While you were away...Baseball came back!! (Some people had more fun during the All-Star Break than others.)
The Angels got off to a decent start on the race to October. While the offense sputtered like an archaic hit and miss engine, just putting enough runs across to stay relevant. Meanwhile, the pitching was strong. Very strong. And the stars aligned just enough for the Halos to leverage that relevancy and turn in a series victory, taking 2 out of 3 from the Mariners. And that third, the Felix Hernandez start, could have easily been a 3rd win for a sweep. So although the offense is not back to pre-ASG break stupendousness, overall the team is still playing tough. And, hey, remember that there is a huge difference between the Rangers pitching staff and that of Seattle.
Let's start with Friday, er, Saturday. The Halos peppered Hisashi Iwakuma with hits by Howie Kendrick, David Freese and Hank Conger to take the lead with 2 runs in the fifth. To that point Iwakuma had allowed two hits through 12 outs. The Angels would not score again for 11 more innings. That would mean that the game went 16 innings, which it did, mostly because Jered Weaver went back out for one inning too many and gave up two immediate hits, and a run, in the 7th. Mike Morin came in to relieve and allowed an inherited runner to score on an Endy Chavez base hit, and the game was tied 2-2. A couple of hours later, suffering through anemic offenses or dominating bullpens, based on your perspective, Mike Trout doubles despite a base touch challenge by Seattle. After Albert Pujols grounds out, Efren Navarro comes in to pinch hit for John McDonald and, 5 hours and 14 minutes after the first pitch, promptly doubles in Trout for the winning run and a enjoys a walk-off Gatorade shower while chatting with Alex Curry as the Angels take the opener 3-2.
On Saturday, Garrett Richards went toe to toe with Felix Hernandez. Inning 1, no hits on either side. Inning 2, no hits on either side, though Hernandez gives up 2 walks. Inning 3, no hits on either side. Inning 4, no hits by M's, but Trout doubles. Inning 5, no hits by either side. Folks, we have an official old-style pitching duel here.
Inning 6, 2 hits put the M's up 1-0. The Angels go down in order. Inning 7, The M's go quietly, but the Angels tie it up on 2 walks, a single, a throwing error, and a rather curious baserunning decision by Josh Hamilton that might have cost us a meaningful run. Richards took down the M's in order in the 8th, and then bullpens started taking over. But by now Richards and Hernandez had shown us all some glimpses of immortality.
The Angels would squander a winning RISP in the 8th inning, and then again in the 9th. And Hamilton would run us out of the 11th with a failed 2-out steal attempt. So, what the hell, the M's went ahead and took the game being offered, scoring a pair in the 12th. Freese would respond with a meaningless homer in the bottom frame, but the Angels lost 3 - 2 in another extra inning contest.
Yesterday, in an early afternoon game, both offenses began to wake back up. the M's banged out 10 hits, scoring 5 runs. The Angels would counter with 16 hits, and 6 runs. Of note was that the M's went 5 for 9 with RISP, while the Halos were only 3 for 13. In fact, the Angels were only 6 for 34 with RISP all weekend. Yikes.
The drama of the game starts with the Mariners taking a 5-3 lead in the top of the 7th as Tyler Skaggs ran out of gas. Skaggs had surrendered 3 runs in the top of the 1st, then settled down and held Seattle silent for 5 innings. Kendrick got 1 run right back, driving in Trout, and we went into the 8th trailing 5-4. After Fernando Salas shut down Seattle in order, Navarro led off with a single. Grant Green flied out, and Fernandy Rodney was brought in for relief. Chris Iannetta did what Iannetta did a lot of all weekend - strike out - and Kole Calhoun flied out to end the inning. Rodney then did his usual asshat bow-and-arrow thing, but this time directed straight at the LAA dugout. Some might recall a little bad blood from Rodney with respect to Scioscia, after his failed tour with the Halos. Well, this was clearly seen by the boys in red, who took umbrage. Joe Thatcher spent a shaky 9th on the mound, managing to avoid giving up a run at all, which brought the Angels to bat down a run. And out trotted Rodney, again.
Properly motivated, Trout was extremely careful with his at-bat, watching Rodney go ballistic when his chipping away failed to get but one strike and Trout walked on 5 pitches. Mariners manager McLendon went to the mound to try and cool Rodney down, but Pujols came to bat and was not having it. Albert took the 3rd pitch and smacked it down the right field line allowing Trout to circle all the way from 1st to tie the game. From second, Pujols pulled one of Rodney's phantom arrows out of his own phantom quiver and shot it to Trout. And from home, Trout pulled out yet another of Rodney's phantom arrows and fired it right back at Pujols. Both shots right across the cocked-cap brow of Fernando. Let there be no misunderstanding: Rodney pulled a dick move and tried to smack the Angels. it was grossly premature. Dusty Baker-to-Russ Ortiz level of premature.
And what followed thereafter was lovely. Hamilton singled. Howie was intentionally walked. "Clutch' Freese grounded into a double play, but that just opened up first base so that Navarro could be intentionally walked. Then, with the bases loaded and the count 1 and 2, Grant Green took a shin-high fastball right up the middle and Hamilton jogged home with the walk-off winning run as the Angels won 6-5 and took the series. And Rodney's line? In 1.1 innings of work, he gave up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 2 earned runs against a single strike out. All-Star Jackass.
