Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eric Denton- Senior Writer

Could it really happen ? Will Angels public address announcer David Courtney actually utter those words on April 4th, 2008 ?

Indeed it very well could. Unless Alex Rodriguez and super agent/super villain Scott Boras have a change of heart and return to the New York Yankees, it appears that the 2007 AL Most Valuable Player is headed to a new team. Rodriguez has opted out of the biggest contract in major league history and is hitting the market coming off another tremendous season. "ARod" hit an eye popping 54 home runs while driving in 156 runs last season. Rodriguez is going to be a great player regardless of where he plays, but for the purposes of this article, we'll discuss what exactly he'll bring to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

alexangel.jpg picture by chuckster70
One thing is for certain, he looks good in red and has a career .332 batting average, 29 home runs and a 1.076 career OPS in Angel Stadium

First and foremost, Rodriguez would be the "big bat" the Angels have been missing since the 2004 season when Troy Glaus and Jose Guillen provided depth in the lineup behind Vladimir Guerrero. While the Angels offense did improve from their 2006 performance, they were again controlled in the playoffs, and went on vacation in early October.

The Halos would finally have the two headed monster they have lacked. Boston has won the World Series twice with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the middle of the order. In the final game of the 2007 for the Angels, Reggie Willits was "protecting" Vlad in the lineup. No contest.

Adding Rodriguez to an already solid infield offensively and defensively would push the Angels from playoff contender to World Series threat. No longer would Mike Scioscia have to hope youngsters Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman could perform like proven veterans. No longer would Scioscia have to rely on an aging Garret Anderson to protect Guerrero. Nor will Halos fans have to wait a month in between team home runs.

The knock on ARod is he hasn't produced in the post-season. Well, neither has our own beloved Guerrero. And actually, Rodriguez's post season numbers aren't horrible. He just hasn't had that big Reggie Jackson-esque huge game Yankee fans were expecting from him.

Rodriguez has career post-season totals of .279 9 hr 17 rbi in 20 games. Hardly horrible when compared to Vlad's post-season totals. And maybe the threat of ARod behind Guerrero is just what Vladdy needs to have a big post-season.

If the Angels add Rodriguez and return in 2008 with virtually the same roster the line up looks a lot stronger, sick even.

1. Chone Figgins LF
2. Orlando Cabrera SS
3. Vladimir Guerrero RF
4. Alex Rodriguez 3B
5. Garret Anderson DH
6. Howie Kendrick 2B
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Gary Matthews CF
9. Mike Napoli / Jeff Mathis C

Obviously the biggest question mark will be, is Arte Moreno willing to commit the huge sum it will take to land the best player in the game. After he bought the Angels in 2003, Moreno said his goal was to make the Angels the Yankees West. Well, the time is here for Moreno to turn his words into action.

Since Moreno has taken over as owner of the club, he has landed the team a new television deal with Fox Sports which is far more lucrative than the old deal negotiated by Disney. He also sees the stadium filled to near capacity every game. Plans are in place to raise ticket prices by one or two dollars which would also add a few more millions. Additionally, just how many "Rodriguez" jersey's, t-shirts and other paraphernalia will the Angels be able to sell for a decade ?

If Moreno is concerned about breaking even or turning a profit while still keeping ticket prices family friendly there is a way to find additional revenue. And you're looking at it below

The Angels could simply adjust the hitting background and get rid of the eye sore rock pile in center-field and put in additional seating in the right field pavilion. There is a lot of unused territory under the Jumbotron that could be filled with at least one hundred new seats. LA and OC fans are notoriously fickle. If there is a winning team they will come out, if there is a new superstar to fawn over, they will come out. There is no better an example of that than the NHL's Los Angeles Kings franchise, who despite not being a successful playoff team (or missing the playoffs altogether) still sold out the Great Western Forum with great regularity because they wanted to see "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky.

In baseball, Rodriguez is "The Great One". 32 years old and with 518 home-runs in the bank. Baring injury, he is on pace to break Barry Bonds all time home run record. Rickey Henderson's all time runs scored record. Hank Aaron's all time RBI record with an outside chance of topping Pete Rose's all time hits record. If he plays another ten seasons or so.

All of these records could fall while Rodriguez is wearing the Halo. Having Vladimir Guerrero as first Angel in baseball's Hall Of Fame is one thing. Having the greatest player in the history of the sport is another.

This is Moreno's time to step up to the plate like Gene Autry did in 1982 with the signing of Reggie Jackson and Bruce McNall did in 1988 by trading for Gretzky. These opportunities come around once in a life time. The Angels should not pass on it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

By Brent Hubbard - Columnist

As I begin to write this article, the Red Sox have a 3-0 lead in the 4th game of the 102nd World Series. Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 out in the top of the fifth and a 2-0 lead, Ellsbury at the plate… and he strikes out. Bottom of the fifth coming up.

Certainly not the most exciting of World Series, nothing in comparison to the 02 Series, which concluded five years ago today. Every game was close in that Series, in contrast, few if any have been close since the Indians held a 3-1 ALCS lead over the “Team of Destiny” the hated Boston Red Sox. And I do hate them. I hate their obnoxious fans with their ridiculous accents, their exaggerated sense of entitlement, the stupid stadium dimensions, and their beloved duo of ManRam and Big Poppi. Truly, they are the new Evil Empire.

Cool, a base hit for the Rockies pitcher. Awesome.

As I look at the Red Sox lineup, and their team as a whole, I see a balanced team, not without weakness, but one that seems to be built for the Postseason. And built for success in the long term as well.

Damnit. Ground Out. End of the Inning.

I thought the same about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, as well. But as the Off-Season is about to begin, I wonder what it holds. I wonder if the Angels have the same type of success planned for the next decade the way the Sox seem to. They seemed overmatched earlier this postseason facing these hated Sox, as they seemed overmatched all of the 2006 season, and in the ALCS of 2005.

I hate this stupid Jack-in-the-box Commercial.

The 2008 Angels have a new GM at the helm, recently promoted Tony Reagins, but will likely have a similar team to the AL West Championship club of 2007.

As I begin to ponder what changes are in store for the Angels my attention turns first to the Free Agents. The Angels have no internal Free Agents of any significance. But they do have a overemphasized lack of power dwelled upon by the national media.

One of the most obvious places to improve is 3rd base, and two very attractive Free Agents reside at this position. And one of them just hit a Home Run for the Sox.

I do not believe the Angels will go into the 2008 season with Chone Figgins at 3rd, and Mike Lowell does offer a very good defensive option, as well as a pretty good bat. He has thrived in 2007 because he hits very well in the confines of Fenway Park. Although he seemed a throw in, expendable in the pre-2006 offseason trade that brought Josh Beckett to Boston he has become a very valuable member of the 2007 Red Sox lineup. And as the Sox have only one other Free Agent of any significance, starting pitcher Curt Schilling, I do not expect the Sox will allow him to go anywhere.

The other Free Agent candidate at third makes a lot of sense for the Angels. The problem is that he isn’t quite a Free Agent. After the end of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez has 10 days to decide if he wants to opt out of his record setting 10-year $252 Million dollar contract. I expect him to do so. He just isn’t a good fit in the Bronx, despite two MVP awards. (I’m assuming he wins this year, as his stats dwarf anyone else in contention).

When he hits the market, I expect him to be a hot commodity, despite his extremely large contract demands. I do not know if he is worth the salary, but he is a wonderful fit at 3rd for the Angels, and one that is quite feasible. Several teams will be in on the mix, from the Dodgers to the Cubs, to the Red Sox and the Giants. But the Angels should be the frontrunner if they decide to get in on the bidding.

But enough has been written about this possibility elsewhere. I wonder what else is out there that makes sense on the Free Agent front.

There are intriguing names to help the struggling Angels offense, such as Japan’s Kosuke Fukudome and Tomohiro Noika. Center fielders available include Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand. Yet the Angels are set at Center Field unless Matthews is suspended. The aging slugger route includes Mike Sweeney, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, and the elephant in the room: Barry Bonds.

Other head cases Milton Bradley and Jose Guillen are among the most effective hitters available, but I do not expect the Angels to go this route, having learned their lesson the first time but there aren’t that many options.

Brad Hawpe just hit a HR to put the Rockies on the board. Maybe my offseason preview is being typed a bit too soon.

