The Angels broke out the disco ball in the clubhouse, and why not? That was quite a party.
Mike Trout, the guest of honor, became the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle. Josh Hamilton, the birthday boy, enjoyed two rounds of serenades from the crowd. The Angels posted their most lopsided victory of the season, a 12-0 rout of the Seattle Mariners.
The fans even went home with party favors — Mike Trout pint glasses, in honor of a player of legal drinking age for all of nine months.
They toasted him with a curtain call, the first of his career. The cycle was the first of his life — “high school, Little League, everything,” he said.
He is 21 and he has achieved so much so soon. There is so much more in his future, and no one is shy about predicting it.
“If I were a betting man,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, “I’ve got to believe there’s another cycle in his career somewhere.”
Trout even spotted the Mariners an out. He struck out in the first inning, then singled in the third, tripled in the fourth and doubled in the sixth. As he stood in the outfield in the eighth inning, he said, he realized he was a home run from the cycle.
Wonder if Paul Anka can pen another hit after this nosedive…
But the thing that was most striking about Pujols is that he was always exactly as good as he had been the year before. He never had a bad year. He never had anything RESEMBLING a bad year. They called him “The Machine.” If you take the WORST statistical totals he had those first 10 years – that is, the lowest batting average he had over those 10 years, the fewest home runs he hit, etc.—you STILL come up with this season:
Repeat: Those are his WORST numbers in those first 10 years. The guy was a first-ballot Hall of Famer on his worst day.
And he was thrilling to watch hit. He stood at the plate with that wide stance – he looked so sturdy and immovable, like he was magnetically connected with the batters’ box. He was like a marble statue up there.
...But, even assuming he does again find the range, even assuming he has a few more productive years, the truth is that Pujols has entered a different phase of his career. After years of being the best player in baseball, Pujols is now sort of beside the point.
Look: He is 33 years old, just beginning a $240 million contract, and he’s playing for an overpriced and kind of dreadful team that looks like it was built by a rotisserie baseball beginner who ran out at the last minute and bought three fantasy baseball magazines. He looks hurt. He looks tired. He looks out of place. He looks … well, truth is, who is even looking anymore?
Josh Hamilton said he was assured by doctors this week that the allergies that lead to occasional sinus and throat discomfort and dizziness were not caused or exacerbated by his heavy cocaine use from 2002-2005.
“You have a hallway up the middle of your nose and sinus cavities on each side,” said Hamilton, whose addiction to drugs and alcohol led to a ban from baseball from 2003-2005. “When you breathe air, it goes up and down the hallway.
“Same thing when you do drugs, it goes up the hallway, not into the sinus cavities. I told the doctor I had never had allergies before I started doing any of that stuff, but he said [drug use] has nothing to do with it.”
Hamilton, who has arranged a visit to an allergist, started at designated hitter for the second time in three games Thursday night.
Though the struggling outfielder — Hamilton entered Thursday with a .214 average, five home runs and 12 runs batted in — isn’t sure whether his drug use will impede his ability to play baseball in the long term, he was relieved that his sinus issues weren’t related to his cocaine use.
“You think about the consequences of the decisions you made, especially when you put things in your body that aren’t good for you,” Hamilton said. “But your body is a fascinating thing. It can heal itself. From the doctors I’ve talked to, it seems like the effects from the years of drug use have healed up.”
Scioscia has been in Anaheim for 14 years and won a World Series title and five division championships.
But everything has a shelf life, and as he oversees yet another season of Angels underachievement, it’s probably only a matter of time before Moreno decides it’s time to bring in a new manager.
But don’t mistake a change in the dugout with heaping all the blame on one person.
It’s not Scioscia’s fault the Angels drastically downgraded their pitching staff. He isn’t responsible for Albert Pujols not being the same player he was with the Cardinals or Josh Hamilton being so spooked by the bright lights of Downtown Disney he’s hitting .214 with 44 strikeouts going into Wednesday.
Scioscia just happens to be in the most vulnerable position if Moreno decides to shake things up.
If so, the Dodgers should pounce on the chance to bring him back to Los Angeles.
Nothing against Mattingly, a good guy caught in a complicated situation in which his team continues to underachieve. And the new ownership group shelling out more than $239 million in payroll can’t be happy.
Mattingly is in a more precarious spot than Scioscia, his minimal ties to the organization and nonexistent track record of success working against him.
Now in his third year as the Dodgers manager, he’s done little to prove he’s anything more than a place-holder for the next guy.
