August 2008

Tempe Angels Championship Game 8/31

The Tempe Angels won the Arizona League’s first-half title, which clinched a spot in the league’s championship game, which is Sunday August 31.

Tempe has now clinched the league’s overall best record, which means they will host the title game against the team with the best second-half record. That will be either the Scottsdale Giants or the Peoria Padres.

Game time on Sunday August 31 is 7:00 PM Arizona time in Tempe Diablo Stadium, the parent club’s spring training park. The game is free, but no concession stands are open so bring your own food and drinks.

As with all Arizona League games, there’s no webcast, but MiLB.com will post play-by-play every half-inning. (The official scorer calls it in to MLB Advanced Media.)

Right now, all Angels affiliates are in the post-season except for Rancho Cucamonga. The Quakes are working on it.

Meanwhile, in Florida … Part 2

What’s a vacation without inflicting home movies on your friends?

Click Here to watch video of a Cocoa Beach sunrise and the Cocoa Beach Kayaking tour. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

The sunrise runs about five minutes. The manatee footage is about eight minutes.

We weren’t ten feet from the dock when the manatees swam up to join us. They’re incredibly docile and social. The younger ones want to suckle, as you’ll see.

As our tour guide Cinnamon explains in the video, their only threat is from humans. Most of them have scars on their backs from speedboats running them over. By law, the channel is a no-wake zone, but sure enough some jerk came speeding through at warp speed, sending us all rocking in the kayaks.

For $30, you’re out in incredible wildlife for between 2-3 hours, depending on circumstances. The water was murky because of Tropical Storm Fay, but normally it’s quite clear. The manatees don’t mind.

Hopefully we get down to Space Coast Stadium this evening for a Brevard County Manatees game.

Meanwhile, in Florida …

Posting while I can, because the Internet access here isn’t all that reliable.

My wife and I are on vacation in the Space Coast region of Florida — Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island. We’ll be there through Friday.

This is the area that was worst hit by Tropical Storm Fay. The storm parked over Brevard County and sat for three days dumping water.

We have a friend here who works at Kennedy Space Center. Her home is about 100 yards from the Atlantic Ocean, protected only by a berm. We always thought the storm surge would nail her house one day, but ironically the berm kept in all the water dumped by the storm, rather than letting it run into the ocean.

We spent the day helping her clean out ruined furniture and stuff, then scrubbing the floors with bleach hoping to kill mold that could render the house uninhabitable.

Many of her neighbors had it worse than her. They’re all lugging piles of debris to the curb. She said a council member drove by and said FEMA would be in contact shortly. Her insurance won’t cover the damage, or so they say.

We had dinner at a historic restaurant known today as La Fiesta, but during the Space Age it was The Moon Hut. It was a burger joint at the bend in A1A where it heads south onto the Cape from the mainland. During the 1960s, it was a popular hangout for the astronauts as they drove home to Cocoa Beach from Canaveral Air Force Station. Although it has new owners, they’ve kept the Moon Hut memorabilia on the wall.

It’s really quite common to walk into most public places here and see autographed 8x10s of astronauts. This is a company town. The company just happens to be NASA.

In the morning, we’re taking a kayak tour of the Indian River islands on the inland side of the cape. Go to www.cocoabeachkayaking.com, scroll to the bottom and watch the six-minute video. It’s exactly as depicted, manatees and dolphins and all sorts of critters.

Report: Susan Kotchman Suffered Brain Aneurysm

MLB.com reported yesterday that
Casey Kotchman left the Atlanta Braves on bereavement leave after his mother fell ill
. Susan Kotchman, Tom’s wife, is a grade school principal in the Pinellas County School District near Tampa.

Today’s Los Angeles Times reports that Susan suffered a brain aneurysm. Kotch, of course, has left the Orem Owlz to be with his wife.

It’s no secret how highly I think of the Kotchman family. Tom, Casey and Cristal get the spotlight because they’re star athletes, but when you consider what’s truly important it’s Susan who contributes the most to the world. My thoughts are with the Kotchmans, and yours should be too.

This ‘N That

Tropical Storm Fay has decided to park over Florida’s Space Coast, which is going to make my vacation trip more — well, interesting.

We’re supposed to fly to Orlando on Saturday and spend a week. The storm itself is not strong enough to cause immediate significant damage. It’s just moving so slow that it’s dumping a lot of water.

We have a friend who works at Kennedy Space Center. I just spoke to her; pretty much everything is shut down for a couple days as they don’t want people on the roads. The crew for the next Shuttle launch was due in next week for training, but no one knows right now what the schedule will be. So I guess we’re just going to wing it when we get there along with everyone else.

