March 2009

“Odd Man Out”: Gelf Magazine Interview

Gelf Magazine has a lengthy interview with Odd Man Out author Matt McCarthy. Click Here to read the interview.

McCarthy continues to peddle the line that any inaccuracies are simply mistaken dates. But as I documented on March 6, it’s a lot more than the wrong date on the calendar. Key events in the book simply couldn’t have happened.

“Odd Man Out”: One Player’s Opinion

Chris Rosenbaum
Angels minor leaguer Chris Rosenbaum comments on “Odd Man Out” in his latest blog entry.

 

Angels minor league catcher Chris Rosenbaum kept a blog journal last year during his season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. It was widely acknowledged by fans of the Angels’ minor league system as a humble yet honest insight into the life of a minor leaguer.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Chris would comment on Odd Man Out, the book published by former Angels minor leaguer Matt McCarthy. Click Here to read Chris’s comments on the book.

This paragraph pretty much sums up his sentiment:

I have not read the book, and have no intentions of reading it. However, I have read excerpts and spoken to individuals surrounding the stories told within the covers, and have formed my opinion that this work was an attempt to hurt people for personal gain. Many things discussed in this book, whether true or not (and much evidence is piling up suggesting the latter), occurred in the inner sanctum of a clubhouse or related team functions.

Strictly my opinion, those on the Internet defending this book want to see athletes knocked off their pedestal. Never mind the athletes never asked to be placed on that pedestal. But there will always be those who are jealous of people who are successful in life. A “tell-all” book, accurate or not, that claims to reveal the foibles of athletes might give comfort to those who feel inferior and insecure about their own lives.

Unfortunately, that goes with the territory on the Internet. People can hide behind the anonymity of their modem and attack others with behavior that would get a punch in the nose if they tried it in public.

Come to think of it, McCarthy may have thought he could embellish his book without consequences, because he’d never run across the people whose integrity he attacked in the book. It remains to be seen if any of the people named in the book will take legal action.

L.A. Baseball 101

Steve Bilko in 1957
Los Angeles Angel Steve Bilko in 1957, their last year before the Dodgers arrived from Brooklyn.

 

For those unfamiliar with the history of Los Angeles professional baseball before the Dodgers arrived, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Harvey has this article about the old L.A. Angels and Hollywood Stars.

Here’s an idea for Arte Moreno’s marketing people:

The Angels even had a greeter, the late columnist Matt Weinstock wrote:

“A jovial fellow in a baseball uniform rode a horse slowly through the downtown streets, Main, Spring, Broadway, waving at friends and occasionally blowing a bugle call by way of announcing the baseball game at 2 p.m.”

Sports Hollywood has this excellent article on the old L.A. Angels with plenty of photos.

The above photo is of Angels slugger Steve Bilko in 1957, the last year the Angels operated before the Dodgers arrived from Brooklyn. I’ve always got a kick out of the uniform, with the racing stripes around the shoulders. They remind me of Roller Derby uniforms.

Not covered in Harvey’s article is what happened to the PCL Angels once the Dodgers arrived. The Angels franchise was owned by Philip K. Wrigley, who also owned the Chicago Cubs. To move to L.A., Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had to acquire the territorial rights. As part of the deal, the Dodgers acquired the PCL Angels franchise, while the Cubs got the Dodgers’ affiliation with the Ft. Worth Cats in the Texas League.

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, the PCL franchise moved to Spokane, Washington as the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. The franchise is now the Las Vegas 51s, which just ended a long affiliation with the Dodgers.

We’re quite happy with our Salt Lake affiliation, but if that ever changes I’d like to see the Angels affiliate with Las Vegas, just to bring the whole “L.A. Angels” connection full-circle.

The Best of the Best

Back on March 16 I posted an article about the best managers in the history of the Angels minor leagues. The numbers in the article were based on data I’ve entered in the FutureAngels.com Database, currently under construction on the FutureAngels.com web site.

Now let’s take a look at the best teams in the history of the Angels minor leagues.

Using the same data, I looked up the top ten teams by winning percentage. They are:

  1. 2003 Provo Angels 54-22 .711
  2. 1990 Boise Hawks 53-23 .697
  3. 2001 Provo Angels 53-23 .697
  4. 2008 Tempe Angels 39-17 .696
  5. 2008 Orem Owlz 52-23 .693
  6. 1970 Hawaii Islanders 98-48 .671
  7. 1997 Boise Hawks 51-25 .671
  8. 1992 Quad Cities River Bandits 91-46 .664
  9. 1991 Boise Hawks 50-26 .658
  10. 1984 Redwood Pioneers 91-48 .655

It should come as no surprise that seven of those ten teams were managed by Tom Kotchman, who as noted in the March 16 article is the winningest manager in Angels minor league history.