I digress. The Elephant in the room sits awaiting discussion. Outside of A-Rod, no one hitter would bring such a powerful bat to Angels Stadium. But is he worth the distraction. Mr. Bonds is precisely what the Angels need, a game changing hitter. Only he and A-Rod would provide such.

Many dislike him on principle, as he is the poster boy for all that is wrong with steroids in Baseball. Yet if his attitude were kept in check, and the team first concept was drilled firmly into his head, I do not expect it to be long before the fans in Anaheim accepted him whole heartedly. It would take quite a few homeruns, but luckily that is Mr. Bonds specialty.

Other Free Agents of note are bullpen arms such as Scott Linebrink, Eric Gagne, and Mariano Rivera. I expect the Angels to pass on this trifecta and instead focus on two other names. Jeremy Affeldt has had a quiet, but quite good season in Colorado’s pen, and Angel hero Troy Percival did as well in Saint Louis. I would look at adding both to a pen that already is among the leagues best with Scot Shields, Justin Speier, and Frankie Rodriguez. Both make sense. Especially adding a 2nd lefty in Affeldt. He and Oliver are both versatile lefties.

Damnit! Bobby Kielty goes deep. 4-1 Sox! Looking like the end for the Rockies is about two innings away.

There are many different trade targets, from Johan Santana to Coco Crisp, to Rocco Baldelli, to Miguel Tejada. The Angels have a loaded farm, so the assets to get these guys are there. Erick Aybar is most certainly trade bait, as I believe are Reggie Willits and possibly Kendry Morales.

The one guy I don’t want to see traded, besides the big names, is Terry Evans. I think he can have a similar impact to the 2008 Angels as Willits did to the 2007 team, but he won’t get the chance if Willits is around.

Ken Rosenthal just reported that A-Rod is going to opt out of his contract with the Yanks. If this is true…is he an Angel? Only time will tell. Screw the Red Sox! Bring on the offseason!

The Red Sox won the World Series and the offseason is finally upon us! For Baseball fans, especially Angels’ fans in the Arte era, it’s time to start our offseason wish lists and assemble our sick-lineups! Have at it fanatics!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Eddie Bane (Director of Scouting)

Interview conducted by Chuck Richter

In this month's edition of the Bane Connection we asked Eddie some questions that have nothing to do with the Angels future stars, but rather switched gears this month and had him tell us a little bit about Eddie the person, ex-ball player and scout.

Eddie has been kind enough to share not only his insight & insider info on all of the Angels future stars throughout the season and in this edition, about himself. With this being the last edition in 2007, until late Feb of 2008 when pitchers and catchers report, let's all give Eddie a round of applause for his efforts and contributions for not only the community, but for all of the fans & readers of this monthly segment on the net.

With no further ado, let's proceed with the interview entitled......

The Lighter side of Eddie Bane

Q: (Angelswin) - How did you get into baseball?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Hi folks, guys and girls. Welcome to another Bane Connection and let's get going. First of all I hope you guys are getting to watch my ASU Sun Devils in football. That is one of my diversions off the field and we have to keep that quiet around Mr Moreno and Dennis Kuhl and John Carpino as they are huge University of Arizona fans.

I started in baseball like every other kid by playing in Little League and having great parents who helped me along the way. Went to High School in Westminster and then on to ASU and was drafted by the Twins after 3 years as a SunDevil and then was fortunate enough to go directly to the major leagues and play for the Twins. Got the chance to play baseball with Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Larry Hisle, Lymon Bostock, Bert Blyleven (who should be in the Hall of Fame) Danny Thompson, Roy Smalley and many other great players. Jim Kaat though was the one that took me under his wing and guided me through all tough times. And, had the chance to learn from Gene Mauch, who I consider the smartest baseball person I was ever around.. After playing professionally I started at the bottom rung of scouting and was lucky enough to move up to my current position of Director of Scouting.

Q: (Angelswin) - Most memorable game from a personal performance standpoint?

A: (Eddie Bane) - My most memorable pro game would probably be either my first win against the WC Oakland A's or the first game of my career when I pitched in front of the biggest crowd in the history of the Old Met in Minneapolis when the people showed up to see the college hot-shot pitch against the KC Royals. I pitched 7 innings with 3 hits and left the game leading 2-1. We blew the lead, but those things happen.

Q: (Angelswin) - Most memorable game you witnessed from a fans' standpoint?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I was working for the Dodgers when Kirk Gibson hit the homerun to beat Oakland. Knowing some of the background only people with the club would know and having my dad and kids at the game made it really special.

Q: (Angelswin) - What was your worst scouting trip you ever had?

A: (Eddie Bane) - It is almost impossible to have a bad day scouting. I do remember coming back from a game in Mexicali where they had no cabs, in a rough area and I rode in the back of a pig farmers truck to the border...... with me and the pigs in the back. I was happy to get the ride. You also see some unique things when scouting in the south that you just don't see anywhere else. Fighting parents etc. always add to the spectacle. But, by and large it is scouting and that is a ton of fun.

Q: (Angelswin) - What do you like best about your job?

A: (Eddie Bane) - In the end the job is all encompassing. The thought that everyday you still believe you are going to find that one Roy Hobbs hid out somewhere that nobody else knows about. I still love the travel, hotels, food, rent-a-cars and the entire thing.

Q: (Angelswin) - Best Major Leaguer you've signed to date?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I have been fortunate enough to be around and help sign (you always help sign as it is never a one man operation) all-stars and Cy Young award winners. I helped sign Albert Belle, Cory Snyder, Eric Gagne, Paul LoDuca, Carl Crawford and many others with the other clubs, but the best player I have ever signed in my mind is Paul Konerko. Paul is also at the top of the list as far as good people I have signed also. I really care about Konerko and he feels the same way about me. I have known Paul since he was 13 years old as he was a childhood friend of my son, Jaymie.

Q: (Angelswin) - What's a week in the life of a scout like?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Different months of the year are completely different, but if you take the month of April or May every day of the month for say my national crosscheckers, Jeff Malinoff and Ric Wilson is constant travel. Up in the morning (early 6am) fly for a couple of hours, get a rent-a-car, use the GPS, find the ballpark, find a hotel, get room service, shower, get on the computer, watch tv for an hour, try and get some sleep and then get up and do the same thing again everyday for about 20-30 days in a row. All sandwiched around keeping up with the voice mail and trying to see how your kid did in his math test or soccer game.

But, I would not change it for anything.

Q: (Angelswin) - What is the best prank you have seen in the clubhouse or dugout?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Oh, they are all over the place. Best one I ever did was convincing the front desk that they needed to call our Latino pitcher, Juan Vientedos, every hour all night to remind him to take his medicine for his bad arm. I told them that no matter how much he yelled at them that they needed to call him every hour on the hour. He would complain to them in Spanish, but they reliably called him back on the dot every hour. He was down at the front desk about ready to trade blows at 5 in the morning, but it was pretty funny.

Q: (Angelswin) - Favorite city to travel to when scouting?

A: (Eddie Bane) - 2 places very diverse. New York City is the most fun place in the world with the plays, etc. And, you cannot beat the state of Mississippi or Alabama for the hospitality and the beauty of the people.

Q: (Angelswin) - Ever second guess yourself for a scouting decision on a kid and have it come back to haunt you?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Sure, all the time. Most notable was Bill Bene my first year with the Dodgers. I was headstrong in love with a pitcher named Bill Bene with a great, 100 mph arm. I went right by and did not want to hear about a 3rd baseman at Oklahoma St. named Robin Ventura. Oops.

Q: (Angelswin) - How do you think Tony Reagins will do as a Major League General Manager?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Tony will do an excellent job as GM of the Angels. We will miss Bill a lot, but I thought it was a great choice to stay in-house and use Tony's attributes as a GM. He has been schooled in being the GM and he will use his people and he has plus baseball skills himself so I look forward to a continuation of the success we have had with the Angels.

It is tough for baseball to lose Terry Ryan, Bill Stoneman and John Schuerholz all in one offseason. All great baseball people, but it is just a reminder that time marches on.

Q: (Angelswin) - Last book you read?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Secret Servant by Daniel Silva. Read that along with the book titled 'Texas' by James Michener at the same time. I am a big reader.

Q: (Angelswin) - Favorite kind of music?

A: (Eddie Bane) - All kinds, but the Beach Boys is what I get freaky over.

