Good times! The 2015 Freeway Series kicked of in Anaheim last night with the Halos taking the opener 3 to 2 behind the roaring dominance of Matt Shoemaker, Mike Trout and C.J. Cron. So the good news here is that Shoe remains real and not a chimera of 2014, C.J. Cron IS this year's Brian Downing Breakout story, and Mike Trout is, well, Mike frickin' Trout.
It's only a pre-season game so I won't go into all the glorious details, but Trout lead off the game with a solo bomb in his first at-bat. Shoe went 6 1/3 and gave up only 1 run out of 5 hits. And Cron upped his BA to .426 with a 2 for 3 outing, driving in a run (superceding the already stunning "Cron-O-Meter" data below.)
So, instead of all the other stuff, let's just jump to HaloLinks relishing the fact that, even in the pretend games, the Angels still own Los Angeles.
- Hamboners: So here is an update on that Josh Hamilton contest I kicked off last week (will a $150 gift certificate to the LA Angels Team store get things amped up a bit??) Official word coming from commissioner Rob Manfred is that any punishment will NOT be announced before Opening Day after all. (Wrong again, Jon Heyman.) But, then, get this from Manfred: "I think that we'll have something on Hamilton in relatively short order — probably has been a little slower just because he's not available to play." In other words, he ain't going anywhere, anyway, so who cares?..........Then again, the big delay is for an arbitrator to mosey back in with a decision on whether Hamilton can even be suspended at all.
- Jerry Dipoto: The Stellar Sam Miller dives into Jerry Dipoto and the building/rebuilding of the franchise. Actually, it's just the LAA turn in the Baseball Prospectus series, but it's a great series to read. In this edition, the most remarkable finding in Sam's view is that the Angels even have a plan. There are a couple of fun quips in there, such as "Imagine that, back in autumn 2011, Jerry Dipoto had been forced to publicly campaign for the job of Angels General Manager. Based on what he has said and what he has done, my guess is his plank would have sounded something like this: blah...blah...blah full of fascinating stuff...divesting themselves of Jeff Mathis...blah...blah...blah lots more fascinating stuff."..........And then Miller focuses us all on Dipoto Method: "By my count, Dipoto has acquired 14 relievers in trades, which seems to be his preferred way to avoid the long-term contracts he has called 'a little bit of a game of Russian Roulette.' He gets relievers as throw-ins, he gets relievers back for his salary dumps, he gets relievers for prospects, he gets relievers back when he trades away relievers. He gets a lot of relievers." Yeah. LOTS............The third takeaway that struck me was the whole Doug Thorbum assessment section. Somebody actually cares enough to sit around and create narratives that describe the physical attributes of pitchers' motions?? I hope I don't have that much time on my hands when I retire.
- Garrett Richards: Wow, this news that keeps coming about how dominant Richards has become post-injury is getting just too freaky. He killed it again against AAA. And the results are starting to sound Koufax-esque. "Richards, in the late stages of his recovery from left-knee surgery, has thrown 14 1/3 scoreless innings in his three rehab starts, giving up seven hits and three walks while striking out 13." This can't be that real. Can it? Richards will have another minor league start before that 5th slot comes up in the rotation in a couple of weeks. Will that be enough to change Scioscia's mind about making him wait another turn?
- Drew Rucinski: This year's Matt-Shoemaker-in-the-making, gets the Matt-Shoemaker-in-the-making treatment in this LAT feature. He has been damned good this spring, and the Halos have noticed. Said Dipoto: "His stuff is real, and he shows no fear on the mound. Drew entered camp as a player who was likely to begin the season at triple A. His performance has opened eyes and made him a very relevant part of the 25-man roster discussion."
- Cron-O-Meter: Updating the amazing spring stats of C.J. Cron, which I published a few days back, of the top 125 MLB players with the most at-bats this spring, only 1 other player (Jose Abreu) has a batting average over .400. Cron sits at .416 in 65 at-bats (Abreu is at .508 over 59 at-bats). Cron is in the Top 10 in hits, doubles (where he ranks 1st overall), triples, RBI, AVE, SLG an OPS.
- Johnny Giavotella: Jo-Gi, Gio, Katella Giavotella, whatever, is doing a pretty damned good Howie Kendrick impression this spring, closing the gap with the strong spring Howie is having up with the LADs. Kendrick is .383 / .453 / .553 / 1.006, with 18 hits in 47 at-bats. Giavotella is sitting at .327 / .389 / .571 / .960 with 16 hits in 49 at-bats. Not saying either player is going to sustain things, but we made it through spring without catastrophe at 2B, and maybe found salary room and cost-control to boot. So that's something.
