Tag Archives: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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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Filed under Don't Showboat

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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Filed under Luke Hochevar, Retaliation

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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Angels Sink Lower, Take Verbal Swipes at Each Other, Meet to Clear Things Up, Lose Again

Remember how last week Bobby Valentine declared, for no apparent reason and on TV, no less, that Kevin Youkilis was not “as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past”? One of my ensuing conclusions was that, had Valentine seen said comment as his final line of recourse in reaching a problematic Youkilis, it would have been entirely justified.

It wasn’t, of course. Youkilis appears merely to be scuffling, not mentally checked out, and Valentine was just popping off, as he’s known to do.

Still, the sentiment holds. Yesterday, it might have held in the visitors’ clubhouse at Tropicana Field, where Torii Hunter alluded to the press that some people may have some problems with Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

With Los Angeles in last place, having just lost their third in a row and sixth of their last eight, Hunter handed a barely veiled reference to the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think we believe we’re trying that hard,” he said. “We’re just going through the motions. We have to do what we’re capable of doing. That’s everybody, not just the players.”

Scioscia is a pretty clear target for the phrase, “not just the players.” What did Hunter mean? The Times’ Mike DiGiovanna led his story with it:

Not only are the Angels not hitting, they’re not stealing bases, bunting, executing hit-and-run plays and pushing the envelope offensively, all trademarks of Mike Scioscia-managed teams.

They’re not scratching and clawing or sacrificing themselves enough for the team, and those deficiencies, as well as an inability to hit in the clutch, were evident again Wednesday night . . .

DiGiovanna’s guess was that Hunter was referring specifically to Sciocia’s failure to have Macier Izturis bunt Hunter and Vernon Wells over, after they led off the second with singles. Izturis ended up flying to left, and both runners were eventually stranded.

Asked if the game could have changed with some early execution, Hunter said, “You mean if we bunted in the second? What can we do? All we do is play the game.”

The Angels held a pre-game, players-only meeting today, following a previous meeting eight days ago, in which Scioscia apparently told his charges they had to “grind it out.” The wagons are officially being circled.

Whatever was said by Angels players today, one thing is clear: By this point in his career, Scioscia has earned the right to be above public scrutiny by his players, frustrated as they may be. Hunter is one of the few in the game who can get away with something like that, owing to his own reputation and veteran status. Still, it speaks to some serious fractures among the ranks, which is just what today’s meeting was designed to address.

Such is the nature of this kind of thing that it did not present early returns. The Angels scored only three runs against Tampa Bay Thursday, and lost, 4-3,  on a game-ending, two-run homer by Brandon Allen.

(DiGiovanna weighed in on Sciocia’s in-game machinations with a ninth-inning tweet —”Unconventional move by #Angels MRG… and I like it. For a change”—after reliever Scott Downs opened the frame instead of closer Jordan Walden, with the Angels holding a one-run lead. Walden came in after Downs retired Matt Joyce. Two batters later, the game was over.)

These are the kinds of things that happen on losing ballclubs—especially those predicted by many to reach the World Series. Still, it’s only April, and nobody knows how much time is left in the season better than a roster full of veterans. Now we’ll see how much longer they can keep their mouths shut.

(Via Hardball Talk.)

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Filed under Don't Call Out Teammates in the Press, Teammate Relations