Q: (Angelswin) - Favorite vacation spot in the offseason?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Lake Tahoe. It has everything. Outdoors, golf, the serenity of the woods and the indoors of the Nevada type stuff.

Q: (Angelswin) - Favorite food & place to eat?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Garcia's Mexican restaurant.

Q: (Angelswin) - What was your worst job?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I moved bricks, mud and dirt around one day in a moving project. That was when I was positive sports were going to be a better way to go.

Q: (Angelswin) - What is your hobby? (Not Baseball related)?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I am a pretty good golfer(about a 7 handicap), but my favorite thing to do is either read history or go to Broadway shows. If you ever need a review of Les Mis, Jersey Boys or Mamma Mia then I am your guy.

Q: (Angelswin) - Lastly, what is Eddie Bane's biggest accomplishment in life?

A: (Eddie Bane) - My biggest accomplishment by far is that I am the father of Jaymie, Kacey, Corey and Veronica Bane. Also the dad of the greatest dog on the earth, Sven Bane. My scouts can tell you how nutty I am about Sven and all animals really. That is a good enough accomplishment for me anytime.

Once again Chuck, thanks for asking the questions and I hope I did not bore the readers too much with this personal stuff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2007 stats: in 19 starts for Cedar Rapids, Haynes posted a 3.06 ERA

October 24th, 2007
Interview Conducted By Phillip Richmond

Full Name: Jeremy J Haynes
Born: 05/28/1986
Birthplace: Valdosta, GA
College: Tallahassee CC
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 180
Bats: R
Throws: R

Selected by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 37th round (1,123rd overall) of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College...previously selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 17th round (515th overall) of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Haynes started 14 games for the Orem Owlz in 2006 and posted a 2.76 ERA while fanning 68 batters in 58 2/3 innings.

Q: When did you start playing baseball?

A: Tee Ball at the age of 5

Q: Who was the most influential in your pursuit to the big leagues?

A: My family

Q: What baseball player was your favorite growing up?

A: I was a big Sammy Sosa fan, and Pedro Martinez fan

Q: Team you followed growing up?

A: Atlanta Braves

Q: Best 1-game performance in your career to date?

A: I would have to say in college coming in from centerfield and throwing 7 shutout innings and was 2 for 3 at the plate

Q: What part of your game needs the most improvement?

A: Being more consistent. Putting together quality starts every 5 days

Q: What aspect of your game do you take the most pride in?

A: Being very Athletic

Q: If there is one thing people should know about Jeremy Haynes the person, it is?

A: Strong believer in God. A desire to be the best on the field as well as off the field

The lighter side of Jeremy Haynes

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Steak

Q: What kind of music do you listen to?

A: Rap, R&B, and a little Rock & Roll

Q: What’s your all time favorite movie?

A: Bad Boys 2

Q: What's your most visited website?

A: Warchant (FSU football message board), Milb, Facebook, and Myspace

Q: What do you like to do besides play baseball, what’s your hobby?

A: Playstation 3. College Football and Madden.

Q: What person are you going to call first when you get promoted to the big leagues?

A: My Mom

Haynes_Jeremy_April_16_200759.jpg picture by chuckster70
Look for more about Jeremy Haynes in our Angelswin Top 30 Prospects report next month.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Angels franchise: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
By Jonathon Northrup - Angelswin Columnist

I'm going to buck the trend and not speculate on who the Angels will or will not sign, and instead (try to) offer a series of posts throughout the offseason that look into the history of the Angels, statistical analysis, and other fun stuff.

So the question: how have the Angels fared as a franchise in their 47-year history? Which decades have been more or less successful? And how will they fare in the future? First, some numbers:

Angels overall record (1961-2007)
3690-3794 .493
162-game average: 80-82

Just a hair below average. Let's do it by decade. The key is as follows:

Win-Loss Record, winning percentage, 162-game average
winning seasons-losing seasons, postseason appearances, World Series championships

685-770, .471, 76-86
3-6, 0, 0

781-831, .484, 78-84
3-7, 1, 0

783-783, .500, 81-81
4-5-1, 2, 0

738-817, .475, 77-85
3-6-1, 0 (1), 0

703-593, .542, 88-74
6-2, 4, 1

The First Few Decades
The first few decades of the Angels franchise showed slow improvement, with the Angels making the postseason three times in eight years from 1979 to 1986. Starting with the free agency boom in the 1970s, the Angels established a pattern of signing aging stars--players past their prime but, it was hoped, with enough left to "win one for the cowboy." The Angels never did, at least not with that philosophy.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the "Autry Approach" had found the franchise with no World Series appearances, a sub-par farm system, and a free agent mentality that had replaced the signings of aging stars such as Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, and Doug DeCinces, with players at the very tail end of their careers; the rosters of the late 80s and early 90s are littered with big names: Lance Parrish, Gary Gaetti, Dave Winfield, Dave Parker, Tony Armas, etc. Occasionally a free agent signing worked out well--Chili Davis had his best run as an Angel--but for the most part the approach had failed.

The Promise and Disappointment of the 90s
A promising group of young talent emerged in the mid to late 80s, including Wally Joyner, Devon White, Jack Howell, Dick Schofield, Mark McLemore, Chuck Finley, Mark McCaskill, and Jim Abbott, among others. But almost every player--except perhaps only Chuck Finley--seemed to disappoint.

In the early 90s the Angels seemed to shift gears and put more emphasis on home-grown talent. A new crop of young talent emerged, headlined by 1993 Rookie of the Year Tim Salmon, but also including Jim Edmonds, Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson, Gary DiSarcina, and Troy Percival. This team really gelled in 1995, yet experienced a historical collapse--eventually losing to the Mariners in a one-game playoff. It was as if the team had lost its heart--for the rest of the 90s the Angels were somewhat competitive, but without the extra edge to win the division. They hoped that they would find it in Mo Vaughn, signing him to an (at the time time) enormous contract, but Vaughn's performance dropped a few notches and was eventually traded to the Mets.

The New Millennium
The new decade--and millennium--showed promise. The Angels had a new manager in Mike Scioscia, and their home-grown talent were in their prime, with breakthrough seasons from Darin Erstad, Troy Glaus, and Garret Anderson in 2000. But they took a step back in 2001--Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad having the worst seasons of their careers, and an overall lackluster pitching staff.

We all know what happened in 2002, so I won't repeat it. The stars aligned for the Angels and they
not only had their best record but they won the World Series. How did this happen? Well it seems that the last decade has shown a trend of WS champions that aren't necessarily the best teams on paper, but are both hot at the right time and have that "extra something"--that chemistry--to win when they absolutely need to.

With a losing record in 2003, many critics claimed that 2002 was a fluke. But in 2004--fueled by the signings of Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, and Kelvim Escobar--the Angels returned to the postseason. And then again the next year, and again in 2007. 2002 had proved not to be a fluke, but the beginning of a new, unprecedented era for the Angels franchise. They had transformed from perennial losers--without a post-season appearance from 1986 to 2002--to a new powerhouse.

Golden Era beginning or ending?
Once the Yankees and Dodgers were the pride of their respective coasts; now it seems that the Red Sox and Angels are taking over those mantles, both having won World Series within the last five years, while the Yankees have not since 2000, and the Dodgers since 1988. The Angels are at an interesting juncture: while they have enough right now to compete for the next few years or more, with three first-round postseason exits in the last four years, owner Arte Moreno may be getting impatient. A question may be answered this offseason: Will the Angels continue Bill Stoneman's conservative approach of focusing on homegrown talent and mainly signing second tier free agents, or will they be more aggressive and go after bigger names, perhaps at the expense of their farm system?

Only time will tell. There are proponents of both approaches: Those that believe that all the Angels need is time for their young players to develop into stars with perhaps only supplemental free agent signings or trades, or those that want a big name now--whether Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Adam Dunn, or even an Andruw Jones.

Regardless, there is nothing to make us believe that the Angels will be less than dominant in their division over the next few years. While it is tempting to think that signing an Alex Rodriguez or trading the farm for Miguel Cabrera will cure the Angels' postseason woes, we should not forget history. Teams that are successful in the long-run are almost invariably those that focus on their farm systems. So often we have seen a dominant homegrown team fade when free agency takes priority.

