Rodney Is Not Robin Hood

What makes baseball the national pastime? Perhaps it’s its history that spans for more than a century? Maybe it’s the crack of the bat and the slap of leather against a ball? Might it be the vendors yelling at the top of their lungs? Or better yet is it the roar of the crowd?

To me, it’s the colorful characters that the game provides. Whether it be Babe Ruth pointing in the direction of a future home run, or Ozzie Smith performing standing back flips in the infield. The memory of a hobbling Kirk Gibson pumping his fist as he is rounding the bases during a home run at the 1988 World Series. It is indeed these colorful characters that make the game great.

At least for Angels’ fans Fernando Rodney added a memory that will live in the stories we tell to future Angels’ fans. Sunday’s game started like any other game, division rivals training runs in and battling for supremacy. That was until the eighth inning when Fernando Rodney shot and imaginary arrow at the Angels’ bench. Shooting arrows is somewhat of a trademark for Rodney, however he usually shoots them into the air after he has saved a game. Rodney’s actions galvanized the Angels into producing their 30th come from behind win, which leads all of Major League Baseball this season. This arrow is especially poignant since Rodney himself is a former Angel.

It can be argued that the symbolism of the arrow is the event that was the catalyst for yet another comeback win, it is quite the contrary, in reality it is the chemistry of this team has built this season with a mix of veterans, young veterans, and young eager players that are groomed through the minor-league system.

Fernando Rodney’s antics only added color to an exciting game, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that’s just the way he is, however I think is antics were not malicious and definitely added flavor to this budding rivalry. Although I think Rodney’s actions had more to do with his personality and his personal history with the Angels, and not the Seattle Mariners rising as a division contender just yet. The cast of colorful characters is what makes this game great. One thing is for sure, Fernando Rodney is no Robin Hood. He is arrows were not as potent as he thought.

-ICE

Without a Doubt the Best Player of This Generation is Trout

Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and now one can add Mike Trout to this impressive list. All the players listed above were game changers not only for the respective teams but for baseball as a whole. Mike Trout’s resume includes: The American League Rookie of the Year, two-time American League Most Valuable Player runner-up, and three-time American League All-Star in only his third year in baseball. His newest accomplishment is most valuable player of the All-Star game. Quite an impressive career thus far for a player who is only 22 years old; given all his accolades, it is equally as impressive that his ego hasn’t stockpiled concurrently with his accomplishments. Trout’s attitude is refreshing.

I know I am a little late on posting my reaction regarding the All-Star break, especially given the fact that an Angels’ player was involved so heavily in the festivities. However, I wanted to wait until the much rumored pending transaction would materialize; it did, Houston Street is now part of the Halos’ bullpen. The acquisition of Street solidifies the bullpen, the team’s glaring weakness and biggest question mark in recent years.

Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for a dog fight for the right to claim the American League West championship. This is reminiscent of the battles the Angels and A’s have had in years past. These teams are not only competing in the division, but they are competing with transactions; matching each other punch for punch akin to a boxing match that neither competitor wants to lose.

Both teams are building team chemistry quite successfully. It’s no coincidence that these two teams have the two best records in baseball. I truly believe the Angels have the edge however, they lead all of baseball in runs scored, they strengthened a weakness called the bullpen, with the acquisition of Houston Street. The Angels now have options whether it’s Houston Street, Jason Grilli or Joe Smith they now have weapons in the bullpen. However there is one greatest advantage above all other advantages, his name is, Mike Trout.

-ICE

The Beautiful Glow of the Fire Lit Halo

The Halo is on fire, indeed glowing beautifully. The Angels find themselves 3 1/2 games back of the Oakland Athletics; however, that’s not the story. The Angels have stayed pretty close to the A’s throughout the season. The story lies in how they have kept up with them.

The Angels have the second-best record in all of Major League Baseball, second only to the team they are chasing. They do have the best home record in all of Major League Baseball with an impressive 32-15 record, this record includes three home sweeps and an 11 game home winning streak, along with 27 come from behind wins. It is extraordinary how they’ve been able to keep up with the A’s and not be able to overtake them yet.

Part of their success is attributed to Garrett Richards who possesses a 10-2 record and a 2.71 Earned Run Average in 18 starts for the Angels. It’s amazing how someone can be this good and still not make it to this year’s All-Star game, for that matter it’s amazing that a team can be this good and only have two representatives so far in The Midsummer Classic.

The sports networks often cite the American League East as a class of baseball. It is actually the American League West. The top two records in all of baseball reside in the American League West. It may be the West Coast bias, it may be that the American League East just happens to have two of the most storied franchises in baseball in the Yankees and the Red Sox. That certainly isn’t the case this year, and once the Texas Rangers recover from this year’s injury plagued season, the AL West may continue its dominance over baseball next year.

