November 2007

So You Want to Add 50 Homers?!

Following up on yesterday’s post, I thought I’d demonstrate how the Angels can add 50 HR in 2008 without spending $30 million/year for Alex Rodriguez or trading the farm for Miguel Cabrera.

The central point of my argument is that injuries cost the Angels their power this year, not a lack of talent. Keep the lineup healthy in 2008, add a little experience for the youngsters, and hand over third base to Brandon Wood, and adding 50 HR is pretty easy.

Let’s start with Garret Anderson. Once healthy, he was his old self. In 108 games, Anderson hit 16 HR. Project that to 150 games and you get 22 HR. That includes games in the first half where he was playing hurt, but for the sake of argument let’s say a healthy Anderson adds 5 HR.

Casey Kotchman hit 11 HR in 137 games, but as we know his power disappeared after he was hit in the head by that pickoff throw. In 2008, he’ll be more experienced and his body will have matured a bit more. Can a healthy Kotchman playing every day hit an additional 10 HR? That’s a reasonable assumption. So now we’re at +15.

Juan Rivera missed most of 2007 after breaking his leg last winter in Venezuela. He managed to appear in 14 games in September and hit two homers. In 2006, he hit 23 HR in 124 games. So if Rivera stays healthy all year, can he add 20 HR to the lineup? That’s reasonable. So now we’re at +35.

Howie Kendrick hit only 5 HR in 88 games, missing half the season due to hand injuries. With a strong hand, a full season and a year of experience under his belt, do you think he can hit 10 HR instead of five? Yeah, that’s reasonable. So now we’re at +40.

Finally, we turn over third base to Brandon Wood. It’s his rookie year and, like Mike Schmidt, he’ll probably be a whiff machine his first season but it’s reasonable to think he’ll hit 10-15 HR. Let’s be conservative and pencil in 10 HR. So now we’re at +50.

Playing Wood at 3B leaves no place for Chone Figgins. He can remain as a super-sub, or coming off a career year I’d prefer to include him in a trade that brings up a #3 pitcher, maybe adding Kendry Morales to the package.

In conclusion, there’s just no reason to empty the vault for Rodriguez, or to flush the farm for Cabrera. The solutions are already here. The Angels just need to stay healthy.

By the way, adding 50 HR this year would have given the Angels 173 HR, compared to 166 HR for the Red Sox. So much for the "Big Bat" anxiety.

This article is copyright © 2007 Stephen C. Smith DBA FutureAngels.com. It may not be reprinted elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author. To obtain permission, e-mail Stephen at home@futureangels.com.

The Minor League Game of the Week


Dodgers’ first baseman James Loney was among the Las Vegas players in the lineup April 5 at Salt Lake.

April 5, 2007 … It’s opening night at Franklin Covey Field as the Salt Lake Bees host the Las Vegas 51s in a Pacific Coast League contest.

Put another way, it’s a matchup of the Angels’ and Dodgers’ Triple-A teams, with plenty of future major leaguers in the lineups.

Among the future Dodgers that day were Tony Abreu at 2B, James Loney in RF, and Andy LaRoche at 3B. Loney would go on to play 1B for the Dodgers, but in the early days of the 2007 season the Dodgers played Mitch Jones at first for the 51s.

The future Angels starting for Salt Lake included Nathan Haynes in CF, Jeff Mathis at C, Brandon Wood at 3B, Kendry Morales at DH, Nick Gorneault in LF, Terry Evans in RF, and Matt Brown at 2B.

Having been raised in Southern California, I always perk up when the Angels’ and Dodgers’ minor league teams square off in the minors. Those contests are now possible at four of the six minor league levels:

  • Triple-A: Salt Lake vs. Las Vegas
  • Advanced-A: Rancho Cucamonga vs. Inland Empire
  • Class A: Cedar Rapids vs. Great Lakes
  • Rookie-A: Orem vs. Ogden

An Arizona League matchup is likely in 2009 when the Dodgers move from Vero Beach to Glendale AZ, so they should face the Tempe Angels.

The only remaining linkup would be in Double-A, where the Dodgers have their affiliate in Jacksonville FL. The Dodgers had a long and rich history in the Texas League, most recently with San Antonio, but a management decision a few years ago to concentrate their affiliations on the east coast to be near Vero Beach led the Dodgers to leave Texas for Florida. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dodgers file to terminate on Jacksonville after the 2008 season and seek to return to the Texas League, but many of those teams are affiliated with regional favorites so their opportunities may be few.