Take the Joe Torre Yankees. They won four World Series from 1996-2000, but none since--while still winning their division almost every year. What changed? The team of the late 90s had a strong nucleus of homegrown talent; since then they have relied more and more on free agency. They still have a core of homegrown talent, with young players continuing to emerge, but it seems that through the Yankees we see a principle exemplified--a slight shift in focus that has made a huge difference. Every year it seems that the Yankees are invincible, that we will see a fifth Torre World Series victory--but every year they fail in the post-season.

What is missing for the Yankees? As I mentioned, it seems that the team that wins the World Series--at least in recent history--is usually not the best team on paper, but the team that wants it the most, expressed through a combination of peaking at the right time and chemistry as a team. This isn't always the case, as otherwise the 2006 Tigers would have won it all; obviously a wide variety of elements is necessary. The Tigers just looked too young and inexperienced against a St. Louis team that, while being riddled with injuries and having their worst record in years, still was experienced and had a core of strong talent. If the Red Sox and Rockies face each other in the World Series this year, we might see a similar dynamic.

Back to the Angels. Obviously they need a bit more to not only win their division, but win another World Series. Many seem to think that extra element is a big name hitter, or another star pitcher. But a look at history--both of the Angels and other teams--shows otherwise. Star talent means something but it is secondary to team balance and chemistry, not to mention leadership. If I was Tony Reagins I would not change too much from the conservative Stoneman approach, either by spending an inordinate amount of money on a 32-year old superstar, or in trading away the farm for one player. The Angels should look at what worked in 2002 and try to model it: the 2002 Angels were a very balanced team with terrific chemistry. Spending $30 million a year on one player--or trading away the future for another player--does not encourage team balance and chemistry.

So again, regardless of which way the Angels choose to go forward they will contend in the near future. But I think their best chance of truly establishing a dynasty does not come from without but within.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sean Rodriguez, right, is congratulated by Brandon Wood after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, June 1, 2008, in Anaheim, Calif.

By Chuck Richter - Senior Editor

This next Spring Training in March of 2008 will mark the 3 year anniversary that Tony Reagins, the newly appointed General Manager of the Los Angeles Angels, opened his office to David Kellams & myself to interview 6 prospects that were in camp that day. Brandon Wood, Kevin Jepsen, Mark Trumbo, Sean Rodriguez, Warner Madrigal & Baltazar Lopez were all enjoyable interviews and solid people.

One thing is for certain in my chat with Tony Reagins that day, he runs a tight ship there and the players respect him. His knowledge of the game and his friendly personality not only gives me fond memories of that day in Mesa Arizona, but it also impressed upon me that this is a people person, one that should have no problems working successfully with opposing General Managers.

Nearly 3 years later it's time to dust off the interview sheets and transfer them onto the Blog. It's worth noting that this was the spring before Brandon Wood went on a tear in High-A Ball for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes clubbing 43 Home Runs with 115 RBI's, leading the minors in total bases. Since then the former #1 pick of the Angels in the 2003 amateur draft went on to become the #1 Prospect of the L.A. Angels.

Sean Rodriguez followed an average 2005 season with a stellar 2006 campaign slugging 29 Home Runs between two stops (High-A and Double-A) while hitting over .300, catapulting Sean Rodriguez into the Angels top 10 prospect list. With no disrespect to any of the other fine players I've interviewed, Sean was the best player interview I've ever done! What a humble individual with a passion for the game. Sean will not only be an asset to a club with his baseball skills, but also a blessing to the manager and teammates in the clubhouse.

Kevin Jepsen, a hard throwing right-handed starter that posted a fantastic season at Cedar Rapids in 2004 with a 3.43 ERA in 27 starts, has since been moved to the bullpen after struggling with arm injuries, trying to regain the velocity that had him throwing in the mid-to-high 90's at one point. Jepsen was tagged by some scouts as a future potential front-line starter or back end reliever down the road. Interviews (2005 Mesa, AZ camp)

Brandon Wood, L.A. Angels – Interview
Wood_Brandon.jpg picture by chuckster70

Q: ( When did you start playing baseball?

A: (Brandon Wood) I started playing t-ball when I was five years old - my grandparents were always at my games.

Q: ( Who was the most influential in your pursuit to the big leagues?

A: (Brandon Wood) My parents have been the most influential people; they really pushed me and made some big sacrifices financially to help me.

Q: ( What baseball player was your favorite growing up?

A: (Brandon Wood) Derek Jeter. I was a Yankee fan. My dad brainwashed me.

Q: ( Team you followed growing up?

A: (Brandon Wood) New York Yankees

Q: ( Best 1-game performance in your career to date?

A: (Brandon Wood) Any game at Ogden! I didn’t hit a lot of homeruns last year, but it seemed like I always hit one when we played there. I also had a walk off HR in Cedar Rapids which was pretty cool.

Q: ( What part of your game needs the most improvement?

A: (Brandon Wood) I think every minor leaguer should be working on every aspect of his game, but for me specifically; I need to be more consistent with the bat and cut down on strike-outs by putting the ball in play more.

Q: ( What aspect of your game do you take the most pride in?

A: (Brandon Wood) My glove work, in fact from the time I was eight years old, I always took my glove with me to the park to take groundballs.

Q: ( If there is one thing people should know about Brandon Wood the person, it is?

A: (Brandon Wood) I’m very laid back and love playing the game. I enjoy being a part of the team – in the minors, if you're not making friends, it's tough. I have fun with the Latin players and when we hang out I try to find ways to communicate with them because my Spanish is not that good.

The lighter side of Brandon Wood

Q: (’s your favorite food?

A: (Brandon Wood) Mexican food

Q: ( What kind of music do you listen to?

A: (Brandon Wood)
What’s in your CD player right now? -Country music

Q: ( What’s your all time favorite movie? –

A: (Brandon Wood) Brave heart and Old School

Q: ( Most visited website?

A: (Brandon Wood) I'm computer illiterate - I have no idea!

Q: ( What do you like to do besides play baseball, what’s your hobby?

A: (Brandon Wood) I like fishing and hunting and video games - they help pass time on the road, but there's too many buttons.

Q: ( What person are you going to call first when you get promoted to the big leagues?

A: (Brandon Wood) Mom and Dad, no question.


Sean Rodriguez, L.A. Angels - Interview
Rodriguez_Sean.jpg picture by chuckster70

Q: ( did you start playing baseball?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) When I was 5 or 6 years old! I played coach-pitch my first year.

Q: ( Who was the most influential in your pursuit to the big leagues?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) God!!! He’s is the reason I am where I am today, he has blessed me so much so I have to say its God that has been the most influential. I wouldn’t have stayed on the right path otherwise. My parents have had a big influence as well.

Q: ( What baseball player was your favorite growing up?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Omar Vizquel and Alex Cora!. When I was at the University of Miami he’d (Alex Cora) come out and help me when I was on the field with my defensive woes or if he noticed something I was doing wrong. Right in the middle of the game, mind you.

Q: ( Team you followed growing up?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Well it used to the Yankees when I was younger but I really don’t like what they are all about now. So currently my favorite team is the Florida Marlins. Mainly because it’s where I am from and I like their club.

Q: ( Best 1-game performance in your career to date?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Well, can’t remember one game but in one week in early august I went 13-for-25 for an average of .520. I hit three home runs, drove in ten runs, and crossed the plate ten times.

Q: ( What part of your game needs the most improvement?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) My mental approach! I used to get down after I had a bad game and I my dad would remind me that I need to get over it, put my trust in God and focus on the day at hand instead of worrying about yesterday.

Q: ( What aspect of your game do you take the most pride in?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Definitely versatility and my defensive! I want to be ready to play anywhere at anytime if the ball club needs me at a particular position. If I can play a lot of positions (I can play all infield and outfield positions now) it will boost my stock and expedite my path to the big leagues. If I hit and the manager knows I can play anywhere he’ll find a place for me in the lineup.

Q: ( If there is one thing people should know about Sean Rodriguez the person, it is?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) My relationship with God. He is the reason I am here today, he is the reason for my ability to play the game of baseball. I want to give glory to him for every good thing that I accomplish. I kneel at the position I am playing before each inning and say a quick prayer to God.

The lighter side of Sean Rodriguez

Q: ( What’s your favorite food?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) A Cuban dish that consists of chicken and rice with Cuban spices. Yum!! I like Mexican food as well.

Q: ( What kind of music do you listen to? What’s in your CD player right now?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Michael W. Smith. I also like other Christian artists, gospel and trance music.

