Series Preview in Blog: Los Angeles Angels (3/31-4/03)

Light at the end of the tunnel
We’re almost there. (Image from Michael Cook)

It’s finally here. Opening Day! We’ve survived another winter without baseball. All winter long, we look forward to pitchers and catchers reporting, not because we really want to see starting pitchers throw two innings and call it a day, but rather because it means that opening day is another step closer. Spring training has always seemed like a concession to me. The fans would rather have more “real” baseball, but the players can’t be expected to just jump back in without a little bit of warm-up first. Actually, I bet some players wouldn’t mind a little less spring training either, but instead we all settle for an appetizer of spring training before we get to the good stuff. So, as has happened for years upon years, we eagerly await the team coming north to start the season.

That’s the thing about baseball. It is history, one of the joys of being a baseball fan is relating stories of the awesome feats that we witnessed. Whether it was Johan’s 17K game, or the 2006 miracle run of the Twins, we’re saving those memories for people who come after us who didn’t get to witness them in person. The coolest thing is that baseball history is getting longer and longer. Every year we add another season, and sometimes we find that baseball goes back a little bit further than we originally thought. Here’s a story of one of the oldest known baseball games, which occurred in 1843 and was hosted by the New York Magnolia Ball Club, not Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright. It includes this image of a baseball game from around the same time, and this quote from Michael Walsh, one of the founders of the New York Magnolia Ball Club:

[P]arties of whole-souled fellows are going to express their gratitude to Heaven for its manifold blessings, to-morrow, by playing ball and eating chowder. They could not have selected a more appropriate and sensible method of doing it, as a man is never on so good terms with his God and fellow men, as when he is enjoying himself in healthy and rational manner.

So, grab a bowl of chowder and let’s start this thing off with a look at the Twins first opponent of the ’08 season, the LA Angels.

Once again this year, Torii Hunter will be playing center field in the Metrodome on opening day, it’s just that this time, he’ll be a member of the opposing team. As I’m sure you recall, Hunter signed a 5 year, $90 million contract in the offseason with the Angels. Initial reaction was that they might have paid too much. But I think going into the season, the thought is that, while they wish the front office hadn’t given Mr. Hunter 5 years, he’s definitely going to make this team significantly better this year.

Hunter is better defensively than Mathews, hit more home-runs than Guerrero last season (by one) and may be one of the all-time great clubhouse characters.

from Big A Baseball

What do you think? agree? disagree? (What do you mean, “baiting the commenters”?)

The biggest news for the Angels out of spring training is the injuries to their top two pitchers. John Lackey is sidelined for about a month with a triceps strain. He just resumed throwing and has no timetable to start throwing off a mound. Much worse off is Kelvim Escobar, who is done for the season, and seems to be injured seriously enough to contemplate calling it a career. With those two out of the picture for now, there has been quite a bit of discussion whether the Angels have relinquished their status as front-runners in the AL West to the Mariners.

The probables for this series appear to be the following:

Jered Weaver v. Livan Hernandez

The First Trivia Question of the Season: Speaking of familiar faces and opening day… Since their inception in 1961, the Angels (Los Angeles, California, Anaheim, whatever) have had 24 opening day starters (25 after this year). Of those 25 hurlers, three have spent time on the Minnesota Twins. Two of them also got opening day starts for the Twins. Can you name all three?

Jon Garland v. ?? (Bonser?)

The other big acquisition this year for the Angels, Garland was acquired in a trade for Orlando Cabrera this offseason. Although it left a bit of a hole at shortstop (being filled by one of Eric Aybar or Macier Izturis), with the injuries to Lackey and Escobar, Angels fans are now viewing the trade in a much more positive light. It’s too bad Mr. Jennie Finch didn’t make the Twins roster, or he and Garland could have compared notes on softball-playing wives appearing in SI’s swimsuit issue.

The Twins website doesn’t have a probable pitcher for this game, but with Baker pitching Friday, and Blackburn and Slowey to go in the other games, Bonser seems like the only option left. Maybe I missed something.

Joe Saunders v. Nick Blackburn

Ervin Santana v. Kevin Slowey

I thought for sure we would get a Jeremy following Jered, Jon, and Joe, but I guess Ervin Santana on the road will have to do. He had some terrible home/road splits last year, and lost his spot in the rotation. Word is, he’s fixed a flaw in his delivery, but we’ll see if that’s just spring training optimism.

Angels fans are licking their chops looking at the Twins “front four”.

After all those injury stories, you may feel the need for a nice feel-good story. Coming out of spring training your man is Darren O’Day, who, after going undrafted in 2006, had to decide betwixt med-school and a baseball career, came into this year without much expectation of making the team, but put together a very solid spring and found himself on the 25-man roster to start out the year. He’s a submariner, and, since I always feel baseball needs more funky deliveries, I wish him well after this week.

There, we finished on a positive note, which seems appropriate for opening day. Enjoy the series, and thanks for reading.

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