Sunday, March 30, 2008

By Geoff Bilau, Senior Editor

By now, most Angels fans can recite Rory Markas’ call verbatim:

“Here’s the pitch to Lofton. Fly ball, center field. Erstad says he’s got it. Erstaaaaaad MAKES THE CATCH! The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball!”

When the Angels’ unofficial team captain settled under and clasped his glove around that most precious of final outs, it was the culmination of many things: an incredible World Series comeback; a riveting postseason run; an unprecedented 99 win regular season; the antidote for heartbreaking collapses in 1995, 1986 and 1982; a delivery on the promise of 1979; and the realization of a dream first dared to be dreamt in 1961.

The textbook version is simply that the Angels reached the pinnacle of their sport 42 seasons after their pursuit began. But to the fans, players, coaches and front office people who followed the Angels for any significant amount of time, of course the emotions run immensely deeper.

For me, it actually required a season or two of separation before I could truly appreciate the significance. Don’t get me wrong; I was as elated as anybody when the confetti and streamers came raining down upon us following Erstad’s catch.

But maybe I’d already spent all the emotion I could spare the day before, when I witnessed the birth of my first child and the rebirth of the Angels World Series hopes all within a span of about six hours. Or perhaps it was because even before the first pitch, the Game 7 victory truly seemed like a foregone conclusion following the previous night’s drama; and when was ANYTHING positive for the Angels a given during their first 41 seasons?

And that’s what struck me after the World Series championship had really sunk in — it happened, and it could happen again. Previously, I honestly wasn’t sure it ever would. Now, I believe it will again.

And while I think the moment when I first knew they were actually going to play in the World Series will always rank as the most emotional high in my years of being an Angels fan, in retrospect I’m so glad they went ahead and won it all while they were there. I mean all the greatest stories have a happy ending, don’t they?

Champions of baseball … yeah, that’ll do.

Here’s how other contributors to our Top-50 Greatest Moments list feel about No. 1:

It is hard to describe exactly what I felt when Erstad squeezed Kenny Lofton's fly ball for the final out. I was relatively calm from the first pitch of the game until the Angels had finally won. After the complete swing in emotion I felt watching Game 6, I was too exhausted to work up any emotion for Game 7.

For the entire postseason, I had either been in attendance or at my favorite watering hole to celebrate every moment with other fans. I needed a break. So, I watched the entirety of Game 7 alone; poetic in a sense because growing up none of my friends or family members felt the same way about the game of baseball, and there was certainly no one that loved the Angels as much as I did. It wasn't my intention to watch the game alone. I just didn't feel like sharing that moment with anyone else.

Had I been there or watched the game with friends I doubt I'd have noticed — I was focused on each pitch, nothing else existed but the game. When the final out was made, I felt accomplished. Not that I had anything to do with the victory, but that my fanship had finally paid off. The years of suffering through bad teams and monumental collapses proved worth it. I felt like a champion.

— Adam Dodge, Senior Writer

I had always told my friends, “Just once, I just need to see it happen one time.” It was worth the wait. Sticking through thick and thin with the Angels had paid off. All the sadness and anger from the past were washed away in one lazy fly ball to Darin Erstad.

I was fortunate enough have tickets to Game 7. When the final out was made, I was standing in center field, over by the rock pile. I momentarily lost my mind. I let out a loud primal scream and leapt into the air a few times.

— Geoff Stoddart, Director of Social Media

The dictionary defines the word surreal as: "having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic." When Kenny Lofton's fly ball found its final resting place in the glove of Darin Erstad it felt .. surreal.

My dad had been an Angels season ticket holder throughout the 80's, 90's and early 2000's.  I had spent countless nights in that stadium, with 9,000 of my closest friends, watching horrendous baseball.  I'd had my hopes and dreams crushed during years when it looked like the team might actually make it happen ... only to fall short. The images I was seeing on my television screen where almost too much to wrap my head around.  The team pouring out of the dugout ... the dog pile of jubilant players near the pitcher's mound ... a stadium of fans losing their minds in celebratory ecstasy.  It was ... surreal.

I was at the previous night's Game 6.  I had known there was no way the Giants were going to bounce back from that kind of heartbreak.  And yet, I almost hadn't allowed myself to believe it was really going to happen.  But here it was ... it was happening!  So I jump around the room, I kissed my wife and my cheering scared my 6 month old son (who was born the day before the Angels went on their hot streak at the end of April).  I called friends and family members with shouts of joy ... "Can you believe this?!?!"  I lamented the fact that my dad was out of the country and unable to watch the team he had taught me to love finally earn their wings.

Yet somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt like it might go away.  Like it was a dream.  A dream I didn't want to wake up from.  The whole thing just didn't feel real.  It was ... surreal.

And, if I'm being honest, 10 years later it still is!

— Chuck Richter, Founder and Executive Editor

Editor’s note: I’d like to thank all of the writers who contributed to this monumental project the past 50 days. It was quite an undertaking while simultaneously working full time, managing a Little League team and looking after a family of six, but was it ever worth it!

Here’s to the memories and debates we hope our list inspired and to the making of many more outstanding top-50 worthy moments in the seasons to come.

Thanks for reading!

See all 50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball here

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Check out the four-part video series that was captured by Vern Reese during the Questions and Answers session that Tim Mead had with the group as the Angels were on the field taking batting practice.

March 8th, 2008

Part 1 - with Tim Mead (Vice President of Media Relations)

Part 2 - with Tim Mead (Vice President of Media Relations)

Part 3 - with Tim Mead (Vice President of Media Relations)

Part 4 - with Tim Mead (Vice President of Media Relations)

Some Highlights

The fanfest took place on March 8th and scheduled at 5:00 pm at Hail Mary's in Tempe, but it kicked off first thing in the morning with a bang. Tim Mead, Vice President of Media Relations, and employee of the Angels organization for 29 years, is a big supporter of and friend of mine.

During the conference of sorts, which Tim and I sat on the Angels home dugout inside Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tim spoke about the state of the Halos, his role with the club and then took questions from the members that were in the stands, with the ballplayers taking ground balls and taking BP in the background. After the video recording, Tim mentioned in front of everyone that he views as "The AP of Angels Baseball". Quite a compliment, especially after hearing owner Arte Moreno tell 4 of us after the game on Friday (March 7th) that he loved our website and he visits frequently.

Well, after the Tim Mead and conference, we introduced Rob Goldman to the group, talked a little bit about the future of his Tim Salmon book entitled "Tales from the Dugout" that is to be released later this year. Rob was so kind to have asked me for a question/comment to be used in his next sessions with Tim Salmon before he completes the book. According to Rob, he's also going to let Timmah in on the best kept secret on the net for Angels players and ex-Players, letting him know about our website, Rob like myself, was in awe of the support and acknowledgment that the Angels front office people had of If you haven't bought his best selling book, do so NOW! It's a keeper and a must read for EVERY Angels fan. "Once they were Angels.

Finally, after the game against the San Francisco Giants, in which a group of 30 members sat together and watched some Baseball, including a towering shot by newcomer Torii Hunter, it was on to the shindig at Hail Mary's.

One word, AWESOME!! We filled up the entire dining room and had Tim Mead, Steve Physioc (Angels TV Play by Play announcer) stay for what was suppose to be just 15-20 minutes, but ended up being 1 hour and a half, taking questions and having drinks (non-alcoholic) with the group, in what was an informal environment.

We also had two prospects show up and join us at the party in Jeremy Haynes (RHP, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes) and Daniel Davidson (LHP, Arkansas Travelers). These two young men were polite and spoke with the members while sipping on their Soda's before they had to head out (they stayed for about an hour and a half as well). Good times!

Bill Shaikin of the LA Times, a registered member of was with us as well, as was his good friend and author Rob Goldman. Much like with Tim Mead, Steve Physioc, Jeremy Haynes and Daniel Davidson, those with were able to ask Bill or Rob anything they wanted in a relaxed, but exciting atmosphere. Even the big Nasty showed up and said he knows all about and that we've done a great job. 2 weeks later, he plugged our website on his evening sports talk show in So. California.

Well, I could go on and on with regards to what took place that weekend. With over 90 members of that showed up at Hail Mary's, including all the featured guests and supporters, this was a weekend to remember for Angels fans. Also, if you'd like to read what those who attended experienced at the 2008 ST Fanfest, check out our forum thread here

by Chuck Richter - Executive Editor

Eddie Bane was kind enough to get with us via satellite from Gulfport, Mississippi to complete the March edition of "The Bane Connection".

In this month's edition, the majority of the questions were derived from members. So, let's dig right into the interview with Scouting Director of the Los Angeles Angels, Eddie Bane.

Q: (Angelswin) - First of all, Congratulations on being inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. So what was that like, the ceremony and feeling after receiving the award? Some of our viewers may not have followed your college career, so what one game performance from a personal standpoint do you look back on in College and say, that was my best performance?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Thanks everyone for the HOF thoughts. Very nice. The induction ceremony is in Lubbock, Texas in July. Any time you go in anything with Jackie Robinson you have to feel very honored. I do not look back on one single performance at ASU, but the times I had with my buddies and team are what I will always think about.

Q: (Angelswin) - Ok, back to Angels talk. One of our members had this question for you: How does the organization determine when to promote a prospect from one level to the next? Are there specific skills that the Angels want a prospect to develop at each level before earning a promotion to the next level? If so what are they? (for example, are there certain leagues where the coaches will teach or stress a changeup more or bunting more than others or are there more targets in terms of overall production?)

A: (Eddie Bane) - Great question. I think the thing that we see is the complete stress and emphasis on the fundamentals of the game and especially baserunning from the moment they sign. The Angels definitely have established an "Angel Way" to play baseball and that is a nice satisfaction to all of us.

As far as promotion goes we like to think that a player will let you know when it is time to move him to a higher level. One thing we are facing now is the fierce competition we have at all levels. You simply would have a hard time walking into the Angels organization now and just moving up the ladder without earning the next spot. Just look at the competition at shortstop.

Romine, Phillips, Statia, Rodriguez, Aybar, Izturis and Wood are all certainly on the radar screen as possible major league shortstops. I had a scout from another club tell me the other day, "We don't care who it is, just give us any of your shortstops!" Pretty nice compliment. I think the pitching coaches at the earliest levels make all of our young pitchers throw their change.