Q: ( What’s your all time favorite movie?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Bad boys and the entire Rocky Series. When I hear that song, “Eye of the Tiger” it gets me fired up for the game.

Q: ( Most visited website?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Don’t usually go online much except to check my bank account and to send email to my family and friends.

Q: ( What do you like to do besides play baseball, what’s your hobby?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Workout, hang out with friends but really, just prepare for the next day and game mentally and physically.

Q: ( What person are you going to call first when you get promoted to the big leagues?

A: (Sean Rodriguez) Definitely my parents or if I can’t get them, my brother who’s a catcher in the Washington Nationals organization. My dad is a coach for the Florida Marlins as well.


Kevin Jepsen, L.A. Angels, Interview
KevinJepsen.jpg picture by chuckster70

Q: ( When did you start playing baseball?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) I began playing t-ball at the age of six.

Q: ( Who was the most influential in your pursuit to the big leagues?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) My dad has helped me the most in my pursuit of making it to the bigs. My dad was always carting me and his two sisters to our respective sporting events year round. In my freshman year, I was a tight end/defensive end on the football team, but that's my his football career ended. Beginning my sophomore year I played baseball exclusively.

Q: ( What baseball player was your favorite growing up?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) Loved watching Barry Bonds and Will Clark.

Q: ( Team you followed growing up? Growing up I followed the Giants (living in Reno made that pretty easy).

A: (Kevin Jepsen) Best 1-game performance in your career to date? In Cedar Rapids last year I tossed a 1 hit complete game shutout. Struck out 10

Q: ( What part of your game needs the most improvement?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) I feel that I need to work most on my command of my pitches and keeping the pitch count low, which will allow him to work deeper into games.

Q: ( What aspect of your game do you take the most pride in?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) I think my greatest asset is my fastball velocity. My fastball is clocked in the mid-nineties and has hit 98 mph on the radar gun before. I like to keep hitters off balance with my change-up that sits in the 85-86 mph range. I am working on a slider that I feel will be a very good pitch in the future but it still needs some work command-wise.

Q: ( If there is one thing people should know about Kevin Jepsen the person, it is?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) The one part of my personality people should know is that I just love having fun playing ball. I am pretty laid back, like to hang out with friends and listen to music. I am not high strung.

The lighter side of Kevin Jepsen

Q: ( What’s your favorite food?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) My favorite food is Mexican. I could eat it everyday.

Q: ( What kind of music do you listen to? What’s in your CD player right now?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) I really enjoy country music, but find time to mix in The Eagles as well.

Q: ( What’s your all time favorite movie?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) My favorite comedy movie is Dumb & Dumber and his favorite action movie is the Boon dock Saints.

Q: ( Most visited website?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) I usually don’t have time to go online but when I do it’s mostly to do my online banking.

Q: ( What do you like to do besides play baseball, what’s your hobby?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) When I am not working out at the Mesa facility I like playing golf.

Q: ( What person are you going to call first when you get promoted to the big leagues?

A: (Kevin Jepsen) When I get the call to the big club the first person I am calling will be his mom who still Lives in Reno.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

By Brian Ilten - Contributor

OK, so it has been a week. You could call it a time of mourning or grieving, a time of reflection or self evaluation; it could even be called a time of detoxification. I often explain that the Angels are my drug, and every addict, needs to come down sometime especially after a 162 game binge.

Unlike past seasons, while I was tempted to jump right into the fray spewing my opinions and numerous excuses and writing epitaphs on an otherwise successful season, I decided to take this time to really examine the team and try to figure out what went wrong.

What I found was that it wasn't the lack of home field advantage, or Lackey starting in Fenway where he has a career ERA the size of the national debt. It wasn't Sciosica’s lineup or his lack of managing, hell he managed game 2 like I have never seen him manage before. And no matter what anyone says, it wasn’t the injuries. Every team is banged up come October to some degree. This team was banged up all year and was still able to win 94 games. Depth was our strong point, so the injury excuse doesn’t fly here. I will even argue that it wasn’t the fact that we didn’t have a big bat to protect Vlad Guerrero.

The missing element started to become clear to me at the end of game 2. As Manny came to bat, any honest Angel fan would have to admit that the thought ran through you at the time, that perhaps it would be better not to look – as if a part of you knew what was going to happen. I did look, and in watching my eyes began to open. As quick as that ball left the bat, and subsequently the park, and the atmosphere with Manny raising his arms, the answer began to become clear.

The Angels lack swagger.

It is not enough to have the ability to change a game or series with the single swing of a bat. We have that in Vlad Guerrrero – arguably one of the most respected offensive players of our time. No, it is the ability to come to the plate knowing you can do so. This is what the Red Sox have that we do not. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are undeniably the most formidable one-two punch in any major league lineup. They are not only capable of turning a game around, more importantly and more dangerously, they know they are capable of that. It is why they are so hated by all those outside of Boston and why they have endeared themselves to Red Sox Nation. Not only can they do it – they will do it. They have done it with such regularity that it is almost expected that at some point in a game, one or both of them will strike. They are patient and work with precision at their craft. We hate them, because they can. We hate them, because we can’t.

The Angels’ and their fans are one week into the offseason and already there are hundreds of opinions on who should stay, who should go, and who should be brought in. The names being brought up are a virtual who’s who of the baseball world each with their own resume of offensive stats and or potential. For me it’s a bit too early to really pin point exact names and their availability. That will come in time. Honestly, I am not sure that the complete player that the Angels need is even out there.

But my suggestion is that whoever is brought in, the missing element that must be found needs to have a little bit of swagger. That someone should be capable of walking or strutting with a defiant or insolent air. That someone should be capable of breeding that same attitude in an Angel team that lacks a true leader. Someone not only capable of improving our lineup, but more importantly and more dangerously, someone who knows he can… and will.

Friday, October 12, 2007

By Sean Scanlon - Columnist

Going in to the 2007 offseason the biggest question facing the Angel’s is who will man the front office. Bill Stoneman, or someone else. Until Bill’s fate is determined, the course of this franchise and upcoming player transactions are really nothing but mindless speculation.

Under Stoneman the Angels’ philosophy has been to build from within, using young cheap talent from the farm system, augmented by more expensive free agent signings to fill holes. Using a model made popular by Cleveland in the late 90’s and Atlanta for a decade the Angel’s have been able to rebuild from within while remaining competitive and competing annually for the postseason. For the first time in the Angel’s history they’ve stayed with a single philosophy rather than jumping between rebuilding/free spending and have reaped the rewards. But at the same time the Angels have failed to reach the next level since 2002…a year that came out of nowhere.

Debated endlessly on the message boards, newspapers, and talk radio I won’t spend too much time on the pros and cons of Bill, but there are some things worth mentioning.


During Bill’s tenure he’s appeared unwilling to part with young talent and has been accused of overvaluing prospects. A notorious no nonsense negotiator each trade deadline Angel fans act like children on Christmas morning running down to see what Santa has brought…only to find white socks and underwear (and seriously…clothes are not Christmas presents folks…useless Chinese made lead laden toys are the ticket to your child’s heart!).

An argument can also be made that Bill has been ignorantly stubborn in addressing the most glaring Angel need, power in the lineup. Whether it’s a trade that has fallen through or a free-agent the Angel’s have targeted and been unable to sign, one could say that Bill does not have backup plans if Plan A or B goes awry.

Bill has also swung and missed at a few free-agent signings, including Steve Finley and Shea Hillenbrand, saddling the Angel’s with large payroll commitments to players who eventually end up in the NL West.

The biggest complaint most have regarding Bill is his lack of high profile trades (and this is usually where I would refer to folks wanting to show up on the ESPN trade rumors page…but I’ll refrain…I’m trying to sound impartial).


If the ultimate success or failure of a team is based on their on field performance (as compared to the transaction/rumor pages) it’s hard to argue with Bill’s performance. A world series title in 2002, AL west titles in 2004, 05, 07, and a franchise first 4 straight winning seasons.

