July 2008

This ‘N That

Another busy week with non-baseball stuff. I really need to win the lottery. Which I guess would mean that I should buy a Lottery ticket some way.

I’ll be with the Tempe Angels in the next few days. I’ll be at Peoria on Sunday for the game against the Mariners. Then I’ll be at Tempe on Monday and Tuesday for the home games. Monday is against the Phoenix A’s. Tuesday is against the Peoria Padres.

All three games are scheduled for 10:30 AM, but the Tuesday game is now a doubleheader. The Angels’ July 11 game against the Padres in Peoria was rained out. The league office decided the game would be made up on Tuesday at Tempe. The Padres will be the home team in one game, the Angels in the other. The twinbill begins at 9:00 AM.

As you might suspect, the temperature for these games is usually around 100 degrees. Minor league doubleheaders are seven innings for each game. Fourteen innings is a lot to ask in 100+ degree weather, but if the boys are game, I’ll be right there with them. Just have the ambulance standing by.

Elsewhere …

The Angels promoted Jordan Walden today to Rancho Cucamonga. Jeremy Haynes was reassigned to Cedar Rapids. Walden was named the #3 prospect last November in the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report.

Hank Conger hit three dingers in Rancho’s day game Wednesday at home against High Desert. Reports in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin suggest that Conger may start catching again in a few days. Hank also hit a homer last Sunday for the Quakes — right after I left to head home to tend to other responsibilities. Are you avoiding me, Hank? (smile) I need to get some of his dingers on video.

A final note … Normally I ignore posts on other web sites and blogs, because unprovoked personal attacks against me are usually intended to draw attention and distract me from more important things.

I have noticed, however, that a particular blogger has repeatedly posted on his blog and others a false statement claiming I said that “Michael Collins is the next Mike Piazza,” and similar falsehoods.

In truth, I granted this individual an interview in July 2005 where he posed several questions. Here’s the truth of what he said, and what I said:

Rob: Michael Collins at Cedar Rapids: Old for his league? Another guy I looked up and said, wow, those are some good numbers. Good plate discipline, hardly ever strikes out (17 K’s in 167 AB — exactly the kind of player the Angels seem to like) and a little pop (.545 SLG, more of a gap hitter based on his doubles).

SS: Michael belongs in a special category, in my mind. He was signed out of Australia at age 16. He didn’t grow up where there’s much of a true baseball development program (i.e. no Little League) so his learning curve will be longer.

That said, I’ve seen him every year since he’s signed and have seen him sprout into a big athletic body. In the back of my mind, for some reason when I see Michael I think of Mike Piazza. The defense may not be as good as, say, Mathis but the offense is finally coming along just as Piazza was a late bloomer.

As a basis of comparison … Piazza’s DOB is 9/4/68. As you know, he was selected by the Dodgers in the 7,945th round (okay, the 62nd round) of the June 1988 draft. His first year, in 1989 at age 21, he played Short-A at Salem in the Northwest League and posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .268/.318/.444. The next year, his first full season, he was at High-A Vero Beach and posted .250/.281/.390. Returning to High-A at Bakersfield in 1991, he posted .277/.344/.540.

So now we have Michael, who turns 21 on July 18, posting .347/.426/.545 in a pitcher’s league.

(Yes, his age is appropriate for the Midwest League.)

Is it for real? Well, at Provo in 2003, he posted .333/.353/.447 in 132 AB. The Pioneer League is a hitter’s league, but I felt he needed to play every day in 2004 at Provo but he didn’t get the chance. Now he’s getting to play every day and he’s finally kicking in.

I hope the Angels find a way to keep him. He’s a six-year minor league free agent at season’s end. I think he’s worth placing on the 40-man roster but if he indicates he’s willing to stay with the system then maybe they can save that slot for someone else.

Now that’s what I really said.

This isn’t the first time this individual has misquoted and distorted what I’ve said. Based on the comments I’ve read about him on various boards, it seems my sentiment about his veracity is not alone.

It’s also interesting that this individual has a penchant for going down the FutureAngels.com home page to copy the links I’ve posted for reposting on his site without attributing from where he copied them.

This is the last time I will comment on the matter. But having seen this falsehood posted multiple times on multiple boards, I wanted to set the record straight.

That’s not to say I have anything against Michael Collins. He’s been a friend since I met him in August 2001 at Arizona Summer League, when he had just turned 17. Michael turned 24 on July 18. His AVG/OBP/SLG at Double-A Arkansas are .264/.351/.412. He’s been on the disabled list since mid-June with a bulging disc that apparently has been bothering him most of the year.  It’s interesting that the veracity-challenged individual didn’t mention Michael’s injury either as context for his 2008 numbers.