Q: (Angelswin) - Since different minor leagues are known as either hitter leagues or pitcher leagues, and some are known for having substandard fields, how much does the organization discount the stats for each of its affiliates leagues? How does (Eddie Bane) view each of the leagues for our affiliates in terms of hitters league, pitchers league, fielding, etc?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Minor league fields (the surfaces) are getting so much better that it is getting easier to evaluate that part of the players ability. But, we know going in, that the Cal League's offensive numbers are going to be high for many reasons. Tough league to pitch. In Cedar Rapids you look for the young guys and how they adjust to playing every single day. That is a tough grind. Everyone likes stats to support their side of the coin, but as scouts we have to look deeper than that.

Q: (Angelswin) - How much does the organization factor age into evaluating a prospect?

A: (Eddie Bane) - The Angels draft a lot of high school players. That gives the young players a chance to learn the "Angel Way" of baseball at a young age. Age plays a huge factor in evaluation in our organization. I tell our amateur scouts when they are looking at players now that Bourjos, O'Sullivan, Mount, Bell and Phillips would all be in the '08 draft if they had went to college. So if one of my guys is telling me how good a centerfielder at a college is then I want to hear how he compares to Peter Bourjos. That usually tempers his enthusiasm because there is not a centerfielder in college right now that compares favorably to Peter.

Q: (Angelswin) - How does an organization come to the conclusion as to when a prospect goes from "sure thing" to "bust". In addition to that, at what point does the GM & scouts get the feeling it isn't going to work out for a prospect because either the player is blocked or needs more time in the minors, something the Major League club cannot wait on. ?

A: (Eddie Bane) - I don't ever look at it that way. Last season Darren O'Day was considered a pitcher in our organization that was a very good thing to have. Now he is on the verge of making our ball club. I like to make sure the guys get a chance to play in front of Mike, Tony and Butcher and let them determine their value instead of having someone else do it.

Q: (Angelswin) - How active are the Angels in Latin America? When reading reports about prospects I rarely see the Angels listed as having scouted or in on the signing the players.

A: (Eddie Bane) - Clay Daniel is our international scouting director and he works with me on signing Latin American players. I would say that you only need look at Aybar, Morales, Santana and Frankie Rodriquez to see his impact. We also traded away Alexi Casilla and a couple others to help our major league club. We also have Anel Delosantos and some good looking outfield prospects to go with the 4 guys at the major league level. Clay is also active in Asia and Australia and signed Rich Thompson who will help our ML club at some point this season.

Q: (Angelswin) - How much do you value statistics in regards to college players?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Our area scouts pay attention to the stats quite a bit, but we have to look a lot deeper than that. I did, one time, draft a player because he was the best hitter on his team even though he had a bad body, at the time, and was a short catcher. That player was Paul LoDuca and that worked out pretty well.

Q: (Angelswin) - Does the organization establish specific goals for each player at the start of the season? If so, how is the process handled (i.e. is there someone who handles it throughout the organization or is it handled by the staff at each level).

A: (Eddie Bane) - You would not believe how thorough that part of the player profile is. Each player has a file and each player knows exactly what is expected of him. The days of the "Bull Durham" type minor league stuff are pretty much over.

Q: (Angelswin) - We (the fans) always hear about a team "show-casing a player" in anticipation of a trade. How much show-casing really happens?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Showcasing a player for the Angels would almost never happen. Our goal at the major league level is to win the World Series every single season so Mike and his staff are doing everything they can at the Major League level to win every game. That would prevent "showcasing" a player in my mind. Besides scouts at the major level work hard during batting practice or early work to attempt to see what they need to on every player.

Q: (Angelswin) - Will Kendry Morales play any OF or 3B in SLC this year if he doesn't make the 25 man roster?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Kendry is getting ready to make a big splash in the major leagues this season in my opinion. Let's just let it play out and see what happens. Some versatility would not hurt him at all though, we'll see.

Q: (Angelswin) - The Angels losing Escobar for perhaps the entire season and Lackey a couple months, do you have any doubt that Adenhart can step in and be successful on the major league level right now ?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Nick Adenhart had a nice spring and put himself firmly in the mind of Mike, Tony and Butcher. Now he has to climb the last part of the mountain. Nick's goals are not to pitch in the Major Leagues. Nick wants to be a front of the rotation pitcher and if he stays healthy I have no doubts that will happen. He is that kind of pitcher.

Q: (Angelswin) - Will the Angels consider converting Mark Trumbo back to pitching?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Mark Trumbo showed the major league staff in spring training the tremendous power that all of us scouts have seen. He has as much power as anyone in baseball. We all think this is a big year for him and believe that he will thrive in Rancho this season.

Q: (Angelswin) - Who did you have in your NCAA pool to make it to the Final Four?

A: (Eddie Bane) - My bracket was blown up by being a homer. I had U of A winning some games and USC winning some games. I got most of the Final 4 correct along with everybody else in the country, but I did not see Davidson and Louisville doing what they are doing. Members - As always, please communicate how much we, the fans, love the time you give us in answering our questions. Thanks, and talk to you next month.

Eddie Bane - I enjoy doing this and hope the fans like reading what the scouting department has to say on this stuff. Thanks again, Eddie Bane.

Friday, March 28, 2008

By Adam Dodge, Senior Writer, and Geoff Bilau, Senior Editor

It was just one swing out of hundreds of thousands in the Angels’ 47-year history, but it produced three of the biggest runs and, in one instant, shifted an entire franchise’s momentum. With one swing, hopeless became hopeful.

When Scott Spiezio coaxed that ball over the short wall in right field, just far enough to elude the reach of Giants right fielder Reggie Sanders, there was an immediate sense that it would prove the most important hit in Angels history. Around 24 hours later, it was no longer just a sense — it was truth.

Game 6 of the 2002 World Series was do or die for the Anaheim Angels, who were facing elimination, down three games to two against the San Francisco Giants.

Entering the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Giants leading 5-0, the Angels appeared prepped for their casket. The team had shown little life offensively, thoroughly stifled by starter Russ Ortiz, and the Giants’ greatest strength, their bullpen, rested and ready.

Garret Anderson led off the seventh inning with routine groundball to second base. The Angels had just eight outs remaining to prevent a very disappointing end to their season.

The next batter, Troy Glaus, finally gave the Angels and their fans something to cheer about when he singled to left field on Ortiz’s next pitch. And when Brad Fullmer followed with a single of his own, the Angels had the beginnings of a rally.

What happened next proved to be one of the most second-guessed managerial decisions in World Series history — and that’s putting it mildly.

With two on and one out, Giants’ manager Dusty Baker made his way out to the mound. The trip was no doubt to talk strategy, and since it was late into an elimination game it made sense that the manager would forgo sending the pitching coach on such a critical mound visit. After all, Ortiz had dominated the Angels for 6.1 innings and had not yet thrown 100 pitches. Surely Baker would allow him to work through a little bit of trouble in the seventh, especially with a five-run lead.

But Baker had other thoughts. To everyone’s surprise, he raised his right hand toward the bullpen. He was bringing in right-handed fireballer Felix Rodriguez to face previously anonymous Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio.

Baker had pulled his starting pitcher, though he’d not given up a run while scattering just four hits and walking two. What’s more, with Ortiz already a step away from the pitching rubber and on his way to the dugout, Baker reached back, symbolically grabbing his pitcher’s right arm to stop him. A curious Ortiz accepted a gift — the “game ball,” which he no doubt deserved, but that the ball was given to him on the mound for millions to see was what created controversy. It no doubt stuck in the craw of the Angels and their fans.

Spiezio would have his hands full. Rodriguez was one of the best relievers in baseball, as evidenced by the .163 average he allowed to opposing batters during the 2002 postseason. Spiezio, however, was working on a special October of his own, one that saw him tie the postseason record for RBI with 19.

After a first pitch ball, Spiezio fouled off three consecutive Rodriguez fastballs perfectly placed on the outside corner. Rodriguez evened the count at 2-2 when he missed with his fifth pitch. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Spiezio put a great swing on a fastball, fouling it straight back, prompting a rare prophetic statement from FOX announcer Tim McCarver, who cautioned, “If you make a mistake away, it’s a single. If you make a mistake in, it’s 5-3.”

After Rodriguez’ next pitch went wide, making the count full, he did, indeed, miss in. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Spiezio took a low and in fastball high and deep into the right field corner. Sanders drifted back methodically, tracking the towering fly ball. When it left the bat, it appeared Spiezio just missed it, but the ball continued to carry, taking Sanders all the way to the warning track; then over it and to the wall. He reached up and over the short wall, but to no avail. The ball had disappeared into a mob of suddenly reinvigorated Angels fans.

Spiezio, who stopped his trot at first base to watch the fate of his hit — to wish and to pray — showed little emotion as he restarted his jog around the bases, a subtle fist shake sufficing.

The fans were another story. Edison Field exploded with roars and cheers, which could no doubt be heard miles away. The Angels — a team of grinders, who had come back time and time again throughout the regular and post-seasons — had trimmed the Giants’ once seemingly insurmountable lead to 5-3. And though its not the kind of thing that shows up on the scoreboard, had stolen away from the Giants every last bit of momentum.

From hopeless to hopeful; and following the Angels’ half of the eighth and the Giants’ futile ninth, from hopeful to absolutely sure the Angels would now win the series.

But then, it was only one swing, right?

By Geoff Bilau, Senior Editor

Chances are had you asked a diehard Angels fan if he or she would have been satisfied with a nondescript 5-2 victory prior to Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS, the answer would have been “Absolutely!” After waiting 41 years to see an American League pennant flying over Anaheim Stadium, few fans were going to be picky about how it got there.

The Angels, however — especially second baseman Adam Kennedy — had a special treat in store for their long-suffering faithful. Kennedy, who hit just seven homers during the 2002 regular season, launched three round trippers over the right field wall, the third igniting a 10-run seventh inning that carried the Halos into their first World Series with a 13-5 victory over the Twins.

Kennedy’s first home run, leading off the third inning off Joe Mays, shaved the Twins 2-0 lead in half. When he connected again in the fifth, following Scott Spiezio’s leadoff shot, Kennedy briefly gave the Angels a 3-2 lead.

