Dream Until Your Dreams Come True: 10/1

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The Angels were not meant to ascend to the baseball heavens in 2018.  It’s that simple.  But, the ball club took many steps in the right direction.  Halo fans can dry their tears of disappointment, take heart, and dream of better and brighter days ahead. The deluge of injuries seem to finally be behind us.  The farm system appears to be developing after years of neglect. Billy Eppler has shown that he has the ability to acquire critical pieces to fill in gaps in and around the one and only Mike Trout.  Lastly, the intangible that emerges from a stable organization that avoids drama and discontent should work the Halo way. No doubt, there are rays of hope along the horizon and they are starting to shine thru.

The 2017 season did not end on the high note that seemed within reach when summer transformed into fall.  Three losses in four games to the lowly White Sox demonstrated that there was not enough gas, left in the tank.

Looking forwards, the greatest variable in contemplating 2018 lies in the pitching domain.   The Angels, with the possible exception of Garrett Richards, lack the needed ace at the front end of the rotation.  Perhaps though an even bigger problem might be the inconsistency amongst the potential starters which include any combination of Richards, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Parker Bridwell, Nick Tropeano, and JC Ramirez. It’s safe to assume that free agent to be, Ricky Nolasco, acquired a year back (along with Alex Meyer) for Hector Santiago will not be brought back.  Much has been expected from likely starters and much will be needed from them. The moment for them to achieve the hoped for success can no longer be measured in abstraction but in performance.  There are several free agent pitchers that might fill a slot in the starting rotation but they will not come cheaply.  Eppler is going to need to be extremely careful both in his financial allocations and his talent evaluation.  As the high-priced contracts of Jered Weaver and Josh Hamilton come off the books, there will not be the shortage of cash as there has been in the recent past, but Eppler can ill-afford to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, Tony Reagins, and Jerry DiPoto.  It will be a challenging task but opportunities await.

While it was disappointing to finish 80-82, below the .500 mark for the third consecutive year, it was thrilling to be in playoff contention through 150 games.

Highlights?  There were many, both team and personal.  Mike Scioscia, whose contract expire after next year must be commended for managing a team riddled with injuries. From April to October, nearly all of the starting pitching staff as well as the bullpen occupied slots on the DL .  Somehow though, the skipper found a way to work through the unforeseeable losses of each projected starter for extended periods, and the near total absence of his number one and two closers, Huston Street and Andrew Bailey.

Perhaps the low point of the season came when Mike Trout was injured and forced to sit out some seven weeks.  Had he remained healthy, he’d almost certainly have put up numbers to contend for a third consecutive MVP.  To be able to witness Trout’s talents on a day in/day out basis is both a joy and a treat. Ditto for the ultimate professional, Albert Pujols.  As for Andrelton Simmons, he might just be the re-incarnation of Ozzie Smith.  Time will tell.  A month’s worth of Justin Upton only makes Halo fans yearn for more.  Martin Maldonado has much room to improve with the bat but his superb glove-work and quality command of games deserves special commendation.

Billy Eppler’s acquisition of Brandon Phillips cannot be faulted but Phillips’ play does not merit his return.  The Angels must fill the hole at second base that came about as a result of DiPoto’s acquisition of Tyler Skaggs for the steady, Howie Kendrick.   Likewise, the inconsistent efforts of the oft-injured Yunel Escobar do not merit his re-signing.  The Angels are in need of a hard hitting third baseman who can handle the hot corner too.  Mike Moustakas is a free agent who will certainly be considered but he will come at a high price.  The same is true of Todd Frazier but it is clear that the every day job cannot be put in the hands of veteran Luis Valbuena who has not cashed in on opportunities in many places.  Kole Calhoun’s play was a bit up and down, but hopefully, next year will be a breakthrough one for him. He has talent and clearly works hard at his craft.  As to whether he can reach a higher level of play, time will tell.

The Angels played only one game into October this year, a win in the season finale against the Mariners.  Next season’s schedule has the regular season extending only as far as September.  Hopefully, after some needed alterations to the roster this winter, the Angels will once again be playing ball next October.  And this time, for higher stakes.  Dream until your dreams come true!

 

There’s Always Next Year: 9/24

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To close out a nine game home-stand after a 3-3 start, the Angels had the burden of having to face a Cleveland team who’d won 24 of their last 25 games.  Fortunately, after dropping the first two games to the Tribe, the Halos found themselves no worse off in the wild card race against the Twins who lost a three game set to the Yankees in the Bronx.  From there however, all luck ran out as Minnesota took four straight against Detroit and the Angels increased their losing streak to a season-tying high of six games with a third loss against the Indians followed by consecutive losses in Houston to the Astros before salvaging their lone win of the week on Sunday.  Houston, and Cleveland are the class of the league and the Angels have not success against either in the last two years.  In fact, the sweep by the Indians made it 10 straight wins over the Halos dating back to 2016.

By week’s end, the Angels (77-78) had fallen below the .500 mark for the first time since August 9, when their record stood at 57-58.  Dreams of a playoff birth or a run to something perhaps greater belong now to only the eternal optimists or those with the greatest of imaginations or fantasies.

Perhaps the Indians will finally win their first World Series since 1948, or perhaps their knack for losing when confronted with opportunity as they did last year against the Cubs (and back in the 90’s against the Braves) will continue, but they are a team with a chance to finish the regular season with the most victories in Major League baseball.  Just a month ago, the Tribe stood twenty games behind the Dodgers in the race for best record but their fates have reversed within just a period of thirty days.  Should the Indians surpass the Dodgers, they might thank the Angels for six of their wins and for right-hander, Mike Clevinger, an ex-Angel (traded for Vinnie Pestano in 2014) who at 11-5, has become an important cog in the Indian’s pitching corps.

There haven’t been many weeks in the season where highlights were hard to point out, but this week will not be remembered for many things good.  Once again, Garrett Richards battled Justin Verlander to a near draw but unfortunately came up short for the second time in as many weeks.  Justin Upton went deep four times to set a career home run mark of 35.  Albert Pujols hit home run number 23 and now stands just 16 homers short of Ken Griffey’s 630 for for sixth on the all-time list. Willie Mays is 46 ahead of Albert with 660.  Pujols is also now within 38 hits of 3,000, a milestone he should reach easily early in the 2018 season.  With four years remaining on his contract, should Pujols remain healthy and average approximately 140 hits a year, he has a chance to accumulate some 3,500 hits, a number which would place him fourth all-time behind Rose, Cobb, Aaron, and Musial.  Perhaps not all that likely perhaps Pujols even considers retirement after next season, but wherever his numbers finally land, he will certainly find himself as a resident of Cooperstown within five years after hanging up his cleats.

The Angels hosted the annual Ducks Night in the first game of the series against the Indians.  Unfortunately, neither Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Hampus Lindholm, or Francois Beauchemin could get their BP hits in against Mike Clevinger.  With the baseball season reaching its conclusion, it’ll be fun to see the Ducks on ice again in the weeks ahead.  Amazing to believe that their regular season won’t be completed until the ’18 Angels leave Tempe and return to the Big A next April!

There’s always next year?  Last year finally turned into “next year” for the long losing Cubbies.  Maybe this year will be “next year” for the Tribe. As to whether next year might truly turn into be our year for Halo fans, stay tuned to Angels-Across-America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging Around: 9/17

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After dropping four straight to the A’s in Oakland, the Astros’s came to town with Justin Verlander, their newly acquired ace, on the mound to face the Halo’s.  As the ‘Stros are one of the favorites to capture the AL pennant this year, the addition of an all but certain future Hall of Famer, strongly enhances Houston’s opportunity to secure it’s first World Series title ever.

Just two weeks after the massive and indescribable devastation which resulted from Hurricane Harvey, the Astros have become a rallying cause for the City they represent and stand at the precipice of winning the AL’s Western Division flag for the first time since changing league’s in 2014 when they lost a whopping 111 games.

In his first outing since his arrival from Detroit minutes before the waiver trade deadline, Verlander beat the Mariners at Safeco last week.  On Tuesday, after giving up a leadoff double to Brandon Phillips, himself a waiver wire acquisition, Verlander dominated throughout his eight inning stint.  Unfortunately for the Angels, Verlander’s performance outshined Garrett Richards’ impressive return to the Big A for the first time since April 25, 2016.  Encouraging as Garrett’s start was, the 1-0 loss was a tough one to swallow coming with only eighteen games left in the season and opportunities to gain a wild card birth slipping away.  And, despite an impressive performance by Tyler Skaggs on Tuesday that accompanied some heavy hitting by Phillips,  Justin Upton, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Luis Valbuena, the loss of a three game set to Houston could not have come at a more inopportune time as the rival Twins took three in a row against the Padres and Jays at the beginning of the week.

The Angels rebounded at week’s end to take two of three from the “other” Texas team, the Rangers who came into town trailing the Angels by only two games in the loss column.  In winning the first two games against a long time arch-rival, the Halos climbed back to within a game of the Twins.  Unfortunately, L.A. is struggling to keep their rotation intact despite the welcome return of Garrett Richards but who doubtlessly will be limited by a restricted pitch count.

In the opener against the Rangers, the Angels were forced to start Bud Norris, the club’s leader in games saved, as it appears that Andrew Heaney, recently returned from Tommy John surgery, will likely be unavailable for the remainder of the regular season.  With Matt Shoemaker on the DL after surgery, JC Ramirez facing the prospect of surgery as well, Nick Tropeano sidelined through the start of the Arizona Fall League, and Alex Meyer likely out until the start of the 2019 season, the Angels will have a lot of  juggling to do in their rotation.  Seven relief pitchers went to the mound on Friday en route to a 7-6 victory.  Norris, Jose Alvarez, Blake Wood, Yusmeiro Petit, and Blake Parker excelled.  And though Jesse Chavez and Cam Bedrosian did their best to undermine those efforts, the Angels escaped with a 7-6 victory thanks to the timely hitting of Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton, together with a two run timely homer off the bat of CJ Cron.

Saturday’s victory against the Rangers coming on the strong seven inning shutout pitching performance of Parker Bridwell and perfect one inning performances by Middleton, Bedrosian and Petit brought some much needed momentum and a renewed sense of optimism to the club.  Justin Upton’s two solo shots giving him a career high 103 RBI provided the margin of victory.  Upton’s acquisition at the deadline by General Manager Billy Eppler might bode well this year should the Angels advance to the playoffs, and for years to come should Upton not exercise his right to opt out of his current contract at the end of the regular season.  Perhaps, the years long left field “dilemma” that was intended to be resolved by the signing of Josh Hamilton several years back has been eliminated.  An outfield of Upton, Trout and Calhoun should comfort the Angel faithful.

Sadly, the week ended on a sour note for the Angels as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Rangers.  Garrett Richards pitched relatively well retiring 12 in a row during one stretch, but unfortunately, this transpired after a rocky first two innings in which Richards yielded a two-run double to Adrian Beltre and a massive 490 foot blast by Joey Gallo deep into the Big A’s expansive turf in right centerfield.  The Angels best shot to emerge with a win came when Albert Pujols’ bases loaded drive to right was hauled in by Shin-Soo Choo at the warning track in the bottom of the fifth.  The loss, coupled with a Minnesota win dropped the Angels one behind the Twins in the race for the second wild card spot with thirteen games remaining in the season.

With just two weeks to go, the Angels are still….hanging around!

 

 

Short Distance on A Long Road: 9/10

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The road ahead was paved with uncertainty when pitchers and catchers reported to Tempe on the fifteenth of February. It still is. But, after nearly seven months, what has come into clear focus is that the 2017 Angels persevere–despite adversity, and in spite of the fact that nothing comes their way with ease.

The Angels labored hard on Labor Day and emerged with a scrappy 11-9 triumph that more resembled a boxing match than a baseball game. All season long, the Halos have shown determination, tenacity, and an ability to endure and go the distance. Though there are ample illustrations of these attributes, Monday’s game against the A’s in Oakland typifies these gritty traits better than most. Battered by four runs in the first round, the Angels counterpunched with their own four-score in the second, only to fall behind again in the third. Subsequently, each time the Angels pulled ahead, the A’s seemed to rebound, and, when the match reached its “rounds” limit, the two clubs were tied up in a clench. Of course though, there are no draws in baseball, so the game played on. In the eleventh frame, the Angels took full advantage of a walk and hit by pitch when Kole Calhoun tripled to score the battle’s decisive runs. Still, the Halos needed to fight off a final A’s rally to take the match after more than 4 ½ hours had elapsed. In sending twelve pitchers to the mound during the course of the contest, the Angels set an American League record. While the win was most welcome, the pitching performance of Parker Bridwell who pitched but three innings for the second consecutive time while giving up six runs or more, has to concern the California club. With JC Ramirez out for the season, the Angels will need the unheralded Bridwell to perform as brilliantly as he has since he was first inserted into the rotation in late May. No doubt that the Angels would not be where they are without the early April acquisition from the O’s, but there simply is no formula to reach the playoff’s without continued significant contributions from Bridwell in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday’s four plus hour slugfest was a virtual repeat of Monday’s and fortunately, brought with it the same extra inning triumph. Once again, the Angels needed a plethora of pitchers to gain the victory. And once again, the win was accompanied by a touch of the dramatic. Whereas on Monday, the game ended with two Athletics on Board, Tuesday’s game concluded with all bases occupied by A’s. Two near fatal endings fortunately resulted in two unexpected wins… not how one wants to win ball games, but in a September pennant race, wins of any type are most welcome. CJ Cron could not have performed better in the clutch with both a key home run and a triple late in the game. Ben Revere’s pinch single in the tenth produced the game winner. But perhaps the best news to come out of this Halo victory was the return to the mound of Garrett Richards, the ace of the staff, who was injured in early April during his first, and only outing of the season. In 3 1/3 innings, Richards demonstrated that though his stamina was not yet in the place where he needs it to reach, his form and abilities are seemingly back. The return of Skaggs, Heaney, and now Richards may not bring about a full and complete October surprise but it just might deliver a September to remember. We shall soon see.

