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WeekEnd HaloLinks: Close the book on first half...

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The first half of the season comes to a close in Seattle. It hasn't been going as planned, but after all this we are still very much in it.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Well, that's one way to avoid having to deal with a bullpen lacking Huston Street: not get into a closing situation to begin with. Not the way I would have handled it, but then again I am not a master tactician. I depend on spreadsheets and shit. I might have thought about trying to hold the game a little bit closer and give my guys a shot just in the rare chance that the Angels started to rally very late. My relievers can get a lot of rest after Sunday.

On the other hand, when you have a home plate umpire granting a strike zone the size of Rhode Island to the opposing pitching staff, maybe it's the best time possible to just mail in the loss and turn the page.

For a brief couple of hours last night we were only 1 game out of first place, so we are much better off than all the whining we have been doing for the past 4 months would lead anyone to believe.

But here we go, people, 3 last games before we get to the All-Star Break, where you all sit back, grab some popcorn, and see if I can pull off finding enough non-ASG links every day to keep you interested. It's gonna be like my own personal playoffs. So while we got 'em, have some links...

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Angels Baseball

Huston Street: After tweaking his groin on Wednesday, Street says that his gut tells him that it's not too bad. Which makes sense, of course. His feet sure wouldn't know much about how his groin is doing. He is day-to-day, with a tiny chance of making it back to the mound while in Seattle. I doubt they would push that, though..........

Power Up: This week's Yahoo! Power Rankings reflects the recent surge by LAA, jumping from 17th all the way up to 8th. "They can thank Hector Santiago, C.J. Wilson, and a bullpen that has finally, and for the first time in Jerry Dipoto's just-concluded tenure, [become] an asset. So little has gone exactly as the Angels planned other than maybe Trout. Some has been better, some worse, and some has just been chaos. We're pretty sure they can sustain the chaos part."..........

Andrew Heaney: You probably missed this (h/t UniWatch), but when Andrew Heaney had to bat the other day in Colorado, being a very young AL pitcher just up into the Big Leagues, he didn't own batting gloves of his own. So he wore a set of gloves that belonged to Mike Trout. Not a bad choice, actually...........

Taylor Ward: The joke may be on us. Through his first 55 at-bats down at Orem, Taylor Ward has a slash line of .364 / .485 / .527 / 1.013. He has 13 walks to go with 20 hits. Then again, didn't Jeff Mathis also have a stint as a Minor League monster? Meanwhile, one of our fellow writers over at Purple Row (Rockies) was taking photos in Grand Junction and got us some nice shots of young master Ward, and David Fletcher. Check them out here...............

Efren Navarro: Bill Stoneman still has a pulse. He made a move. Efren Navarro was optioned to Salt Lake. Expect a pitcher to be called up today. I wonder if there is a web site that keeps an accurate countdown on option moves?...........

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Elsewhere in Baseball

Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em: Home plate Umpire Andy Fletcher brought along his own posse the other day. Two fans dressed as umps behind home plate calling the game right along with Fletcher. They got the wrong color shirts for the day (must be the "B" roll guys), but they were sure into it nonetheless. I wonder, though, what the people behind them must have thought after ponying up the price for seats only to have Laurel and Hardy doing their schtick in front of them for 3 hours..........

Home Run Derby: Here you go. ESPN on Monday afternoon starting at 5PM PDT. Single elimination, so get on board quick or you will miss a couple of guys altogether..........

Bill Murray: May this guy live forever, especially since he is a Cubs fan. Cardinals fans are Satan's messengers on earth.

All-Star Cred: Now we are talkin'! It's baby steps, but I am totally down with this, having been suggesting it for years. This upcoming All-Star game will feature players wearing uniforms with their autograph on their jersey, AND a star for each year they have been an All-Star. I have long advocated that MLB take this very idea to heart, although my idea was to carry it out into the regular season. My actual idea is for the player's left sleeve to be reserved for personal glory. For instance, the reigning MVP gets to wear a gold stripe at the top. A Cy young winner would get to wear a silver stripe at a level below that reserved for MVP. An All-Star from the past season wears a star along the hem (and we can add this idea from MLB: one small star for every time named). A World Series champ member gets to wear a red/white/blue stripe below where an MVP/CYA stripes would go. These would follow the player, regardless of team, for an entire calendar year until his replacement is named (although, in this case, the smaller stars for each time an All-Star would remain). Being on the left sleeve, with most players batting right-handed, this would be the glory sleeve facing the opposition AND the TV cameras. My expectation is that this would become a source of pride among players (and resentment among others, to be sure). It would draw the players deeper into the hoopla and competitiveness that comes with recognition...........

Guinness: And I don't mean the beer. I had no idea that it would take only 1000 kids to set a new Guinness World Record for playing catch, as just happened in Cincinnati as an early part of the All-Star Festivities. Hell, I could have rallied up a fund-raiser in High School 40 years ago and done better than that...........

