Well, here we go, folks. The dash to the finish line begins today. Around the country, the general consensus is that the Oakland A's are the best in all of baseball. The Angels, maybe as high as third. But consider, at about 94/95 games into the season, with the two teams only 1.5 games apart, that is practically the equivalent of a tie. Then ponder on this: even though the Angels are only 1.5 games behind Oakland, they are closing hard. And, to date, they have scored more runs, collected more hits, doubles, home runs, stolen bases than the A's. They have a higher batting average, a higher on-base percentage, a higher slugging percentage, and a higher OPS than the A's. The A's pitching staff has surrendered far fewer runs, much lower ERA, and far fewer hits. But the two staffs are almost identical in batting average allowed and pretty close in WHIP. The Angels staff has more saves, which reflects on how fewer times an Oakland reliever is needed to make an appearance under the "save" guidelines, AND a reflection on how much better the LAA staff actually is versus what we were all fretting about back in April. On defense, the Angels have a much better fielding percentage than the A's, and have caught far more opposing runners trying to steal.
Sure, there are lots of other categories to pick from, and a lot of those favor the A's over the Halos. But I am not trying to make any claim that the Angels are some sort of runaway juggernaut. What I am trying to claim is that Oakland is NOT. We are in this, people. Let's go kick some A'ss!
- Sean Newcomb: Just a quick advisory. Today at 2 PM PDT is the deadline for the Angels and Newcomb to strike a deal. All parties indicate a deal is imminent, which would be good since Newcomb is one of only 3 first rounders unsigned (the other two have health suspicions), so let's just wait for the good news. Meanwhile, things are decidedly less joyous over in Houston, Not signing Aiken might end up costing the Astros their top 3 draft choices. "In the somewhat complicated system, if Aiken goes unsigned, the Astros lose the entire $7.9 million in slot money attached to the No. 1 pick, and thus their ability to sign Nix...Union leaders believe Aiken was done wrong, with the theory that the Astros are seeking an even lower price on Aiken so they can afford No. 21 pick, lefthander Mac Marshall...a failure to sign Aiken also would mean a failure to sign Nix, a right-hander who's a friend of Aiken's and is also committed to UCLA, as well as Marshall."
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Nuke'Em is a Halo:
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- Mike Trout: Tonight is Mike Trout Gnome Bobblehead Giveaway. Don't worry too much if you can't get to the game to applaud Trout for his ASG excellence, or to chant "M-V-P! M-V-P" all night with the rest of the fans. You will still be able to get our own Trout Gnome Bobblehead. If you don't want to wait, they are already being sold on eBay even before they get handed out. But if you want to wait, and/or you would rather pay something closer to 6 bucks for one, well, I always trip over these things in the local thrift stores, usually still in the box with the styrofoam packing. Meanwhile, the gnome has already been busy toodling around Trouty's old stomping grounds.
- Albert Pujols: Just a reminder as we gear up for the second half. Pujols historically does better in the second half than he does in the first. In fact, with the exception of last year when he was injured, you have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a season where his second half was not superior to his first. So, although it is true that he is not the player he used to be, we should still look forward to him being a better player than he has already been this year.A stronger Pujols combined with a Trout without a slump, and a Josh Hamilton without an injury, folded into a batter of significant contributions from undervalued farmhands, and sprinkled with touch of a rising David Freese, and the second half could be fun. Very, very fun.
- Trade Mania! For those uninitiated, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline is July 31. Counting today, that is 14 days for everybody in baseball to sort things out. And there are lots of interested buyers. Keep close tabs here to HH as it is most common for major transactions to get posted by your fellow members as a Fanshot within minutes of the event. If you want a shortcut to follow Jerry Dipoto and all that he is unable to do because of our shallow farm system (yeah, this is where the draining of talent in ears past really comes home to roost), click here and bookmark this shortcut. It will take you directly to Angels news every time.