While a sweep of the A’s would have been welcome and sweet, the 3-1 loss on Wednesday brought with it a possible silver lining as Tyler Skaggs came through with an impressive pitching performance, striking out a career tying nine, in six innings of solid work.

The Angels capped off the week with a come from behind victory against the Mariners in Seattle after dropping the first two of a three game set in the Emerald City. Justin Upton, in his ninth game wearing red, produced the game winning RBI’s with a double that one-hopped the left centerfield wall. The hit followed a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Phillips, advancing Ben Revere to second, while taking a potential key at-bat from Mike Trout’s hands. Fortunately, since the acquisition of Upton, Mike Scioscia can now afford to make this type of strategic choice as Albert Pujols is now preceded by Upton in a lineup designed to better protect Trout. The win allowed the Halos to climb within a game of Minnesota who currently holds the second wild card position, and to avoid a four game losing streak, heading into the final three weeks of the season. Critically, Parker Bridwell bounced back with a strong outing following two beatings at the hands of the A’s that surely had all Halo fans more than a little concerned.

The Angels now return to the Big A for a nine game home stand which includes three games each against Division rivals Houston and Texas, as well as a trio of contests versus the AL leading Cleveland Indians who currently own an eighteen game win streak. Winners of 38 out of 69 games at home, the Angels will need to play better against these three teams who have consistently bested them throughout the season. The Angels are 5-8 against the Astros, 6-10 against the Rangers, and 0-3 against the Indians. The Astros’ recent acquisition of Justin Verlander from Detroit will only make things more difficult for the Angels.

Hopefully, the long journey from the late winter days in Arizona will have the happiest of endings. With nineteen games to go, the distance remaining is short and only through consistent winning can the Angels hope to play deep into October.

Enter the Unexpected: 9/3

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The early week sweep of the A’s to conclude a home stand that began with some less than desired results, came as more of a relief, than a reason to celebrate. Still, the three consecutive wins brought with them a source of optimism as the Angels headed off to Arlington to face the Rangers, and hopefully make up for the 3-1 series loss to Texas at the Big A, a week back.

Leaving home brought the Angels an expected off day, but what was not anticipated was the significant overhaul of the ball club that General Manager Billy Eppler engineered on August 31, the last day acquired players might be eligible for post season play. For some time now, the Halos have been operating with deficiencies in left field and at second base. Though Josh Hamilton was acquired with much fanfare, and at a great cost to fill the left field gap, his stay with the Angels was both brief, and wholly unsuccessful. And with the trade a few years back of Howie Kendrick for Andrew Heaney to address pitching needs, the rotation of players at the keystone position has not resulted in establishing a reliable successor to the long time and much beloved Angel second baseman. It was assumed that these two long term needs would be addressed in the upcoming offseason, but with the Angels on the precipice of a playoff position, unexpected action came swiftly this week.

In the early afternoon of August 31, seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced that Justin Upton, a coveted free agent outfielder this past offseason, had been acquired from Detroit. Then, within hours, came the news that Brandon Phillips, a four time all-star second baseman would leave the Braves to join the Angels. Just like that, the Angels were transformed from a team that seemed offensively challenged into a club that had a potent and balanced lineup. The optimism for September, and possibly October rose exponentially, and the dreams of Angel fans across America became instantly palpable. Angel followers had not anticipated these moves at the waiver deadline, nor were their rumors circulating about such possibilities. Full credit must go to Eppler, as well as Angels owner, Arte Moreno. Not only will the Angels be improved for the balance of the year but they must now be viewed as a contender in the years ahead should Upton and Phillips stay with the club and perform to expectations…provided of course the pitching staff gets healthy, stays healthy, and deliver what’s long been expected of it.

One might have thought that these acquisitions would produce immediate results, especially after the Oakland sweep. The A’s clearly were no match for the Angels at home…and that was before the arrivals of Upton and Phillips.  This past Monday, Andrew Heaney displayed superior pitching abilities in a 3-1 defeat of the Athletics. Though he went only six innings, Heaney struck out a career high ten batters and limited the A’s to two hits. In relief, Middleton, Petit, and Parker were solid in nailing down the win. On Tuesday, the Angels bats powered up in an 8-2 drubbing of the A’s which saw Madonado go deep, and Cron go deep twice. Finally, on Wednesday, the Halos showed a trait that has been the hallmark of their success this season, resilience. Staked to a 3-0 early lead, Parker Bridwell imploded, and within an instant, the Angels trailed 8-3. But, thanks to a homerun by Pujols (his second of the game) and a grand slam by Pennington, the Halos triumphed in a game that engendered some wonderful and positive emotion.

So, heading into Texas, hopes were high that with Upton and Phillips aboard, the Angels would send the Rangers and the American League a message that they were a force to be reckoned with down the stretch. Perhaps they will be, but the three game set in Texas highlighted that much as the Angels had addressed their hitting needs, the pitching staff appears to be riddled with question marks. Yielding 21 runs over 3 games as they did in Arlington, will not be a formula that might bring success to the Angels and result in a wild card birth. One can only hope that the staff is in the midst of either growing pains or a temporary late season slump.

The highlight of the Texas series was their sole win, which came on Saturday night. Down 4-2 with two outs in the ninth, Luis Valbuena doubled and CJ Cron followed with a line drive home run, just clearing the fence in left field on the fair side of the foul pole. A clutch hit by Kole Calhoun to drive in two made the difference in the tenth inning and gave the Angels a needed win following a valiant rally in Friday night’s game to tie the score, fell short.  The loss on Friday night felt especially bad as the second base umpire made three clearly incorrect calls, and though two were overturned, the last one, occurring in the ninth inning was inexplicably upheld and was partially responsible for the loss. Ugh!  On Sunday, the Angels fell behind early yet again, only to nearly tie the game with three runs in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately, they needed one more score and could not push it across as Luis Valbuena grounded to third to leave the bases loaded. Double Ugh!

If there were any silver linings in the series loss at Arlington, it could be seen in the play of Albert Pujols who went 7-13 with 7 RBI’s. With those runs batted in, Pujols now has 1,907 RBI’s and has moved past Willie Mays for 10th on the all-time list. Pujols now trails Eddie Murray by just ten RBI’s and Jimmie Foxx by 15.

Perhaps the addition of Upton and Phillips will afford everyone in the lineup some better protection and allow all an opportunity to see better pitches. Time will tell. One thing though is for certain: If the Angels are to play into October, they’ll need better outings from the starters, and more consistent efforts out of the pen…especially from Cam Bedrosian and Kenyan Middleton who have struggled significantly of late.

The AAA pitcher of the month for August was Blake Parker who seems to be Mike Scioscia’s choice of late to close games for the Angels. Parker picked up 3 saves in August, giving up but 3 runs in 13 outings, all in one game. Parker had a 2.13 ERA during August and held opposing batters to a .119 batting average. Honorable mention goes to Jesse Chavez who has performed well since losing his spot in the rotation and being relegated to the pen. Mike Trout had slightly better offensive numbers during August than CJ Cron did, but Cron’s clutch play, accompanied by 7 home runs and 18 RBI’s earned him the AAA batting honors.

The Angels have 25 games remaining down the stretch. They are tied with Baltimore, 1½ games behind the final playoff spot in the AL. To make the playoffs, they’ll need to win about 15 additional games. Make a wish. Say a prayer. Think good thoughts. Hope for the best.

Home Sweet Home? – 8/27

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Reality bites! Winners of 9 of their last 11 games, and after a tiring road trip across America that saw the Halo’s win 7 of 9, the Angels returned to the Big A, poised to tighten their grip on a playoff position that in April,  seemed beyond imagination. Unfortunately, deep in the dog days of August, the beloved home team played mostly like worryless puppies this past week, and must now realize that for their playoff hopes to be realized, they’ll need to play their best ball of the season in what is left of summer. The challenge is no doubt an enormous one, but a storybook ending to the regular season is still possible despite odds, injuries, and uneven play.

Have you ever woken up from a daydream wondering why you are here? That is how the Angels must feel as they approach the top of the stretch. But, there’s no point in searching for meaning or explanation over the upcoming month or so of the season–the Angels simply have to play, and play to win. And, they’ll have to do much better in the next thirty-one games than they did in the past seven. Perhaps the Angels are still unnoticed across America, but they can make their mark, if they succeed in September, and play some games in October that no one could ever have predicted.

The Angels have had but one manager this century, so if you’re seventeen or younger, like me, the only man who you’ve seen pilot the Halos is Michael Lorri Scioscia, 58, a native of Upper Darby, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. As the skipper of the ’02 Champion Halos, Scioscia won manager of the year honors. He was a repeat winner of this award after guiding the Angels to a 97 win season in 2009. And, should the Angels manage to make the playoff mix this season, Mike Scioscia might well wind up as a three time Manager of the Year honoree. How is it that the Angels are in the hunt for a playoff birth given a roster that is in need of some serious tinkering (especially in leftfield and at second base where the holes are longstanding), injuries to key and vital players, and a cleanup hitter who is unfortunately approaching the twilight of a brilliant career? Mike Scioscia! Managers come and managers go…that is a constant theme in baseball. Mike Scioscia is almost a singular exception to this rule and though his continued status has been questioned in times of trouble, his reign in Anaheim has resulted in hard work, hard play, an always calm clubhouse, and a team that competes to the best of their abilities. What more can be asked for in a manager? The next month will determine a lot for the ’17 Angels but win or lose, make it to October or not, Mike Scioscia has done a brilliant job with a team that is undoubtedly challenged.  In a season that has had its ups and downs, Scioscia has piloted the Angels roller coaster onwards and upwards.  So hat’s off to Mike, and his dedicated long-term amigos, Dino and Alfredo, whose rapport with fans elicits their smiles and their joy.

Wouldn’t you like to get into Mike Scioscia’s head for a moment or two? Know what he is thinking or feeling behind that calm demeanor and seemingly impenetrable stare? Well, maybe this would not have been the best week to take that journey as the Angels came from on high and fell mightily. Ugh? Yikes? Golly gee? Egad?…Choose your own exclamation!   A 2-5 week could not have been on anyone’s wish list as the Angels returned to Katella from the Charm City where the Halos overcame the determined efforts of Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo, a fallen Angel, who has unfortunately taken up arms against us!

The series with Texas was painful to watch. Were Commissioner Manfred to ban Adrian Beltre from playing baseball, or at least from playing in the Western Division of the American League, he might have my full support! The grounds? Murder in the first degree! Beltre kills us…and his actions are obviously premeditated! His three-run blast off Tyler Skaggs put Monday’s game out of reach, as a more recent nemesis, Cole Hamels, frustrated the Angel bats.

You had to be happy with Tuesday’s 10-1 drubbing of the Rangers which saw Albert Pujols pass fellow Dominican, Sammy Sosa for eight place on the career home run list and become the all-time leader in home runs among foreign-born players. Sadly, on Wednesday, Adrian Beltre hit two more blasts. Commissioner, did you hear me? Enough said about a game that saw Mike Trout cut down a runner at the plate in the ninth to take the game into extras? Not really. Down 7-4, entering the home half of the tenth, the Angels fought back before finally succumbing. It was a valiant effort, the type of which Scioscia’s club has made all season long. But, a loss is a loss…especially approaching the end of August.

Thursday’s loss was almost predictable with Troy Scribner forced into a start after what might unfortunately be a season ending injury to JC Ramirez.  JC, who began the season in the pen, was forced into the rotation by a plethora of injuries, has become the mainstay of the Angels pitching staff this year. But, leaving 11 men on base, something that happened in this loss, is something the Angels simply can’t afford. To secure a playoff spot, timely hitting will be essential.

