Notes from Tempe, Day 5

This will have to be a quick entry as I have an early flight.

Al Michaels famously posed the question, “Do you believe in miracles?”

It doesn’t quite rank with the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the Soviet Union in 1980, but as things go today’s six-run rally by the Angels in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Cubs 9-8 was a rather significant achievement.

The Angels’ starting lineup:

1. Andrew Heid RF
2. P.J. Phillips DH
3. Travis Witherspoon CF
4. Gabe Jacobo LF
5. Jean Segura SS
6. Kole Calhoun 1B
7. Jeremy Cruz 3B
8. Carlos Ramirez C
9. Wes Hatton 2B
P. Fabio Martinez

Martinez was followed by Matt Oye, Loek Van Mil, Aaron Meade and Kevin Johnson.

There was little reason to believe the Angels would win. Martinez gave up three runs in the first, and going into the bottom of the 7th the Angels were down 8-2. They scratched out a run to cut the deficit to five runs, but going into the bottom of the 9th it seemed that this meaningless instructional league game would quickly end.

And then … a miracle happened.

Click here to watch the 9th inning rally. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection required.

As you watch, here are the players and what happened in sequence:

1. Travis Witherspoon leads off with a triple.
2. Gabe Jacobo (who homered earlier in the game) reaches on an infield single. Witherspoon holds at 3rd.
3. Wendell Soto singles. Witherspoon scores. Jacobo advances to 3rd. Soto advances to 2nd on the throw.
4. Eric Oliver singles. Jacobo scores. Soto advances to 3rd. Oliver advances to 2nd and Soto scores on a wild throw.
5. Kaleb Cowart singles. Oliver advances to 2nd.
6. Roberto Lopez doubles. Oliver and Cowart score.
7. Wes Hatton singles. Lopez advances to 3rd.
8. Andrew Heid lines out to right. Lopez scores.

Let’s not overlook the second-inning homer by Gabe Jacobo. Click here to watch.

I head home in the morning with lots of photos and video to process. I got some photos of everyone who played in the last five games, and video of every pitcher. It will take a while to get it all online, so monitor the FutureAngels.com home page for updates.

Notes from Tempe, Day 4


Kaleb Cowart, the Angels’ first pick in the June 2010 draft, legs out a double in today’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

 

It may have been the most pressure-packed at-bat of Taylor Lindsey’s young career, but you’ll never find it in a box score.

Taylor was part of a group taking batting practice this morning at Tempe Diablo. Tom Gregorio, the roving catching instructor, was throwing BP. Tom told Taylor that if he hit a home run, he could have an extra round of hitting.

Taylor pulled a pitch down the right-field line, where it cleared the fence at 367 feet just fair of the foul pole.

And he got his extra at-bat.

With a road game at the Chicago Cubs’ complex in Mesa, and only three games left on the instructional league schedule, there’s a sense the end is near. Some players will remain in Phoenix during the winter, while the rest will scatter about the globe. Latin players will return to the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, where they may play winter ball and make some more money.

The Cubs’ parent club plays at Hohokam Stadium up the road, but the minor league complex is at Fitch Park. The Cubs have threatened to leave town if they don’t get a new stadium and complex, so the City of Mesa has Proposition 420 on the ballot. The supporters have the KeepTheCubs.com web site, while opponents have the VoteNo420.com web site.

The Fitch Park field is “intimate.” I doubt it’s more than 20 feet from home plate to the backstop. There’s very little foul territory. It’s 350 feet down the foul lines, and 400 feet to center. That might seem rather ample, but in Phoenix the ball travels far due to the heat and low humidity. At Tempe Diablo’s minor league field, it’s 367 feet down the lines and 420 feet to center.

The Angels’ starting lineup:

1. Andrew Heid CF
2. P.J. Phillips DH
3. Travis Witherspoon RF
4. Eric Oliver 1B
5. Kaleb Cowart 3B
6. Jose Jimenez C
7. Roberto Lopez LF
8. Wes Hatton 2B
9. Wendell Soto SS
P. Justin La Tempa

La Tempa was followed by Orangel Arenas, Tyler Kehrer and Johnny Hellweg.

Rules in the instructional league are informal, so many teams employ ten-man lineups with two designated hitters. All four teams we’ve faced while I’ve been here have used 10-man lineups, but the Angels have gone with the conventional nine-man lineup.