Bill has also taken an organization that was in turmoil post 99, had the worst farm system in all of baseball, and appeared to be a ship headed towards the rocky coastline without a captain, and helped provide stability. His signing of Mike Scioscia turned out to be brilliant, he helped convince Tony Tavares and Disney that a) blowing up the franchise was a bad idea (anyone remember Tony the Tiger’s quote “why can’t you trade all 26 guys?) and b) that to rebuild the Angels needed to start from the bottom up. Holding firm with the existing team in 99 directly led to the world series title in 2002 and the Angel’s now have one of the top farm-systems in all of baseball. A young crop of talent that looks like they can provide a foundation of championship contending teams for years to come.

When you compare the franchise from post 99 to now, it’s hard to question the job Stoneman and company have done.

Moving Forward

Ok, given the keys to a late model Chevrolet Bill has helped the Angels trade up to a brand new Ferrari. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean Bill is the right person to lead the franchise forward. The Angel’s are no longer a small market club, they have much larger aspirations, one of the best owners in the game, and a loaded organization both financially and talent wise.

The biggest question Arte Moreno needs to ask himself is what next. Does he prefer a franchise that is going to compete for the playoffs year in and year out, or does he want to become a win at all costs organization, willing to trade the future and potentially experience some down years for a perceived better chance at a ring. This is not to say there can not be a balance, and that is where most of the criticism towards Bill is directly, and probably rightfully so.

In answering this question I think it’s interesting to look at some of the more successful organizations right now, including the Red Sox and Yankees…no longer are they willing to trade young talent for a quick, expensive, fix. Teams have taken an approach similar to the Angels, build from within (especially with cheap young arms). Look at 3 of 4 of the LCS, the Rockies, DBacks, and Cleveland are all teams that have been built from the ground up with young home grown talent, sprinkled with veteran talent. The days of trading 3 prospects for an aging 1-2 year rental appear to be long gone. To me this is telling in that a number of franchises are coming to the same conclusion, and are successful doing it.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what about the Halos and Bill Stoneman. Can he be the man to take the Angel’s from annual playoff contender to becoming an elite franchise that is winning the world series on a regular basis? And to be honest I’m not sure there is a GM who can guarantee that. Personally, I think he’s done a wonderful job in building up the franchise, these really are the golden years or Angel baseball…but at the same time in hindsight you can point to specifics where if Bill had been more willing to part with young talent the Angels might have another World Series trophy in the glass case.

You also have to look at who would the Angels go out and get to replace Bill. Names like Walt Jockety (no thanks…that franchise is a mess and the trade of Haren/Barton for Mulder set that franchise back significantly), John Schuerholz (which cracks me up no end…folks want Stoneman let go because the Angels are the “new Braves”…so let’s go get the Braves GM), some young up and comer (which I would not be comfortable with at all…you have no idea what you are going to get and the Angel’s are a very stable franchise and don’t need to experiment), or do you promote a guy like Ken Forsch and maintain a modicum of stability and someone who knows the organization.

Ultimately it’s hard to argue the success that Bill and this organization have had over the years. He deserves the chance to continue forward if he so chooses, but the rope is starting to get shorter and Bill needs to make some changes in his playbook, looking to deal young talent occasionally to fill some holes. I think one of the most challenging jobs a GM has is to balance when to move veterans, when to promote farm hands, and determine which farm hands are going to be big leaguers and which are going to be busts. That’s the job Bill has in front of him and has to show he can handle. 2007 was really the first evidence the Angel’s were going to have success with the young farm hands, whether or not they take the next step in 2008 will go along way towards determining the ultimate success or failure of Stoneman’s tenure. Bill should be offered the opportunity to return (and from reports I’ve read Arte has basically said it’s up to Bill to decide). Instead of a 3 yr. commitment, the Angels may offer up a year at a time scenario where the next GM becomes more apparent. If they think that guy is Ken Forsch, then he’s already in place. If they think it’s someone else from outside the organization, than bring him in now to work under Bill and get comfortable with the fabulous framework that has been set up.

Next up…well, I have a few list of things but will probably take a break for a few days. Enjoy the weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

By Sean Scanlon - Columnist

Part 3 of the Red’s 2007 Season Recap (Part 1 – pitching, Part 2 – infield)

If the Angel’s infield is where the young bucks reside, the emerald green (actually, I’m a tad bit color blind so for all I know it could be Kentucky bluegrass green) Angel Stadium outfield is where the grizzled, and hobbled, vets reside. Led by future hall of famer Vlad Guerrero most of the Angel pop resides in the outfield, and most of next year’s roster questions also reside in the outfield as well.

Without further machinations let’s get to it.

Vlad Guerrero A- - Another spectacular year from what should be the first hall of famer to be inducted wearing a Halo. Vlad is the straw that stirs the Angel’s drink, the man, the wonder, the freak who has never seen a pitch he won’t hack at. While noticeably hobbled Vlad continues to put up dominating numbers, near the league lead in most offensive categories. Watching Vlad hobble around the bases, questions start to arise; have those years playing on the concrete turf of Montreal started to catch up with Vlad, how long will his knees hold up? Moving forward I think you’ll start to see Vlad spend more time at the DH position as his bat will continue to be a critical factor in the Angel’s offensive production.

Another question has also reared its ugly head. Does Mike Scioscia’s edict that the Angel’s will not retaliate make Vlad a human bulls-eye? Seeing as the league will not take matters in to their own hands I think it’s time for the Angel’s to revisit this policy. If opposing teams know their star players can expect some nice backside bruises, it might afford some protection to the increasing number of pitches that “accidentally” end up around Vlad’s head. It’s nice and dandy to be good sports and all Mike, but enough is enough.

Garret AndersonD/A - In Angel's land there are two rites of spring…pitchers and catchers reporting and wondering what ailment will slow GA during the upcoming year. For a man who has arguably been the greatest career Angel of all-time (notice I said arguably), more "discussions" have occurred about GA and his abilities than Erstad and his grittiness. Starting the year knicked up, once again GA seemed destined to end up back on the DL and leave the Angel’s without a presence behind Vlad…and then suddenly out of nowhere, as if Scioscia lit up the bat signal (available for $9.98 at your local costume shop), the GA of old appeared. Hitting the ball out of the park, hustling down the line (some may say he never actually did that before), driving in was 2002 all over again. Until the whole cyclops incident that is.

So now the question begs…who is the real GA? The dinged up grizzled vet who has more desire than ability or the middle of the order run producer we saw down the stretch? A huge question moving forward, though my expectation is that GA will be penciled in to the LF/DH role next year. I can already see the arguments…Scioscia only likes vets and why won’t GA do what’s best for the team on the right…look what happened last year on the left…let the dead horse beating begin, there is no surer sign of spring in Haloville!

Gary MatthewsC – Probably the most controversial free-agent signing in recent Angel's history, and that was before allegations of HGH use. Destined to become the new Erstad whipping boy in the near future Gary’s first year with the Halos had mixed results. Defensively Gary was close to as advertised, chasing balls down in the gaps and making numerous game saving plays. There are statheads who will throw out zone rating, Pythagorean theorem’s and Capt. Cheeze Whiz’s defensive twister percentages…but the reality is Gary played a solid center field especially when you consider the two aging warriors to his left and right.

At the plate was another story, Gary’s average was below his career year in Texas, but his number's weren’t atrocious. If he can provide solid defense and similar offensive numbers the next 2-3 years the Angel’s won’t be getting a bargain for their 10 million…but they won’t be getting ripped off either (hey Finley…feel guilty enough to send back some of that cash yet?). And for those hang wrining about the 5 yr. you really think it's a coincidence only the first three years include a no trade clause?

Reggie WillitsB – A surprise starter at the beginning of the year when GA was slowed out of the gate, Reggie Willits opened a lot of eyes. His patient approach, Elvis like sneer and grit factor won a lot of fans (as the Reggie…Reggie…Reggie…chants will attest). Tapering off towards the end of the year as teams learned their best bet was to throw the ball down the middle of the plate and make him swing, Reggie still had a solid first year. Roaming the outfield is another issue…his routes and reads are definitely below average and he relies on his speed to make up for mistakes. This is a definite downside, making it hard to envision Reggie as a 4th outfielder…if he’s a defensive liability. But, with his work ethic, I would hope he could improve in those areas.

What is the future for Reggie? To be honest I’m not sure. He’s an Orlando Palmiero type of 4th outfielder who can play all the outfield positions (but none of them all that well). Reggie’s future with the Angels is most likely tied to who they pursue during the offseason. If the Angels bring in a power bat it will be in the OF or at 3b (which would move Figgins to the OF), meaning Reggie’s days with the Halos could be numbered.

