Tag Archives: Los Angeles Angels

The Mets honor Mariano, and then defeat him

The New York radio airwaves are abuzz over how the Mets did the improbable last night and scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning off Mariano Rivera to beat the Yankees 2-1.
It was a stunning victory — the second in as many nights at Citi Field — and even more amazin’ because the Metropolitans had honored Rivera at the start of the game and had him throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

While Rivera is unquestionably worthy of all laurels, I found the Mets’ decision to honor him during the Subway Series a curious one.

Rivera is a New York sports icon, but he’s a Yankee. He wears pinstripes. Always has. He has a fistful of World Series rings. He’s the anti-Met.

Would something like this happen elsewhere? I can’t see the Cubs or White Sox honoring anyone from the other Chicago nine, and the Dodgers would never be in the business of honoring Angles (or Giants!).

The Mets’ brass evidently decided honoring Rivera would be a classy move. But that’s where the class ended.

Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, told Rivera before the game that he didn’t expect the Mets to make the World Series this year. I don’t care what your team’s record is. You don’t publicly announce that you don’t expect your team to fail, certainly not this early in the season.

Maybe Wilpon was trying to mess with Rivera’s head, to distract him with an honor so that the Mets would force him to blow a save. That, however, would require a bit of baseball acumen at a level totally lacking from Mets leadership the last decade or two.

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Manager of the year in baseball? Bob Melvin

Who was the best manager in baseball in 2012? I’m going with Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics.

My criteria are twofold: I go with the skipper whose team is a winner and whose team achieved its success in disproportion to its expectations and talent.

By those standards, Melvin is a slam dunk (and I apologize for using a basketball term).

Think about it. Did anyone seriously believe as the season started that the Oakland Athletics could make a serious run at the America League West title given the powerhouse teams assembled by the defending champs in Texas and the Pujols-improved Angels?

Nope.

Did anyone seriously think after the first two months of the season that the A’s could turn it around and contend for the division title?

No way.

Did anyone seriously think with about a month to go that Oakland — improbably staying afloat in the wild card race — would be able to overtake the Rangers and emerge as division champions?

No siree, Bob.

So here’s my ballot for the BBA Connie Mack Award:

1. Bob Melvin, Oakland

2. Buck Showalter, Baltimore (You can make a case for him as No 1, certainly, but I give Melvin the edge for overcoming even lower expectations than the birds had)

3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco (I know, I know. I’m a Giants fan. But look how the Giants responded when Melky Cabrera went away for steroids and the Dodgers spent their way to a title except they ended up eating the G-men’s dust.)

Honorable mention: Joe Girardi, who probably was a contender for the Nobel Prize in medicine this year, given all the Yankees’ injuries; Davey Johnson, because he brought the Nationals to the playoffs and the best record in the NL.

 

 

 

First Albert Pujols, and now Prince Fielder bolt the National League

At this hour, it appears Prince Fielder will be skipping over Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to play with the Tigers in Detroit, and that has to be a bit worrisome for the National League.

Earlier this post-season, Albert Pujols bolted from the Cardinals to the Los Angeles Angels. If the Fielder deal comes through, that will mean that the top two sluggers in the NL have jumped to the AL.

With free agency, there are no doubt a zillion reasons athletes consider when deciding to sign with a particular team. With Pujols and Fielder – both slugging first sackers – I have to think that the designated hitter position in the AL was a factor, and possibly a significant one.

Even if their legs give out, they’ll be able to keep coming to the plate in the AL longer than they would in the NL. An American League team can offer a slugger the DL and thus stretch that multi-million dollar contract a bit longer.

Pujols joins the Angels, and my favorite Giant bids goodbye for the Mets

Two deals, one huge, one minor, have disrupted the Baseball Force in my universe over the last several days. The Giants sent Andres Torres to the Mets and Albert Pujols signed an enormous contract with the Angels.

Neither of these deals is news today, but I’m trying to catch up on posting after a drought of a couple of weeks.

For me, word on Pujols’ salary overshadows everything else about his switching from the red cap of the Cardinals to the red cap of the Angels. Two-hundred fifty-four million dollars over 10 years is a staggering figure, and if it’s going to go to any ballplayer, at least in Pujols it’s going to someone with some humanitarian concerns, from all I can gather.

As for Torres, the journeyman who flourished in San Francisco’s championship season in 2010, I wish him all the best in New York. Injuries and maybe a bit of bad luck cost him many at bats and his starting position at center field last season, and I felt sorry for him.

The previous year, his season was just the opposite – he seemingly could do no wrong and was one of the great stories in the game. I hope he regains his mojo in 2012. And I tip my cap to him for all the good he did with the Giants.

 

Who was the best rookie in Major League Baseball in 2011? Freddie Freeman

In the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, this is my rookie year for voting in the group’s end-of-season awards. In the BBA, the Willie Mays Award goes to the top rookie, and here’s my ballot influenced heavily by the great MLB.com statistical rundown on rookies:

1. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta – Braves: Playing virtually every game at 1st base, Freeman posted great numbers with 161 hits, 21 homers, 76 RBI and a .282 average. Those are impressive numbers for a veteran and all the more so for a rookie.

2. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels – A close second in my book, he hit even more homers (29) than Freeman.