The Angels did take a little dramatic license in today’s game. P.J. Phillips, who missed 2010 due to shoulder surgery, was in the lineup as designated hitter. When P.J. reached base, he was replaced by a designated runner, but remained the DH throughout the game.

The lead went back and forth, and in the end the Cubs won 8-7.

Tomorrow the Cubs visit Tempe Diablo.

Below are photos from today’s game.


Justin La Tempa was the Angels’ starting pitcher.

 


Travis Witherspoon makes a throw from right field.

 


Wendell Soto turns a double play …

 


… and steals second base.

 


Eric Oliver, who lives in Irvine, records an out at first.

 


Orangel Arenas was the Angels’ second pitcher.

 


Tyler Kehrer was the Angels’ third pitcher.

 


Johnny Hellweg was the Angels’ fourth pitcher.

 

Notes from Tempe, Day 3

Jarrett Parker, the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 2nd-round draft pick, has a close encounter with the chain-link in the right-field corner of Tempe Diablo’s Field #3.

 

It was Wham-O Day at Tempe Diablo.

Today was a “light” day, so to speak. Most of the players were allowed to report a couple hours later. Some players spent part of the morning playing a Frisbee game on Field #3.

On Field #6, players learned the proper way to slide using a mat that’s basically a dry version of a Slip ‘n Slide.

Remember those hideous periwinkle-tinged Angels uniforms from the late 1990s? They rose from the grave, at least from the waist down, for the sliding drill. The players took off their shoes, then donned the old 1990s striped road pants.

Here are photos of some of the players who participated in the drill:


Carlos Ramirez

Taylor Lindsey

Chevy Clarke

Gabe Jacobo

 

The San Francisco Giants were the afternoon’s opponents. The Angels’ starting lineup:

1. Andrew Heid RF
2. Jean Segura DH
3. Eric Oliver LF
4. Casey Haerther 1B
5. Jeremy Cruz 3B
6. Taylor Lindsey 2B
7. Carlos Ramirez C
8. Rolando Gomez SS
9. Chevy Clarke CF
P. Ariel Pena

Pena was followed by Alex Burkard, David Carpenter and Erik Gregersen.

The Giants won, 4-2. Austin Fleet, their 16th round pick last June, pitched the first two innings. He was followed by Zack Wheeler, the Giants’ 1st round pick in the June 2009 draft (#6 overall).

.

Ariel Pena was the starting pitcher for the Angels. Zack Wheeler pitched the 3rd and 4th innings for the Giants.

 

The Angels are at Fitch Park tomorrow to play the Mesa Cubs, then are back at Tempe Diablo on Friday to host the Cubs.

Here are other photos from today’s game.


Second baseman Taylor Lindsey tags out Giants runner Gary Brown.

 


Left fielder Eric Oliver makes a running catch of a fly ball to end the 1st inning.

 


Giants shortstop Carter Jurica turns a double play.

 


Alex Burkard was the Angels’ second pitcher.

 


David Carpenter was the Angels’ third pitcher.

 


Erik Gregersen was the Angels’ fourth pitcher.

 

Notes from Tempe, Day 2


Meanwhile, in a parallel universe … Former Angels minor league coach Eric Owens and field coordinator Bruce Hines are now in Dodgers uniforms, coaching at their fall instructional league.

 

Eric Owens began fall instructional league as the Angels’ minor league outfield, baserunning and bunting coordinator.

He’ll end it as a Dodgers’ minor league instructor.

I’ve no idea how it happened, but E.O. got off the bus today with the rest of the Dodgers minor leagues for today’s instructional league game at Tempe Diablo.

With him was Bruce Hines, the longtime Angels minor league field coordinator. Hines left after the 2008 season to join the Seattle Mariners as their third base coach. A year later, he joined the Dodgers as Joe Torre’s third base coach.

Hines and Owens were warmly greeted by their former comrades, and it seemed a little weird to see them in Dodgers uniforms, especially at the Angels’ minor league complex. I’ve got think this is the first time a coach began the instructs with one team and ended it with another.

I filmed lots more video and shot lots more photos, but most of it will have to wait until I return home. I’ve had a problem all summer with elbow tendonitis, and it’s flaring up again, so any work at the computer is painful. Some photos from today are below, and you can click here to watch Andrew Heid’s homer.

The Angels won 4-1. Jeremy Cruz hit a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 2nd, and scored three more in the bottom of the 8th, two on Heid’s dinger.

