The Tale of Two Halos

The Angels have had an interesting season thus far; there are instances when it’s the best of times, yet there are other instances when it’s the worst of times. The Angels have been decimated by injuries at the absolute worst time. A few examples are C. J. Cron, who went down right when his bat was warming up, or Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney both of whom are essential to the Halos’ success. Yet another example is the missing contribution of C. J. Wilson who was unable to throw a single pitch this season because of injury. With three-fifths of the starting rotation out of commission it’s surprising that the Angels have been able to function much less stay together as a team. At one point this season they were down 19 ½ games in their division with little hope of recovery.

In contrast, shortly before the All-Star break the Angels somehow managed to slowly bring it together with contributions of the now injured C.J. Cron. At one point they were able to string together 34 runs over four games before losing the pre All-Star break finale.

Since the All-Star break the Halos have come roaring back. They have yet to lose a game post All-Star break. They swept the division leading Texas Rangers and now move on to face the Houston Astros and continue this hopeful remarkable comeback. The Halos are now 11.5 games back begging the question if they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

It is no secret that the Angels don’t have much of a farm system which necessitates them to be sellers in order to rebuild such a devastated system. If this is indeed the case who would be on the trading block? Matt Shoemaker, who so far has had the best season of anyone in the rotation. Hector Santiago, who is arguably the heart and soul of the pitching staff. He plays the game with an unmatched passion which I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” What impact will Tyler Skaggs have on this team when he is ready to come back from injury? How will the injury to Nick Tropeano impact the rotation?

In contrast would the Halos have the heart to take apart a team that appears to be chemically coming together with an unmatched chemistry that was far delayed? Will they be able to find some way to improve this team and still have enough pieces to exchange? There is an old baseball adage that states you have to give up something to get something. Who will the Angels give up that would both have minimal impact on the team and still get someone of value back in order to help this team succeed?

If the Angels find a way to reconcile this conflicting enigma I believe they have enough to create a solid base to build on for next year, if not, by some miracle make up the division deficit and attempt to contend this season.

The answer lies in resolving the contradicting tales of these two Halos and finding a conclusion to this developing novel which has the potential to become a classic masterpiece of a season. How will the tale end? On one side will this be a reflection on a successful season? Or a tale of how a string of injuries derailed this cast of characters? How long will this novel be? Are we reaching the final pages? Or are there many pages yet to be written? My sincere hope is that it is the latter.

-ICE

Do the Angels Face a Check or Checkmate?

It is Friday, July 1, 2016, we are a little more than a week away from the All-Star break and a little more than the month away from the trade deadline; to say that the Halos are in trouble this season is a monumental understatement. They played a chess game of baseball and were unequivocally decimated.

In the previous entry I alluded to the fact that the Angels had a 13 game stretch against sub .500 teams within the American League West. I used the game of chess as a metaphor to describe the Halos perfect opportunity to strike, or at the very least put themselves in the position to attempt a strike within the division. Unfortunately for the Angels, they did exactly what they could not do. They went from 12 and a half games back in the beginning of the 13 game stretch to 18 1/2 games back by the end. The Angels’ record, 3-10; they wasted this golden opportunity.

 

There is an infinite list of problems with this team this particular season. Most Angels’ fans are going to point to the desolate condition of the starting rotation. While that may be true, there is a statistic that jumps out.

If one goes back to the beginning of the season and my rough calculations are correct, the Halos have a record of 5-31 when leading a game by three runs or less. Yes the starting rotation is in shambles however, the offense isn’t responding very well when they’re needed the most.

The long list of injuries to various players is also pointed as a determining factor for this team’s performance this season. I’m not quite sure that if this team was 100% healthy they would do much better. The problem is much bigger than just the injuries, it’s the management.

 

In January of 2009 Mike Scioscia signed a 10 year contract extension through 2018. He has been the manager since the 2000 season in a span of 16 years so far he has only brought one World Series championship to this franchise. (2002) Yes, he does have the highest winning percentage of any manager in Angels’ history. However, winning percentages are rarely remembered, what is remembered is championships. Mike Scioscia has not been handed average players during his tenure. These players include Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Torii Hunter, just to name a few. In reality, he hasn’t found a way to win.

 

In my eyes, Mike Scioscia has become a bit complacent, he gets paid whether the Angels win or lose. There are numerous examples of the manager making the wrong decision, at the wrong time; for example, earlier this season, just as Matt Shoemaker began his uplifting turnaround, Mike Scioscia took out Shoemaker during a game when he was pitching very well, Mike Scioscia then proceeds to turn it over to the bullpen that in turn loses the game for Shoemaker.