I’ve always admired Michael for no other reason than beginning his professional career as a 16-year old halfway around the globe, when most American high school juniors would be looking for minimum-wage summer jobs if they got any job at all. He’s always been one tough ballplayer and, yes, his physical build reminds me of Mike Piazza.

If Michael is at Tempe next week, I’ll look forward to shaking his hand, catching up on things, and wishing him luck to get his career on track.

Bees and BeesGal Raise Money for Cedar Rapids

The Salt Lake Deseret News reports that “The Bees will donate 50 cents from each ticket sold to today’s game to aid Iowans affected by the recent floods. Minor league teams located in cities devastated by flooding include the Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Iowa Cubs and Quad City River Bandits.”

Not to be outdone, BeesGal of The Sporksball Journal sent out this announcement:

The Sporkball Journals pledges $25 for every run scored by the Salt Lake Bees in Sunday’s fundraiser game for the Iowa Flood Relief Fund. For example, should the Bees score 8 runs, the total donation will be $100. 20 runs (like Tuesday) puts $500 into the relief fund.

Furthermore, The Sporkball Journals challenges any and all citizens, orgs and corporations to match this pledge, dollar for dollar. As most of you know, I’m just a one-woman shop based out of my home. If this matching challenge could be announced at the ballpark and on the radio, perhaps my tiny seed money can be the catalyst for a larger wave of financial support from our community as a whole.

Lastly, all of you are aware of how our fellow Minor-League Angels fans, families and friends in the Midwest truly need our help. Nonetheless, it is certainly worth repeating that in Cedar Rapids alone — home of the Angels Single-A Affiliate Cedar Rapids Kernels — damages caused by the floods is estimated at over $1.3 billion dollars, and rising.

Meanwhile, still no indication of any announcement from the Angels that they’ll help Cedar Rapids …

This ‘N That

Orem Owlz outfielder Roberto Lopez is batting .448 after his first 21 games.


Too much to do, not enough time to do it.

Catching up on items of note …

I’ll be with the Tempe Angels for their July 20-22 games. The Sunday July 20 game is at Peoria against the Mariners. Then it’s on to Tempe on July 21 against the A’s, and July 22 against the Padres.

Ironically, this is the exact same schedule I attended last year. Apparently the league’s schedule makers decided to just use last year’s schedule, with minor tweaks. The Angels have a few games that were reversed — our park instead of theirs, or vice-versa — but otherwise it’s pretty much identical.

So these three games are the same I saw last year.

I’m hoping to see the Angels’ top two pitching draft picks, Tyler Chatwood and Ryan Chaffee. Chatwood made his professional debut on July 8, facing only five batters. He struck out two and gave up a hit. Ryan Chaffee, recovering from a foot injury, has yet to pitch but maybe he’ll be ready by the time I get there.

Former Angels minor league outfielder and relief pitcher Warner Madrigal made his major league debut on July 2 in New York against the Yankees. He appeared in relief for the Rangers at home July 7 against the Angels, then made an emergency start July 9 against his former team. As I wrote last November 18, the Angels botched a paperwork technicality last fall, making Warner a free agent. After pitching for Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2007, the Rangers sent him to their Double-A affiliate to start 2008, moved him up to Triple-A, and brought him up last week. Way too soon in my opinion, but I gather the Rangers are dealing with pitching injuries so they had to dip into their farm system.

While on the subject of former fireballing Angels relievers, the White Sox placed Bobby Jenks on the disabled list with left scapula bursitis. Bobby hasn’t pitched since June 29. Frankly, I’m surprised he’s held up this long; I suspected his elbow held together by screws would have fallen apart by now, but I’m not a sports medicine expert.

Tom Kotchman’s Orem Owlz are 16-6 and well on their way to post-season contention yet again. Left fielder Roberto Lopez has hit in each of his first 21 games, and has an AVG/OBP/SLG of .448/.520/.598. All the disclaimers have to be issued at this point — he’s a 22-year old in a league where the top prospects are teenagers, 21 games do not a career make, he hasn’t been around the league once so pitchers haven’t had the chance to adjust yet. Baseball America never had him as a significant prospect.

On the other hand … wow.

In recent years, other Angels rookie players have had similar hot starts. 20-year old outfielder Sergio Contreras hit .399/.467/.601 with Butte in 2000. (That franchise is now the Casper Ghosts.) 22-year old Azarias Corbeil hit .359/.463/.525 for Provo (now Orem) in 2001. Neither had a career that reached the upper minors. So let’s keep our sobriety for the time being and give Roberto’s career a chance to mature before we make snap judgments.