3. Jemile Weeks, Oakland Ahtletics – A mid-season call-up, this dude put some energy into the A’s. He hit .303 with 22 stolen bases (although he was caught 11 times.

Honorable mention: Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners (edged out by a step at the bag by Weeks); Danny Espinoza, Washington Nationals; Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs; Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals.

That’s one heck of a rookie crop, and there are others showing lots of promise I’m omitting.

Note: The only players of the above I saw play in person were Weeks and Hosmer.

The West Coast: A wasteland for baseball offense

AL, NL, all around the game: the West Coast is a barren landscape for hitters in Major League Baseball.

I’m most acutely aware of the offensive struggles of the San Francisco Giants, the defending world champions who rank last in runs, 28th in hits and 25th in home runs.

The Giants play a lot of games against the San Diego Padres, ranking 27th in runs and hits and dead last at 30th in homers.

I was expecting that when I checked out MLB’s team stats tonight, and I figured the Seattle Mariners were likely company in the lower offense echelon. But I was surprised to find that the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers and even the Los Angeles Angels are for the most part in the nether regions of hitting statistics.

I thought the Pacific Coast stood for (Wally) Moon-shot power. For the Bash Brothers. For Barry Bonds. No more.

Since we can’t bring back steroids, I do suggest that some of these clubs reconfigure their stadiums. I recall way back in my childhood that the Indians moved in their fences to try to stoke some run production at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Given how the outfield walls of modern parks like AT&T and Petco are integral parts of the fields, it’s unlikely clubs will want to tinker with those designer dimensions. But I’d like to see what would happen.

I love a good 2-1 pitchers’ duel as much as the next guy, but every few days I’d like to see the local nine rake the walls the way the Yankees and Red Sox do.

For Oscar night, a list of my favorite baseball movies

Oscar takes center  stage tonight at the annual Academy Awards, and this is a good time to reveal my list of favorite baseball movies. The list is just that: my favorites, influenced as much by sentiment and personal experience as it is by objective judgments on quality film-making.

A few ground rules: It contains movies that primarily focus on baseball, which leaves out “Mr. Destiny” and a few other favorites in which baseball is featured but doesn’t dominate. And the list contains movies that I’ve actually seen at the theatre, on television, on cable, or on DVD or tape. That leaves out a few good ones that I still have on my “must see” list like “Bang the Drum Slowly.”

“Lights, camera, batter up!”

1. Field of Dreams: Unquestionably my favorite. This movie conveys the transcendent magic of the game as it explores the role the sport plays in family relationships, particularly those of father and son. I love the book on which the movie is based (“Shoeless Joe”), but I love the movie even more. It is baseball perfection on film.

2. A League of Their Own: This highly entertaining tale of women’s professional baseball shows an amazing reverence for the game. It evokes an era long gone is splendid style.

3. The Natural: Another superb period piece, a story of “what might have been” and of redemption. Robert Redford, Wilford Brimley and the rest of the cast are superb.

4. For Love of the Game: Even with its “chick flick” aspects, it’s still a great baseball story. “For Love” gets inside the head of the pitcher (“clear the mechanism”) better than any movie I’ve ever seen.

5. Pride of the Yankees: Gary Cooper is perfect as Lou Gehrig. This is the best of its generation of baseball biographies, marked by triumph and tragedy and an always-supportive spouse who keeps the scrapbook up to date.

6. Major League: The top all-out comedy on my list, I can’t help but love this movie, a fantasy about the Cleveland Indians winning the pennant. Bonus: It was filmed at Milwaukee County Stadium with Bob Uecker as the broadcaster.

7. The Rookie: This is a modern take on the plucky-player-overcomes-obstacles-and-the-odds to find success as a big leaguer, even if only for a brief time. Who among us doesn’t cling to the hope that given a chance, we’d make the team?

8. The Stratton Story: A great career cut down by a hunting accident, only to spur a great comeback.

9. The Winning Team: A great career derailed by alchoholism, only to spur a great comeback.

10. Bull Durham: I know this movie is tops for many fans. I like it well enough, but it didn’t move me.

11. Angels in the Outfield: Corny I know, but I still liked it. I’m still kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to be a crowd extra when the movie was filmed at the Oakland Coliseum.

12. Fear Strikes Out: It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen this bio on Jimmy Piersall, whose temper and inner demons tormented him. I watched this one with my dad, who told me about some of the crazy antics he’d seen from Piersall.

13. It Happens Every Spring: A bit on the obscure side, this film is about a magic formula that makes the ball avoid wood and hop over the bat. Bonus: A black and white film whose producers were so obsessed with realism that they painted the ball field grass green to make it more believable on screen. This was one of my dad’s favorites.

14. Mr. Baseball: I expected little from this movie about Tom Selleck as a washed up big leaguer making a go of it in Japan. It was surprisingly good.

15. The Sandlot: A nice yarn about a bunch of kids playing the game the way all kids play it, squeezing in a game wherever they can, hoping they don’t lose the ball.

16. Damn Yankees: This is one of the first baseball movies I ever saw, and I can’t recall liking it a whole lot. It did plant the seed of loathing the Yankees. While I’d never sell my soul in exchange for a Washington Senators’ pennant, I’m much more vulnerable when it comes to the Indians.