This Date in Baseball History: 1882 - Ambidextrous pitcher Tony Mullane takes the mound for Louisville, sans any glove, to face the Orioles. He loses anyway..........1921 - Babe Ruth becomes the MLB all-time career home run leader with his - get this! - 139th home run..........1927 - Ty Cobb collects his 4000th career hit, becoming the first ever to do so..........1939 - Boston Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin, infielder, had earlier filed a suspiciously poor scouting report on Boston farm-hand Pee Wee Reese in order to hold on to his own job. This results in Reese being traded away to the Dodger on this day in one of history's most lobsided trades ever as Reese will end up in the Hall of Fame and the $35,000 and 4 players sent to Boston end up going nowhere...........1948 - Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, pitching for the Phillies in his rookie season, gets himself into a jam in the bottom of the 9th innings versus the Cubs when he yields to the first two batters, putting them on base. Roberts then appears to get out of his own jam by retiring the next two batters. With only 1 out needed to escape, Roberts then plunks the next 2 consecutive batters to give the Cubs the 3-2 walk-off victory (he actually hit 3 batters that day). Roberts' final season, 1966, will be spent as a Cubbie...........1949 - Jackie Robinson testifies in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities to reject the notion put forth by Paul Robeson that Black Americans would refuse to fight Communism due to domestic racial discrimination..........1954 - Umpire Babe Pinelli forfeits a game between the Cards and the Phillies in favor of the Phillies, when the Cardinals (practicing a little know chapter of The Cardinal Way) attempt to stall until darkness can overtake the game while still in the 5th inning by sending in three consecutive relief pitchers, all while training 8-1. (Hidden easter egg of joy for those few who read this section! Click the period that immediately follows the last word of this sentence.) Pinelli smells the rat and punishes St. Louis using a very rare protocol. Cards manager Eddie Stanky was suspended and ended up making a public apology for his tactics..........1964 - Oddly, considering his 4,256 total hits, Pete Rose hits the only grand slam of his career...........1970 - Willie Mays gets the 3,000 hit of his career..........1983 - The Phillies fire their manager Pat Corrales due to their uninspired record at the time. The Phillies were 43-42. In 1st place. And on their way to a World Series appearance............1999 - David Cone tosses a perfect game as the Yankees defeat the Expos 6-0. It was Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium, and Don Larsen (he of the only World Series perfect game) threw out the first pitch..........2001 - A stadium transformer catches fire at Qualcomm Stadium, and an entire section of outfield lights explodes as a result. This happens during the 2nd inning of a live game between the Padres and Diamondbacks, suspending the game until the following day...........2006 - Buck O'Neil, at the ripe age of 94, signs a one-day contract and surpasses Jim Eriotes (see last week!) as the oldest man to appear in a professional baseball game.
- Kellogg's Best To You: Kellogg's, the Corn Flakes Kings, conducted a recent survey focused on baseball fan passions and pumped out the results to all of SBN in the form of a press release yesterday. A few of the results are pretty fun, so I will share. Nearly 30% of fans know the schedule of their favorite baseball team better than they know their own commitments in the subsequent 2 months....Almost half have cancelled, missed, or been late to some family event in order to catch a game...Almost 1/3 have missed or been late to work for the same reason...Almost 1/3 would change or cancel a date if it interfered with a game...More than 1/3 of all fans under the age of 34 have petitioned a bartender or restaurant owner to find out if they will play their teams' games regularly...More than 10% of us have gone out of our way to catch a game while at a wedding...Of the more unusual tactics for "never missing a game", some of us have ordered tickets while at church, and/or attended a game while on our honeymoon. Seriously, people, on your honeymoon??
- Arlington, Texas - A Real Baseball Town: Things in Texas have not turned out the way Rangers fans were predicting. Certainly not after collecting Prince Fielder in the offseason (and more than a few were delighted to see Kinsler go in that exchange). Well, today they open the stretch run with the worst record in all of baseball, and their fans have shown their loyal dedication to the game with plummeting ticket sales. The average - average! - price for a ticket in Arlington has fallen a whopping 41%. According to Forbes, it's now less expensive to see the A's play in Arlington than it is to see them play in Oakland. Things did not start out this way. "Before the season began Rangers tickets were one of the most expensive in the league with an average ticket price of $100.99. Texas was one just one of a handful of teams, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants, to have a season average of at least $100." Some of you might remember the little brouhaha between Arlington and Anaheim a little bit ago over which city had the true baseball fans. Go ahead. Be smug. And feel good about it.
