Results tagged ‘ Arte Moreno ’

Door is open for a fast Angels start …

A strong belief in one’s roster is usually followed by a phrase like “as long as we stay healthy.”

Well, the American League West is anything but to start the season. The Rangers are littered with injuries, with starter Derek Holland (right knee), second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) and catcher Geovany Soto (knee) all out until midseason and Yu Darvish (neck) starting the year on the disabled list. A’s Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker will miss all of 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle strain) is on the shelf. And the Mariners — in town the next three days — have two starters on the DL in Hisashi Iwakuma (right middle finger) and Taijuan Walker (right shoulder).

The door is wide open for the Angels.

Mike Scioscia, Jerry DipotoThey’ve had the fourth-worst April winning percentage the last two years, crippling any chances they had of reaching the playoffs. But of the Angels’ 27 games through the month of April this year, only nine will come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Four will come against an Astros team that has lost 100 games three straight years (though, granted, they won 10 of 19 games against the Angels last year), and three will come against the Mets, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. But there’s one really tough swing — a three-city trip from April 18-27, which will see the Angels visit the Tigers, Nationals and Yankees.

The Angels will also be off in each of their first six Thursdays. Yes, you’d rather have the days off at the end of the year, but a fast start is crucial this year, and those off days certainly won’t hurt that cause.

In hopes of facilitating a better start, the Angels tweaked their Spring Training program. Position players took more swings and focused more on situational hitting. Starting pitchers were stretched out earlier. Relievers attacked their bullpens more aggressively. Live BP was re-introduced after a one-year hiatus. And more shifting is taking place defensively, after the Angels went from 2nd to 27th in Defensive Runs Saved over the course of one season.

One year after having by far the worst Spring Training record and ERA in the Majors, the Angels had a much better camp. Here’s a look at the numbers …

Record: 19-11-2, 2nd in the Cactus League
Runs: 190, 4th in MLB
OPS: .803, 3rd in MLB
SP ERA: 4.01, 11th in MLB
RP WHIP: 4.20, 4th in MLB

Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Kole CalhounPositives from camp: Albert Pujols looked light on his feet around the bag and on the bases. … Josh Hamilton quickly got his timing back after missing time with a strained left hamstring. … Tyler Skaggs was mostly sitting at 95 mph, after having a hard time touching 90 mph last year. … Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun — batting ninth and first, respectively, and ahead of Mike Trout — drew a combined 21 walks. … C.J. Wilson had a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. … Ernesto Frieri didn’t allow a run in 10 outings. … Trout batted .414/.460/.828. … The Angels rid themselves of two potential distractions, releasing Joe Blanton and signing Trout to the much-talked-about extension. … Out-of-options infielder Andrew Romine was turned into much-needed starting-pitching depth in Jose Alvarez.

Negatives from camp: Sean Burnett is still working his way back from August surgery, but he’s expected to face hitters for the first time in a sim game on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Dane De La Rosa is starting the season on the DL with a right forearm strain, but he could be back as soon as the weekend series in Houston. … Brian Moran is working his way back from left elbow inflammation, leaving Nick Maronde (1.89 Cactus League WHIP) as the only lefty in the bullpen to start the year. … Skaggs and Hector Santiago had their occasional long innings, an indication that there will be some growing pains. … Newcomers David Freese (one extra-base hit) and Raul Ibanez (.218 batting average) didn’t have great results at the plate, but both were happy with the way they were driving the ball.

Now, what does all this mean for the regular season?

I have no idea.

***

The Angels’ depth chart can be found here.

Now, if you’ve followed baseball long enough you know that a team never goes an entire season with the same 25-man roster (or even the same five-man rotation). So, here’s a look at who’s next in line at every position …

Catcher: Luis Martinez
Third base: Luis Jimenez
Shortstop: Tommy Field
Second base: Grant Green
First base: C.J. Cron
Left field: J.B. Shuck
Center field: Matt Long
Right field: Brennan Boesch
Starter: Wade LeBlanc or Alvarez
Reliever: Brandon Lyon

***

Mike TroutOn that Trout contract

For months, many wondered how much Trout would be worth in the open market and speculated what it would cost to lock up the best all-around player in baseball. They put his three arbitration years at upwards of $60 million, had him pegged as a $35 million free agent and believed he could be baseball’s first $300-million player.

But three are three important things to keep in mind about Trout’s situation …

1. He isn’t in his free-agent years yet. He still needed to get through three arbitration years, which greatly limits how much a player can make.