 

 

 

Mike Scioscia’s obsession with using Cam Bedrosian out of the bullpen has cost the Angels a number of winnable games. Cam does not seem to be ready for the big lights of the major leagues; yet Mike Scioscia insists on using him in clearly the wrong situations. It is the introduction of this relief pitcher that causes the first domino to fall in a losing effort.

 

 

In my humble opinion Mike Scioscia also causes a negative effect on the franchise, again, this is due to the length of his contract; his complacency, and the amount of power he holds within the organization. Billy Eppler is a good general manager; I take nothing away from him. However, there was no need to replace Jerry DiPoto, the current Seattle Mariners’ General Manager and the former Angels’ General Manager. Jerry was forced to resign due to alleged disagreements in philosophy with Mike Scioscia. The result? The Mariners are 10 games better in the standings than the Angels are this season.

 

The Angels virtually have no pieces to trade at the trade deadline. How will this team get better? The injuries will heal, aside from some needs, this team is very talented. Where do the Angels go from here? They have no flexibility. They are losing the chess game of baseball very badly. In this chess game, do the Angels face a check or checkmate? Only time will tell.

-ICE

Tarnished Halo, Tattered Wings

As a baseball fan, one expects to see their favorite team go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys. During the season a team must learn to pace themselves; in essence they must play the chess game that is baseball, put the chess pieces in the right position in order for a team to attack when the moment is right.

The Angels find themselves in this exact metaphorical scenario described above, they are currently 12 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West, fourth in the division, with 10 players on the disabled list with various injuries. The Halo is tarnished and the wings are tattered. The situation may look bleak to outsiders, yet this may be the perfect time to position the test pieces for an attack.

Starting tonight the Halos play their next 13 games against division rivals, which involves two teams that are sub .500 the Oakland A’s and the Houston Astros. This may be the perfect time for the team to strike as there are high hopes that the contribution of the newest Angel, Tim Lincecum, will give this team a much needed lift in the pitching rotation with three-fifths of the starting rotation on the 60-day disabled list with long-term injuries. Tyler Skaggs who was expected back within the near future has hit a snag in his rehabilitation forcing the Halos to find other more creative options.

It is well-known among baseball’s purest that the key to a successful team is pitching, something that the Angels clearly do not have at this moment. It is looking highly unlikely that C.J. Wilson will be able to make a meaningful impact this season due to the setbacks that he has had; based on the fact that this is the final year of his multi-million dollar contract it is very doubtful that he will have a meaningful impact for the Halos.

Can this team stay consistent for this 13 game stretch? It all depends if this team can come together at the right moments. It is not time yet to worry about the division leader, the Texas Rangers, since they have been on fire and look unstoppable at the moment; but, they too will fall into a valley that may allow the Halos to gain some ground. If the Angels can use this 13 game stretch to their advantage, we may have an interesting division race after the All-Star break, but in order to do so, the Halos must shine again and their wings must heal if all this is to come to fruition.

-ICE

From the Freeway to the Freak

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

-ICE

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

The Angels Are Caught in a Playground of Nightmares

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

 

The Seesaw

 

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

 

The Injury Carousel

 

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

 

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

 

-ICE

I’m Not Back in Black, It’s Red Instead

I’m usually very active in the off-season, during spring training, leading up to the regular-season. However you haven’t heard from me since January of this year. The motherboard on my laptop went out yet again; I was fed up with the same component breaking down again, it turned out that it was going to be nearly a $350 repair; so instead of forking over the $350 I decided on the advice of my brother to construct an aftermarket computer. First, I want to thank him for building it for me, now if the computer breaks down I only have to replace a component for a desktop, which makes it much cheaper to repair, and thus my downtime will be limited, appropriately; I have dubbed the device “Ruby Red” since the computer is red. “Ruby” will hopefully last longer and I don’t have to repair her as much due to the aftermarket components. Yes, to paraphrase one of my favorite bands, AC/DC “I’m back!”

 

It’s a brand-new season, the Angels find themselves 12-14 in the beginning of May not including the game tonight that will be played in just a couple of hours. They are currently three games back of the first-place Texas Rangers. Teams typically use the month of April to tweak the roster, technique, and strategy. The baseball season begins in earnest in May.

 

What is my biggest concern for the Angels’ thus far? It still is left-field. Both Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava find themselves on the 15 day disabled list, essentially shattering Mike Scioscia’s platoon plans. The sample size on Shane Robinson is too small to really know if he will have a positive effect on the position. Daniel Nava is expected back sometime in early May, while Gentry isn’t expected back until mid June. It wouldn’t matter much anyway since Gentry’s batting average is only .147 in 34 at-bats over 14 games. In contrast, Nava has a batting average of .286 in 14 at-bats over eight games, again it is small sample size, however the sample size is large enough to understand that Craig Gentry should not be platooned with Nava. A platoon does not work in general in my opinion because it does not allow a player whomever it may be, to settle into their respective position.