The twins retook the lead with three in the top of the seventh, and with Johan Santana on the mound appeared to have perhaps blown an opportunity to end the series at home.

But Spiezio and Bengie Molina led off the bottom half with singles and rather than sending up right handed Benji Gil to pinch hit for Kennedy, manager Mike Scioscia allowed the lefty swinger to bat. On Santana’s first pitch, Kennedy squared around to bunt — a textbook Scioscia move — but fouled off his attempt.

With 44,835 fans expecting another bunt attempt, Kennedy got the green light to swing away and fouled it off. After taking a ball, Kennedy lofted Santana’s 1-2 offering, a hanging curveball, deep over the tall wall in right center field for his third home run of the game, a three-run shot to give the Angels a 6-5 lead.

Kennedy became only the fifth player in Major League history to homer three times in a playoff game, joining Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and George Brett, and former Pirate Bob Robertson in the very exclusive club.

“I don’t care if I have another one,” Kennedy said. “This is it right here, the biggest game of my life. Everybody dreams of this. I was in the right spot today.”

For good measure, Kennedy’s teammates proceeded to thoroughly pile on the Twins beleaguered bullpen, scoring seven more runs off three relievers who followed Santana, Kennedy adding a single later in the inning.

Kennedy finished the game 4-for-4 with three runs and five RBI, earning him series MVP honors — some fine hardware for his trophy case, but nothing compared to being remembered as the man whose bat sent the Angels to their first World Series. That is simply unforgettable.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

By Eric Denton, Senior Writer

As the Los Angeles Angels wrap up the 2008 spring training schedule it has been a tale of two springs. As a team they’ve played very well, leading the Cactus League, going 18-8 with three games remaining against the Dodgers and Padres starting tonight in Anaheim.

On the pitching front Jered Weaver (5-0, 1.37 ERA) and Joe Saunders (1-0, 1.00 ERA) have been very strong. Ervin Santana appears to have bounced back from a rocky 2007. Rookie pitchers Nick Adenhart and Darren O’Day have made strong cases that their time to shine at the major league level is sooner rather than later. Dustin Moseley is proving to be a valuable member of the Angels roster stepping up in the absence of John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar (more on that later). Newcomer Jon Garland, who many fans questioned the need for when he was acquired for Gold Glove winning short-stop Orlando Cabrera last November, appears to now be a Godsend

Offensively, Torii Hunter treated Angel fans visiting Arizona with a big spring in his first year in the desert, slugging an impressive .720. Gary Matthews Jr. also looked strong hitting a robust .449 with a .612 slugging. Kendry Morales (.404 BA .596 SLG) and Howie Kendrick (.383 BA .517 SLG) both hammered opponents pitching and stood out this spring.

Those coming off injuries such as Chone Figgins (wrist surgery), Mike Napoli (hamstring) and Juan Rivera (broken leg in 2007) also played well. Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Casey Kotchman were their typical steady selves. Youngster Peter Bourjos opened some eyes with his speed and an impressive .409 BA.

Unfortunately, not all the news out of Tempe was good.

Injuries hit the Angels hard this spring. First and foremost Kelvim Escobar appears to be headed for shoulder surgery and baring a miracle will likely be lost for the season.

The Halos will also be without the services of both John Lackey and Scot Shields to start the season. Lackey will be out until at least May while recovering from a strained right triceps and Shields is suffering from tightness in his pitching shoulder. Gary Matthews Jr. tweaked his ankle early this week and his status for Opening Day is now in question. Reliever Chris Bootcheck (strained oblique) will also start the season on the DL.

Top prospect Brandon Wood appeared completely lost at the plate hitting a measly .120 with 21 strikeouts in 50 at bats. On the plus side, three of Wood’s six hits did leave the yard. However, it wasn’t quite the performance Angels fans were hoping to see out the organization’s top prospect, especially with the short-stop job up for grabs.

Some unanswered questions still remain before Monday’s opener.

Who’s at short? Neither, Macier Izturis or Erick Aybar fell on their face nor did either go off and stand out over the other. While not a bad thing per se, not many Angel fans seem to be excited with the prospect of each infielder playing 81 games. Izturis hit for a higher average this spring, while Aybar showed some surprising pop with three home runs, tied him for the team lead. Meanwhile, neither man committed an error in the field. With Izturis’ experience as a bench player I expect Aybar to be given the opportunity to play himself out of the starting job. We shall see how it goes.

Who’s the fifth starter? At the beginning of camp it appeared the Angels actually had too many starting pitchers.

As March draws to a close nothing could be further from the truth. At one point in February, lefty Joe Saunders was concerned about racking up more frequent flier miles between Salt Lake City and Anaheim and questions were asked if Ervin Santana’s future was as a possible future replacement for soon-to-be free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez. Neither pitcher has anything to worry about now with Lackey and Escobar on the shelf.

Both Dustin Moseley and Nick Adenhart brought their “A” game to Tempe. With a likely scenario of rookies O’Day and Rich Thompson making the roster because of Shields and Bootcheck’s injuries, would the Angels be better off with the third year player Moseley adding some stability to the bullpen even though he pitched well as a starter? The twenty-two year old Adenhart certainly won’t be opening the year in the pen. He will be in the rotation somewhere, be it Anaheim or the SLC Bees.

Regardless of all these obstacles, the Angels appear to be in good shape to again win the AL West and advance to the post-season.

Best wishes to Angels’ special assistant to GM Tony Reagins, Preston Gomez as he recovers from an unfortunate traffic accident early Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

By Adam Dodge, Senior Writer

After an incredibly emotional come-from-behind victory of historic proportions in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series — one which saw the Anaheim Angels force a deciding Game 7 at Edison Field — the home team had every ounce of momentum on its side.

The Angels entered the bottom of the third inning tied, 1-1, with the San Francisco Giants. Though the scoreboard said it was clearly not make or break time, the guts of 44, 598 fans in the stadium and millions more watching on television said otherwise. Every pitch delivered in the World Series seems to hold the collective fate of everyone with a rooting interest.

David Eckstein led off the third with a single to left field off of Giants starter Livan Hernandez, who won Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins. Darin Erstad followed with a single of his own to left in front of Tim Salmon, who was hit by a Hernandez off-speed pitch, loading the bases for team MVP Garret Anderson.

Anderson, who finished fourth in American League MVP voting in 2002, had a remarkable season, finishing with a .306 batting average, 29 home runs and 123 RBI. But his World Series performance had been a modest one entering his second at-bat of Game 7.

The stage had been set for Anderson, who needed to just put the ball in play to give his team a lead. He did two better, driving a Hernandez high fastball down the right field line and into the corner. Eckstein, Erstad and Salmon all scored on the double, giving the Angels a 4-1 lead.

Anderson had cleared the bases! Arguably the greatest Angel, GA had collected his greatest moment.

The Angels would not score another run in the 2002 season. But three rookie pitchers and their outstanding closer made sure they didn’t need to.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

By Geoff Bilau, Senior Editor

“The Angels one out away from their first championship ever. Porter at the plate, he waits. The pitch from Frank … swing and a ground ball hit to Carew. He bobbles it, recovers, throws to Tanana … IN TIME! The 19-year wait is over, they’ve done it: The Angels are the champions of the West!”

In light of all the recent success the Angels have enjoyed this decade — a World Championship and division titles in three of the past four seasons — it’s sometimes easy to forget just how difficult a struggle it was for the franchise to win its first.

But, oh, did they ever struggle; not only through losing seasons — and there were plenty of those, 13 of the first 17 to be exact — but also debilitating injuries and clubhouse unrest. The Angels even suffered the tragedy of not one, but two players’ deaths during their first two heartbreaking decades. In 18 previous seasons, they’d gone through eight managers, four general managers and played in three different home parks.

But finally, in 1979, with a rallying cry of “Yes We Can!” the Angels buried their demons (well, some of them anyway) and on Sept. 25, behind a dominant complete game by Frank Tanana, they won the American League West in front of 40,631 jubilant fans at Anaheim Stadium.

And true to fashion for this franchise, it still didn’t come easily: Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew and Willie Aikens each missed significant time with injuries and Tanana was limited to 17 starts. But manager Jim Fregosi, hired in the middle of the 1978 season, days after retiring as a player, held it all together.

“We’ve been ready for it for an awfully long time around here and I’m just thrilled to death to be part of it,” said Fregosi, who spent 13 of the team’s first 19 seasons in an Angels uniform. “These players have been absolutely fantastic all season. They’ve gone out under really some tough situations, some tough conditions, they’ve battled all year long and I just couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Great offensive seasons from Don Baylor, later named the AL MVP, Bobby Grich, Dan Ford and Brian Downing, along with a solid season from Ryan and the emergence of Dave Frost carried the Angels to the title, which was a watershed moment for the Angels franchise despite the fact the team would go on to lose the ALCS, 3-1, to the Orioles.

"The biggest thing we had to overcome was that we had never won a division," Fregosi said. "No matter how good the talent was, there seemed to be a black cloud hanging over the team — injuries, people getting hurt. Overcoming that was special to me. Once a team has won, the team knows it could do it."

It would be another 23 years before the Angels would win it all, but in 1979 they took that first, all-important step.

Monday, March 24, 2008

By Adam Dodge, Senior Writer

Fresh off of a Game 3 come-from-behind win, one in which the Anaheim Angels erased a 6-1 deficit against the New York Yankees in the 2002 American League Division Series to take a 2-1 series lead, the Angels entered Game 4 looking to close out the Bronx Bombers at home for the franchise’s first ever postseason series win.

Once again, the Angels had their opponents on the ropes, facing elimination. It had become, of course, a familiar site for Angels fans. The team had already played six such games in their history.

In 1982, the then California Angels were up two games to none on the Milwaukee Brewers in the best-of-five ALCS. With three chances to beat the Brew Crew and advance to the World Series, the Angels failed — losing all three games.

In 1986, the Angels again found themselves on the cusp of reaching their first World Series. But up three games to one on the Boston Red Sox and just one strike away, closer Donnie Moore gave up a two-out, two-strike, two-run homerun to Dave Henderson, relinquishing a 5-4 lead in Game 5 of the ALCS. Boston went on to win the game, as well as Games 6 and 7 in Fenway Park.