Anyway, Click Here to listen. You need Windows Media Player.

The Angels Play Chess with Scott Boras

You may have read the articles listed on the FutureAngels.com home page about the rumors that the Angels are pursuing Florida Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

According to the reports, the package would look something like Brandon Wood, Nick Adenhart, and either Jeff Mathis or Mike Napoli. Today’s Miami Herald reports the Marlins want Howie Kendrick in the mix.

Meanwhile, the 800 lb. gorilla in this winter’s free agent market, Alex Rodriguez, sits waiting for the Yankees’ exclusive negotiating window to expire. The Yankees claim they’re not interested, because by declaring free agency Rodriguez cost New York a multi-million dollar subsidy they got from his former employer, the Texas Rangers.

The Yankees are probably interested in Cabrera too, although the Angels have the minor league depth to throw more prospects at the Marlins.

Personally, I think the Angels’ interest in Cabrera is more to send a message to Rodriguez’ agent Scott Boras that the team has other options. If Boras wants his client in Orange County, he needs to reduce his asking price.

When I was a kid, gas stations on the same corner would wage a "GAS WAR!!!" One would lower their price, then the other, etc. I remember gas as cheap as a quarter a gallon. (For those of you who wonder if I lived through World War I, this was actually in the 1960s.)

So what teams pursuing A-Rod are trying to do is create a gas war. Rodriguez is on one corner, Cabrera on the other. And let’s not overlook the cheap independent option, Mike Lowell, down the block.

As I’ve written before, I think the Angels should give Brandon Wood his shot. Maybe Rodriguez, Cabrera or Lowell would have a better 2008 than Wood, but five years from now Wood will probably be more productive than any of them.

Trading away Nick Adenhart would cost the Angels one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues, someone who will probably step into the rotation in 2009. After Nick, the well is a bit dry (more on that in my annual Top 10 Prospects report later this month), so if the Angels give away Adenhart then any additional pitching depth will have to come via trade or free agency.

Howie Kendrick was a career .361 hitter in the minors, with a .405 OBP and .570 SLG. Adding him to the package would just be insane.

As I’ve written many times, the Angels’ offensive problem this year wasn’t a lack of talent. Injuries were to blame. In 2008, assuming everyone stays reasonably healthy, we’ll have a maturing Casey Kotchman, a more experienced Howie Kendrick, and a healed Juan Rivera to bolster the offense. Garret Anderson showed late in the season he can still hit when healthy. Add Wood at the bottom of the lineup and the Angels probably increase their team HR total by at least 50 overall.

Which would be about how many homers A-Rod would hit.

As for that "big bat" everyone wants behind Vlad Guerrero, I’d go with Kotchman. Opponents want to pitch around Vlad and put him on base to face Casey? Be my guest. Kotchman is a left-handed pull hitter who makes contact and would love that big hole on the right side as the first baseman holds Vladi on the bag.

As they age, Guerrero and Anderson will spend more time rotating through the DH while Rivera spells them in the outfield, but just for giggles here’s one potential 2008 lineup using what we have now:

1. Gary Matthews, Jr. CF
2. Orlando Cabrera SS
3. Howie Kendrick 2B
4. Vlad Guerrero RF
5. Casey Kotchman 1B
6. Juan Rivera DH
7. Garret Anderson LF
8. Brandon Wood 3B
9. Jeff Mathis/Mike Napoli C

You could probably flip-flop Rivera and Anderson in the 6-7 slots depending on whether the opposing pitcher is left- or right-handed.

Where’s Chone Figgins?

Good question. After his career year, I think he’s the guy we should dangle in a trade for a pitcher to bolster the starting rotation. I think the world of Chone, but if I were GM I’d rather make room for Wood than have him return to Triple-A or, even worse, trade him.

Someone else to remember is Kendry Morales. There’s no place for him right now. With Anderson a free agent after 2008, I’d probably have Morales start 2008 playing left field at Triple-A Salt Lake, grooming him for the position with Anaheim in 2009. He won’t be pretty (can he be any worse than Manny Ramirez?), but with Kotchman on first there’s no other place for Kendry — unless he’s traded.

Figgins and Morales are a pretty good start on a decent trade package, something far more reasonable than asking for Wood, Kendrick and Adenhart, and could bring a #3 or #4 starting pitcher.

And just think of all the money you’d save not paying A-Rod $30 million/year for the next eight years.

This ‘N That


Chris Pettit will miss the rest of Arizona Fall League with a strained back muscle.