Yes, the dog fights of the summer are here. Pull out your popcorn, it should be a good division race between the Angels and Athletics. Can the monkey keep the rally going and blaze past Stomper? I truly believe that the Halos will. As baseball fans, let’s sit back and take in all the sights and sounds of the best division in all of baseball.

-ICE

A Perfect Sweep, Not so Perfect Team

I think the World Cup has everybody distracted, at least that’s my case; but now I’m back and ready to talk about baseball again. The Angels are coming off a perfect home stand with a sweep of the Rangers and a sweep of the Twins. The Angels themselves have been far from perfect. They have lost nine games when leading in the seventh inning or later, as well as 12 blown saves this season so far.

The Angels traded Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for Jason Grilli in order to try to address the bullpen issues. I myself wasn’t ready to give up on Ernesto, yes he has been responsible for some of the blown saves this season, however, he still seem to do well if he pitched as middle reliever with less pressure he seemed to perform better. I haven’t seen Jason pitch so I can’t comment on him just yet. But I’m sure either way I will reflect on him when the time is appropriate.

Ernesto is no worse than Francisco Rodriguez was when he was a closer. Both men are unpredictable and both men seem to do better as middle relievers. The Halos Would have been better served to wait a little bit more for Ernesto to come around just as they did for Rodriguez a few years ago.

The Angels might not be perfect just yet, however they have been getting better with the passage of each game. They may have some flaws, but the positives cannot be overlooked. They have an identical record to the Oakland A’s of 7-3 over the last 10 games, and are currently only 4 1/2 back. If they can to shore up the bullpen issues, they will be just fine.

-ICE

The Showdown Became a Meltdown in Oaktown

The showdown has come and gone, I feel like I just watched a highly anticipated sequel to a blockbuster movie that turns out to be a disappointment. Unfortunately this metaphor perfectly describes the range of emotions I experienced as an Angels’ fan in this latest series against the Oakland Athletics.

The Angels lost five out of the six games this season so far against the green and gold. This series was essentially a meltdown in Oaktown, not only would the Angels swept by the Athletics but it was the Halos’ worst performance in the series thus far. The Angels were outscored 26-11. Over the last 20 games the Angels averaged 3.3 runs allowed, in comparison to 8.7 runs allowed in the Oakland series. They plummeted from 1 1/2 games behind the A’s to 4 1/2 by the end of the series. It should be said however, that Mike Trout only played in one game of the series, he missed the remaining two games with ongoing back stiffness that continued to affect him during the series against the Houston Astros. The Halos also dropped two out of three in Houston.

They are headed home tonight to play the White Sox hopefully they can turn things around. After the White Sox leave town, the Angels will have a chance to avenge the sweep as the Oakland Athletics come to town for a three-game series starting Monday. I sincerely hope that this upcoming series against the A’s is retribution, not repetition.

-ICE

The Showdown in Oaktown

Everything is back to normal. The two remaining founding members of the American League West are number one and number two in the standings respectively. The Angels and the Oakland Athletics renew their rivalry tonight. The way it should be, Stomper and The Rally Monkey spar again.

The Angels come into the series smoking hot, they won five out of the six series and earned a split in the last series against the Seattle Mariners. They have a record of 14-6 over the last 20 games. The Halos are 1 1/2 games behind Oakland, and if all goes well they may be in first place in the American League West by the end of the weekend, to quote Phil Collins “I can feel it coming in the air tonight.”

Once again the rivalry between these two teams has a playoff feel. The division race appears at this point to be a two horse race between the Angels and the Athletics although it’s early in the season, the division games are crucial to the success of both teams. Yes, all is normal again. Fans from both sides really enjoy this civil war between California’s two American League franchises. What side are you on? Obviously, one doesn’t need to ask me. Go Angels!

-ICE

The Duality of Baseball

Baseball is a game of duels, there is a dual between pitchers, it can also exist between pitcher and batter, as well as between base men and base runners. There also exist a certain duality within the game.

The Angels are experiencing such duality, Albert Pujols hit his 500th career home run in Washington DC against the Nationals. The number 500 appears again as the Angels are trying to get back to a .500 record, a threshold they haven’t been able to accomplish since the opening day of 2013. Which is simply astonishing given the talent on this team. The team cannot get all three facets of the game to work at the same time. When the offense is on fire, the pitching cannot hold leads; this problem is manifested by the performances of the bullpen, a unit that can’t seem to get it together. The positive? The Angels lead Major League Baseball in Home Runs with 36 more than any other team in both leagues. Yet somehow they haven’t been able to translate the positives into wins.

The future is not bleak for this team, the ingredients are there, Josh Hamilton will eventually be back and give both Albert Pujols and Mike Trout much-needed protection. In contrast to recent years the Angels now have relatively healthy players to complete the original winning formula that was conceived. Once they resolve their bullpen issues they should have a winning record, and eventually I am hopeful that the many dualities that I’m currently observing become one distinct singularity, which manifests itself as a World Series Championship at the end of the season.

