This weekend the sun will set on the Champion Summer of 2014, having spent its final days intensely burnishing the aura of the AL West trophy across the breadth of the Southern California heat wave. And now it rises, warmly greeting Fall October Baseball, when leaves across America change forever from Oakland greens and Astro oranges, deep into Halo alternate reds. The Texas skies revert to their normal, non-plagiarizing, blues. And the northwest oceans are stilled yet again with their usual blue-green fungus of impending winter.
All is right in the world once more. Ahead remain a few weeks worthy of anticipation: highs and lows, excitement, brilliance, foibles, glory and (for most) disappointment. But beyond that already is promised the long and comforting gift of the regular season championship of the very best division of teams amongst all of Major League Baseball. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, AL West Champions, 2014. And that can never be taken away. Because We Fly Flags.
By the way, I want to put something to bed right here and now. A lot of excuse-making is going on over in the minor realm of Oakland fandom. And, I mean, a lot! One of them is that the Angels did not win this thing, but that the A's handed it to them, and we should be grateful. This is bullshit. On August 10th the A's were sitting at 72 wins and 45 losses, in first place and up by 4 games. Let us remove the 10 head-to-head games between the Angels and A's and see where things lie.
At that record, at that point in the season, they were tracking towards a 93.53846 wins. Let's just call it 94 full wins. Using the Angels success rate this season except for the 7 games already played head to head, the Angels would have been on pace to be at 94.34483 at this point. Let's call that 94 wins, also. So one could envision both the Angels AND the A's being at the same record when Thursday began, with 10 games left and all those games head-to-head.
What does this mean?
In short, it means that even if the A's had sustained their over-achieving and undeserved ways for the entire season all the way up to this point, AND been able to avoid the Angels, the very best the A's could have hoped for would have been to be tied with the Angels and have 10 games left to decide the difference. And that is even after the Angels had spotted them a 4-game lead.
- Wade LeBlanc: Now here is something I did not anticipate writing, ever: Wade LeBlanc - Wade LeBlanc - stared down "King Felix" Hernandez, even spotting Hernandez a roster of mostly scrubs, and held his own!! LeBlanc started, went 5 1/3 innings, and gave up only 3 hits, 1 walk and 0 runs to a Seattle team still putting out its finest and driving for a playoff spot. In that same distance, Hernandez yielded 2 hit, 1 walk and 0 runs. Hernandez was slightly better with 8 K's versus LeBlanc's 3 K's but what the hell! Go LeBlanc! Yeah, go. Before Mike Scioscia gets any ideas...........Speaking of Sosh, you all know that he told the team after the Wednesday clinch to "Go ahead, do what you guys want tonight. Don't get in trouble, though. We're not done yet." But something tells me that right after that, he added "...except for the following guys: Campagna, Beckham, Boesch, Green, Jiminez, Navarro, LeBlanc...you guys put the bottles down. We need you sober for tomorrow night." Kevin Jepsen wasn't on that list. He lost control of a 0-0 game in the top of the ninth and gave up a 3-run homer. Hank Conger WAS on that list, because he was able to respond in the bottom of the 9th with a solo shot of his own. The game would end there, 3-1 in favor of Seattle, making even more friends for us all up in Oakland.
- miKe Trout: I may decide to use that version of capitalization for Trout until he gets a grip. Trout "putting the K in miKe" sort of thing. (Hey, it could be worse. I could be going for miKe trOUT.) Lost in the celebration of the Wednesday night clinch-o-rama was a Trout Golden Sombrero. 4 strikeouts, 2 caught looking. 173 total on the season, tying him with a Chris Davis of Baltimore who has been suspended for the rest of the regular season anyway. Suffice to say, miKe is gonna take the AL K title for 2014, easily. He is actually only 7 K's off the pace for the overall MLB total. Of course, Trout is striking out a lot more all by himself, but there is an ancillary effect at play here. As miKe is more and more willing to strike out, umpires are getting more and more willing to grant his wish. miKe is losing any benefit of the doubt on close calls. Wednesday's final pitch in his first at-bat comes immediately to mind. Well, miKe needs to get ahead of this thing, because as we can see, the actual zone that umpires call is still evolving. What it is today is not what it used to be, so we can assume it ain't what it's going to be, either.
- Josh Hamilton: Hambone's connected to the...disabled-bone! Right after rejoining the lineup on Tuesday, Hamilton felt something "sharp" pain in his rib cage. Something new. He actually started to feel it on Monday, and it got worse during the game on Tuesday. So he was back out on Wednesday. And that, folks, is why Hamilton was not around for the celebration. "Hamilton said he underwent an MRI exam on Wednesday and he left the ballpark to see a chiropractor. Hamilton was at home when the Angels clinched the division title Wednesday night. Now, Hamilton’s prognosis is unclear, as well as his availability for the playoffs..."..........We give him a lot of crap around here, and this won't help (well, it will probably help feed the snark), but let's also give him some props for what is REALLY important: life. This is a Player's Award, not fans or scribes, and Hamilton has been voted a Finalist in the 2014 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, representing the AL West. It's all about giving back to the community, where Hamilton rakes.