But we’re mixing short-season and full-season teams here. Over the course of a longer season, winning percentages should drift to the less extreme.

So let’s see what happens when we query for only teams that played over 100 games:

  1. 1970 Hawaii Islanders 98-48 .671
  2. 1992 Quad Cities River Bandits 91-46 .664
  3. 1984 Redwood Pioneers 91-48 .655
  4. 1976 Salinas Angels 91-49 .650
  5. 1976 Salt Lake City Gulls 90-54 .625
  6. 1975 Quad Cities Angels 78-47 .624
  7. 1967 San Jose Bees 86-52 .623
  8. 1961 Statesville Owls 63-39 .618
  9. 1986 Palm Springs Angels 87-55 .613
  10. 1977 El Paso Diablos 78-52 .600 & 1978 Salinas Angels 84-56 .600

The 1970 Hawaii Islanders were the Angels’ affiliate in the Pacific Coast League (the same league as today’s Salt Lake Bees).

The Islanders’ Winston Llenas was second in the PCL in batting average at .339. Doug Griffin was #6 at .326. (Future Dodger and Angel Bobby Valentine led the PCL with a .340 average.) Hawaii was second in the league in homers with 136; Llenas hit 20, Chuck Vinson hit 22, a Richard Barry hit 18, Wayne Redmond hit 17, James Hicks and John Werhas added 12 each.

Most of those guys saw little to no major league time.

Llenas was a 26-year old middle infielder who saw brief time in Anaheim during the 1968 and 1969 seasons. He returned for 1972-1975, where he did mostly pinch-hit duty. His major league career AVG/OBP/SLG were .230/.277/.279.

Griffin reached Anaheim at the end of the 1970 season. He was part of a big trade that October with the Red Sox. Griffin, Jarvis Tatum and Ken Tatum went to Boston for Tony Conigliaro, Jerry Moses and Ray Jarvis. Conigliaro would retire mid-season in 1971 as his eyesight worsened. Griffin stuck with the Red Sox through 1977, mostly as a light-hitting second-baseman. His major league numbers were .245/.299/.299.

Vinson played with the Angels for 13 games in 1966, but never reached the majors again. He was 26 during that 1970 season.

No Islander was among the top ten in PCL ERA. Left-hander Dennis Bennett was 18-8 with a 4.50 ERA. In 200 innings, he struck out 145 and walked 44. Right-hander Tom Bradley was 11-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 114 innings. Righty Archie Reynolds was 7-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 103 IP. Washburn — Greg, not Jarrod — was 8-8 with a 4.63 ERA in 140 IP.

Hawaii had one reliever who went on to some success in the majors. Southpaw Dave LaRoche had a 1.24 ERA in 58 innings, striking out 67 while walking 19. The Islanders also had legendary submariner Roy Face at the end of his career; he posted a 4.50 ERA in only 10 innings of work.

When we next visit the database … The all-time worst teams.

Best Rotation in the Cal League

John Lackey
John Lackey pitched on rehab assignment a year ago with Rancho Cucamonga. He might do it again this year.

 

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that John Lackey is likely to open the season on the disabled list after suffering elbow inflammation.

Assuming it’s nothing worse — MLB.com reports that team orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum will be in camp tomorrow to discuss the MRI results — Lackey will probably wind up making a rehab start or two in Rancho Cucamonga sometime in April.

With Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar also likely to be making rehab starts next month with the Quakes, Rancho Cucamonga will have the best rotation in the California League. For as long as it lasts.

Minor League Camp Update (Courtesy of Baseball America)

Kary Booher of Baseball America has an excellent summary of events at the Angels’ minor league spring training camp. Among the notes of interest:

• Third baseman Luis Jimenez suffered a torn labrum and is out for the year. Jimenez was one of the big bats for Orem in 2008; he was ranked #10 on the 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list.

• The last report on Hank Conger was that he’d start 2009 at Rancho Cucamonga, but now farm director Abe Flores says that Conger will go to Arkansas if he’s healthy.

• Mason Tobin has been converted to the bullpen and will open 2009 as the Quakes’ closer.

• 3B Matt Sweeney, who missed all of 2008 with an ankle injury, should start 2009 with Rancho Cucamonga.