2. Being a $300-million player would’ve probably required a 10-year, contract, and that wouldn’t have been ideal because Trout wants to cash in on another monster contract by hitting the open market before age 30.

3. There’s just as much incentive for Trout as there is for the Angels, no matter how great he is. Why? Because free agency is a whole four years away, a lot can happen in four years, and it’s hard to turn down that much financial security so early.

So, Trout’s contract is $144.5 million over the course of six seasons, from 2015-20 (with a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional option years or opt-outs). And I think it gives both sides what they want. It gives the Angels three additional years of Trout and some cost-certainty. It gives Trout a chance to be a free agent again at age 29 and makes him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture.

Here’s a look at the year-by-year breakdown, and who Trout surpasses …

2014: $1M (Pujols in 2003 and Ryan Howard in ’07 with $900K for a pre-arbitration player)*
2015: $10.25M (Howard, $10M in ’08 for first-year arbitration)**
2016: $15.25M (Howard, $15M in ’09 for second-year arbitration)
2017: $19.25M (Howard, $19M in ’10 for third-year arbitration)
2018-20: $33.25M (Miguel Cabrera, $31M AAV in ’14 for a free agent)

* the $1M compensation was done before the contract
** $5M of that will be paid to Trout in 2014, as part of a signing bonus

***

Jered WeaverSome questions, answered …

Can the Angels stay competitive for the next seven seasons to keep Trout’s interest in the team? (@ryanwjsmyth)

One of the reasons Trout felt comfortable staying with the Angels long term is because he knows the owner, Arte Moreno, isn’t afraid to put his money into making this team competitive. One thing is for sure: The Angels will not be in rebuild mode over the life of Trout’s contract, or even while Moreno is around. But it’ll be harder and harder to stay below the luxury tax and put a World Series-contending product on the field as Hamilton and Pujols naturally decline. Jerry Dipoto has a tough task at hand — continue to build a contending team while also developing young pitching. Getting Santiago and Skaggs is a good start, though. Also, keep in mind: Trout’s decision to stay will be based more on how good the Angels can be after 2020, not necessarily what they’ve done leading up to it.

Will Albert Pujols hit 30+ home runs this season? (@adreamersview)

If healthy, I think you can bank on that. He hit 30 in 2012 even though he went a month and a half without hitting his first (and I don’t expect that to happen again). Plantar fasciitis didn’t just limit his defense and baserunning. It made his right knee, surgically repaired the previous offseason, swell up. And it sapped his power because a hitter is nothing without a healthy base. I’m never going to doubt Pujols’ ability to hit. He’s proven it long enough.

If the Angels make a run for the postseason what do you see them doing at the trade deadline? (@gizmosol)

Trying to get their hands on more starting pitching. Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer are heading into their final seasons before free agency, Cliff Lee and David Price may get shopped, and all sorts of other starters could become available in July. The Angels still have roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold that they’re willing to use. Yes, the farm system is still pretty barren. But the list of teams in the market for a starting-pitching rental in July is usually very short, and the Angels could dangle Cron or Taylor Lindsey or Kaleb Cowart or some of their (few) good pitching prospects if they feel they’re close (and hope for a better result than the 2012 trade for Zack Greinke).

***

Here are some links to our Opening Day coverage …

The Angels 2014 Season preview
Jered Weaver gets franchise-record sixth Opening Day nod
Ibanez reflects on what Opening Day means to him
Broadcaster Jose Mota talks about the upcoming season

Some feature stories from earlier in the spring, in case you missed them …

Weaver leads rotation’s quest for redemption
Pujols, Hamilton facing more doubt than ever
Mike Scioscia eager to reclaim winning formula
John McDonald “a magician” with the glove
The odyssey of De La Rosa, and a lesson in never giving up
Trout can’t believe how fast this is all happening

Alden

Pondering a Mike Trout extension …

troutMike Trout spoke to reporters in Arizona for the first time on Wednesday, but before taking questions for 15 minutes, the Angels’ 22-year-old center fielder wanted to say one thing.

I know what you guys are gonna ask. I’m here to get ready for the season. I don’t want to comment on the contract negotiations and stuff. I’m here to just get ready, prepare myself for the upcoming season.

Trout may not talk about it publicly, but his agent and the Angels will surely continue to have dialogue.

