Our annual Spring Training Freeway Series is upon us, meaning that Opening Day is directly around the corner! I presume everybody's boredom is over by now, right?
Believe it or not, young-uns, this series used to be A Big Deal. Back before Interleague play. Back when everybody north of Buena Park thought that the Dodgers played the best baseball in Southern California. This weekend used to be a major event and fans of both sides would lament their turn of hosting only one of the three games. Nowadays, it is more like something to do as we wait to get things started. Hell, the Dodgers didn't even bother to show up. They were too busy in Rancho Cucamonga, losing to their own A-ball team.
But let's face it: as the Red Sox and their pink-hat brigade of 'fans' have returned to flopping helplessly on the deck, the Rangers have, as predicted, evolved into a formidable rival already. And the Dodgers have spent like drunken sailors in an effort to arm themselves into joining the Rangers as one of true rivals again - and for preeminence in our own neighborhood. Indeed, as may happen from time to time, our rivals have turned. From pink, to blue. And no amount of wannabe-October-Red coming out from that mid-western cow town of Arlington is going to change the fact that they remain blue. Very blue.
This is it, ladies and gentlemen. Next week we get it on! Time to set aside our Spring Training histrionics and settle in for the haul. Welcome to your Los Angeles Angels, featuring Mike Trout: Episode 2013...
On To Angels Baseball!
- RECAP: Last night's game was a pretty nice outing by Joe Blanton. Come on. Admit it. None of you saw that coming. That pretty much sums up the entire evening, however. But I do have this little tidbit. One does not usually see a pitcher from the same team responsible for the Win, the Save, AND the Loss!
- Mike Trout: As I have long said. Mike Trout 2012 is a watershed event for advanced stats and their permanent impact on baseball. Here we are 5 months later, and the embittered old guard is still putting up barricades and bandaging old wounds. And it's not going to go away for a little while longer yet. Observe how tightly the knuckleheads cling to their pikes and pickaxes. Notice, too, how Mark Saxon, trying too hard to be too cute, tramples the entire raison d'être behind Jerry Dipoto's coup. Don't let these guys read about the Washington Nationals. Heresy!.........But, hey(!), this is supposed to be positive stuff about Trout! Ok, parts of the MSM are drifting off the reservation and realizing that it is Trout, instead of Pujols/Weaver/Hamilton/et al who is The Face Of The Franchise. Not to be outdone, Reuters (that global supplier of information) loves them some Trout, but fails at language comprehension when they associate the concept of a player who "did it all" with the guy who did all of just three things. And, over at CBS, The Legend of Mike Trout is expected to grow. As has, apparently, his penchant for Dominos chicken wings. My favorite quip in that CBS article is their lift from Twitter: "Dos Equis man wear Mike Trout pajamas".
- Jered Weaver: This is fun. Fangraphs on Jered Weaver (paraphrasing): "I hate Jered Weaver because he fails to get batters out the way I want him to get batters out!" As opposed to ESPN on Jered Weaver (paraphrasing): "I love Jered Weaver because he gets players out by fooling the shit out of them and tricking them into hitting fly balls to his brilliant outfielders. So Jered Weaver is my Most Important Player."
- Jerry Dipoto: The Luckiest GM in America. Why? Well, as the lead dog overseeing The Worst Minor League System In America, built predominantly by his predecessors, it's not possible for him to any worse on behalf of his boss, and all too easy to do anything to make things better. And his is the kind of gig that allows him 3 or 4 years worth of paychecks before his boss figure out any result.
- Arte Moreno: Speaking of Dipoto's boss, Arte saw the value of his franchise rise 9% last season, to $718 million and 9th highest in MLB...despite losing an estimated $13 million last year (most likely monopoly money). Just goes to show you that the true money in franchise ownership comes at resale time. And during the intervening years one merely works one's very creative accountants very hard.
1972 TOPPS Jim Fregosi Baseball Card. So what, you ask? It's of a young Master Fregosi playing his accordion!
This Date In Baseball History: 1944 - The PCL Los Angeles Angels are involved in a car accident, and need to borrow players from the Oakland Oaks in order to play an exhibition game. LA (future PCL champs) win anyway, 6-2..........1973 - Charlie Finley gets his chance to use orange baseballs in a Spring Training game between the Oakland A's and Cleveland Indians.......2007 - Ria Corteso becomes the first woman to umpire a major league game since Pam Postema in 1989, working the match between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks..........2008 - To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their move to the West Coast, the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game at the LA Coliseum, setting a new all-time attendance record for an MLB game at 115,300..........2010 - Bud Selig announces that President Barack Obama will be throwing out the first pitch before the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals on Opening Day. Free trivia question: who was the first President to toss out a ceremonial first pitch of the season?
Rounding Up The Major League News...
- Striking Out: In most any other enterprise, striking out is a bad thing. But, apparently in baseball, the birthplace of the term and concept itself, players are starting to consider it not so uncool to strikeout. Tom Verducci in this week's Sports Illustrated Magazine (behind their paywall, but if you are a subscriber click away) goes long into the rise of K's in baseball over the past decade or so. You get the feeling that it's an artifact of the power surge awesomeness of the steroid era from that article, but you also find that players are not as stigmatized by high K rates as they used to be..........But while we are looking at strikeouts, the good folks over at Beyond The Boxscore notice that, among strikeout events themselves, there is a rise in CALLED third strikes. After reading that article, and learning that called strikeouts are becoming a greater percentage of the game, then it must be true that some other kind(s) of outs must be on the decrease. Right? Right?? Aren't total baseball outs in any game a zero-sum thing? I wonder what kinds of outs are disappearing?
