Saturday, January 10, 2015

By Glen McKee and Nate Trop, - 

If you love baseball and you’re as old as we are here at PCP headquarters – somewhere between 30 and 50 – then you’re probably familiar with the Peanuts comic strip and Charlie Brown’s love of baseball.  Angels fans can relate to Chuck’s eternal struggles on the mound as they mirrored the Angels for so many years.  Charlie Brown was like the Joe Blanton of comic strips, without the “successes” that Blanton had.  From those Peanuts strips came the concept of “hero or goat.”  Charlie Brown would be on the mound in a crucial situation and would give himself a pep-talk, saying he would be either the hero or the goat.  He always wanted to be the hero, but this would inevitably happen:

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…followed by this:

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Man, there was such a period of greatness for that strip and these panels just hint at it.  But we digress; back on topic.  Every year there is a hero and there is a goat.  It’s easy to pick a potential hero when Mike Trout is on your team, and as much as we love the easy way out here at PCP headquarters we’re gonna look for the stealth hero.  It’s also easy to pick a potential goat when Josh Hamilton is on your team, but we’re not above that  - one of us almost has to pick him.  It’s low-hanging fruit.  With that in mind, here are our PCP picks for the heroes and goats of 2015.

Glen McKee 

Hero: Erick Aybar.  This was easy for me because Aybar is my hero every year.  Are you kidding me?  Mike Trout doesn’t even come close.  Has Mike Trout ever put his weenie in a hotdog bun to entertain the locker room?  Aybar has.  That’s the breadstuff that heroes are made of.  Has Albert Pujols ever had dreadlocks, or a grill?  Aybar has.  Aybar is like Liam Neeson in the “Taken” movies, except he’s smaller, ethnic, and has put his weenie in a hotdog bun.  I guarantee you Liam Neeson has never done that (insert foot-long bun joke here).  

I hear all you nay-sayers out there nay-saying me by saying “yeah, that’s all great and stuff but what’s Aybar gonna do ON the field to be a hero?”  Fair question, that.  This is sort of a career year for Aybar.  Two years left on his current deal, which means next year he’s gonna be in the “Howie Kendrick position.”  There are a lot of ways I could go after that last sentence but I’ll stick with what I actually meant: he’s a good/very good player with a reasonable contract, and he has a definite possibility of being traded after this season (which will break my heart, but I’ll soldier on).  He knows he needs to put up good numbers, perhaps even a career year, to increase his trade value and his chances of ending up on a better team.  I predict he’s gonna avoid his usual slow start and surprise us right out of the box, and he’ll actually minimize the dumb baserunning errors (I said minimize, not eliminate) that drive us nuts.  In short, he’ll put it all together this year and I’ll shed a tear when he’s not starting for us at SS next year.  I’m gonna enjoy him as much as I can this year.  RIP in advance, Erick.  I knew ye as well as I needed to.

Goat: Mike Scioscia.  Mike had a very good year last year, for the most part.  The Angels put up the best record in the regular season and that counts for something.  According to my stats from last year, over 75% of the time when I questioned his judgment I was wrong, as opposed to an average of 35% over the previous four seasons.  Congrats, Scioscia!  You have the begrudging approval of a lowly baseball blogger.  I’m sure this made your day.

Now that the niceties are out of the way, I fully expect him to return to form this year.  Why?  Well, last year he was playing for his life.  Rumors were strong at the end of the 2013 season that either Scioscia or Dipoto would go, and they both pulled a performance out of their hoo-hahs that reminded us of why they were hired in the first place.  Dipoto has continued that hot streak, and since I have to pick somebody to suck and I’m saving Hambone for my writing partner, it’s time for a Scioscia regression.  As always when I predict something bad about the Angels , I (90%) hope that I’m wrong and I hope that Sosh manages like he did last season, with the exception of the playoffs.  You can do it, Scioscia!  I sorta believe in you.

Nathan Trop

First, Glen just got married - Mazel tov!  Second, let’s get this straight; Glen is old, a lot older than I am, so he has a better and subsequently worse (because he is so old) memory of the Peanuts comic strip.

Hero: Mike Sc… Hah I couldn’t even finish typing it.  I think the hero will be Huston Street.  Street came in and made an immediate impact on the team last season and propelled the Angels to the best record in baseball, locking down what was a surprise strength for the team - the bullpen.  For the Angels to be successful again this year they will have to have a dominant bullpen and Street will have to have a very high save percentage.  The Angels are poised to go into the season with a young back end of the rotation and an aging Weaver and a basket case in CJ Wilson Mazda or CJ Fullcount or CJ Walk or whatever he is called now.  I think they will have fewer leads going into the late innings and because of that it will be even more important that they preserve the leads they do have to lock up the W.

