Saturday, May 07, 2005

Weaver Talks Back On

According to the report linked above from the Times (trust me, there's a link there), the Angels have re-opened talks with first round pick Jered Weaver. Of course, the headline makes it sound a lot better than the article does. According to the report, Boras says they've made concessions, the Angels say the still hope to get something done, blah, blah, blah. No specifics, just a faint glimmer or hope.

With Weaver, the Angels farm system would probably go from one of the best to THE best. He would join Steven Shell, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, and the Terminator, Chris Bootcheck (who refuses to die and has regained prospect status) to make up one of the best collections of arms in the minors, and that's before factoring in Nick Adenhart, whom I suspect we'll be hearing about more in the future as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Add that to the array of bats on the farm: Alberto Callaspo, Eric Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Reggie Willits, Casey Kotchman, Nick Gorneault, and Jeff Mathis. Then there's Kendry Morales, who may too old by the time he actually finally gets to America. In addition, there's Sean Rodriguez and Warner Madrigal down in Cedar Rapids who are struggling so far, but hey, Brandon Wood struggled there last year, and he's kicking ass now.

The future looks good, even without Weaver. But damn, I'd sure like them to bring him into the fold.

Shout Out

Big thumbs up to Rob McMillin (6-4-2), Mat Gleason (Halos Heaven), and Black Hawk Waterloo (Chonicles) for linking to this page. Since I've finally decided to make a go of this for longer than about three days, it's nice to see some traffic actually making it's way here. Anyway, if you somehow end up here, and you've never been to their sites, well, your probably here by accident. But check them out. You can find links to their pages on the right, and they're all a little better at this than I am, so you won't be wasting your time.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Angels 4; Tigers 3

Darin Erstad taketh away, but hey, Darin Erstad giveth as well. In the first inning, Erstad apparently didn't learn from Figgins' stupidity the other night. With runners on first and second, nobody out, and Vlad at the plate in the bottom of the first, Erstad was thrown out trying to steal third base. Now, we could bicker and argue about the old rule that says you never make the first or third out at third base. But no matter your opinion of that cliche, you DEFINITELY DON'T DO IT WITH VLAD AT THE PLATE!!! Anyway, Vlad flew out, and GA hit the weakest single in the history of baseball that still scored a runner from second thanks to some heads up baserunning by Figgins.

I've been waiting for Vlad to drop a fairly easy pop-up. It took a little longer than expected, but he finally did it in the first inning. Fortunately, there was a runner on first who had to hold on the short fly ball, and the Angels were able to record the out at second. No harm, no foul, no error.

I've run out of old man nicknames for Finley, but that's OK, because he's beginning to play like a younger man again, if only just a little. Before the game started, I was thinking about writing something about how even though he wasn't hitting, he was delivering some big hits (and in all fairness, he is hitting for power). He beat me to the punch by ripping a two run triple to retake the lead in the fourth inning, then an RBI double in the sixth to provide some insurance, which turned out to be pretty darn important. While I still find his range to be incredibly untrustworthy, I'll take what I can get.

In the eighth, Bill Miller decided to change the definition of the word "strike", and the pitching suffered. Escobar threw a terrific game, getting stung only by a solo shot in the top of the second from Marcus Thames (who would go on to strike out looking in his next three at bats). He got touched up a bit in the eighth, and it took Shields a batter or two to figure things out for himself before striking out Thames. Which brings us back to Erstad. With two outs, and the tying and go ahead runs in scoring position, Shields got a grounder from Ramon Martinez. It ticked off his glove, and Adam Kennedy had to make a quick throw to have a chance. The throw pulled Erstad nearly off the bag, but with an incredible stretch, he kept his foot on the base and recorded the out to end the inning and save the lead.

In the ninth, it was Frankie time. He threw a lot of pitches, got a video game type strikeout of Nook Logan (I think Jose had thrown it back the mound before Logan started his swing), walked Brandon Inge, and got a game ending ground out from Pudge on the most anti-climactic at bat of the inning.

So five in a row, and the Angels have a 3.5 game lead in the West. They're starting to assert themselves a bit in the standings, and they might be going on the 8, 9, 10 game run that they're gonna need at some point to create a little distance in the standings. Tomorrow it will be the Fat Man vs. young boy in a matchup of Colon and Bonderman. Both have been pretty good for the most part this season despite some road bumps. It's another game in which a Guzzler faces the Angels. The Angels are 1-0 in those matchups. After a five game win streak, and a heck of a good fantasy week to this point, I'll be pulling for the Angels to extend the streak, but hopefully Bonderman escapes with a quality start and a no-decision.

