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Big A Baseball

April 22, 2010 9:44 PM

A Look At The 2009 LA Angels In 2010

The LA Angels got off to a lousy start in 2010. They seem to have turned it around. How far around is yet to be determined. But it did lead to some reflection on the players who left, which led to tracking their numbers so far.

Some regret, some relief, some surprise.

Here's a quick rundown on the ones that got away (or were sent packing.)

JOHN LACKEY. Record so far, 1-1. Sandwiched in between the decisions was a classic Lackey no runs in 6 innings performance. First two starts, stellar, last start an unqualified stinker. But even in the stinker, Lackey brought back great memories of his competitive spirit. When his left fielder let a ball get past him and roll all the way to the wall, the cameras caught Lackey cursing out loud.

Now, I'm not saying it's cool to curse your teammates, but, well, I do miss his fire. That - and his talent - is what made him an ace for the Halos. The only one on the staff now who seems to have the same grit, the same number one capability, is Jered Weaver. Joel Piniero might have it, but it's too early to tell. He's got the scowl, though.

Do the Angels miss Lackey? Yes. The starting rotation has pitched well lately, 

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but the Angels have reached a level where excelling in the regular season isn't enough. They need three dominant starters that can win the monster games on the road in the playoffs. Lackey was one of those starters.

CHONE FIGGINS. Batting average so far: .192. Is he pressing in Seattle? Obviously. One can't blame him for taking the bigger contract, but it is a rare player who doesn't struggle in a new environment, with new coaches and teammates and philosophy. It took Figgins a long time to find his way with the Angels, and quite frankly, he likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to do so with another manager, especially at third base.

For years Figgins wasted his speed by being a free swinger and fly ball hitter. He finally put it together the last few years, but as we saw in the playoffs, when he presses, he loses the leverage he has worked so hard to obtain.

Figgins won't hit .200 all year, but I wouldn't be surprised to see his final number in the .260's.

Do we miss his smile and enthusiasm? Absolutely. But despite the catastrophic start by Brandon Wood, I still say the Angels don't miss Chone between the lines. Erick Aybar has moved comfortably into the leadoff spot (as evidenced by the fact no one is talking about it.) And Maicer Izturis is a strong back-up plan to Wood.

For the Angels to return to the World Series, they need a better balance of speed and power than they've had the last few years. There were too many of the same type of player: Figgins, Aybar, Izturis, Reggie Willits, even to a certain extent Howie Kendrick. You can't count on three singles in the playoffs against another team's ace to score. Sometimes you need that two out, bases empty, homer.

VLADIMIR GUERRERO. First off, let me just say I love Vladdy. He was a joy to root for, and he was one of the best players the Angels have ever had.

But I don't miss him this season. Yes, he was hitting .327 as of this writing, but he started out in the .600's! So there have been quite a few whiffs since then.

Knowing Vladdy, it's been one pitch and done most of the time. I can only imagine what Texas Ranger fans are going through, seeing his incredible ability in the beginning of the season, and now wondering why he doesn't TAKE a pitch. One pitch. Please!

Vladdy seems to start every year with the intent on being more patient at the plate. When he is, when he swings at his pitch rather than at the pitcher's, Vladdy is unstoppable. He truly makes solid contact better than almost anyone in the game. But a leopard can't change his spots, and sooner rather than later Vladdy starts hacking at every pitch thrown. Vladdy is wired to SWING, so he does.

It's hard to criticize a guy hitting over .300, but Vladdy is the most frustrating .300 hitter around - because he could so easily hit .350 if he would be more selective. He's that gifted.

His replacement in the Angels line-up, Hideki Matsui, doesn't have Vladdy's charm, but he brings a much needed patience to the plate. And he's a pretty good hitter himself.

So, this one has worked out in the Angels' favor. Vladdy had to go. He had worn out his welcome with the wild hacking. But he will forever be appreciated in Angel-land. This season, however, I'm happy to appreciate him as a Texas Ranger.

GARY MATTHEWS JR. Who knows what he's hitting? Who cares? He got a single the other day for the NY Mets, and it felt like a fluke. This guy drugged his way into a huge season, managed to fool the Angels brass (shame on them) into giving him a huge contract, and then played down to his abilities. He was never the all-star fielder he was made out to be, either. That reputation seemed to have been built off of one great catch.