The pen lost a few key performers from last season, on and off the field.  They lost Kevin “buddy Jesus” Jepsen and his gigantic parody of a head and also Jason Grilli and his beer belly.  They will be leaning on the likes of Mike Morin, Cam Bedrosian, Cory Rasmus, Fernando Salas as well as a couple new comers in Tropeano/Heaney.  You also have to figure that a couple of those guys will be starting at some point during the season.  What does all of this mean?  Well first of all even though it is the off season I remembered all of these names without having to Google the roster, and also that I am not so sure I spelled Tropeano correctly.  It also means that the pen is very young, and potentially very good, but the most important part of the pen will be the two old guys (like Glen) anchoring the back end (like Glen) – Smith and Street.  I think Street has another dynamite season and also signs an extension with the Angels before the whole thing is over making him a hero to the fans.

Goat:  CJ Wilson Mazda.

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I just Googled Smith and Street and found out I am older than both of them, don’t tell Glen… Back to CJ Wilson Mazda – It blows my mind that he also likes racing cars.  He must be the slowest driver on the track… “Oh no I got within two hundred feet of that other car, I better slam on the brakes to avoid any sort of risk!” Nothing about him pitching is enjoyable, he takes forever between pitches, and he never attacks hitters and is always behind in the count.  After the game he does an interview with his stupid hair and says something like “I have to get better, blah blah blah improvement blah blah blah.”  
After three seasons now we know it is all lip service.  He still throws too many pitches and ultimately puts the bullpen and the Angels in a bad spot every five days.  I think that if a couple of the kids the Angels picked up in the off season pitch well, CJ is a prime candidate for one of those phantom DL stints because of “arm fatigue” to keep him out of the rotation for a while.  Especially if Richards comes back healthy and dominant like he was last season.

Friday, January 9, 2015

By Geoff Stoddart, AngelsWin VP of Marketing & Communications is pleased to announce that tickets for the 2015 Spring Training Fanfest Dinner are now on sale!

To purchase your tickets, please go to:

Upon going to the site, you will be given the opportunity to purchase your ticket(s) and select your meal option.  A limited number of Early Bird ticket rates are currently available, so buy your tickets now before they’re sold out!

After you have completed your Fanfest Dinner purchase, you will receive a confirmation email.  The email will include copies of your tickets (which you’ll need to print out and bring to the Fanfest dinner), along with instructions for how you can take advantage of special discounted room rates at the Tempe DoubleTree Hotel.  

Over the past several years we’ve been honored to welcome members of the Angels organization, their broadcast teams and sports reporters to our dinner events.  Guests have included Arte Moreno, Jerry Dipoto, Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker, Tim Salmon, Victor Rojas and Tim Mead to name just a few.  In the coming weeks, we will being announcing the names of special guests who will be attending this year’s event*.  Be on the look out for these announcements!

All of us at look forward to seeing you, your family and friends at this year’s 2015 Spring Training Fanfest!  Don’t wait until the last minute … purchase your tickets today!!!

Go Angels!

* Note:  Special guests from the Angels organization, their broadcast teams and sports reporters come to the AngelsWin Fanfest on their own time.  From time to time, guest’s schedules change and once confirmed attendees are not able to attend.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

By Geoff Stoddart, AngelsWin VP of Marketing & Communications

In less than a month and a half, the boys of summer will be reporting to Tempe, AZ for the start of Spring Training. We at could not be more excited for the return of Angels baseball and for our annual Spring Training Fanfest. Every year our events continue to get bigger and better, and this year will be no exception! We are working closely with the Angels organization to put together a weekend you won’t forget. 

In the coming days, we will be providing information on how you can obtain tickets for the AngelsWin Spring Fanfest Dinner. At that time, we will also provide you with the ability to obtain discounted hotel room rates at the hotel where we will be holding this year’s event.  Please be on the lookout for those announcements.

There is one slight change that we will be making to this year’s Fanfest Dinner event.  In years past, we’ve held the dinner event on Saturday nights.  This year, we will be holding the Fanfest Dinner on Friday night, March 13th.  (That’s right!  We’re tempting fate and having it on Friday the 13th!!!) You may be asking, “Why move it to Friday night?”  It’s a very fair question.

As you know, over the past several years we’ve been honored to welcome members of the Angels organization, their broadcast teams and sports reports to our dinner events. Guests have included Arte Moreno, Jerry Dipoto, Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker, Tim Salmon, Victor Rojas, Tim Mead and members of the media to name just a few. Our goal is always to give the organization an opportunity to get up close and personal with their fans, and (of course!) visa versa. The Angels have an organizational event planned for the night of the 14th which would prevent them from attending our event. In our conversations with the team, it was determined that the best course of action would be for us to move our event to Friday night.  So … there you have it.

We hope that this one day change will not adversely impact your plans or ability to attend the Spring Training Fanfest Dinner. We are looking forward to another sellout crowd and want you to be a part of it! Oh and for those wondering, our dugout talk with Tim Mead will continue to be on Sunday, March 15th, despite the team playing on the road that day. We will also reveal the names of our special guests that will be attending our dinner event over the course of the next several weeks.

So stay tuned for further details on when you can purchase tickets for the event and when discounted hotel room rates will be available.