After dropping 3 of 4 against the Rangers, the Halos next dropped 2 of three against the ‘Stros. In the opener, Parker Bridwell was brilliant, as were Kenyan Middleton, and Cam Bedrosian. Unfortunately, the Angel bats were quiet. Make that silent! It’s hard to win games with one run on six hits.

Saturday night, a/k/a Vlad night, which saw Angels great Vladimir Guerrero inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame, provided the shining moment of the week. Known as Super Vlad, Vlad the Impaler, Big Daddy Vladdy, Big Bad Vlad, or simply as Vlad, our very own Vladimir Guerrero made the number 27 famous in Anaheim, years before Mike Trout might even be taking it to a higher level. Soon to become an official Cooperstown Hall of Fame resident, hopefully in 2018, it’s always great to welcome Vlad back to the confines of Angels Stadium. Usually, at these types of events, the guest of honor is given a car,  a boat or some other amazing momento. I don’t know what tangible item Vladdy received from the Angels but they did send him off with a pretty miraculous win, as they rebounded from a 6-1 deficit to pull off a 7-6 victory. It was the Angels 38th comeback win of the season, second only in the Majors to the Dodgers, and was achieved by scoring six runs in their final two at-bats. Simba’s blast in the eighth provided the margin of victory and the win couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Kole Cahoun, had a big night with three hits and a homer. Kole’s had an up and down year. He hit poorly through May, turned it around in June, went cold again in July, but has been solid once more in August. If the Angels are to make the playoffs, they’ll no doubt need a big contribution from the man known on this “player’s weekend” as “the Koleman.”

Sunday’s loss was as tough as they come. Down 4-0 early, the Halos came back to take a 5-4 lead after 6…only to give up the lead, and the game, as Cam Bedrosian couldn’t end a two out eighth with no runners aboard, before the Astros had scored three to re-take the lead. Tough! But, in the scheme of things, as tropical storm Harvey has ravaged the Texas Coast and brought devastation to Houston, losing a baseball game is just, losing a baseball game.

The Angels will need to play better in the week ahead or their playoff hopes will fade in what is shaping up as a multi-team hunt for one playoff spot, or perhaps two, should the Yankees fall back to the pack.

Can You Feel The Love Tonight? 8/20

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It was the most perfect wish come true…for eight innings. And then, disaster struck. A grand slam to turn a dream celebration into the birthday blues! Hadn’t Manny Machado realized that the post-game fireworks were supposed to light up the Halo on my night? The script was written, but I guess what happens on a baseball diamond does not always come with a Hollywood ending. Or does it?

The week began with a tough loss in DC, as our old friend, Howie Kendrick, settled a score with us for allowing him to travel up the Freeway to La La Land. Now a National, Howie, sent a pretty clear message with a home run to left followed by a home run to right as his way of welcoming us to his new home in the Nation’s Capital. Needless to say, I felt somewhat dejected exiting the ballpark after witnessing the Halo’s lose 3-1, while getting no-hit into the sixth inning. And then things got worse! It was bad enough that some heavy rain turned a five hour ride from my home in the Big Apple into a seven hour disaster, but, when our car went dead on the corner of Capitol Street and Avenue I as the result of an alternator breakdown, I had had it. Hearing 40,000 fans screaming at my Angels was bad enough but having to endure their car horns blaring in my ears nearly put me over the top. Thank goodness though for the AAA! Not this Angels-Across-America website, but the Automobile Association of America who came to our rescue before the National’s fans could punish me the way they did the Angels. Ugh!

The sun came up in Washington on Wednesday and shined on the Halos all afternoon. I could have lived without the brutal humidity that residents of Orange County are spared, but otherwise, after the first inning which had me cursing a bit at Ricky Nolasco, the afternoon went swell as Kole Calhoun hit a big fly into the “Cal Zone” to secure a 3-2 win.

As the Angels had Thursday off, we used the time available to us to check out some sights and restaurants in DC.  The new Museum of African American History and Culture is amazing; you could spend a day or more to explore it. It’s interesting and filled with endless artifacts, yet it is frequently painful and sad to experience while contemplating a shameful part of our country’s history.

No trip though to Washington is complete without a trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course, if you come with your kids, be careful! Signs that would certainly be confiscated at the Big A are plastered all over Lafayette Park! I didn’t come with a political message for the President but I did want to deliver a small and simple message of my own. Don’t you think the red in the above photo looks great with the white background? Hmm, I wonder whom President Trump roots for? Hopefully not the Evil Empire from Bronx County! Find his better Angels? We’re here—all across America!

The trip to Baltimore was short and easy, but unfortunately, the rains followed us there as well…even delayed the start of the game on my birthday…the first rain delay of the 2017 Angels season. At least though, the rains finally cleared and the Angels delivered some of their own thunder. Unfortunately, the home team had a sufficient supply as well. A few years back, Mark Trumbo ended the game on my birthday in Anaheim as games are supposed to conclude…with a home run deep into the California night. Trumbo is now an Oriole. Enough said! As for Manny Machado, I’ll root for him to hit walk off grand slam’s under one condition…he hits them in Anaheim as a member of the Angels. He’d be one helluva fit for us when he becomes a free agent after next year.  But on what was to meant to be a celebration of my seventeenth birthday, he sadly played the role of Scar and tragically murdered the beloved Lion King.

The drive back to New York was bittersweet; it was fun to see all the guys, but painful to absorb a very tough loss.  For the past nine years, my Dad and I have followed the Angels, wherever they might be–across America, in search of just another Halo victory.  We’ll look for success again next year, somehow, somewhere.

We left the rain behind us in Baltimore but by Saturday night, the Halos had figured out how to overcome the stormy weather that continued down south. And, while five home runs could not drown the O’s on Friday, four was more than enough to drench them on Saturday.

As for Sunday, thank you Simba for “breaking out the red” in Baltimore and restoring pride to the pride lands! Three big plays, one big home run. The Lion King is reborn. Can you feel the love tonight?

Can You Feel The Love Tonight scene – YouTube

Simmons leaps, makes nice catch | MLB.com

Angels team up to retire Machado | MLB.com

Catching Lightning In A Bottle: 8/13

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Mike Trout, an Angel by contract but a 76er in his fantasies, tried his best to “will” a win for his 26th birthday on Monday. His 4th inning single, leading to the first run of the game was the 1,000th hit of his career and made him only the 10th player to reach that significant plateau by age 26. Two innings later, Trout belted a home run high off the left field foul pole to tie up the game. Unfortunately though, in the seventh inning, JC Ramirez, in an otherwise solid outing, couldn’t keep Manny Machado in the ballpark with the bases loaded and the game more or less ended with a grand slam that landed just over the Angels bullpen in left field. The Angels would not lose another game the entire week, though they did face some adversity as they fell behind in several of the games against Baltimore and Seattle requiring them to pull out a few victories by coming from behind.

The Angels have now won a season high, six straight, and 12 of their last 16. Even more significant, the team who many saw as “not ready for prime time” at the start of the season, and even destined for doom as injuries piled up, now has a hold on the second wild card slot in the American League. The likelihood of this happening when Mike Trout was injured on a slide in Miami, the Sunday before Memorial Day, was probably close to zero as not many believed in the Angels or even took them seriously.

The credit for the Angels’ successful play can be attributed to a high level of professionalism instilled in them by their 18 year skipper, Mike Scioscia, a clubhouse that produces no drama, stars who seem willing to set aside their egos, much hard work, and a level of resilience that has them leading the Major Leagues in comeback victories.

Sweeping in Seattle just might put the Angels on the radar screen and let some of their secrets out of the bottle. With slightly over a quarter of a season yet to be played, the Angels may well drop out of contention and not be a real factor in the pennant race, but one would be advised to keep a close eye on them as they appear to possess that certain intangible which might transform them from wanna be Cinderella’s into a true princesses.

Parker Bridwell has perhaps emerged as the new ace of the staff. The Angels are 11-1 in games he has pitched, including the win earlier in the week against his former team, the Baltimore Orioles, and the sweep clinching victory on Sunday against the Mariners. Another pleasant surprise appearing on the mound for the Halos has been Troy Scribner, who like Bridwell, stymied the Orioles this week.  JC Ramirez has been steady, though at times, he has faltered somewhat.  Ricky Nolasco’s occasional strong efforts will not be enough if he can’t stop baseballs from going over distant walls.  It’s too early yet to evaluate Tyler Skaggs, and as for Andrew Heaney who is due back this week after being out of baseball for a year, all that can be said is that he must be a determined young man to be where he is today.

If there was any pitching disappointment this week, it could be seen in the failed efforts of Bud Norris. A starter by trade, Norris has accumulated 18 saves this season.  Thru June, he compiled a solid earned run average, but unfortunately he has struggled mightily in July and more so, in August. It appears at this time that Norris has lost the closer’s role. Fortunately, Yusmeiro Petit, Blake Parker, Keynan Middleton, and Cam Bedrosian have each shown the ability to shut down opponents when situation’s arise or games  are on the line. Credit for handling this talented relief staff must go to Mike Scioscia, though General Manager, Billy Eppler was responsible for acquiring Petit and Parker, Bridwell, and Scribner and in making many wise roster decisions.

Hitting-wise, Mike Trout picked up where he left off when he returned to the lineup in June. He’s been even better in August. Albert Pujols tailed off significantly in June and July after coming on strong in May but was a vital offensive force this week against Seattle. Behind Trout, Andrelton Simmons has perhaps been the most consistent hitter, this year.  And, in Trout’s absence, many have suggested that Simmons emerged as the team MVP.  Kole Calhoun’s been more down than up but put up solid offensive numbers last week. CJ Cron, who struggled earlier this year prompting his banishment to the minors, seems to be really turning it around. This past week, Cron hit .458 with three homers and 7 RBI’s to help lead the Halos to their six wins.  More on the surprising side, is the respectable hitting of Martin Maldonado who was brought in mostly, if not exclusively for his glove and ability to hold runners. At various times this season, key hitting has also come from Yunel Escobar, but he’s missed his share of games too.  Cameron Maybe has made contributions, as has Ben Revere…more will be needed from both though if the Angels are to find their way to October.  I guess what comes through from this brief analysis, is that there always seems to be some player who steps forward in critical situations.  That often is a key to playing winning baseball.

If the Angels manage to make it to the post-season, this past week will likely be looked at as a turning point.  Having caught lightning in a bottle, let’s hope that they can keep it there.

I will have the good fortune to see first hand which way the wind blows in the aftermath of a most wonderful week.  I’m heading down from the Apple to catch a couple of game in DC and Friday night’s game in Baltimore.  The forecast calls for some thunder storms.  Perhaps that bodes well for a team that can seemingly capture lightning as well as hit with some thunder.

Most Valuable Person

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http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/20275

975/don-baylor-toughest-gentlest-baseball-giants/—————————–

The above link of an article, penned by the recently enshrined Hall of Fame writer, Claire Smith, will break your heart as you reflect on the life of a man who stands among the giants of the game as measured by character in addition to baseball skills and ability.

I met Don Baylor briefly at Camelback Ranch, after the conclusion of a spring training game between the White Sox and the Angels, when he graciously acceded to my Dad’s request to take the photo attached above, as he prepared to depart the ballpark.

A few years back, when I visited Coors Field one Sunday during Baylor’s tenure as the Rockies hitting coach, I was hoping that Baylor would sign a baseball for me, but the opportunity never arose.  I was only eleven years old at the time, but I was already aware of just how important a figure Don Baylor was in the history of the Angels franchise, and the game itself.

I first heard of Baylor when my Dad introduced me to the song Talkin’ Baseball, from which writer/performer Terry Cashman adapted the Angels version that appears at the bottom of the Angels-Across-America website.  Somewhere, in the middle of that song is a short but wonderful line: “Don Baylor, he was an MVP.”  Somehow, I knew that those few words mattered to my dad, a Yankee fan growing up, who saw Baylor play in New York during the early eighties.  I also felt a special connection to Baylor because he shares an obvious connection to my all-time favorite Angel, Vladimir Guerrero.

Much has been written about Don Baylor in the last several days, and the tributes paid him orally on TV, on-line, in newspapers, and via Twitter, are all painfully touching.  Here’s a tweet from Vlad: “My heartfelt condolences to Don Baylor’s family. A great man full of integrity and compassion, thank you for guiding me.”

I never quite realized just how many ball clubs Baylor played for or coached, but it is now totally clear to me that wherever Baylor laid down roots, he made everlasting connections, and left indelible impressions.

Perhaps what touched me most was the honor paid to Baylor by the Rochester Red Wings, a team I’d never before heard of.  It seems that in the early 70’s, this Triple A team was affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, the organization that Don Baylor grew up in nearly 50 years ago.  Imagine that– a small city team that is currently a Twins affiliate — trying to associate itself with a man who left his biggest mark in Maryland, California, New York, Colorado, and Illinois.  Turns out that they have a Hall of Fame in Rochester, and of course, Don Baylor is a long-time member.