The local paper is Florida Today. Their web site, www.floridatoday.com, has some cool geeky features you’d expect in a company town where the company happens to be the space program. This morning, they had two reporters driving around with a video camera streaming live to the web site in the middle of the storm. Not parked. They were streaming while driving. They were receiving text messages from viewers as they drove, answering questions and providing traffic updates.

They also have a camera mounted on a building showing Cocoa Beach Pier, so you can see the strength of the storm. Last night we were seeing occasional lightning flashes in the darkness.

I’d hoped to see a minor league game next week, either the local Brevard County Manatees or the Daytona Cubs up the road, but the fields may be so soggy they’re rendered unplayable. We’ll see.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve been researching the early history of the Angels minor leagues and have tracked down some of the original “future Angels.” Tonight I’m taking Dan Ardell and Dick Simpson to Rancho Cucamonga. The Quakes are playing the San Jose Giants. Dan and Dick played for the San Jose Bees (same franchise, different team name) in 1962; that was the year Dick hit 42 homers, which stood as an Angels single-season minor league record until Brandon Wood hit 43 homers for Rancho in 2005.

Dan and Dick are scheduled to do the first-pitch ceremony. It’ll be the first time they’ve been on a California League field in 45 years.

I’ve posted on FutureAngels.com plenty of video clips from Sunday’s Quakes game at Lake Elsinore. I recommend in particular the eight-run first inning clip, so you see everyone who got a hit that inning. For those of you who’ve only heard of Hank Conger, check out his home run swing. It reminds me a bit of how violent Troy Glaus’ swing was. You almost feel sorry for the baseball.

Orem Owlz Win 13th Straight for Franchise Record


Tom Kotchman’s 2008 Owlz won their thirteenth straight last night, surpassing the twelve won in 2003 by his Provo Angels.

 

The Orem Owlz set a franchise record Saturday night by winning their thirteenth straight game, 6-1 at Helena.

The old record of 12 was set by the Provo Angels in 2003. That 2003 team had Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Reggie Wililts, Matt Brown, Bobby Wilson, and outfielder Warner Madrigal (now a relief pitcher with the Rangers). The team finished 54-22, but lost in the playoffs to the 41-35 Billings Mustangs. Billings pitcher Jim Paduch threw a no-hitter against the Angels in the title game.

The small irony of breaking the record in Helena is that the Provo/Orem franchise was once the Helena Brewers. The franchise moved from Helena to Provo after the 2000 season; technically speaking, it was an Angel affiliate while still in Helena, with the move announced a couple weeks later. Helena returned to the Pioneer League in 2003 after the Medicine Hat Blue Jays relocated to Helena from Canada.

The 2003 team had a .711 winning percentage. The 2008 Owlz to date have an overall record of 40-17 (.702).

Orem is all over the league leaders statistical report. The offense is first in average (.298), first in runs scored (405), first in hits (618), and tied for second in homers (59). The pitching is second in ERA (4.21), second in fewest hits allowed (505), first in shutouts (4), first in strikeouts (543), and second in fewest walks allowed (171).

Among individual achievements:

  • Roberto Lopez is first in average (.394), first in hits (86), second in doubles (21), first in on-base percentage (.475), first in slugging percentage (.628), third in extra-base hits (31) and first in runs scored (56).
  • Luis Jimenez is eighth in average (.320), tied for third in homers (11), first in RBI (51), third in hits (70), first in doubles (22), second in slugging percentage (.616), first in extra-base hits (38), and fifth in runs scored (46).
  • Jayson Miller leads the league in ERA (1.63) and is fourth in innings pitched (60.2).
  • Will Smith is seventh in ERA (3.17).
  • Recently promoted Jose Perez still leads in strikeouts with 77.

Cedar Rapids Flood Update

The flood waters long ago receded, but the damage remains.

A recent article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette puts the actual number of flood victims in Cedar Rapids at about 12,000, of whom 3,000 were children. A study by the non-profit Iowa Fiscal Partnership found that, “The population hit by the June floods was vastly poorer, more likely to be minorities and renters, and occupied property worth less than three-fourths of the city’s median home value when compared with other Cedar Rapids residents,” according to the Gazette.

Several web sites have sprung up where you can send money.

The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation has started a Flood 2008 fund. Click on the home page link to make a donation by credit card.

CorridorRecovery.org is a not-for-profit partnership between government, civic, business and faith-based organizations. Click on the Donations link for a list of worthwhile organizations where you can send financial help.

RebuildDowntownCR.org is a web site dedicated to resurrection of the Cedar Rapids Downtown District. You’ll find information about downtown businesses recovering from the flood, and photos of the flood.