- Anaheim, California - A Real Baseball Town: Ok, but what about us? With a major improvement in the record and an exciting division race AND The New Face of Baseball to watch nearly every single day, surely things look good for Anaheim, yes? Why, yes! "The best team on this list might be the Los Angeles Angels. While the team is second in their division, that has more to do with being in a division with the Oakland Athletics than anything else. The Angels have the league’s second best record at 57-37, and the second best run differential at +89. But even with that success the ticket average is just a bit higher than the Cardinals at $56.92. That certainly helps explain how the Angels made the top five in terms of attendance with an 83.7 percent attendance rate. Angel Stadium has a capacity of 45,050, slightly more than AT&T Park, but games on the Angels schedule are almost half the price of the Giants."
- NPSA: This is disturbing.Next season ALL MLB stadiums will have metal detectors installed. All fans attending will be scanned. Apparently, this is the very best way for the National Pastime Security Administration to ward off the ongoing rash of people using cellphones to talk to their pals back home watching on TV. All I ask of everyone is one simple thing. Don't ever get used to it. Please.
- Baseball Biz: Half way through the season, and with playoff baseball looming large, Dodger fans remain locked away from their home team, with no end yet in sight, as their owner's chosen broadcast partner still needs to blackmail all the carriers in order to fund the team payroll extravaganza. And the carriers are still not folding. " DirecTV states: 'It’s regrettable Time Warner Cable keeps coming between loyal Dodger fans and their games. We want to work with Time Warner Cable to free these same passionate fans to get the games at the best value, while also allowing casual fans and those who don’t watch sports the simple power to choose whether to pay record fees for these games or not' "
Trout cleats. Why not?............The question was whether or not he actually wore these during the game. Answer: he did!.............And while still on the same subject, I wonder if this thing also flaps about and speaks on demand?............Just a little point of order for those who whine that whining about east cost media bias is a waste of everyone's time. Actually, it does matter. You can bet thta if he had not played his career in the distant burg of San Diego or, hell, wore pinstripes, that would not have happened.............In case you are wondering why nobody wants to be the first AL WC, it's because they will have to face this guy as the second AL WC for all the marbles...........Stay classy, TexASS. Best comment of all: "If you draw the fart bottle, you win. Everyone else has to go to the Rangers game.".........Anthony Rendon of the Nats, left off the NL All-Star team (most likely to enjoy a few beers with Garrett Richards), knows a thing or two about FOX Sports broadcasts............As odd as this sounds, I really think that Mike Trout belongs on this list. After all, if he doesn't have a slump in the second half, he has to, yes?............This guy had an ERA+ of
178 105 when he was with us, just two seasons ago. He currently sits at 173. One might imagine that had we simply kept him, we might have avoided a lot of drama.............Show of hands: who all recalls the days when the Yankees picked off the cream of everybody's roster, instead of the curds?
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: Mammoth Jazz Festival in Mammoth Lakes.
Saturday: Beer Camp Across America - Northwest Edition takes place at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico. This also takes place on Sunday..........Valiant Brewing in Orange, within walking distance of Angels Stadium, is holding a Mid-Summer Beer Fest...........Original Gravity Public House in San Jose puts up their 2nd Anniversary Party............Benze Sports Field in Tehachapi is the site of the Tehachapi Mountain Brew & BBQ Festival............The Lost Abbey in San Marcos is planning to pull off a charity beer event, celebrating Port Brewing Christmas in July.............Ok, not really beer oriented, but certainly beer friendly and a massive throwback baseball pickup game that should resonate with anyone who was once a child with a bat, a ball and a mitt. If you are anywhere near San Diego, The 61st World Championship Over The Line Tourney is in full swing, concluding Sunday............Mammoth Jazz Festival in Mammoth Lakes.