The Angels, owner Arte Moreno confirmed, are in “active discussions” with Trout and his agent, Craig Landis, over a long-term deal even though he’s still four years away from free agency. The reason is three-fold: (1) The last thing the Angels want to do is go into a complex, record-breaking, all-over-the-Internet arbitration hearing with Trout next season; (2) signing him to a deal will give the organization some much-needed cost certainty; (3) duh, they’d like to buy out some of his free-agent years before it’s too late.

An important note about a potential Trout extension, which is worth repeating: Even if both sides agree to terms tomorrow, Trout can’t sign the deal (and thus the Angels can’t announce it) until after Opening Day because the organization doesn’t want it to count towards its Collective Balance Tax payroll until 2015, when Vernon Wells and Joe Blanton are off the books and the Angels have more wiggle room.

I explained it in more detail here, but here’s the gist: The CBT payroll, used by Major League Baseball to determine which teams will be taxed for going over the luxury-tax threshold, takes into account the average annual value of contracts, not the yearly breakdown. So, if Trout signs a 10-year, $300 million deal, that would be $30 million counting towards the CBT payroll, even if Trout is only making $15 million in Year 1.

Now, having said all that … I don’t think Trout becomes baseball’s first $300-million player.

That’s the shiny round number everybody keeps been throwing out, but it’d be hard for me to see Trout get that given his service time and his camp’s desire to set him up for two mega contracts.

Let’s say Trout doesn’t sign an extension, so he goes to arbitration and shatters every record based on service time. And let’s say that has him making $15 million as a first-year arbitration-eligible player, $20 million as a second-year arbitration-eligible player and $25 million as a third-year arbitration-eligible player. (That, by the way, is quite generous.) If he gets that, and you factor that into the breakdown of a 10-year, $300 million deal, then in his seven free-agent years, that contract is carrying an AAV north of $34 million.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw just recently set the record for AAV with a seven-year contract that pays him more than $30.7 million annually — but he signed it with one year left before free agency.

The Angels, in my opinion, are still at a point where they can offer less AAV than that and still give Trout’s camp incentive to take it. Why? Because there are no certainties in this game. Trout is the best all-around player in the game, but he’s a whole four years away from free agency. A lot can happen — injuries, under-performance — and it’d be hard to walk away from so much guaranteed money this early. That’s why clubs do this.

The question, of course, is: What’s the price that makes both sides comfortable?

I had this conversation with Jim Bowden while on MLB Network Radio recently. Bowden, whose opinion I respect, said if he’s Trout’s agent, he’s demanding that the Angels pay him more than any other player in baseball if they want to buy out some of his free-agent years. And so I said: What if the Angels offered a long-term contract with, say, an AAV of $22 million (just throwing out a lower number, that may end up being too low)? Would you really turn that down with so much time left before free agency?

“I’d take that risk with that player,” Bowden said.

Fair point. If ever there was a guy to take a risk like that one, it’s probably Trout.

And that’s what makes this all so fascinating.

My guess (and that’s all this is)? I’d say a $35 million AAV for his four free-agent years (Kershaw maxes out at $33 million by 2017). Given that, the (perhaps generous) arbitration projections and the potential desire to make Trout a free agent again at or just before age 30 — seven years, $200 million ($28.6 million AAV) for a Trout extension.

Again, just a guess.

Alden

Matt Garza: On vacation at the wrong time? …

Matt GarzaShortly after the Winter Meetings, the Angels offered Matt Garza a four-year, $52 million contract, but — true to owner Arte Moreno‘s negotiating style — the offer was only good for short amount of time. Early the following week, it was off the table. And about six weeks after that, Garza signed a very similar deal — four years, $50 million — with the Brewers.

Why didn’t he take the original offer?

He was on vacation, and didn’t want to be bothered by contractual negotiations, the 30-year-old right-hander told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.

“They offered, but it was more of a weird situation,” Garza said Monday. “I was on vacation with my wife and I didn’t want to be disturbed, and it was like, ‘Here it is, we’ll pull it in a certain amount of hours.’ I didn’t have a chance to respond, so I just said, ‘Whatever. It is what it is.’

“It wasn’t anything big. It was an offer and I said, ‘I’m on vacation. I’m not thinking about baseball, dude. Me and my wife are enjoying ourselves.’”

There were very few pitchers on the open market that the Angels actually went after, but Garza was one of them, because he could legitimately slot in behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, allowing someone like Tyler Skaggs to get some seasoning in the Minor Leagues, and because he wasn’t going to cost them a Draft pick.

Ever after pulling the offer, the Angels kept tabs with Garza throughout the offseason, hoping to get him on a smaller deal that was probably in the three-year, $35- to $40-million range — then pretty much sat out the rest of free agency when he went to Milwaukee.

