Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Have a great one, folks.  Sorry about the light posting, even by my standards, but one of my resolutions is to pick this back up again.  With two college basketball teams worth watching (and how is Illinois not in the top 25?), and a hockey team that's finally interesting again, I should have a lot to write about.  

See you in 2009.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stuff like this makes me almost want to like the Blackhawks

Blackhawks 2009 All-Star Game campaign commercials.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Angels Make Big Offer to Big Teix

8/160.  Not quite the 7/160 that was rumored yesterday, but still pretty damn big.  Honestly, I hope this gets it done.  He's 28, and he's very good.  I think this is a fair deal, and most importantly, it's not my money.  

I just hope that if he signs, they commit to Kendry Morales in the outfield.  I think he'll be a nice replacement in left, and that lets them shore up the defense with Matthews in right, assuming they can't cut him loose.  And I agree with Rob's commenters.  He's nuts if he thinks this is a bad deal.

Bruin Hoops - Starting to come together

It's becoming increasingly clear that Ben Howland is going to rotate about eight or nine guys once conference season rolls around.  He's got his starting five, then Roll, Dragovic, a freshman guard, and a freshman front court player.  The minutes are there for someone to step up, but Lee, Anderson, Gordon, and Morgan will have to earn them, and the team will be better because of it.

Today's game was a nice tune up for next month.  DePaul is not very good.  Their coach sucks.  Their best scorer has a serious attitude problem.  They are simply not major players for the best recruits in Chicago (who are now heading south to Champaign, as nature intended).  And it's kind of too bad, because I live about 200 feet from their campus (though 25 minutes or so from All-State Arena).  But there is no buzz whatsoever in this town about DePaul basketball.

One thing I've finally realized about Ben Howland basketball is that UCLA is almost always going to look bad against a zone defense for the first 10 minutes of the game.  That used to frustrate me, but I've finally come to the realization that it's really a feeling out period for the Bruin offense, and they're taking the first ten minutes to figure out what they're going to do over the last 30 minutes.  Roughly ten minutes into this game, the Bruins led by five points.  With roughly 11 or 12 minutes to go, they were up by 20.  The Bruins are patient on the offensive end, and as a fan, you need to patient watching them.

One player who had a nice game for the Bruins on the offensive end was Nikola Dragovic.  He was 5-7 for the game, but 5-5 inside the arc.  He seems to be adding another dimension to his offensive game, no longer content to just wait on the perimeter for jump shots.  That's a big addition for a team that needs interior scoring.  He still needs to step it up on the defensive end, though.  I also noticed a concerted effort by Darren Collison to take more jump shots.  On the negative side, Josh Shipp missed all of his three point attempts.

Tonight's game was not a test for the Bruins.  It was a high profile scrimmage, and I think Ben Howland knew as much.  Things are progressing for this young team, though, and they'll be ready for conference season next month.  Special appreciation goes to Coach Howland for getting Tyler Trapani into the game.  It had to be special for both him, and his great grandfather, to play in the Wooden Classic.  The man is a national treasure, and I'm thankful for the opportunitiy to have seen him speak last summer.

A few more cupcakes await before conference season.  Plenty of time to keep moving forward.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ted Leo @ AV-Aerie - 12/10/08 - Updated with link to photos

This is the third time I've seen Ted Leo live, but the first time I've seen him with no Pharmacists*.  It was kind of an interesting aesthetic, really.  I've seen singer/songwriters before.  I've even seen singer/songwriters who were part of a band play without the band (Grant Lee Phillips doing his Buffalo material, for example).  But I've never seen a singer/songwriter play something pretty close to the same arrangements he plays in the band setting without the band behind him.  

In other words, usually when guys play a solo set like this, they have an acoustic set up.  The acoustic guitar almost allows the artist to add a little of his or her own percussion to a given song.  Ted Leo basically just played lead guitar for the entire night.  Picture him playing a typical TL/Rx show, but without anyone behind him.  It was really cool to see once.  I'm not sure I'd be particularly jazzed about seeing it again (I would go, of course), and it's really made me want to listen to the studio versions of all the stuff he played.  

Speaking of the stuff he played, he sample a little from just about every album, and played a bunch of covers including songs by Lungfish, the Waco Brothers, Blondie, and set ending rendition of Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark'.  From his own songs, he played a bunch of stuff that was unfamiliar, but also played:
  • Timorous Me (which had some improvised handclaps)
  • Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone.
  • The High Party
  • Ballad of the Sin Eater
  • Me and Mia
  • Bleeding Powers
  • Colleen
  • Bottle of Buckie
He played for about an hour and a half, only stopping occasionally to tune and joke around with the crowd.  He was entertaining even when he wasn't playing.  

As for the venue, it was the third floor of a semi-industrial building converted for music in an industrial part of town just northwest of the United Center.  I imagine, per their website, that this was one of the "fund raising arts and cultural events whose revenue will go to local socially and/or environmentally focused initiatives in partnerships chosen on a bi-annual schedule."  It had a really high ceiling, but you wouldn't know, because the whole performance space was covered by a large parachute draped from above to make it feel much more intimate.  The house lights never went down, which almost gave it the feel of a casual evening with a friend, assuming your friends invite Thax Douglas over to read strange poems.  Even beer was cheap.  $2 bucks for a can of High Life, and that was a "suggested donation".   *UPDATE* - Photos of the night at this link.  Pretty good look at the venue.  

So a really cool show, in a very different type of setting than I'm used to.  I look forward to seeing who else they'll book there.  Enjoy some Ted. Two versions of Rude Boys to choose from, and two great live songs back to back.

*There may have been actual pharmacists in the audience.  I didn't poll everyone's occupation.

Rude Boys solo live

Rude Boys studio recording (you'll have to turn it up a bit)

Timorous Me/Walking To Do

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bruins Get Slaughtered

No surprises here.  Although, for a moment there, when the Bruins took a roughing the kicker penalty on fourth and 17, I thought I was watching an Illinois game.  Those types of penalties pretty much killed the Illini season this year.

The UCLA season basically comes down to the offensive line.  I don't care how good your skill players are.  If you can't block anyone, you're not going to be successful.  The Bruins could have had John Elway, Jerry Rice, and Eric Dickerson in their prime, and it wouldn't have made a difference.  They simply could not block anyone all season.  That's an issue that will take maybe another season or two before it's really top notch, though I expect the line to be better next season.  Still, it's disappointing.  UCLA is not going to be competitive week to week until they have a decent offensive line.  We all knew that was an issue going into the season, and we can't be surprised with the way thing turned out.

Speaking of the Illini, they kicked the living crap out of Georgia today at the UC (which I watched at a bar, but didn't see in person for reasons I won't go into here). They finished the game on a 22-0 run.  This U of I basketball team actually may be fun to watch this year. It's looking more and more like Sean Pruitt and Brian Randle were more trouble than they were worth.  Demtri McCamey is playing well most of the time.  Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis are really helping with the scoring inside, as is Dominique Keller.  And Alex Legion is available in a couple weeks.  These guys could actually make the tournament.  It's fun to be an Illini fan again!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hall of Fame

I really don't care all that much about the baseball hall of fame, but if I had a vote, my ballot this year would list:
  • Bert Blyleven
  • Rickey Henderson
  • Alan Trammel
  • Tim Raines
That's it.  I'd give a lot of though to McGwire, Lee Smith, and Andre Dawson.  But those four would probably be it.  

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Did you know I still write about sports?

Me neither. Another bout of laziness. Anyway, I got a not from one of my most loyal readers, Anonymous, about the upcoming slaughter at the Rose Bowl. Specifically, he asks about this item about Pete Carroll deciding to go with U$C's red jerseys this weekend, an NCAA no-no.

I doubt I have to explain it, but the short version is that when both teams played at the Coliseum, UCLA and U$C used to wear their colors (home uniforms), since they were really both at their home stadium. Sometime thereafter, the NCAA passed a rule that says one team must wear white under penalty of one timeout per half.

Over the years, the idea of having both UCLA and U$C wear their home jerseys has been discussed, but nobody ever wanted to go through with it. There was talk of the actual home team burning a timeout per half to even things up, but it never came to pass.

But the era of two teams in home jerseys is back. Carroll will bring the trojans out in their red unis. The NCAA has since caved (a bit), and will now penalize the visiting team only one time out. Rick Neuheisel has announced that he'll use a timeout early in the first half to level the playing field. And

Really, they could probably take away all of U$C's time-outs and give UCLA about 15 per half and it wouldn't make a difference. As long as your offense scores 28 points for the other team, it probably doesn't matter how many time-outs you have, or how many your opponent doesn't have. I know the game from a few years ago should give me hope, but I just can't see the Bruins being competitive on Saturday (and no, the basketball team doesn't play on Saturday). And is this case of Pete Carroll saying "we don't need time-outs to beat UCLA"? Sure it is. But he's kind of a dick, so it's not surprising. That doesn't mean that he isn't right.