Tributes continue to come in from across the nation to honor a man that may not have the requisite Hall of Fame stats, but who was clearly a Hall of Famer, in baseball and in life, — in ways not quite capable of exact measure. Perhaps one day, Don Baylor will find his way to Cooperstown, but it matters little.  Don Baylor was a Most Valuable Person who clearly made the world of baseball, and the world at large, a far better place.

You might grasp more about Baylor, the man, and the ballplayer, from the below piece which appears on the Halo’s Heaven website.

For now, the Angels will wear a patch with Baylor’s number 25 at heart level on their jersey’s.  No doubt, many of the other teams that Baylor played for or managed will follow suit. Perhaps it is time that Baylor’s number 25, be retired by the Halo’s forever.  It would be a fitting tribute to someone uniquely special, and beloved by all whom he touched with his grace.

Requiescat in pace, Don Baylor – Halos Heaven

 

One Step Ahead: 8/6

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What the Angels couldn’t accomplish in Canada, they pulled off upon their return to Anaheim as they swept the lowly Phillies in a three game set. The Phillies got off to a lead in the first inning of the first game. From that point, they didn’t score for eighteen consecutive innings as the Angels scored seven runs in game one, and seven more in game 2. If the number 7 brought us bad luck in the Mid-West and in Ontario, it became our friend again in Orange County, California. On Monday, the “good” Ricky Nolasco showed up and gave up one run in six innings. The hitting star was none other than The Machine, Albert Pujols who had been slumping of late. On this night, Pujols went 3-4, scored a run and knocked in 5 with a single, double, and home run – a triple short of the cycle (Pujols has never hit for the cycle in his 17 year MLB career). The homer was # 608 all-time and the next one he hits will tie him with Sammy Sosa for eighth all-time. The RBI’s were numbers 64 thru 68 of the season and Pujols now needs only 18 more to pull even with the great Willie Mays, who is tenth on the all-time RBI list with 1,903. On the following night, Mike Trout had a jack, and Simmons and Cron went back to back with their own. The Angels wrapped up the second game of the set with yet another 7 spot, all coming in the third inning when 11 men came to the plate for the home team.

To sweep the series and win their fifth in the last sixth games, the Angels got off to a great start when Mike Trout hit a two run shot in the bottom of the first, his 21st blast of the season. The Phillies though came right back with four of their own runs in the top of the second. A sacrifice fly in the fourth and groundout in the eighth tied the game at 4. The winning run scored on a wild pitch which allowed Andrelton Simmons to scamper home and send the Phillies packing. Parker Bridwell struggled in the start but the relief corps which included Parker, Bedrosian, and Norris sealed the win. Simmons went 4-11 against Philadelphia and has now upped his batting average to a season high .303. His great season continues to get even better!

Next, the Angels welcomed Western Division rival Oakland to the Big A, and stole a game where victory seemed doubtful, by scoring six runs in the sixth and seventh inning after they had fallen behind, 6-2. Escobar, Calhoun, and Revere had two hits apiece and Mike Trout registered three. The biggest hit of the night though was a bases loaded pinch single for Luis Valbuena, batting for Martin Maldonado which scored Calhoun and Simmons. The win gave the Angels a four game winning streak, their longest since May and brought them back to the .500 mark.

The week ended with two disappointing losses. The first came on a 5-0 shutout, where the Angels were held to but five hits. Tyler Skaggs was a bit disappointing in his first outing since April when he suffered an oblique strain. Of concern is that Skaggs did not impress in four rehab outings. He last pitched in Salt Lake on July 31 where he struggled in pitching just under five innings. Still, if the Skaggs start was not what was hoped for, the relief pitching on Sunday which allowed the A’s to come back from a 10-5 deficit and grab an 11-10 win was a source of significant concern. This is the second consecutive Sunday where the Halo’s lost by identical 11-10 scores after blowing seemingly insurmountable leads. It was painful to watch and then painful to listen to after I turned off the TV. Now 2 games under .500 again, the Angels may have some help on the way.

On the immediate radar screen is Andrew Heaney, a highly touted starter, obtained from the Dodgers a few years back for Howie Kendrick. A little over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Heaney threw five innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, giving up three runs on five hits and no walks while striking out seven. Heaney might be back as early as mid-August. In case you were wondering about Nick Tropeano, who like Heaney is recovering from Tommy John, it appears that Tropeano will not pitch this season for the Halos but will be ready to pitch in the Arizona Instructional League this fall. As for Garrett Richards, who has been rehabbing from an injury to the nerves in his biceps, the OC Register quotes him as saying that he is “certain” that he will pitch for the Angels this season…though he is uncertain as to when exactly that will be.

One pitcher who will apparently not return to the Halos is Huston Street who has experienced a mild rotator cuff strain after coming back to pitch four games and then being forced out with a groin injury. In the last year of his contract with the Angels, you’d have to believe that Street is a longshot to ever wear the Halo on his cap again.

Another who is unlikely to return this season is Matt Shoemaker who is expected to soon undergo surgery on the radial nerve in his right forearm. The good news with Shoemaker is that if he opts for that surgery, the recovery time is short enough to guarantee that he will not miss any spring training in 2018. Last, Andrew Bailey has pitched in some rehab assignments, performed poorly, and it appears uncertain at this time as to what progress may be expected in regards to his shoulder issues. We will continue to monitor all injuries and report on all hoped for progress.

At week’s end, the Angels record stands at 55-57. They are 3 games behind the second wild card slot. Given the trials and tribulations they’ve suffered this year, August feels a little like April; hope springs eternal. Let’s hope the last 50 games brings the kind of excitement and surprises that makes baseball the most wonderful sport on earth.

The July Player of the Month award goes to Andrelton Simmons who hit .378 in 22 games last month. Simmons hit 3 home runs, had a team leading 13 RBI’s, and had an OBP of .409 in June. Amazingly, his WAR numbers placed him roughly in a flat-footed first place tie among all major leaguers in the position player category, and first in defensive WAR. He’s not a magician with his glove or his arm, he just seems like one. The pitcher of the month award belongs to Parker Bridwell who won 3 games, struck out 20. and had an ERA of 1.69. Bridwell also compiled a WHIP of .90, and established himself as a mainstay on the starting staff.

One Step Back: 7/30

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Some weeks just work out strangely. Perhaps Tuesday night’s game against the Indians was a harbinger of odd things to come. We arrived in Cleveland after splitting an eight game homestand followed by a day off on Monday. In the past month or so, the reigning AL champion Indians had regained their mojo and taken over the lead from the surprising Minnesota Twins and somewhat disappointing KC Royals.

In the midst of a four game winning streak that would reach nine by week’s end, the Indians, behind a strong pitching staff and a confident manager who has achieved much success while gaining enormous respect, were rolling when we arrived. Just a few years back, Cleveland was scorned and was derisively referred to as the Mistake on the Lake. However, since the emergence of LeBron and the Cavaliers, the city that lies on the shore of Lake Erie is now known as Believeland or simply, the Land. The Tribe has known more than its share of problems since last winning the World Series in 1948 behind the incomparable Bob Feller, Al Rosen, player/manager Lou Boudreau (the inventor of “the shift” which he employed against left-handed Ted Williams), and the first African American ballplayer in the AL, the beloved, Larry Doby. Last year, as the Cubs reversed their curse, the Indians came within a whisker of the World Championship. Many believe that this year will be the year of the Tribe. Judging how they handled the Angels in sweeping a three game set, those people may have a point.

In the midst of beating up on Jesee Chavez with a crooked number 7 in the second inning, Angels fans Across America had to be wondering if Mike Scioscia would turn to pitching coach and ex-Indian hurler, Charles Nagy, to come out of retirement. Given the decimation suffered by the staff as a result of every possible form of injury to their starters, middle relievers, set up men, and closers, Nagy should be considered a genius as coach. Unfortunately, what he can do with his brains, he no longer can do with his arm. Thanks in part though to home runs by Kole Calhoun and Luis Valbuena, the Angels knotted the score within the next four innings and were alive and well as the game headed into the bottom of the eleventh, knotted at 7. Unfortunately, without getting an out, closer Bud Norris surrendered a grand slam walkoff home run to Edwin Encarnation. The next night, Ricky Nolasco pitched well enough to win and the game was tied 2-2 headed into the bottom of the seventh when the Indians pulled ahead with a lone run. Still to come though was a disastrous 8th inning by Cam Bedrosian which led to second seven spot in as many days for Cleveland. Maybe the name Believeland has something to it? In any case, the Indians won for the third night in a row on Thursday, in a 2-1 pitchers duel. It was the first sweep against the Angels since April when they lost 3 in a row to the Royals. Stuff happens!

The Indians sweep was nearly reversed on the other side of Lake Erie as the Halos grabbed the first two games against the Jays…a 7-2 drubbing and a 6-5 come from behind exciting win that saw the Angels pull ahead with three runs in the top of the ninth on a single, an HBP, a double, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. Poised to win their third straight, and leading 10-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, the unthinkable happened causing me to consider jumping out the window as I witnessed yet a third seven spot against us.  Seven runs crossed the plate for the Jays in the bottom of the ninth and we were walked off!. Luckily, I arrived back in NY on Saturday and my Mom eased the pain of the loss with a great Italian dinner. It’s good to be (a few thousand miles from) home!

Take That!: 7/23

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After an off day on Monday, the team with the second best record in the National League came riding into town along with their five game win streak. With them came their manager and old nemesis from the 2002 World Series, Dusty Baker who is currently managing the Washington Nationals, his fourth team in the Big’s, all in the NL. Baker has won at least one Division Title in every city he’s managed…San Francisco, Chicago, Cincinnati, and DC. Still, he’s only won one NL pennant and that achievement did not lead to the ultimate victory that he is still in search of. Likely, coming to Anaheim for Baker, amounts to returning to the “scene of the crime.” I guess you’d have to ask him about what he thinks of Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon, John Lackey, Troy Percival, K-Rod, and especially, Scott Spiezio to know how he really feels about the ’02 Angels…but I don’t think you’ll making a friend if you do!

Along with Manager Baker, came the Nats MVP candidate, Bryce Harper, who plays both hard and with a lot of swagger. Harper doesn’t seem to be beloved in the way Mike Trout is, but he has gained the respect of the entire baseball world. Harper arrived in Anaheim with a .329 BA, 23 homers, and 72 RBI’s…not too shabby. In his first at bat, he deposited the baseball thrown to him by Angels starter Jesee Chavez, over the center field wall, directly behind Mike Trout. On this night, Harper would wind up going 4-4 and help lead Washington to a 4-3 win over the Halos. Still, Mike Trout provided some heroics of his own on Trout “double MVP bobblehead night.” In the bottom of the first, as if to say to Harper: Take That, Trout blasted a home run into the centerfield rocks, estimated by Statcast to have travelled 448 feet, his longest dinger since September of 2015! The game see-sawed, and the Halos had a chance to tie it in the bottom of the ninth, but alas, Albert Pujols could not drive in the tying run with a runner on second and two out.

Trout added a second homer against Washington the next night as if to say: take that again, as the Angels coasted to a 7-0 shutout win behind the dynamic pitching of Alex Meyer who was recalled from Salt Lake to pitch the game after having been banished to Triple A two weeks earlier. Meyer gave up but one hit…a sixth inning single, but more importantly, Alex yielded only one walk in his longest start of the year, seven innings. CJ Cron added a monster shot into the California night, the longest of the season by any Angel, measured at 461 by Statcast. Amazingly, the ball nearly landed in the Sherwin Williams paint can in left center. As to who would have benefitted by the $1,000,000 that is to be paid if a ball winds up in the can, I don’t know, but it was the closest I’ve ever see the ball come to finding it’s way into the exact right spot.

The Halos had an unusual second day off in one week, following the Nationals series and before the Red Sox arrived in Anaheim on Friday. Having taken 2 of 3 against Boston a few weeks back the Angels went with Ricky Nolasco who did not pitch in that series. In three of the last four games he started, Nolasco had given up either no runs or one run. In the other outing, he was charged with eight runs in less than 2 IP. Unfortunately for the Angels, the Friday night game was a total bust for Nolasco. Though he was not bitten by the home run ball that has plagued him all season long, Nolasco lasted but 4 innings while giving up six earned runs in a 6-2 loss to Boston, led by their ace, Chris Sale who struck out nine Halos. Since 2002 (Randy Johnson, 334), only Clayton Kershaw has struck out as many as 300 batters in a season (301 in 2015).  Sale may be heading for a dreamlike season.  Of course, Nolan Ryan holds the modern day record for strikeouts in a season with 383.  Sale’s only chance to reach that number might be if MLB were to add another 30-40 games to this season.  Truly, it’s hard to see how anyone could ever seriously challenge Ryan’s record set in 1973 as a California Angel.