Nathan HaynesB – I know, a B for Haynes is ridiculous, but seriously…that’s simply for his helping out Figgins. The Curtis Pride feel good story of the year, Nathan was the “oh yeah, he’s still on the roster” guy. Lightening fast with a solid glove, we didn’t see much from Nathan at the plate this year. I actually don’t expect to see him with the Halos next year, but he’ll be a nice role player, 4th outfielder, for some team next year.

Juan RiveraINC – After a solid 2006 year the Angel’s had penciled in Juan to be a power bat in the lineup, only to see him go down late in Winter ball with a horrific broken leg (leading to the signing of Shea Hillenbrand (ha...who saw that link coming?)…for that he should get an F!). A big question surrounds Juan, going in to 2008 do you pencil in Juan as a corner OF’er/DH? Or, is he a valuable trade commodity who can be packaged with an arm?

Terry EvansC – Another career minor leaguer who seemed to find himself last year with St.Louis (as well as provide a moment of comedy as his dad was caught videotaping his first big league homerun). He provides a nice arm in the outfield with some pop, but really doesn’t figure in to the Halos long term plans in the outfield unless something changes.

Tommy Murphy – D – My choice for breakout player of the year (which is why he gets a D...make me look stupid will you) Tommy lost out to Reggie coming out of spring training and then saw Reggie grab the bull by the horns and win a big league job when GA went down. Probably one of the best defensive outfielder’s in the Angel’s system the same problems he had as a no-hit shortstop in the minors plague him still…he still can’t hit. Another guy who could probably catch on with another team as a 4th/5th outfielder.

Overall Outfield Grade – B-

Outside of Vlad, and solid half seasons from GA (second half) and Reggie (first half) the Angels offensive production from the outfield was hit and miss. Time will tell about the GMJ contract, and questions exist about who the real GA is. I wouldn’t expect much to change with the Angel’s outfield next year as their hands are somewhat tied unless the Angel’s do some very surprising things. Next year’s most likely scenario is who will man the DH/corner OF role with Vlad and GA…Rivera or Figgins.

This concludes my three part analysis of the Angel’s 2007 season that was. Oh, don't cry...Next up we'll start on moving forward and 2008, with the first question probably setting the tone for this offseason….to Bill or not to Bill....check in, you may be surprised! (but probably not).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

By Sean Scanlon - Columnist

Part 2 of Red’s 2007 season recap. (pitching can be found here)

Going in to the 2007 season the big question was…who was going to provide some pop and protect Vlad in the lineup. For the most part, neither of those questions were answered, and a third was added…when were the Angels going to protect Vlad from becoming a human bullseye. But it’s safe to say the Angels exceeded even the most optimistic projections offensively. Built on an aggressive approach at the plate, putting the ball in play, situational hitting, and speed on the bases the Angels confounded the stathead community by finishing 4th in the AL in offensive output. As Rex and Hud liked to point out repeatedly…over and over…again and again…continuously…the Angels led the league in going first to third. Important? Yes…but really guys…we get it.

Unfortunately for Halo fans, ultimately the Angels offensive philosophy finished with a resounded implosion as their inability to hit with runners in scoring position meant a quick exit in the playoffs. After three quick playoff exits in the last 4 years, does this mean the Halos offensive philosophy is a non-starter? Well, that’s a nice topic for another post…someone get on it.

Let’s break things down a little more…we’ll start with the infield today and move on to the outfield tomorrow (or the day after...or sometime in the future...I do have a job).

Mike NapoliC – Never projected to be a big offensive force behind the plate Mike didn’t disappoint…he wasn’t a big offensive force behind the plate. He provides occasional pop and some nice plate discipline, but he’s never going to hit for average and is very streaky. Behind the plate Mike continued to make solid strides, though he needs to work on his throwing as clubs ran rampant on Mike, especially during the beginning of the year. Going in to his third year this is probably what we can expect from Mike, a decent major league catcher.

Jeff MathisC – After a disastrous 2006 campaign where Jeff was returned to Salt Lake for being downright awful (both defensively and offensively) Jeff returned due to injuries and appeared to have made some strides. Jeff has a fantastic arm that he is not afraid to show off and calls a good game. At the plate Jeff brings back unfond memories of no hit all defensive catchers of days gone by. Long term Jeff may improve at the plate, but he’ll never be confused with Johnny Bench.

Casey KotchmanC+ - 2005…06…I mean 07 was supposed to be Casey’s break out year. After missing most of 06 due to, hell…how do you explain mono? I mean…have you ever heard of a pro athlete going down with mono? Oh well…After a 2006 Casey returned and didn’t embarrass himself. At one point in the season prior to being beaned with a pickoff throw Casey appeared to be the missing bat behind Vlad, only to struggle when he returned from a concussion. I also think he tends to be a very streaky hitter…when he’s on the line drives pound the gap and he can hit some monstrous shots…when he’s off you can just write down 4-3 in the scorebook. The big question re: Casey is will power develop or will he be Mark Grace? On a team lacking power Mark Grace isn’t really the best option. My guess, Casey continues to make strides and the power develops, .310, to 20-25 bombs is within his reach.

Howie KendrickB – For stretches this year we all saw what the scouts have been raving about, Howie is a hit machine. Still prone to chasing breaking pitches, Howie needs to work on his plate discipline. He also struggled hitting with runners in scoring position. Personally I expect Howie to win a few batting titles, hit at the top of the lineup, and be an Angel stalwart at second for years to come.

Orlando CabreraA – You could make the case he was the Angel MVP this year. A career year offensively, and a gold glove caliber year in the field. I would not expect a repeat performance from OC at the plate and the Angels brass needs to think long and hard about his future with the team. He’s not getting any younger and can be expected to regress at the plate. Do you block a talent like Wood or sign OC to a 2-3 year extension? OC’s performance in 08 will go a long ways towards determining what the Angels do in that regards.

Chone FigginsA- - Chone really should have been considered for the comeback player of the year award, not just from his lackluster 06 campaign…but just for how he started 07. At one point he probably wasn’t hitting his weight and he went on a year long tear starting in mid May finishing in the top 10 in AL batting. Was it a career year? Personally, I’m not so sure, his improvements weren’t due to being lucky, or just hot…but a whole new approach at the plate. Suddenly Chone started to lay off pitches, drove the ball to LF, and stopped trying to yank the ball out of the park. He may not be at 3rd next year, but I would expect Chone to be the leadoff hitter come April 08 for the Halos.

Maicer ItzurisB+ - Folks laughed when they saw Maicer penciled in at the #5 slot to open the postseason, but his .400 average with runners in scoring position was best on the team (actually, I didn’t check…but I’m guessing). Maicer also was the most productive hitter in the Angel’s lineup during the postseason hitting .333 with an .833 OPS. A solid utility guy who could start for a lot of teams, don’t be surprised if his name appears in lots of trade rumors this offseason.

Robb QuinlanC – More useless hand wringing occurred over Robb than any player on the Angels come post season roster time. What does Robb provide? A solid right handed bat who can play the corners and hit lefties (though he did struggle some this year). Signed to a reasonable deal next year expect Robb to play a key role on the bench next year.

Kendry MoralesC+ - Kendry had some fantastic moments for the Halos this year, with a key 2 run dinger in early May vs. the Indians in a game that helped set the Angels season straight. He also returned from Salt Lake and immediately went on an offensive tear and looked like he could provide some pop come post-season. Alas, Vlad’s injury threw a monkey wrench in to those plans, as Kendry drew the short straw and returned to the bench so Vlad could DH. Finally showing signs that he could be the impact back the Angels have long thought he could be (hey, did you know he defected from Cuba?) he should be given an opportunity to win a regular job with the Halos next season. Expect Kendry to spend lots of time playing winter ball in LF and RF (and really, have they given up on the 3b idea?).

Erick AybarC- - Erick started off the season getting thrown out twice trying to steal ending ball-games. And that was the highlight! Kidding. Erick showed flashes of brilliance with the glove and that he could be a solid utility guy. Does he still project as a top-tier major league short stop? I don’t think so. He needs to spend some time with Nathan Haynes to work on his approach ala Figgins.