Rat Bastards

Some asshole decided not to put tonight's game on Extra Innings. Therefore, I'm stuck watching it on the computer. I'm not happy about it. I was going to be stuck listening to it, but I couldn't take it, and bought the package again. I am a weak, weak man.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


We are now about 5 days away from the release of 'Gimme Fiction', the fifth full length album from Spoon, aka America's Finest Rock Band. If you're not familiar with Spoon, they're a band out of Austin, Texas, which has a pretty thriving local music scene and hosts the annual South by Southwest Festival, and the Austin City Limits festival . They cut their teeth on Pixies style minimalist rock, with loud, crunchy guitars, short songs (many under three minutes), and an aggressive vocal style. Their first album, Telephono, is pretty tough to find, or tough to find cheap. Last I checked, it was going for over 50 bones on ebay.

They were signed to Elektra when they released their second album, A Series of Sneaks. They were dropped by their A&R man, Ron Laffite, just four months after its release, which inspired Britt Daniel to pen two tracks that appear as bonus material at the end of ASoS, "Laffite Don't Fail Me Now", and "the Agony of Laffite". ASoS is similar in style to Telephono, and it contains one of the coolest short rock songs I've ever heard, "Car Radio".

Their style changed with the release of album number three, Girls Can Tell. Less aggressive, smoother, a bit more slickly produced, it was a step in a new direction. More thought out, less spontaneous. Fewer obvious Pixies influences, a bit closer to something you'd expect from R.E.M., but the good R.E.M., before they got crappy.

On their fourth, the incredible Kill the Moonlight, Daniel discovered the piano, used to remarkable effect on "The Way We Get By", one of a number of standout tracks, including Small Stakes, Jonathon Fisk, Back to the Life, Someone Something, and Don't Let it Get You Down. The slick grooves of Girls Can Tell continued to evolve, but they brought back some of the spontaneity of the first two albums. You can find reviews of the most recent three albums, as well as the Love Ways EP from Pitchfork (once again, I've gone above and beyond and done the search for you).

They bring even more energy to the stage than they jam into their studio tracks. You don't realize how hard hitting a short rock song can be until you're pummeled with 12 of them in a half hour. The minimalist style transfers flawlessly to their live performances (at least the one I saw), and Daniel certainly has a charisma that is fairly engaging. Of course, that's pretty much from a two year old memory of their show at the Abbey in May of 2003. They'll be at the Vic in mid-June, and I'll probably post a review at that time. They had this nasty habit of hitting Chicago right about the time I was leaving town last year. They played the day I left for Alaska in June, and the day I left for home in December. This year, I'm planning vacation around their show.

The first six or seven tracks from Gimme Fiction are available for streaming here, and they're worth a listen. Daniel gets into a Tim Burgess circa Wonderland style falsetto on "I Turn My Camera On", and the piano is back "My Mathematical Mind". There also seems to be some dubbing/backing vocals on a couple of tracks, which is the first I've heard of that since Telephono. It's a welcome change and adds some depth.

I don't know that this will make them a commercial success, but FWIW, they're playing the Vic this time around, which probably holds three times as many people as the Abbey, so maybe that's a sign that they're building a fan base. Good and bad, I guess, as I love the Abbey, but I'm lukewarm on the Vic. It's certainly my most anticipated show of the year.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Angels 5; Mariners 2

The crazy 5:30 pm CDT start forced me to miss the first three innings. It was already 2-0 before I left the office, and it was 4-2 before I got off the red line. Some of us have to work, ya know. Actually, the more I think about it, one of the benefits to staying in the Mid-west is that I can pretty much see all of just about every game. The East Coast games start at 6:00, and if I can get out of the office by 5:30, I'm home in time to see the whole thing. That would all change if I moved back home.

Anyway, since I missed most of the scoring, I really don't have a lot to comment on. Vlad was the victim of a simply atrocious call at the plate. Good throw from Ichiro, but Vlad was clearly in before the tag. Once again, the old "tag? what tag? If the throw beats him, he's out" laziness of the umpires strikes again. The only really other notable thing was Chone Figgins being a MAJOR dumbass getting picked off second with nobody out and Vlad at the plate. That cost the Angels a run as Vlad walked, and GA drove one off the right field wall that took a bad carom right to Ichiro.

Solid outing from Paul Byrd, which is another in a string by Angels pitchers. One of the reasons has been how they've handled Beltre and Sexon. They've completely shut those two down. Of course, as I type that, Sexon drills a single to left center. Nice play Geri in center field to hold him to a single.