Personally, I think it's dumb rule. Who cares if one team is wearing white? Sure, it's a problem if two teams have similar colors, but just make a rule that says a team has to wear an alternate color when they share a primary color with the home team. There's really nothing holding this rule in place aside from the NCAA not wanting to spend time granting schools waivers. A couple years ago, Illinois wore their orange basketball jerseys at the Hall against Wisconsin, and with the small, not so great T.V.s at the Parkway (R.I.P. - man, that was a great bar) it was hard to tell the teams apart. So just don't let them do that when the colors are similar. Problem solved.

I think under different circumstances, it would be fun. Unfortunately, I don't this game will be very fun.

I Cherish With Fondness the Day That I Met Them

The latest band I can't stop listening to is Los Campesinos! I wasn't really excited when I wrote that. The exclamation point is actually part of the name, and the name of each of their members, who are Aleksandra Campesinos!, Ellen Campesinos!, Gareth Campesinos!, and so on.

This is another band from Wales, which produced probably my favorite currently existing band, the Super Furry Animals. They are very poppy, and very energetic, and infectuous. I will be seeing them live in February when they come to the Logan Square Auditorium. Also, new Song of the Day from your truly, which is a good place to start. If you like the music I like, you'll be hooked about 15 seconds into the first song embedded below. Enjoy:

Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats

You, Me, Dancing

My Year in Lists

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Spiritualized

I'm trying to think of the best way to describe J. Spaceman and the various incarnations of Spiritualized since the dissolution of Spacemen 3 about 2o years ago or so, and I think the best description came from either Greg Kot or Jim DeRogatis in the episode of Sound Opinions where they reviewed "Songs in A&E".  Spiritualized basically has three styles:  Straightforward rockers, ethereal/ambient ballads, and, well, spirituals - real gospel type stuff.  

Occasionally they overlap a bit.  You can hear hear tinges of gospel stuff in their rock songs.  Of course, a quicker, pithier explanation is from Pinko Punko, in which he termed Spiritualized 'drug boy singing about drugs'.  I can't honestly dispute that.  The endless allusions to drug use and the effects thereof are unavoidable.  But hey, music's gotta be about something.  So here are the three phases of Spiritualized:




And that, in a nutshell, is Jason Pierce and his professional output. And it's pretty amazing live.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Well, at least it's still early - Updated

He's seen it year after year after year, and Ben Howland still hasn't figured out how to prepare a team for a 1-3-1 zone.  The Bruins dropped an early season game to an inferior opponent primarily because they simply can't beat John Beilein.  On a neutral floor, with even teams, Beilein will win every time.  UCLA only wins when they have far superior players, like last year.
*Update* - When I originally wrote this, I figured Howland teams had played Beilein teams quite often when they were in the Big East, but I was too lazy to look it up.  As it turns out, they've faced off more since Howland left.  While at Pitt, Howland faced Beilein only twice, and won both matchups, albeit with a top 10 team against a coach in his first year at West Virginia.  I don't think it changes the analysis (such as it is) very much.  

Part of it is a testament to Howland's stubbornness, which is a reason he's successful.  It's the second week of the season, and he's got a fairly young team, and there's no reason to spend a week preparing for a defense you won't see the rest of the year.  That's why I'm not overly disappointed.  In fact, it's a sign that he knows what's important is not what you do in November, but what you do in March.  

But what this game did show us is that UCLA is in, well, I won't say a long season.  The Pac 10 sucks this year, so the Bruins should have a very successful regular season.  But the post-season will be short by UCLA standards.  Unless one of their freshmen big men really figure out how to play, or unless James Keefe takes the next step, they will be forced to play on the perimeter all year.  They have absolutely no interior offense.  They have no one they can give the ball to when they absolutely need a basket.  Or more accurately, they have no one on the inside who can keep the defense honest, allowing them to get the ball to Collison for a needed basket.  And with the extension of the three point line, it will be much harder to win on the perimeter this year.  

In a way this might be a good thing.  If they can't beat Michigan, they would have been slaughtered by Duke.  I'm not sure they'll beat SIU quite frankly, and it doesn't help that the guy who sits in the office next to me is an SIU grad.  And we saw why college basketball is occasionally a joke.  A Michigan player throws the ball away about three seconds before running into Aboya, and Al is called for a block.  Josh Shipp barely makes contact with an elbow, which causes his defender to leap backwards about five seconds after it happens, and the official completey across the floor decides to make the call.  College basketball is consistently the worst officiated sport that still maintains a large following.  But that's not why the Bruins lost.  

But it's a long season.  They have a lot of time to grow.  Hopefully this is a learning experience.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Two things that keep me from celebrating

1) A majority of people in my home state decided that simply being bigots wasn't enough.  They decided to write it into the state constitution.  Fuck the initiative process, and fuck the LDS "church".

2) My brother's current home state took the title of 'laughing-stock' away from Florida by electing a convicted felon to the Senate.  

And I'm also pretty disappointed that pieces of shit like Norm Coleman and Gordon Smith won.  

Who's the Happiest Man In America?

My guess?  It's Levi "fuckin' redneck" Johnston, who may now be able to avoid that shotgun wedding.  Good luck, brotha.  

Monday, November 03, 2008

Checking back in

Couple of things I'd figured I'd post.


I know I've been light on the UCLA stuff of late, primarily due to my laziness, and also due to the fact that they just haven't been much fun to watch on the football field this year. But Basketball season starts tonight (unofficially), and after reading the updates from Brian Dohn, and this piece on Ben Howland in the Times, I'm pretty pumped for hoops season. For UCLA the last few years, this has been one of the more fun parts of the season. They've been pulling in such excellent talent that it makes the first five games or so, when we all get introduced to the new recruits, very exciting. And with the nation's top class taking the floor, this year is no exception.


Not sure what the basketball season will hold this year, but early reports are mixed on the optimistic side. Supposedly the atmosphere around the team is much better, with some seniors who maybe weren't the best teammates having moved on. They add a little talent when Alex Legion returns next month. Both Jamar Smith and Brian Carlwell have left, so hopefully the distractions from that incident are gone from the Assembly Hall for good. The real talent influx starts with next year's recruiting class.

Speaking of the Hall, I spent some time in its parking lot this weekend as I was down in Champaign for the Illinois-Iowa football game. Interestingly enough, before Saturday, I'd been to two Illinois football games since graduating, and both were played at the Rose Bowl. This was the first time I'd been in Memorial Stadium since the upgrade, and it's pretty nice. They need an extra video screen, and they need to be a little larger, but generally the facility looks pretty decent, and it's always nice to be back down on campus. Better yet, I saw the Illini win, something they failed to do in the previous two post-graduation games I'd seen. They made it more exciting than they should have, and Ron Zook showed the country that he's not quite sure how to handle time outs, but a win is a win, and fortunately it pissed off the douchebag Iowa fan that was sitting in front of us.


Just an update to my Spiritualized post from a few days ago, you can listen to a full set from their last tour at this link. It doesn't quite capture how amazing it was in person, but even if you don't want to listen to the whole thing, the first two songs are worth 10 minutes. They're the best back to back openers I've ever seen at a live show.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So Remember When I Used to Blog Here?

Man, it's been a while, huh? Nice long break. Anyway, with basketball season ramping up, I'll probably have UCLA stuff to post about soon. And we should be moving into some good off-season stories for the Angels, so activity should pick up again soon.

In the meantime, here's some Spiritualized. These two songs, in this order, led off the their Pitchfork Festival set, which I wrote about here. This isn't a perfect facsimile, as this version of 'You Lie You Cheat' doesn't descend into the three minute maelstrom at the end like at P4k, which then led into the gorgeous opening of 'Shine a Light'. And this version of 'Shine a Light' cuts out the first verse. But this is arguably the best back to back opening of a concert I've ever seen. It was even better when they they played the Metro a couple months later.

'Shine a Light' was really pretty perfect. It's a song with an album track that must be incredibly difficult to duplicate live, so they don't bother trying. The lyrics are given some relief in the life version, whereas they flatten into background noise on the album (Lazer Guided Melodies). The guitar/sax becomes simply guitar, and is amped up. And it's a really powerful moment at about 3:25 when the backing vocals kick back in. Enjoy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What to Do - Vlad

Another in the series I've shamelessly stolen.

There's a club option for 2009 for $15MM. They can also buy him out for $3MM and make him a free agent.

Again, I think picking up the option is a no brainer. Vlad had the worst season of his career since his rookie year, and was still the best hitter on the team. Napoli and Teixeira both were better in terms of OPS+, but both did them in shorter Anaheim seasons. Still, going into next year, even assuming they re-signed Teixeira, Vlad would enter the season as the team's best hitter.

