Friday, April 24, 2015

By Glen McKee and Nate Trop, Columnists -

A wise poster on the board once said, “It’s never too early to give up on a season.” For some people that is indeed truth, and if that is true then it also stands to reason it’s never too early to give up on a player.  

It’s also never too early to declare favorites for team MVP.  So yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do – give our choices for the worst and best players so far!

There’s a caveat, of course: Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout respectively are out of the running. Hamilton because he hasn’t played yet this season and there is already enough out there about him, and Trout because he would be the runaway choice for best player.  In fact, we’ll change it to “worst player and best player whose last name doesn’t rhyme with Schmamilton or Schtout.’”

The Best & Worst by Glen McKee 

Worst – Matt Joyce.  If it’s the middle of April, that must mean several regulars in the Angels lineup are struggling, scuffling, or just plain sucking.  It’s a given that when you cough over your hard-earned money to Uncle Sam that Angels fans will be holding on to hope that it is indeed still early and that several people will turn it around.  There are certainly plenty of candidates for this dubious distinction but my choice is Joyce.  I didn’t understand the optimism when we traded Kevin Jepsen for him.  For the record, I wasn’t opposed to trading Jepsen – he seemed like a perfect “sell high” candidate – and I didn’t know how much we could get for him, but I thought it would be somebody better than Joyce.  

Joyce has managed the daily double of sucking both in the field and at the plate, and in equal measures for both.  To be fair, he was forced into the OF when Hamilton became unavailable and he was intended to be a platoon DH.  That tells you how much value he had: he was projected to not be wearing a glove.  Call it the “Raul Ibanez effect” if you will, but it seems like he was destined to end up mangling plays in LF.  It could be that playing in the OF every day (and hitting fourth, an indictment of how bad the lineup is right now) (I know, it’s still early) is having an effect on Joyce at the plate.  Something has to be messing him up.  Whatever it is, I hope he gets it corrected.  

Best – Johnny Giavotella.  Johnny G surprised everybody and took control of the 2B job in spring training, and has been more than we could have expected since then.  He’s positively Kennedy-esque right now, and I’m referring to Adam, not John F. or Teddy.  Amongst starters he’s trailing only Trout with a .289 average and a .349 OBP.  That’s right, he’s even better (right now) than everybody’s favorite ginger, Kole Calhoun.  

That said, I don’t expect Giavotella to continue at this pace, although it would be nice if he did.  It’s possible, but not likely.  If he was wearing an Oakland uniform and had dopey glasses like Sogard he’d probably do it, but since he’s on the Angels he’s bound to decline.
And on that positive note, over to you, Nate.

The Best & Worst by Nate Trop

There are a couple things I need to get out of the way before getting to my best and worst players.  First, when Glen or Geoff or maybe I, I forget who, came up with this idea, I never would have agreed knowing Trout was off limits.  That offends my need to be as lazy as humanly possible when writing these things.  Second, since I am not being lazy, I won’t include the obvious punching bag Christopher John Wilson.

Worst – There is a thread on the forum right now with a subject line of a bunch of the starters’ batting averages.  The worst being Iannetta at .114, but somehow with that batting average he has drawn six (!!!!) walks and there is some crack pot article on Fangraphs right now alleging that he is actually a good defensive catcher.  Just above him is Joyce .152, Glen’s pick, which is typical since everyone on the planet would pick Joyce, way to use your imagination big guy.  I am going to move up the list all the way to .196; none other than Albert Pujols, our favorite 25 million dollar pensioner.  

Pujols’ OPS of .667 is 5th on the team among qualifiers, but 24th in the MLB among qualifying first basemen.  I don’t know why I get tricked into being excited about him being on the team every year anymore.  We always hear that he is in the best shape of his life (BSOL) and nothing ails him, this will finally be the year.  BS, he is old, slow, and lacks the overall quickness to play MLB at any level other than average.   Hamilton deciding to exercise his inner Charlie Sheen this offseason definitely hurts Pujols lineup protection some but let’s be honest, Hamilton wasn’t exactly scaring opposing pitchers last season either.  The only positive note is his glove still looks good, and he and Trout seem to have bonded very nicely.  Plus he does that weird thing where he motorboats the air while he runs around the bases. But when you are making $154,320 per game (2.5 times the average annual family income in the US by the way), you sure as hell better do more than be a good teammate and play good defense.  At some point I really do hope he turns it around, otherwise the next five years of this contract sure are going to be swell.