With such a short, yet heart-wrenching postseason history, many of the 45,067 in attendance on Oct. 5, 2002, were waiting to see how the Angels would let this opportunity slip through their fingers.

With the Angels down, 2-1, entering the bottom of the fifth inning, tension was high. David Wells was 8-1 in his postseason career and was pitching well for the Yankees on this afternoon.

Then, something amazing happened. The Angels put together one of the greatest offensive innings in Major League postseason history.

Shawn Wooten led off the fifth with a homerun to left-center field to tie the game, 2-2. Then, after a Bengie Molina fly-out, Benji Gil recorded the first of five consecutive Angels’ singles with a shot into centerfield.

After a Troy Glaus fly ball out, the Angels connected for four more hits in a row, including Wooten’s and Gil’s second hits of the inning.

When it was all said and done, the Angels had plated eight runs on a record-tying 10 hits in the inning.

Anaheim - Bottom of 5th
David Wells pitching for New York

S Wooten homered to left center
B Molina flied out to right
B Gil singled to center
D Eckstein singled to right, B Gil to third
D Erstad singled to shallow center, B Gil scored, D Eckstein to second
T Salmon singled to left center, D Eckstein scored, D Erstad to third
G Anderson singled to right center, D Erstad scored, T Salmon to third
T Glaus flied out to shallow right
S Spiezio singled to left, T Salmon scored, G Anderson to second
R Mendoza relieved D Wells
S Wooten singled to right center, G Anderson scored, S Spiezio to third
B Molina doubled to deep left, S Spiezio and S Wooten scored
O Hernandez relieved R Mendoza
B Gil singled to center, B Molina to third
D Eckstein flied out to center

8 Runs, 10 Hits, 0 Errors

With a 9-2 lead, the Angels needed only 12 outs to erase the franchise’s playoff demons.

New York scratched across single runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings to close the deficit to 9-5, but when Nick Johnson lifted a weak pop-up to deep shortstop, and David Eckstein promptly squeezed it for the game’s final out, jubilation ensued.

The Angels had beaten the mighty Yankees three games to one for their first playoff series win in the franchise’s history.

“It’s been a long time coming for myself and this organization, a lot of blood, sweat and tears,'' said Salmon in the clubhouse. “To finally come through and do it, it’s just special.

“Nobody gave us a chance against the Yankees. Maybe we caught them on a bad week, I don't know. You can’t say enough about how our club’s playing,”

Sunday, March 23, 2008

By Chuck Richter, Senior Editor

The scene: Edison Field, Game 2 of the 2002 World Series, Angels down 0-1 in the series to the San Francisco Giants.

After 7 1/2 seesaw innings, the Angels and Giants stood deadlocked, 9-9. Until Salmon broke it with a sledgehammer, crushing his second home run of the game to put the Angels ahead for good.

Typical of Salmon, despite his own heroism his was not the home run he was gushing about afterward. Salmon was still marveling at the one hit by Barry Bonds in the ninth that sailed some 485 feet into the sea of red in right field.

"That was the farthest ball I've ever seen hit in this ballpark, for sure," Salmon said. But the Angels’ always-humble right fielder trumped that mammoth shot with the drive that counted the most, a two-out, two-run shot that proved the difference in the Angels 11-10 victory and knotted the series at one game apiece.

"We knew there was going to be a hero in the dugout," Salmon said, "and tonight it was me."

Until 2002, no active player in the majors had gone longer than Salmon — 1,388 games — without reaching the postseason. But that wasn't a well-known fact because Bonds had been the center of attention, especially since it was his first World Series, too.

But Salmon put the spotlight squarely on himself on this night by helping the Halos to their first-ever World Series win.

"I think I made the most of my opportunities. It was awesome," Salmon said. "The way the game went back-and-forth was unbelievable."

Salmon ended up going 4-for-4 with a walk, while driving in four runs and scoring three. He capped his performance with a drive into the Anaheim bullpen in left field that left Bonds hanging over the top of the fence. A joyous sight indeed!

Earlier in the game, Salmon's first two-run homer gave the Angels a 7-4 lead in the second inning. They led, 5-0, after the first inning before the Giants rallied with some fireworks of their own.

But as Salmon circled the bases and fireworks exploded overhead after connecting on a 93 mph fastball, ultimately it was the Giants’ Felix Rodriguez angrily tugging on his cap.

After Troy Percival gave up the ninth inning two-out blast to Bonds, the crowd of 44,584 roared as Benito Santiago popped out harmlessly to Adam Kennedy at second to end it.

"It was too much Salmon," Bonds said after the game. "It's phenomenal. He did everything any player could do in one game except steal home."

Salmon will no doubt be remembered for many highlights and accomplishments as an Angel: 1993 AL Rookie of the Year, the sliding catches in right field, the force that he was with the lumber, the Texas Ranger beat downs or his last game played, retiring an Angel for life and the ceremonial send off from the fans in Anaheim.

But for me, this game, with all that was riding upon it, was the highlight of Salmon’s career and clearly one of the “Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

By Geoff Bilau, Senior Editor

It is the biggest ninth inning comeback in Angels history, and shortstop Dick Schofield not only sparked it — he also ended it with one explosive swing of the bat.

With the Angels holding onto a 4.5 game lead over Texas for the division title, the Rangers had already applied some pressure with a 5-2 victory in Chicago earlier that Friday night.

The Angels, meanwhile, were getting trounced by the visiting Detroit Tigers, trailing 8-1 after five uninspiring innings. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, Detroit’s lead stood at 12-5 and it appeared the Angels division bump would soon shrink to 3.5 games.

The rally started innocently enough, with Schofield beating out an infield single to short off Tigers reliever Randy O’Neal, who was beginning his third inning of work. After Rick Burleson lined out, Wally Joyner drew a walk. When Brian Downing singled to load the bases, Detroit closer Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez, the 1984 MVP and Cy Young winner, began to warm in the bullpen — just in case.

Jack Howell doubled to right field, scoring Schofield and Joyner, and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson had seen enough. He called on Hernandez, even though Detroit still led 12-7.

Hernandez, however, would prove no more effective, promptly giving up consecutive RBI singles to George Hendrick and Bobby Grich, pulling the Angels within three runs. But when Gary Pettis grounded into a fielder’s choice at second, California was down to its final out. Up stepped Ruppert Jones, pinch hitting for Jerry Narron. Jones worked a walk from Hernandez, loading the bases for the man who started the rally: Schofield.

Incredibly, the Angels typically light-hitting shortstop — he of the 56 home runs in 1,368 career games — lofted a Hernandez splitter straight down the left field line; a ball that kept carrying … carrying … carrying … just fair over the short wall and just out of the reach of Dave Collins’ leaping attempt.

It was a grand slam — a walk-off grand slam, in fact, capping an eight-run ninth that ignited frenzy among those fans from the original 32,992 in attendance that actually remained.

The Angels would maintain their 4.5 game lead on the Rangers, who got no closer than five the rest of the season. It was the signature victory of the Angels’ 1986 division championship season and one that fans, even 22 years later, still recall fondly any time the team rallies in the ninth.

By Adam Dodge, Senior Writer

It’s rare that a sports event that occurs away from the field of play would make any sort of top “anything” list. The vast majority of the moments highlighted on our list took place on the baseball diamond, because those are the moments that are most celebrated and seldom forgotten by fans.

However, on Jan. 11, 2004, when ESPN Radio affiliate KSPN’s update man Dave Denholm announced that the Anaheim Angels had reached an agreement on a five-year contract with free-agent slugger Vladimir Guerrero, it incited a reaction from fans on par with a postseason series victory.

It had been expected that the Montreal Expos’ four-time All-Star right fielder would sign with the Mets, Dodgers or Orioles. There hadn’t been a whisper that the Angels were even interested in the National League’s best kept secret.

As the story goes, then Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman made a call to Guerrero’s agent, Arn Tellem, to inquire about Rafael Palmeiro.

“How about Vlad?,” the agent responded.

Stoneman, surprised that Guerrero was interested in the Angels, approached Angels owner Arte Moreno with the idea. Three days later, Moreno had a new face for the franchise he’d acquired just eight months earlier..

Though he’d already gained credibility among fans by making other waves during the off-season with the signings of Jose Guillen, Kelvim Escobar and Bartolo Colon, Moreno removed any doubt that he truly meant business with the Guerrero signing.

And what a signing it was. Guerrero won the American League MVP award in 2004, carrying the Angels on his back down the stretch to their first division title in eighteen years. In his four years with the Angels, the quiet superstar has averaged a remarkable .327 batting average, 33 homeruns and 119 RBI per season while the Angels have won three division titles.

Friday, March 21, 2008

From Tempe, AZ
March 21st, 2008 - By Brok Butcher

It's getting to the point where everyday is becoming like the next. This is also known as groundhog day; stretching in the morning, then running, onto PFP's (pitchers fielding practice) and finally the dreaded batting practice followed by a game. We have an extremely motivated and in your face field coordinator who has acknowledged this lack of spirit and reminds us that we are playing baseball for a living and to take a step back and think about all the things for which we are grateful. It definitely made us appreciate the little things in life that we take for granted such as family, friends, health and lifestyle and put our "hardships" into perspective.

In my first spring outing I threw two innings for double A at Tempe Diablo Stadium and was grateful that it was only a spring game because they were hitting "scud missiles" into 40 mph winds blowing directly out to left. So not only did they "drop head" (solid contact), but it was in a jet stream which made the balls absolutely fly off the bat. One of the balls almost took off my shortstop's head but thankfully my left-fielder caught it before it had a chance to get clearance from the air traffic controller. Thus realizing my change up worked best under these windy conditions and ended up making it out alive only giving up one run and four hits in two innings.

My next outing was much better, I pitched after John Garland for triple A and gave up one hit, no runs in three innings of work. There's not another time in my life where I experience so many emotions at one time as I do on the mound. Such as anxiety, to a sense of calm, to a rush of adrenaline, to a closure. That's what makes my "work" (shagging for batting practice, time in the gym, running, mental preparation, PFP's) worthwhile. It's like waiting in line for a roller coaster, you spend two hours in the hot sun for thirty seconds of excitement, the preparation is worth the reward.