Josh Hamilton said he has changed sinus medication and is scheduled to be tested for allergies, but he wanted to make one thing about his weakened condition perfectly clear.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with my .200 batting average,” he said.
The Angels limited Hamilton to designated hitter Tuesday, one day after the right fielder came out of a game with what Manager Mike Scioscia called dizziness. Hamilton said he has had sinus and throat discomfort for about 10 days and said he hoped a change in medication would help.
He also said he has arranged for a visit to an allergist, recalling that respiratory issues would flare when he played for the Texas Rangers and that team visited its American League West rivals.
“Every time I’d come to the West Coast, it would get worse,” he said.
Hamilton said his current medical issues were not related to his condition last September, when he missed five games because of dryness and blurring in his eyes. The condition was traced to excessive use of caffeine and energy drinks.
“Last September was a caffeine issue,” he said. “This is an actual sickness.”
Look, Caffeine Dependency is a REAL sickness that affects millions of people every day. How dare you mock us.
Guillen is an excellent manager. His teams consistently win more games than their talent level suggests they should (plus-19 in Pythagorean standings over his eight years with the White Sox). It’s easy to picture him getting a bump out of the Dodgers or Angels, should changes be made.
But will he get a chance?
Restoring his reputation will be a huge battle for Guillen. He might not be ready to get back in the dugout if the information I got Friday was correct.
Guillen says he wants to manage again but appears quite comfortable sitting home and being paid $2.5 million a year by the Marlins’ Jeffrey Loria, who fired him one year into his four-year deal. I tried unsuccessfully to reach Ozzie but was told by someone close to him that he wants to manage again only if there’s more in it for him than what he’s already making.
It wasn’t put this way, but what’s being said is this: Guillen wants a raise after losing 93 games with the Marlins.
Guillen is only 49. He could have another 20 years left in baseball. But first he has to get another job, and that won’t be easy, especially if he isn’t putting his ego aside for the chance to wear No. 13 in another uniform.
As Alfred, Lord (The Human Eyeball) Tennyson once said about smile splits…“A smile abroad is often a scowl at home.”
Dwight Howard, meet Josh Hamilton.
“I’ve had people screaming at me when I’m at the plate, ‘Wipe that smile off your face,’‘’ said the Angels bust. “If I’m not smiling, you don’t want me out there. I want to play the game how I’ve grown up my whole life playing it, and that’s with a smile. You do your best when you’re relaxed.’‘
Hamilton gets any more relaxed and he really will be an automatic out. He stands casually in the batter’s box holding his bat like he’s waiting for the next slow-pitch softball to arrive.
At least Howard works up a sweat.
Worse yet, and you would hope there is a competitor brewing down deep there, Hamilton comes across like the poster child for every athlete who knows he has guaranteed money coming.
...The Angels signed him to hit baseballs. The facts are sometimes blunt, but most fans probably care more about his swing than his relationship with the Lord.
“I understand,’’ Hamilton said. “We’re all different. It depends on your starting point, and mine is the Bible.’‘
Given that context, he had dropped below the Methuselah line before being motivated by Page 2.
[Angels’] Manager Mike Scoscia argued Astros skipper Bo Porter wasn’t allowed to make two pitching changes before the first reliever fired an official pitch.
However, since the Angels came back to win, 6-5, the protest is essentially a non-factor. [...] Rule 3.05(b) states: If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at-bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.
With the Angels tying their worst start in franchise history—an 11-20 record matching the futility of their 1961 inaugural season—manager Mike Scioscia’s future with the club has come into question.
A fired-up Scioscia wants to make it clear—he’s not interested in bailing out.
“I’ve never quit, given up or anything else like that in my career,” the Halos’ manager said after an 8-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. “I’m certainly not going to start now.
“We’re going to turn this thing around and have the type of season we expected to have when we went to spring training.”
...“I still have as much passion for this team and this game as I ever have,” he responded quickly. “If that ever changes, no body from the media or management will have to come and tell me.I’d know it and I’d be the one to move on first.
“But it’s not even close to that. I love the game and I love managing the Angels every bit as much as that first game in 2000. I don’t see that changing any time soon.”
Josh Hamilton’s first month as a Los Angeles Angel was a well-documented disaster. The slugger, who signed a five-year, $125 million deal with LAA in the off-season, finished April with a .204/.252/.296 slash line, two homers, nine RBIs, six walks and 32 strikeouts.
Sure, Hamilton has long been known as a streaky hitter, but just how bad has this start been? Let’s break down the numbers a little further.