This Date In Baseball History: 1923 - Happy Felsch and Swede Risberg, two ex-players who had been expelled from MLB as part of the overall 1919 Black Sox Scandal, file suit against the White Sox for $400,000 in damages and back pay. Felsch and Risberg had been acquitted, but new Commissioner Happy Chandler banned them anyway. Chandler knew a jury farce when he saw one, because Risberg truly was complicit, and Felsch was actually the first to confess. Post-scandal, legal experts combed through the whole episode and revealed that no baseball rules were actually violated and much of the "evidence" had not been obtained in a manner that would be admissible in court, so public opinion turned in favor of "aggrieved" players. Hence the lawsuit. However, the suit took on a long and twisted life of its own and ended up going nowhere. Meanwhile, Felsch was called upon to testify on behalf of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Jackson's suit against the White Sox. Felsch ended up perjuring himself pretty badly and was escorted in handcuffs off to prison...........1966 - Tom Seaver signs with the Mets, after the Mets had pulled his name from a hat in a special draft. Yeah. Pulled his name from a hat. True story.........1984 - Barbaro Garbey becomes the first Cuban exile to play in an MLB game when he pinch-hits in the 7th inning for the Tigers..........1985 - The Player's Association agrees to expand the LCS from best-of-five, to the modern best-of-seven...........1989 - Ken Griffey, Jr. doubles in his first MLB regular season at-bat. His victim? Today's Dbacks' GM Dave Stewart. And that double was about 10 feet short of a homer...........2005 - Alex Sanchez becomes the first player busted under baseball's new steroid policy..........2006 - Kenji Johjima becomes the first Japanese catcher to start an MLB game. Kenji opted out of his contract in 2009, and retired altogether in 2012.........2008 - Reds' rookie starter Johnny Cueto strikes out 10 over 7 innings of work and dominates the DBacks in his first MLB appearance.
- Baseball Rulez: This is so damned good, I cannot possibly imagine burying it down in the Slap Hitting section, even though it would normally need nothing but a short quip. But I have to expand with this challenge: can you think of even three other commercials in history that celebrate any sport, anywhere, as fantastic as does this Japanese Toyota commercial celebrated baseball?
- Cubs Flubs: A federal judge ruled against the local (to Wrigley field) roof-top owners and the Chicago Cubs are allowed to proceed with their expansion and new score board without concern about their neighbors getting free access to their product. I suppose that the Cubbies should not have tried working with the adjacent interlopers to begin with. I mean, I know it's a charming concept and all, having a neighborhood ballpark and having neighbors gather up on top of their buildings to share in the urban celebration that is an MLB game, but it's not like those neighbors were giving away those roof-top views to begin with.
- Baseball Biz: Well, I guess every new baseball season now comes with a new introspective look into the challenge of marketing the game in today's fast-paced media world and against the marketing success of other sports. Jeff Passan does the deed this year. It's an easy subject upon which to pontificate. And it's an issue that does have reasonable facts and observations to drive a narrative that supposes a problem. But then, come season's end, we will still get news of increased attendance and increased MLBAM revenue, etc. So, really, is it a problem?
- Baseball Biz, Part II: It's progress. A little faster than I would have predicted even though it's still a far ways 'til completion. But it appears as though MLBAM has already teed up in-market game streaming with Dish Network, should they ever complete their sign-offs with the Regional Sports Networks. That's a pretty big baby step forward, and in the right direction.
What ever happened to Roger Repoz? Most of you youngun's have no idea what I am talking about. Your loss..........Howie doing his best to help out the Halos still, even if it's only in the local media hype mill...........If there is any one thing that Bo knows, it's that Bo knows Bo............Nothing says "baseball" as perfectly as being able to order up a flight of bacon..........File this under How to Make League Leader 2015 Predictions and Avoid Saying Anything About the 800 Pound Trout in the Room..............While over at Hardball Times, check out some cool info visualizations............This kid is playing the wrong sport. Maybe...............Take it FWIW, but the Halos open up as the CBS Sports #2 on the opening Power Rankings.............Watch a Jumbotron throw out the first pitch, and wow, is this Jumbotron a flamethrower!...........
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...
Saturday: Berkeley's Pyramid Alehouse tasting and release, and Curve Ball Launch Party...........Three Eyed Raven Official Release Event at Blue Palms Brewhouse in LA...........LA Beer Festival at Paramount Studios in LA.