Go Angels!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

By Rob Goldman, Historical Writer - 

Twenty-eight-year-old Randy Johnson of the Mariners was a mess when the Rangers rolled into Seattle on August 7, 1992. A typical performance for him was the one he had given on June 10 in Arlington: four innings, 92 pitches, five earned runs, six walks, and two hit batters. To Nolan Ryan, the spectacle of a talented young pitcher getting trounced like that was appalling. Johnson was like him—a power pitcher with uncommon gifts—and it irked Ryan to see someone with that kind of
ability self-destruct.

By the time the Rangers arrived in Seattle, things had gotten even worse for Johnson. He was 7–12 and led the league in walks, wild pitches, and hit batsman. After 26 years in the game, Ryan could readily detect a pitcher’s weaknesses and flaws, and he saw several in Johnson. In addition to being very emotional, he’d been landing wrong after each pitch, which jarred his body and caused all sorts of problems. Watching Johnson get pounded yet again, Ryan said to Rangers pitching coach Tom House, “Enough is enough. 

When a guy with a 98-mph fastball beats himself up every five days, it’s time to make a change.” The following day, Johnson was walking near the Rangers dugout for a bullpen session when House pulled him aside.  “Nolan and me have seen you pitch long enough to realize there are some mechanical things that haven’t been cleared up yet,” House told him. “We’d like to give you a little input.” Johnson was shocked.

“At the time, all I knew about power pitching was, give me the ball and I’ll throw it really hard,” recalls Johnson. “But after three seasons under my belt with not much success, I was willing to listen to anybody.” Especially if that anybody was Nolan Ryan. Their initial meeting took place in the tunnel between clubhouses. Ryan showed Johnson how his hard landing was disrupting his delivery and explained how excessive emotion affected his concentration.

“Nolan said I was opening up too quickly,” recalls Johnson. “By landing on the heel of my foot instead of the ball, it would spin and my knee and body would follow, throwing all my momentum toward third base. He and Tom basically straightened me out, enabling me to correct my arm angle, make me consistent, and have all my momentum going toward home plate.” Putting what he learned from Ryan and House into practice, Johnson recorded 34 strikeouts in his next three starts, then 45 Ks in three consecutive starts a month later—the second-highest total in baseball history after Ryan’s 47 in 1974.

On September 27 in Arlington, teacher and pupil finally squared off. “It was one of my biggest games up to that time,” recalls Johnson. “I struck out 18 on 160 pitches in eight innings. What was really neat, though, was after Nolan came out of the game in the seventh, he didn't go upstairs but continued to watch me from the dugout.” The intervention of Ryan and House, says Johnson, “is something I never forget. I was surprised someone playing in a different organization would actually take me aside and try and help me. It’s not very often the opposing pitcher and pitching coach will take a player from another team and actually mentor them.”

Leading up to 1992, Johnson never knew what would happen when he pitched. He might strike out 10 and walk 12. As good as his pitching coaches were up to then, for some reason they were never able to impart the information needed to turn his mechanics around. That all changed when he connected with Ryan and House. “Without a doubt, Nolan and Tom had the biggest impact on me in such a short period of time,” Johnson declares. “It was the big turning point of my career. From that point on, I became more of a consistent pitcher. And a more intimidating one, according to conditioning coach, Gene Coleman, who got to know the “Big Unit” when Johnson played in Houston.

“Nolan told him, ‘Randy, big as you are, you should be intimidating. When you go out there and they get a hit off you or you make a bad pitch and you show all that emotion, those guys in the other dugout are saying, ‘Hey, we got him now!’” Coleman said. “‘You’re just building up their confidence when you show emotion. You don’t ever want to show a chink in your armor.’ And so you look at Randy and he covers his face with his glove, because Nolan told him. That’s where that came from. It’s from part of that week he spent with Nolan. Roger [Clemens] got that too, and Andy Pettitte got it from Roger.” Ryan calls helping Johnson just part of the process of “passing on” to the next generation.

“Through watching, discussions, or instruction, I had benefited from being around certain pitchers,” he says, “and if I can help further someone’s career, I want to do that. So if somebody ever calls me or wants me to talk or watch ’em, I’m open to that.” His friends say Ryan’s greatest attribute is his respect for others. He calls it “treating people the way you want to be treated.”

“I think people know when someone is sincere, and I think people understand that I try to be straightforward and sincere with them,” says Ryan. “It’s the same working with players and pitchers. If somebody wants to learn something from me and is willing to listen and work on it, I’m very supportive of that. But if they’re just wasting everybody’s time, we need to move on, and they need to go about their business and do something else, and I need to get back to whatever’s important to me.” Ruth Ryan marvels at her husband’s ability to listen and learn. She thinks it’s rooted in the dyslexia that forced Nolan to process and absorb things differently from a young age.

“Some people are auditory learners, and because Nolan had dyslexia he had to listen,” she says. “That is how he learned. He struggled with reading and writing, but he could listen and retain anything, and still does. That has been a huge asset. He is good at reading between the lines and very good at deciphering things. He rarely offers information on himself, choosing to let the other person talk while he listens. He lets people prove their true colors, good or bad. He’ll tell you that people tell a lot about themselves and their character by the things they say.”

This excerpt from Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher by Rob Goldman is printed with the permission of Triumph Books.

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