One crazy thing about this series has been the following stat (brief pause while I look it up): 12 walks for (make that 13 now; oops, 14), 5 walks against. They had none yesterday, but I didn't think I'd see any games this season in which the Angels drew five unintentional walks. They've done it twice in the last three games. Right now, only the White Sox have a better ERA, and the starter ERA is also second. Only the otherwordly 2.82 starter ERA of the Sox is better than the Angels 4.02, which will go down to 3.97 after today's strong effort from Byrd, 3.71 if you take out Kevin Gregg. In 2002 they had better pitching than expected. Of course, they had better everything than expected, but I still think this is a good start.

One thing about D-Mac that's worrying me (and I didn't see him play in the minors, so I could be worried for no reason), he doesn't seem to pull the ball all that much. Don't get me wrong, I like to see him go the other way, but not ALL the time. I think he's still trying to find his swing. That's OK. I'm patient.

Frankie comes on with a three run lead. 17 strike outs, no walks to this point. That's a pretty decent ratio. Jeremy Reed with an awful bunt for out number one. Tough guy to bunt on. Does one - well not even city, but state - does any geographical region have two relief pitchers who are as fun to watch as LA.? Frankie and Gagne (when healthy) are two one inning guys who are worth the price of admission. 18 strike outs, no walks. That's just filthy, filthy, dirty stuff. Dave Hansen to the plate for his first at bat of the season. Is that even fair? Make a guy take his first AB against K-Rod? Add to that, he's got an ump with a flight to catch who just called a strike on a pitch about 8 inches off the ground. And just like that, Hansen grounds out, the Angels sweep, and have won 4 straight.

Time for a day of rest, a good night for me to head to the driving range (it's supposed to be 70 degrees tomorrow), and a day to gear up for the Tigers, who are no longer gimmes.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Angels 5; Mariners 2

IT'S A MIRACLE!! The Angels have won three in a row!!

The Angels knocked it around in the first inning, got a little help from Olivo and his poor defense behind the plate, and parlayed that into a 3-0 lead which they wouldn't relinquish. The old man of the outfield went deep again, 2nd time in two games and 6th this season, to add a couple of runs to the cushion and Frankie put his jacket back on. Decent work by Shields, giving up only a meaningless run in the bottom of the ninth (and congrats to Shin S00 Choo in his first MLB hit and RBI).

Tex Lackey pitched a pretty solid game, which is (hopefully) becoming a trend for the starters. That's four not-awful starts in a row, and three downright good ones. He almost had his Lackey inning in the fifth (see post below), which was partly Jose's fault. The first runner reached on a strike out/wild pitch. But he got Beltre to look downright McPhersonesque on two straight sliders/curves to end the inning.

Speaking of Dallas, another rough night. 0-4, with two strike outs. Experience, brotha, experience. Just keeping seeing pitches, gaining experience, and getting comfortable at third. Your time will come.

Good night for the Guzzlers, so far. A 1-2-3 ninth with two K's for Mr. Zero netted me some nice points, and if the Dodgers can hang on, it will make a decent/not great start from Jeff Weaver look a hell of a lot better. Burrell went deep in his return to my lineup, and Carlos Lee had a productive night. Blalock is not sucking as much as he did last week, and Jose Uribe is back in the lineup, which is a relief. Of course, he comes back and Chase Utley gets the bench. Whaddya gonna do?

Bad feeling

3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth with two out. I don't have a good feeling about this game. I think Reed is about to rip a two run double which will mean the beginning of the end. I hope I'm wrong, but, well, I just hope I'm wrong.

OK, so he walked instead of doubling. Great. That brings Beltre to the plate with the bases juiced. Wonderful. This may serve as my recap for the night if and when the Angels blow this.

Strikeout. Sorry, that was just some of my patented reverse psyochology. Nice of Beltre to look foolish on the same pitch twice in a row.

It's French, bitch!

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Ted Hitler, aka Stephen Colbert will be getting his own show. I think this is good news. Sometimes overexposure can hurt your favorite TV characters. As much as we used to long for Simpsons spin-offs (Police Cops with Wiggum, I'm No Longer Illiterate starring Mayor Quimby), sometimes those characters can't carry a whole show. I think if Comedy Central does this right, they can pull it off. Colbert is just that funny. I, for one, will be eagerly anticipating this.

So you should watch it, if you have the balls! Do ya? Do ya have the balls?!

Monday, May 02, 2005

First softball game of the season

Last night was our first tilt in Darien since last summer, and for me it was the first time I'd been on the field since October. Things didn't go too bad, although we lost pretty handily. The wind was blowing out, and each team reached their complement of four homers per. I was one for two (I'm calling that a hit), with a walk and run scored.

