Friday, July 28, 2006

Howie Kendrick

I mean, GOOD GOD, MAN!! So that dude can hit a little bit from what I hear.

Nice effort all around tonight, except for maybe the bullpen, though it really didn't matter. This is a series that could have easily gone south quick. None of the pitching matchups really favor anyone, and considering the Sox' stronger offense, the Angels were more likely to get swept than the other way around, and they haven't exactly been swinging a weighted bat against KC and Tampa. With that in mind, it was nice to see them go out and grab the first one of this set. It's a little early for the classic late summer East Coast swoon, but the Angels typically don't fare well in that part of the country during this part of the year, so even coming out of Boston with 1 out of 3 would be acceptable. Let's just cross our fingers and hope Kelvim isn't as sore tomorrow as he was after his last start.

Lots or rumors floating around, the latest being that the Angels have offered Ervin and Aybar for Tejada. I don't like it, and I'll like it even less if they sweeten it by exchanging Aybar for Wood or Kendrick, who is already one of the top 3 or 4 hitting second basemen in the majors. Quite frankly, as I've said elsewhere,
All this does is take the Angels from a team that MAY win the West and WON'T win the WS to a team that WILL win the West and WON'T win the WS. Paying the price for a team good enough to win the WS this year will take more than Tejada, and for it will cost the Angels in cheap talent over the next five or six, it isn't worth it.

Carlos Lee comes to the AL West - Who cares?

First reaction? Big deal. He really doesn't make the Rangers much better, if at all, and the negligible difference between Lee and a Mensch/Cordero combination is even lessened by the fact that there's only about 60 games left. The best possible result for the Rangers would be to force the Angels to do something stupid and give up the farm for Soriano/Tejada/etc.

Stand firm, Bill Stoneman. Don't make a trade just to make a trade. Don't deal any of the top prospects for a rental. If you get an offer you simply can't refuse, I'll understand, but in the absence of something overwhelming, I want to see Wood, Kendrick, Weaver, Aybar, and Adenhart at Spring Training next year.

Let's face it, despite this move, and any moves the A's may make, the Angels still may be good enough to win the division, as none of their opponents are very good. And nothing they do is going to make them good enough to win the WS this year, so any big deal is done essentially to win the West and taste post-season defeat again. Don't be fooled, Bill. The future is very bright. Don't dim those lights.

Floyd Landis

Something is not kosher in this whole situation. For those of you who haven't been following it, and are getting you information here, first, what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously. But anyway, Landis was among the top riders in the tour, then in stage 16, he bonked and lost about 8 minutes. In stage 17, in one of the most amazing rides in the history of the Tour, he rode away from the field on the first climb, gained about seven and a half minutes back. He then took the lead for good in the penultimate stage, a time trial. Fast forward to yesterday, when it was anounced that his urine sample tested positive for a higher than acceptable ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. In other words, he failed his drug test, or at least, that's what you'll hear in news reports.

My problem with all of this coverage is that there are still serious questions which no one appears to be asking. They are as follows:
  1. Did he fail the ratio test because of high testosterone (T), or low epi-testosterone (epi-T)? According to ESPN's cycling analyst, it's the latter. This creates further questions.
  2. If we know that it was lower than normal epi-T that caused the problem, well, is that really a problem? Does having low epi-T aid an athlete's performance? I'm completely talking out of my ass here, but bear with me. The fact that a test exists which can measure T levels, combined with the fact that the test in question is a ratio test leads me to the conclusion that we all have different levels of naturally occuring T, to the extent that we can't just say "Rider X has a T level of Y, and that's higher than acceptable, so he's out." But, the ratio of T to epi-T must be fairly consistent for all us, or else using that particular test would be of no real value. If Rider X's testosterone is naturally high, then the fact that it's higher than some arbitrary level really tells us nothing without a comparison of what is normal for Rider X. So we use the ratio test to see if his level, in comparison to his epi-T level.
  3. So now that we know his ratio is out of whack, and we know that it's because the epi-T levels were lower than normal, we need to know a) if that's an advantage, and b) was it a natural or otherwise acceptable occurrence (perhaps owing to his use of cortisone, or his thyroid medication, both allowed by the Tour). If it's not an advantage, and if he T level is normal, and if the drop in his epi-T level is caused by either a natural or otherwise acceptable occurrence, than what's the problem? It sounds like there's no reason to disqualify him if that's the case.
  4. According to the LA Times, there is, believe it or not, another test which can tell us if his testosterone was completely produced naturally. My question is, why the hell don't they do that test first?
The B-Sample thing, that's a red herring. It's going to come back with the same result, and they're going to use that result to hang him. But the coverage of this episode has been awful. He hasn't tested positive for a banned substance. He hasn't even tested positive for having to much of a natural substance. He has tested positive for having a ratio of natural substances which are out of whack. That raises suspicion, no doubt, and requires further investigation. But no one seems to want to mention that. I guess we'll wait and see how it all plays out, but when the B-sample result comes back, be ready for the guillotine blades to be sharpened and raise, despite the fact that nothing of substance will have been proved.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