I'm looking forward to the beginning of the season, I really get along with my coaches and have already planned my living conditions and who I'm going to live with. My arm and body feels great and am ready for the year.

For Brok Butcher's first installment of his Spring Camp Journal from Tempe, AZ, it can be read here:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

By Eric Denton, Senior Writer

Angels fans thought Vladimir Guerrero’s nine RBI game against the Red Sox in 2004 was truly one for the ages, and rightfully so. But a very familiar face showed them in 2007 they hadn’t seen anything yet.

Garret Anderson, who had been slowed by injuries over the course of the last few seasons, produced the single greatest individual offensive game in the history of Angels baseball — against MLB’s premiere franchise, the New York Yankees — 4-for-6 with two doubles, two home runs (a 3-run shot and a grand slam), three runs scored and a franchise record 10 RBI.

In the first inning, Anderson rocked a two run double, scoring Orlando Cabrera and Chone Figgins. His next at bat, in the second inning, Anderson doubled again, scoring Guerrero and giving him three RBI in two plate appearances.

Then in the third inning, with Figgins and Jeff Mathis on first and second, Anderson drilled an Edwar Ramirez pitch over the right field wall for his first home run of the game and three more RBI, giving him six in three at-bats.

Batting in the fifth, he grounded out to second. But then in the sixth, with Howie Kendrick, Cabrera and Guerrero filling the bases, Anderson hit a towering shot into the right field pavilion for his eighth career Grand Slam, receiving an enthusiastic standing ovation from the 44,264 Anaheim faithful as he rounded the bases. And they would not return to their seats until Anderson climbed out of the dugout and tipped his cap.

"It took me 13 years to get that one,” Anderson said of the ovation and curtain call. “I don't see myself playing for 26 years. It's nice when the fans appreciate you. I think it's the first one I've had, and it was kind of a shock."

In the eighth, Anderson came to bat with two outs and Angels on first and third, but he grounded out to short and wound up one RBI shy of Tony Lazzeri’s AL record 11, set May 24, 1936. (The MLB record of 12 is held by two men: Jim Bottomley, Sept. 16, 1924, and Mark Whiten, Sept. 7, 1993.)

"It was an incredible night for Garret," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Heading into the 2008 season, Anderson is the all-time franchise leader in RBI with 1,208 — No. 125 all-time in MLB. He is 88 RBI shy of cracking the top-100.

With this being #10, we're officially in the Top-10 Countdown to #1 which will be announced next week, before opening day. Discuss this ranking and all of the other rankings from 50-10, which can be viewed off our homepage here on our message board here

By Victor Varadi, Contributor

Nolan Ryan started his career with the Mets and was mostly a relief pitcher and spot starter, never quite able to crack the Mets' outstanding rotation for good during his four seasons in Queens. Ryan was a young flame-thrower, but he had control issues and it appeared that he would languish in the Mets bullpen despite flashes of brilliance in the 1969 postseason.

At the conclusion of the 1971 season, Ryan, who never felt comfortable in New York, expressed a desire to be traded. The Mets needed a third baseman and felt Angels veteran shortstop Jim Fregosi could make the switch. They offered Ryan, along with catcher Frank Estrada, pitcher Don Rose and outfielder Leroy Stanton. The Angels wisely accepted. Some would argue it was the best trade the Angels franchise ever made.

By the time the 1974 campaign rolled around, Ryan was on his way to becoming one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history. The season prior, Ryan threw two no-hitters, fanning 12 and 17, respectively. And while critics point to his paltry winning percentage as a reason why he should not be cast in the same breath as Sandy Koufax and his ilk, Ryan was dominating hitters while mired on bad teams.

On June 14, 1974, Ryan fanned 19 Red Sox in 13 innings (also walking 10 and earning no decision for his effort.) On Aug. 20, he did it again, striking out 19 Tigers, this time through 11 innings of a four-hitter he’d go on to lose, 1-0.

But it was two starts prior to that one that Ryan produced one of the most dominating performances, not only of his career, but in American League history.

On Aug. 12, five weeks before he would stifle the Minnesota Twins for his third no-hitter, Ryan struck out 19 Red Sox in a nine-inning game (walking only two), breaking an American League record held for 36 years by Bob Feller, who fanned 18 Detroit Tigers on Oct. 2, 1938. And this time, the Angels would actually make Ryan a 4-2 winner.

Ryan would strike out the side three times and fanned five of the final six batters he faced, a fly ball to right field by Rick Burleson to end the game preventing Ryan from breaking the Major League record he then shared with former Mets teammate Tom Seaver (April 22, 1970, vs. San Diego) and lefty Steve Carlton (Sept. 15, 1969, vs. New York).

Three players have since struck out 20 batters in a nine-inning game*: Seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens (twice), Kerry Wood and five-time Cy Young winner Randy Johnson.

(* Johnson’s 20 strikeouts came in the first nine innings of a game that would eventually be won by the Diamondbacks in 11. MLB has recognized Johnson’s effort as equaling the record.)

Despite his numerous feats of dominance, Ryan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 having never been awarded a Cy Young. But then maybe some day baseball will recognize Ryan by naming a strikeout award after him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

By Geoff Bilau, Senior Editor

Yes they had. It took 19 mostly frustrating, often painful, at times utterly heartbreaking years, but the California Angels were finally playing in October.

Unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles weren’t the sentimental type and felt no guilt in dropping the Angels into an 0-2 ALCS deficit that to that point in MLB history had never been overcome. (The Angels would play an unfortunate role in changing this three years later.) Following 6-3 and 9-8 defeats in Baltimore (each in its own way gut wrenching), the Angels returned home to a down, but not out fan base, for which “Yes We Can” had become more than a chant. The sentiments were palpable, exemplified by the sheer audacity of the word “we.”

Fan use of “we” when talking about their favorite sports team is an acceptable misnomer, but rarely means anything literal. For the 1979 Angels and their fans, at times it did indeed seem to be a group effort. This night would define the “we” of that season.

The Angels got a gutsy five innings from Frank Tanana and four outstanding innings of relief from Don Aase, but reached the bottom of the ninth inning, three outs from elimination, trailing Dennis Martinez, 3-2.

Don Baylor, whose solo home run in the fourth briefly gave the Angels a 2-1 lead, flew out to left field for the first out. But Rod Carew drove a ball into the left center field gap for a double. The crowd of 43,199, again picked up the refrain: “Yes we can! Yes we can!”

Orioles manager Earl Weaver summoned reliever Don Stanhouse, despite the fact he’d thrown 33 pitches and nearly lost the game the day before in Baltimore. Brian Downing worked an eight-pitch walk and Angels fans raised the decibel level another notch, prompting broadcaster Dick Enberg to observe that he’d never heard Anaheim Stadium any louder.

Bobby Grich lined a Stanhouse offering that center fielder Al Bumbry broke in on late and mishandled, allowing it to drop to the grass. Carew hustled around third and beat Bumbry’s throw home to tie the score, Downing advancing to second. Bumbry would later admit the crowd noise prevented him from hearing the crack of the bat, contributing to his miscue.

“Yes we can! Yes we can!”

Then, on the second pitch he saw from Stanhouse, outfielder Larry Harlow slapped a line drive to Bumbry’s left and Downing charged home with the winning run, making a wide turn at the backstop and continuing right into the dugout to celebrate with his teammates. The Angels staved off elimination, winning their first ever playoff game, 4-3.

Angels fans lingered in the afterglow long after the game and continued to chant “Yes we can!” as they exited the stadium.

It hardly mattered that 20 hours later it was all over, Scott McGregor pitching a six-hit shutout to send the Orioles to the World Series. For the Angels and, more importantly their long-suffering fans, that one victory might as well have been the whole World Series. For one more incredible night, yes, they did.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peter Bourjos - Tempe, AZ (2008)

By Chuck Richter - Senior Editor

"He might be the fastest guy in our camp -- and that's really saying something. He's one of the young guys who, hopefully, we'll be talking about on the depth chart." -- Scioscia, on outfielder Peter Bourjos, a 10th-round pick in 2005 out of Scottsdale, Ariz. Considering the Angels have burners like Chone Figgins, Nathan Haynes, Erick Aybar and Reggie Willits, that's saying something.

Bourjos, who we ranked #7 in our Top-50 Prospects List back in December of '07, has been turning heads in spring camp, hitting .429, while posting a .619 slugging pct. which includes a 3-run HR in 21 at bats. While his bat has been impressive, that's not the only thing that has impressed Scioscia, coaches and his teammates, but the aforementioned speed which has seen him run down some balls in the outfield, looking like a future gold glover out there, while looking like a future base stealing threat with more work in the minors reading pitchers and getting better jumps.

Peter has a chance at being a true 5-tool player with his ability to drive the ball, improved contact, playing stellar defense, flashing a strong arm and his ability to steal bases with those wheels of his. If Peter displays all of those tools in Rancho this season, his Major League debut could push Hunter to a corner, sooner than later. Though realistically we have his ETA in 2010, if he continues to show progress.

Be sure to check out Peter Bourjos in Rancho Cucamonga with the Quakes in about 3 weeks once the minor league season begins. But before you see him take the field at the Epicenter, here's a chance to find out a little about our future star that will adorn a Halo around an A on his cap, all decked out in red.

Peter Bourjos, OF - Los Angeles Angels
PeterBourjossmall.jpg picture by chuckster70

Q: (Angelswin) When did you start playing baseball?

A: (Peter Bourjos) I started playing baseball as soon as the league would let me, so probably around 4 or 5 years old

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) I would have to say both my parents Chris and Janet

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) I loved watching Jim Edmonds.

Q: (Angelswin) Team you followed growing up?

A: (Peter Bourjos) I first followed the Blue Jays because my dad worked for them as a scout and then the Brewers, who my dad still is a scout for now.

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) When I was in Orem playing for the Owlz, I had two triples in the same inning.

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) My base stealing.

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) My defense.

Q: (Angelswin) Who was the best player you’ve played against and played with in the minors? Both at the plate and from the mound?

A: (Peter Bourjos) I have played against a lot of good players but I cant think of one that stands out more than all the others. I played with two great players, hitter Chris Pettit and pitcher Nick Adenhart.