KCRG-TV has a web site with video clips from their flood coverage. They’ll also start taking orders on August 18 for a DVD and coffee table book that will be released in November. Proceeds go to help flood victims.

Two Draft Picks Unlikely to Sign

Orange County Register beat writer Bill Plunkett reports the Angels met the asking price of two top draft picks, yet they’re unlikely to sign.

As the midnight deadline for teams to sign their 2008 draft picks approached Friday, Angels director of scouting Eddie Bane was prepared to lose two of the team’s top five selections without compensation.

The Angels have been unable to reach contract agreements with third-round sandwich pick Zach Cone (an outfielder from Stone Mountain, Ga.) and fifth-round pick Khiry Cooper (an outfielder from Bossier City, La.) despite having “met their price,” Bane said.

“We have offers on the table to both but don’t expect to get it done,” Bane said. “I could sugarcoat it but they both agreed in principle to terms and then changed their minds.

“I don’t understand it. But I know it happens.”

Before he was drafted, Cooper had signed a letter of intent to attend Nebraska and play baseball and football. Cone appears headed to Georgia to play baseball.

“We met his asking price twice,” Bane said of Cone. “We increased our original offer substantially to what he was asking. Both parents said, ‘OK, that’s enough’ and encouraged him to sign. The young man still said no.”

Top pick Tyler Chatwood, selected in the 2nd round, has allowed no runs in his last two starts for the Tempe Angels, but his SO:BB ratio is still horrific — 24:26 in 25.2 IP.

Third round pick Ryan Chaffee is still disabled by the broken foot suffered before the draft. No ETA.

The aforementioned Zach Cone, a supplemental third-round pick, seems unlikely to sign.

Fourth round pick Buddy Boshers has a 3.03 ERA in 29.2 IP for the Orem Owlz with a 27:13 SO:BB ratio and .207 AVG against.

Fifth round pick Khiry Cooper remains unsigned. Baseball America reported before the draft: “Cooper is best known for his football exploits, and he has signed a scholarship to play wide receiver at Nebraska. He also scored in double digits for Calvary’s basketball team. On the diamond, he’s a 6-foot-2, 180-pound athlete who’s going to need plenty of time to develop. He has plus speed and power potential, but he also has a long swing and is extremely raw.”

Sixth round pick Josh Blanco has a 3.52 ERA in 38.1 IP for Tempe with a 41:17 SO:BB ratio. He’s worked mostly out of the bullpen.

Seventh round pick Will Smith is 6-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 54.0 IP for Orem. He has a 54:5 SO:BB ratio and a .258 AVG against. The 6’5″ 19-year old lefty might be a sleeper for this November’s FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects Report, but I want to see him pitch myself first. If not during Orem’s post-season, perhaps in fall ball.

Eighth round pick Christian Scholl has a 2.08 ERA in 17 relief appearances (34.2 IP) for the Owlz. He has a 34:13 SO:BB ratio and .190 AVG against.

Ninth round pick Nick Farnsworth has an AVG/OBP/SLG of .291/.358/.500 playing first base for Tempe. He’s tied for second in the Arizona League for doubles with 12 and his third in RBI at 35. His .500 SLG ranks 11th.

Tenth round pick Gabe Jacobo hits .327/.372/.600 in 150 AB for Orem before a promotion to Low-A Cedar rapids. After 67 AB in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League, his line is .299/.333/.463. At age 21, the Midwest League is a more appropriate test for him.

I’m backed up a good six months on photos. My other project is dormant for a little while, so I’ll try to do some catching up in the next week. I’m working on Orem photos now, and will start on Tempe thereafter.

Post-Season Halos


Mark Trumbo is a favorite to win the Angels’ 2008 minor league player of the year award.

 

Chances are pretty good that all six Angels affiliates could play in the post-season this year.

The parent club, of course, has the best record in baseball at 75-44. The self-declared experts had the Seattle Mariners winning the A.L. West, and the sabermetric crowd backed Oakland yet again. Well, here we are with 43 games left in the season, and the Angels are 29½ games ahead of the Mariners, and 20½ games ahead of the A’s. The Rangers are in second place, 15½ games behind the Angels.

If the Angels play .500 ball the rest of the way, they should come in around 97 wins.

Personally, I think the ALCS will be the Angels and Tampa Bay, which worries me because Rays manager Joe Maddon knows our system. Sometimes youthful teams play beyond their talent. Of course I want to see the Angels win, but if it’s meant to be the Rays I won’t mind too much because it will boost interest in a franchise pretty much neglected by its local citizenry — and their manager came out of our organization.