The Angels showed their resilience and took the final two games from Boston by scores of 7-3 and 3-2. In those two wins, Trout, and Valbuena had a home run apiece while Andrelton Simmons blasted two. Quietly, Simmons has emerged as a big-time star and GM Billy Eppler should get his due credit for acquiring Simmons for Eric Aybar, Sean Newcomb, 2 other prospects + cash in 2015. His batting average is up to .292. With eleven home runs, 44 RBI’s, an arm that can rifle out the speediest of runners on a slow roller, and range that is pretty spectacular, Simmons is one heckuva ballplayer.  He’s also now one of only four Angels shortstops to hit ten taters or more in a season.  The others?  Aybar, Jim Fregosi, and Dick Schofield (Fregosi is the only one to top 20).

At weeks end, the Angels were but two games back of .500 and 2 ½ behind the second wild card slot. Baseball can be fun and Mike Scioscia and his staff, under the toughest of circumstances, have done an amazing job in spite of a DL that sometimes seems to exceed their roster in number.

Opening Day, Take 2: 7/16

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After packing my suitcase on the last day of the All Star break, I grabbed my trusty laptop and headed for the OCregister.com. Staring back at me was a short paragraph in a story about the Angels that mentioned something that made me both happy and sad…at the same time. Eric Young Jr. had been outrighted to Triple-A, Salt Lake, after clearing waivers. That confirmed to me that the next night, after reuniting with my Dad at John Wayne Airport, the Angels and I would be re-united with Mike Trout. Young has hit .260 in 34 games with the Halos this season and his 3 homeruns together with 11 RBI’s, 8 steals, and stellar outfield play, are worthy of respect and admiration.

There’s no better feeling for me than arriving at Angels Stadium and seeing the oversized helmets, and bats, amidst a sea of unending red. It’s my home park and though it’s 2,785 miles from my Greenwich Village Apartment, I always feel that Gene Autry Way is the next street over from my heart.

After Friday night’s disappointing extra inning loss to the Rays, Mike Trout was asked how he felt about returning to the lineup following his first ever stint on the DL. He said that it felt like Opening Day. Funny, I felt the same way that whole evening as it was my first Anaheim appearance in 2017 as well. I know that I won’t be back after this series until 2018…unless–just maybe– the Angels capture a wild card playoff birth. Each day, MLB.Com publishes the percentage chance of all teams to make the playoffs. Once in a while I take a glance and dream. I know it’s a long shot but wouldn’t it be…____?

There were a “few good” moments in the disappointing loss to the Rays on Friday night.  Mike Trout singled and stole a base…diving head first into second!  Even better was the opportunity to witness Albert Pujols hit career home run # 605, a solid blast over the centerfield wall. For a few years now, the Angels have placed a board in the outfield to show Pujols’ climb up the all-time homer ladder.  I love to get a photo shot of that Board on each visit to the Big A.  In all likelihood, Pujols will pass Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome this year to place seventh on the all time list.  As to whether Pujols can pass Junior Griffey and maybe even Willie Mays next year are open questions.  No doubt 700 is within reach but it all depends on Pujols’ ability to stave off serious injury.  It’ll be quite a quest and no doubt one that Angels fans Across America will follow closely.

If we are to have any chance of grabbing a playoff spot, we’re going to have to beat out a number of teams who are ahead of us, like the Rays. The Rays and Yankees currently hold the WC positions with but only a handful of wins more than us. That is why JC’s disappointing outing on Saturday night hurt a little more than usual. Of course, it was nice to see the Angels make a valiant comeback attempt in the ninth inning. And, when Luis Valbuena hit a two run jack off Jumbo Diaz (the name fits), the rush that enveloped the ballpark could be felt. But alas, the big guy settled down and retired Maldonato and Pennington. I left the Big A cursing Steven Souza and Logan Morrison under my breath. Corey Dickerson, Shane Peterson, and Alex Cobb had managed to get under my skin as well. Oh well, a quick trip to Krispy Kreme located within the Shops at Orange toned down my despair…at least somewhat. Returning to our hotel where I spotted the darkened Halo through our window, not more than a mile or so away though, made me sad.

Parker Bridwell vs. Chris Archer? A pitcher with 1 game of Major League experience prior to this year facing a six year vet with two all-star game selections to his credit and who is considered by many as the ace of the Rays staff? Yikes, I thought!  Still, the ballpark was filled with excitement after the Angels grabbed a 2-0 lead on a single by Albert in the fifth and a safety squeeze bunt by Maldonato in the sixth. Archer wasn’t that sharp as he walked five in six innings so the hope level mounted as time went by. But, when Logan Morrison connected of Bridwell in the top of the seventh with one aboard to tie the score, you could feel the dejection from the dugout to the upper deck.  Meanwhile the Angels were stranding base runners as usual. Hope was quickly restored, when CJ faced the oversized Jumbo and did something special. Shuttling back and forth a few times between Utah and California, Cron’s had a tough year.  So, when CJ nailed an oppo taco to right, as Victor likes to call “big flies” hit to side opposite the hitters handedness, which scored Andrelton Simmons as well, I felt good all over…as did my 36,000 other “pals” who joined me at the game.

Of course, the top of the ninth turned out to be a nail biter. Damn that Steven Souza, Jr., again! Thank God though, Bud Norris got out of a bases loaded jam by getting the speedy Tim Bekham to hit into a double play and end the game. I was likely hyperventilating, especially since I was terribly overheated by the strong California sun on a hot August afternoon. It sure was nice though to get the W!

We drove to LA after the exciting win so that my Dad could drop me off at UCLA where I was registered for two more summer classes in sports management. The drive was a happy one, and we of course drove safely as Victor always admonishes his listeners to do on their way home. Unfortunately, we weren’t driving home but away from home!  Turn off the lights?  We left the Halo burning bright!

Reaching the Halfway point: 7/9

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The All Star game to be played in Miami on Tuesday may be just an exhibition game but one of the best baseball memories I’ll always have was in attending the Future’s Game, the Home Run Derby, and the All Star game itself back in 2010, held at the Big A. Prior to that year, I’d never even heard of a “Futures Game,” but as it was the first time Mike Trout played in Angels Stadium, and I got to witness it, that event will always be an enormous highlight for me.

Throughout the four day period ending with the ASG, various events took place in and around Anaheim where I was beyond excited to meet the likes of Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Gary Carter, Harmon Killebrew, Ferguson Jenkins, Ricky Henderson, along with Angel greats Wally Joyner, Tim Salmon, Chuck Finley, Chili Davis, Jim Fregosi, Tommy John, and Bobby Grich. Outside the Fanfest held at the Convention Center off Harbor Avenue was the photo attached to this post of two of the most beloved Angels of all time – – Rod Carew, and Torii Hunter, the semi-official ambassadors of the Angels to the gala event. As I tuned into the three game set earlier this week between the Halos and the Twins at Target Field and heard Mark and Victor mention those two amazing Angels (and ex-Twins), I reflected on the fact that there happened to be a host of players who at one time or another, had some great moments in, and connection to, both Minneapolis and southern California.

A few, like Carew, Bert Blyleven, and Dave Winfield, are enshrined in Cooperstown…unfortunately, without the Halo logo on their cap. Others like Don Baylor, Luis Tiant, and Chili Davis had solid careers that brought them to the top of baseball world for several years. Then there was Lyman Bostock, someone who showed brilliance and character but whose life was tragically cut short before he was able to fulfill the greatness he seemed destined for. And the list goes on…including both retired players and many who are still active. Cy Young winner Dean Chance played for both teams and with the ageless Bartolo joining the Twins just this week, that doubles the Cy Young winners who played for both clubs. Within the last decade or so, the likes of Orlando Cabrera, Brian Fuentes, Kendrys Morales, Hector Santiago, Kevin Jepsen, Ricky Nolasco, Ben Revere, Shane Robinson, Drew Butera, LaTroy Hawkins, Ervin Santana, and Alex Meyer all played for both ball clubs. Isn’t it funny how when a player from another team comes to your team, you adopt him, but when a player goes elsewhere from your team, your connections still remain intact? I guess player movement is part of the game but once a guy is one of “yours,” the attachment never seems to fade, does it?

I never had the opportunity to attend the Metrodome, but I did have the good fortune to see a few games between the Twinks and the Halos in Target Field’s inaugural season. It’s truly a stunning park. But, beautiful or not, there aren’t many stadiums I like when I am watching the Angels get drubbed. During the July 4th series, the Angels struggled mightily with the Twins managing at least to salvage the final game of a three game set. Ex-Twin, Alex Meyer got banged up so badly that he wound up getting a one way ticket to Salt Lake after his start. If the Angels had any good fortune, it was that Simba went 6-12 raising his BA to .286 (though he will inexplicably not be headed to Miami as an All Star), Kole hit a dinger in two consecutive games, and Valbuena, Maldonado, and Pujols each went deep once. Pujols’ shot, home run number 603 lifetime was a massive blast that travelled 459 feet! More good news? Cameron Maybin stole home on the front end of a double steal that allowed the Angels to defeat Ervin Santana (10-6) who pitched his fourth complete game of the season and was selected to play in the 88th All Star game. I was away at summer camp a few years back when Santana threw a no-no for the Halos. Filled with excitement at the feat, I had no one to share my happiness with. Of course, had CC thrown a no-hitter for the Yankees, it would have been a different story. Sometimes, being an east coast Angels fan can be a bit lonely.

There was a silver lining in the series loss to the Twinkies.  Before the game on Monday night, Rod Carew, was given the honor of throwing out the First Ball.  Carew had recently done the same in Anaheim when the Angels played Minnesota.  It’s great to see Rod once again able to be back at the ballpark after recovering from a heart transplant operation.  Next to Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew may be the second greatest player to play ball in the Twin Cities, but his number 29 is retired in Anaheim as well.  In playing for the Angels from 1979 to 1985, Carew has the highest on-base percentage and second-highest batting average in team history.  The Panamanian native was selected to the All-Star team in six of the seven seasons he was with the Angels and later coached with the Halos from 1992-1999.  Carew has been an Orange County resident for decades. Fans still regularly appear at the Big A wearing Carew’s throwback uniform bearing the map of California on the left shoulder surrounded by the Halo that back in the day were worn by Carew and his ’82 teammates Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor, Brian Downing, and Bob Boone.

Things did not improve for the Angels in Arlington after a travel day for the club on Thursday. The weekend series at Globe Life Park began with a disastrous 10-0 loss on Friday night. Cole Hamels got the win; Ricky Nolasco, the loss and in giving up two three-run dingers in less than two innings of work. Nolasco regained the ignominious distinction of being the most generous AL pitchers in terms of giving up the long ball. Saturday’s 5-2 defeat handed the Angels their 8th loss in their past 11 games. This was the worst streak for the Halos all season. The Angels did however get a win on Sunday as Albert hit career number 604, and JC Ramirez pitched six solid scoreless innings to get win number 8.

Even better news came from San Bernardino late Sunday evening when it was announced that Mike Trout said that his right thumb felt 100% and that he had no discomfort whatsoever.  Given that, Trout is likely to play this coming Friday after the traditional four-day mid-summer break. In his absence over nearly a seven week span, the Angels record without Mike Trout was 19-20.

Trout will definitely not play in the All Star game or even accompany the AL squad to Miami. With Trout out of the ASG and Simmons not selected as a reserve, no Angel will represent the AL team in Miami, a painful feeling for Angels fans Across America.

Having missed the Angels and Yankees play in New York when I was ill a few weeks back, I’m looking forward to meeting up with my Dad in Orange County on Friday to catch the 47-43 Rays play the 45-47 Angels.  At the All Star Break, the Angels are 16.5 games behind the Western Division First Place Astros;  just 3 GB of the second wild card birth.

I leave Austin this Friday and fly to LA via Las Vegas. I can’t wait to be back “home!”

The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles: 7/2

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As measured by our friends at Google, driving from Boston to LA is a trip that covers 2,982 miles, yet the distance by air is only 2,592 miles. Either way, it’s a long way home for residents of southern California making the coast to coast trip. The nice thing though is that in flying from the Atlantic to the Pacific, one picks up three hours, and with that, the ability to catch up on some needed sleep.

Unfortunately for the Angels, going home on this particular trip required a nightmarish two-game detour to the unfriendly confines of Chavez Ravine, the home of the rival Dodgers, who at 50-27, hold the best record in the National League. Scarier yet was having to face a team who is currently on a ten-game winning streak, and who have not lost at home in eleven consecutive games.

Having come to LA in 1961, several years after the Dodgers had established themselves in the “City of Angels,” with some well known baseball superstars like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and then sharing a ballpark named for their better known rival, the Angels have long been treated (and teased) as a kind of the little brother in southern California. What kind of teasing you might ask. The photo attached to this post is a perfect example of the ridicule directed at the Angels. Officially named, the Los Angeles Dodgers of Anaheim, Dodger fans poke fun at us with T shirts that read: The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles. Not exactly a subtle form of sarcasm, huh? The bottom line is that all games matter, but the games with the Dodgers matter a whole bunch more. Even this New Yorker recognizes that!