Going forward, I'd love to see them re-up Vlad for another term. Three or four years would be great, but probably won't get it done. I think it will take at least five, and that's a deal I'd be willing to make for something close to his current deal. He's still an elite hitter, but he should be thought of as an 80%-90% DH from this point forward. Next year the Angels will have Hunter in center, hopefully Morales at a corner outfield position (if they can re-sign Teixeira), and either Mattews or Juan Rivera at the other corner, again, subject to certain signings.

Believe it or not, the DH spot has actually been a real problem for the Angels over the last decade or so. Picking up guys who are clear cut hitters and clear cut non-fielders isn't as easy as it sounds. Any time you can lock up a position, even one with as little scarcity as DH, I think it's a good idea.

On the emotional side, five years will take Vlad to the end of his career. He's likely to be around 500 homers by that point (he'd need to average about 22 per year), 1,700 RBIs, and a career average over .300, and right around 200 stolen bases. That's almost guaranteed hall of fame territory, and there's never been a hint of steroid speculation around him. Unless someone beats him to it (and right now, I can't think of a candidate), he'd probably be the first player to enter the Hall of Fame with an Angels cap, and as far as I'm concerned, that counts for something.

So I say exercise the option, negotiate an extension, and hand him the everyday DH role through 2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What To Do - John Lackey

Another in the series I'm stealing from the Rev.

So, Lackey. As big a no brainer as we'll find. He has an option for 2009. Pick it up and extend him for as long as you can. All pitchers are injury risks. Lackey's injury in 2008 was his first. He's a critical piece of the Angels' future, and he needs a long term deal. I'm thinking five to seven years.

Look, this is Chuck Finley we're talking about. An Angels lifer for this generation. He needs to be wearing the haloed A as long he can be effective. I can't imagine him leaving anytime soon.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What to Do - Mark Teixeira

Third in the ongoing theft of idea's from the Rev.

So, what to do with Teixeira?

Sign him. Next question.

In all seriousness, I say something around 7-8 years, up to roughly 22 million per, depending on how crazy the market gets. Remember that the idea behind not spending too much is that you can use that money on, say, two good players. But if the market goes nuts and the two guys you could get for $11MM each now cost $15MM each, then you have to go higher for the premium players like Teixeira. If the Yankees just blow everyone out of the water, which seems to be the indication, then there's not much you can do except try to bid them up and make them pay more than the want to.

I can't see him signing in the exclusivity window. There's just too much market uncertainty to sign at a comparable number from last year. I think he's got to test the market and see how it shakes out. I'd put the odds on him coming back to Anaheim around 6-1. I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What To Do - Jon Garland

Part two in the series I'm shamelessly stealing from the Rev.

Another toughie, in that there's no obvious replacement in the organization. There are candidates, but none are particularly trustworthy in a fifth starter role. I'm not Steve Green is ready for a regular rotation spot. I'm more sure that Nick Adenhart isn't ready. I'm not sure Dustin Moseley will ever be ready. All three are potential sixth starters, but none jump out at me as rotation regulars at this point. Escobar looks like a mid-season bullpen guy at this point.

Not having a capable replacement in line presents a problem for a pitcher like Garland. I'm not sure the market knows what he worth, though I suspect it's not the $12MM he earned last year. So let's say they re-sign him at $7MM per, maybe $8MM. That takes them out of the market for C.C. Sabathia, unless they're willing to sign both and deal with it later. But there's no guarantee they end up with C.C. or even a solid middle rotation starter in free agency. If you wait to see what you can get on the market, you may end up waiting too long, at which point even Garland is gone.

I think the prudent thing to do is offer him arbitration (to preserve the compensation). Then they make a run at a front line starter. If they land one, they don't re-sign Garland and hope he doesn't accept arbitration. If they don't, they re-up with Garland for a short term deal. If they fail to land a good starter AND Garland leaves, they go after a Garland comparable, or try to land one via trade.

Key point about arbitration, awards are for one year contracts. Worse case scenario, they sign a guy like Sabathia, and Garland accept arbitration. In that case, the Garland deal is only one year, and the Angels go into spring with six starters. Someone's likely to get hurt (remember when Santana and Saunders were battling for one rotation spot?), or you deal Weaver or Saunders for a big bat. I don't want to see either of those guys traded, but I'd do it for the right return.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Feature!!! I'm Stealing the "What To Do" Series From Mat

The Rev's new deal at Halos Heaven, at least for a little while, is "What To Do With..." I love concept, but I don't like the idea of answering in a simple comment, so I'm going to leave my responses, trackbacks if you will, right here on my own blog.

So, Mat starts with.......Garret Anderson!

Can't say he's making it too easy right out of the gate. There's a lot of emotion involved in this one. G.A. is the last link to the 1995 collapse. He's a world champ. He's a lifer. And unfortunately, I think he's done.

So here's the layout. He has an option for 2009 at $14MM. The Angels can also buy him out for $3MM and make him a free agent. I think step 1 is to exercise the buy out. Even if they re-sign him, they save some money.

They need to be straight with Garret. The Angels have a full time DH in Vladimir Guerrero. They have a center fielder in Torii Hunter. And right now, I'm going to say they (ugh) keep Gary Matthews and re-sign Juan Rivera to give them three outfielders. Another thing to keep in mind (but we have yet to cross that bridge...) both Chone Figgins and Sean Rodriguez can play in outfield. Wood at third, and an outfield of Rivera, Hunter, and Figgins would work for me. That requires re-signing Rivera and Figgins, of course.

But ultimately, I think they need to be straight with Garret and let him know that they'd like to have him around, but not at his current salary. Let him test the market. If someone wants to make him an everyday player, then let him go that route. If he can't find a taker, then they go the Salmon route. Invite him to Spring Training. Let him earn a job. If he deserves it, he's back with incentives. If other guys outplay him, release him and let him sign with someone who will give him at bats.

I love G.A. I love everything he did for this franchise. He drove in the runs that provided the Angels with their only World Series. And it won't be easy to see him playing for another team, though it will be easy to root for him. It's a tough decision, and a brutal way to start this series, but I think they need to buy him out and let the chips fall where they may.

Teixeira and the post-season.

Alright, let's deal with this. In a comment to a previous post, Rob writes:
And why the kid gloves with Teixeira, anyway? No extra-base hits from him in the postseason. Sure, he was on base a ton, but so what? He's supposed to be in the hitting-the-ball-hard part of the lineup, and to say he disappointed was an understatement.
Teixeira came to the plate 20 times in the post-season, and made only 9 outs. He finished the series with a line of 467/550/467. It's completely fair to point out that he didn't deliver an extra base hit. But the fact is that he still put up a 1.017 OPS for the series, by far the best on the team. In addition, he played stellar defense at first base.

In short, he was the Angels' best player in the series. Calling him a disappointment is not only inaccurate, it's unfair. It would be like criticizing a starting pitcher for holding the other team scoreless in his starts, but not pitching deep enough into games. Yes, you want the innings, but more importantly you don't want the other team to score. Do I want want doubles and homers from Teixeira? Absolutely, but first and foremost, I want him to not make outs. And if a guy doesn't make many outs in a four game series, I'm not going to get on him for failing to hit homers and doubles.

But what jumps out at me is the "blame the best player" mentality. There are a number of reasons the Angels failed again in this post-season. Blaming it on the guy who was one of your top two position players, if not number one, seems like a poor read of the situation. In close games, you can blame every player who didn't hit a homer every time up if you really want to. If anything, complain about the timing of the singles. None of them came with runners in scoring position (five plate appearances), and his lone RBI was a sac fly. But again, the Angels have highly paid players who failed more often in those situations. His defense, in my opinion, easily made up for his minor offensive shortcomings.

I'm not optimistic about his return the Angels. I haven't been since the trade. I hope he comes back. But based on the way his teammates seem to react to post-season baseball, I can't blame him if he heads for what he sees as greener pastures.

On the Bright Side

The Kings' season starts this weekend, and I KNOW that they won't disappoint me in the playoffs.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Another Failure

It's getting pretty old. Everyone who wears Angels red for these games thinks they can win, with the exception of the 25 guys wearing it on the field. They play afraid. They play like they think they don't deserve to be there. They are truly not ready for prime time. And they've done it for four consecutive post-seasons. It really makes 2002 that much more unbelievable.

Clearly Howie Kendrick will go down as the goat, and it was such an otherwordly awful post-season for him that I really have no idea how he'll react. Almost everything he did hurt the team. John Lackey was as good as he could have possibly been, but the offense just cashed it in. Almost no timely hits in the whole series. No power, with the exception of Mike Napoli in game three. And I'm talking extra base power, not just home runs. They played like they didn't believe they could win, and they deserved to lose.