Let’s look at where our Angels’ minor league teams stand:

Salt Lake — The PCL plays a full season, not two half-seasons, so the Bees need to maintain their lead over the next 15 games to reach the playoffs. They have a five-game lead over Tacoma (Mariners affiliate) with 19 games to play. The two teams don’t face each other for the rest of the season. The Bees started the season with an incredible 24-2 record, but since then are 48-51.

Arkansas — The Travelers went on a 23-12 run between May 9 and June 17 to clinch the Texas League’s South Division first-half title. In the second half, they’re 19-33, but they’re already in the post-season. The Travs received Mark Trumbo (my choice for Angels minor league player of the year) on July 28; his AVG/OBP/SLG in 16 games are .318/.338/.652, with 32 HR between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Arkansas. But it’s their pitching that will determine how far they go in the post-season, and their pitching has failed them. In July, they had a 5.36 team ERA and it’s 4.97 in August.

Rancho Cucamonga — The Quakes never fielded the team projected last winter. 3B Matt Sweeney has missed all year with an ankle injury. C Hank Conger missed two months with a slight labrum tear in his right shoulder, and just as he was ready to catch again, he bruised his left thumb. But Anthony Norman emerged as a pleasant surprise; his AVG/OBP/SLG are .270/.398/.496. Anthony has 15 HR — production no one anticipated — and 36 SB out of 41 attempts. Rancho took a ½ game lead in the California League South Division last night with a win over Lancaster, which won the first half. The Jethawks are are locked into the post-season, so the Quakes are fighting Inland Empire and Lake Elsinore for the two remaining playoff slots; both teams trail the Quakes by three. Rancho has 17 games left, so it’s a magic number of 15 — really too soon to talk about.

Cedar Rapids — The Kernels’ season was put into perspective by the historic flood that struck the City of Five Seasons in mid-June. (By the way, KCRG TV has posted online excerpts from their flood coverage; Click Here to see a list of clips.) After a 32-36 first half, the Kernels are 29-24 in the Midwest League Western Division second half, 2½ behind first-place Burlington and one game ahead of third-place Beloit and Quad Cities. My understanding is that the top two teams in the second half go to the playoffs.

Orem — The Owlz are managed by Tom Kotchman, which all but guarantees a post-season appearance. Sure enough, they’ve already qualified for the playoffs with a 25-13 first half. In the second half, they’ve won eleven straight. It’s amazing, although no longer surprising, how Kotch molds these kids into an unstoppable machine every year. Roberto Lopez is back above .400 with a 4-for-5 night Thursday at Helena that included two homers, a double and a single. Lopez started the season playing mostly LF, but in recent weeks he’s been the 1B. He’s also played two games at 3B.

Tempe — The Arizona League team took the first half with a 21-7 record. They’ve let down in the second half, currently at 6-8, 5½ behind the Scottsdale Giants with 14 to play. If the Angels rally to win the second half, there’s no championship game, but it’s starting to look like that won’t happen. I fly back from Florida on August 29, and hope to fly to Phoenix to cover the title game the evening of August 31.

The Dominican Summer League Angels are 40-23, 3½ games behind one of two Rangers camp teams. Personally, I don’t pay much attention to the DSL because it’s an academy operation, although the stats are officially kept. Check out the league standings and you’ll see what I mean. The season ends August 24; the Baseball America 2008 Directory describes the DSL playoff format but it’s too convulted for me to fathom through my cold-addled brain.

Brandon Wood Rolls On

Brandon Wood continues to show signs he’s just about ready for prime time.

In July, his AVG/OBP/SLG were .355/.439/.738. Seven games into his August, his numbers for this month are .346/.400/.731.

Woody has always had a high strikeout rate, so it’s important to note that his whiffs are down too. In 26 August at-bats, he’s struck out only three times.

With the Angels comfortably in first place, will they call up Wood and let him have a couple weeks at shortstop in August to see if they want him on the post-season roster?

Players need to be on the 25-man roster come September 1 to be eligible. It might be too much to ask, but if Brandon is ready to make the leap to the majors, adding his power bat to a lineup that already has Teixeira, Guerrero, Hunter and Anderson would be a significant offensive upgrade over Maicer Izturis or Erick Aybar.

Defensively, Wood and Howie Kendrick were a keystone combination for Provo, Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga, so they should handle the transition with no problem.

Spare time for me is quite rare these days, which is why you don’t see many blog posts. It’s going to be that way probably through season’s end. I’ve been able to process very few photos shot this year, and have plenty video to post as well on FutureAngels.com, so your patience and understanding are appreciated.

My wife and I will be in the Space Coast area of Florida the end of August, so I’ll have even less time for anything other than updating the FutureAngels.com home page. Hopefully I can find the time to go watch the Brevard County Manatees and/or the Daytona Cubs.

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