• Jon Bachanov, the Angels’ 2007 1st round pick who underwent Tommy John surgery, should start pitching next month in extended spring training.

• Young-Il Jung, the other Tommy John patient, is a bit further out, projected to pitch in June.

This ‘N That

Nick Adenhart
Nick Adenhart is the scheduled starting pitcher for today’s Angels game telecast on MLB Network.

 

Angels fans in Southern California have been frustrated by the absence of spring training games telecast locally.

If your cable TV system has MLB Network, today’s exhibition game against Cleveland is telecast at 1 PM PDT. According to the spring training schedule, MLB Network will also telecast the March 28 game against Seattle and the March 31 game against the Cubs.

The “season finale” of the FutureAngels.com Minor League Game of the Week is now online at the FutureAngels.com web site. It’s the Texas League championship game last September 15, the Arkansas Travelers against the Frisco RoughRiders. Neftali Feliz, the Texas Rangers’ ace pitching prospect, was the starting pitcher for Frisco. The Minor League Game of the Week will return after the World Series.

The Angels’ 20-4 start this spring is certainly unprecedented in organizational history, but whether it means anything remains to be seen. I’ve always paid more attention to what happens in the last two weeks of spring training, when players are mostly in shape and the prospects have returned to minor league camp.

I’m more concerned about the wounded wings — John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar. It seems likely we’ll see Santana and Escobar making rehab starts with Rancho Cucamonga next month. Lackey is suffering from elbow tightness; it’s too soon to tell how this will affect his status come Opening Day.

I’m still of the opinion that the Angels should package some talent before the season begins to acquire an experienced back-of-the-rotation starter. If everyone is healthy, a rotation of those three plus Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders is one of the best in baseball. But it’s likely not everyone will remain healthy.

MLB.com reports that Mike Napoli will catch tomorrow’s game, which suggests he’ll be able to start the season as at least the #2 catcher behind Jeff Mathis. That would return Bobby Wilson and Ryan Budde to Salt Lake to begin the year.

Meanwhile, in Florida …

FAMU baseball coach Bob Lucas and high school teammate Jim Jackson
FAMU baseball coach Bob Lucas and high school teammate Jim Jackson

 

I’m in Florida for a few days looking at properties. Regular readers of this blog know that my wife and I are planning a move to the Space Coast area of Florida, which includes Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and other nearby towns.

No, I’m not going to any spring training games, although the Washington Nationals are 20 miles down the road in Viera. But we did drive up to Daytona Beach today for a college game.

I’ve been writing here for a couple years now about the Statesville Owls, one of two Angels minor league teams in their inaugural 1961 season. Bobby Lucas, an infielder on that team, is now the head coach for Florida A&M University (FAMU) baseball.

The above photo is of Coach Lucas with Jim Jackson, a high school teammate. Jim never got a chance to play pro ball, probably because of his size. He drove up from Cape Canaveral with his wife to see Bob and the FAMU Rattlers.

Bethune-Cookman University was the opponent and the home team. Both institutions were originally all-black universities but have now integrated.

The game was played at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark. The first baseball field on the site was built in 1914 and known as Daytona City Island Ballpark. It was renamed after Jackie Robinson in 1989 to note its place in professional baseball as hosting the first racially integrated game, as this was the first park in Florida where Robinson was allowed to play with the Dodgers in his first spring training.

FAMU vs. B-CU, March 21, 2009
FAMU plays Bethune-Cookman University today at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.

 

I’ll be back in California late Tuesday.

Brett Brothers Buy Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

New Quakes Owner Bobby Brett
New Quakes owner Bobby Brett

 

A group led by Hall of Famer George Brett and his brother Bobby have reached an agreement to acquire the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes from current owner Hank Stickney.

Click Here to read the official press release.

I videotaped the press conference, and afterward recorded an interview with Bobby Brett.

Click Here to watch the press conference.

Click Here to watch the Bobby Brett interview.

You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

Quakes Press Conference Today

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes sent out an announcement late yesterday that they’re holding a press conference today at 11 AM PDT. They’re very tight-lipped about why. Given that this comes in the middle of spring training, and just before the season starts, it seems like an unusual time to hold a press conference.

I’ll be there to videotape and shoot photos, and will report back both here and on the FutureAngels.com web site once I’m back.


UPDATE 2:30 PM PDT — The Quakes have been sold to a group led by Bobby and George Brett. I’ll have video of the press conference, and my interview with Bobby Brett, on FutureAngels.com later today.

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