So, it was a welcome relief this past Monday for the Angels to enter Dodger Stadium, emerge with a win and put an end to the talk of the Dodgers being the class of California while on target for a 100+ win season. Even more encouraging for the Angels in the opening game of a 4-game home and home series with the Dodgers was the pitching of Ricky Nolasco, the pitcher at the top of the home runs allowed list in the Majors who was facing a team that had homered in a phenomenal 17 consecutive games. Nolasco might have gone the distance had he not taken two consecutive shots off his body in the seventh inning, forcing him from the game. Cam Bedrosian, in relief of Nolasco held the Dodgers at bay as he struck out the two hitters he faced after entering in the bottom of the seventh.  Kenyan Middleton and David Hernandez pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively and held the mighty Dodgers both homerless and scoreless the rest of the way.

The rest of the week was up and down as the Dodgers answered the shutout with a shutout of their own, and then split the two games played in Anaheim. The hitting star for the Dodgers in their two wins was Joc Pederson who delivered a three run jack in each victory. The Angels second win against the Dodgers came in more improbable form. Behind a solid pitching effort by the hard throwing Alex Meyer, the Angels held a 2-0 lead entering the eighth inning as a result of a 2-run homer by Andrelton Simmons. Simba, as Simmons is affectionately known by his many fans, is making a solid drive to be the Angels representative to the All-Star game two weeks down the line. The relief pitching for the Angels did its best to give the game away as Kenyon Middleton surrendered a home run in the eighth and Cam Bedrosian followed suit in the ninth. Though he was charged with a blown save, his second of the season, Bedrosian was a beneficiary of some mixed heroics and luck. In the bottom of the ninth, Angels left fielder, Ben Revere, who has gotten some added playing time in the absence of Mike Trout, reached first on a fielding error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored when Yasmani Grandal was charged with a passed ball on a strikeout by Cameron Maybin which then led to a throwing error by Grandal attempting to get Maybin at first. As the throw sale into right field, the speedy and hustling Revere had scored the winning run all the way from second on what should have been a routine out. I’m sure the Angels enjoyed the celebration on the Dodger Stadium turf…as I did!

The split with the Dodgers in the so-called Freeway Series was followed by a disappointing series loss at home to Western Division rival Seattle. In the first game, the Angels were annihilated 10-0 on a solid pitching performance by Ariel Miranda, who defected from Cuba to the US a few years back to pursue a professional baseball career. The offensive star was ex-Yankee Robinson Cano who is in the midst of an astounding 10-year $240 million contract with the Mariners.  Cano, who is hitting .287 this year with 16 homers, went 3-5 with 2 runs scored, 2 home runs, and five RBI’s. Maybe that’s why he’s making the big bucks!

The Angels split the two weekend games at the Big A with the win coming on the 2nd consecutive gem pitched this week by Ricky Nolasco, who this time, completed a shutout behind the largest crowd to attend Angels Stadium since its renovation in 1998. Andrelton Simmons hit his ninth homer of the season in the win and is now hitting over .280. He’s become a terrific player who plays under the radar screen and who is greatly appreciated by his teammates, and moreso, the entire Angels pitching staff.

The June player of the month award goes to right fielder Kole Calhoun who batted .324, connected for 5 home runs, and knocked in 22 home runs. Kudo’s to Albert Pujols for hitting career home run number 600. The pitcher of the month award goes to Alex Meyer who had an ERA of 2.25, struck out 34, held opponents to a .181 average, and though he only was credited with one victory, seems to have solidified a position in the rotation. If Meyer can harness his control, he can become a mainstay in the rotation even after Skaggs, Richards, Tropeano, and Heaney come off the DL.

New York, New York: 6/25

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If you’ve ever had the good fortune to witness a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, you’d know that at the conclusion of a Yankee win or loss, Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York rushes out of the PA system and loudspeakers, surrounding all attendees with the sounds of the city’s official anthem. Listen to some lines of a song that resonates with this native New Yorker.

I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m A-number-one, top of the list,
King of the hill, A-number-one.

Of course, as opposed to most who come to watch some baseball in the Bronx, the team I want to wake up and see as “A number one,” is my Angels, the team I adopted back in ’08 when I first set foot into the (old) House that Ruth Built (a historic park that remained haunted by the ghosts of the Babe, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle, until it was torn down a few years back to make way for the House that Jeter re-built). I well remember the first game I ever attended at Yankee Stadium back in ‘08. My Dad placed a baseball with the interlocking NY in my hand and snapped the photo that accompanies this entry. From that moment forwards, I am proud to say that I have not associated myself with the Yanks, or as they are better known a few hundred miles to the east by their arch-enemy Red Sox fans, the Evil Empire. That was a great night for this newly born Angels fan as Torii went deep with a three-run shot and the Angels beat the Pinstripes, badly, 12-6. Root for Jeter, A-Rod, Pettite and Giambi, (3 of whom knowingly consumed the “juice”)? Hell no! Instead, I opted for Figgy, Lackey, Napoli, Howie, and mostly… Vladdy! Interestingly, on that hot New York summer night, the Angels acquired Mark Texiera. Tex batted .358 and hit 13 home runs for us in the remaining 54 games of the 2008 season before joining the “evils.” Those familiar with Angels-Across-America website might have taken note of the photo of Texiera in Angels attire as it appeared on the Yankee scoreboard, July 31, 2008. That picture should forever be cherished by all Angels fans as when Tex later walked out our rear door, it made room for Mike Trout to be welcomed through our front door. Trout was the supplemental pick we obtained for Mark Texiera. Trout could have been a Yankee I guess, Ugh!

It’s been a tough couple of years for Halo fans looking to light up some imaginary east coast Halo after playing the New York Yankees. Sadly, the Yanks, have won each of the last nine games played in the Bronx. Perhaps one day, on the road to the “Fall Classic,” the Angels will pass through the Bronx and become the true “King of the Hill.” This does not look like the year it will happen…rest assured though…one day, our day will come, and Angels fans across America will sit atop the baseball world from the east coast to the west. Maybe we’ll even get the Yankees to substitute I Love LA for New York, New York on their PA system. Well, we can dream, can’t we?

The bad news for me this week was that a nasty virus put me on the 5 day DL and prevented me from attending the entire three game set in the Bronx.  What eventually helped get me back to health was that the “good guys” won 2 of 3!

One thing being sidelined made me cognizant of was that my MLB account blacks me out of watching games on my laptop in my “home area.” It wasn’t easy to be sick and also be unable to have Gubey and Victor keep me company. Watching baseball on the YES television network was not at all fun. What do New York broadcasters know about our Halos? Not much, I’m afraid! And is it asking too much for them to pronounce CJ’s last name as if it has an “e” at the end?  Hey Michael Kay, It’s not Cron as in (we’re not living in) Iran; it’s Cron as in (stop making me) groan!

Without Mike Trout, the Angels aren’t exactly the Angels we’re used to rooting for nightly.  But, seeing Cameron Maybin go deep into the New York night to provide the margin of victory was as beautiful a sight for me as it must be for a visitor watching the Statue of Liberty raise her torch to Gotham. Maybin, who has lifted his average some eighty points since early May has been a valuable addition and provided the Angels with an exciting leadoff hitter who can get on base and run. Currently the leading base stealer in the American League, Cameron’s speed has added a new dimension to the Angels offense. He’s also a solid fielder who can play center field in Trout’s absence. Of course, I would have loved to see Jose Mota interview Maybin post-game but hopefully, I’ll have the good fortune to see Alex or Jose interview many Halo star’s of the game as the season unfolds.

The Angels dropped the second game of the series to the Yankees but won the rubber match. Luckily for me, I’ll be in LA next month and will catch the weekend series with the Rays.  At least being sick spared me from getting beer dumped over my old Dan Haren T as has a way of happening in the Bronx. That 2012 shirt is in desperate need of being retired even though Haren himself won’t wind up with a place of distinction at the Big A. Of course, I’ll never retire my Vlad jersey though it’s aging…it’s the one with Adenhart’s number 34 on the chest…I wish I’d seen Nick pitch, even once.

On this short road trip, the Halo’s next travelled north to play the Yankee’s chief rival, the Boston Red Sox.  If I share one thing in common with Yankee fans, it’s my dislike of the Sox and their so-called “Nation.” Sports fans should know that there is only one true nation: Raider Nation, a once beloved LA team soon to be heading for Vegas.

How satisfying was it to leave NY with a couple of wins and then grab 2 of 3 from the BoSox? Not quite the same as the lone ’09 divisional playoff game victory in Beantown which concluded on Vlad’s game 3 single up the middle off Jonathan Pappelbon. That hit completed a welcome sweep of the Sox to at least, somewhat avenge ‘86.

All in all, it was a wonderful week and weekend!  It also couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’m spending the next few weeks at the University of Texas at Austin where I’ll be taking two sports management courses. Homesick? Never with Mark and Victor!

Big Hits + Big Flies = Mixed Results: 6/18

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The Halos took 2 of three from the Yanks early this week after dropping the opening game of the series to the Bronx Bombers 5-3 when the usually reliable Bud Norris gave up a massive, tie breaking, eighth inning home run to rookie sensation, Aaron Judge. At 6’7”, 282 pounds, Judge bears no resemblance to Hank Aaron other than their shared name. Then again, Judge has emerged as a prolific home run hitter who hits the ball harder and farther than almost all who play baseball today.

In the 70 years since Major League baseball started handing out awards for rookie of the year, the very first going to Jackie Robinson, only two players have won both the Rookie of the Year Award and a League MVP in a single season. The first was Fred Lynn of the Red Sox who led the AL in 1975 in runs scored, doubles, slugging percentage, and OPS while hitting 21 home runs and knocking in 105 to lead the Sox to an unexpected World Series birth and a near upset of the formidable Big Red Machine. Angels fans will long remember Lynn as a three time Halo all-star, for hitting the first ever grand slam in an All Star game, and for teaming with Rod Carew, Bobbie Grich, and Reggie Jackson to help them lead the 1982 California Angels within one game of their first World Series appearance ever. The second was Ichiro Suzuki, who though a rookie in 2001, had played a substantial number of years in the Japanese “Major League,” and for all practical purposes, was not a rookie. If there is to be a third, it could well be Aaron Judge who with Mike Trout sidelined, has now taken over the Major League home run lead, with 22 round-trippers. Judge also currently leads the AL in OBP, OPS, and Slugging Average. If he is able to maintain the pace he is on, he will truly have a historical year. Of course, in the history of baseball, there have been many players who were dominant in the first half of the season, only to face a dramatic drop-off in the second. So, the final judgment on Aaron Judge will come at season’s end. All of baseball will be watching.

With Trout out ‘til at least the All Star game, his seeming replacement has stepped up big time. Affectionately known as EYJ, Eric Young Jr., followed the Judge game with one that he will long be remembered for in his own right. Not only did he drive a ball into the right field stands at Angels Stadium to tie up a game against the Yanks in the eighth, his single in the bottom of the 11th, walked off the 38-24 Eastern Division leading New York Yankees. The next night, EYJ helped beat the Yankees back to back with his arm as well as his glove. Young threw out Judge at the plate to keep the Angels in the lead at one point, and later robbed Judge once more with a spectacular diving catch to help keep a nail biter game tied. His heroics also paved the way and and made it possible for Andrelton Simmons to be the night’s big hero with a three-run late inning homer, hit with one knee planted firmly on the ground.

Unfortunately, the rest of the week turned out to be a bust for LA. The Angels dropped 3 of 4 to the Royals at the Big A though Valbuena, Maybin, Pennington, and Pujols hit some mighty home runs in the process….Pujols’ 2 run shot gave him a career RBI total of 1865, pushing him past Mel Ott on the all-time RBI list. The next man to pass on this highly significant register is Willie Mays whose 1,903 RBI’s places him either 9th or 11th in the record books…depending on which record book one may choose to follow.

At week’s end, the Angels again found themselves one game below the .500 mark. Given the unprecedented number of significant injuries that have decimated the pitching,the offense, and the defense, this record may be regarded as a sensational achievement.

Searching for Identity: 6/11

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The Angels departed Orange County for Motown shortly after the disappointing series with the Minnesota Twins which left them at 29-31 on the season, following a 3-4 week. With a welcome day off on Monday, the Angels got some rest in Detroit in advance of a three game set with the Tigers before moving on to Houston and three games with division leading Houston. With 102 games remaining in the long baseball season, the Angels are a team in search of identity. Mostly, they need to answer the question as to whether 2017 will be a year they take strides towards the future by gaining a birth in the post-season, or a year in which they hold together and regroup, while allowing their injured to heal and their front office to devise a plan to build something bigger and better behind their awesome superstar, Mike Trout. If the Angels can tread water while playing without Mike Trout, perhaps they can make a run at a 2017 AL wild card slot. But, should they slip in Trout’s absence, the Angels might be wise to decide to concentrate on building an identity for the future while forsaking the present. How they perform over the next month or so should give Angels fans a clue as to who the Angels are and where they might be headed.