Best – My Dad was out to visit before the season and I got my love for the Angels from him so we naturally spent a lot of time talking about the upcoming season.  One of the things he said to me was that David Freese was going to have a good season.  So far he is right.  Freese has three HR and 11 RBI this season leading the team in both categories.  Unlike Calhoun, he hasn’t missed any time due to injury and he has played good defense, which is not exactly his strong suit.  Also, unlike Johnny G, he isn’t likely to regress.  It is especially important for him to bring offense because, without Hamilton, Howie, and a shell of a Pujols, this team is not the same one that scored a lot of runs last season.  Freese is hitting cleanup now, and I think he probably will for the rest of the season.  Scioscia might move him down to 5th against tough righties, but that is it.  If he does have a big season and the Angels are not looking so great by the trade deadline he could bring a decent return back, knowing how hard 3b are to find.  Otherwise he is a FA and in my opinion there is no way the Angels can give him a contract.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

Over the years, I've learned a couple of things from my experiences with the law. First, the best justice is the justice that one makes for one’s self. It’s far better to find your own solution to a problem than to rely on a judge to make one for you. Second, when millionaires and billionaires fight it out, the only ones who truly win are the lawyers who will always get paid. Third, contracts are like marriages—once you become a part of one, breaking it up gets nasty and ugly—fast. Nothing could prove these points more than the litigation between the Angels and the city of Anaheim over the years.

So, like it or not, the Angels and Josh Hamilton are stuck with each other. As a fan, I see right on both sides of the divide. Mr. Moreno invested a lot of money in Hamilton to bring a talented and marketable player to organization. By doing what he did this offseason, Hamilton completely undercut the ability for the team to market him as a player (regardless of his performance over the past two years). Furthermore, by getting off without any punishment on a technicality, he set a bad precedent that says if one confesses to a drug violation before getting caught, he will not suffer any consequences. That’s not just bad for the Angels—it’s bad for all of baseball. 

Hamilton’s actions this offseason placed the Angels in a Catch-22 situation. If they welcomed him back as a player, a strong segment of the fan base would be upset with the organization because it says that athletes, particularly expensive ones, can get away with anything. If they shunned him, as they have, a strong segment of the fan base would be upset with the organization for not being compassionate towards Hamilton, the man. Either way, because of Hamilton’s actions this offseason, the Angels were forced into a situation where they’d offend a strong segment of their fan base. Mr. Moreno had every right to be upset for being placed in that predicament.

Looking at this issue objectively, there is right on both sides of this dispute. As a father, I have a 7-year old son named Josh whose favorite player is Hamilton because they share the same first name. How am I supposed to explain this whole mess to my son? How do I tell my son that doing drugs is wrong when he sees that Hamilton suffers no consequences for doing illegal drugs? No matter how I explain, there is the explicit message that with enough lawyers and money, a player can get away with an illegal act. That’s not a lesson I want my son to learn.

At the same time, though, I am a teacher, and have worked with thousands of drug addicted students. I know that addiction is something that never goes away and that addicts don’t really have complete free will when it comes to their substance of choice. They can—and will—fall off the wagon at any point. Highly stressful events, such as filing for divorce, can easily trigger them to relapse. The only truly decision of free will happened long ago when he made the choice to take his first illegal drug—but that ship has long since sailed. Every decision since then has been based on limited free will due to his addiction. While he should be still accountable for taking illegal drugs this offseason, no one can say that he had 100% control when he relapsed.  

