August 2009

Tempe Angels Eliminated from Playoffs

The Tempe Angels lost 4-3 Sunday to the Scottsdale Giants, who win the Arizona League’s East Division title. The Giants play the Peoria Mariners tonight for the AZL championship.

Click Here to read official scorer Rodney Johnson’s article about the game.

Click Here to read the MiLB.com report on the game.

The Playoff Picture (Through August 30)

Here’s an update on where each affiliate stands in their pursuit of the post-season.

Salt Lake — The Pacific Coast League is a full-season league, no split-season schedule, so the Bees must win their division outright to qualify for the playoffs. I’d given them up for dead when they lost three straight August 24-26, but they just beat division leader Colorado Springs three straight to move within 4½ of first place. The Bees are 65-69, the Sky Sox are 69-64. Tacoma (69-66) is in second place, one game behind Colorado Springs. The Bees have nine games left, including today’s game at Colorado Springs and then four on the road at Tacoma. They ain’t dead yet.

Arkansas — The Travelers finished 28-42 in the first half, ten games behind Springfield in the Texas League North Division. They’re currently 28-33 in the second half, five games behind Northwest Arkansas (33-28). Tulsa (32-29) trails Northwest Arkansas by a game. The Travs and Springfield are tied at 28-33. They have nine games left on the schedule — two against Springfield, then four at home at Northwest Arkansas, and finally three on the road at Springfield. The Travs remain on the periphery with a little more than a week to go; if they go off on a hot streak they still have a chance.

Rancho Cucamonga — The Quakes finished 30-40 in the first half, 13 games behind South Division first-half winner High Desert. The California League has rather unusual post-season eligibility rules. The first-half winner in each division get a bye, while the second-half winner faces the team with the next best overall record in a best-of-three series. If High Desert wins both halves, then the teams with the second and third best records will face each other. In the second half, the Quakes are 29-33, six games behind the Mavericks (35-27). They’ve won three of their last four but lost power-hitter Matt Sweeney in the Scott Kazmir trade. They’re currently two games behind Lake Elsinore (31-31) and two games ahead of Lancaster (27-35). In the overall standings, after the Mavs the Storm (70-62) have clinched the second-best record so the Quakes (59-73) must finish third overall to qualify for the wild card. They currently have a two-game lead over Inland Empire (57-75) with eight games to go, none of them against division opponents. To make it simple, the Quakes have to hold that third-place lead through the rest of the regular season to make the playoffs.

Cedar Rapids — The Kernels finished 40-30 in the first half, good enough for second place one game behind Kane County, so under Midwest League rules they’re in. They’ll face the Peoria Chiefs in the first round of the West Division playoffs.

Orem — Tom Kotchman does it again. The Owlz’ 20-18 first half record in the Pioneer League’s South Division was only good enough for third place, so they need to win the division outright in the second half. As Kotch teams almost always do, they kicked into high gear in the second half for a 22-3 record so far and a seven-game lead over Idaho Falls (15-10). Rival Ogden won the first half. The Owlz have 13 games left in the second half, so short of a total collapse they’re going to the post-season. Garrett Richards continues to emerge as the staff ace, striking out eight and walking none in eight shutout innings last night at Idaho Falls.

Tempe — The Tempe Angels beat the Scottsdale Giants 1-0 last night in 12 innings in their regular season finale, to finish in a 20-8 first-place tie with the Giants. They meet tonight at 7:00 PM MDT at Scottsdale for a one-game playoff to determine the East Division champion. The winner goes on to play the West Division champion Peoria Mariners on Monday for the Arizona League title. Tempe’s overall record for the season was 38-18, one game behind Scottsdale (39-17).

Tempe Angels Qualify for the Playoffs

Wowee.

The Tempe Angels had to beat the Scottsdale Giants last night in their final game of the regular season to face the Giants in a one-game playoff for the Arizona League’s East Division title.

In the bottom of the 12th with two outs, John Rickard singled home pinch-runner Heath Nichols and the Angels won, 1-0.