Hamilton’s .548 OPS for April was the second-lowest OPS he’s ever posted in a month during which he got at least 50 plate appearances. His only worse showing was in July 2009, when he posted a .513 mark. His 32 strikeouts in April were also second worst, topped only by the 35 Ks he had last June.
Throughout his six-year career, Hamilton had never combined for a month in which he OPSed below .750 and posted 30 or more strikeouts… until now. April was also the first month in Hamilton’s career during which he had 100 or more plate appearances and still failed to drive in 10 runs.
Fagan inspection: Find defects in Josh Hamilton’s game.
What follows isn’t an attempt to predict the rest of Hamilton’s season; it’s an attempt to use several advanced statistics to provide a deeper look at how poorly he has played so far in 2013. Keep in mind that the calendar has just barely crept into May, so we’re dealing with small sample sizes.
The stat: .248 wOBA
What wOBA doesn’t stand for: Would *Oyster Burns Approve? How it relates to Hamilton: Hamilton isn’t drawing many free passes (six walks this season). He isn’t driving the ball for any sort of power, either; he has just five extra-base hits (two homers, two doubles and a triple). The wOBA stat is a way to directly compare these struggles to other hitters.
Hamilton’s .248 wOBA isn’t the worst in the majors, but there are only 15 qualifying players with poorer numbers. Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana leads the majors with an excellent (and unsustainable) .504 wOBA, and Chicago White Sox third baseman Jeff Keppinger is last, at .176.
Hamilton’s career wOBA is .381 (including 2013); in his MVP season of 2010, he led the majors with a .445 wOBA. That season, he had 75 extra-base hits (40 doubles, 32 homers and three triples) despite playing just 133 games because of injuries.
The stat: -3.49 wCH/C
What wCH/C doesn’t stand for: Why Chase Headley Divides Cheeseburgers
How it relates to Hamilton: Those highlights you’ve watched of Hamilton waving helplessly and missing a pitch by what looks like a foot or two? Chances are, he was flailing at a changeup. As you probably noticed, Hamilton’s wCH/C of -3.49 is way, way outside of the normal range. In other words, in the very small sample size of this season, he has been really, really bad when the pitcher grabs the baseball with his changeup grip.
Opponents have noticed this extreme struggle and have adjusted their game plans accordingly; 20.5 percent of the pitches he has seen while wearing an Angles jersey have been changeups. The highest number of his career previously was 16.7 percent in 2010.
The teams were on the field for 6 hours, 32 minutes in a marathon game that ended at 1:41 a.m. on the West Coast. It was the longest game ever played in Oakland by time and the longest in Angels history as well.
Oakland slugger Yoenis Cespedes singled off the left-center wall to drive in the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Los Angeles went ahead 8-7 in the 15th on a bases-loaded walk, but the A’s tied it in the bottom half on Adam Rosales’ two-out single after a costly error by Angels first baseman Albert Pujols.
Pujols homered twice earlier in the game and finished with four hits. Mark Trumbo also went deep for the Angels and added a two-run double.
All that baseball took a toll on both teams.
Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos was removed with a strained left hamstring and third baseman Luis Jimenez came out with a bruised left shin.
Oakland lost center fielder Coco Crisp to a strained left hamstring and outfielder Chris Young to a strained left quadriceps.
Rangers fans still stung by Josh Hamilton’s off-season jab at Dallas-Fort Worth not being a “baseball town” might have been tickled to see a sparse crowd on hand at the start of the Rangers-Angels game in Anaheim on Monday.
SportsDay’s Evan Grant posted a Vine from the press box showing a sparsely populated Angels Stadium as the home team took the field. The lower bowl seemed about half full, while the upper deck was mostly empty.
Official attendance for the game was announced at 36,192.
Michael Roth pitched his first game above rookie ball on April 9, working five innings for the Class AA Arkansas Travelers. Three nights later, after a game in Frisco, Tex., Roth was called into an office with Manager Tim Bogar and the pitching coach, Mike Hampton. He had no reason to expect what was coming.
“I kind of thought I was in trouble,” Roth said over the phone last week. “I was like, ‘Oh, God, what did I do?’ ”
Roth had done enough in that game — and had enough rest — to earn a promotion to the major league team, the Los Angeles Angels. He became the first American Leaguer from the 2012 draft class to reach the majors, and the second player over all, after pitcher Paco Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But Rodriguez was a second-round pick. Roth was a ninth-rounder, taken 297th over all as a senior out of South Carolina.