Since 2013, when beloved Angel Torii Hunter transformed into Torii the Tiger, the Angels have met with success at Comerica Park, compiling a 9-4 record in that span of years. When Mike Trout entered the Major Leagues, he was mentored by Hunter who graciously moved to right field without even being asked to make way for Trout in center. Now two years since Torii’s good-bye, the Hunter-less Tigers no longer provide us with the special opportunity to reacquaint with an old friend, greatly missed. In hindsight, the loss of Torii Hunter turned out to be more painful and damaging than first feared. No doubt, the front office now regrets overpaying Josh Hamilton, and losing a beloved hometown hero. Our outfield would have been an interesting one had Hunter remained to team with Trout and Calhoun. Sadly, it was not to be and left field that was once the proud home of Garret Anderson has become a revolving door of futility, which has included Hamilton, Shuck, Robertson, Robinson, Campana, Joyce, Howie, Nava, Gentry, Victorino, De Jesus, Green, O’Malley, Ibanez, Murphy, Cunningham, Ortega, Buss, Marte, Kubitza, Navarro, Krauss, Petit, Boesch, Nieuwenhuis, and the Ji-Man. No doubt, left field has made for a situation that has left us out of the playoffs and deprived of memories that might have been. No doubt, Angels fans Across America would be happy to forget all things left field related. Actually, our current left fielder, Cameron Maybin was first drafted by the Tigers and has made his way to us many years after leaving Detroit as part of the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers. Might he be the answer to our prayers? The answer to date remains uncertain.

The three game set with Detroit went rather well as we split the first two before grabbing the rubber match. Standouts in the series included Calhoun, Cron, Simmons and Eric Young Jr. who continues to shine in his brief stint substituting for Mike Trout.

Even better, the three games in the Lone Star State went well too as the Angels outscored the Astros 22-13 in taking two of a three game set. With the exception of Albert Pujols, who now seeks to build on his 600 homers and pass the likes of Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome—and Danny Espinosa who hasn’t hit a lick all season, the Angel batters crushed the ball all week long despite the absence of our beloved Mikey, a/k/a, The Millville Meteor.

To the Great Unknown: 6/4

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After placing Mike Trout on the DL with exactly 2/3 of the season remaining, the Angels recalled outfielder Eric Young, Jr. and announced that he would start in left field as Cameron Maybin moves over to play center field in Trout’s absence. In his first season with the Angels organization, Young played in more games this past spring than any of his teammates, hitting .236 with an on base percentage of .354.  It’ll be quite a challenge for the 31 year old journeyman outfielder to step into some pretty big shoes, but one that he’ll no doubt take on while making very effort to succeed. Young has an outgoing and infectious personality which will surely win over fans. Still, he’ll need to hit well to come close to making up for the loss of Trout.

Playing their first game without Mike Trout against the Atlanta Braves on Memorial Day while wearing their holiday camouflage uniforms, the Angels were unable to disguise just how difficult playing without their star center fielder will be in the weeks ahead as they dropped the first of three games, 6-3. To their credit however, the Angels bounced back with two solid wins. The first was behind Parker Bridwell, a recent acquisition from the Baltimore Orioles whom the Angels have converted from a reliever to a starter over the past two months. Bridwell bested old pal Bartolo Colon who was making his first appearance in Anaheim since he pitched for the Mets in the 2014 season. Unfortunately for Bartolo, he was the victim of several Braves errors as he surrendered nine runs, seven of which were unearned, in a bizarre third inning highlighted by career home run number 599, a three run jack off the bat of Albert Pujols.

Bridwell, 25 years old, making his first career major league start, notched his first major league win pitching 6 innings while yielding 3 earned runs on 6 hits. Parker was just five years old when Colon made his major league debut with Cleveland in 1997. Nearly 36,000 fans attended Angels Stadium the next evening, anxiously hoping they’d witness history as Albert Pujols sought to become only the ninth major leaguer to hit 600 career home runs. Instead, they were treated to an unexpected but most welcome eighth inning game winning tater by Mike Trout’s stand-in, Eric Young Jr.. Young, who suffered the loss of an infant born months prematurely in January was overcome with emotion when questioned by Fox West sports reporter Alex Curry after the game. He displayed both grit and a sense of decency that reveal a special man inside the uniform he wears to work. Much as we’ll all miss Mike, rooting for Eric will come easily as he is clearly a man who deserves the respect of all.

Coming off the emotional win against the Braves on the last day of May, the 28-28 Angels entered June with better expectations than they had days earlier when they first learned that they’d have to play a while without Mike Trout. Unfortunately, hopes and great expectations sometimes fall short of the mark. In a series against a surprisingly stronger than expected Minnesota ball club, who entered this series percentage points ahead in the AL Central of the 2016 AL champion Cleveland Indians, the Angels performed to the level expected of them when Mike Trout went down with his thumb injury as they dropped three of four to the Twinkies at week’s end.

Of course, the lone victory, a 7-2 win on Saturday night June 3, came with some extra special icing on the cake as Albert Pujols reached the 600 milestone in grand style with a grand slam home run in the fourth inning off Twins starter, ex-Angel Ervin Santana, before a home crowd of 40,000+ adoring Angels fans.

The Angels have now fallen two games under .500, are tied for second place with the Seattle Mariners in the Western Division of the American League, and stand 13 ½ games behind the front-runner Houston Astros.

Angels-Across-America will from here forwards designate a player of the month and pitcher of the month. The awards will be based mainly on statistics but may on occasion take into account off field accomplishments and other intangibles that make our player of the month uniquely special to our website. May’s position player goes to Mike Trout who hit .297 with 9 home runs, 18 RBI’s, 5 Stolen bases, a .484 OBP, a .797 slugging average, and a 1.280 OPS. Kudo’s though also go to the machine, Albert Pujols for putting up strong offensive numbers while closing in on career home run number 600. Our Pitcher of the month may come as more of a surprise to many. The winner is Yusmeiro Petit who went 1-0 in 18 innings of work while compiling an ERA of .147, holding opponents to a .148 batting average, striking out 24 batters, and compiling a WHIP of 0.87. Has Albert Pujols already clinched the AAA award for the month of June?  Stay tuned!

Disaster Looms: 5/28

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In a week that got off to a promising start for the Halos, their season is now threatened with fears, as their star, Mike Trout, will be out for an extended period after injuring his thumb on a slide while attempting to steal second base in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game against the Miami Marlins.  Trout did not exit the game immediately but it became clear quickly that the injury was serious and threatening.

The Angels flew from New York to Florida following a win over the Mets last Sunday and promptly took the first two of a four game set against the Rays in Tampa which brought their season record to 25-23. In Monday’s game, the Angels victory was helped by a solid pitching performance by JC Ramirez who notched his fourth win of the season. The winning run was scored by Jeffry Marte who walked, advanced on a wild pitch, took third on a fly out, and came home on another wild pitch. Not pretty– but a win is a win. On Tuesday, Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout went back to back. Maybin’s homer, his second of the year actually hit the C-ring of the dome at the Trop; a home run according to the ground rules. The Angels win was backed by the strong showing of their pitching staff as Matt Shoemaker combined with the relief corps to shutout the Rays, 4-0.

Unfortunately, things went downhill for the Halos in Florida as they dropped the next two in Tampa. Ricky Nolasco, who is tied with ex-Angel Jered Weaver for second most home runs given up by a major league pitcher with 16, gave up 3 dingers on Wednesday as the Rays won 5-2. This defeat was followed by a 4-0 shutout loss to Tampa. The only bright spot in those two games was home run number 597 for Albert Pujols.

The Angels concluded their east coast trip with three games at Marlins Park, the former site of the famed Orange Bowl. The series will be represent their first ever visit to the ballpark that will the host the 2017 All Star game. Back in 2011, when the Angels last played in Miami, the Marlins shared what was originally called Joe Robbie Stadium and later became known as Sun Life Stadium with the football Dolphins.

Unfortunately, this visit will not bring fond memories as the Halos dropped 2 of 3 to the Marlins and lost Mike Trout for what looks to be as many as eight weeks. At the time of his injury, Trout was hitting .342 and leading the Majors in home runs with 16.  His on base percentage stands at a whopping .461, his slugging percentage is .742, and to show just how much respect he has in the sport, manager Terry Collins of the Mets was quoted last week as saying that he would have considered walking Trout intentionally with the bases loaded.  Trout has never been placed on the DL since he first came up to the Majors.  His absence will surely be hard on him, and the millions of Angels fans across America.

At first, the news on Trout was somewhat encouraging as x-rays on his injured thumb revealed no break. However, an MRI, performed immediately after the Angels returned home on Monday revealed ligament damage and the need for hand surgery. With luck, Trout will be voted in as an All-Star and play in the game…or return shortly following the all-star break. In a season filled with injuries, the injury to Trout’s thumb deprives the Halo’s of their greatest star and attraction. Their resilience and ability to withstand adversity will now stand its toughest test ever.

If there was a silver lining this week, it was the continued steady and improved hitting by shortstop Andrelton Simmons.  Simmons, who was acquired primarily for his defensive prowess is becoming a fine “all-around” player and should be considered a strong candidate for the all-star game.  Interestingly, Simmons injured the same ligament as Trout, last year, was operated on, and returned  to play after just five weeks.  Godspeed Mike Trout, we can’t wait for your return.

Siri, Get Me Out Of Traffic, Please?: 5/21

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We’re back at the .500 mark, and all in all, it was a mostly wonderful week for the Angels.

Three straight wins against the rather hapless White Sox got the Halos off to an amazing start.

On Monday, Mike Trout went back to back with Kole Calhoun when he homered in his fourth consecutive game–the first Angel to do so since Mark Trumbo did as part of the Angels duo known as TNT back in 2012. Bud Norris, picked up the save in relief of a solid 7-inning performance by Jesse Chavez. It was his eighth save of the season and comes as a welcome surprise after injuries to Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, and Cam Bedrosian created havoc for Mike Scioscia and his best bullpen options.

On Tuesday, the Angels won an extra inning contest that might have been avoided had the bullpen been able to avoid a three run ninth inning rally by the Sox. Still, it was an exciting game that saw the Angels come from behind in the bottom of the eleventh after the White Sox pushed across 2 runs in the visitor half of the inning. Inserted in the leadoff slot was .180 hitting Cameron Maybin (hitless in his last 16 at-bats) who raised his average to .214 by going 5 for 6, the first 5 hit game of his career. It was Maybin’s fifth hit that tied the game in the bottom of the eleventh and led to an intentional walk to Mike Trout to load the bases for Albert Pujols’ walk off game winning hit. The “Machine,” who had earlier in the game passed Carl Yaztrzemski on the all-time RBI list, hit a line drive single to seal the Angels come from behind victory. On Wednesday, Trout, hit his fifth homerun in six games, a three run shot that helped gain a victory for starter, Matt Shoemaker. The Sox, losers of 14 of their last 15 in Anaheim have struggled mightily and appear headed for a last place finish in the AL Central this season.

The series sweep was followed by a day off preceding an east coast trip to New York and Florida. With the Mets in the midst of a seven game losing streak, thing were looking up for the Halo’s. Unfortunately, things did not exactly work out so well for the Angels in the Big Apple. Even worse, I witnessed the two consecutive losses to the Mets at Citifield.

Perhaps, it was my fortune to be stranded on the Long Island Expressway with my Dad as we attempted to drive to the game on the highway sadly referred to as “the World’s largest parking lot.” I would not have been too pleased to watch Jacob DeGrom throw a shutout against the road team that I call my “home team.” Entering the stadium in the bottom of the sixth, I made it just in time to see the Angels strand the bases loaded. Ugh!

Saturday’s game was not all that much better and though I made it on time–barely, I needed to leave my home about three hours prior to game time to get there in time for the first pitch. The Angels bats were silent most of the night, especially without the presence of Albert Pujols who was nursing a pulled muscle. To my delight though, the never give up Halos, never gave up! Scoring three in the top of the ninth to come within 2 of knotting up the score, the Angels once more left the bases loaded as Danny Espinosa struck out. Espinosa has been a huge disappointment so far and strikes out far too frequently. We miss Howie, badly! Even Grant Green, Johnny G and Taylor Featherwhatever! The highlights of the Saturday night game for Met fans was the 2,000th base hit of Jose Reyes’ career…and the record set by ex-Halo skipper, Terry Collins for most games managed by a Met. Not bad for a team that boasts Hall of Famer ex-mangers such as Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra, as well as all-time great Gil Hodges who many believe belongs in the Hall as well.

The highlight for me? The first major league base hit by Alex Meyer who hadn’t had a plate appearance since he was an Indiana high schooler back in ’08. At the time of his hit, Meyer led MLB in hitting with a 1.000 average; it later dropped to .500.  Oh well.

