TWENTY DAYS LEFT BEFORE SPRING TRAINING OPENS!!!
Yeah. Everybody wants some. I do. Don't you? Another strong starting pitcher. A rebirth in left field. Rejuvenation at first base. AND THE NEXT THREE WEEKS TO GO RACING BY!! You know, the small things.
On To Angels Baseball...
- Garza is Gonzo: As Rev broke yesterday, Matt Garza (who grew up in the Fresno area, by the way) signed on to live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin instead of Newport Beach, California, for the next 4 years. Assuming that the Halos made him a respectable offer, one that dealt with CA tax burdens, this says enough to me about Garza's critical thinking skills to be thankful he is not making decisions on our mound. Am I totally off base thinking that the pitcher we might have wanted out of Garza for 2014 is pretty much the pitcher we already had in Vargas? If we had picked up the Vargas option at the end of the day we would be paying only $1 million more for Vargas in 2014 than the Brewers will be paying for Garza, but with a big difference. After 2014 we would be free and clear of that contract, unlike the Brewers. So we can be still be a stronger player in the 2014 FA pitching hullabaloo. As it turns out, we have neither. Oh well. It's only starting pitching.
Patients: Let's see. Studying the official transaction lists for everything that has gone on since October 3rd, the Angels have claimed 1 player off of waivers, signed 18 total free agents, traded for 5 new players, released 2 players outright, and lost 4 players to Free Agency. And they have invited 17 players with minor league contracts to Spring Training to fight for a job. But because they sat on the sidelines for Tanaka, and missed out on Garza, the new messaging for all this activity is "patience". Why? Well, because of either financial impact or specific needs, all that activity had nothing to do with the top FA's of this past offseason. We are to be forgiven for being the team currently most familiar with large FA's not exactly panning out and leaving us shackled. So being gun shy might be best when we are also out of bullets. But, really, "patience" is the word chosen? This offseason has looked more like a mad scramble to pluck as many wings and prayers as we can get before anybody else takes them. "Imaginative" maybe, but not "patient".
Erick Aybar: Aybar, starting shortstop for Los Tigres Del Licey (Tigers), is playing in the Dominican Winter League Championship series against Leones del Escogido (Lions). The series began on Monday with Game 1. If it goes that far, Game 9 is next Wednesday. The whole series can be seen streamed on ESPN. Aybar is also featured in this series on Licey's website. (The Internet is full of translation tools. Don't make me look it up for you!) Last night the Lions pulled off their first win of the series as the Tigers now lead 3 games to 1. Aybar is batting .233.
Promotion Pathos: Here I remain, still beating the drum concerning how lame our annual list of franchise promotional events and giveaways continues to be. One of the things that defines the culture surrounding a franchise is the fan experience. In the case of LAA, that experience has long grown stale. I whine about it every year. This list for 2014 could be the precise same list of ideas and celebrations and incentives from a decade ago. Now compare that to this just finalized, wild, and joyous list planned for this season by our northern neighbors, the SF Giants. They have Heritage Nights, Festival Nights, Appreciation Nights, Party Nights, off-the-wall giveaways and major concert events. Why is my team so dull???
Buy Stuff - Crazy-ass Stuff On the Internet:
Reindeer Butt Bottle Opener. Quick, before reindeer season leaves us behind and you still have the chance to get prepared for Spring Training games!
This Date In Baseball History: 1939 - The BBWAA add three players to their list of HoF inductees - Willie Keeler, George Sisler and Eddie Collins - to be added to the eight players elected in 1936 and one in 1937, so that the HoF can realize its goals of having at least 10 players in the inaugural class. In literary terms, that would make Keeler, Sisler and Collins First Edition, Third Printing...........1955 - Cue laugh track #1: Because the game is so slow, Major League Baseball changes the official rules such that a pitcher will be required to pitch the baseball within 20 seconds of taking the pitching position. (You really should click that link. It's a pretty interesting page.).........1962 - 15 years after Jackie Robinson had integrated MLB, the Southern Association of Baseball folds due to waning attendance. Founded in 1901, the Southern Association remained segregated until it's dying breath (except for this guy, who played 2 games for this team in 1954)..........1980 - Cue laugh track #2: Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon pay a heretofore unheard of and exorbitant amount of money for the New York Mets. $21.1 million..........2001 - Cue laugh track #3: MLB Umpires gather for a pre-season workout to practice calling strikes according to the official rule book
Great Moments in Baseball Statistical History
(My primary source for this series is the excellent book The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz author, Thomas Dunne Books Publisher.)