Having met Hamilton, I like him as a person. He’s a nice man. As far as I know, he’s not evil or malicious such that he doesn’t deserve some sympathy and compassion. I don’t wish ill-will on him; rather, I’d like to see him return to form and power the team to the playoffs. Most of his teammates have publicly supported him, and would like to see him back. 

So how do we break this impasse?

As I think about it, I am guided by the principles that form the basis of 12-Steps in Narcotics Anonymous. In particular, I’d like to focus on three of them:

Step 8:

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9:

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 12:

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Using these as a foundation, I believe that there is a solution for bringing Josh Hamilton back to the Angels.

Hamilton’s list for all persons that he harmed has to include the Angels organization, all Angels fans, and all of baseball. That means he needs to make amends to all of them.

I’m going to take Mr. Moreno at his word that his disagreement with Josh Hamilton isn’t about the money. It’s about the trust that Mr. Moreno invested in Hamilton before signing him to such a large contract. Hamilton broke that trust, and in so doing, become a public relations disaster for the team. More importantly, Hamilton, who claimed to be very humble and Christian has not engaged in any act of contrition. His first (and so far only public act) has been to lawyer-up and fight issues on a technicality. That’s not the man that Mr. Moreno met and persuaded to sign with the club. Hamilton’s actions since February do not match the man the Angels were proud to introduce at a press conference. His public actions to date have been to protect his contract and money, not to protect his health or his public image.

So, to that end, I believe that Hamilton should donate half of his salary for this year to charities that the Angels organization supports. Mr. Moreno shouldn’t get the money back because he took that risk by signing Hamilton. However, Hamilton shouldn’t get the money either because he would have at least received an 80-game suspension from MLB had the arbitrator ruled that Hamilton broke the drug policy of the CBA. Donating the $12.5 million for his 80-games would send a strong message of commitment to regaining the trust that has been lost and would be a huge act of contrition on his part. 

By giving the money to Angels related charities, such as the Angels Foundation, Angels RBI, the Miracle League, 65 Roses, etc., Hamilton would make amends to the organization by restoring the organization’s image with the public. Hamilton should either make these donations anonymously (even if we all know who did it) or in the name of the Angels so that it is clear that Hamilton is not seeking any glory or publicity from his actions.

Next, Hamilton needs to publicly apologize to all the fans. He needs to take out full-page ads in all the area newspapers asking for our forgiveness. He needs to give a very humble press conference where all the questions are asked and answered. He needs to interact with fans and understand that many will be upset with him for what he did. As a Christian, he will need to turn the other cheek when he’s heckled and booed. It’s unfortunate, but some people out there will never forgive him, no matter what he does. But, that is a consequence for the choices he made.

Finally, Hamilton has to make amends to all of baseball. It’s not right that Hamilton got off without any consequence because he confessed to doing drugs before getting caught on a urine test and other players have gotten 80-game suspensions for getting caught without confessing. This is a loophole that will only get exploited over the years to the point of costing the game more through negative public images lost fans. 

To make amends to the sport, Hamilton needs to publicly call upon his agent to work with the Player’s Association and the Owners to draft new language in the next CBA to address this specific loophole. A person who confesses to using an illegal or banned substance should still receive a punishment for violating the drug bans. However, I do believe that it is better to get players to admit their wrongs rather than waiting until they are caught, so, I would be willing to see the punishment slightly less for confessing rather than for those who try and beat the system. Hamilton should publicly declare that he should be the first, last, and only player to ever get off on this type of loop hole.

Why would Hamilton publicly advocate this? Because, as step 12 states, he needs to carry this message forward to other addicts. Hamilton is not the only addict in all of baseball. By publicly calling for this specific change to the CBA, Hamilton will help all other addicts come to see the errors of their ways. Failing to do this leaves the dangerous precedent out there for all addicts to see, and, will prevent Hamilton from ever returning to a state where he can get only with his life and his addiction. More importantly, it will continue to hurt other addicts, who will think that they can beat the consequences of their actions rather than dealing with the issues of their addiction. A truly recovered person would never want to help inspire other addicts to continue to use.