Anti-Soshial: This is what happens when a team turns the page on tradition, takes new ideas one at a time, and stays focused on the easy advantages that come from outsmarting teams still grinding it out the old way. You get a Tampa Bay team that turned the tables on adversity and found clever ways to change the game...and win. Despite a lot of adversity they had been 1st or 2nd in the AL East up until a little more than a week ago, as they are in a deep slump a the moment. Even with that slump they are only 3 wins behind LAA in the league. Their current strategy, in response to those injuries, is to limit pitchers to two times through the opposing lineup. And how did they do it? "What Tampa Bay does so well – what it’s done so well since Stuart Sternberg bought the team and empowered Silverman and Friedman in 2005 – is translate the statistical into the sort of practical knowledge players will embrace....Matt Silverman slid over seamlessly from team president to GM, Kevin Cash impressed people across the game with the sort of intelligence and open-mindedness rare in a rookie manager, and the cohesion between the front office and coaching staff never flinched, not even in desperate times." Said starting pitcher Nate Karns: "... they gave us what we needed to know. That’s something they’ve run a lot of numbers on, crunched a lot of data, and for me to have no numbers myself to refute it, I just trust them and believe what they’re doing is right. And it’s working. When it’s working, it’s easier to go with." read the whole article. In the aftermath of our debacle, it's so refreshing...........

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This Date In Baseball History: 1911 - Umpire Day!, Part 1: Umpire Bill Finneran rings up Phillies outfielder Sherry Magee on a called third strike. Magee protests, too much. Finneran ejects Magee. Magee KO's Finneran with a single punch. Magee would be suspended for the balance of the season, but serve only 36 games after winning an appeal..........1911 - Umpire Day!, Part 2: In what is believed to be the first of its kind, umpire Bill Klem (who may be the first umpire to ever use hand signals) ejects an unruly fan from the stadium during a Phillies-Cardinals game.  Before this, no fans were removed during games for fear of fan riots and reprisals, and umpires were granted bodyguards after games in those instances when the unruly behavior was simply allowed to escalate...........1917 - Ray Caldwell goes 9 2/3 innings and allows no hits as his New York Yankees defeat the St. Louis Browns, but it is not a no-hitter. Caldwell came in during the 8th inning as a reliever in what ended up becoming a 17-inning game............1932 - Connie Mack, owner/manager of the Philadelphia A's, decides to save some train far and brings only 2 pitchers on the road to a game versus the Cleveland IndiansThe game will end up going 18 innings and reliever Ed Rommel will be forced to replace starter Lew Krause in the 2nd inning. This means that Rommel will pitch 17 innings...in relief...and collect the win - the final one in his career (171 total). Meanwhile, over on the Cleveland side, Johnny Burnett will bat 11 times in this game, and collect 9 hits. The A's defeat the Indians 18-17..........1934 - In that year's All-Star contest, the American League starts 9 players who will all end up becoming inducted in the Hall of Fame. On the other side, the National League sends out Giants' pitcher Carl Hubbell. Hubbell opens the game by surrendering a single and a walk, then strikes out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx to survive the 1st. Hubbell then opens the 2nd inning by striking out Al Simmons and Joe Cronin - 5 in a row. Hubbell will face 13 batters in 3 innings of work, striking out 6 of them..........1968 - The American League and National League agree to an expanded playoff system. Beginning with the 1969 season, each league will divide their teams in Divisions and host a playoff to determine the pennant winner..........1984 - 50 years to the day after Carl Hubbell's great All-Star pitching feat, Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden will combine to strike out 6 consecutive batters, 3 of whom will end up in the Hall of Fame. Valenzuela will KO Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson and George Brett (all Hof'ers), while Dwight Gooden will get Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. Gooden, at 19 years of age the youngest ever to participate in an All-Star game, will later get another HoFer, Cal Ripken, to ground out and then get Dave Winfield to fly out. Thus, these two young pitchers (Valenzuela is only 23) will collect 5 Hall of Fame outs in three innings of work...........1986 - Back when getting tabbed to play in the All-Star Game still meant something to players, Earl "Oil Can" Boyd learns that his name was not one of the ones selected to that year's All-Star game. He goes berserk in the Red Sox clubhouse and storms out of the stadium altogether, BEFORE that day's contest against the California Angels, earning himself a 3-game suspension. (By the way, his tantrum did not end there.). For the curious, Boyd was 11-6 at that time with an ERA of 3.71 and a BA against of .256. Two of the pitchers that were selected ahead of him were ex-Halo Don Aase (his only All-Star appearance), a relief pitcher then with the Orioles and a 2.03 ERA with a .201 BA against, and Halo Mike Witt, who had a 9-6 record with a 3.06 ERA and .235 BA against. This was also the year of Wally World, when Wally Joiner was voted start at 1B by fan vote, pretty much pissing off Don Mattingly forever. Joyner would get 1 at-bat in the top of the 2nd then taken out of the game in favor of Mattingly when his turn came back up to lead off the 4th. Mattingly would strikeout, then ground out, then strike out again. Not that I am bitter or anything.............