So the two teams face each other again tonight, this time at Scottsdale, at 7:00 PM MDT.

The winner goes on to face the West Division winner, the Peoria Mariners, who get a bye because they won both halves of the season. That game is scheduled for Monday.

Click Here to read an article on MiLB.com that previews the AZL playoffs. It has a nice photo of Mike Trout.


UPDATE August 30, 2009 11:45 AM PDTClick Here to read Rodney Johnson’s article on last night’s game.

Coast to Coast: Midnight Sunrise


Midnight sunrise: STS-128 lifts off from Pad 39A at 11:59 PM EDT.

 

Click Here to watch the video of the STS-128 launch. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection required.

When we moved to Florida in June, at the top of my guilty pleasure list was filming a Shuttle night launch. I saw one about twelve years ago, and it was the most incredible event I’ve ever witnessed.

What you see on TV doesn’t do it justice. The colors wash out, but you see it up close from NASA’s perspective, not from the public’s perspective.

Last night my wife and I drove north to Titusville so we could watch the STS-128 launch from Kennedy Point Park. The view is directly across the Indian River about ten miles to the west of Pad 39A.

I wrote on Tuesday that the launch scheduled for that night was scrubbed due to rain. Click Here to watch video of the lightning storm that scrubbed the launch.

We had lightning last night, but fortunately it was in the direction opposite from where Discovery was going to fly, so although it looked dangerous it had no impact on the flight.

Last night’s video at the above link shows you the launch from the public’s perspective. When the engines ignite, it looks like a sun suddenly burst into existence on the horizon. The flame colors wash out on my camcorder too; you have to see it in person with your own eyes to truly appreciate it.

The video shows you the crowd around the park, the view across the river, some of the iconic buildings and facilities you’ve seen on TV and, yes, more lightning strikes (edited for time).

What I remember about both night launches is that as the Shuttle goes down range, eventually it becomes one star on the horizon against all the other stars — only this star has people on it.

And for those who might be wondering … No, that’s not my voice in the background with the running commentary. Two amateur astronomers happened to be standing nearby.

It’s Official: Scott Kazmir to the Angels for Alex Torres, Matt Sweeney and PTBNL

The Angels traded Alex Torres (left) and Matt Sweeney to Tampa Bay on Friday for pitcher Scott Kazmir. A third Angels player is to be named.

 

Once the Rays’ game in Detroit ended last night, the rumored trade was officially announced. The Angels acquired LHP Scott Kazmir from Tampa Bay in exchange for Arkansas Travelers’ LHP Alex Torres, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes’ third baseman Matt Sweeney, and a player to be named later (PTBNL).

The trade was originally announced on AngelsBaseball.com as just Torres and Sweeney, but then that press release was deleted and replaced by one which said that the trade fell through. Mark Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times wrote that “The leak from the Angels’ side enraged Rays officials and nearly led them to call it off because it aborted their protocol of notifying their player first.”

There’s no doubt that Kazmir has issues. I wrote on May 10 that the critics who bashed the Angels for selecting Joe Saunders over Kazmir in June 2002 had been proven wrong. Since then, Saunders has struggled but we learned that it was due to shoulder tightness which has been apparently corrected by a stint on the disabled list and a cortisone shot. Kazmir, however, has had ongoing battles with mechanical problems that have led to repeated DL visits.

Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune published an article today that calls Kazmir “the Ace Who Never Was.” Fennelly couldn’t resist also taking a cheap shot, writing:

The word from Detroit is the Rays beat the space shuttle to the punch by launching Scott Kazmir into space. Well, not space, but a place just as spacey, the left coast, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they’re called.