Some Things Never Change
Before I take you to the next important character in our timeline, I want to pause a moment to share with you some stories that happened over a hundred years ago, but could just as well have been plucked from the sports pages of today.
If you recall, by the early years of the 1900's we have seen the rise of independent sources of statistical volumes. By "independent", I mean not being sourced by official baseball employees and not being sourced by existing newspaper outlets. In these early years, as we have seen, massive amounts of data were being accumulated and tallied and reported. It is true that not a lot of this information was yet being studied to validate how meaningful or valid certain statistics might be towards being an influential indicator towards outcomes. It was just math fun, but it was indicative of a desire towards deeper understanding than the "eyeball test".
Well, already, baseball writers were getting pissy. As Schwarz relates, "all this hand-wringing over statistics began to grate upon more traditional reporters of the game...some writers felt their jobs slipping away from them."(1) I love the "more traditional" perspective. It's only 1910 - 1920 and we already have an ingrained "tradition". And it wasn't just the scribes. Some fans were already rebelling against the increased focus on numbers and statistical recordings of the games. Schwarz: "One exasperated reader [wrote] that [Hugh Fullerton] would have us believe that good ball can be played only by those men who...work with the assistance of a tape measure, a tee-square, and an intimate knowledge of algebras and fractions." (2) Don't you just love it? The same diatribes in use today rail in favor of what was built upon that which these same Luddites railed against before.
Ernie Lanigan (who was profiled back on the 12/27 edition of WeekEnd Links) became the Nate Silver of his day when, in 1916, he dared to predict that Tris Speaker would finally usurp Ty Cobb as batting champion. Cobb had won 9 in a row, so this was a considerable reach for Lanigan. But Lanigan noticed something. Speaker, a left-handed batter, had just been traded to the heavily right-hand batting Indians. Cobb, also a left-handed batter, was still playing for predominantly left-handed batting Tigers. Lanigan reasoned that the Tigers would continue to see a great deal of left-handed pitching. Speaker, however, was now going to be feasting on right-handed pitching sent to the mound to deal with the majority of batters on the Indians.
Sure enough, in that 1916 season Tris Speaker did win the batting title, handing Cobb his only miss in a 13 year stretch. Applied use of statistical research had outwitted the "traditionalists".
(1) The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz (2004) Thomas Dunne Books, p32
(2) The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz (2004) Thomas Dunne Books, p34
Gentlemen, Start your Calculators!: The 2014 edition of Baseball Prospectus is now on sale. I just ordered mine today off of Amazon. With luck, it will be here Monday. I am rather anxious to discover just now far they predict Mike Trout to regress in 2014. Last year, not only did they predict regression but, because of his phenomenal 2012, they actually slotted Trout as the player throughout all of baseball who would have the largest falloff. I disagreed with that immediately. It's nice to be right once in a while. By the way, this year they will have team by team chapters and, as he tweeted yesterday, Matt Welch authors the Angels chapter essay. That guy needs to find a day job.
- BBWAA: Tomorrow night, in New York City, The Base Ball Writers Association of America holds their annual dinner gala. For some residual reason, this is so important that it sits on the official calendar of Major League Baseball. Well, it's kind of important inasmuch as this is where the recipients are handed their MVP, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Manager of the Year Awards. I guess my bitch is that we need in the next Commissioner a person who might want to consider moving away from this particular club in order to create official awards of recognition.
- Department of WTF: In a few years, Vladimir Guerrero is going to pop up on the HoF ballot. There is a chance that, after a couple of years, he might get voted in. Much has been discuused here on HH concerning Vlad's cap: should he go in as an Expo or as a Halo? It would, of course, be the first Halo cap in the Hall. That would be very cool for us. But did you know that there is a THIRD possibility? The Hall, which makes these decisions now, has reserved for themselves the right to induct a player with a blank cap. Kind of a United Nations sort of contestant. This they are doing this year with LaRussa and Maddux. That's right, Greg Maddux is being enshrined without a team. Here is their reasoning: "For those whose careers were built significantly among multiple teams, not having a team logo is equally acceptable. Regardless of the selection, a Hall of Famer belong to every team for which he played or managed, as well as every fan who followed his career." So, see? Derek Jeter belongs to you and me, too!