“When he’s good, he can be a [No. 2 starter],” Moreno said last week, while confirming the $52 million offer. “He can help you. And it would’ve really given us that layer of depth.”

I’m sure Garza is telling the truth about being on vacation when all of this was going down, but sorry — I’m not buying the fact that he couldn’t be bothered with contract negotiations when he was with his wife. All things being equal, I think he would’ve liked to pitch for the Angels. But at that time, he was probably just holding out to see if he can get more money — and I definitely don’t blame him for that.

“I had no worries,” Garza said. “God’s going to make things work out either way. It is what it is. I guess you didn’t want me that bad, I take it. I found a team that wants me and makes me feel at home. I was looking for a great fit, and I believe I found it.”

Alden

Moreno talks 2014, Trout, the CBT & Anaheim

On the offseason search for pitching …

We didn’t feel like there was a guy out there that we wanted to give up a first-rounder. And the early numbers that they were talking about were big numbers; they just were big numbers. We decided to work on role players and save some bullets.

On being opposed to going over the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million …

It’s not that. The reality is we have an operating budget. And the operating budget is below the threshold. What we try not to do is try to go negative. … Long-term it just doesn’t work to be in the red financially. And so, our operating budget for payroll is below the threshold. … Let’s just say we come out of the box good. It’s a long season. We come out of the box, and we get to the break and there’s somebody available, then what you have to do is try to do the best you can to get somebody in here.

On Matt Garza …

Look, we had a $52 million offer on the table for Garza. And they wouldn’t respond to it. And this was early. … When he’s good, he can be a 2. He can help you. And it would’ve really given us that layer of depth.

On signing Mike Trout to a long-term deal …

The reality is it always gets down to the number. I think he likes it here; we like him here. The reality is we have four more years worth of control. We have another year under the guaranteed under the players’ minimum, and then you have three arbitration years. … We’re communicating. It’s not something that we’re not communicating about. … I can’t say [that it's close]. I just don’t think it’s fair to the process. I would just say we’re communicating.

On negotiations with the City of Anaheim …

The easiest way for me to say it right now is we’re at a stalemate. … I’ve committed to put $150 million worth of capital into the stadium in exchange for an inexpensive lease on the land. Their city manager a few years ago brought that to us. The mayor said that not only do they not have the capital to put into the stadium, they wouldn’t put any money into it. And the city manager, we had worked through a process that said, ‘If you put capital into the stadium, we’ll give you a long-term lease on the land at a dollar a year.’ Somewhere along the line, there has to be a partnership. And what’s happened is everybody thinks I’m going to make this fortune off the land. The first thing I have to do is capitalize the team, and then I have to capitalize the stadium, and then I have to go develop something, and who knows how long that takes before it becomes profitable.”

On the stadium …

People don’t realize it’s 48 years old. They started building that thing 50 years ago. When Disney remodeled, they didn’t do anything to the infrastructure. All the plumbing’s original, all the electrical is original, the concrete is original. You have escalators, elevators. The city and ourselves did a joint engineering project about three years ago to estimate what it was going to cost to keep this stadium serviceable until 2029 was our first extension. Now, we’ve done it. We’ve moved that out. But we’re not there yet.

On the team this year …

I really believe we can compete with this team. There’s some teams – they need everything to click at one time or whatever. Everybody can figure out who they believe is the best and who has the best odds, whatever. We like our team, and we have flexibility to make adjustments if we need to; I’m talking economic adjustments. It’s just a business, and you want to make sure you can compete and take care of your fans. Everybody loves playing the game, watching the game, and at the end of the day, it’s the fans. If the fans still like to come to the park and have fun – it’s a big part of it.

Alden

All is quiet in Anaheim — for now, at least …

I stayed in Texas to help cover Game 163 between the Rays and Rangers and am told everything is status quo at Angels headquarters in Anaheim as of Monday afternoon.

The front office is at the ballpark, planning for the offseason work that lies ahead and getting ready for the organizational meetings that will take place Oct. 10. Mike Scioscia is back at his home in Westlake Village, hanging out. And owner Arte Moreno isn’t even in Southern California. No announcement regarding the futures of Scioscia and/or general manager Jerry Dipoto is expected today.

And so, the wait continues.

While you wait, here’s a story looking back at the Angels’ 2013 season and another looking forward to what should be a very compelling offseason.