Outfielder Chris Pettit, named the Angels’ 2007 minor league player of the year, left the Arizona Fall League on November 5 after suffering a strained back muscle, according to a source at MiLB.com. 2007 was Pettit’s first full professional season, split between Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga. From there, he went on to four weeks in fall instructional league, and then to AFL. That’s more than enough for a first-year player.

Famed baseball executive Roland Hemond will be the featured speaker at the Kernels’ Hot Stove Banquet on Thursday January 31. He’s best known as the former GM of the Orioles and White Sox, as well as a founder of the AFL, but as documented earlier this year on FutureAngels.com he was also the first farm and scouting director of the Los Angeles Angels in 1961. Click Here to listen to my June 3 interview with Roland about that historical first year in Angels history. (Windows Media Player required.)

Tony Reagins, the Angels’ new GM, had his first outing this week in his new job as he attended the general managers’ meeting in Orlando. Although some folk on fan boards think trades are imminent, this meeting is more for GMs to act on rules changes and other technical issues. The meeting is mundane enough that the Orange County Register was the only local newspaper to report Reagins was going to the meeting. According to the Register, Reagins was accompanied by former GM Bill Stoneman, assistant GM Ken Forsch and special assistant Gary Sutherland — which reinforces my earlier impression that more experienced staff will surround Reagins who will handle mostly administrative matters as he did as minor league director.

The Orlando Sentinel reports from the meeting that the Angels would like to sign Alex Rodriguez. Well, who wouldn’t. The question is the money, which in my opinion could be better invested.

Of more specific interest is this passage:

On Tuesday, each general manager stood up during their meeting and stated what their offseason goals were. Many mentioned specific players they were making available. The idea was suggested by Boston’s Theo Epstein and Florida’s Larry Beinfest, co-chairs of this year’s meeting.

"Usually it takes a while to be able to reach all 29 other teams and hear what they’re trying to do. This increased our efficiency tremendously. It saves us all a lot of time," Epstein said. "Some teams were specific. Some were more guarded."

Florida Marlins’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera was specifically mentioned as available.

Personally, I think they should just hand over third base to Brandon Wood. He could use a little more seasoning but he has the potential to be the next Mike Schmidt.

The Sentinel also reports this proposed rule change of special meaning to Arkansas Travelers fans:

The final day of the annual meetings, GMs were to discuss whether first- and third-base coaches should wear helmets. Mike Coolbaugh, a first-base coach for the Colorado Rockies’ minor league team in Tulsa, was killed in July when he was struck on the head by a line drive during a game.

The Coolbaugh tragedy occurred in a game against the Travs at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling signed a one-year deal to return to Boston for 2008. So much for my hope that the Angels might pursue Schilling as a free agent.

I’m trying to finish the last of the photos from the Salt Lake series at Las Vegas in mid-April. After that, I’ll start writing the annual FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report, which is usually published in late November.

One reason I wait is to see what post-season decisions are made about six-year minor league free agents and waiver deals. Warner Madrigal was going to make my list, but because the Angels were unwilling to protect him on the 40-man roster they had to give him his free agency. That doesn’t preclude the Angels from re-signing Warner, but it would have to be to a minor league contract off the 40-man roster. Once a power-hitting outfield prospect, Madrigal was converted to the mound as a reliever in 2006 and was clocked in the high 90s this year with Cedar Rapids. If the Angels lose Warner, it’ll go down as a bigger loss than the self-destructive Bobby Jenks.

In closing … My inner geek thinks it’s seriously cool that Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from Return of the Jedi flew on the recent Discovery flight to the Space Station. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my wife and I have long-range plans to move to the Space Coast in about four years. If the schedule holds, I’ll be going out to Cape Canaveral in February for a launch on Valentine’s Day.

And while we’re in George Lucas’ universe, I’d also like to recommend the first volume of his Young Indiana Jones Chronicles DVD. The DVD release fulfills his vision fifteen years ago to use his archaeologist adventurer as a character to interest adults and children in learning more about history, by dropping the character as a child, teenager and adult into world events nearly one century ago. Lucas sent out two film crews around the world for three years to film footage that would be eventually edited into his intended vision. You may have seen earlier versions on ABC or the Family Channel, but this is the final version as originally intended without having to placate network television. The episodes are accompanied by a lot of historical documentaries that would give the History Channel a run for their money.