Today’s starting lineup:

1. Jean Segura SS
2. Travis Witherspoon CF
3. Jose Jimenez C
4. Jeremy Cruz RF
5. Roberto Lopez LF
6. Kaleb Cowart 3B
7. Kole Calhoun 1B
8. Carlos Ramirez DH
9. Wes Hatton 2B
P. Ryan Chaffee

Chaffee pitched four innings, allowing only one run in the 4th. I filmed the first three innings. Chaffee was followed by Brian Diemer, Max Russell and Loek Van Mil. Loek is the 7’1″ reliever acquired from the Minnesota Twins for Brian Fuentes.

Below are some photos from today’s instruction and game action. Tomorrow the Angels host the Giants.


Loek Van Mil is 7’1″ tall. Can you find him in this group photo? I thought you could.

 


Infielders practice a rundown drill.

 


Ryan Chaffee was the starting pitcher.

 


Jeremy Cruz homers to lead off the bottom of the 2nd.

 


Cruz rounds second as he circles the bases.

 


Cruz is congratulated by third base coach Brent Del Chiaro as he heads for home.

 


Third baseman Caleb Cowart was the Angels’ first pick in the June 2010 draft, and #18 overall.

 


Travis Witherspoon throws in the ball from center field.

 


Brian Diemer pitched the fifth and sixth innings.

 


Max Russell pitched the seventh and eighth innings.

 


Loek Van Mil pitched the ninth inning.

 

Notes from Tempe, Day 1


Angels Director of Player Development Abe Flores and minor league Field Coordinator Todd Takayoshi talk about … your guess is as good as mine.

 

If Forrest Gump had played minor league baseball, his mother might have said that life is like fall instructional league. You never know what you’re gonna get.

The instructs are in the final week, and the Tempe Diablo minor league complex has several scouts, both Angels employees and others, roaming the grounds. Apparently the Angels and other organizations are holding a tryout combine for independent players, evaluating them to see if they might sign someone for next year.

National crosschecker Ric Wilson and Western Supervisor Bo Hughes are here. Their names have appeared in media rumors as possible candidates for the Angels’ vacant scouting director job.

Five more games, and everyone goes home for the winter. Many of the players were drafted in June, but for others they’ve been playing ball since minor league spring training in March.

Also here is Loek Van Mil, acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the Brian Fuentes trade. Van Mil is very tall. 7’1″ and looks it. Also in camp are 6’7″ Johnny Hellweg and 6’7″ Alex Burkard. As one observer noted, it’s a good start for one heck of a basketball team.

I’m shooting a lot of photos and video, but much of it will have to wait until I return home to Florida this weekend. I’ve posted some photos below as a gesture of good faith. Hopefully I’ll see everyone before I leave.

Today’s starting lineup against the Oakland A’s:

1. Andrew Heid CF
2. Taylor Lindsey 2B
3. Eric Oliver 1B
4. Gabe Jacobo LF
5. Jose Jimenez DH
6. Kole Calhoun RF
7. Jeremy Cruz 3B
8. Carlos Ramirez C
9. Wendell Soto SS
P. Heath Nichols

Nichols was scheduled to pitch the first three. He was followed by A.J. Schugel, Kevin Johnson and Daniel Tillman.

Instructional league games don’t work like regular season games. Teams have the option to field 10-man lineups with two DHs, which the A’s did. A manager may call an end to an inning if his pitcher is struggling, which happened several times today. Even if the home team has won, the bottom of the 9th might be played to get in some extra work. That happened today too; the Angels had won 6-2 but Oakland wanted to play the bottom of the 9th. Okay. The Angels scored another run to make it 7-2, and their manager promptly called an end to the game. Take that.

Ryan Chaffee is the scheduled starter for tomorrow’s game against the Dodgers.

Here are the promised photos. Lots more, I assure you. They’ll show up eventually in the FutureAngels.com web site’s Digital Photo Gallery.


Starting pitcher Heath Nichols walks in from his bullpen warmup. Catcher Carlos Ramirez is on the left, and roving pitching coordinator Kernan Ronan is on the right.

 


Heath Nichols on the mound.

 


Gabe Jacobo makes a throw from left field. He was a first baseman for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes during the regular season.

 


Kole Calhoun hits a double.

 


A.J. Schugel relieved Heath Nichols with two outs in the top of the third.

 


Andrew Heid triples to drive in Carlos Ramirez.

 


Carlos Ramirez scores on the triple by Andrew Heid.

 


Carlos Ramirez is greeted by his teammates after scoring on the triple.

 


Kevin Johnson was the third Angels pitcher in the game.

