Los Angeles Angels Roundtable: Eric Denton

Last November, I ran a series of interviews asking other Angels bloggers/fans their take on the 2012 season, and how they felt about the team moving forward. Of course, at that time, the Angels still hadn’t signed Josh Hamilton, and I was rushing through most of them in preparation of Hurricane Sandy.

So here we are, halfway through what was supposed to be a season for the ages for this team, but instead, it has turned into a season of mediocrity. Seems like a good time to get back in touch with the gentlemen that I bugged nine months ago and get their opinion on this season so far and what they expect going forward, right? Just agree with me. It’s easier that way.

Kicking it off this week in the leadoff spot is LA Angels Insider‘s Editor and fearless leader, Eric Denton. You can see how I peppered him with questions back in November here.

Eric has been at the front of LAAI since it’s inception in 2010. And with his sweet press pass (Hook a brother up, E.), Eric has the inside scoop on almost any big move that is happening where it concerns the Angels. But enough rambling from me. Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Denton.

It’s the halfway point in the season. This team was picked by people who are smarter than I am to win, not only the AL West, but the whole thing. On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you in this team for the second half of the season?

The Angels have been a much better 2nd half team over the years, but for 2013 I have strong doubts that the Halos will play much better than they have the first half. I’ll give them a 4; the team is missing Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson plus the bullpen is still unreliable.

One of the tougher decisions for a fan is probably the decision to temper their expectations for a team’s season. Is it fair to a team for fan’s to do that? And, when is it proper for fan’s to start rooting for a team to get a high draft pick the following season?

I guess it depends on your point of view. If you have a long-term outlook on the ballclub you realize the team has depth issues due to their minor league system being fairly tapped out at the moment. The players who are coming up may be the best the Angels have, but maybe not players who have the talent to really contribute. Arte Moreno has contributed to this by giving contracts out that cost the team draft picks, as well as cuts to scouting departments. If Jerry Dipoto is here for the long run his legacy will be whether or not he can replenish the farm.

If you are a casual fan who watches them on TV from time to time and takes your family to one game a year, you are probably going to be very annoyed if the team loses while you’re visiting the Stadium. I find those fans to be the ones who want players; coaches & managers fired the most.

It has been a long time since Angels fans have seen this team go into full-fledged “seller” mode. This team has quite a few valuable, young, cost-controlled players. Who, in your mind, is most likely to be dealt by the trade deadline? And, if they don’t go into “fire-sale” mode this year, do you think the Angels will if the same thing happens next year?

The trade of Vernon Wells proves anything is possible but I doubt the Angels would move Josh Hamilton & certainly not Pujols (who even for a bad team will start to pass MLB milestones that can be exploited at the box office). Alberto Callaspo, Scott Downs, Kevin Jepsen, J.B. Shuck and Jerome Williams may be players that contending teams could use. Howie Kendrick has a partial no-trade clause. C.J. Wilson has a no-trade clause through 2013. The players you could get the most for you want to keep.

Of those young players, some have been more impressive than expected this season. Who has impressed you the most?

Peter Bourjos proving his critics wrong has been the best story of the year. Unfortunately he spent some time on the disabled list; but since his return he’s played well. I hope by the end of the season the Angels have enough confidence in Peter that he doesn’t leave the lead off spot.
I’m also quite happy to see the Hank Conger has stuck and played well. Hank had a serious case of the “yips” and you could tell he was pressing to make the team. It seemed once the stress of Spring Training was over he was able to relax and play his game.

Is there any chance, any chance at all, that Buttercup can be gotten rid of as the “seventh inning stretch” song? It is quite possibly the worst “pick me up” song for a professional sports team.

There is no doubt that the Angels media relations team know of its unpopularity amongst the teams Twitter-verse. I cannot verify they’ve brought it up to whoever controls “Buttercup” but you’d think by now whoever is in charge is being stubborn and doesn’t want to change it.

What song would you replace Buttercup with?

How about “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” two times like it used to be. If the fans want to sing a song together it should be organically and not forced upon by the Angels in a clear attempt to ape Boston & Baltimore’s fan experience.

Let’s pretend you are Jerry Dipoto. What would you do to improve this team between now and the beginning of the 2014 season?

Ask Arte Moreno to not sign any big free agents this offseason unless it makes total sense. Adding Josh Hamilton & Albert Pujols was fun but I can’t say they were what the team needed. Unlike a few years back when the team needed Adrian Beltre, he clearly wanted to play here but Moreno’s grudge against Scott Boras allowed Beltre to go to Texas and be a thorn in the Halos side. If Moreno wanted to bring in a star 1B, Prince Fielder was also available the same off-season as Pujols. Not the best choice by Arte.

The Angels have two very high priced players on the team in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Neither of which are hitting at the same level that they once did before becoming Angels. Is Pujols in a full-fledged decline?

I don’t think Pujols is in decline but his best is clearly behind him. My bet is this is his new normal in which his stats will show he is still productive but not the dominant player he was in his prime. Pujols & Hamilton should be looked as complimentary pieces in support of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.

Keeping with that last question. Do you think that this season is an outlier for Josh Hamilton, or the beginning of a long and ugly decline?

I hope I am wrong but it might be the start of an ugly decline only because of how poorly he played after the second half of 2012 for Texas. He also might be like most free agents who take a season to warm up to his new surroundings.

Quite possibly the biggest underlying story of the season has been the thermostat sitting underneath Mike Scioscia’s seat. Last year, fans were calling for his head. This year, much of the same. Should we expect a new Angels’ manager in 2014?

No. I think this season is more on Jerry Dipoto than Scioscia. Also he’s owed $50MM.

Rapid Fire Round

Who is your center fielder? Peter Bourjos or Mike Trout?

Bourjos

Discounting money, who is the worse offseason signing? Joe Blanton or Josh Hamilton?

Hamilton

Is it wrong that I have a man-crush on Sean Burnett?

Who?

Does Ryan Madson actually exist?

That’s like asking if Santa Claus is real.

In the “Stats vs. Scouting” argument, which side do you stand on?

Stats. It’s neat and all if a player has swag, but I wouldn’t want to sign him if he can’t get on base.

Final Thought

If you could re-do one offseason move, which one would you do-over and why.

Not have signed Joe Blanton on virtually day one of the MLB winter shopping extravaganza. There were many other choices available. Giving him two-years was also mind-boggling. I supported & advocated signing Josh Hamilton once it was clear Hunter was leaving. It made sense. Hasn’t worked out yet, but it made sense.

Maybe along with making sense, it will finally work out in the second half.

A big thank you to Eric for taking the time to do this. Up next, Baseball Prospectus’, Sam Miller.

Topics: Angels Roundtable, Los Angeles Angels

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