Right now I don't really care about 2009. This team is absolutely deflating to root for. I really like Mark Teixeira, but I hope for his sake he goes to a team that can compete in October, because he didn't finish the season with one. So long, Frankie. Thanks for all you did you for the Angels, and good luck wherever you land. That goes for you too, Garret. For so many years I lamented the Angels' inability to make the playoffs. I'm finding that repeated failure in which they don't even put forth a professional effort is even worse.

Go Phillies, and Go Rays. I hope they take down the two piece of shit franchises remaining

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Game 3 notes

It's over. For the first time since I was 13, the Angels have beaten the Red Sox in a playoff game. And it just dawned on me while typing this that I was at the game. Game 4 in 1986, my friend and I were sitting in Jim Fregosi's season seats. In his non-baseball life, he owned a food brokerage and did business with my day. My parents were sitting two rows from the top of the enclosed Big A in dead center field. Here's a few thoughts on tonight.
  • The umpiring in this series has been atrocious. I say that objectively, as it's been awful for both teams. Ed Rapuano has had a horrible series, blowing check swings in games 1 and 3, tonight to the Angels brief benefit, and Wednesday to their detriment. He blew the call on the pickoff at second in game two. Kerwin Danley's strike zone tonight was just awful. I'm pretty sure he had no idea where it was. And the Angels caught a huge break when Danley called an inside fastball to Napoli a ball. That same pitch was strike three to left handed hitting Jacoby Ellsbury just minutes before. Napoli followed with a single, and scored the winning run.
  • Speaking of catchers and 1986, the last time the Angels beat the Red Sox in the playoffs, a catcher scored the winning run in extra innings. Jerry Narron scored on Bobby Grich's single to left field to give the Angels a 3-1 series lead.
  • I've been pretty hard on Kendrick and Figgins, but both had good games tonight. They were a combined 4-12, and Kendrick put down a nice sac bunt to set up the winning run. Figgins made some great plays at third base late in the game. He snagged sharply hit balls by Dustin Pedroia and Alex Cora to preserve the win. Speaking of Howie...
  • I don't blame the play in short center entirely on him. He should have caught the ball, but Torii Hunter has to call that ball one way or another. He either has to take charge, or he has to let Howie know that it's Howie's ball. Still, what's done is done, and the play won't matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • Hunter deserves more blame for his ill-advised attempt to go for the double on his leadoff hit in the ninth. Slightly mitigating his decision is that the ball took what looked like a weird bounce off the wall. Fenway regulars may tell me I'm wrong, but it seems like balls over there usually hit that wall where it curves and bouce into short left, or hug that wall down toward the corner. If either of those things happen, Hunter probably makes it. But it took a very friendly bounce for Jason Bay. Still, that play was entirely ahead of Hunter, and he should have seen that he was toast.
  • That play also may have hurt the Angels defense. If Hunter had stayed at first, Reggie Willits would have remained in the game to sacrifice him to second. With no one on and one out, Kendry Morales was called in to hit before Gary Matthews took over in right field. He ended up making a couple of nice plays, but after what happened in game one, it was a risk.
  • Because of the late drama from Frankie Rodriguez and Jered Weaver, it might be forgotten that the middle of the Angels bullpen was lights out. Jose Arrendondo, Darren Oliver, and Scot Shields threw 4.1 innings of hitless ball, walking two and striking out six. Shields looked as dominant as he's ever looked, especially for a guy who works the corners with his two seamer, working to an umpire with an inconsistent strike zone. Arredondo was fantastic as well.
  • I hesitate to write this, but maybe the tide is turning. Everything was lined up for the Angels to lose this game. A bad ump, a closer who walks a lot of guys, Jered Weaver pitching in relief against a team that has hit him pretty hard, a tough task pitching to David Ortiz who has killed him... The list goes on. But they got a big break when Ellsbury overslid second base. They got a break on the strikeout of Ellsbury in the 11th. They broke an 11 game losing streak against the Sox in th playoffs. They broke a nine game post-season losing streaking, going back to 2005.
  • John Lester is a great pitcher, but the Angels have the man they want on the mound. Lackey is their horse, and you might as well go down with your best. They seem to be waking up a bit at the plate. There's certainly no reason to think they can't win tomorrow night. Aybar got a hit. Kendrick started to hit. Now we just need Teixeira to deliver an extra base hit.
  • Napoli looked bad against Lester's breaking ball in game one, but hit a curve ball out tonight. Lester's comes from the other side, but he looks like he's locking in.
  • Which player sees a fastball first tomorrow night, Napoli, or Jason Bay? I wouldn't be surprised if neither saw a fastball all night.
  • If it comes down to it tomorrow, bullpen usuage should interesting. The Red Sox probably have an advantage, as both Okijima and Masterson threw fewer than 20 pitches. Arredondo and Shields both threw 28. Both closers threw over 30, that Papelbon did it over two innings.
  • This game lasted five hours and 19 minutes. Last month I sat through 12 innings of an Angels v. White Sox game that took only three hours. The game lasted 15 innings (I just left after 12) and still only took four hours. One reason people hate the Red Sox? Their games last for goddamn ever.
I'm not going to pick a winner, but needless to say, if it's a repeat of tonight's game, I'll be substantially more nervous. Having essentially given up after game one, I was relatively calm tonight, which is to say I was a nervous wreck who could still watch the game. Should be fun.

Reason #973 that Red Sox fans are the biggest douchebags in sports fandom

They boo a Mike Napoli trip to the mound. Apprently only Jason Varitek is allowed to make 359 trips to the mound per game.

Major Leaguers

165 games, and they don't know how to catch a pop up.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Howie Kendrick

I love Howie Kendrick. I think he's a future batting champion. But he needs to be on the bench on Sunday. He needs to be far away from the batters box unless they're desperate for a pinch hitter. He's 0-9 in the series with five strike outs, and he's left 11 men on base. And you know what? That's not why I think he should sit.

Sure, it's part of the reason, probably a big part. But in the eighth inning, after Jacoby Ellsbury reached base on a two out walk, he stole second. Mike Napoli grabbed the pitch and looked to throw to second. Ellsbury probably would have reached safely, but it was close enough to warrent a throw. Only, no one was covering. Right handed hitting Dustin Pedroia was at the plate, which means more likely than not, it was Kendrick's responsibility to cover second. But he was nowhere to be found.

His head is simply not in it. He's swinging at pitches nowhere near the strike zone. He's screwing up things you learn in Little League. He's not taking a first strike. He's killing this team. Hell, I expect nothing from Erick Aybar at the plate. But Howie has to hit, and he's an automatic out. He needs to sit. I don't know what they do, other than play Figgins at second and Wood at third. That sounds desperate, but they are desperate. There is not a person on earth who thinks the Angels will win this series, so maybe they have to do something crazy. Whatever they do, Kendrick needs to watch game three from the bench.

And let me reiterate to Ed Rapuano, if I ever see you in public, I will kick your fucking ass or die trying.

Friday, October 03, 2008

1 and 6-9 liveblog

Through one game and two innings, starters hitting in the leadoff spot and 6-9 spots are a combined 0-25. Kendry Morales, pinch hitting in game one, has the only hit from that part of the lineup.

The Angels started the inning 0-20. None of those hitters have even reached base. Tonight:

  • Figgins popped up - first inning - 0-21
  • Rivera grounded out - first inning - 0-22
  • Kendrick struck out - second inning - 0-23
  • Mathis struck out - second inning - 0-24
  • Aybar flew out - second inning - 0-25 - with his error, he's now producing negatively.
  • Figgins flies out - third inning - 0-26
Interlude - 2-5 hitters are 13-22, a .591 average. All other starters are hitting z-e-r-o.
  • A WALK! A Baserunner! The OBP is up to .037!!
  • Kendrick strikes out - fourth inning - 0-27
  • A HIT!!ONE11!!!!11one!!! Mathis - fourth inning - 1-28
  • Aybar grounds out - fourth inning - 1-29
  • Figgins Singles!!!! - fourth inning - 2-30
Overall update, and hell, I'll even throw Kendry's pinch hit single into the mix:

32 plate appearances
31 at bats
2 hits
1 walk
2 total bases
That comes to a line of .065/.094/.065
  • Rivera strikes out - fifth inning - 2-32
  • Kendrick flies out - fifth inning - 2-33
  • Kendry won't count towards the normal count, as he's a pinch hitter, but he's out too. Actually screw that. Let's throw his hit from last night in there, and his out tonight. The count is officially 3-35.
That may do it. First and second with no one out and the Angels can't get a run in to bring it to one. That's the story of the last five years. That, for all intents and purposes, was probably the game.
  • Aybar gets fucked on ball four, grounds out on a 3-2 pitch - sixth inning - 3-36
  • Figgins pops up sixth inning - 3-37
Garret Anderson almost hits one out, but ends up just making a loud out. He's not included in the calculation, but his 0-3 tonight makes it six consecutive unproductive hitters in a nine man lineup.
  • Juan Rivera Walks - seventh inning - still 3-37
  • Howie Kendrick, working hard to replace Chone Figgins, strikes out on two pitches that aren't even in the same area code as the strike zone - seventh inning, 3-38
  • Mike Napoli walks - RBI - seventh inning - still 3-38
  • Erick Aybar strikes out on a Howie Kendrick pitch - 3-39
42 plate appearances
39 at bats
3 hits
3 walks
3 total bases
That comes to a line of .077/.143/.077 - That's an OPS of 220. If everyone bunted every time up, they'd probably have an OPS better than that.
  • Figgins Triples!! - Eight inning - 4-40....They're up to .100!
I'm going to study Ed Rapuano's photograph. I'm going to burn it into my memory, and one day, I hope to see him walking down the street. And when I do, I'll go fucking Hormel Chavez on his ass and kick him in fucking balls, then kick the fucking shit out of him and hopefully take out a few ribs. Ed Rapuano, you're a piece of shit, and you deserve to have the living shit beat out of you.
  • Gary Matthews fouls out - ninth inning - 4-41
  • Howie Kendrick strikes out - ninth inning - 4-42
They end game two at:
45 Plate Appearances
42 at bats
4 hits
3 walks
6 total bases
That gives them a line of .089/.156/.143

What's Riding on Tonight's game?