 


Daniel Tillman pitched the final two innings to close the game.

 

Anger Management

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems — problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

American Psychological Association web site on controlling anger

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke published an article Tuesday in which he quotes Angels owner Arte Moreno as saying he was “angry” and “disappointed” by the Angels’ 2010 season:

The tone was strange. The words were foreign. The call to action was almost unrecognizable.

Did I really just hear what I thought I heard?

Did the owner of an underachieving Los Angeles major league baseball team just tell me that he was angry, disappointed, and would spend whatever it took to return his team to the playoffs?

“Yes,” Arte Moreno said Tuesday. “That’s how I feel. That’s what I’ll do.”

This came on the same day it was announced the Angels had fired yet another long-time employee. This time it was head athletic trainer Ned Bergert, who’d been with the organization 36 years, the last twenty as Head Certified Athletic Trainer. Bergert began his career as the trainer for the Quad Cities Angels in the Midwest League in 1975.

That’s a lot of institutional knowledge to flush just because you’re mad.

In recent days, they’ve also flushed scouting director Eddie Bane; scouts Bart Braun, Jim Bryant and Jeff Scholzen; and major league scout Dale Sutherland.

No statement has been made as to why any of these people are responsible for the Angels’ 80-82 record.

None of them traded for Scott Kazmir, gave fat free agent contracts to aging outfielders Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui, or signed relievers Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney.

Jeff Scholzen signed Brandon Wood in 2003, but if you’re unhappy with Woody his name was called in that draft by Donny Rowland, not Eddie Bane, and Rowland was dismissed two months after that draft. The scouts simply report what they find. They don’t tell the scouting director who to pick.

I wrote on September 30 that Bane was handicapped by losing high-round draft picks most years as compensation for free agents signed by the general manager. Not his fault.

Arte Moreno is a billionaire and I’m not, so when it comes to life success he wins that contest, no contest.

But I’m really concerned by the actions taken in recent days, which suggest decisions are being made out of anger and not logic.

The people who made many of the critical decisions that led to this year’s downfall were actually chosen by Moreno.

It was Moreno who extended Scioscia’s contract after the 2008 season through 2018. So no matter how badly the team screws up, Scioscia is secure.

It was Moreno who replaced the retiring general manager Bill Stoneman with Tony Reagins. Stoneman was a “baseball man,” a phrase in the industry that refers to someone who’s spent his entire life in the game. He was a long-time major league pitcher, he was a banking executive, then went into the Expos’ front office before joining the Angels as GM in October 1999. Stoneman laid the foundation for the Angels’ most successful decade in their history.

Reagins obtained a marketing degree from Cal State Fullerton in 1991. He joined the Angels as a marketing/advertising intern and worked primarily in Marketing until transferring over to Baseball Operations in 1998. He succeeded Darrell Miller as player development director after the 2001 season.

Tony was in charge of the farm system for six years, the 2002 through 2007 seasons, developmental years for many players that critics claim turned out to be a “bust.” I don’t think Tony was responsible for any perceived failures during that period. Quite the contrary. He let the “baseball men” do their thing, stabilized affiliations that lasted an entire decade, and helped implement a consistent developmental philosophy. Perhaps most importantly, he established a high standard for player conduct on and off the field. You may not like the quality of talent emerging from the system, but the Angels don’t produce slackers or malcontents.

I’ve known Tony almost ten years, and this is absolutely not intended as a knock on him, but the consensus among most observers is that Scioscia is the one who runs the baseball side of the business, not Tony. I personally think the relationship is collaborative, but in any case Moreno created a situation where Scioscia was given a long-term contract and more power than most managers have. If Tony were to decide that Scioscia needs to go, that one of Mike’s coaches needs to be replaced, most people would probably agree that Tony couldn’t do it unless Moreno blessed it.

I don’t think Scioscia is a terrible manager. I think he’s a terrific manager. The Angels are lucky to have him. But when one person is given far too much power in an organization, there is no check or balance, and that can lead to problems.

Media reports suggested Bane was fired because a conflict of personalities with Reagins. Tony denied it. But there’s no denying it’s an authoritarian structure, and the authority is Mike Scioscia.

He was given that authority by Arte Moreno.

Power games are endemic to human nature. They happen in all organizations, large and small. But there needs to be a check on power, because we’re all fallible and therefore we all need to be open to other opinions.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner hired Billy Martin to manage five times. He also fired Billy Martin five times.