The one thing in his favor is that when he was relegated to fifth outfielder with the Angels, he kept his mouth shut (with the exception of a one-day awol in pre-season) and played out the year. Other guys might have blasted the team to the press all season long.

So good bye to Mister Matthews, and good luck. I would just tell Mets fans not to expect too much.

DARREN OLIVER. The quiet one. The steady one. The one the Angels really miss. His presence in the bullpen was under-appreciated. If the team needed an inning to quell a rally, to get to the closer, the keep the game close, he nearly always came through. A tough out against a tough lefty? He did that well, too. The weak spot on this 2010 team is clearly middle relief. No one talks about Oliver's departure. But the team misses him. Maybe the most of any of the players gone from 2009.

And finally, a quick shout-out to three ex Angels who never wanted to leave: Casey Kotchman, Troy Glaus, and Garret Anderson.

 It was great to see Kotchman get come clutch hits for Seattle recently - as long as he doesn't get TOO many of them. Casey was a class act, a solid player, who played hard and well for the Halos.

I always have and always will root for Troy Glaus. He is enshined in Angels' lore for that beautiful line drive double over the head of a flailing Barry Bonds in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series. It's good to see him still playing and starting in the bigs. The Angels NEVER should have let him get away.

And it's nice to have Garret close-by playing for that other LA team, although by all rights he should have been allowed to end his career as an Angel, a la Tim Salmon. Most likely, however, Garret would not have been as comfortable being a pinch-hitter for the team he had starred for, as he is with the Dodgers.

I wish them all well... unless, of course, they're playing against the Halos. 

April 10, 2010 5:50 AM

The LA Angels Are Playing A Baseball Short This Season

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There's a baseball missing in Angels games this season - the one Rex Hudler used to flip up and down every inning.

I know, the departure of Rex is old news already, but before we completely move on without him, I wanted to say how much I miss him - every time Jose Mota or Mark Gubicza opens their mouth.

Mota sounds like the human equivalent of Morse code, with so many stops and starts between words he sounds like someone who recently went to broadcasting school and is trying to remember what they told him to say.

Gubicza is a color analyst without color.

Gone is the unbridled enthusiasm of Rex Hudler, the pure joy at being at the ballpark. I'm not saying the other two aren't thrilled to be there, but Rex treated every day at the ballpark like a minor leaguer getting his first taste of the bigs.

Yes, his grammar was horrible, his overt allegiance to the Angels annoying to some, and his run-on sentences legendary.

But he gave the booth an identity and made games fun. Rex was starting to become part of the Angels sound. Rex Hudler on the air? It must be baseball season!

Fans loved him, players loved him, even dogs loved him. Only Fox did not.

And they were the ones with the money.

The new guy with Gubicza, Victor Rojas, is fine and clearly knows the game, but he sounds as clean as a perfectly washed car. He could be doing a Phillies game, or the Houston Astros, or any other team that gave him a scorebook and prep time.

Rex was Angels through and through.

It's unlikely he'll catch on with another team. As a fan, you had to have lived Hud as a player to appreciate him as an announcer.

He's not polished enough to fit in the booth for just any team.

So I wish Hud well, and say good bye to one of the most colorful color analysts the Angels have had. There's enough of a vacuum already with the loss of the talented and much missed Rory Markas. It's a shame we had to lose the comfort of Hud's voice as well.

Maybe next year Fox will bring Rex back.

But probably not. 

March 5, 2010 1:19 PM

Jeff Mathis Should Pay The LA Angels To Play

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Man, I wish I could have been in the arbitration process for Jeff Mathis. Mathis asked for $1.3 million, the team offered a measly $700,000. Hey that was an insult. The man hit .211 after all!

Since I wasn't there, I can only imagine how it went. Maybe something like this:

ARBITRATOR: We are here to assess the 2009 season of catcher Jeff Mathis of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Representing the Angels is Tony Reagins. Representing Jeff Mathis is Jeff Mathis. Mister Mathis, do you feel you can be objective in this discussion?

MATHIS: What do you mean? I'm arguing on behalf of myself.

ARBITRATOR: All right, you don't have to get testy. Let's get started.

LA ANGELS: We like Jeff, but he hit .211 over the course of the year. And that's the highest he's ever hit in the big leagues.

MATHIS: Hey, lots of guys tear it up in the minors, then take a while to find their stride in the bigs.