This Date In Baseball History: 1939 - Elmer Gedeon gets onto the Washington Senators as a September call-up, and will play a grand total of 5 games in the entirety of his MLB career. On this day, Elmer will collect all three of his Big League hits as the Senators defeat the Indians, 10-9. roughly 4 years later, Gedeon will become the first (out of two, total, although the total is 139 when you add in Minor league players). Major League Ballplayers to be killed in action in WWII, when his plane is shot down over France.........1955 - Fan Bill Sherwood finally decides to come down from his perch on a flag pole, where he had been stationed for 89 straight days in an effort to encourage the Milwaukee Braves to win 7 consecutive games. Three times the Braves had mad it all the way up to 6 consecutive wins, only to falter in the 7th contest. The Braves will finish 13 1/2 games back..........1964 - Dodger Willie Davis decides to take matters into his own hands in a game against the Phillies that was by now in the 16th inning, with 2 outs, and looking to last forever. Davis singles, steals 2nd, advances to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then steals home for a 4-3 victory. This ties the MLB record (with Hal Trosky) for the latest anyone has stolen home in a game. It also makes for an important milestone in the fatal collapse of the '64 Phillies engineered by...Gene Mauch...........1986 - Joe Cowley, pitching for the White Sox and facing the Angels, walks 7 batters and surrenders a run, but wins 7-1 at Anaheim Stadium while throwing a no-hitter. Crowley will become the first player in MLB history to throw a no-hitter and never win another game. He will be released by the Phillies and out of baseball in 1987.........1998 - Alex Rodriguez becomes the 3rd player in the illustrious 40-40 club when he knocks his 40th homer of the season off of Jack McDowell as Seattle loses to the Angels 5-3 at Edison Field in Anaheim..........2000 - This idiocy being much older than you might suspect, a Dodger fan is banned for 18 months from attending games at Dodger stadium after being caught throwing into the face of a cheering Mets fan..........2008 - The first reversal in MLB's new replay systemoccurs when a Carlos Pena smash is changed from fan interference to home run.
- On Base Percentage: OBP is, like, sooo yesterday. That whole thing about walking away from power hitters to pursue jitters with high OBP skills? Yeah. Mistake. Or so says the trailblazer Peter Gammons. I love how his piece opens: "The days of the 400-something on base, 600-something slugging hitters are gone..." (Mike Trout first 3 full seasons: .399/.564, .432/.557, & .378/.562...pretty close for a kid. And Victor Martinez, Jose Bautista, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt & Gincarlo Stanton are all in the running, as well.) It seems like a long way to go to re-interpret the basic fundamental consequences of rising strikeout rates throughout baseball.
- Shuffling the Deck Chairs: We must forgive the losers. Once excised from any post-season consideration, all eyes in loser-ville turn towards the offseason and how to prepare for 2015. We would have done it, too. So one particular thought-experiment has possible ramifications for the LAA franchise. Folks are now considering what, if any, coaching changes might be in the air among front office around the leagues. Again, this is a fair mental effort, even at this time, and we would be primed to participate ourselves were it not for the AL West Champion exemption. Hell, we were doing it right up to this past Wednesday as it is. There are a few names of interest in the article. Primarily, Dino Ebel is a person of interest to be inserted into potential openings, one of which would make him an immediate competitor in Houston, and Houston is rising. On the other hand, if Ron Roenicke and/or Bud Black lose their positions, the loss of a Dino Ebel might create the opportunity to bring some 2002 brain trust back into the fold for 2015.
Ron Washington opened up a little concerning the reasons behind his departure as manager of the Rangers..........Barry Bonds. You thought that was all over, didn't you? Nope. We are now looking to overturn the obstruction charges...........Why can't Derek Jeter just let Yankees zealots let him go?............Public Service Reminder: home runs balls are cool, much cooler than foul balls, but no home run ball is as cool as the ring your wife placed on your finger on your wedding day. You might think otherwise but, trust me on this one. Just trust me..........Here is something that doesn't happen very often. An umpire ejects a fan, for heckling..........Mark Teixeira speaks for all of us when he observes that no foul ball is worthy of good beer spilt............How Matt Duffy of the Giants locates his bats in the dugout............So the Braves up and moved out of a relatively brand-spanking new baseball stadium and out to the suburbs, where a shiny replacement is being built, looking suspiciously like the current one. Opinions vary on the reasons for this, but nobody can argue that any upset Braves fans have absolutely nothing on Korean fans!!!
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: Oktoberfest in Alpine Village continues...........The California Beer Festival has moved on to Ventura, located at Mission Park, downtown..........LA Brewers Beer Week kicks off in Chinatown, downtown LA..........
Saturday: Oktoberfest in Alpine Village continues...........The California Beer Festival continues..........Zwanze Day 2014 will be celebrated with a tasting and release event and the Beachwood BBQ location in Seal Beach..........Ninkasi Oktoberfest (click EVENTS), a beer & food event with owner/brewmaster Jamie Floyd runs today at Original Gravity Public House in San Jose..........Down in San Diego, Downtown Johnny Brown's will be the site for The 9th Annual Woodshop Tasting..........And up in The Central Coast, in Buellton, The Liberation of Agrestic tasting/release goes on at Firestone Walker Barrelworks..............San Diego is also having a Festival of Beers at Broadway Pier.
Sunday: Oktoberfest in Alpine Village continues...........The California Beer Festival continues..........CASKFORCE tasting and release will happen at the Beachwood Brewing location in Long Beach...........Sacramento Brewers Festival will be found at Discovery Park..........The San Francisco Craft Spirits Carnival is at Fort Mason Center.