On the other hand .. wow.

For those of you looking for photos I recently shot at Orem, I’ve been very busy with non-baseball projects. Hopefully I can make a dent this weekend in the backlog. I’ll post an announcement on the FutureAngels.com home page when they’re done.

Hopefully I can get out to Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday.

I want to keep Cedar Rapids in your thoughts. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported today that flood damage is expected to exceed $1 billion. Reporter Rick Smith wrote:

“This size of loss, we can’t cash flow this unless the federal government gives us money,” [City Manager Jim Prosser] said. “We’re going to have serious problems … We want the public to know what we’re facing.”

Prosser said the city needs “immediate attention and assistance” from the federal government, and will seek such aid.

You can send donations to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and the Kernels Foundation Flood Relief.

BeesGal on her Sporkball Journals blog has a comprehensive list of sports teams and individuals who have donated to Cedar Rapids flood relief.

The Angels are notably absent from the list.

Gazette beat writer Jeff Johnson hasn’t minced words in his Diamonds and Ice blog. Jeff wrote on July 2:

… The parent Los Angeles Angels still have yet to publicly acknowledge there has been a flood in a city they have been partnered with for 16 years. That’s embarrassing, Angels. Hopefully this lack of response has opened some eyes on the Kernels’ board of directors.

Don’t blame Tony Reagins or anyone in the baseball operations for this one. Charitable decisions are made on the money side of the business. Perhaps the Angels intend to make a quiet anonymous donation, although that seems unlikely. As I’ve mentioned before, a more proactive approach would be for Arte Moreno to challenge Angels fans by offering to donate $1 million if they match it.

With about 40,000 fans attending each home game, if each fan were to donate $1 it would take 25 games to reach $1 million.

So far, though, it appears that the Angels minor leaguers have donated more money than Arte and his money minions. If I’m mistaken, if Jeff Johnson is mistaken, if the Kernels fans are mistaken, well, please tell us. But you’re not going to lead by example and encourage Angels fans to give if you don’t tell anyone about it nor advertise it during the ball games.

Quakes Booster Club Raises $1,300 for Cedar Rapids Flood Relief

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Booster Club raised $1,300 last night for Cedar Rapids disaster relief. Below is an e-mail from club president Sammi Griffiths.

Wow Boosters!

We had a fantastic turnout for our special auction tonight to raise money for the Cedar Rapids Red Cross Flood Relief effort. As you all know, Cedar Rapids is the home of our low Single-A affiliate the Kernels, and many of our current Quakes players have come through there in the last few years. This means there are Boosters, Host families, employees and fans of our players who have suffered as a result of the terrible floods in Iowa.

Tonight we raised $1300 that will be sent to the flood relief in Cedar Rapids…….and many thanks need to go out to all of you who participated.

To the Quakes management, Gerry, Matt Blank, Kyle and Rachel for allowing us to put on this auction, providing tables, making announcements, and assisting with the credit card payments – We are very grateful for your support.

To Mark Cova, Joe Marcotte, Sandy Wakefield, Leslie Bergman, and MoTown for planning, setting up & getting autographs from the current team members.

To Joe for printing the fliers, and Cheryl Perdew and John Brown for helping Joe pass them out.

To JD Elmquist for donating the single biggest money-maker – the Brooks Robinson bat, and also the O’Day, Larkin & Jones baseballs (total of $280 sold).

To Leslie Bergman for donating baseballs, bats, and mini-helmets (total of $265 sold).

To Mike Huffstatler for donating several great player photos and having them autographed and framed. 4 of them sold totalling $220.

To Sandy Wakefield for donating 2 special bats (total of $200).

To Cheryl Perdew for donating 2 of her Weaver photos (total of $135).

To Mark Cova for the Troy Percival ball ($70) & the donation bucket.

To Geena Cova for the way cool poster showing the flood damage and helping to draw attention to our auction tables.

To Cheryl, Diane Young, Mark and Leslie for manning the table.

And to all who came down and bid on items or donated cash to this great cause – thank-you so very much.

We will be sending the proceeds to the Kernels next week, and we know that your generosity will help many.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend, Sammi

Click Here for information about the Kernels Foundation Flood Relief fund.

Click Here for information about the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund.

Both need your money NOW to help the people of Cedar Rapids. I’ve sent $100 to each fund. Top that if you dare.