Infantile insults aside, Kazmir at age 25 remains one of the most promising young pitchers in baseball. A rare left-hander with mid-90s velocity and a wicked slider, his best seasons were during and after Mike Butcher worked with him in Tampa. Butcher was a long-time Angels minor league pitching coach who was hired by Joe Maddon to be the Devil Rays’ pitching coach in 2006. When Bud Black left to manage the Padres, Mike Scioscia brought home Butch to become the Angels’ major league pitching coach. Kazmir’s best ERA year was 2006 at 3.24, and in 2007 it was 3.48. Reuniting Kazmir with Butcher might solve whatever problems are going through his young head.

As for what the Angels gave up … You can read about Torres and Sweeney in the many articles published this morning on various newspaper sites, as listed on FutureAngels.com. Torres is about the same in physical build as Kazmir, although he lists as about two inches shorter (5’10″). He put himself on the prospect radar this year, although you won’t find many star left-handed pitchers of his stature in the big leagues. As for Sweeney, he was always a potential power hitter but he missed all of 2008 with a leg injury and part of 2009 with a hip injury, and his defense has always been suspect.

When the trade was “unannounced,” rumors abounded that a PTBNL had been added to the deal. Normally a PTBNL is chosen later from a list of players agreed upon at the time of the trade, but it appears in this case that the player’s name is already known. Topkin wrote, “The one not named is considered closer to the majors and someone Maddon, a former Angels coach, called “a very interesting player that I’m very excited about.”

HalosHeaven.com claims it’s Jordan Walden, based on Walden not appearing on the Arkansas Travelers’ roster. But Walden hasn’t been on that roster for weeks. He’s been on the Tempe Angels’ roster since August 16 while on rehab assignment for a recurring forearm injury. The Tempe rosters are on FutureAngels.com.

Flawed logic aside, if the player is already known but hasn’t been announced it could be for several reasons. MLB rules prohibit trading a player while he’s on the disabled list, unless the player approves. Another rule prohibits trading a player within the first year after he signs. Topkin says it’s someone closer to the majors than Torres or Sweeney.

If I were the Rays, I’d be asking for Trevor Reckling, Will Smith or Ryan Chaffee. None of those, however, are disabled, so there’s no reason not to include them now in the trade. So it could be Walden despite the flawed reasoning of the HalosHeaven.com post. It could also be a position player pending some other transaction.

When I originally heard it was just Torres and Sweeney, I thought the Angels were getting off cheaply. But as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” and Kazmir is worth more than those two. When the other cleat drops, we may think twice about this deal.


UPDATE August 29, 2009 4:45 PM PDT — In discussing the PTBNL with someone on the Angels MLB.com board, we realized that the PTBNL could be someone on the 40-man roster who isn’t on the 25-man roster. That opens a new list of possible names. Among those are Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez, Matt Brown, Terry Evans, Sean O’Sullivan, and more. They also include two major league pitchers on the disabled list, Scot Shields and Dustin Moseley. These players would have to pass through waivers first, which could explain the delay.

If you’re looking for clues, it was pointed out that Matt Brown didn’t play the last two nights for Salt Lake. You’d think that the Rays wouldn’t want to risk an injury to a future employee by letting him play while he passes through waivers.

What if the player is claimed on waivers by another team? That would complicate matters. It would seem likely that the Angels and Rays would have a “backup” list if that happens. Or they could simply wait until season’s end when waivers are no longer required and then complete the transaction.

Report: Angels About to Acquire Scott Kazmir from Rays for Alex Torres and Matt Sweeney

Multiple media outlets report a trade about to happen between the Angels and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Angels would acquire 25-year old LHP Scott Kazmir from the Rays for Arkansas LHP Alex Torres and Rancho Cucamonga 3B Matt Sweeney.

The Los Angeles Times reported the trade, then MLB.com reported the trade fell through, and now the St. Petersburg Times says the trade may still happen but the hangup may be the Rays wanting a third minor leaguer to be named later.

Updates when available.

FutureAngels.com Resumes Photo Sales

As you may know, I suspended sales of FutureAngels.com photos when I moved from California to Florida.

Now that we’re settled into our new home and I’ve explored photo labs, I’m going to start accepting photo orders again.