Brandon WoodC – Only mentioned because he will play prominent in upcoming decisions. Is he the real deal? Can he be a .280/30hr hitter in the middle of the order? During his brief callups Brandon didn’t show much. He played solid defense but didn’t necessarily impress at the plate. I would expect Brandon to start 08 in Salt Lake where he needs to work on his plate discipline and continue to cut down on his strikeouts.

Season Grade: B (not counting the postseason)

To wrap it up, the Angels infield had a solid year, with guys like Figgins and OC providing the spark for the Angel’s offense. Howie showed flashes of brilliance and why he can be considered a future batting title winner and middle of the order presence. Questions going in to the offseason still exist though. Is Kotchman the long term answer at first base and will he develop the power needed from a first baseman? Will Figgins stay at 3rd or be moved to the OF in place of a monster bat (cough…arod…cough)? Does Wood work his way in to the lineup anytime soon? How do you get AB’s for Kendry? Do I know these answers? Nope…that’s why I’m not on the Halos payroll (or get paid to write for this blog).

Next up…the Angels Outfield

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

By Sean Scanlon - Columnist

So, now that you’ve had a chance to soak up my brilliant analysis (editor’s note…what a jackarse) of the 2007 postseason that abruptly wasn’t, let’s take a deeper look at the 2007 in general, and what it potentially tells us about the Angels moving forward to 2008. I’m not going to get in to deep statistical analysis, there’s plenty of people who can do that and personally if I wanted to spend all day looking at stats I would have stuck with engineering in college instead of drinking and chasing skirts.

In today’s edition of Red’s 2007 Season Analysis we shall start with pitching. Why? Because it's my posting and I can do what I want. (As you’ll see, there are a lot of B’s…which I think is appropriate. For the most part the Angel pitching was above average and not spectacular).

Projections called for the Angels to be one of the elite staffs from top to bottom in all of baseball. Outstanding seasons from Lackey and Escobar helped at the front-end, but it’s safe to say the Angels did not necessarily get what they were looking for from the bottom of the rotation in guys like Colon and Santana. Overall the Angels starting staff was solid, kept the team in games, and at the end of the season was considered one of the deepest in the AL.

The bullpen, a stalwart of Angel teams past, was brilliant to start the season but down the stretch slumped and is probably one of the biggest off-season questions for the Halos moving forward.

The Starters

John Lackey A+ - 2007 was the year Lackey became the ace many thought he could be, leading the AL in era and finishing just shy of the 20 win mark (thanks bullpen!). With a free and easy throwing motion there is no reason to believe John won’t continue to be one of the top starters in the AL and a regular contender for the Cy Young.

Kelvim EscobarA+ - Kelvim also harnessed his lofty abilities and could easily be considered 1A on the Halos staff, making Stoneman look like a genius for signing him to a below market extension. But, unlike Lackey, there are still questions regarding Kelvim and his on-going health. Knee and shoulder injuries sidelined Kelvim for brief periods and unless he finds GMJ’s magic pouch you have to expect he is going to continue to be sidelined in the future as he gets older. I would still project him to be a mainstay in the Angel rotation and one of the top starters in the AL.

Jered WeaverB – Jered had a solid second season as he started to make adjustments, as the league made adjustments to him. I would no longer consider him a top of the rotation guy, but he looks to be a solid #3 starter in the bigs. Concerns have arisen as Jered seemed to lose velocity at times during the year and also experienced some shoulder issues. Jered admits coming in to the 07 camp out of shape which led to him missing a few starts to miss the year and may have contributed to the decreased velocity. Jered’s off-season assignment…get your arse in shape and stop hanging out with Deion Sanders.

Joe SaundersB – Saunders showed that he belongs in the bigs and can be a nice change of pace guy who can win 12+ games a year while eating up innings. Extra credit goes to Joe for keeping his head while on the Salt Lake shuttle. Moving forward, unless he’s part of a trade, I would expect Joe to settle in to a bottom of the rotation role for the Halos and break camp…wearing Halo red instead of that funny looking Salt Lake Bees cap.

Bartolo ColonF - The less said about Bartolo Colon the better…but I wish him well pitching for Tampa Bay next year. Florida all you can eat restaurants…you’ve been warned.

Ervin SantanaD- - And as for Ervin…Ervin…Ervin…Ervin…such a tease. You flash those legs and…sorry, wrong thread. So much potential, so young, and yet he continues to implode. Going in to 2008 that is going to be a huge question for the Halos. I think this is a nice topic for further discussion later in the year.

Overall starters grade: B


Frankie RodriguezB – Absolutely dominating in the first half…with some struggles in the second half. The league is on to Frankie and unless he begins to control his fastball it’s going to be another year of high-wire acts for the Halos. To be effective Frankie needs to use his devastating slider and when he can’t control his fastball teams have learned to lay off that pitch. Maybe the biggest question going in to the off-season…what to do about Frankie?

Scot ShieldsC – This might be a little harsh as Scot was nails in the beginning of the year but looked like a completely different pitcher late in the year. This grade is more of a reflection on comparing Scot to his past performance. Is he worn down or is this just a mechanical issue? More than anyone I think Scot missed Bud Black this year and hopefully, with time, Mike Butcher will get on the same page with Scot. Scot’s troubles at the tail end of this year also play in to any discussion regarding Frankie’s future as his 4 yr. deal was done in part to give the Angels some cushion if they decided to part ways with Frankie in the upcoming years.

Justin SpeierB – Probably Stoneman’s best off-season signing Justin came down with a mysterious illness (folks…stay away from Kotchman!) early in the season. But overall he did a solid job in the setup role and looks like he could be a solid bullpen man, and even close if required.

Darren OliverF/A- - Darren really deserves two grades. The first half of the season he was a candidate for a death pool…but he suddenly found the fountain of youth and was a completely different pitcher the second half of the year, showing the ability to be a situational guy as well as eat up middle relief innings. As he reached his appearance clause he’ll be a welcome returnee to the Halo bullpen next year at a reasonable cost.

Dustin MoselyB- - Thrust in to a starting role early in the season due to injuries…and then in to a setup role when Speier went down, Dustin had a solid season for the Halos. As the season wore on, Dustin’s performance became a bit erratic. Overall it was a solid season for Dustin who looks like he could be a decent middle relief guy for the Halos or have some value on the trade market as he could start for many teams in the league who suck.

Chris BootchekB- - In reality he gets extra credit for his perseverance. Left off the Angels 40 man roster he easily could have left with his tail between his legs and caught on with one of the AAAA teams in the league. Instead he decided to recommit himself and show the Angels he had what it takes. Sporting a 94mph fastball, with little to no movement, if Chris isn’t hitting his spots he gets lit up. Probably nothing more than a middle of the pen type of guy he adds nice depth.

The Salt Lake Crew – Throughout the year various guys were called up to add depth to the pen. Frankly, none of the callups made you stand up and say “wow” and you wouldn’t necessarily expect any of them to push their way in to the bullpen next year without improvement. Two candidates who could be considered for the 2008 pen include Rich Thompson, who has a nice fastball (which is straight as an arrow at times) and Jason Bulger who has fantastic movement, but can’t throw strikes consistently.

Overall Bullpen Grade: B

What the Future Holds

I’ll regale everyone with my thoughts on 2008 later, but just some quick musing on the future of the Halo staff (which are likely to change).

From a starter’s standpoint the Angels are well set for 2008. The biggest question will be what to do with Ervin and do the Angels need to part with a guy like Saunders in order to bring in a bat. But experience tells us the staff is pretty much set. Lackey, Escobar, Weaver, Saunders and most likely Santana or a veteran brought in to provide depth if the Angels have lost all faith in Ervin. Dustin Mosely could be given an opportunity as well, but the reality is he is nothing more than a swing guy on this club. The wildcard is Nick Adenhart, who most likely will start the season in AAA and could be on the Joe Saunders frequent flier program next year.

The bullpen is really where the Angels have the most questions next year pitching wise, and those questions revolve around the two biggest locks going in to the 2007. What are the Angels going to do with Frankie? Does he warrant a long-term commitment or is he the chip you use to bring in a bat? Will Scot regain his form? Could Scot or Justin handle the closer’s role if Frankie is sent packing? Is Bootchek more than a middle relief arm? Do the Angels have faith that someone from the Salt Lake crew could step up or do they sign another veteran free agent? If there are any significant changes in the Angels pitching staff, this is where you will see it happen.

Next stop…the Angels 2007 offense…”Bill doesn’t dig the longball”…

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