-ICE

Get Your Red on

“Get Your Red on” this is a slogan to the marketing campaign that the Angels have embarked on in the 2014 season. I like it a lot. No, it’s not because red is my favorite color since I was a kid, although to me that’s icing on the cake. Overall it’s a very smart marketing strategy especially when juxtaposed against the “Think Blue” campaign employed by the cross-town rival the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Perhaps the campaign is appropriate, until last night the Angels were a perfect 6-0 when wearing the red alternate uniform until their first loss last night in that uniform against the Oakland Athletics. The Angels have slightly changed their uniform, a change that I must say I like a lot. The Halos will wear red shoes and red belt during their home games this season at least when wearing the red uniform. I hope they include this change for road games as well. I believe that it adds to the team’s identity much like the blue shoes add to the identity of the Dodgers or the white shoes that add to the identity of the Athletics respectively.

The Angels may have lost last night, however I really enjoyed the excitement brought on by last night’s game between these two American League West rivals there something about this rivalry that cannot be duplicated with the rest of the teams in the American League West. Maybe it’s the proximity between the two cities, maybe it’s the fact that these are the two California American League franchises, or maybe it’s the best explanation of all, these two teams captured 10 of the last 12 American League West titles.

Perhaps the rivalry was magnified by the fact that Albert Pujols hit his 496 career home run, a shot that went into the beautiful night sky. The green and gold elephant seems to bring out the best in the Angels and vice versa.

These two teams also share another commonality, they are known as the “other” team in the region. They live in the shadow of their bigger more famous brother, the Dodgers and the Giants respectively. Yet, it seems that their little brother steals the spotlight and has had success more often than their older, cockier sibling. Our National League counterparts cannot say that they’ve traded shots with each other 10 of the last 12 years. They may be known as a bigger rivalry, but their rivalry hasn’t been as competitive over the years. I have a healthy hatred for Oakland, in other words, I love to hate them. It’s not the same if both teams are not at the top of their game. The best part? The baseball season is young and the Rally Monkey and Stomper have a lot of sparring yet to do.

-ICE

The Double-Edged Sword

It is the beginning of the 2014 baseball season, and I must say I’m pretty optimistic about the Angels chances this year. Yes the club is 3-5, however to paraphrase my good friend Roger Lodge; it’s still early. I don’t know that be claimed in late April to early May but for now, I think that’s the proper way to look at things.

Josh Hamilton is swinging the bat at nearly. 500 it’s very difficult to do much better, this is the Josh Hamilton the team was expecting when he signed that multiyear contract; he went down with an injury yesterday to his thumb but I’m hoping it’s a minor injury and his time away from the diamond is minimal.

Albert Pujols’ bat is starting to warm up, he hit a two-run home run yesterday, his first of the season. The question is, is the old Albert Pujols back? Maybe, he is getting older, while I don’t expect him to put up the ridiculous numbers he did in St. Louis I do expect him to have a solid year, although if he wants to revert to the Albert Pujols that was with the Cardinals I am not going to complain. Let’s not forget about Mr. Freeze (David Friese) who hit his first homer of the season as well, if the offense can live up to its potential and expectations, we Angels’ fans are in for a pretty exciting season.

I don’t have any delusions of grandeur because I know this team has a double edge sword associated with it. This season as always will come down to pitching, both the starting rotation and bullpen. The Angels were swept by the Mariners, simply because of both starting pitching and the bullpen. With the starting pitching was solid, the bullpen was shaky at best, and vice versa. As any true baseball fan knows, the key to having a successful season is the pitching. I haven’t made up my mind how I feel about Hector Santiago yet, Tyler Skaggs has potential, we have yet to see if the grind of the season will get to him.

-ICE

Farewell Friend Fregosi

His number 11 stands proud in the upper level of the right-field pavilion at Angel Stadium, retired to honor a man who gave his soul both as a player and a manager to the Angels; Jim Fregosi died yesterday as a result of multiple strokes, he was 71 years old.

Although I am too young to have seen him play in person, I was lucky enough to see him play on tape. To say that he was an extraordinary shortstop would be an understatement. He played with passion and dedication, Jim Fregosi loved the Angels, so much so, that when he was traded in the transaction that brought Nolan Ryan to Anaheim Fregosi was sad to leave the Angels.

It would be easy for me to talk about his accomplishments, for example he was the first Angel in history to hit for the cycle. However, I rather talk about the man that I got to meet in 2010 during All-Star fan Fest, as I remember there were very strict rules they asked the players not to leave the table for any circumstance. Mr. Fregosi made an exception to the rule for me and he spent a good amount of time talking baseball to my friends and I, no matter who was waiting for him.

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Mr. Fregosi was a class act, I am blessed to have met him. Perhaps it was fitting that he passed away on Valentine’s Day; no matter who he impacted he is remembered with nothing but love and respect. Rest in peace Jim Fregosi.

-ICE

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