LA ANGELS: You hit .276 in the minors.

MATHIS: Like I said, I'm here for my fielding.

LA ANGELS: Which we appreciate. After all, you wouldn't even be on the team if you weren't a good fielder.

MATHIS: Are you saying I'm only on the team because of my glove.

LA ANGELS: What else would it be?

MATHIS: Exactly. I'm an outstanding catcher. The team ERA was almost a run lower with me than with the other guy.

LA ANGELS: The team ERA with Mike Napoli was 4.86. Yours was almost 4. That's nothing to write home about.

MATHIS: What about all those guys I threw out trying to steal?

LA ANGELS: You threw out less than 25%.

MATHIS: Guys are fast.

LA ANGELS: The Molina brothers were in the 40% range.

MATHIS: Combined?

LA ANGELS: No, separately.

MATHIS: So forget my fielding. I'm a stickman. I hit .538 in the playoffs. I won game three with that double!

LA ANGELS: A great hit, but we don't think one hit was worth $700,000. We did lose the series, after all.

MATHIS: Not my fault. Figgins tanked, Vladdy tanked, Lackey didn't get it done. You should get rid of them.

LA ANGELS: We already did.

MATHIS: Oh.

LA ANGELS: Do you really think you deserve almost double what we're offering?

MATHIS: Double? Is that what I'm asking for? Wow.

LA ANGELS: You didn't know?

MATHIS: My agent tells me to just worry about playing, he'll take care of the money. I thought I was in here to fight against a paycut.

LA ANGELS: That's a relief. We were a little concerned that you felt that your performance warranted such a pay raise. We don't mind rewarding excellence, but not mediocrity.

MATHIS: I'm not a brain surgeon, but that sounded like an insult.

LA ANGELS: Not at all. It's a compliment to your character. And those of us on the Angels consider character to be as important as talent.

MATHIS: See, that sounded like another insult.

LA ANGELS: Jeff, if we wanted to insult you, we would just cut you.

MATHIS: You're thinking of cutting me?

LA ANGELS: Not until we can see what Bobby Wilson can do. He's a better fielder than you. If he can hit, you're history.

MATHIS: Please don't cut me. Who else is gonna want me?

LA ANGELS; So you agree to play for the lower salary?

MATHIS: I can't believe you're paying me a salary at all. $700,000 is fantastic. I'm really grateful to be in the big leagues. I still can't believe no one has figured out I'm a stiff.

LA ANGELS: This is being taped, you know.

MATHIS: My name is Mike Napoli.

ARBITRATOR (waking up): I vote for the player!

LA ANGELS: What? Impossible!

ARBITRATOR; Nothing's impossible if you believe in yourself. Three weeks ago I was a plumber.

LA ANGELS: You just gave him 1.3 million dollars!

ARBITRATOR: Who? Mike Napoli? He hit twenty homers. He deserves it.

LA ANGELS: No, Jeff Mathis.

ARBITRATOR: Who's Jeff Mathis?

LA ANGELS: The guy you just gave 1.3 million dollars to.

ARBITRATOR (shaking Mathis' hand): Congratulations. Now I have to go. They're waiting for me.

LA ANGELS: Who?

They turn to see TWO MEN IN WHITE COATS holding a straight jacket.

 

 

 

February 16, 2010 2:48 PM

LA Angels Prepare For New Season Without Heart Or Soul

cb477a26457747c8b1739ae3bf5b90b6.jpgThe end of last season was a disappointing one, but one also filled with hope - hope that next year small ball would finally be balanced with big bats, and we could go into 2010 with the enthusiasm of Rex Hudler.

No, I guess not.

Something happened to the Angels this off season, and it wasn't pretty. Obviously, the death of Rory Markus is a tragedy that stands alone, and none of the other events are even in the same sentence.

But the baseball season is getting close, so it's time to talk about it.

The Angels lost so much of their personality, they feel like a corporate sponsorship - which I guess is what Fox wants them to be.

No Vladimir Guerrero, no Chone Figgins, no John Lackey, no Rex Hudler.

That's a lot of heart, soul, and enthusiasm gone.

Now, there are strong arguments to be made that the loss of Vladdy and Figgins are for the betterment of the team.