If Hamilton does all of this, Mr. Moreno and the Angels should welcome him back to the team. More importantly, we, as fans should welcome him back as well. I know I would.

For his sake, and so that he can get back to dealing with his addiction from a position of strength, I hope he does it.

Monday, April 20, 2015


By Adrian Noche, Staff Reporter - 

1.) Sean Newcomb, Starting Pitcher, Burlington Bees
Since Opening Day: 3 Starts 1-0  16.0 IP  1.69 ERA  9 H  5 BB  20 SO  0.88 WHIP  .161 BAA

The Angels jumped at the opportunity when Sean Newcomb fell to them with the 15th pick of the 2014 draft. Newcomb is an imposing figure on the mound, standing tall at 6’5 and 245 pounds. The lefty possesses easy velocity with his fastball sitting in the mid-90s and the potential for three plus-pitches with his fastball, slider and change-up. So far this season, Newcomb has dominated the opposition, striking out 20 batters in 16.0 innings with a WHIP of 0.88. If Newcomb keeps this up, a call up to High-A Inland Empire or Double-A Arkansas within the next month or two is not out of the question. 

2.) Kyle Kubitza, Third Baseman, Salt Lake Bees
Since Opening Day: .417 AVG  20 H  7 Doubles  2 Triple  0 HR  1 SB

The acquisition of Kyle Kubitza came at the cost of losing the high-ceiling potential of pitcher Ricardo Sanchez. Originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft, Kubitza has steadily improved his numbers year after year in the minors. Last year, he finished with a slash line of .295/.405/.470 for Atlanta’s Double-A Affiliate. Out of the gate Kubitza has done nothing but hit the ball. Slugging .646 so far this year, almost half of Kubitza’s hits have been for extra bases (9 out of 20 hits). Kubitza posted an impressive OBP last year of .405, and his tendency to work deep in the count has equated to a high number of walks and strikeouts. Kubitza has been getting the walk going for him the past two games as he reached base via base on balls 3 times (his first three times of the season). With Freese’s contract up at this years end, a strong showing from Kubitza at the hot corner will slate him nicely as the Angels' starting third baseman come Opening Day 2016.

3.) Carlos Perez, Catcher, Salt Lake Bees
Since Opening Day: .361 AVG  13 H  4 Doubles  0 Triple  2 HR  1 SB

Perez is yet another new addition to the Angels' prospect family within the past year. Acquired from the Houston Astros along with Nick Tropeano in exchange for Hank Conger, Perez was already receiving calls of interest from his play in Winter Ball. Perez can already be seen as the Angels top catcher defensively in the organization, but what he has been doing with the bat is icing on the cake. Perez is hitting to the tune of a .361/.378/.639 line in 8 games so far this season. With the struggles from the catching position up in the majors, Carlos Perez is a name that should be brought up often as a potential solution to catching dilemma. 

4.) Tyler DeLoach, Starting Pitcher, Arkansas Travelers
Since Opening Day: 2 Starts 1-1  12.0 IP  1.50 ERA  10 H  2 BB  13 SO  1.00 WHIP  .250 BAA

Tyler DeLoach is yet another imposing lefty on the mound. Tyler stands tall at 6’6 and 240 pounds. However, DeLoach uses deception rather than a huge fastball like Newcomb’s. Despite the lack of "overpowering stuff”, the southpaw has managed to pitch extremely well in the minors. Last year, DeLoach posted a 2.99 ERA while striking out 161 batters over 147.2 innings pitched across two levels in the minor leagues. DeLoach has started doing more of the same this season, only allowing 2 earned runs in 2 starts so far. The strikeout ball has carried over as well, with 13 strikeouts over 12.0 innings pitched. Depth has been a huge issue for the Angels over the past couple of years. Today, the Angels’ starting pitching depth is as strong as ever with the likes of Heaney, Rucinski, Tropeano, Smith, DeLoach, McGowan and many more in the minors.