Obviously, for the Angels, this game is their season. Lose tonight, and pretty much everything they've worked for since Spring Training is shot to hell. The Teixeira trade signaled that this season was Championship or bust, and they're very close to bust. In addition, they're basically showing the world that if they're in the post-season in the same year as the Red Sox, they may as well not even show up. They've now lost 10 straight post-season games to the Red Sox, and more importantly, seven straight under their current regimes.

Tonight they take on Daisuke Matsuzaka, who the Angels have beaten before. But he's got serious control problems. He walks over five guys per nine innings. But he doesn't allow many hits, and he strikes a lot of guys out. That's probably poison for a lineup full of guys that make their decision to swing usually before a pitcher releases the ball. So I don't really have very high hopes for tonight's game. If they had lost game one in a high scoring back and forth affair, I'd probably be thinking differently. But what we saw on Wednesday was almost a replay of the six previous playoff matchups this decade. The Angels can't get runners on base, and when they do, they can't advance them. On rare scoring occasions, they can't come up with a big hit. Leads are the bread and circuses that keep the masses entertained until the Red Sox decide to pull away.

But tonight's game, in my opinion, has major significance for Chone Figgins. It's a contract year. The Angels have an heir apparent for third base (a couple, really). Since becoming an everyday player, Figgins has seven hits in 52 post-season at bats. He has a line of 135/182/231 over that span. As a leadoff hitter, he has killed the Angels. I'm not usually a believer in small sample sizes, but he bares as much blame as anyone for the Angels' post-season misfortunes over that period, and if he cant' turn it around, I don't care about his regular seasons, it's time to find an alternative. He's a free agent after this year, and I strongly recommend the Angels let him go. They have two guys who should be ready for a full time gig next season in Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez, and either of them can match his production and defense. While they won't steal bases, they'll hit for power, and that's a trade off I'm willing to accept.

So while this is a big game for the Angels, it's even bigger for Figgins. It could decide his fate in Anaheim.

Note - edited: Added "post season" to the third paragraph

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

Angels offense - artist's rendering

The Angels worked for 162 games to secure a division title and home field advantage in the playoffs. They worked for three hours to lose it. After a season in which they worked so hard to convince their fans and the baseball world that this was the Angels team that could finally beat the hated Red Sox, it took them nine innings to convince everyone that really nothing had changed.

Jason Bay's sixth inning two run homer provided all the firepower the Red Sox needed as they beat John Lackey and the Angels 4-1. The October anemia that has afflicted the Angels offense since 2004 has not been cured by a shot of Teixeira, and they've brought their whole season down to one game on Friday.

The Angels wasted early opportunities, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, before catching a break when Jed Lowrie booted Vladimir Guerrero's routine ground ball. Torii Hunter singled to left, scoring Garret Anderson, who had earlier singled. In the top of the sixth, John Lackey made his only mistake. Mike Napoli called for a low fastball, Lackey elevated it, and Bay jacked it out to deep left field for a lead that the Red Sox wouldn't relinquish. John Lester escaped the early trouble, found his command, and was kryptonite to Angels bats through seven innings, allowing only the one unearned run. He dominated the 6, 7, 8, 9 and 1 hitters, who combined to go 0 for 16, a black hole that the Angels couldn't escape. After a season that looked so promising, the Angels play for lives Friday night. Lose, and the season is all but over.

Top three Angels perfomers:

John Lackey worked 6 and 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits, while walking three and striking out five. He made only one mistake, and it was the difference in the game.

Darren Oliver entered in the seventh in a jam, and struck out David Ortiz on a 3-2 curveball to kepp the Angels hopes alive. He retired two more hitters before leaving, having thrown a perfect inning.

Garret Anderson had two hits, and generally looked like he knew what he was doing, a rarity in the Angel lineup.

Jeff Weaver of the game:

Take your pick of just about the whole offense. Special recognition to Chone Figgins, who dropped his post-season average to barely over .150, and who's last at bat consisted of five takes, three for strikes. Gary Matthews Jr. deserves a shout out as well, for going hitless, and misplaying a ball in right field. Good thing he's in there for his defense. You can call out Vlad as well, for getting thrown out at third by 30 feet after a bloop single by Hunter, but the only way he was going to score was via an out, and you can't do that from second, so maybe some agression was warranted.

Play of the game:

Bay's two run homer.

What to look for Friday:

One team is confident, experienced, and knows how to win in October. One team is desperate. On the plus side, the Angels send the better pitcher, Ervin Santana, to the mound against Dice-K. But if half the lineup can't produce a hit, Friday night may be the penultimate nail in the 2008 coffin.

Game time is 6:30 PDT on TBS

Playoff Predictions

Matt Welch's are here.

Two things I do not want to see this year:

1) The Cubs winning the World Series. On this, I'm actually torn. I'm not sure if I'd just rather see the Cubs just get blitzed in the first three games, or whether I'd like to see them get to game seven of the World Series and lose in the most excruciating way possible. Probably the former, since I'd rather not take my chance on the latter. But I really hate the Cubs, even more than I hate the Dodgers, which is why I'd prefer to see the Dodger win that series.

2) The Angels playing the White Sox and/or the Cubs. This seems counter intuitive. I should want the Angels to play in Chicago so I can get to a game. Problem is, that's not happening. I love the Angels, and I spend about $500 hundred dollars per year on the Angels between tickets, and the packages on cable and internet. I'm probably not going to shell out $500 more for a ticket to see them play the White Sox, and I'm not shelling out roughly five times that to see them play the Cubs at what is basically nothing but a glorified high school park. Don't get me wrong, if someone dropped a free ticket on me, or even one at face value, I'd probably take it, but that's not likely to happen. Second, I have to live with these people, and I don't want to do that if the Angels lose to either of those teams. Of course, it would be sweet if the Angels took one, or even both, down, but I don't want to take that chance.

Anyway, here goes:


Phillies over Brewers in 4. I just don't think the Brewers have it. They haven't played well down the stretch. Although the teams finished just two games apart, the Phillies won the division in the final month, going 17-7 in September to best the Mets. the Brewers, on the other hand, had a 5.5 game lead for the wild card at the beginning of September, and only a Mets collapse landed them in the post season. This is all despite CC Sabbathia blistering the NL over the last few months. I think that right now the Phillies are the better team, and that will show.


Dodgers over Cubs in 4. The Cubs were a superior team over the whole season, but since the Manny Ramirez trade, the Dodgers have been pretty close (45-34 against 47-30). This just strikes me as an upset waiting to happen, and not because of any Cubs curse. Even though the Cubs handled both teams during the regular season, there was more fear out here over a possible match up with the Diamond Backs. When you're somewhat relieved to draw a particular opponent, karma says you lose that series. So I'm going with the team that Cubs fans* wanted to play.

*Note: Actually a rare species. This town is stupid with Wrigley fans, but actual true Cubs fans are quite rare.


Rays in 4. Tampa Bay has been proving everyone wrong all year. The fact is that they're a very good team, with an excellent manager. They prevent runs better than any of the playoff teams, and they have a competent offense. The White Sox have the benefit of experience (overrated in my opinion) and having dealt with pressure for the last couple weeks, which I actually think does help a bit. I think the Sox will take a game, but the Rays are going to prove to be too good. And honestly, don't let anyone push the "lack of post season experience" argument. Going into the playoffs in 2002, the Angels had one guy with post season experience. After game one, they had 25 guys with post season experience.