I, for one, have been calling for Figgins' removal for years. He turned himself into a solid player, and certainly helped the Angels win a lot of regular season games. But Figgins crumpled in crunch time. Every time. And the Angels need power, so it's time to give Wood a chance.

Vladdy was without a doubt a joy to watch and root for. He was the soul of the team, the one player that the other players emulated - which was okay when Vladdy was crushing the ball. But the team evolved - fortunately - from the toes to nose approach that defined them in years past, and Vladdy had become obsolete in this line-up. The team needed a young slugger, one with good knees, plenty of speed, and solid defense.  

Instead they got Hideki Matsui. No glove. No speed. And no personality. Thanks a lot.

Then they lost Lackey, the leader of the pitching staff. The heart of the team.

And as if that wasn't enough, they went all the way up into the press box to gut the spirit of the team, and tossed out Rex Hudler.

No matter what the reason, losing Hud and being forced to listen to the drone-like dialog of Mark Gubicza, or worse, the cliché dribble of Jose Mota, is going to make this season nothing short of torturous.

We loved Hud. Sure, he spoke like a kid on the sandlot. Sure, he was a homer. But hell, that's why we liked him. If I want a neutral announcer, I'll listen to a national broadcast. When I listen to an Angels game, I want an ANGELS FAN. I want someone who can capture my emotions, my joy, my disappointments.

No Figgins, no Vladdy, no Lackey, no Hud.

That's a lot of joy gone.

I don't know what this season will be like, but I know it won't be the same.

Nonetheless, I'm an Angels fan.  So I'll root for Matsui as if he were the most exciting player in the world. I'll grit my teeth every time Mota robotically describes a game. And I'll follow every pitch, every play, every inning, with all of my heart and soul.  

After all, what else am I going to do? Root for the Dodgers?

I don't think so.

 

 

January 28, 2010 4:16 AM

Let's Retire The Retirement Talk

017fe4d59f2041dab3f53a39a8a2451b.jpgOkay, so Kurt Warner packed it in. I'm surprised he made the decision so quickly after the emotionally and physically taxing loss to the New Orleans Saints. What was the hurry? Oh, right. Us.

As we wait on word from Brett Favre, as the media and fans and bloggers all weigh in with their opinion of will he, won't he, why he should or shouldn't retire, let me just add my two cents... 

It's nobody's business but his own.

No one tells the rest of us when to stop doing what we love. If you had been preparing your entire life for something, had somehow managed to reach the pinnacle of your profession, and knew that whenever you stopped, you'd never get to do it again, ever, how long would you hold on?

How about as long as humanly possible. 

I know I would. Players don't worry about their legacy until they're done playing. It's the rest of us that beat the subject to death and try and decide for them what they should do.

Phil Simms said recently on INSIDE THE NFL that he wants Brett Favre to retire because nothing Favre can do from now on will change his - Simms' - opinion of Favre.

Right, like that's why Favre continues to play - because he's trying to convince Phil Simms of something.

If Favre cared a hoot what any of us think he wouldn't have gone through the yes, no, maybe, okay, routine of the last two years. As frustrating as that was for all of us - and for him as well I imagine - it took a lot of courage to continually change his mind.

He knew he was going to take abuse, ridicule, even taunts, for being so indecisive with HIS career. How dare he change his mind. 

Warren Sapp (and in this case a very appropriate last name) said on the same show that whatever Favre does decide to do, he needs to stop with this 'back and forth' nonsense, and make a quick decision for his team, for the fans, for his family. For HIS family. I'm glad Sapp knows so well what Favre's family wants him to do. 

This stuff kills me. If I ever try and tell you what to do in the interest of YOUR family, please stop me. 

With the exception of a rare few, all great athletes stay on too long. Or even 'worse,' come back after they're done - such as the greatest basketball player of them all, Michael Jordan. You think he cared about his legacy? His legacy was secure for whenever he stopped playing. All he wanted to do was to continue playing.

I wonder how long Shaquille O'Neal will hold on. In a few years it'll be Kobe Bryant's turn to take the heat for tarnishing HIS legacy. What about Dan Marino? He could barely move at the end. Do we think any less of his career?

My point here is let's enjoy them while they're great. Let's root for them while they fade. And let's tolerate them while they deal with the devastating truth that they are no longer what they used to be. They've earned that from us, at least. 