There may be dumber ideas than firing Mike Scioscia, but I can’t think of any. I understand why it’s a topic of conversation, and Scioscia does, too. When a team begins a season with high expectations and then falls on its face out of the gate, someone has to be held accountable.
That someone usually is the skipper. Never mind the circumstances or personnel. Never mind fairness. Competent managers get fired every season. It usually happens when management has no other options and hopes a change at the top might kick-start the club.
It’s a tactic that almost never works, but teams keep trying it. It’s one way to placate unhappy fans or calm the media. If you think the media doesn’t matter in such things, guess again. It’s incredible how when columnists and talk-show hosts turn on a manager, many players do the same thing.
It’s a lot easier to blame the guy in the corner office than to look in the mirror. I know a certain pitcher who has blamed his problems the past couple of years on a certain manager. He was thrilled when his team got rid of the guy. Unfortunately, his performance hasn’t improved. He’s sure to be blaming the new guy in no time.
...It’s easy to look for simple solutions to broader problems. The Angels aren’t 4-10 because their manager has been bad. Getting rid of Scioscia almost certainly would not calm down Hamilton at the plate or give Hanson back the zip on his fastball.
Plenty of us thought the Angels were a playoff team when the season began. Those three starters have performed so poorly that Dipoto eventually may be forced to trade for a starter.
But he can’t trade for three starters. He simply has to hope that his player evaluations of three weeks ago will end up being right. In the end, that’s where the change must come. Scioscia simply should not be an issue.
Some of the Nationals feel that left fielder Bryce Harper plays with a chip on his shoulder, as if he has something to prove.
“To myself, yes,” Harper says. “To everyone else, I could care less.”
Another theory among certain Nats is that Harper is hell-bent on proving that he is better than the Angels’ Mike Trout, with whom he shared headlines last season as Trout won AL Rookie of the Year while Harper took NL honors.
“We made it to the playoffs last year — that’s all I’ll say about that one,” Harper said.
Don’t Grieve! Anything you lose comes round in another form!
Well, during the bottom of the fifth inning of the Rangers’ game at Seattle on Thursday night, Rangers television play-by-play announcer Steve Busby went to Fox Sports Southwest’s Dana Larson for an update on the Oakland-Angels game in Anaheim.
Larson reported that the A’s were leading the Angels, currently in last place in the American League West, 3-1.
Larson threw it back upstairs to Busby and Rangers’ color analyst Tom Grieve.
Tom Grieve: ”Evidently there’s been some ‘boos’ toward the Angels out in Anaheim. I wonder what that means. They’re not a football town. They’re not a basketball town. What are they? Evidently they’re not baseball fans out there either.”
It was painful at times, and the Texas homecoming was nastier than Los Angeles Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton ever envisioned, but finally it’s over.
“Rough crowd,” said Hamilton, after the Angels’ 7-3 defeat Sunday night to the Texas Rangers, concluding the three-game series. “It was a little more hectic than I expected. The persistence of the crowd. The first day, with the first couple of at-bats, I understood. I was able to block it out a lot better later.
“It was a little surprising, but not really surprising. It was a little disappointing more than anything, probably. I don’t take it personal.
“But it’s over, the first time back, all that’s over with now.”
There were comments posted on Twitter that Hamilton, who spent the last five years in Texas, reacted to the Rangers’ boos and taunts with an obscene gesture, but Hamilton vehemently denied the accusations.
“I would never do that, ever,” said Hamilton, a devout Christian. “I think it was the other way around. Many times.”
...When asked if he felt it would be easier when the Angels come back to town in the future, the next time on July 29, he had his doubts the boos would subside, or that there would be fewer taunts about his drug addiction.
“I don’t think it will get less and less,” he said. “But I think it will be easier for me because I’ve been through it.
“When they’re out there chanting things, it’s like, “All right, I made a mistake in the past. I lived with it. I asked for forgiveness for the man upstairs.’ So how could that possibly hurt my feelings? Or discourage me or anything like that?”
Hamilton stopped, smiled, and said: “I’d like to think they were booing the front office here.”
Subtract one Vernon Wells, add one Josh Hamilton. It’s all about balance.
So, how did Hamilton respond to being challenged by his former team? Not so well:
First and second with two outs in the second: Three-pitch strikeout.
First and second with two outs in the fourth: Three-pitch strikeout.
First and second with one out in the eighth: First-pitch fly out to left.