Unfortunately, I had to miss Sunday’s 12-5 rout of the Mets that saw homeruns by Trout, Simmons, Marte, and a big-time grand slam by Cron. I may live on Pacific time but my finals and papers take place without regard to time zone. Double Ugh!

The Rainbow Connection: 5/14

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The main nemesis for the Angels this year has been the injury bug. It’s bite was felt again at the end of last week when all-world outfielder, Mike Trout went down with a strained hamstring and missed the final two games of the series against the ‘Stros. Having been out of the lineup for only six games in the past two seasons, it’s a rarity to stare out at centerfield and not see the superstar AL MVP who mans the position as well as anyone on the reality side of Marvel character, Spiderman. An Angel’s game without Mike Trout is like like peanut butter without jelly, ham without swiss, or a burger without fries — there’s just something BIG missing without Mike.

So, after being scratched from the three game series with the A’s that saw the Angels drop two of three to begin the week, it was a welcome relief for Angels fans Across America to see Mike Trout return for the four game series against the Tigers.

Perhaps the oh for eight start at the plate after Trout’s return might have worried the most nervous of Halo followers but could any knowledgeable Halo lover be surprised by Trout ending the week connecting three times in three consecutive games?

Some say that it’s a law of physics that without rain, there would be no rainbows. That may be so but Angels fan have become acquainted with some new scientific theories since the arrival of Mike Trout in 2011. With Mike in centerfield, there is an ever-present rainbow hovering over the Big A, rain or shine. He is the ultimate rainbow connection.

Angels fans were once blessed with some terrific Salmon. Hopefully, we’ll all share rainbow Trout for many years to come.

After nearly a quarter of the season, the Angels record stands at 19-21. Like our record, we’ve had our ups and downs. If Danny Espinosa’s 0-36 record-breaking Angels streak, and our maintaining the Major League lead in homers surrendered, represent the negative stats this week, perhaps the positives were highlighted by Alex Meyer’s two victories, Matt Shoemaker’s bounce back win, Albert Pujols’ 596th career homer, and his 26th and 27th RBI’s giving him a career total of 1,844 and tying him with Red Sox great Carl Yaztrzemski for 11th place on the all-time RBI list.

Happy Mother’s Day to the Mom’s of Angel’s fans everywhere–and especially to my Mom, Lynne, who has consented to my living on PDT while residing on the Atlantic shore.

Clouds Return: 5/7

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After a week of good fortune, the Angels suffering returned, on and off the field. They closed out the first week of May dropping two of three to the Astros at the Big A after opening the week in identical fashion against the Mariners. Worse than the loss of two consecutive series at home was the unexpected news that left-handed pitcher Tyler Skaggs would miss the next 10-12 weeks with a Grade 2 right oblique strain. Skaggs’ injury was originally diagnosed as “right side tightness,” but an MRI over the weekend revealed the more serous nature of the injury. The loss of Skaggs, who missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of ’14, means that the Angels rotation will now be composed of five right-handed pitchers–Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco, JC Ramirez, Jesse Chavez and the recently re-recalled Alex Meyer (Meyer took the loss in Thursday’s loss to the Mariners giving up 8 hits, 3 walks, and 6 earned runs in 4 innings of work. Though Meyer has top-notch velocity, his control has proven to be his Achilles heel in Minnesota, Salt Lake, and now in Anaheim). The Angels have few alternatives to add to the rotation beyond this group. Left-hander Nate Smith, perhaps their top minor league pitching prospect, might be given consideration within the next month or so, but for now, he is throwing in extended spring training at the Tempe Arizona complex having been sidelined with a forearm issue that prevented him from pitching in the Cactus League. Outside of a trade, the only other arms that are likely to be considered are Manny Banuelos, Troy Scribner, Luis Diaz, and Daniel Wright. Among this group, only Banuelos and Wright have Major League experience and only Wright has thrown for the Angels (3 games, 1 GS for the Angels this season. Wright has an unspectacular 5.54 ERA over 13.0 innings in ’17 and a career 1-5 record alongside a 6.13 ERA).

This past week, right-hander Doug Fister who pitched with limited success for the Astros last year held an open workout. The Angels gambled in signing Tim Lincecum under similar circumstances last year and that experiment failed badly. Lincecum was released and was not signed by another club this year.  Sadly, “The Freak’s” 2X Cy Young award career would appear to be over just ten years after it began with enormous promise and success.

If you’re wondering about whether ex-Angel Jered Weaver should have been resigned last winter, his efforts to date with the Padres should reassure you that the Angels were correct in allowing one of the greatest pitchers in Angels history to depart after the ’16 season. Weaver is 0-3 with the Padres and has an ERA over 5.50.  He leads the NL in home runs allowed with 12 and led the American League last year in this most embarrassing category.

For now, Anaheim fans may need to reserve their highest hopes for the hometown Ducks. Their recent comeback from a 3-0 deficit with slightly more than 3 minutes to go in the fifth playoff game against Edmonton at the Honda Center was a classic that will be remembered for generations. Unfortunately, for the Ducks to advance to the Western Conference finals, they’ll need a seventh game victory at home as they were destroyed by the Oilers on Sunday, 7-1. If the Ducks do come up short as they traditionally have in game 7’s (This is the fifth straight year Anaheim has played a game seven at home; they’ve dropped the past four), perhaps Getzlaf, Perry, and Kessler might consider holding open tryouts in hopes of joining the Halo’s rotation. For now, let’s pray the Ducks play on as clouds hover over the Big A.

The Skies Brighten: 4/30

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A win Monday against the Jays, a sweep of the A’s and a series win against the Rangers transformed an 8-12 team to one that now stands at 14-13. There may still be more dark clouds ahead but the five game winning streak couldn’t have arrived at a more welcome time. Jesse Chavez redeemed himself for his loss in relief with a strong outing against the team who had beat him several days earlier. For the most part Chavez has pitched effectively this season and has fulfilled expectations for a number five starter.

The Angels hitting continues to be a source of concern with only Trout, Simmons, and Maldonado performing on the level expected of them hitting-wise. The Angels .195 team BA in the latter half of the month is a major source of concern. Not surprisingly, three of the Angels wins this week came while scoring but 2 runs. Given that the Angels are without three of their top starters (Richards, Heaney, Tropeano) and that the bullpen is being pieced together with fingers crossed, this failure to put runs on the board is not going to be a formula that might lead to success. Helping in this week’s turnaround has been the hitting of Kole Calhoun who batted .344 in the past 7 games. Also of note is the excellent pitching of Bud Norris who is 5-5 in save situations after signing with the Angels as a free Agent in February.

Aside from the team’s success, there were significant personal achievements this week. Albert Pujols, who began the season with 1,817 RBI, knocked in run number 22 of the season and with a sacrifice fly on Saturday in Arlington, tied Ted Williams for 13th place on the all-time career RBI list. Earlier this season, Pujols passed Al Simmons, Manny Ramirez, Dave Winfield, Rafael Palmiero, and Ken Griffey. Next on the list are Carl Yaztrzemski (1,844), Mel Ott (1,860), and Willie Mays (1903). If Pujols drives in 100 runs this season, he’d tie Eddie Murray (1,917) for 9th, all-time. Only five players in the history of baseball have 2,000 RBI or more.

With the Halo victory on Tuesday, Mike Scioscia notched victory number 1,500. That achievement ranks him 22nd on the all-time managerial win list. As Scioscia’s wins have come exclusively with the Angels, he stands fifth among managers whose wins have come while managing but one team. Ex-Dodger manager Tom Lasorda ranks fourth in wins while managing but a single team (1,599), Walter Alston is third, John McGraw second, and Connie Mack first. Scioscia was hired to manage the Angels in 2000. He replaced Joe Maddon who had taken over as interim manager during the ’99 season when current Mets manager Terry Collins resigned.

Mike Trout is off to a torrid start this season. At week’s end on Sunday, he’s riding a 14-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 26 of 27 games this season. His batting average stands at .364, and his OBP is .443. He has 9 doubles, 7 homers, 18 RBI, an OPS of 1.151, and is at or near the top of the league in virtually all major categories including runs scored, hits, WAR, total bases and stolen bases. No surprise then that Trout was selected as the AL MVP for the month of April. This is his fourth monthly MVP tying him with all-time Angel great Chuck Finley for most monthly MVP wins.

The Angels ended the week, and the month of April taking two of three from the struggling Rangers whose hitting has been abysmal. Unfortunately, the injuries keep piling up. Both C.J. Cron and Tyler Skaggs were put on the 10 day DL. The Angels have now placed 11 men on the DL since the beginning of the season; 10 remain sidelined. Over the past five years, the Halos have escaped April only once with a winning record. Sunday’s win brought that record to 2 in 6.

Troubles Continue: 4/23

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After coming off a rough century, the Cubs rebounded and won a World Series last year so why get uptight about a tough road trip?   I know, you’ve probably just read Jeff Fletcher’s piece in the OC Register and are searching for a place to hide from all the depressing stats he’s assembled. Well, we’re back home now, it’s only April, so just ask yourselves, despite the rough start, wouldn’t you still rather watch our beloved Halo’s, than CNN, the Fox News Channel, or MSNBC?

OK, so it was tough to drop three of four at Minute Maid to the ‘Stros but Matt Shoemaker’s seven inning, seven strikeout outing on Monday provided some encouragement that a turnaround might be on the horizon. It was also comforting to see Kole Calhoun snap his consecutive hitless streak at 20 — and hear that Luis Valbuena’s return is expected within days.

Tuesday’s win couldn’t have been more welcome as the Angels losing streak had reached an uncomfortable six games. Unfortunately, the losing resumed on Wednesday and continued thru Saturday. Albert Pujols, who has not produced much in April since his arrival from St Louis five years ago, hit a three run blast that went deep into the Houston night, 470 feet from home plate to put an end to the alarming drought. Part of the problem for Pujols is that he has no protection in the lineup hitting after him. Neither CJ Cron, nor Jeffry Marte, have come through hitting directly behind “The Machine,” leading Mike Scioscia to experiment with Kole Calhoun in the five slot. Look for Calhoun to find his way back to the top of the lineup as it seems clear that he’s more naturally suited there. As for the acquisition of Danny Espinosa to add some punch in the middle of the lineup, absent since the departure of Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo, the early evidence is not encouraging. Another part of the solution to this year’s club was supposed to come from Cameron Maybin. Since the acquisition of Josh Hamilton who failed miserably to cure the longtime leftfield woes, we’ve seen a revolving door of disappointments. After the failure of the Nava/Gentry platoon last year, Maybin was envisioned as the possible missing piece by GM Billy Eppler. It was not believed that Maybin would deliver power in the way Hamilton was supposed to but his .192 batting average to date, one point higher than Espinosa’s, has got to be a source of concern to the organization and to Albert Pujols.

Worse, injuries are continuing to pile up for the Angels. Garrett Richards who hadn’t pitched since the opening series in Oakland was moved to the 60 day DL and won’t be eligible to return until at least June 5. Though Richards’ troubled elbow seems sound, it is unclear as to when the irritated nerve in his biceps will heal. How much worse can it get–Don’t ask! Cam Bedrosian injured his groin in the Angels return to the Big A and has landed on the 10 day DL. With relievers Huston Street and Andrew Bailey already off the active roster, Bedrosian’s loss means that the top four relievers who left Tempe a few weeks back are now all unavailable out of the pen (JC Ramirez has been moved to the rotation to fill in for the loss of Richards). In A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks made famous the line, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Not sure if this applies to people in the stands or the Halo TV audience as Angels fans might well start shedding some tears soon. We’ll see. Veteran Mike Scioscia, might not be the crying type but you’d have to wonder if he might pull out the few hairs he has left under his cap after 18 years at the Angels helm. Times surely seem tough for Angel followers across America.

The return to the Big A didn’t go so well on Friday. Alex Meyer at 6’9” is one big dude, and he can hit the radar gun with blazing speed. Regrettably, he can’t seem to find home plate with even some regularity. Obtained from Minnesota for Hector Santiago before the 2016 trading deadline, Meyer has potential but if he continues to throw 75 pitches in less than 4 innings as he did Friday, he’s bound to hunt for it hurling for Salt Lake. Still the Angels fought hard to hang in Friday’s game, even after a three run blast by Jose Bautista in the top of the 13th. Sadly though, their valiant comeback fell short as they left the bases loaded in the home half of the inning after scoring two to narrow the lead to a lone run.

Things got brighter on Saturday as Andrelton Simmons drilled his second career grand slam and Tyler Skaggs had the type of outing (7+ innings, 2 runs, seven hits, 4 K’s) Angel fans had been hoping for. Sunday however, the Angels simply ran out of pitchers as Jesse Chavez, who was scheduled to start had to be passed over because he was utilized out of necessity in the 5 hour 36 minute Friday night marathon.

At 8-12, things are not exactly looking up for the gang from Anaheim, but remember, there are 142 games still left to go. So, wipe the tears…and the leave your worries behind; April is not the time to abandon optimism.