I can only imagine the sense of loss for an elite athlete when the spotlight turns off, the fame fades, the adulation stops. And most of these guys have barely cracked forty, if that.  

There's an expression that says life is for the living. I'd say it applies to athletes as well, i.e. 'sports is for those still playing.' Once they retire, they fade from memory - fast. And if you don't believe that, see how many ex athletes are still doing national commercials.

Yes, we love to watch them. Yes, we live vicariously through them. But that's as far as it goes. We don't get to decide their future for them. And we do not know what it feels like to be them. Never will.

They don't play for us. And they're not going to retire for us. 

So let's all stop asking them to. 



October 13, 2009 5:33 AM

Reggie Willits: "The Happiest Man On Earth."

Wow, that was close.

I don't know what keeps you up at night, but I know what would have kept up Reggie Willits.

What is it that goats eat again?

It was a wonderful, strange, incredible game. Plenty of articles are being written on the amazing comeback.

And it was amazing. The best game in Angels history since game 6 of the 2002 World Series.

But it didn't feel like it was going to be that way. The Angels seemed out of sorts, timid, unfocused.

Four times they took a called third strike right down the middle of the plate. What were they waiting for?

Now we know. The eighth and ninth inning.

But Reggie Willits? Oh, Reggie.

Mike Scioscia chose to keep you on the playoff roster, even though you can't hit, because you can bunt and pinch run.

Well, at least we know you can bunt.

You get the call to go in, the potential tying run in a key moment of a key game, and what do you do? You stretch your lead, a little bit more, a little bit more...

And almost get picked off. No worries, though, because you know as well as anyone - better - the number one rule of any pinch runner: don't get picked off!

Okay, so you had your close call. You had measured your lead. You had it in control.

And then you do get picked off.

Unbelievable. A single responsibility, and you blow it. It felt like the game was over right there - especially when Boston scored their insurance run.

But your teammates had another thing in mind. Like a miracle.

I bring this up in the midst of Angels euphoria only because I'm happy for Reggie Willits.

I'm happy that his huge goof of a play can be forgotten, erased by a comeback that still feels unreal, even after it actually happened.

And I'm happy because, since Reggie plays next to Disneyland, "The Happiest Place On Earth," he gets to be happy, too. 

October 7, 2009 7:49 PM

This Just In: Angels beat Boston, Twins beat Yanks.

That's right. A prediction. Angels and Twins in the second round. It all came clear to me watching the Twins run into each other's arms after the Detroit win.

Why will the Angels beat Boston? Well, I have certainly expressed in earlier articles why they wouldn't, and why they haven't. But now I am saying they WILL. For one simple reason.

I feel it.

Isn't that what predictions are based on, anyway? Stats mean nothing in the playoffs.  It's all momentum and gut feeling and confidence and curses, or the end of them.

And this curse is over.

The Angels are better than last year. Call it the three P's. More power, more punch, more patience. Boston is not better. They know they're not better. They just believe they will beat the Angels.

Well, this year, I think the Angels believe they can beat Boston as well.

And why Minnesota? How can they beat the mighty New York Yankees?

Momentum.

It's huge in sports. The Yankees clinched a while ago. The Twins are still running downhill from their amazing victory over Detroit. They won't come off that high until they've finished off the Bronx bombers. I saw with the Halos in 2002. And I think it will happen again.

The Twins are well coached, have a huge homefield advantage when they play in Minnesota, the emotion of it being the last season in their park, and right now feel like they can beat anybody.

So they will.

Angels versus Twins. Get ready. It's coming. 

October 3, 2009 12:51 AM

Are The LA Angels Tough Enough To Beat Beantown?

They haven't been for the last four playoff series. They weren't in the last series of the regular season. What will make this year different?

Maybe nothing. It's not a question of talent. The Angels have as much physical talent as Boston, maybe more. It's a question of the one thing that separates the great athletes from the average ones, the losers from the winners.

Pressure.

Who can handle it and who can't.

And that's what's going to decide whether west coast cool can beat east coast heavy in 2009.

The Angels young players have to be able to handle the pressure of the playoffs. And the biggest question marks are: Kendry Morales, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Jason Bulger, and Kevin Jepsen.

They are the keys to winning the series.

For Morales, Aybar, and Kendrick, they have to resist the urge to press, to swing at Vladdy-type pitches, to let the buzz get them so juiced (not the steroid kind) they get out of their game. If they can stay calm, continue to be selective, find a way to block out the noise and the high stakes of the game, the Angels can and will beat Boston.

