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

550x200_MLBlogs_2

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

View original post 1,061 more words

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.

 

20150802_135429

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.

IMAG0141 IMAG0142

IMAG0137

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.

IMAG0146

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.

 

IMAG0162 IMAG0164 IMAG0170 IMAG0172 IMAG0173

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.

Picture030

90398543621_3300_1

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

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 a former 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.

-ICE

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.

-ICE

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.

-ICE

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 80 other followers

%d bloggers like this: