Tag Archives: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

At Some Point, Everybody Wants Theirs

As a concept, eye-for-an-eye hasn’t ruled baseball’s landscape for a number of years, laid victim to the evolution of the sport’s unwritten rules, which has seen them become significantly more lenient. Thursday, however, we saw just how prevalent the notion actually remains, as a response both for the severity of an act, and for the frequency. It’s out there—all it needs is a trigger.

The incident that got the most play, of course, was Giancarlo Stanton taking a Mike Fiers fastball off his face. The impact was severe, both literally and symbolically, as one of the game’s best hitters suffered extensive damage that will sideline him indefinitely. Adding to Miami’s, it was ruled that he swung at the pitch (negating the HBP), just as it was ruled moments later that Stanton’s mid-at-bat replacement, Reed Johnson, finished the sequence by striking out swinging at a pitch that ended up hitting him, too.

Never mind that Fiers seemed genuinely anguished over the incident, both in the clubhouse and on Twitter. (We’ve now come to the age of the virtual hospital visit.) Miami responded an inning later, reliever Anthony DeSclafani hitting Carlos Gomez in his left elbow.

In Arlington, Mike Trout was hit twice by the Rangers, and three times over a two-game span. All were likely accidental, but at some point response becomes mandatory. When the victim is one of the game’s best players, response time increases.

Angels reliever Joe Smith opened the ninth by hitting rookie Rangers catcher Tomas Telis in the waist.

There is no question that modern hair triggers are less hairy than ever, and that the game is a softer, gentler place than it ever has been, but even the most mild-mannered ballplayer or manager has a line someplace. Intentions can be irrelevant. Hit a star player too hard or too often, and you’re bound to find out exactly where it is.

 

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Whether ’tis Nobler in the Mind to Suffer the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune, or Just to Act Like an A-Hole Closer

Pujols arrowAt his very best, Fernando Rodney is ludicrous. His pre-scripted bow-and-arrow routine following saves—during which he pulls an imaginary arrow from an imaginary quiver and shoots it with his imaginary bow—is one of the sorriest sights in the sport. He says he does it for the fans, but is there a bigger cry for attention in the big leagues? More pertinently, is anybody short of those who would be cheering for him anyway entertained by his hack act?

Still, it’s easy enough to ignore. He does it after games have ended, when people are either celebrating or walking somberly off the field. On Sunday, however, Rodney took things a step farther, bow-and-arrowing not toward his usual spot in center field, but toward the Angels dugout (or, he said, the fans sitting above) … and not at the end of the ninth inning, but after protecting a one-run lead at the end of the eighth. In so doing, he broke new ground in the art of closer show-boatery.

Suffice it to say that the Angels weren’t pleased. “He woke up our dugout,” said Grant Green in an MLB.com report.

When Rodney came back out for the ninth, Mike Trout greeted him by drawing a walk, then scored the tying run on Albert Pujols’ follow-up double. Pujols responded by shooting an imaginary arrow at Trout, and Trout returned fire right back at Pujols. It was as fine an in-your-face moment as can be found on a big league diamond short of actual game play. (Two singles and two intentional walks later, the Angels took care of that, too, with a walk-off, 6-5 victory, courtesy of Green’s game-ending single. Rodney did not reach for his quiver again at that point.)

It must be accepted that closers have their shtick. Sergio Romo does a little dance. Rafael Soriano untucks his shirt. Jose Valverde just kind of loses his mind. One time, Aroldis Chapman even rolled. It goes all the way back to Brad “The Animal” Leslie’s crazed yelps following saves in the early 1980s.

Closer to the Rodney situation was when Brian Wilson did his typical arms-crossed-point-to-the-sky move against the Dodgers in 2009, after which Los Angeles third baseman Casey Blake mocked him for it in the dugout … then took it back when he found out it was a tribute to Wilson’s late father. If you’re going to do it on the field, however, it’s gonna be in play.

All of which is a leadup to some simple advice: If as a closer you’re going to act like a goon, save it until the game’s actually finished.

 

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How Very Hochevarian: Even Merited Retaliation Manages to go Awry

Sometimes, a pitcher has to do what a pitcher has to do. When things aren’t going well for him, of course, those things he does don’t always turn out like he might otherwise expect.

During the course of the first three innings against the Royals yesterday, Jered Weaver threw pitches up and in, above the shoulders to both Alcides Escobar and Jeff Francoeur, and drilled Lorenzo Cain twice. Neither of the balls that hit Cain appeared to be intentional, but Weaver is a guy who has been known to get squirrely with the opposition, and a response was in order.

It came from Royals starter Luke Hochevar in the fourth. This being Luke Hochevar, of course, he had already given up eight runs, including a home run by Bobby Wilson to open the frame.

So when the right-hander drilled the next hitter, Mike Trout, on the left hand with a 3-0 fastball (the pitch was aimed at his thigh, but Trout dropped his arm before it could connect) it left little question about intent—especially for plate ump Bob Davidson, who ejected the pitcher on the spot. (Watch it here.)

Had Hochevar opted for pure retaliation rather than waiting until just after somebody took him deep, would he have gotten away with it? It seems likely, based on his comments after the game.

“I just asked [Davidson] why I was run and he said, ‘Because the guy before hit a home run, and then you hit the next guy,’ ” Hochevar said in the Los Angeles Times.

It just goes to show that when things go wrong, they go really wrong—pitch selection, pitch location, and when to execute a well-deserved retaliatory pitch that everybody in the stadium expects you to make.

Maybe next time, Luke. Maybe next time.

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Wilson ‘Bummed’ by CarGo’s Bunt

Just a few days back, Dee Gordon tried to bunt for what would have been his team’s first hit against the Mariners.

Because it was only the fourth inning, and because speed is such an integral part to Gordon’s game, and because Seattle led only 1-0, none of the Mariners gave it much thought.

The same couldn’t be said regarding Carlos Gonzalez, who last Friday—the same day as Gordon’s effort—bunted for Colorado’s first hit against the Angels. The circumstances were remarkably similar: It was the fourth inning, it was a tack he regularly uses (he’d already had one bunt single this year, and tallied six last season), and his team trailed only 2-0.

The primary difference: The attitude of the pitcher he was facing.

“Anytime a guy like him drops a bunt down, it’s a little shocking,” said Angels starter C.J. Wilson in an MLB.com report. “I was bummed about that from a competitive standpoint. I guess he just wanted to get on base.”

Sure, Gonzalez is known for his power more than his speed, which in turn causes third basemen to play deeper than they might for somebody like Gordon. Ultimately, however, if there’s a defensive hole to exploit, one can hardly fault a hitter for trying.

“He was throwing nasty pitches, so why would you take that away from me?” Gonzalez said. “That’s part of my game. . . . We were only down by two runs. Maybe in a different situation, I would try to swing the bat because I know how hard it is for pitchers to give up the first hit with a bunt. But I wanted to get my team going and he was dominating.”

The Angels won, 7-2, and there was no retaliation against Gonzalez. Using Wilson’s own vernacular, “bummed” doesn’t necessarily mean “angry,” which may have had to do with the fact that Gonzalez didn’t exactly break up a game for the ages—CarGo’s was one of five hits Wilson gave up on the day.

Then again, the pitcher did see fit to address the matter after the game, even while he should have been basking in an outstanding (one run over eight innings) performance.

Seems there’s just no pleasing some people.

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Filed under C.J. Wilson, No-Hitter Etiquette

For Pujols, Silent Treatment Taken to New Extremes

Hey, where’d everybody go?

Albert Pujols finally hit a home run for the Angels on Sunday, 27 games and 110 at-bats into his career in Anaheim. A drought like this is noteworthy for baseball’s best hitter, let alone a guy trying desperately to justify his new $240 million contract.

It’s also noteworthy for his teammates. So noteworthy, in fact, that they took to celebration in a unique, yet very traditional, fashion.

When a player achieves a noteworthy “first”—usually the player is a rookie, and usually the event in question is his first career home run—his teammates will occasionally freeze him out, sitting on the bench as if nothing eventful has happened before leaping up en masse to congratulate him. Detroit’s Will Rhymes earned such a response after his first career round-tripper in 2010.

Pujols is hardly a rookie, but his blast was sufficient to earn special treatment from teammate Torii Hunter. While the slugger was rounding the bases before a rapturous crowd at Angel Stadium, Hunter quickly herded everybody on the bench—including teammates, manager Mike Scioscia, the trainers and the entire coaching staff—into the tunnel leading to the clubhouse. Pujols received congratulations at the plate from Mike Trout, who had been on base, and the on-deck and in-the-hole hitters, Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo, but when he returned to the dugout he found nothing but empty paper cups and the possible tumbleweed. (Watch it here.)

“I thought that would be cool,” said Hunter in an Associated Press report. “I always wanted to do that, and it worked. I just said, ‘Let’s get off the bench and go to the tunnel.’ He was excited about it and we were, too. We had to think fast. When I have a day off, man, I do stupid stuff.”

It worked because Pujols was delighted. It worked because the superstar made a beeline for the tunnel and jovially extracted his teammates, who proceeded to mob him. It worked because it gave the scuffling Angels a rare moment of genuine levity on the field.

If that seems like a bit much to celebrate he 446th career homer for the best player in baseball, Pujols has nothing on Don Drysdale. In 1959, the Hall of Fame pitcher was at the beginning of a long road trip with the Dodgers, in the dining room of the Chase Park-Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, when he received word of the birth of his daughter, Kelly. He took the call not far from the table he had been sharing with Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Don Zimmer, and felt certain that his teammates had overheard the good news. Yet when he went back to join them, Drysdale encountered nothing but baseball talk, nothing but Dodgers and the previous night’s box scores. Like Pujols, Drysdale was no rookie (this was his fourth season), but like Pujols it didn’t matter.

It wasn’t quite the same as hiding in a ballpark tunnel, but it worked. Before long, of course, his teammates cracked and congratulations became the order of the day.

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Filed under Albert Pujols, Firsts

Jered Weaver Didn’t Need Relief Last Night … Until he Did

From the don’t change anything file: While players typically opt for keeping the same spot on the bench throughout a no-hitter, Jered Weaver willingly gave his up in the eighth inning yesterday, three outs from no-hitting the Twins.

“I had to pee so bad it was unbelievable,” he told the MLB Network after the game. “I didn’t know whether to sit down or go do it or what, but I had to go relieve myself.”

(Broadcaster and former pitcher Mitch Williams, in response: “My pants would have been wet, because I ain’t changing a thing in that spot.”)

Not quite Michael Bourne, but it’ll do.

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Filed under Jered Weaver, No-Hitter Etiquette

Albert’s Clubhouse, Albert’s Way: Pujols Calls Out Hatcher

The first rule of clubhouse meetings: Do not talk about clubhouse meetings. This is the sanctity of the clubhouse at its most pervasive, where players—unburdened by the presence of media and sometimes their own coaches—are allowed to speak freely in an effort to right a reeling ship. Things can be said, tempers can flare, fists can fly; none of it matters beyond the clubhouse walls, because the doors are closed.

So when Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher talked about Albert Pujols’ sentiments at a recent such meeting with his teammates—saying that he “essentially stood up and told his teammates that he won’t be flailing as he is all season,” according to CBS Sports’ Scott Miller—it rubbed Pujols the wrong way.

“Mickey should have never told you guys that,” Pujols said, after finding out about it. “That stuff needs to be private. He should have never told the media. What we talked about at the meeting, not disrespecting Mickey, but that stuff should stay behind closed doors.”

Never mind that everything Hatcher relayed was positive. (Pujols reportedly also talked about how he’s been on clubs that have overcome slumps and losing streaks, and affirmed that it can be done.) Pujols’ public messaging should be up to him. If he wanted to say that to the press, he easily could have.

Hatcher played in the big leagues for 12 years. Was a World Series hero. (Hell, he should know these things as well as anyone, having had his Dodgers team spurred into action in the 1988 NLCS by a glorious, bile-filled, closed-door rant from Tommy Lasorda, in which the Dodgers manager ripped David Cone for saying that pitcher Jay Howell reminded him of a high school pitcher, even though that hadn’t quite been the case. L.A.went on to dispatch the favored Mets in seven games.)

To this point in his career, Pujols has known nothing but Tony La Russa’s brand of baseball operations, and is clearly getting used to having things run a little bit differently. He’s scuffling right now, and is apparently very sensitive. He’s also entitled to his privacy—at least in matters that unfold under private circumstances.

For good or for bad, this is now Albert’s clubhouse. And he’s letting everybody know how he wants it to run.

(Via Hardball Talk.)

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