- Oh Thank You! Oh Joy!: So the Yankees signed Tanaka. And you know what? You are soooo grateful! Because it's good for baseball, and good for all of us!! Jeff Passan makes some very rational points supporting why it is that the Yankees were always going to get Tanaka, whatever the price. And I am down with that. They suck at draft & develop. They backed themselves into a corner of their own making. ARod forgiveness aside, they can pay the fortunes to try and buy their way back out of their bad spending in the past. Ok. But, really, why does anybody still toss out this kind of crap? "This is the Yankees' and Dodgers' and Red Sox's world, and the other 27 teams are living in it. And it is phenomenal for baseball.. Parity is boring." As if we cannot enjoy the game unless we have a villain somewhere on the landscape.
- Home Plate Collisions: MLB hosted the Baseball Assistance Team Dinner this week and The Sporting News took a moment to interview former players concerning their opinion on a few common topics. One of those was home plate collisions and the new rule against them. There is more than a little "get of my lawn" stuff there, and Steve Garvey does his very best state politician impression. But my favorite was Cleon Jones going on about John Roseboro. "The one guy I didn't want to hold me up was Johnny Roseboro. He was the best in the game, John Roseboro. You couldn't run over him, and you couldn't knock him off the plate. I pride myself on being the kind of guy that could run you over, but he was the one catcher I was never able to do that. After I tried it one or two times, I refused to do it a third time." I met Roseboro once. His stats don't give him credit for his size. He looked like he was constructed out of solid oak. I was already about 5'11" and he dwarfed me. And his hands were the largest hands I have ever seen not attached to the ends of the arms of Muhammad Ali. The Tim Tuefel perspective, by the way, was also interesting.
Video Of The Week
(Our game is almost back. A reminder...)
(Having troubling viewing the video? Click here.)
You thought things were bad now, but when ARod finally returns, things could get real ugly............Ha ha ha! Chipper Jones starts a forest fire. LOL. No harm done. Ain't it all just a cute story? (For those of you not living or raised in California, no, it is most definitely not cute.)..........Mr. Met has one effed up left thumb. I double dog dare you to try and duplicate that hand position. (By the way, why does "Mr. Metropolitan" look like such a doofus? Shouldn't he be in a tux or something?)..........Halo Blogger Stirrups to receive the 1st "Halo Blogger Stirrups Snarky Ass Award". Halo Blogger Stirrups will be presenting his award to himself this Saturday...........The only use for talk of Major League Baseball in Portland is on behalf of owners looking for better stadium deals right where they are. It's called "leverage"..........Nothing says "Brooklyn" quite like "Dodgers". Just ask any basketball fan..........Prepare yourself. Replay won't solve everything. On the other hand, it would have solved this..........Cool find (h/t Uni Watch): A great B&W photo of Ty Cobb with Ted Williams...........You might have missed it, but Mike Trout's 2012 season might have been the 4th best all around achievement by any baseball player in the history of MLB. Not that this was Valuable, or anything...........Just to make you cry: Billy Hamilton is The Next Best Thing. We heard A LOT about him coming out of AAA and tasting the Bigs for Cincinnati last year, even into the playoffs. So who is being talked up as Hamilton's closest comp? Jim Callis at MLB is calling it Peter Bourjos.
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: Both Beachwood BBQ locations, in Seal Beach and Long Beach, ARE STILL host their 3rd Annual Pliny Fights Cancer Charity Raffle this weekend, too (from last weekend). Festivities take place on Friday, Saturday AND Sunday.
Saturday: 3rd Annual Pliny Fights Cancer Charity Raffle this weekend...........The American Homebrewers Association holds a Rally at Mission Brewery in San Diego. It helps to be a member if you plan on attending..........
Sunday: 3rd Annual Pliny Fights Cancer Charity Raffle...........Eagle Rock Brewery in LA celebrates their 4th Anniversary. From noon to 6PM.........Los Gatos has the Alesmith Beer Tasting at the Artisan Wine Depot Sunday afternoon..........Finally, in San Jose at Original Gravity Pub there will be the site of the Inaugural South Bay Craft Brew Club.
Stay safe, everyone!