UPDATE 11/7/2007 8:30 PM PST — A FutureAngels.com Bulletin Board contributor notes that a press release on AngelsBaseball.com reports the Angels added Warner Madrigal to the 40-man roster, along with RHP Nick Green and Sean Rodriguez. So it looks like either BA got it wrong, or he was given his free agency as a temporary move until space was cleared on the 40. Anyway, glad to hear he’s still in the family.

UPDATE 11/8/2007 5:30 AM PST — Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports the Angels and Dodgers could pursue Miguel Cabrera as a cheaper alternative to Alex Rodriguez, but it would cost them dearly in prospects. Cabrera also has conditioning issues that could force him off third base. Shaikin suggests Cabrera could cost the Angels Brandon Wood, Nick Adenhart and either Jeff Mathis or Mike Napoli.

Angels Six-Year Minor League Free Agents

Baseball America published on-line the list of six-year minor league free agents. These are players who’ve participated in six full-season years of minor league baseball. The Angels’ players are below. The Angels may re-sign them if the agreement is mutual.

Los Angeles Angels (20)
Righthanders: Henry Bonilla, Robert Coello, Marcus Gwyn, Matt Hensley, Pedro Liriano, Warner Madrigal, Alex McRobbie, Alex Serrano, Steven Shell
Lefthander: Jonathon Rouwenhorst
Catchers: Cody Collet, Corey Myers
First basemen: Michael Collins, Mike Eylward
Second basemen: Adam Morrissey, Steven Smith
Shortstop: Gary Patchett
Outfielders: Tommy Murphy, Greg Porter, Curtis Pride

Be forewarned that the BA list isn’t always accurate. To my knowledge, the Angels had no "Steven Smith" under contract this year. That’s a name I would remember. It might refer to infielder Casey Smith, whose first name is Steven. Robert Coello signed a year ago so no way he has six years; perhaps he was just released.

American Pastime


"American Pastime" is an independent film about baseball in a World War II Japanese-American internment camp.

Anita Tsuchiya, a Salt Lake Bees fan and FutureAngels.com supporter, told me about a small independent film called American Pastime filmed in Utah last summer. Anita was an extra on the film, which is about Japanese-Americans held in a World War II internment camp. Baseball is a common pastime shared by both the internees and the American soldiers guarding them, and the film culminates with a baseball game between the two cultures that helps resolve interracial hostilities suffered by an unjustly imprisoned people.

The film is available on Amazon.com for $13.99. It had a very limited release in the U.S. before going to DVD in May.

I ordered the film from Amazon and watched it earlier this week. I’m a fan of small independent films, because they often explore subjects the big studios and theater chains won’t touch.

American Pastime doesn’t disappoint. The film works on multiple levels, from a fictional documentary about a dark stain on American history to a Romeo-and-Juliet subplot to the cliché baseball game where the underdog triumphs with a walkoff victory. Some might even see a subtle comment about those imprisoned today at Guantanamo, but any such analogy would be strained.

Gary Cole, an accomplished actor who’s appeared in many films and TV shows, is the only "name" recognizable to American audiences, although former big-league first baseman and ESPN analyst John Kruk has an amusing cameo as the PA announcer for the local semi-pro team’s ballpark. The acting performances overall are strong, as is the attention to historical detail.

I asked Anita to contribute for this article by recalling her experiences on the film.


Some background:
As you know, the movie, "American Pastime" is about the Japanese American experience during WWII–including the internment camps, Nisei baseball leagues, and the All-Nisei 442nd Battalion. The film is independently produced by some established names in the film industry, including David Skinner of ShadowCatcher Entertainment, Barry Rosenbush of "High School Musical", Terry Spazek of the "Dream Team", Kerry Yo Nakagawa of "Diamonds in the Rough."

Actors include familiar faces from the U.S.: Gary Cole (Office Space, Brady Bunch movies), Sarah Drew (Everwood), Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), Leonardo Nam (The Perfect Score, Fast and Furious III: Tokyo Drift) and Aaron Yu (Disturbia). Masatoshi Nakamura (NHK Jirocho TV series, music CDs) and Judy Ongg (Pillow Book, music CDs) are big celebrities in Japan. Both of them remarked on how pleasant it was to walk around Salt Lake City without being mobbed by people and cameras. Although they did cause a stir one night among the chefs of a downtown sushi bar when the producers took them out to dinner.

