Los Anaheim Angels


Here's Fred Lynn, in a uniform a lot of people don't remember him wearing.

Here’s Fred Lynn, in a uniform a lot of people don’t remember him wearing.

At this very moment, I’m not watching baseball. The Red Sox are hosting the Angels at Fenway Park and apparently Mike Napoli has already hit a home run, but I don’t think watching a game is in the cards for tonight.

Instead, I’m sitting here, reading about other experiences loosely tied to the game and listening to Elvis in my newly rearranged living room, realizing that I’m not quite writing about the game, or anything else, with the kind of frequency I’d like. I still write enough, in whatever that sense may be, and I’m still following along, watching as Hanley Ramirez tries to hit through a bad shoulder and the Sox continue to let great performances by a suddenly rejuvenated starting rotation fall by the wayside. They’re struggling. It’s reality and it’s not ideal but I’m comfortable with that.

But it’s in this moment that I wanted to write about baseball, even if the urge to watch a game they may or may not be winning is, at the moment, nonexistent. Just something to reflect on this thing that’s here for half of the year, just about always when it’s needed, always present regardless of whether or not I’m paying attention. (more…)

Josh Hamilton will try again back in Texas.

Josh Hamilton will try again back in Texas.

I’m sure a team has handled something worse than the Angels have handled Josh Hamilton’s relapse, but it’s not coming to mind at the moment.

Hamilton, a recovering drug addict with the unusual skill of being able to hit a baseball into the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has been traded from the Angels back to the Texas Rangers for basically nothing. The Angels will pay for the honor of not having to deal with him, in the apparent hope that he completely falls apart as a human being and becomes a destructive force on his new team.

If that seems a little cold, it should. Like most sports teams, the Angels talk a big game about how their organization is a family, but like few teams, they turned their back on an adopted family member quickly and brutally.

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This was Paul Konerko's last summer with the White Sox.

This was Paul Konerko’s last summer with the White Sox.

It’s unseasonably warm today. As September crawls to a close and gets ready to give way to October, it’s 84 degrees in Boston, t-shirt weather that seems more appropriate for at least a month earlier.

It’s been a weird summer that way. After a brutal winter that practically wiped out spring until mid-May, there were fewer brutally hot days than New England is used to, but all the same, the summer seemed to whip by. And what started with so much hope and ramped-up expectations quickly gave way to a different kind of hope, one directed towards the future and peppered with attempts to find the good as the chaos reigned for so long.

A season that started with the Red Sox as World Series champions, with Derek Jeter in New York and Paul Konerko in Chicago and Adam Dunn bashing home runs indiscriminately ends today with none of those things happening. The Sox fell apart and traded away a number of players who were so important to a championship a year ago — Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew among them. Jeter’s bat went into hiding with his already AWOL glove, but he kept his spot near the top of the order all year as the Yankees missed the playoffs again. Konerko went quiet, too, but he gave way to his successor, Jose Abreu. (more…)

I have to imagine this was a grand slam against Tim Wakefield.

I have to imagine this was a grand slam against Tim Wakefield.

In the early and mid-2000s, there existed a career reserve outfielder who worked mostly in Canada and, it seemed, specialized in making the lives of the Boston Red Sox miserable every time he stepped to the plate.

Game after game, in one of their 19 annual matchups, the Blue Jays’ Frank Catalanotto hit everything in sight whenever the Sox were the opposition. One night in the newsroom, I blurted out that “Catalanotto must be hitting .700 against the Red Sox.”

“.700?!,” my editor asked incredulously. “When have you ever seen him make an out?”

Probably once, I thought, but damned if I could actually think of one. Point made.

Catalanotto, in 106 career games against the Red Sox, hit .314 with an .891 OPS, 11 home runs and 52 RBI, made a habit of tormenting Boston, first with Toronto and later in a return trip to the Texas Rangers. Those 11 home runs accounted for more than 13 percent of his career total (84), while the 52 RBI fits in at 11 percent of 457. It was only when he travelled to the National League in 2009 that I finally began to feel safe.

It was Catalanotto who popped in my head when I saw a stray clip of Mike Napoli in camp with the Red Sox in Fort Myers, free of his catcher’s gear with the likelihood that he’ll be penciled in at first base for most of this season.

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I apologize. This barely counts as a baseball card.

Nothing brings out the worst in baseball fans and writers quite like a good ideological battle disguised as an MVP debate. And it’s as annoying as any late-season collapse or New York-based division title.

In one corner is Mike Trout, the Angels’ wunderkind center fielder who burst on the scene as summer approached. He already plays the position as well as anyone, he leads the American League with 48 stolen bases, and his 30 home runs and .963 OPS are remarkable in their own right.

His 10.7 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, is good for first in the American League. FanGraphs has him at 10.3 by their calculations. But whatever the number, it doesn’t take much hard analysis to see that Trout is head-and-shoulders above most of his peers this season. The fact that he’s only 21 makes him as tantalizing a rookie as 19-year-old Doc Gooden for the 1984 New York Mets.

On the other side is Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers’ re-converted third baseman who has come on incredibly strong in the second half to lead the league in the three Triple Crown categories — batting average, home runs and RBI — while pushing Detroit past the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central title. Cabrera has been a tremendously talented, albeit troubled, hitter his entire career, but he’s saved his greatest performance for this season , and it’s just in time to help the Tigers get back into the playoffs. And he’s still only 29. He could have an encore performance in his bat still.

A little while after the World Series, one of these two is going to win the AL’s Most Valuable Player trophy. It’s either going to the rookie who has played like Fred Lynn stuck out of time or the veteran who pushed his team through a heated pennant race.

But thanks to hotheads, jerks and alarmists, it can’t be that simple. (more…)

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