting rotation after suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year. I am anxiously awaiting his return especially after a shaky start by Weaver and Wilson. Aside from the sweep by the Kansas City Royals the Angels have started this season well. Hopefully the addition of Richards can greatly improve this team.

As the Halos make their way home after tomorrow’s game, I can’t help but wonder what other milestones and achievements will Angels’ fans be witness to, this season?

-ICE

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

The Halo on the Horizon

It’s that time of year, when certain sights and sounds begin to hit one’s eyes and ears like notes of a John Williams Symphony. The electricity awakens one’s senses and sparks a relentless and untamed fire of the imagination. A new season is on the horizon, and so it begins, as the first breath is drawn that feeds the fire of every baseball fans’ soul.

Pitchers and catchers report February 19, the Halos didn’t make any headline grabbing moves this off-season, but they have a solid foundation to start the year. They now have payroll flexibility that they didn’t have before to make any additions if necessary. They were able to avoid arbitration with all nine of the arbitration eligible players.

There is still a lot of unanswered questions, how will the bullpen perform this year? Will Josh Hamilton finally live up to his contract? Will C. J. Wilson be an asset or a liability? Will Garrett Richards return to form after his devastating season ending injury of last year? Will the Angels have a diamond in the rough that they can plug in at second and third base? Will Matt Shoemaker be able to sustain the dominance that he demonstrated during his rookie campaign? Will be Angels be able to sustain or surpass the baseball best record of 98 wins from last year? Will there be any unexpected pleasant surprises this season? These are only some of the many questions that will be answered this season.

The fire is smoldering, the flame is coming, the spark will ignite the first time the bat makes complete contact with the baseball. So look upon the horizon, look into our eyes, and one will see the Halo that Burns and surrounds our soul.

-ICE

2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,300 times in 2014. 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.

Happy “Halo”days!

After a long involuntary absence, The Angels’ Ace is back on the pitching mound ready to throw more fireballs. The motherboard of my laptop went out. So I have been unable to write for a couple of months now, months of agony, it’s very difficult to program another computer to recognize voice recognition now that my motherboard is repaired and I am back in business!

Given that the flash player produces snow on the MLBblogs website this time of year. I decided to write a holiday themed post, I will be discussing Halo gifts received (awards) and the Halo gifts exchanged (trades) then I will discuss my letter to Santa Claus hopefully there will be gifts waiting for me under the Angels tree this year.

“This is so exciting, which gift shall I open First?”

Let me start with the obvious one, congratulations to Mike Trout for winning the 2014 American League Most Valuable Player award. After two years straight of being a runner-up for this award he finally gets it. I guess the third time is the charm.

Speaking of runner-ups congratulations to Matt Shumaker for being the American League Rookie of the Year runner-up, the committee did well in considering him. If it wasn’t for his performance, I don’t know what the result of this past season would have been. He saved the Angels’ season, and his contribution was definitely a critical one which allowed the Halos’ to claim the best record in Major League Baseball this past year.

If Garrett Richards’ season had not ended early, I believe he was a strong contender for the American League Cy Young Award.

Gifts Exchanged

The Winter Meetings for the Angels was largely uneventful in comparison to years past. Although none of their transactions were headline grabbers, I do want to concentrate on one transaction in particular, more specifically the Howie Kendrick trade to the Dodgers. The truth is I’ve never been in love with Kendrick’s bat, in fact my friend Shaun jokingly teases me saying that Kendrick is my favorite player. I’ve told him on numerous occasions that I simply want an upgrade at second base, especially during the postseason when Kendrick seems to leave his bat at home. However, I’ve always respected Kendrick’s defense, the Angels now have a gaping hole at second base defensively. I honestly think that Grant Green is definitely not the long-term answer.

Another transaction that I find intriguing is the acquisition of Matt Joyce from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Kevin Jepsen the long-time reliever that was drafted by the Angels. I think Joyce can contribute immediately to the Angels’ organization and make the Halos better. What does this mean for C. J. Cron? Only time will tell.

Dear Santa,

Now for the wish list, of course Max Scherzer and James Shields are at the top of the list, but it’s unlikely that the Angels can make a run at either one. This team has been plagued with a history of bad contracts in recent years, another long-term contract is not what this team needs.

Part of the Christmas spirit is to be selfless, so Santa please give Josh Hamilton a hitting instructor for Christmas since he is far removed from his MVP season with the Texas Rangers.

Santa, I would like Jason Grilli, and Gordon Beckham back in an Angels’ uniform. They were the motor of this team this past season, and these two players would be good for the overall competitive spirit of the club.

The ultimate wish would be a World Series trophy this year, this is the one gift that all Angels’ fans can enjoy. This also would be the best way to spread holiday cheer that would last a lifetime. Happy “Halo”days!

-ICE

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