A terrible mix, to be sure, but they won because both were strong authoritarian personalities and both pushed back against the other’s excesses.

The APA site quoted above has this statement:

Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren’t likely to have many successful relationships.

None of us are privy to the reasons given for firing Bane, Bergert and Sutherland. Maybe they were caught stealing pencils from the office supply cabinet. But it does seem so far that there’s no rhyme or reason to the dismissals other than rolling heads to show the paying public that we’re angry.

The APA comments:

Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive — not aggressive — manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

I fear the purge isn’t over. We’ve yet to see any heads roll in Player Development. October is the month when minor league managers and coaches are let go, or have their contracts renewed. Instructional league runs through October 16, so perhaps they’re waiting for that program to end before making more changes.

If the terminations were justified, great. But I’m of the philosophy that institutional memory is a value that can’t be quantified on paper, and when you throw out that knowledge without good reason you’re just making another mistake.

From my outsider perspective, my opinion is they need to calm down, stop firing people, figure out where they went wrong and fix it. The Angels have good, experienced, smart people in their organization. They didn’t all suddenly turn stupid.

Whither Bobby Jenks


Bobby Jenks pitching for Arkansas in May 2002.

 

Long-time visitors of the FutureAngels.com web site know that each winter I post recordings of Angels minor leagues to help us through the off-season. My personal Methadone for our baseball addiction.

These go back to 2003, so I’m rummaging through some of the earliest games for “classics” I can post starting this Friday.

Right now I’m listening to an August 14, 2003 game in which Bobby Jenks started for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers against the now-defunct El Paso Diablos. After all the early setbacks in his career — injuries, immaturity, an infamous profile in ESPN: The Magazine — Jenks appeared to be turning a corner in his second stint with the Travs.

But such hopes were optimistic.

Bobby injured his elbow while pitching for the Triple-A Salt Lake Stingers at Fresno on April 19, 2004. (Click here to watch the video; Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required.) Later that year, he would be suspended after getting into a fight with a teammate while on rehab at the Angels’ minor league complex in Mesa, Arizona.

That winter, the Angels tried to pass Jenks through waivers from the major league 40-man roster onto the Triple-A roster so they could sign free agents. They hoped Jenks’ injuries, diminished velocity and immature reputation might discourage other teams from claiming him.

The White Sox took a chance, paid the Angels the waiver fee, and Jenks became their headache.

Chicago sent him down to Double-A to start 2005, and moved him into the bullpen. Perhaps more mature, or simply viewing the waiver deal as a wakeup call, Jenks pitched his way into the White Sox bullpen and was on the mound when they won the World Series over the Houston Astros.

Bobby has been a decent, but not spectacular, reliever. Over six seasons, he’s averaged a little over an inning an appearance, averaging 59 appearances per season over the last five years.

For those into WHIP — (Walks + Hits) / (Innings Pitched) — that number has crept up the last four years:

2007 – 0.892
2008 – 1.103
2009 – 1.275
2010 – 1.367

Those aren’t bad numbers, but as Bobby passes through the prime years of his career (he’ll be 30 in March) they’re trending in the wrong direction.

Bobby’s physical conditioning and periodic injuries remain a concern in Chicago, and an October 3 article on WhiteSox.com suggests he may have worn out his welcome.

As an arbitration-eligible closer, the White Sox have control over Bobby Jenks going into the 2011 season.

General manager Ken Williams’ comments on Sunday, though, made Jenks’ return seem less likely and put the right-hander on the list of possible non-tender candidates.

“That’s something we have to evaluate strongly because I’ve been disappointed on a number of levels,” Williams said. “And there are certain things that I’m not going to talk about right now.”

Which got me to thinking …

When Bobby began his professional career in 2000, he was assigned to the Rookie-A Butte CopperKings. His pitching coach that first summer was Mike Butcher, who himself was starting a new career as an instructor. Butch was the minor league roving pitching instructor during Jenks’ last two seasons with the Angels, so he knows Bobby as well as anyone does. Angels general manager Tony Reagins was the farm director during Bobby’s last three seasons.

If the White Sox let go Jenks, and with the shaky condition of the Angels’ bullpen, would it make sense to bring him home?

Do Tony Reagins, manager Mike Scioscia and Mike Butcher want to introduce an unpredictable element to the bullpen, having rid themselves of headcase Francisco Rodriguez two years ago?

It’s a thought to ponder.

As for that August 14, 2003 Travs game, look for it on FutureAngels.com in a couple weeks.