Not much going on in the field. I think we only recorded two or three outs in the outfield all night. In left, I basically only a had a few chances on base hits, but they're an agressive running team, so I feel good that no one took an extra base on me. They wore me out in the fourth inning (damn, I'm outta shape), with a homer wayyyy over my head, and few line drive singles, and fly out before I was really ready for the pitch. Pretty routine play, but it's tough there under the lights, so I don't take anything for granted. I need to catch with two hands, though. I don't worry about a lot of fundamentals, but that's one thing that I've always prided myself on. This time I'll blame it on being slightly out of position after coming on to the field after the previous homer.

If we can shore of the left side of the infield, I think we'll be OK. Must have warmed up just right because my arm was sore today. Felt great to be out chucking the ball around again. Looking forward to next week.

Angels 5; Mariners 0

Another interesting start from Washburn, another first inning where the Angels cut a run off at the plate, and another sparkling performance turned in over the rest of the evening. Wash seems to be getting a ton of ground balls this season, which is a great development. If he can keep the ball in the ballpark, he's going to be a MUCH more effective pitcher. Now the Angels will look to do something tomorrow night that they have been unable to do all season: Win three games in a row.

From the believe it or not file, Steve Finley had two hits, both for extra bases (a homer and a double). The home run came on a pretty good pitch, a curveball that Finley took from about a foot off the ground. G.A. absolutely crushed the ball that he hit out, and he hit another one pretty hard, too.

Alright, let's get to the catch. I've already heard it from my dad on this one, but I'm sorry. Great athletic feat? Sure. Great catch? Not hardly. I was instantly reminded of the lay-up that Jordan scored against the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals. You know the one. The one where he went up with the right hand, completely unguarded, clear path to the basket, but for some inexplicable reason, he switched to his left hand and layed in a basket that he could have dunked. It's like running 180 feet through traffic crossing three streets at intersection to get to the corner that's 60 feet away when you had a little green man calling you across. Pretty dangerous and impressive? Sure. Pretty stupid? Definitely.

The fact is Ichiro completely misread the ball. He could have caught it at the wall without so much as jumping. But instead he ran back, climbed the wall, spun around, and practically had to jump down before he could catch it. Impressive athletic feat? Sure. Almost botched slightly touhger than routine catch? Definitely. You'll see it all year on the hilight reels, and every time I see it I'll cringe and think how unworthy it was. But enough of that.

Kennedy looked, well, not sharp to start off with. Booted a fairly routine grounder. Made a real dumb-ass play by throwing to second and almost hitting Cabrera in the feet on a play where he had no chance to get Ichiro, and allowed him to get to third. He did make a nice play later in the game to save a run and end the inning. Looked a little overmatched at the plate, but that's to be expected.

D-Mac looked pretty awful at the plate tonight, but he continues to impress in the field. I guess when you look at it, he's not doing much more than making routine plays, but word out of Arkansas and Salt Lake was that he always looked uncomfortable at third. Maybe he was just uncomfortable in Arkansas and Salt Lake. I've never been to Arkansas, but I always feel uncomfortable when I'm in Salt Lake, so I can't blame him.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Angels - 2; Twins - 1

I hate games like this. I hate when one of my fantasy pitchers goes against the Angels, which will happen again next week when they face Jeremey Bonderman. But this was a big win for the Angels, coming on the heels of losing two games that they should have won. And just to show how proficient I am at predicting these things, I would have lost money on all three games if I were a betting man. And quite frankly, this is the type of game they usually lose. They're an offense that kills bad pitching, but is usually hopeless against good pitching. They didn't bust out the big lumber, but they did enough to make a great outing from the fat man hold up.

Bartolo was getting some love from the plate umpire, and just kept nailing the corners. When the Twins did put it in play, they were banging it into the carpet for ground out after ground out. The Angels, as expected, didn't do much against Johan Santana, but they did get solo shots from Vlad and Jose Molina, with Vlad's just barely staying fair (off the foul pole/net). Shields had some issues in the 8th, as he left the bases juiced for Frankie, but K-Rod induced the double play ball off the bat of Matthew LeCroy. And a special shout-out to Erstad's glove. He scooped a number of balls today, none bigger than on that double play.

McPherson looked overmatched in one at bat, but hit a nice liner to left field in another that was right at Jacques Jones. He made a terrific defensive play in the bottom of the ninth which kept the tying run off base. It required a strong throw, and it's one that Troy Glaus would have put 15 rows into the seats.

The Angels go to Seattle to start a three game set tomorrow. The division is still very tightly packed, so it would be nice to take at least two of three. They're gonna need to reel off seven or eight straight at some point, but until then if they can keep pace, and pick up an extra game here and there, they should be fine.