 

I’m still perplexed as to why the Angels did not re-sign David Murphy, who is an above average left fielder. In my opinion he was a better option for the Angels. Murphy is not a marquee name but he would be a nice stopgap in the left-field position. After being released by the Red Sox during spring training, he was a free-agent until April 14 when he signed a minor-league deal with the Minnesota Twins. Murphy subsequently retired from baseball on April 25.

 

I’m maybe not back in Black, but it’s red instead; Angels’ red; now that the season has begun in earnest it’s going to be interesting to see what the Angels come up with to resolve the left-field situation.

 

-ICE

 

The Essence of Halo Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-ICE

2015 MLB.com/blogs Top 100

To my family, friends, readers, and supporters:

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

 

-ICE

MLB.com Blogs

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

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

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2015 in Review

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

Here’s an excerpt:

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

Click here to see the complete report.

Who Needs a Yule Log, When One Has a Hot Stove

I am back wearing my Christmas halo, my microphone broke since my last post, and it’s taken me a while to find a compatible microphone for my voice recognition software. It’s good to put the metaphorical pen to paper again; or in this case microphone to word processor.

Regrettably it’s been a few months so there’s a lot to cover, it’s the holiday season, and because time is limited; for this entry I’m just going to cover the highlights of the off-season that stood out to me. I will expand on the rest of the activity that I don’t cover in this entry at a later date.

On November 12, 2015, the Angels acquired shortstop Andrelton Simmons and catcher Jose Briceno in a trade for fan favorite, Erick Aybar, promising young pitcher Sean Newcomb along with another pitcher Christopher Ellis. Yes, Simmons can be considered a young phenom, the way he flashes the baseball glove is eye-catching, definitely highlight reel material. However, I worry that his handling of the baseball bat isn’t up to par. Simmons may have a longer contract then Erick Aybar, but Erick is a solid defender in his own right, he is more patient than Simmons, he is a clutch switch hitter, and is less likely to pop the ball up in a crucial situation; something that Simmons is prone to do.

The price paid for the acquisition of Simmons is a little steep for my taste, not only did we lose Erick Aybar but the Angels also lost Sean Newcomb. Newcomb is a promising young pitcher, so much in fact that Angels’ fans were wondering whether he was ready to join the pitching staff at the major-league level late last season, although he was not ready, he was very close; and with the Angels’ farm system being as thin as it is in my opinion the trade hurts the Angels more than it helps. While I agree that minor-league prospects don’t always pan out, the Angels need Newcomb, not only because as the old saying goes “you can never have enough pitching”, but also because the Angels pitching staff is on shaky ground as it is, and to count on Weaver or Wilson to carry the pitching staff is simply not realistic anymore, thus, magnifying the need for Newcomb.

The Angels are not only in trouble for what they have done, but they are also in murky waters for what they haven’t done. Earlier this week, Angels’ owner Arturo Moreno was quoted in the local paper stating that it was unlikely that the Angels would pursue a big name free agent outfielder. I have a few issues with that, first the big question is what is this team going to do in left field? The Angels haven’t had a solid left field presence since Garret Anderson. Shall I go down the list? First, on the list is Hideki Matsui, who joined the team when he was well past his prime. Vernon Wells, big contract, little to no results. Josh Hamilton, more of the same the only difference is that the Halos are still paying for him to play for the division rival Texas Rangers. Yes I know I neglected to mention Bobby Abreu; this is due to the simple reason that I feel that unlike the players previously mentioned Bobby did contribute substantially to the Angels and shouldn’t be lumped with the aforementioned group of players.

Second, the Angels need to come up with a long-term strategic plan, cross the luxury tax threshold and responsibly sign a big-name free agent like Yoenis Céspedes to plug the gaping hole in left field, or hold on to promising prospects like Newcomb and forgo players like Simmons. It’s impossible to have it both ways.

The Angels complicated matters further by trading away another promising pitcher to the Washington Nationals. Trevor Gott for Yunel Escobar, who is not a very impressive third baseman defensively, he is a natural shortstop. Here again the Angels are giving up a young hard throwing right-hander, for a questionable third baseman. The Halos in my opinion would be better off re-signing David Freese to a contract in order to resolve the issue at third base.

I would stop short of saying that the Halos’ hot stove is burning hot, it’s more like lukewarm. However it can definitely get considerably hotter. All that needs to be done is for ownership and the front office have to decide which direction they want to go, and commit to going in that direction. For a team that has drawn 3,000,000 fans for more than a decade, the very least Angels’ fans deserve is a clear commitment from ownership and the front office whenever direction they decide to go.

Merry Christmas, and happy holidays and a happy new year!

-ICE

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