- Surprise!: This is the kind of thing that makes taking down real data, tallying actuals, and managing the information as factual history play far more than sitting up on your perch of privilege and watch 4,000 games. This is the kind of information that has turned me in the direction away from "old school chemistry". This is a list of great hitters who never actually led their league in their anecdotal specialty. Vlad Guerrero, for instance, never led his league in Slugging Percentage. Shoeless Joe Jackson never led his league in Batting Average. Pete Rose never led his league in walks. Click to see more...
- Bud Selig: Sigh...Uncle Bud is threatening to retire. Again. Please. Craig Calcaterra is all over this, pointing out that we got this message back in 2010 and got all our hopes up. And just like he didn't buy that one (and he was not alone) he ain't buying this announcement, either. Neither am I. I guess having Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and Jered Weaver as LA Angels are already too much good luck for me to experience.
- Sacrilege! Hardball Times treads deeply into the devolution of Derek Jeter. I cannot imagine how Manhattanites are taking this review of their archangel. My favorite line comes rather early on: "Jeter’s current measurable value to the Yankees is far less positive than widely perceived." I don't know how wide it has been that he has had a positive value any more. My guess is that the definition of widely, in this context, extends from New York City to somewhere significantly short of Philadelphia. But, I guess the big revelation is Derek Jeter Is Getting Old. Color me surprised, Captain Obvious.
- The Bird: A new book about the awesomeness that was Mark Fidrych is now out. This brings The Bird back into the collective memory of us older fans and the media. The anecdotes are legion and, in a world dominated by unwritten rules forcing everybody to stay cool, Fidrych was that breath of fresh air for which we fans yearn. For those of you who missed the reality of that unreal character, go ahead start with Wiki but, for the love of baseball, keep Googling!
Video Of The Week ("Lil Papi")
(Trouble viewing the video? Direct link here.)
Count the days. Nolan Ryan has already joined a new club. The 70/30 club. 70% chance he goes, 30% chance he stays. Which merely adds up to "grumpy old man"..........Tim McCarver retiring after 2013. Baby steps…people…baby steps............Some fun reactions to McCarver's (annointed, wonderfully, Poet Of The Obvious by Deadspin) announcement here and here..........Minor League Baseball introduces the video gaming experience wherein the game controller is...a urinal! What? No sword play? No first-person shooter? No Mario Water Sport?..........We can put a man on the Moon. We can drive robots around Mars. But we still can't make a safety cap that MLB pitchers won't whine about............For those of you just rejoining us, here is a quick recap of new things to look forward to in MLB this season.
And now, being the full service weekend linkage institution that we are, here is the obligatory moment we take out of each Friday...for beer...
Friday: Ciro's Pizzeria & Beerhouse in San Diego is hosting the Goose Island Tap Takeover, featuring the 2012 Bourbon County Brand Stout.
Saturday: Ommegang x Game Of Thrones bottle release party will be held at the Whole Foods market - Newport Beach Back Bay Tavern.
Sunday: Easter At The Bistro, a Beer & Food brunch event, including an easter egg hunt for your little ones, will be sponsored by Stone Brewing Company in Escondido.
Angels Stadium Neighborhood Brew Tour: So anyone of legal age can obtain beer from a billion different places. Hell, you can get golden-colored bubble fluid out of bottles even at IHOP. But what if you really like your beer, and have a couple of hours to enjoy before/after a game? Where does one go? I'm sure that you have your favorites, and why, and I encourage you to share.
- Week One we did a tour of the best establishments within one or two miles of the stadium itself.
- Week Two we checked out the finer stops for those of you traveling to/from a game via the 5 freeway.
- Week Three was for fans venturing in down the 57 freeway.
- Week Four was for visitors from the Lake Forest/Ladera Ranch/RSM regions.
- Week Five was for beach goers along the central and north OC coast.
This week we meander around the well-established suburbs of West OC. These are lesser-traveled neighborhoods for most visitors to Orange County, but there is a reason these parts of the county were established first: the weather is absolutely premiere! So, for those of you adventure seeker looking for a special reward before or after a game, wherein you might take pause to celebrate another Halo victory, we offer up these GPS opportunities:
(Again, as pulled from The Drinking Issue of OCWEEKLY)
- Hi-Time Wine Cellar - 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa (Mecca. Nothing more needs to be said.)
- The Playground - 220 E. 4th St., Santa Ana (All craft beers $5. Make sure to tip! You were warned...)
- The Globe Dine & Bar - 12926 Main St., Garden Grove (Belgium specialties)
- Tustin Brewery- 13011 Newport Blvd., Suite 100, Tustin (A local legend. So Locals swear by it.)
- Icon Beverages & Cigars - 5721 Lincon Ave., Cypress (600+ craft beers and a tasting room!)
As always, feel free to contribute below!