First Place

Sure, I'm a little late, and hey, it's only been a week since I've updated this thing, but trust me, I've been busy. Between multiple projects at work that are forcing me to actually do work (the nerve...), and spending pretty much my entire weekend playing golf, I've been tied up. Speaking of golf, I set a personal record on Sunday at Blackthorn in South Bend with five birdies, and those don't include a a 255 yard three wood I hit to about 10 inches to save par on a hole on which I'd hit my drive out of bounds. Finished with a 75. Two double bogeys are tough to overcome, but I'd gotten back to even through 12, and was one over going to 17 before making really bad bogeys on the last two holes. But they were the 35th and 36th holes of the day, so I was starting to wear down a bit.

But enough about me. The resurgent Angels have worked their way back into a tie at the top of the AL West, tied with Oakland, 1.5 games clear of Texas and three up on Seattle. Quite frankly, I never would have believed it possible after the first three months of the season, and I'm still not quite sure how they're doing it. They still aren't playing good defense, their pitching has still been hot and cold, the front end of the bullpen has been atrocious, and their offense has been spotty. But Juan Rivera has been a freaking stud. Orlando Cabrera is still turning in a solid offensive performance, and management has finally seen fit to put Howie Kendrick in the lineup. All he's done since is hit .458 with five doubles and a homer. Robb Quinlan and Maicer Izturis are providing consistent production at the corners, which have covered for Mike Napoli's predicatble but not discouraging regression. Vlad isn't exactly displaying his raw power, but he's hitting .400 in July, and driving in runs.

The question, of course is whether they can keep it up. Quinlan, Izturis, and Kendrick can't be expected to maintain their level of production, and Rivera is bound to cool off. On the mound, they can expect better performances than what they've received from Ervin Santana lately (who really was pretty unlucky on Tuesday aside from the Wigginton home run). Lackey will be Lackey, but Jered Weaver has got to cool off at some point. Kelvim is sore after every start, and an injury to Bart could be a blessing in disguise if it brings Joe Saunders back to the rotation. Remember, he won't be replacing Bart of 2005, he'll be replacing the shell that has worn Bart's XXXXL jersey in 2006, so that's an upgrade, most likely.

When you look at it, there's not a lot to be excited about. But darn it if I don't feel pretty positive about the Angels right now. They're fun to watch again. They're back in the race, and they've got fresh faces in the lineup that make them an interesting three hours of entertainment. Four if Colon, Escobar, or Santana are pitching. The biggest thing they've got going in their favor is that the rest of the division sucks as well. I've said it before, but the reason I can see the Angels winning the West this year isn't because I think they're good, but rather, I don't think any of the other teams are deserving. In the last two years, the A's really scared me. This year, they don't. Same goes for the Rangers and Mariners (of course, those teams are all saying the same things about the Angels, but...).

Regardless, the team is fun to watch again, though maddeningly frustrating when they play like they did on Tuesday, but hey, that's baseball.