Because the Angels are going to have to score runs.

None of this 3-1, 2-0, type games. Those tough grizzly Boston players like Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz are going to find a way to get runs across. The Angels have to be able to slug with them.  At least a little.

They have the potential. They did, after all, break the club record this year for runs scored in a season.

Then there's the back end of the bullpen. Bulger and Jepsen. Talk about life lessons. They're going to get plenty of them from the Fenway faithful. They're going to be squeezing the ball so tightly, you might just hear a "moo" from the cowhide. But they're going to have to man up to the madness of Fenway. Of course, Fuentes has to do what K-Rod never could - shut Boston down and Red Sox nation up - or it won't matter.

Let's take a look at the Angels line-up and analyze.

Chone Figgins. He seems like he's finally got it. He's been through enough of these now, and tanked enough of them, that he will probably be able to handle the heat and continue to get on base. Not worried about Figgy.

Maicer Izturis. His quiet demeanor is just what the Angels need. He has been in a bit of a slump of late, but he inspires confidence. Should be okay.

Howie Kendrick. My guess is he'll get priority over Izzy if he's hitting. And whether he hits or not will be a KEY to the series. We all know how he stranded half of Orange County in last year's series. But after his demotion this year, I think Kendrick is ready for the pressure. As with so many of the young players on the Angels, we'll know right away by his pitch selection whether he can handle it or not. If he starts doing his Vladdy imitation, you can start making vacation plans for the second round.

Bobby Abreu. Ah, the calm in the storm. Even if he doesn't hit, he'll get on base. He relaxes you just by looking at him. A huge difference maker from years past, in that he can keep the kids from getting too jumpy. As long as he stays healthy, he helps.

Tori Hunter. A big game player all the way. He showed it last year, by getting some of the few clutch hits on the team. He'll show up again against Boston. He's got the mental toughness the rest of the team needs to feed off of. It's a perfect combo, the calm of Abreu, the toughness of Hunter. The leaders of the team.

Vladdy. Your head starts to shake as soon as you say his name. Oh, Vladdy, Vladdy. We love him, but he's an ulcer waiting to happen, especially in the playoffs. I've given up hoping he'll shorten up his swing, become more selective. It's never going to happen. Hopefully, and I've mentioned this before, his wild swings don't rub off on the young players as they try to deal with the pressure of the games. With Vladdy, it's impossible to know whether he'll strikeout with the game on the line or hit the game winning homer. Love him, though. Just don't want to see him up there with the series on the line. Not anymore.

Juan Rivera. The forgotten one. The quiet killer. He could be the one to win the series. He's not spectacular, just solid day in and day out. That's all that's needed from him in the series.

Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis. Suddenly, instead of two good choices, it's the lesser of two evils. One can't hit, one can't field. And the one that fields is still making errors. And the one that hits isn't hitting. The key here is, if the rest of the line-up is performing, the Angels can afford for one spot in the lime-up to be a dead zone. This would be it.

Erick Aybar. I was on the fence about Aybar when he came up, mainly because of his inconsistent play in the field, but he has won me over. He is one of the keys to the series. He's still young, but the experience of last year should help. If he can keep his cool at the plate and in the field - especially in the field - the Angels will win.

In terms of pitching, we know what we're going to get. The starters will do their job. Ervin Santana is where he belongs. Fuentes is a coin toss, but one that still lands in the Angels' favor. It comes down to Bulger and Jepsen. Especially Jepsen. This is Jepsen's series to win or lose. He's going to be key, just as Scott Shields was when he still knew how to win games.

So there it is. Here come the playoffs, ready or not.

Is this the year the new mini curse is broken? Can the Angels finally get past Boston and put the memory of Donnie Moore to rest? Can they avoid seeing David Ortiz jog around the bases with Red Sox Nation going nuts?

In just a few days, we get to find out. I can't wait.

 

September 27, 2009 8:45 AM

The Five Biggest Problems for the LA Angels Right Now.

For Angel fans, right now, at this moment, the World Series is looking far away.

They're not winning.

Their bullpen is unreliable.

Their hitters are swinging like Vladdy.

The Red Sox are waiting.

The opening round is best of five.