The lighter side of Peter Bourjos

Q: (Angelswin) If there is one thing people should know about Peter Bourjos the person, it is?

A: (Peter Bourjos) I enjoy cooking.

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) I enjoy playing golf, cards and video games

Q: (Angelswin) What’s your favorite food?

A: (Peter Bourjos) Chicken Parmesan.

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) I listen to country, I like Tim McGraw.

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) Transformers

Q: (Angelswin) Most visited website?

A: (Peter Bourjos) almost after every game.

Q: (Angelswin) Speaking of web sites, what do you think of

A: (Peter Bourjos) I think that is really cool that you guys are so dedicated on reporting about the Angels and their farm system. I feel the website is great and I check it at least once a week.

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

A: (Peter Bourjos) I will call my dad and then my mom

Send comments or questions to or discuss this feature with other Angels fans on our message board.

By Eric Notti - Contributor

A few years ago this kind of thing just did not happen, fans having a conduit to the baseball executives. Occasionally you may be able to corner someone from the Angels management and ask a question and usually get a guarded and safe pre-packaged response. But you would be the only one that asked and got an answer that was unverifiable and so the information pretty much goes nowhere.

The creation of fan forums has started to change all of that. Rather than relying on the information you can glean from the local newspapers that only want to interview the GM, Owner and Manager, fans now have other avenues to get more information about their team by the hard work of people that decided to dig deeper and make contacts with the whole of the organization to get the whole story, not the flashy one.

It's not easy to do. Chuck and his band of merry men have had to spend a lot of time gaining the trust of the Angels organization by establishing a message board that maintains a fair and unbiased view of the organization. At least as unbiased as a fan forum can be, we all are here because we love the Angels. But being fans of the team is not enough to open the doors to either Eddie Bane's office or that of the General Manager Tony Reagins. You have to be diplomatic, earnest and sometimes just dogged determined to get these guys to let you in.

This is what makes this forum more of an insider’s club than the ESPN pay per view INSIDERS articles. We don't pay for the access to Bane or Reagins taking our questions and giving us insights into what the organizations focus is. And that is one of the big differences between the interviews that Angelswin obtains, it is questions we the fans pose. We want to know who is the low minors are fast tracked. We want to know who is poised to jump into the majors at a moments notice. We want to know where the organization is heading in the next draft and we get those questions answered, right here.

It never used to be this way for fans. You basically went "dark" as they say in the studios, when the season wrapped. The lights go out at the ballparks and so did the coverage. Once in a while the newspapers would give you a blurb of some off season news but until pitchers and catchers reported all you ever knew is so and so was traded or signed. Now the season really never ends and for the hardcore baseball enthusiast that is a godsend. But there is only one reason and that is fan forums like this keep it alive.

For those that grew up on the internet you don't get how lucky you are. This forum, this informational conduit to the team, is more baseball knowledge than any fan ever got just a mere 5 years ago. I can see this forum and its scope growing but it will require people to volunteer to utilize some of their time to be part of the process.

I know it seems like Chuck doesn't have a job, spending so much time managing the server, responding to members and organizing events but he really does have a family and full time job. He's not alone in this but the core of the contributors is very small and it does not have to be.

You can be a contributor, write a story and have it blogged. That is the simple way to be part of the process and there is no timetable or deadline. Pick a subject, a player profile, a moment spent at the stadium, your experience watching minor league play or maybe you just know an ex-player. Get the story together and share it and make the knowledge base here grow.

There is no pay but then again there is no fee so it truly is a co-operative that benefits all without burdening any. It sure would help take some of the pressure off of Chuck to constantly try and find a way to keep the content fresh and then maybe he could get some sleep and lose those bedroom eyes. Yeah, we’ve all seen his profile pick and he really could use some rest.

Help out, be more involved and share some of your time and creativity. After all this is the website for Angels fans by Angel’s fans and that would be us.

If you would like to help out in any capacity contact Chuck Richter at

Here's a little of what offers to Halos fans spread across the world. is an Angels Web site of the fans, by the fans, for the fans and has been tabbed as the #1 hangout for Angels fans on the net.

We offer a great deal of valuable content to Angels fans — and fans of baseball in general — from staff columns and insider news to a robust message board community that never lacks strong opinions and healthy discussion. dubbed the “Voice of the Fans” by KNX 1070 AM radio during the station’s reporting of the year-long name change battle between the City of Anaheim and the team. I was interviewed live on the air to represent the fans.

We've also been called the "AP of Angels Baseball for Angels fans" by Vice President of Media Relations of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Tim Mead.

Owner of the team, Arte Moreno was quoted as saying "He visits frequently". That we've done "a fantastic job with our web site"! The Angels recognize what service and respect we give to the club. A relationship that is felt and appreciated mutually.

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By Brent Hubbard, Contributor

Angels fans everywhere in despair. After the 16-4 pounding the Halos took in Game 5 of the 2002 fall classic, the series shifted back to Anaheim for the possible final game of the season.

But the team that had made a habit of coming back late all season long had yet another one up their collective sleeves. And while a home run by a certain red-bearded first baseman figures largely in this particular game, it would have all been for naught without more heroics in the eighth inning. (We’ll get to the aforementioned home run soon enough.)

The top half seemed to be played in a haze. Emotions high. Thunderstix booming. Hope restored. Fans again allowing themselves to believe.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in rookie Brendon Donnelly to replace uber-rookie Francisco Rodriguez. Donnelly promptly walked leadoff hitter Benito Santiago after putting him in a 1-2 hole. When J.T. Snow drove the first pitch he saw to center, for a second, for one brief moment, memories of Game 5 came flooding back. But Darin Erstad settled under the routine fly ball and there was one out.

Five more to go.

Donnelly next faced Reggie Sanders, firing in a first pitch fastball that Saunders couldn’t lay off for strike one. A foul ball made it 0-2. Next pitch: strike three, swinging.

Four more to go.

Next up, David Bell. Two quick foul balls signaled that Bell was dialed in. Two pitches out of the zone evened the count and Donnelly stared Bell down, sweat dripping from his cap. Strike three, swinging.

Three outs remained. Time for the Angels new mascot, the Rally Monkey, to go back to work.

Erstad would lead off the eighth for the Halos. Tim Worrell, who’d made quick work of David Eckstein to end the seventh, remained on the mound.

First pitch: Ball one. Second pitch: Erstad out in front, foul. Next pitch: Crack! Over the right field wall on a frozen rope. 45,000 fans at once erupted. 5-4, Giants.

Tim Salmon, Mr. Angel, came to the plate. On a 1-0 pitch, he lined it into center field and the tying run was 270 feet from home. Rally time.

Chone Figgins came in to pinch run for Salmon. Everybody in the stadium knew he was going — but on which pitch?

As it turned out, he wouldn’t get the chance. After smoking a foul ball into the stands, Garret Anderson blooped a Worrell pitch down the left field line. With Figgins tearing around second base and heading for third, Barry Bonds in left juggled the ball twice, allowing Anderson to hustle into the second.

Giants manager Dusty Baker motioned to the bullpen for closer Robb Nen for what would turn out to be the three-time All-Star’s final appearance. He’d face third baseman Troy Glaus.

Nen’s first three pitches were nowhere near the strike zone, though Glaus helped him out by swinging at and missing the second one. On a 2-1 count, Glaus hammered a poorly placed offering toward the left center field gap. Bonds, galloping back to the warning track, stretched his glove over his head in a vain attempt to catch the ball, but he’d have needed another 10 feet of reach to snare it.

Figgins and Anderson scored, and the Angels led, 6-5, Glaus pumping his fist as he retreated to second with the double. The Angels saved their best comeback of the season for last.

Nen then retired the side without additional damage, but with Troy Percival warmed up and ready for the ninth, the damage was already done. There would be a Game 7 and momentum was back with the Angels.

Check out the most current Top-50 Articles on our blog, or in our Greatest Moments page.

Monday, March 17, 2008

**With Expanded AL West Preview
By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

In two weeks Spring Training will come to a close and the start of the 2008 Major League Baseball season will begin. With it, fans in thirty markets will rekindle their hope that this year will be the year.

If promises are indeed made to be broken then to a baseball fan, dreams are made to be completely destroyed. The fact remains that come October only one team’s faithful will realize the joys of a World Series Championship, while the rest are left to sit and wait through what can be an agonizingly lengthy off-season.

And while such will ultimately be the fate for most fans, when the calendar reaches March 31st and (most) teams take the field for opening day there will be reason for optimism, albeit minimal for some fans.

Will this be the year our young pitchers reach their potential?

Can our rookie right-fielder provide the much needed power in the middle of our line-up?

If both happen, we could surprise some people.

Heck, the Rockies made the World Series last year!

What else is a Pittsburgh Pirates fan to think? Why shouldn’t a member of the Rays’ faithful hold out hope?

Stranger things have happened.

Here are my predictions for the 2008 season, followed by the picks of other staffers.


1. Los Angeles Angels

Mike Scioscia’s Angels have won their division three of the last four seasons, and despite the challenge of beginning the 2008 campaign without their top two starters in John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, both out with injuries, the Angels have the top-to-bottom talent and depth to once again outlast their American League Western Division foes.

While pitching has been the foundation for the Angels’ success over the past few seasons, look for the offense to take the reigns in 2008.

The Angels scored 822 runs in 2007. Good enough for fourth in the American League. Added to their offensive attack is Torii Hunter, who signed a 5-year $90 million contract in the off-season. Hunter is coming off a 28 homerun, 107 RBI season and will provide much needed pop behind Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero was once again a beast in the middle of the Angel order in 2007. We can expect another MVP caliber season from the future hall of famer. Chone Figgins’ 2007 was a remarkable one despite missing the first month of the season and hitting just .156 in May. Figgins broke out with a .330 batting average, becoming one of the game’s elite leadoff men. He enters 2008 healthy, and with the new and improved controlled hitting approach he exhibited a season ago. Garret Anderson found the fountain of youth in the second half of last season, driving in 60 runs after the All-Star break. With a club option for 2009, Anderson has 14 million reasons to stay on the field and in the line-up in 2008, something the Angel great has struggled with since signing a long extension prior to the 2004 season. Young phenoms, Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman, who make up the right side of the Angel infield, also missed considerable time in 2007 and enter 2008 healthy. Both are capable of hitting well over .300. In all, the Angels have seven starters who have, or are legitimately capable of hitting over .300. And that’s not counting Maicer Izturis, who hit .289 in 336 at-bats last season. Izturis is the expected back up to Erick Aybar at shortstop, Figgins at third base and Kendrick at second base. Nor does it include Juan Rivera, who hit .310 with 23 homeruns in 2006, before missing most of the 2007 season with a broken leg. Rivera will be the Angels’ 4th outfielder/DH option, who will see plenty of playing time in 2008.