How I got involved:
At Franklin Covey Park, home field of the Salt Lake Bees, the producers and casting directors had a table and sign-up sheet. I decided to participate because my paternal Grandparents, Father and Aunts were one such family interned at Topaz, 2 hours south of Salt Lake City, UT. Even though he was only a boy of ten or eleven, Dad never got over the experience of being rounded up like cattle and herded into barbed-wire enclosures. Like most of that generation, he rarely spoke of those times. Those bitter memories tormented him to the end of his life in January 2005.

The experience:
The location shoots were the toughest. For $72.50/day, I got to stand around for 12-14 hours in the middle of the Skull Valley desert, in July. To say it was blisteringly hot is quite the understatement. One day the temperature reached 108 in the shade.

The first scenes for me were the camp scenes. I can’t describe the eeriness of standing around in the hot, dusty wind, and surrounded by barracks, barbed wire fences, and guard towers. I stood there in the sun and heat, my skin and hair COVERED in grit, my head and feet aching, and I’m starving because lunch was 6 hours ago. "I can’t wait to get home and take a shower," I keep telling myself. And then it hits me. I get to go home at the end of the day. For Dad, this WAS home. So I don’t complain.

I was astounded at how many of the older extras had actually been internees. Alice Hirai is the tiny woman who hands the "thousand stitches" banner to Judy Ongg (Emi Nakamura), who in turn gives it to her older son, Leo Nam (Lane Nakamura). Alice was two years old when she and her family were sent to the Topaz. Now, she spends her time giving educational presentations about the internment to elementary school classes in Utah.

Some the older extras had been soldiers for the American Army–the 442nd (Europe) or MIS (Pacific). John Owada fought with the MIS in the Pacific campaign. I asked him why in the world he was doing this. He replied that his mom had been in Topaz. He was doing this movie for her, just as he’d enlisted for her sake. So there he is, at least 80 years old, standing in the hot sun all day and wearing a long winter coat. He had to wear the coat because they needed something big enough to hide his oxygen tank and nasal tube! I was paired up with John for most of the day. In between scenes, I would help him take off his coat and put his suitcase on the ground so he could sit for a bit. As the day grew later, I was terrified that he would trip on the loose gravel and fall down.

I kept asking him, "Are you alright? Are you sure you don’t want to rest in the shade? Can you do another scene?" He would only nod or shake his head, grab his suitcase and off he’d go.

It’s déjà vu all over again:
Each day on the set was filled with emotions for many of us. Many of the extras, like me, had relatives who had been sent to camp. In fact, quite a few of the Japanese families living here in Utah today are descendants of camp detainees. Many families had nowhere else to go after being released because their homes and properties had been confiscated or stolen during their long absence.

I often imagined that Grandma must have been close to my age (48 years) when this happened to her. During a couple of scenes, I broke down and cried. The scene where Director Watson comes into the barracks on the first night was one of those moments. The irony of his words, “I hope we can make things as comfortable as possible,” were just too much and I lost it. Fortunately, I was way in the back for that scene so you can’t see the angry tears running down my face.

My proudest moment:
For the 7th inning stretch, we really had to sing. When the director asked if anyone knew the words, all those years of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” came to mind and my lone hand shot up. So I got to lead the group in rehearsal.

Parting thoughts:
I’m grateful for the chance to spend time among the ghosts of my Dad’s past. Especially because he never resolved it for himself, I felt as though I was participating in a spiritual “house-cleaning.” At least I like to hope that a few angry spirits can stop roaming the earth and get some rest.


I did an Internet search on American Pastime and found these reviews:

San Diego Union-Tribune

Sacramento Bee

Anita also suggests the Nisei Baseball Research Project web site and the site maintained by the film’s photographer Matthew Williams as places to go on the Internet for more information.

The film’s official web site is www.warnervideo.com/americanpastime/.

This is an important film with timeless lessons about many subjects. Yes, it’s also about baseball, and deserves to be in the pantheon of important baseball movies. But baseball is only a pastime, originally an American pastime, now a global pastime that crosses many cultures, yet in the grand scheme of things it’s not nearly as important as the universal concepts of freedom, liberty and equal justice for all. If you watch the ballgame at the end of the film, that’s a subtle message delivered in an unexpected way at the film’s climax.

In other words … Order the movie, watch it, and post a reply to this blog with your own thoughts.

Still Want A-Rod?

The Associated Press reports that "the Yankees were told by agent Scott Boras they could not meet with Alex Rodriguez unless they presented an extension offer that guaranteed the star $350 million ‘as a floor.’"

Do you really want Rodriguez to suction $350 million out of the Angels’ organization over the next seven or eight years?!

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