Angels in 5. I don't think the fact that the Angels hammered the Sox in the regular season is important on the field. I do think it's important in the minds of the Angels. The Sox won the season series in both 2004 and 2007, and killed the Angels in the playoffs. The Sox had that "team we can't beat" aura. That aura is gone now. The playoffs aren't that different from the regular season, and I think this Angels team believes it can win, and that's the first step. I also think Teixeira adds that extra bat that they've needed. In the past, if you controlled Vlad, you won the series. That may not be true this year. The Angels exorcise some demons in game five.


Phillies over Dodgers in 6.

Again, this is a gut level pick. Sabbathia grabs a lot of headlines, and the fact that the Brewers haven't been the playoffs in 26 years will get some ink. The vast majority of the public will be talking about the Cubs and Dodgers, and they'll be slobbering over the team that wins that series. Meanwhile, the Phillies will go about their business and just win. They just strike me as that team that no one is paying a lot of attention to, and teams like that seem to win for some reason.


Angels over Rays in 6.

The only bad thing about playing the Rays is that series like these tend to make me hate the opposing team, and I really don't want to hate Tampa. I like their players. I love their manager. I want to be able to root for them in the World Series should they get there. On the field, Tampa was the only team with a winning record over the Angels this year, so that's a point in their favor. But they aren't a great road team, and I think the first two games in Anaheim will put them behind the 8-ball. The Angels, and excellent road team will go back to Tampa and steal one in the dome before closing them out in game six back on their home field. The biggest advantage the Angels will get from home field isn't the privilege of hosting a potential game seven. It's getting two host the first two games, and Tampa will fight valiantly, but won't recover.

World Series

Angels over Phillies in Six.

This plays out the same way as the Tampa series. Win two at home. Steal one on the road. Close them out in game six as Ervin Santana, the Angels best starter all year, closes the door on Philadelphia. His fly ball tendencies won't play well at Citizens Bank Park, which is why a game two start will be perfect. Everyone will be denied the Cubs - Red Sox series they so desperately want. This will be a good, but not classic series. Frankie Rodgriguez gets the save in possibly his last game as Angel, finishing his Angel career the way we started it, with a World Series ring.

I'll admit to being a homer. I can't pick against the Angels, but I realize it will be a tough slog to a championship.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Frankie 62; Mariners 58

Cross Posted at SoCal Sports Hub

It's been a tight race for most of the season, but last night, the Angels clinched at least a tie. Last night's 6-5 victory in Seattle means Francisco Rodriguez will finish the season with at least as many saves as the Mariners have wins. It was just six months ago when people were seriously including the Mariners in discussions of possible winners of the A.L. West.

Jon Garland didn't exactly grab the reins last night, as he battles Jered Weaver for the fourth starter role in the playoffs, which the Angels won't likely need until the ALCS should they advance past the first round. He allowed five runs on 11 hits over five innings, and was not around long enough to pick up the win. That went to Darren Oliver, who pitched two perfect innings in relief, solidifying his bullpen role in the playoffs, as the Angels don't figure to actually use more than four relievers. Scot Shields loaded the bases with one out in the eighth on two walks and a hit batter, but he struck out Ichiro and got Yunieski Betancourt to ground out to end the inning with no damage. Rodriguez allowed a two out single in the ninth, but otherwise coasted to his 62nd save of the season.

The Angels grabbed an early lead in the second inning on Erick Aybar's RBI single, scoring Torii Hunter who had previously doubled. Aybar, having made his way to third on a Mike Napoli single, later scored on a passed ball. The Mariners tied the game in the second, and took a three run lead in the fifth. But the Angels responded in the top of the sixth with three runs of their own. The first four batters of the inning reached base. Erick Aybar led off with a double and Mike Napoli walked before Sean Rodriguez doubled them both home. Chone Figgins' single move Rodriguez to third, and he brought home the tying run on Garret Anderson's double play. The game remained tied at five until the top of the eighth, when Mark Teixeira untied it with a two out solo home run, his 13th as Angel (he also picked up his 42nd Angel RBI).

Top three Angels performers:

Mark Teixeira went four for five with a double and homer. He's hitting .361 since the trade.

Mike Napoli is swinging the bat well, and he reached base for times last night in five appearances. He delivered a double, two singles, and a walk.

Darren Oliver's two perfect innings came on the heels of the Angels big sixth inning, and gave the offense time to add the extra run it needed.

Jeff Weaver of the game:

Jon Garland didn't exactly make a case for being the fourth starter come playoff time. He allowed five runs in five innings, and a lot of baserunners.

Play of the game:

Mark Teixeira's two out eighth inning homer was the difference in the game.

What to expect tonight

Dustin Moseley takes Joe Saunders' turn in the rotation as Saunders recovers from kidney stones. The Mariners counter with Cesar Jiminez, who has been solid in 30 innings this season, mostly in relief. The Angels are one win away from tying their franchise record 99 wins. Their magic number for home field advantage is three.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Angels 2; Mariners 1

Cross posted at SoCal Sports Hub

Ervin Santana tossed a gem and picked up his sixteenth win of the season as the Angels beat the Mariners 2-1. Not a lot of action in this one, as both pitchers really threw the ball well. Ryan Rowland-Smith continued his solid work of late, earning his seventh straight quality start. His ERA, 4.11 just over a month ago, has fallen to 3.39 over that span. He allowed only one earned run last night, but some shoddy defense and a lights out performance from Santana was enough to keep him from getting the win. Frankie Rodriguez dominated the M's hitters in the ninth to extend his record saves total to 61.

The Mariners struck first with three straight singles to open the third inning. But they were only able to plate one run on an RBI ground out by Raul Ibanez, sandwiched around strikeouts by Yunieski Betancourt and Jose Lopez. After escaping that jam, Santana settled into a groove and faced the minimum from the fourth inning on, allowing only a single to Marques Tuiasosopo in the fourth inning before picking him off first base. Santana worked eight innings, allowed five hits, and struck out nine against no walks. He's now 16-6, with a 3.25 ERA, and he's second in the AL in strikeouts. A year ago today he was 7-13 with a 5.62 ERA, and he had Angels fans wondering if he'd ever put it together. Six months after refusing to give in to calls to trade him, Tony Reagins has himself a second ace.

The Angels tied the game in the fourth inning on a monster shot to center field off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero, his 25th of the season. Vlad's now poised to hit over .300 with 25 homers for the 11th consecutive season. The only other player in MLB history with a similar streak is Lou Gehrig. Pretty good company. In the seventh inning, Jeff Mathis reached on a one out single. Reggie Willits singled him to third, and a misplay in the outfield allowed Mathis to score the final run of the game. Francisco Rodriguez worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, making Jose Lopez look stupid on a three pitch strikeout for the last out. The Angels reduced their magic number for home field advantage to four.

Top Three Angels Performers:

1. Ervin Santana was as dominant as he could be. You have to remind yourself it was against the Mariners, but the 9 strikeouts and no walks is a very nice sign heading into the playoffs. And with John Lackey's recent struggles, it's that much more important to have one of them charging into the post-season.

2. Vladimir Guerrero delivered three hits, but the home run he hit in the fourth came right on top of Santana's Houdini act in the bottom of the third, and snuffed out any Mariners momentum.

3. Reggie Willits didn't get an RBI for the single that helped push Jeff Mathis across, but he did go three for four.

Jeff Weaver of the Game

It's hard to single anyone out in a win, but take your pick between Juan Rivera (0-3, 4 LOB) or Sean Rodriguez (0-3, 3 Ks). The good news about Rodriguez is that those three strikeouts came in relief of Howie Kendrick, who returned to the lineup and was hitless in two at bats.

Play of the Game

Vlad's home run was crushed. Beautiful to watch, and it tied the game at a fairly crucial point.

What to look for tonight:

Jered Weaver, who has allowed one run in his last 12 innings spanning two starts, looks to stay hot. He probably won't start in the first round. The Angels can choose their schedule, and will likely take the five games in eight days schedule, allowing them to use a three man rotation in the ALDS. The Mariners counter with Ryan Feierabend, who has been knocked around a bit this season, including a five inning, four run performance in a losing effort against the Angels two weeks ago.

Game Time is 7:10 PDT on FSN.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Angels 6; A's 4

Cross posted at SoCal Sports Hub

The Angels salvaged the third game of the series in Oakland, surviving a rocky ninth inning to hold on to a 6-4 victory, giving Joe Saunders his 16th win of the season. With a little more than a week to go before the start of the post-season, Mike Scioscia has struggled to maintain a balance between going for home field advantage and resting his star players, but some of the bit players came through for the Angels today. After scoring only three runs through the first two games, the Angels got that many runs in three at bats in the seventh inning today.

The Angels struck first in the game's opening frame. The first three batters of the game reached safely, with Mark Teixeira's RBI single scoring Reggie Willits. They added two more in the fifth innings, chasing A's starter Josh Outman. Robb Quinlan's RBI single scored Mark Teixeira and moved Torii Hunter to third. A few pitches later, Quinlan broke for second on a delayed steal. Torii Hunter took advantage of the ensuing rundown to steal home, and in the confusion, Quinlan returned safely to first.

