May 2009

Meanwhile, at OC Weekly …

Most of my baseball followers don’t know that I lead a double life, also dabbling in Irvine politics … OC Weekly reporter Matt Coker asked to conduct a farewell interview prior to my departure for Florida. We cover Irvine politics but also Angels baseball. The link is:

http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/a-clockwork-orange/as-stephen-smith-leaves-town-i/

Saunders vs. Kazmir

Joe Saunders
Joe Saunders in fall instructional league, October 2003, recovering from a labrum injury.

 

“I still am stunned that we chose Joe Sauders (sic) over Scott Kazmir…unbelievable! This was bad judgment on Donny Rowlands (sic). Kazmir is tearing up the minors and Saunders may never take the mound for us because of a bad shoulder.”

Post on Angelsbaseball.com message board, January 9, 2004

“This whole Weaver/Drew situation reminds me of a couple of years ago when the Angels passed on Scott Kazmir because they were scared of his demands and took another lefty Saunders. Could you imagine what out farm system would look like if we had Kazmir instead of Saunders.

Post on Angelsbaseball.com message board, June 7, 2004

“lol, still protecting your arguments above anything else, aren’t you stephen? don’t you think it’s easier to just admit you were wrong about the angels drafting saunders instead kazmir?

Post on Angelsbaseball.com message board, November 19, 2006

Joe Saunders won a duel of aces last night, as the Angels beat Zack Greinke and the Royals, 1-0.

Watching Saunders pitch his complete game, I was reminded of the temper tantrums thrown on fan boards a few years ago by people who were outraged that the Angels chose Saunders in the June 2002 draft instead of Scott Kazmir.

The Angels had the twelfth pick in that draft. Eleven teams had already passed on Kazmir. After Anaheim, two more teams passed on him. The Mets finally selected him with the fifteenth pick.

Kazmir’s stuff was described as “electric.” He was a left-handed Texas high school superstar who’d been clocked in the mid-90s and had a plus slider.

Looking back through my Baseball America issues, it appears that Kazmir fell to #15 for two reasons. One was rumors that he was asking for a huge bonus. The other was concern with his mechanics. Despite the media hype, some teams’ scouts looked beyond the velocity and evaluated the total package.

Drafts are far more art than science. The Phillies, drafting #17, selected Cole Hamels, who broke the humerus bone in his pitching arm as a sophomore in high school. So if you want to play the 20/20 game, you can bash sixteen teams for not selecting Hamels.

The next spring, Saunders was scheduled to join a “dream team” roster at Rancho Cucamonga that would have had him in the rotation with Ervin Santana. But an exam showed a torn rotator cuff. Rather than undergo invasive surgery, the Angels and Saunders decided to undergo an aggressive rehabilitation process. Kazmir, meanwhile, was labelled one of the game’s top pitching prospects, although he had a tender elbow at the start of the 2003 season.

Saunders resumed his career in April 2004, opening the season with Rancho Cucamonga. The Mets shocked the baseball world in July, when they traded Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano. Media reports suggested that the Mets were concerned about Kazmir’s long-term durability; ironically, Zambrano broke down after three starts and was done for the year.

Kazmir carried his “future superstar” label into the big leagues, appearing in eight games that year for the Devil Rays at age 20. Saunders, 2½ years older than Kazmir, quietly went about progressing his career in the Angels system.

Because the Rays rushed him to the majors, Kazmir’s career was in the limelight. Saunders, held back because the Angels had so much depth, found himself trapped in Triple-A as the “#6 pitcher” in a five-man major league starting rotation, pitching at Salt Lake while awaiting his opportunity.

In the long run, Saunders has proven to be the more durable pitcher. Kazmir has found himself on the disabled list from time to time with various injuries, although nothing so far that’s career-threatening. Saunders has yet to go on the D.L. in the big leagues.

Because Saunders is older than Kazmir, it’s not quite fair to compare their career stats through 2008, but if you do you find that Kazmir pitched 761 innings in the majors, had a 3.73 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and averaged 9.6 strikeouts and 4.2 walks every nine innings. Saunders logged 433 innings, had a 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and averaged 5.2 strikeouts and 2.7 walks every nine innings.

In 2009, Kazmir has a 5.92 ERA after seven starts, a 1.66 WHIP, with 7.1 strikeouts and 5.0 walks every nine innings. Saunders has a 2.66 ERA after seven starts, a 1.10 WHIP, with 4.2 strikeouts and 2.1 walks every nine innings.

I think it’s fair to say that Kazmir is still struggling to realize his potential. As we saw last night, Saunders has found his.

This ‘N That

Jeremy Moore
Jeremy Moore’s hustle won the game Monday night, as the Quakes rallied to win 7-6 over the High Desert Mavericks.

 

As previously mentioned, we’re in the process of selling our Irvine home to move to Space Coast (Cape Canaveral, Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach, etc.). If escrow remains on schedule, we’ll be out of here by May 27 and on a flight to Florida shortly thereafter.

That means I’ll have less and less time for online activites in the next few weeks.