Bottom line: This Angel team can hit. Expect them to at least approach the 900 run plateau in 2008.

When Escobar and Lackey return to the Angel rotation (expected in mid-May) they will join third year man, Jered Weaver, Jon Garland, who was acquired in the Orlando Cabrera trade to the White Sox, and either Joe Saunders or Ervin Santana. No starting staff in the AL West and arguably, in the entire American League is as deep as what the Angels present one through five.

With Francisco Rodriguez back for at least one more season as the Angel closer, and Scot Shields and Justin Speier setting him up, the Angels still field one of the most formidable bullpens in the Major Leagues. Darren Oliver provided the Angels with a quality lefthander in 2007 and returns. Dustin Moseley is the expected long-man. Rookie, Darren O’Day has been dominant in Tempe this spring and may round out the pen.

Prediction: 95-67

2. Seattle Mariners

The Mariners gave the Angels a run for their money in 2007, challenging the eventual division champs until late August. Much hype has centered on the Seattle pitching staff, which will be anchored by newly acquired ace, Erik Bedard. Bedard finished fourth in the AL with a 3.16 ERA and third with 221 strikeouts for his former team, the Baltimore Orioles in 2007. Felix Hernandez moves to the second spot in the Seattle rotation. ‘King’ Felix was hyped as the second coming of Dwight Gooden when he entered the league in 2005 and has show signs of brilliance. If he breaks out in 2008 the Mariners could have the most dynamic front of the rotation in baseball. Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Silva and Miguel Batista round out the M’s staff.

Ichiro Suzuki returns as the anchor of the Seattle offense, which lost arguably its best run producer in Jose Guillen, who signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Royals in the off-season. The Mariners scored 799 runs in 2007 and will find it difficult to match that production in 2008. Declining sluggers, Richie Sexon and Adrian Beltre will be counted upon to provide the power. Sexon hit just .205 with 21 homeruns a season ago. Beltre, who hit 48 homeruns for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004 has hit just 70 in three full seasons with Seattle. Aging outfielders Raul Ibanez and Brad Wilkerson will also be counted upon to provide production.

The Mariners have been the sexy pick for many prognosticators previewing the 2008 season. Don’t buy it. This team has a lot of question marks.

Bedard is a talented lefty, but has been awful this spring, posting a 9.00-plus ERA and has never eclipsed the 200 inning mark in any of his four full big league seasons. Hernandez has as good of stuff as anyone in baseball but has not shown the ability to pitch effectively for a sustained period of time. And the rest of the Mariner staff is very hittable. A saving grace for the starting staff is a spacious Safeco Field and a solid bullpen, anchored by closer J.J. Putz, who was the best in the bizz at shutting down ninth innings a year ago.

A suspect and inconsistent pitching staff and a very average offense makes the Mariner’s less than a threat to overtake the Angels in 2008.

Prediction: 81-81

3. Texas Rangers

It’s the same old story for the Texas Rangers. They’ll score a bunch and give up a more. I actually really like the Ranger line-up. It’s very deep with quality hitters and good power. Michael Young leads the attack once again, in search of his 6th consecutive 200-hit season. The Ranger power is expected to come from third baseman Hank Blalock, newly acquired centerfielder Josh Hamilton, and the right side of the infield, Ian Kinsler and Ben Broussard.

The Texas bullpen is talented with C.J. Wilson, Eddie Guardado, Joaquin Benoit, and Frank Francisco leading the way.

To beat the proverbial dead horse, the Rangers weakness is the starting staff. And that weakness is a glaring one. Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla return at the top of the rotation. Both guys have seen much better days. The staff is rounded out by also-rans, Jason Jennings, Brandon McCarthy and Kason Gabbard.

That the Rangers will have enough pitching to compete with either Seattle or the Angels is a wish so grand that not even the most powerful Genie in the most beautiful lamp could grant it.

Prediction: 72-90

4. Oakland Athletics

General Manager, Billy Beane has done a tremendous job of replenishing the Athletics’ roster on the run and keeping the small market club competitive during his tenure. The A’s seemingly always exceed expectations. But trading away ace, Dan Haren and team MVP, Nick Swisher will be too much to overcome in 2008.

The A’s will rely on Joe Blanton and Rich Harden to lead a pitching staff which will also include converted relievers, Chad Guadin and Justin Duchscherer and Lenny Dinardo, who posts a 9-13 career Major League record. Blanton is solid. Harden will have to shed his injury problems. And the others will have to pitch better than they’ve shown capable.

Offensively, the A’s are pretty weak. It will take a heroic effort from perennial MVP favorite, Bobby Crosby to keep the A’s in contention past the All-Star break. A healthy Eric Chavez may also help.

Prediction: 69-93


1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers (Wild Card)
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Kansas City Royals

The Detroit Tigers stole the off-season headlines by trading for Florida Marlins’ stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Cabrera is one of the best young right handed power hitters in all of baseball, and becomes an instant MVP candidate in the American League. He will lead a Tiger offense, which could score more than 1000 runs and should be the best in baseball. They are loaded. Curtis Granderson, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria, Magglio Ordonez, Placido Palanco and Ivan Rodriguez are all All-Stars.

While the Indian offense is a bit more modest, they’re still one of the better hitting units in baseball. Led by Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, Cleveland’s quick strike attack can hang with anyone.

With an improved Chicago White Sox team also in the mix, the AL Central will come down to pitching and right now the Indians have the upper hand. Cleveland has seven quality starters competing for five spots. Led by 2007 Cy Young winner, C.C. Sabathia and Cy Young candidate, Fausto Carmona, the Indians have enough firepower in the rotation to contain any offense. It’s tough to say whether Joe Borowski will be able to flirt with as much disaster as he did in 2007 and remain an effective closer. If not, the Indians have enough quality arms in the pen, and a creative general manager, willing to make mid-season trades, that they should be able close out enough games to outlast a Detroit team, lacking pitching depth.

The Twins and Royals both seem completely irrelevant heading towards opening day.


1. New York Yankees
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles

Save the fans in Maryland and there is reason for optimism amongst each of the AL East fan bases. I debated long and hard as to how I think this division will ultimately play out. Each of the top four teams has enough talent to win the AL East.

The 2007 World Series champion Red Sox seem to be the consensus pick to repeat as AL East champs in 2008. But not so fast. This Sox club had a lot of things go right in 2007 – things that camouflaged things that went very wrong. A lot of questions surround Boston heading into 2008.

Curt Schilling was recently placed on the 60 Day disabled list and conceivably may have pitched his last Major League game. Josh Beckett, perhaps the best pitcher in all of baseball, has never had back-to-back great seasons, and has experienced shoulder pain this spring. Daisuke Matsuzaka received huge money to leave Japan for Boston a year ago and was somewhat disappointing posting a 4.40 ERA is his rookie campaign. Consider that Japanese pitchers often regress in the Major Leagues, and it could be a long 2008 for Dice-K. Youngsters, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are likely to begin the year in the Red Sox rotation. Offensively, Mike Lowell comes off of a career year and with a new three year extension. He joins the aging, albeit dynamic duo of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the middle of the order. The Sox will rely on Dustin Pedroia to duplicate his 2007 season, which earned him Rookie of the Year honors and potential 2008 Rookie of Year Jacoby Ellsbury to set the table at the top of the order.

While it’s not considered appropriate to predict injuries, it’s certainly a concern heading into this season for the Boston Red Sox. Ramirez saw his production decline last season. David Ortiz, though healthy this spring is nursing questionable knees. J.D. Drew has never played a full season. Lowell and Jason Varitek are getting up in age and Beckett has had trouble staying off the DL in the past. 2008 will be the year the Sox fall off.

Look for the Toronto Blue Jays, who themselves field a very balanced team to surpass the Sox in the standings and the talented Tampa Bay club to contend as well.

I chose the Yankees to not only win the American League East but to have the best record in all of baseball. First, and most obvious, the Bronx Bombers field a line-up on par with the Detroit Tigers. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, and Hideki Matsui lead the attack, while the aging Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu are still very productive. Despite the criticism, the Yankees also have a solid rotation, led by Chien-Ming Wang and veteran Andy Pettite. The Yankees will count heavily upon the young arms of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlin. Mike Mussina is still in the mix as well. Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlin are very talented and received Major League experience in 2007 that has been well documented.

The Yankees have begun each of the last few seasons poorly as they seemingly became complacent under former manager, Joe Torre. I expect new skipper Joe Girardi to invigorate this group and get them out of the gates quickly. Remember…the Yanks had the best record in all of baseball in the second half of 2007.


1. Arizona Diamondbacks
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Colorado Rockies
4. San Diego Padres
5. San Francisco Giants

The National League West seemingly always comes down to the final weekend of the season. Such was the case last season when the San Diego Padres lost the Division to the Arizona Diamondbacks on the season’s final weekend and the Colorado Rockies rallied for 3 runs against San Diego Padres’ closer, Trevor Hoffman in the bottom of the thirteenth inning to take the wild card in a one game playoff.

Expect another close race in 2008 as the West’s top four teams all field quality teams.