The Angels provided some thunder in the seventh inning. Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli, and Brandon Wood blitzed A's reliever Keith Foulke for back to back to back home runs, giving the Angels a 6-0 lead. Joe Saunders finished the A's off in the seventh, at which point Mike Scioscia decided to sit him down for the remainder. Amazingly, Justin Speier worked a perfect eight inning.

In the ninth, all heck nearly broke loose. Jason Bulger began the inning by hitting and walking the only two batters he faced. Jose Arredondo came on and allowed a walk and an infield hit before striking out Travis Buck. With the bases loaded, the tying run stood in the on deck circle, making it a save situation, and Frankie Rodriguez entered the game. He allowed a walk and single (sandwiching a fielder's choice in between) before retiring Ryan Sweeney for the game's final out and his 59th save of the season.

Top three Angels performers:

Gary Matthews didn't produce much in terms of runs, but he did deliver three hits, and made a beautiful diving catch in right field.

Robb Quinlan didn't make a huge impression on the box score, delivering one hit and one RBI, but he made big contributions. The delayed steal mentioned above helped bring in a run (he later stole the base outright). In the fourth inning, the A's loaded the bases with no one out, and Quinlan turned a grounder into third into a force at his base, from which point he threw home to retire Emil Brown, and helped Joe Saunders escape the inning with no damage.

Joe Saunders twirled seven scoreless innings to drop his ERA to 3.52 and pick up his sixteenth win.

Jeff Weaver of the game:

Jason Bulger is working hard to keep himself off the post-season roster, and he didn't do himself any favors, failing to retire a batter in the ninth. In his last two outings, he's allowed five runs on one hit, three walks, and a hit batter, while failing to retire even one hitter. Ouch.

Play of the game:

The back to back to back homers were nice, but Quinlan's double play from third to home kept the A's off the board in a big situation when the game was still within one run.

What to expect tomorrow:

The Angels head to Arlington to take on the Rangers. Jon Garland looks to build on his last two excellent starts (3 runs in 13 IP), while the Rangers counter with Matt Harrison who's 8-3 record belies his 5+ ERA. Expect another patchwork lineup as Scioscia balances health and rest for the post-season push.

Game Time is 5:05 on FSN

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seitzes in the News

Three of them, in fact.

A few days ago, when Governor Palin returned to Alaska, there was a welcome back rally. On that same day in downtown Anchorage, there was a much larger anti-Palin rally in downtown Anchorage. About twice as many people showed up for the anti-Palin rally. Apparently my sister-in-law was there with my nieces (no idea where my brother was). Anyway, she made her way into the AP story about the event:
Hilary Seitz, 39, attended the rally with her two girls, 8-year-old Abbigale and 11-year-old Taylor. If McCain becomes president and Palin is the VP, Seitz said she fears what will happen on the Supreme Court and keeping abortion legal.

"It really scares me that if we lose that option what are women going to do," Seitz said. She said that she was at the rally for her girls and their futures.
They even spelled Abbigale right, which is to say they spelled it unlike the normal spelling, but correct for the way that my sister in law chose to spell it. And I'm proud of them for going.

Anyway, it's pretty cool that a family member got into a national story. First mention for a Seitz of our clan in a national paper since I made into the Wall Street Journal about five years ago.

Recent Concerts

So I haven't really been doing concert reviews or recaps lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been going to shows. August was a little on the slow side in the wake of the Pitchfork Festival, but September has been picking it back up. In the last week or so, we had three really great shows.

Spiritualized @ Metro - 9/8/08

I finally saw J. Spaceman for the first time at P-fork, and that show was essentially the hour long outdoor version of their regular show, so the set was pretty similar, only about a half hour or forty minutes longer. Most of the extra time was taken up by older material, which I particularly enjoyed since I didn't see any of the shows in support of those albums.

The P-fork set made appearances here and there, mostly in a good way. He again opened with 'You Lie You Cheat', which devolves into noise, then cuts beautifully into 'Shine A Light', from the Laser Guided Melodies album. He finished the set, again, with 'Come Together' from Ladies and Gentlemen.... which segued into the old Spacemen 3 tune 'Take Me to the Other Side'. Added in along the way were some new songs (Death Take Your Fiddle), some Spiritualized classics ('Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space', 'Lay Back in the Sun') and another Spacemen 3 number (either 'Walkin' With Jesus' or 'Sound of Confusion', depending on what album you have). He ended the night with a rousing rendition of 'Lord Can You Hear Me'.

Their live set, at least indoors is very loud and engrossing. You've heard the phrase "wall of sound". Well, this is an ocean of sound, and you're drowning in it. It just absolutely engulfs the entire venue. The pacing was pretty good. The two songs that start this set really draw you in. There's little to no crowd rapport, not even a "thank you" between songs, though I think he said it on the way out. It's really quite an experience. An excellent live show, and one I hope I get the chance to see again.

You Lie You Cheat

Take Me To The Other Side (Live)

Grand Ole Party opened. I saw them open for someone earlier this year as well. Three piece band with a female drummer, who also handles lead vocals. She's got quite a voice. Entertaining act.

The Walkmen
@ Metro 9/12/08

This is the third or fourth time I've seen them in the last year and a half, so it's been interesting to see them go from supporting "A Hundred Miles Off" to trying out some new material, to eventually supporting that material, most of which appears on the new album "You and Me". It's an album that didn't really grab me at first, certainly not as quickly as the last one, but after five or six listens, it's really grown on me and might be my favorite album yet.

The set lasted a little under an hour and half, which is probably the longest set I've seen them do. The set was heavy on the album, and light on everything else. They played the classics. 'Wake Up', 'Little House of Savages', 'Thinking of a Dream I Had'. They played some songs that are much better live than on the record, like 'All Hands and the Cook', and 'What's In It For Me'. The new album has a lot of horn parts, so they were able to play 'Louisiana'. And they proved again that 'The Rat' is the best four minutes of live music on the planet.

But the new album really made up the meat of the show, and fortunately, it's a really good album for a live show. It's got some slower tracks that help round out the pacing, but the standouts from the album were the standouts in the live set. 'Donde Esta La Playa', 'On the Water', 'the Blue Route', 'Canadian Girl' all delivered. The crowd seemed fairly familiar with the new material, as loud cheers went out upon hearing the opening strums of 'In the New Year', the first single and a real highlight of the show.

As usual, the Walkmen, more than any other band I've seen a bunch of time, are more than worth the price of admission. Along with the Super Furry Animals, they're probably may favorite act currently in existence, and their live shows are really terrific. The opening acts were pretty interesting too. Ezra Furman and the Harpoons were kind of a straightforward pop-rock four piece with a funny frontman, and klezmer-rock six piece Golem were, well, something I wouldn't expect to see at a rock show, and something I'd even less expect to like, but they put on a very entertaining set. No complaints.

In the New Year

On the Water

The Broken West
@ Schuba's 9/15/08

Small crowd, but Monday night shows aren't typically heavily attended, especially for lesser known acts like the Broken West. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a great show. I saw these guys open for the Walkmen last year, and I've seen them another four times since, and they always put on a good set. They released a new album last week, their second, so the set drew heavily from that, but they worked in some favorites from the first album as well. This is the type of show where you can hang around and chat with the band afterward, so that's kind of fun. I try to wait to buy albums at shows if possible, because I think they get a bigger piece of the pie. This is an L.A. based band, around Silverlake I believe, so it's nice to support local acts from my hometown.

A band called the Builders and the Butchers opened for them. They're kind of folky, but really heavy themes. Lost of death and afterlife sorts of stuff. Like if the Decemberists were a little harder and sang a lot of dirges. But the music is really engaging. I usually need to listen to an album a few times before it connects, but I was digging their debut on first listen. I was wearing a t-shirt from the Moose's Tooth, a pizzeria and brew pub in anchorage. The lead singer saw it started up a conversation about Alaska. Turns out half this band is from Anchorage, and a couple went to the school where my brother used to teach. Small world.

Down in the Valley

A's 8; Angels awful

Cross posted at SoCal Sports Hub

John Lackey made his first start since an unimpressive outing in Chicago nine days prior, and the extra rest didn't appear to help. Lackey allowed four runs on nine hits, failed to complete the sixth inning, and picked up his fourth loss of the season as the A's used some late offense to win 8-1. Sean Gallagher recorded his second victory, evening his record at 2-2. It follows a pattern of lopsided wins for the A's over the Angels, which have usually been followed by a flurry of close Angels victories. They'll try to maintain that pattern tonight.

Lackey looked a little inconsistent through the early going, looking very sharp at times, and very shaky at times. Kendry Morales staked the Angels to a 1-0 lead with a solo home run, his first of the year, in the fifth inning, but the A's responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. They added two more in the sixth, chasing Lackey from the game.