This happened so quickly, we don’t even have a home yet in Space Coast. We’re going to rent a condo in Cape Canaveral on the ocean for two months. Just to give you the disparity between SoCal and Florida, a fully furnished 1,600 square foot condo in a beach complex goes for $1,450/month. A similar unit in Newport Beach would probably cost you $3,000/month if not more.

We rented online a P.O. box at the Cape Canaveral post office. This won’t be our future mailing address, but the post office’s street address is 8700 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral, Florida. If you’re a geek, that’s seriously cool.

For two weeks, I’ve been making the last rounds in my baseball haunts.

Last week I was at the Tempe Diablo minor league complex, and had the opportunity to see two of my “kids” from years ago, Ervin Santana and John Lackey, in rehab assignments. When Ervin pitched on April 29, Lackey stood watching with roving catching coordinator Tom Gregorio, which brought back memories of the two playing for Tom Kotchman with Boise in 1999.

Santana’s next start was May 4 at Rancho Cucamonga, so I went out for my farewells in the Inland Empire. The Quakes generously offered to let me throw out the first pitch. The players gave me a great sendoff, with a thrilling come-from-behind 7-6 win over High Desert (Mariners affiliate).

I’m still working on video from that game, but two clips are already online.

Outfielder Jeremy Moore collided at home plate with Mavericks catcher Travis Scott, to reduce the lead to 6-5. This was in the Pete Rose/Ray Fosse category, and it certainly lit a fire under the team. J-Mo has always been one of my favorites, because he has so much raw potential and he’s such a great kid. It’s early, but so far he has an AVG/OBP/SLG of .319/.367/.473. He has the talent to become a five-tool player, but I’d never seen the toughness in him that I saw Monday. J-Mo was bleeding from the nose, but after the trainer shoved a tissue up his nose he went back to left field. In the bottom of the 8th with the game tied at 6-6, Moore led off with a single that he hustled into a double, advanced to third on a grounder, and scored on a passed ball. Quakes won 7-6.

Click Here to watch the collision at home plate. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

Ervin Santana, of course, was the headline. I’ll have video of his in-game performance as soon as time permits. His post-game press conference (two reporters) is already online. Click Here to watch the press conference.

I’ve been posting plenty video from Tempe too, and still have more to go. Check out the FutureAngels.com home page for all the Tempe video clips.

So now it’s on to planning the move, and trying to find a home. If you want to see some of the candidates, Click Here to go to this realtor web site and in the MLS Number field enter these numbers separated by commas, then click the Search button:

499182, 536943, 537030, 520852, 521537, 528224, 535241, 526595, 533567

(Hint: use your mouse to copy the line of numbers, then paste them into the field.)

Sales are starting to pick up in Space Coast, so anything that’s a “bargain” goes pretty quickly. Some of these are short sales, which complicates matters, but we’ll be paying cash which should make things easier.

In closing … I received an e-mail the other day from a New York public relations firm asking if I wanted to interview retired Angels outfielder Tim Salmon on Thursday for ten minutes. The catch? I had to let Tim promote “one of the coolest and most eye-catching vehicles to hit the open road, the Can-Am Spyder roadster.”

I declined, because I’m not a shill, but there are a couple fan sites for whom integrity isn’t a priority, so I’ll be watching to see if anyone sells out tomorrow.

Notes from Tempe, Day 3

Roberto Lopez
Roberto Lopez homered off Ervin Santana during Wednesday’s intrasquad game.

 

This post about Wednesday at extended spring training is a couple days late. I came down with the flu as I was driving home from Arizona, and I’m still pretty wiped out. The flu bug was going through camp, so I guess they decided to make me part of the family.

Wednesday was the rehab start for Ervin Santana. It was originally scheduled to be a game at Fitch Park against the Cubs, but the Angels arranged to switch the schedule so they could control the environment with an intrasquad game at Tempe Diablo.

Those unique circumstances led to a memory Roberto Lopez will have for the rest of hls life.

Lopez batted third in the lineup. In the top of the 1st, he fouled off several pitches, but then the pitching coach called an end to the inning so Santana wouldn’t get too extended in his pitch count.

Click Here to see the video of Santana’s first inning. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

That gave Lopez an opportunity to see Santana’s stuff. At the top of the 2nd, Lopez asked manager Ty Boykin if he should bat again, or let the #4 hitter bat. “Bone” told Lopez to bat.

On the second pitch, Lopez drilled a homer to left field off Santana.

Click Here to see the video of Lopez’s homer.

That was the only run Santana gave up in his three innings of work.

This was also the first game Lopez has caught in a while, due to nagging injuries. The Angels began teaching Lopez how to catch in fall instructional league. It doesn’t appear this will be a full-time conversion, more like adding another skill to enhance his résumé.

I recorded a video interview with Lopez after the game. Click Here to watch the video interview.

I have lots more video to come, which will appear on the FutureAngels.com web site over the next few days.

One clip will be of Korean pitcher Pilljoon Jang, who opposed Santana in the intrasquad game. Just to show you how international the game has become, Dominican Santana was caught by Japanese Ikko Sumi. Korean Jang was caught by Lopez, a San Diego native and USC graduate who speaks both English and Spanish.

And with that, I’m going back to my sick bed … Achoo …

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