Unlike Orange County, I’m finding that professional photo labs are few and far between here in the Space Coast. A new Sam’s Club recently opened about ten miles from here. Their prices are far cheaper than what I paid the photo lab in Irvine, although they don’t do glossy finish — only matte — and the paper quality isn’t quite as good as what I had in Irvine.

So I’ll pass along the price reduction to you.

8″x10″ photos used to be $8.00 apiece. Now they’re $3.00.

20″x30″ poster-size photos used to be $30. Now they’re $15.00.

I’m going to keep an eye out for a lab that offers glossy for the same prices, but where I live there’s nothing around.

Click Here to visit the FutureAngels.com Digital Photo Gallery.

Click Here to read ordering instructions.

Down to the Wire

The Tempe Angels won last night 8-6 at the Phoenix A’s, but the Scottsdale Giants won 6-4 over the Mesa Cubs, so Tempe still trails Scottsdale by a half-game.

The Angels are off today, then finish the regular season tomorrow night at home against the Giants. Scottsdale is at home tonight against the A’s.

Win or lose for the Giants tonight, the bottom line is that the Angels must beat the Giants Saturday to qualify for the playoffs.

Tempe Angels Closer to Post-Season

The Tempe Angels are now within a half-game of first place in the Arizona League’s East Division after winning 8-6 last night over the Maryvale Brewers. Randal Grichuk was 3-5 with a homer and double.

The Angels are chasing the Scottsdale Giants, who won the first half and currently lead the division. If the Giants win both halves, they get a bye and wait to face the West Division winner. If the Angels win the division in the second half, they face the Giants in a one-game playoff. If the two teams tie for first, the Angels win the second half based on their head-to-head record with the Giants, which is currently 5-3.

The Giants were off Wednesday. They catch up to the Angels on Friday when Tempe has the day off. The Angels have two games left, tonight at Papago Park against the Phoenix A’s (21-32 overall) and Saturday night at home in Tempe against the Giants.

The easiest way for the Angels to make the post-season is to win both remaining games.

UPDATE August 27, 2009 12:00 PM PDT — Rodney Johnson of Examiner.com offers this analysis of the Arizona League playoff scenarios.

Former Major Leaguer Rips Billy Beane, “Moneyball”

I’ve made it clear over the years what a joke I think Moneyball is, both the book and the philosophy.

The book, because it pretends like the Oakland A’s have come up with something unique and brilliant, when in fact a lot of what they do is also done by other organizations. Some parts of the book have proven to be fictional, confirmed by A’s GM Billy Beane himself. And the more extreme among the stathead movement have deified Beane as some sort of baseball god, with Moneyball the bible of their religion.

The philosophy, because it doesn’t work.

The latest example of that is in a column by Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Doug Krikorian. He quotes at length former major leaguer Ed Crosby, the father of A’s shortstop Bobby Crosby.

You can click on the above link and read the article yourself. This part I found particularly noteworthy:

“The A’s take the bats out of their players’ hands from the time they’re in the minor leagues,” he says. “Bobby was taught always to take the first pitch. They take all the aggressiveness out of their players. Look how much better guys like Eric Burns and Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro have become once they got out of Oakland. …

“I love the way Mike Scioscia has the Angels playing. They’re so aggressive both with their bats and with their baserunning. They’re always attacking. That’s not the case with the A’s.” …

It reminded me of a rookie Arizona League game I saw a few years ago between the Angels and A’s. It was clear that no A’s batter would be allowed to swing at the first pitch, so the Angels’ starter that day simply threw Strike One after Strike One after Strike One. The A’s were shut out that day.

Rookie games against A’s teams have seemed different in the last couple years. I’ve noticed they seem more aggressive than they used to be. They’re bunting, they’re stealing bases, they’re even swinging at the first pitch.

So maybe Moneyball has been tossed into some green-and-gold trash can in the Oakland front office.

And as of this writing, the Angels are 19½ games ahead of the A’s in the standings.

Which is the only stat that matters.

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