5.) Cam Bedrosian, Relief Pitcher, Salt Lake Bees
Since Opening Day: 4 Appearances 0-0  8.0 IP 0.00 ERA  6 H  0 BB  13 SO  0.75 WHIP  .214 BAA

Bedrosian’s numbers in the minors last year were downright nasty. Cam struck out 16.4 batters per nine innings with a WHIP of 0.756. Bedrock has come a long way from Tommy John and it is easy to forget that he started the year barely at High-A last season. Bedrock has been a regular on these prospect hotlists and it is only fitting that he starts the year on it as well. Bedrock has yet to give up a run in 8.0 innings pitched so far and has struck out 13 batters. The most important statistic to look at is how he has yet to give up a walk as well. Cam will surely get the call to the big club at some point this year and let’s hope he pitches well enough to stay, as he has the stuff to become the next closer for the Angels.

Minor League Affiliate Report

Triple-A Salt Lake Bees

Despite boasting the most talent Salt Lake has seen in a while, the Bees have struggled out of the gate with only 1 win in their first 11 games. Top prospect Andrew Heaney pitched well in his Salt Lake debut with 7.0 shutout innings while giving up just two hits and no walks. However, Heaney failed to make it out of the first inning in his last start, ending his day with 6 hits and 4 earned runs in 0.2 innings pitched. The Angels have another talented catcher in Salt Lake other than the aforementioned Carlos Perez. Jett Bandy has been playing well while splitting time with Carlos Perez. In 4 games played (16 at-bats), Bandy is hitting .375 along with a home run and a double. Spending most of his time at left field, Grant Green continues to prove that he has nothing left to accomplish in the minors, batting .362 in 11 games (47 at-bats) this season. Texas League MVP Alex Yarbrough has struggled out of the gate. The second baseman is batting .190 with 11 strikeouts for the Bees so far. The same goes for Josh Rutledge, who is batting .213 with 9 strikeouts.

Double-A Arkansas Travelers

The Travs have started the season with 9 wins and only 2 losses, sitting atop the Texas League North. Nate Smith pitched well in his last start on Tuesday, striking out 5 and giving up just 3 hits (1 walk) in 5.2 shutout innings. In two starts, Smith boasts a 2.31 ERA (0.94 WHIP) and 11 strikeouts in 11.2 innings pitched. After closing games for the Burlington Bees last season, the Angels are trying Alan Busenitz as a starter to begin this season. The results have been encouraging, as Busenitz has only given up 3 earned runs in 2 starts (10 innings pitched) for the Travs. Austin Wood is pitching at Double-A for the first time in his professional career. Wood has a 2.08 ERA with 4 strikeouts in 4.1 innings (3 appearances) pitched. 1st baseman Brian Hernandez continues to be the most consistent hitter on any team he plays for, batting .324 in 9 games (34 at-bats) for the Travs so far. Sherman Johnson and Chad Hinshaw have been impressive at the top of the Travs lineup. Sherman Johnson boasts an OBP of .410 with 3 stolen bases, 5 doubles and a home run while Chad Hinshaw has a slash line of .296/.441/.407 with 2 stolen bases.

High-A Inland Empire 66ers

As of today, the High-A Inland Empire 66ers sit 1 game back of 1st place with a record of 7-4. 3rd round draft pick Christopher Ellis has struggled some so far this season but continues to impress with his “stuff”. Despite the 6.14 ERA, Ellis has struck out 19 batters in 14.2 innings pitched. Top prospect Victor Alcantara has struck out 11 batters in 11.0 innings pitched while allowing 4 earned runs, 10 hits and 5 walks in two starts this season. Relief pitcher Greg Mahle has been dominant in 5 appearances for the 66ers. The southpaw has given up just 1 earned run (1.80 ERA), 4 hits and no walks (0.80 WHIP) while striking 10 batters in 5.0 innings pitched. After a very slow start to the season, top international signing Roberto Baldoquin is currently riding a three-game hit streak and has posted back to back multi-hit games. Kaleb Cowart continued his struggles in the minors with a .182 batting average.

