Maybe it’s because I’ve never actually been a fan of a large market baseball team being that I follow the Blue Jays most often. The Blue Jays sometimes have expectations among their fans—this year that’s definitely the case—but although fans and media north of the border care, they ultimately don’t care that much. Canada, after all, is a hockey country; baseball flies pretty low on the radar most of the time.
I gather there’s a bit of a difference between Southern Ontario and Southern California that extends beyond the climate, geographic layout and general demeanor of the people. Not only do the media and people in the Anaheim-area care a heck of a lot more about their baseball as a rule, but they also receive far more American media attention. The actions of the Blue Jays can generally carry on unnoticed by the American media giants such as ESPN, FOX, and CBS—that’s not the case for the Angels.
Over the weekend, the Angels took two of three from the lowly Houston Astros, dropping the first game 5-0 thanks in part to a poor start by Tommy Hanson and a great one from Bud Norris, then taking the final two games—one in come-from-behind walk-off fashion thanks to a Albert Pujols ninth-inning double, and the other in more convincing fashion, 4-1 on Sunday.
Watching the Twitter reaction of Angels’ fans and media, it was like a soaking wet piano had been hoisted from the weathered and beaten shoulders of Angels Nation. Suddenly everything was brighter—maybe the slow start wasn’t the complete end of the world.
Then last night, the Angels traveled to Minnesota to take on another American League basement dweller in the Twins. Things started off well enough as Peter Bourjos led off the game by taking a 2-2 Kevin Correia cutter and depositing it over the left-centerfield wall at Target Field to give the Halos an early 1-0 advantage.
That advantage quickly turned when a Joe Mauer double and a Ryan Doumit single tied the game in the bottom-of-the-first against Joe Blanton. The teams traded runs again in the third inning as Brendan Harris of all people took Correia deep for his first home run of the season—a solo shot—and then a Justin Morneau double in the bottom-half of the inning scored Darin Mastroianni to again tie the game, this time at two.
Blanton’s tendency to surrender long fly balls continued in the bottom-of-the-fourth when Trevor Plouffe took him deep to the second deck in left to give the Twins their first lead of the game, 3-2. Then, in the next inning, Mauer led off with a blast to the opposite field off of Blanton who would not finish the inning and left trailing 4-2.
Mauer would continue his huge game off of the Angels’ bullpen while Correia, Jared Burton and Casey Fien would keep the Angels in check and the Twins went on to win 8-2.
As much as I would like to tell you that this is just an early season aberration and that eventually the Angels will start playing like the World Series contender they purported to be heading into the year, I’m just not sure that’s the case. Sure, they’re probably not as bad as they’re playing right now, but the pitching depth has been tested early on and so far the results aren’t good. Jered Weaver’s reduced fastball velocity was a concern before he went down with a left elbow injury, C.J. Wilson has looked entirely average so far—and coupled with his second half last season, that might be a bit more of a cause for alarm than it otherwise would be—Joe Blanton has been homer-prone and entirely too hittable, and Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson haven’t been overly impressive either. Then there’s the bullpen, which has been awful so far. Last night, they gave up four runs in three-and-a-third innings and have been below-replacement as a group so far this year.
The offense will eventually start hitting and players like Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton have started to show some life, but if something isn’t done to address the pitching woes, it could get out of hand early. Again, this is not to say the Angels will be awful—I just worry that they really won’t be that good.
Some links? Some links!
All of us here at Halo Hangout would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to those affected by the tragedy yesterday in Boston. Mike DiGiovanna talked to some of the Angels about being potential targets of such attacks. Not sure I agree that’s a story he should be pursuing, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.
Yesterday was also a cause for celebration as every Major League player donned the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. I wrote about it on my personal site, Runs Batted Out. Alden Gonzalez talked to Howie Kendrick about the importance of the day. Steven Goldman wrote one of the best pieces I’ve seen on the subject over at SB Nation.
Why is Luis Jimenez? [Rev Halofan, Halos Heaven].
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors speculates that the Angels could go after Padres star third baseman Chase Headley later in the year. I find it doubtful that a deal actually gets done considering the complete lack of prospect depth in the Angels’ system. The only real trade chip the Angels have on the farm is third baseman Kaleb Cowart. With Cowart and Alberto Callaspo as well as an otherwise strong offense, the Angels are probably in no hurry to upgrade at the hot corner. If Callaspo or Cowart were dealt for some reason, I’d imagine Jerry DiPoto would have pitching on his mind.
The Angels resume their series in frigid Minneapolis tonight against the Twins, game time is at 6:10pm PST and features Jason Vargas against Mike Pelfrey. Boy howdy, that’ll be a pitching duel.