Let's take a look at them one at a time:

1. They're not winning. This would be a bigger problem if the Texas Rangers hadn't tanked the last few weeks. Yes, the lead is down to five, and Texas is coming to town. But barring a major collapse, the Angels will get in. And the Angels already had their major collapse in 1995. Lightening won't strike twice. Even for the Halos.

2. The bullpen. This is a problem, and one we could see coming. The game tonight against Oakland was indicative of what's ahead in the playoffs. Pressure. And the inability to handle it.

Jason Bulger caved, Kevin Jepsen deteriorated, Matt Palmer... heck, what was Palmer doing pitching the 8th? Wasn't that the moment to bring in Brian Fuentes for a rare two inning stint? Scioscia did it with K-Rod when he really wanted a win. Of course, he had total confidence in K-Rod. I guess we saw tonight how much confidence he has in Fuentes - he brought in Palmer.

Blame Tony Reagins as well for this one. He shouldn't have sat on his hands during trading time. Scott Kazmir? Great. He better pitch a complete game every time.

3. The Vladdy factor. Oh, man, I saw this one coming, too. Suddenly the Angel hitters are striking out like flay swatters. Kendry Morales has lost his patience at the plate. So has Erick Aybar. Even Chone Figgins is swinging at more pitches in the dirt. They are, as Scioscia put it, swinging at pitches that only Vladimir Guerrero can hit. Trouble is, even Vladdy isn't hitting them now.

And since when did Tori Hunter become such a swing and miss guy? Is he feeling the pressure to do it all? Squeezing the bat too tightly? Maybe. And we won't even mention Mike Napoli. In fact, has anyone even seen Mike Napoli?

4. The Boston Red Sox. We've beat this one to death. We know they're coming in round one. And of course, that leads us to the biggest problem.

5. Best of Five. Could someone please explain to me why round one of the playoffs has not been expanded to best of seven?

It pushes the season too late into the year? Nah. It adds a couple of days. They added an entire round of playoffs. already They weren't worried about the push then.

The first round used to be best of three. Then major league baseball came to their senses and realized, hey, after six months, after 162 games, maybe getting swept out in two games is too fast. It's not fair. Well, getting knocked out in three isn't much better.

Make it best of seven like the other rounds. Basketball does it. Hockey does it.

And the Angels need it. Because it might take two games to get over the shock of playing Boston. Especially with this young team.

The Angels for years now have been a great regular season team that struggles in the playoffs. It's smelling that way again. They peaked early, and now they look like a team playing uphill. They need to get their focus back, their patience at the plate back, and soon.

Mistakes are going to happen. Nerves are going to be rattled. But after a few games, they'll settle in.

But the fact that they don't have seven games to do it in is ridiculous. It's shameful.

And it needs to change.

 

 

 

September 17, 2009 6:34 AM

The Angels Are Mickey Mouse.

Let's face it, the Angels are just not taken seriously. They're Disneyland, beach balls, happy fans.

They're not charging the mound. Screaming at umps. Kicking dirt on a base.

They're West coast cool. Snappy red uniforms. Big smiles. The best place to play.

And they're getting scr***d.

Over and over again.

Anyone remember the 2005 playoff series against Chicago? So many calls went against the Angels it felt fixed.

Happened again tonight against Boston. There were at least four calls that went against the Angels that would not have happened if the shoe was on the other foot, i.e. Boston.

Boston is mean. Tough as leather. Big green monster. Mouthy fans.

And umps gets intimidated, swayed by the atmosphere, weak willed.

Especially the mediocre ones.

I'm not saying that's the only reason the Angels lost.

The Angels lost as well because they have a serious, possibly incurable problem with Boston.

Boston is full of savvy veterans who know how to close. The Angels are filled with talented young guys who do not.

Young guys like Kendrick and Aybar and Morales in the infield, Jepsen and Bulger on the mound. Can they handle the pressure?

Not yet.

This is a collision course we didn't want to be on.  But here we on. It's gonna be Boston in the first round. We know that. It was almost predetermined before the season. So what are the Angels going to do about it?

They're going to have to do what the 2002 team did and beat the stuffing out of teams. They can't leave 14 men on base. They can't throw away pickoff throws. They can't blow double play grounders one after another.

And they can't rely on the umps.

Because if it's a close call, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

And the Angels are about as squeaky as a mouse.

 

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