Low-A Burlington Bees

The Low-A Bees are currently 2 games behind first place with a record of 7-4. 2014 draft members Jeremy Rhoades (Round 4) and Jake Jewell (Round 5) have pitched well to start the season. Jeremy Rhoades has struck out 14 batters in 9.0 innings pitched while only giving up one earned run, 10 hits and 3 walks. Jake Jewell has given up 2 earned runs in 7.2 innings pitched along with 9 strikeouts, 4 hits and no walks allowed. Natanael Delgado had himself a 4-hit game on Sunday, bringing his average up to .282 on the season. 10th round draft pick Caleb Adams has himself a strong line of .364/.500/.545 in 10 games (33 at-bats). Third baseman Zachary Houchins has 2 home runs this week and is now batting .275 to start the season.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

By Glen McKee, Patriot-in-Residence -

Before we get to the meat of this article, I would like to pause for the playing of “God Bless America,” followed by the National Anthem and “Baby Got Back.”  Please rise, remove your hat or wig/weave if you’re wearing one, put your right hand over your heart, and choke an illegal immigrant while these songs play…

OK, back.  Everybody feeling good and patriotic?  Now that we have that out of the way, we need to address whether concession sales should stop during the playing of the National Anthem.  Before offering my impeccable opinion, I need to offer my unimpeachable credential for speaking out on this subject.  First off, I occasionally attend baseball games and therefore have to stand in lines at baseball games.  Secondly, I was in the Navy for 20 goddamned years and I spent plenty of time in what the Navy calls a combat zone, so technically speaking (the best kind of speaking) I’m a combat veteran.

Finally, I now work for the Air Force.  What could be more patriotic than a retired vet still suckling on the government teat?  Therefore, I am obviously qualified to blather on about this, so let’s get to blathering.

Some people are upset (I stole that intro line from Fox News and I’m not paying them a dime for it.   ‘Murica!) that at a recent game, concession stand workers were ordered to keep working while the National Anthem played.  This created a minor upset, for some reason.  It’s been a bad few weeks for Arte Moreno.  First, his handling of the Josh Hamilton situation has been widely questioned.  Now, he has to face the question of whether his workforce is patriotic, and all of this while Arte is still quite obviously Mexican.  Put another log on the fire!

Before I get into whether the non-stoppage for the anthem was right or wrong, let me first offer an amazingly simple solution to the problem:
That’s right, a flag lapel pin.  It deflects questions of patriotism like Captain America’s shield deflects bullets.  Have each concessions employee wear two of those (in case one falls off) and it will be impossible to question their patriotism no matter what they do.

OK, back to the question at hand: was it wrong for the workers to be ordered to keep working during the National Anthem?  Short answer: yes.  After the flag pin, nothing is more patriotic in America than commerce.  If I was to make a list of patriotic things in descending order, it would look like this:

1. Flag pins
2. Commerce
3. The actual flag
4. The National Anthem
5. Bacon
6. Boobs
7. Baseball

And so on.  The list is long and quite frankly it gets boring after the three Bs.  Point is, commerce is two whole places above the National Anthem, so commerce obviously overrules it.  That’s preschool math right there, people.  It’s also now on the internet so it has to be true.  If you disagree, you’re a nitwit.  Come at me, bro!

Disrespect to those who disagree aside, take a line-of-sight perspective.  If you can’t see the flag you can’t properly render respect to it.  Now this is patently untrue, but it helps my argument.  If you’re not in sight of the flag and in a business environment, business is more patriotic than the flag.  Look at it from a practical perspective: if they keep serving the customers there’s a chance some of them could get to their seats in time to catch the end of the anthem, and more anthem watchers = more patriotism.  Again, preschool math.

Finally, I should address the excuse proffered by the Angels for keeping them working, that it had to do with safety.  That’s weaksauce, but still a bit true.  The longer the lines get, the more agitated the people in the line get and the harder it is for people to maneuver around them.  It’s a potential hazard and it needs to be mitigated.  Potential hazards decrease patriotism.

Without a doubt, the workers need to keep working during the National Anthem.  Lord knows they don’t need a legitimate reason to slow down in any way.

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