The edge goes to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who even without the surgically repaired Randy Johnson in the rotation still boast the division’s best starting staff. And if the Big Unit’s back holds up – and it has thus far this spring – they could be the best in baseball. The D-Backs acquired Dan Haren from the Oakland Athletics in the off-season to co-anchor the rotation with former Cy Young winner – sinker-baller, Brandon Webb. Their pitching compliments a young and improving offense, which features second year sluggers Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, and top prospect Justin Upton

The Dodgers should provide the stiffest competition, as they may have the best balance in the NL West. Youngsters Matt Kemp and James Loney look to break out as legitimate stars in 2008. Andrew Jones was signed to play centerfield and could benefit from a change of scenery. Whether or not he’ll return the level that saw him hit 50 homeruns remains to be seen, but Jones can be expected to provide 30 homerun power. Jeff Kent is a future hall of famer and Russell Martin showed last year he might be the game’s best all-around catcher. The pitching staff is solid with Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsly, Esteban Loaiza and Japanese transplant, Kiroki Kuroda. The Dodgers have been fortunate in the past with first year pitchers from across the world. To round out the pitching staff the Blue Crew also possesses a terrific bullpen.

Colorado is still good, but will have to compete with both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, who have both improved.

Look for the Padres to take a step back in 2008 as they have one of the worst offenses in all of baseball.


1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Houston Astros
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. St. Louis Cardinals

As the Cubs enter their second season with manager Lou Piniella at the helm the Cubbie swagger Lou promised last season has started to become evident in Mesa this spring. With the Cubs upgrading right field, catcher and in the back end of their rotation (a rotation that ranked 2nd in the NL last season) there’s reason for optimism to think they will repeat as division champs in 2008.

The Cubs have all the ingredients of a winning team, a formidable offense (which could still be upgraded by a trade for Brian Roberts) great defense, good starting pitching, and the best bullpen in the division, if not the entire National League. What to watch for this year is the contribution of the three rookies the Cubs will be starting this season.

The Cubs big free agent acquisition Kosuke Fukudome is a guaranteed defensive upgrade from what they trotted out last year and while he lacks power, Fukudome’s career .397 OBP is exactly what the Cubs lineup was missing last season. In center field the north-siders prized prospect Felix Pie will be the opening day starter while the MVP of the Pacific Coast League Geovany Soto will be the new Cubs back stop in 2008 offering a significant upgrade to Jason Kendall.

If these three rookies provide solid contributions for “Sweet Lou” this season not only will the Cubs cruise to the top of the NL central but should also be serious contenders to compete for the pennant.

The Milwaukee Brewers should provide Chicago with its greatest competition. The Brewers have a talented young team led by young mashers, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. They’ll certainly score enough runs to compete but will need Ben Sheets to stay healthy and lead an otherwise unspectacular pitching staff, something Sheets has been unable to do thus far in his career.

The Reds and Astros have offenses to compete if they can get consistent pitching.

The Pirates and Cardinals will compete to stay out of the cellar.

**with contributions from Cubs’ correspondent, Jeffrey Meek


1. Atlanta Braves
2. New York Mets (Wild Card)
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins

The National League East may be the most interesting division to watch in 2008. With no clear cut favorite, I’ll go with the Atlanta Braves, who should prove to have the most balance. I love the starting rotation, especially if Mike Hampton can stay healthy. Hampton hasn’t pitched in more than two years and has only pitched 3.1 innings this spring. John Smoltz and Tom Glavine appear good enough and healthy enough to have one last strong run and Tim Hudson is a consistent horse. The bullpen might be a weakness for the Braves, but if they can get the ball to new closer, Rafael Soriano, who could be fantastic in that role, Atlanta should be good enough.

**Keep an eye on 22-year old Jair Jurrjens, whom the Braves are extremely high on. Jurrjens may earn a spot in the rotation this spring and has dynamite stuff and good mound presence for a young pitcher.

Chipper Jones, Jeff Francoeur and Mark Teixeira lead a solid offense, albeit less star-laden as those fielded by the Mets and Phillies.

The Mets are loaded, especially in the infield with Jose Reyes, David Wright, Luis Castillo and Carlos Delgado. Carlos Beltran leads the outfield.

The Mets will count heavily upon Pedro Martinez to pitch a full and effective season to compliment newly acquired ace, and possible 2008 Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, who should dominate National League opponents. John Maine, Oliver Perez, El Duque – Orlando Hernandez and Mike Pelfrey are also in the mix.

The division’s other contender – the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2007 NL East in dramatic fashion. They’re very talented, but don’t have the pitching to compete with a deep Braves club, nor the Mets’ team that choked away the division a season ago. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will give them a chance as they can score with anyone.

Look for the Washington Nationals to play inspired baseball, especially early as they enter a new stadium.

Florida has quality young talent and may manage to stay out of last place.


AL MVP – Grady Sizemore
NL MVP – Mark Teixeira

AL Cy Young – Fausto Carmona
NL Cy Young – Johan Santana

AL ROY – Jacoby Ellsbury
NL ROY – Geovany Soto


Indians defeat Angels
Tigers defeat Yankees

Indians defeat Tigers

Diamondbacks defeat Braves
Cubs defeat Mets

Cubs defeat Diamondbacks

Indians defeat Cubs

What other staffers think:

Eric Denton – Feature Writer


WEST: Angels – Even with injuries to Lackey & Escobar the Angels have the most balanced team in the West. Seattle will hang tough most of the year.

CENTRAL: Tigers - Detroit could hit without the addition of Miguel Cabrera, now their offense could be Nintendoesque.

EAST: Red Sox – Yeah, they’ll win their division. Yankees are both too old and too young.

WILD CARD: Blue Jays – They have a lot of talented offensive players and if they get full seasons out of Burnett & Ryan they should improve over last year. I think the Jays will be just good enough to beat out New York and Cleveland for the final playoff spot.


WEST: Diamondbacks - It’s hard to determine who’s #1 & #2 starters are better. AZ (Webb & Haren) or SD (Peavy & Young). I lean towards the younger, healthier hitters putting them over the Friars.

CENTRAL: Cubs – Kerry Wood looks like he’s found his place as a closer. The addition of Fukudome should add more offense and enable Lou Pinella to drop Soriano’s power bat in the lineup.

EAST: Mets – Adding Johan Santana was huge, 1 start out of him in Sept. 07 and the Mets probably don’t choke. Hard to find a more exciting trio than Wright, Reyes & Beltran.

WILD CARD: Padres – This was probably the hardest pick. I could see as many as 4 other teams winning this spot. Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers or Rockies could all make it.

Brent Hubbard – Feature Writer

American League

EAST: Rays - A surprising Tampa Bay Rays team rides a dominant young pitching staff to the division crown with 91 wins.

CENTRAL: Indians - The class of the division is still the Indians and the Tigers. The Tigers huge addition of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis is a big step forward, but their bullpen is a major question mark. I’m picking the Indians by about 6-8 games.

WEST: Angels - The Angels run away with the division, taking the West by 15 games. Torii Hunter and Garland are the missing pieces. Verdict: ANGELS at 105 wins.

WILDCARD: Tigers - The Tigers’ll get to 90 and take the Wild Card, on the strength of their bats, but they won’t be the monster team most think they will be.

National League

EAST: Phillies - Philadelphia will miss the presence of Rowand in center field, but a resurgent Lidge at the back end of the bullpen makes up the difference.

CENTRAL: Brewers - Perhaps the worst division in baseball, the Cubs stole this at the last few weeks from a significantly better Brewers team that just couldn’t overcome their poor road record. That’s going to change in 08.

WEST: Diamondbacks - The most complete division from top to bottom: Arizona is the pick here, but the Rockies, Padres, and Dodgers will all be close, and one of them takes the Wild Card.

WILD CARD: Dodgers – Los Angeles will take the Wildcard at 90 wins.


Rays defeat Indians
Angels defeat Tigers

Angels defeat Rays

Brewers defeat Dodgers
Diamondbacks defeat Phillies

Diamondbacks defeat Brewers

Angels defeat Diamondbacks

Geoff Bilau – Senior Editor


West: Angels — Seattle pushes them even harder this season, but Mike Scioscia proves a better manager than John McClaren and keeps the Angels on top.

Central: Indians — Detroit made the big winter moves, but Cleveland remains the better team, pacing the American League in victories.

East: Yankees — The Yankees powerful offense becomes even more threatening under Joe Girardi, but pitching questions linger.

Wild Card: Red Sox — Another year older, but still talented enough to hold off the Tigers in the final week.


West: Diamondbacks — It's still anybody's to take, but Haren's arrival pushes Arizona over the top.

Central: Cubs — I'm not entirely convinced myself, but nobody else in the division appears good enough to challenge them.

East: Mets — Johan Santana makes them good enough to leapfrog the Phillies in a tight division race.

Wild Card: Phillies — They finally put it together last year and will be even better in 2008.

Angels vs. Indians

Diamondbacks vs. Mets

World Series
Angels vs. Diamondbacks

Angels — Arte Moreno gets the last laugh, beating the team he originally tried to purchase to win his first World Series title.

Chuck Richter – Chief Editor


WEST: Angels – They’ll battle the Mariners all season long, and be surprised by the Texas Rangers offense if the pitching is stellar, but the Angels will finish at the top when it’s all said and done. The reason? Depth, Defense & and

CENTRAL: Tigers – Should battle it out with the Indians and White Sox all season long, but in the end, the Tigers will prevail and come out on top.

EAST: Red Sox – The Yankees have a young, albeit talented pitching staff, but I think they’re going to struggle in what is a talented AL East, outside of the retooling Baltimore Orioles. Their offense alone won’t carry them!

WILD CARD: Indians – Should battle the Tigers until the end, the Tigers starting pitching will prevail. The Yankees, Mariners & Blue Jays will all vie for the WC spot.


WEST: Diamondbacks – The Padres have will battle, as will the Rockies and Dodgers, but in the end the Diamondbacks will prevail. Too many question marks in the rotation for the Rockies to repeat.

CENTRAL: Brewers – The talented Brew Crew will take the division in what will be a close race between them and the Cubs.

EAST: Mets – Santana, Maine, O. Perez and P. Martinez, along with a solid lineup should see the Mets run away with the division.

WILD CARD: Cubs – Solid lineup, with or without Brian Roberts at 2B. But, will Kerry Wood be the closer Pinella thinks he can be? Can Z be the dominate starter and ace of the rotation?

Angels vs. Tigers

Cubs vs. Mets

World Series
Angels vs. Mets

Angels — This time, the Angels are healthy heading into October and the confidence of beating the Tigers in the ALCS gives the Angels all the Momentum they need to top the Amazing Mets.

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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