Elsewhere in the Heavens of Anaheim: The Angels obtained Huston Street from the Padres in a trade package that has split Halos Heaven...........But, yeah, Street should be thrilled to be playing meaningful baseball once again.............With Huston Street and Joe Smith anchoring the back end of our bullpen, there is a ripe Street & Smith Baseball pun out there for the taking............C.J. Cron was sent back to AAA to make room for Street............Erick Aybar, who tweaked his groin running to 1st base on Friday night, is day-to-day but should avoid the DL.............Mike Trout is getting rather popular.
Around Baseball: Mike Trout may be goo, but Mike Trout is no Adam Jones (thank God)..............Sorry, but I am a sucker for found film of old-timey baseball, and you are going to read about it every time something pops up.............Warning! Don't attempt to dress up as the Rally Monkey. Bad things will happen. Only bad things...........Peter Bourjos is doing Ok, folks...........This ball girl problem is starting to get chronic, isn't it??..........Whatever happened to: Tim Emanski? Who?? Oh, you know who he is..........Oops. Might have been a waste of a perfectly good beer, right there. Then again, considering the venue, most likely it was just Budweiser.
Moreno-Carpino Shame Update
Jim Fregosi still not being honored with a memorial patch.
97 games lost. 65 games left to be ignored. (Oakland just brought out Bob Welch patches. I can now think of only 1 major baseball person who has passed and not been honored this season. Our All Star. Our Franchise Hall of Famer. Our early hero. Our guy.)
It's time to take matters into my own hands. I have submitted an order for my own patches, using the design above. Guerrilla marketing will commence shortly. I am going to follow with stickers. I will offer them up to all of you at no cost, provided I get back a photo of the patch in use. I will use the photo in a memorial montage. Bonus points if the picture is of the patch in use inside the stadium, or beyond borders. Below is the proof from the manufacturer. I am totally digging the product so far, and hope it arrives as forecast. (How I get them from me to you is still to be determined.)
Sign up in the comments below (Some of you signed on board last week. I have those already. Thanks!)
Major League Baseball broadcast yet another Home Run Derby-Dud last week, as part of the annual All-Star Week Festivities. Recognizing that the beast has been a dud coming in to this year's event, they changed the format in an effort to improve the entertainment value. It was supposed to be "Epic". It was not. It was still a dud.
Another tradition that comes with every All-Star Break is the inevitable post Home Run Derby fallout of "Here's How To Fix The Home Run Derby" articles. Ideas are everywhere. Opinions are free. I have them, too. For example, why not shit-can the whole thing?
At the very bottom of this particular barrel, a home run derby is merely the baseball equivalent of a half-court shooting contest. Or a 60-yard field goal contest. Or televised bass fishing. As a made-for-TV event, one might expect that they would come up with something that actually scales well when watched from a TV. Home runs are visually impressive in person, but not on TV. Home runs are exciting on TV because they represent an immediate impact on the drama being played out. All we do, as viewers, is stare at the TV to confirm that the ball has indeed cleared the wall in fair territory, and then celebrate or commiserate among ourselves. But there is no drama at hand in the Derby. There is no us-versus-them-ism at stake to celebrate.
It's a single skills contest, of one singular skill, that does not play well in the media format for which it was created. And, as a bonus, there is evidence that the participants suffer somewhat from the act of participating in the first place.
Instead, how about MULTIPLE skills contests, combining multiple skills, that DO play well on TV - nay, that leverage state of the art video technology - and result in both individual and combined winners?? Something that allows the participants to choose the skills contests that best suit their strengths, without forcing some focus on a process that might risk their productivity in subsequent months of meaningful employ?
We could have baserunning contests and throwing contests and spray hitting contests. Speed and accuracy and distance all counting. A Billy Hamilton might run away with the baserunning title, but a Mike Trout might still get serious points toward an overall title by running anyway, and doing well enough to earn points similar to the point systems used in track and field decathlons. And MLB now has Statcast to track and showcase baserunning.
Infielders could line up and start from a fixed position, and track down uniform ground balls spit out by a pitching machine, being forced to field and throw and hit a target. Each turn through the line extends the range to be covered, and the target would have concentric circles indicating various point values for accuracy. Outfielders would have a similar setup, but might be chasing fly balls and their target would be set up at home plate. And, for both infielders and outfielders, the contest would measure the players going in both directions. Further, Statcast can track range and the electronics can highlight the targets and the scoring and animate the impact points.
Batters could face a pitching matching firing consistent fastballs at a fixed rate, and have a timed window wherein to spray hits to all fields, earning bonus points for combining more hits to more different gaps. And, yes, home runs would still count for something. And, get this, the point system would be electronically painted onto the field and the point combos would increase on the fly as the batter hit to more parts of the field to collect target objectives. Of course, chalk rings would be on the field already for stadium fans and players, but the real fun would be on the jumbotrons and on home screens.
For fans in attendance, they could make a day of it as the players went through the prelims for all the various events. Only that day's finalists would participate in the televised events that evening. Maybe the top 3 in each discipline and the top 3 in the all-around.
This provides a rich framework for all sorts of ideas: to define contests, to create rules, and play with video technology. And, yes, it leaves the pitchers out of it. I think that is a good thing, considering their tenderness and lack of general athleticism.
Oh. And one more thing. I think that each winner of the individual skills contests and the winner of the all-around should be granted a mandatory special sleeve stripe to be sown onto every uniform jersey that they wear for the next year. It should not be something they can opt out of, for the sake of their teammates or something. It should clearly identify them on the field as unique and denote excellence wherever they go. Over time, I see this as becoming a symbol of achievement, for which players would desire to wear for the honor. And that is my way of encouraging participation each year, and effort.
My two cents.