With the last bullpen spot seemingly available, thanks in no small part to Justin Speier's inability to keep the ball in the park, Jason Bulger didn't exactly make a case for playing in October. He entered the game in the seventh inning and proceeded to allow a walk, a single, another walk, and a third walk before hitting Travis Buck. He recorded no outs, and allowed three runs on only one hit. Kevin Jepsen, on the other hand, finished the sixth inning by retiring the only two hitters he faced, one via the strikeout. Jepsen's thrown 3.2 scoreless innings since being recalled a little over a week ago.

Top two Angel performers of the game: Can't really pick three after a game like this, so we'll go with...

Kendry Morales hit his first homer in the season, probably about five months later than he thought it would have come considering his contributions the last two seasons. He gave the Angels a very brief lead.

Kevin Jepsen continues to look good in relief, though it's an incredibly small sample.

Jeff Weaver of the game:

In lieu of just picking "everyone", Bulger's meltdown gets the nod over Lackey's rough outing. None of the hitters were any good, but at least they didn't leave many runners on base. Of course, you need runners to reach base before you can leave them there.

Play of the game: I'm not sure which one sums up the ineptitude better, but I'll go with Bulger's plunking of Travis Buck, coming on the heels of a hit and three walks, over John Lackey's wild pitch that score Kurt Suzuki. That's the kind of night it was.

What to look for tonight: More roster shuffling from Mike Scioscia, who figures to play a lot of guys over the next week before tightening the lineup in the run up to the playoffs. Jered Weaver was very good in his last start, and tonight he makes his second since returning from injury. Aside from the bullpen battle, you have to figure that Weaver and Garland are dueling for that last post-season rotation spot. Good problems to have for Mike Scioscia.

Game time is 7:05 PST on FSN

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Congratulations Frankie

Let's be honest. The saves record isn't the most impressive record in baseball. It's incredibly team dependent, and as a measure of who is truly a great reliever, single season saves don't show you very much.

But, it's not every day you see records that have stood for more than 10 years get broken. This will not go down as Frankie's best season. This will not go down as the best relief season in history. Frankie has arguably not been the best reliever in baseball this year. But he is a very deserving holder of this record. Probably, when careers are accounted for, more deserving than Roger Maris was when he set the single season home run record.

Maris had three seasons with more than 30 home runs, and the only one with more than 40 was the record breaking year. He was a good hitter, a 127 career OPS+ is nothing to sneeze at. But without those 61 homers in a park that played easy for lefty sluggers, he's an afterthought in MLB history.

Frankie is still early in his career. He's only 26, but he has over 200 saves. He's been one of baseball's best relievers from the day he was called up into the big leagues. He's been one of baseball's best closers since he took over for Troy Percival four seasons ago. It's the type of record where you may pick out three or four guys who are deserving, and he's certainly in the picture.

There will be a lot of talk about Frankie this winter. My thoughts are fairly clear. I think that the closer role is somewhat overrated, but Frankie Rodriguez is unfairly maligned because of his status as a closer. Look around at how many relievers have been dominant over a similar stretch of time. Baseball is littered with reliever who looked great for a year or two at a time. Very few have done it year after year after year. You would be hard pressed to find four or five relievers who have been better than Frankie since he came into the league.

As for next year, you can argue all you want about opportunity costs. What position is the most valuable, and how important is it to go after a reliever when you have a first baseman and possibly another starter to sign. But the market, imperfect as it is, is the market, and Frankie will have a few teams willing to offer him what he wants. Personally, a 15MM per contract is simply a raise over what he's currently making (it's not 15MM over their current payroll), and they're financially successful enough to sign Teixeira and re-sign Frankie. He's on pace for another excellent season. He's added a pitch to his repertoire, and he's even starting to throw that change up against righthanders with success. And I have no doubt that he'll learn a splitter or cutter (or both) over the next five years. On top of that, he's an Angel lifer, and 10 more solid seasons makes him a nearly automatic hall of famer, and he'll go in with an Angels cap, something you currently can't find in the HOF.

So congratulations, Frankie. You've earned it. Now you can rest and get ready for the post-season.A

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mariners 4; Angels 7

Cross-posted at SoCal Sports Hub.

The Angels started the slow march to the post-season by continuing to rest a few regulars, while Jeff Weaver made his first trip to the mound since cutting his fingers in Detroit a couple weeks ago, but the results were the same as they've been all season as the Angels won yet again. The Angels used single runs in the third and fourth innings before breaking it open with a five run sixth, and held on for a 7-4 victory. Francisco Rodriguez earned his 57th save in the process, tying the record set by Bobby Thigpen.

Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez, and Kendry Morales each delivered three hits in the victory, and don't look now, but Wood is hitting .288 and slugging .519 since his recall, and is at 333/358/600 with three homers in his last 12 games. If he continues to get comfortable at the plate, he could very well send Erick Aybar to the bench in the playoffs, or at the very least give Mike Scioscia something to think about. Vlad Guerrero added an RBI single in the five run sixth inning, pushing his average to the .300 mark for the season. And just when it looked like the Angels would cruise to victory, Justin Speier and Scot Shields combined for one inning of relief, allowing four runs on six hits, creating a save situation for Rodriguez in the process. He responded by inducing a double play grounder from Ichiro,and eventually got Raul Ibanez to ground out to first to end the game.

Top Three Angels performers:

1) Jered Weaver rebounded from his injury to throw six shutout innings, allowing three hits, and three walks, while striking out three.

2) Garret Anderson pushed his average over .290 with two hits, and drove in three runs in the process.

3) Brandon Wood had an RBI single in the fourth, and a double in the sixth which helped kick start the rally.

Jeff Weaver of the game: Justin Speier has done everything possible to pitch himself off the post-season roster, and last night was no different. He didn't last an inning, and gave up three runs on four hits, including the 15th home run he's allowed this season.

What to look for tonight: I'd imagine that Mark Teixeira will be back on the field, but look for the Angels to continue to get guys ready for October. Joe Saunders, who was solid on Sunday in Chicago, takes the mound against Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Aussie is 2-1 in eight starts with a 3.91 ERA. His numbers look a little better when you include his relief appearances (4-2, 3.61 ERA).

Game time is 7:05 PST on FSN

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Cross posted at Socal Sports Hub.

Forty-two years into their history, the Angels had won the American League's Western Division a grand total of three times. They've since won it another four times in the last five years. This year, they clinched it earlier than anyone since 1971. Better yet, we may finally be getting to the point where we can put 1995 behind us.

Dustin Moseley, making his second start in place of an injured Jered Weaver, withstood a shaky start (he gave up two runs in the first inning) to last five strong innings, and left the game with a 4-2 lead. He was handed that lead courtesy of Robb Quinlan, who really picked up Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales in the fifth inning. The Angels loaded the bases with no one out on three straight single, the third being a shot by Vlad Guerrero that got to right field just fast enough to hold Gary Matthews to one base. Rivera and Morales responded to the opportunity by striking out looking. After fighting off some two strike pitches (amazing what happens when you swing), Quinlan laced a single to left center, scoring two. Xavier Nady's throw to third made it's way past Alex Rodriguez, allowing Vlad to score an insurance run.

From that point, the bullpen took over. Kevin Jepsen tossed a scoreless sixth, and the 7,8,9 combo of Jose Arrendondo, Scot Shields, and Frankie Rodriguez combined for nine outs, six of them via strikeout, allowing only three baserunners to seal the victory. The save, #56, puts Frankie one save away from Bobby Thigpen's record.

Top three Angel performers:

1) Dustin Moseley, filling in for Jered Weaver, gave the Angels five strong innings and stuck around long enough to pick up the win. He allowed six baserunners, and struck just as many out.

2) Robb Quinlan only had one hit, but it was huge, not only coming with the bases loaded, but also after the two previous hitters had gone down with the bat on their shoulder. The Angels needed one run to tie the game, and were about to come away with nothing. Quinlan got them two, and Nady threw in the third run for free.

3) Once again, I've got to give credit to the whole bullpen. Kevin Jepsen threw a solid sixth inning, and Jose Arredondo, Scot Shields, and Frankie Rodriguez showed everyone how a 7, 8, 9 combination is supposed to work. They combined for four innings, three baserunners, and seven strikeouts.

Jeff Weaver of the game: I'm going to go off script and select no one here. Even Juan Rivera, the only Angel without a hit, found a way to drive in a run. It was a solid team effort across the board.
What to look for tonight: Look for a lot of Angels regulars sitting in the dugout when the Mariners are at bat. Don't be surprised to Mike Scioscia starting a very young lineup with probably no more than five normal starters. Jered Weaver returns to the mound after missing a couple of starts with cuts on his fingers courtesy of the bullpen bench in Detroit.

Game Time is 7:05 PST, on FSN.