Hamilton, 31, went 0 for 4 with a walk, a run scored and two strikeouts in the game, dropping his season batting line to .050/.208/.050. He’s 1 for 20 with three walks and 10 strikeouts in the team’s five games. That’s ... really, really bad.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vernon Wells announced his pending retirement in February. He’ll play out the string on his contract following today’s trade from the Angels to the Yankees, then go into the sunset after the 2014 season to spend more time with his family. Wells has become the personification of bad contracts and terrible trades, making it too easy to forget how good he was at his peak. Let’s take a look at his career and what he was like as a prospect.
...But it was downhill after that. His plate discipline began to slip. His defense deteriorated. He hit well in 2008 (OPS+123) and 2010 (OPS+125), but was weak in ‘07 and ‘09. The Blue Jays somehow convinced the Angels to take him for 2011, right when the biggest backload of the contract was due to hit. You know the rest of the story.
For all the disappointments of recent years, it is easy to forget that Wells was really quite good at his peak. His career line of .273/.321/.467, OPS+ 106, wRC+ 104 is the result of wild swings between good years and bad ones, but his peak seasons have helped him carry forward a career WAR of 26.7, hardly stunning but also hardly a bad player.
Among career center fielders, this puts him in a career range with very solid guys like Mickey Rivers (27.0), Stan Spence (26.8), Matty Alou (26.6), and Rondell White (26.2), none of them superstars but all guys who were very strong players at their peaks. His Sim Score list brings up guys like George Bell, Ruben Sierra, George Hendrick, and Chet Lemon.
As a prospect, Wells showed superior tools and was a tremendous performer at his best, though he also had some rough patches. . .pretty much just like his major league career. While he is not one of the greats of his generation, Wells was very valuable at his peak. It isn’t his fault that the Blue Jays gave him a giant contract.
With a lanky, 6-foot-7 frame and a cross-fire delivery that baffles hitters trying to pick up the ball, Jered Weaver exudes deception. But can Weaver, coming off a 20-win season, keep tricking batters as he enters his thirties and becomes one of the game’s softest tossers? Fangraphs’ Paul Swydan isn’t so sure (ESPN Insider subscription required):
“Over the past couple of years his velocity—as well as his strikeout and swinging-strike rates—has declined…With his 20s behind him, Weaver is unlikely to see these trends suddenly reverse themselves, and he will become even more reliant on his control and defense.”
Weaver struck out a career-best 25.7% of batters faced in 2010. Since then, his punchout rate his nosedived to 21.4% in 2011 and 19.2% this past season. On a related note, Weaver’s fastball velocity has declined three years running: 89.9 MPH in ‘10, 89.1 MPH in ‘11, and just 87.7 MPH in 2012.
Weaver’s fastball beat out just R.A. Dickey’s and Bronson Arroyo’s in velocity among right-handed starting pitchers last year. Yet, the pitch has defied logic by remaining highly effective despite a gargantuan dip in swings and misses. Let’s take a closer look at Weaver’s not-so-fast fastball, and what that velocity loss could mean for him in 2013.
...Weaver’s lack of zip is concerning. Most pitchers who sit in his new, low-octane velocity range get pummeled. But if ever there were a case where a guy could Houdini his way to another 20 wins, it’s Jered Weaver in 2013.
Unless Bourjos wanders off a cliff and never is heard from again, Wells probably will need a flashlight and bloodhound in order to find at-bats early in the season — even if Scioscia speaks with political correctness on March 13 with nearly three weeks before opening day.
“There’s no doubt that he’s made some adjustments in the batter’s box and I think you’re seeing that quick bat and him drive the ball, but you’re also seeing him stay on pitches and hit balls hard to right field. That’s when he’s at his best,” Scioscia said Wednesday as Wells prepared to take batting practice.
“There is playing time to be won by a lot of guys and Vernon is one of those guys. You’re talking about a guy who is just a couple of years removed from a monster season and he just hasn’t brought that to us, but it’s in there. If he can get to that level, there’s no doubt that his playing time is going to increase.”
... Even if Wells continues his hot spring, it won’t assure him of anything. What will earn him playing time is taking full advantage of his opportunities in April. Trumbo already is an established hitter, and Bourjos, entering his third full major league season, will be given every chance to succeed by the organization that drafted him in the 10th round in 2005.
“You want to evaluate where you are and there is a certain look Peter gives you in the lineup, a certain look Vernon gives you in the lineup, a certain look when Trumbo is out there playing defense,” Scioscia said. “There’s going to be a lot of different options you’re going to look at and use, but I think if we find continuity, you want to roll with it.