Alden

Dipoto nonetheless gearing up for offseason

Arturo Moreno, John Carpino, Jerry DipotoAngels general manager Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t address his uncertain job status Thursday. And really, there isn’t much to say. He, like Mike Scioscia and basically everyone in the front office and coaching staff, is waiting on word from Arte Moreno on what will happen for 2014. For now, Dipoto will focus solely on what needs to be done in the offseason. A story is posted on Dipoto’s main focus: attaining cost-controlled starting pitching.

Here’s what else the second-year GM had to say in a 30-minute scrum with Angels beat writers.

On addressing third base …

“We’ll go out and look at what’s available there, whether it’s trades, secondary market, waiver wire, free agents. In an ideal world, we’ll come up with what we believe is a combination of players. I don’t think we’re going to find Brooks Robinson, but we’re going to go out and find a combination of players. Some of it might be on hand, some of it might be outside the organization that we have to go access it. But we’ll try to put together a good – I don’t want to call it a platoon, but a good timeshare at third base that works.”

On Grant Green being an answer at third base …

“I guess at the end of the day, there’s still a lot that has to be done in order to get Grant comfortable enough to play third base on a more regular basis. But as when we acquired Grant – Grant is vertatile enough … and at the very worst, we felt like what we got was an athletic guy whose got ability in the batter’s box and can get on base, who is versatile enough to move around the field.”

On Ernesto Frieri being the closer in 2014 …

“I don’t really think, ‘Who’s the ninth-inning guy?’ Ernie has been the ninth-inning guy for two years and has done a tremendous job. We’ll go out and try to add more depth. I feel like with Ernie, Dane De La Rosa, Michael Kohn, Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett, we have the makings of a good bullpen. … Who pitches the ninth inning is to the manager’s discretion.”

On whether Angels are doing a disservice by playing well down the stretch and not getting a higher Draft pick …

“The Draft is such an unpredictable animal. Whether you’re picking ninth, 13th, 17th, you’re going to have an opportunity to pick a good player. How many times do we [as executives throughout baseball] get the Draft right? It’s a very hard thing to do. It’s not a slam-dunk process.”

On how Peter Bourjos fits in next year …

“It depends on how he comes back from wrist surgery. He’ll have a two-month down period, rehab, have to see where he is in Spring Ttraining. Josh [Hamilton] has played very well for two months, [Mike] Trout is Trout, [Kole] Calhoun and J.B. Shuck are having good years, [Collin] Cowgill has played well. It’s an area where we are particularly deep. … Peter is definitely part of the mix. But when you have as much down time as he’s had … how much playing time he gets, where he fits in the mix, depends on how he returns from this injury and a lot of fractured playing time. It’s not easy to play with so many nagging injuries, small and major. We need to get a healthy Peter Bourjos out there and find out where he is.”

On whether he’d soften stance on zero-to-three service time players with Trout next year …

“That’s something we do internally in baseball operations. I’m not going to make that into a story. That’s something every team adheres to, to their own internal scale. We’ll leave it at that. Every team has their own scale and they operate accordingly.”

On long-term-extension talks with Trout …

“No comment. Obviously, we’d like him to be here long-term.”

Alden

93 down, 69 left — & lots of ground to make up …

Mike Scioscia, Mike TroutThe good news for the Angels is that they expect to get a handful of key players back shortly after the All-Star break, including Peter Bourjos, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas; perhaps even Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson.

But, as Mike Scioscia intimated, that’s not really anything they can hang their hat on right now.

“I don’t think our struggles correlate to guys being out,” he said during Thursday’s voluntary workout. “It’s not like saying, ‘Well, we’ve been banged up and now we’re going to be healthy.’ … We need guys to get in their game more than getting back from the DL.”

There’s no sugarcoating where the Angels find themselves right now. They’re 44-49, 11 games back of first place in the AL West and nine games back of the second Wild Card spot. It’s the most games under .500 that the Angels have been at the All-Star break since 1994 and the largest divisional deficit since 2001. They didn’t make the playoffs either of those years, and only one team — the 2003 Twins — has done so after entering the All-Star break five or more games under .500.

To win 93 games — the minimum amount required to make the playoffs in the AL last year — they’ll have to go 49-20. That’s .710 baseball. The best winning percentage in the Majors right now is .613 (by the Cardinals).

But nearly 43 percent of season remains, so hope does, too.

And with the All-Star break finished, here are the main storylines from here ’til the offseason (click here for my first-half story, with video of the Top 5 moments) …

The July 31 crossroads.

As of now, the best bet here is that the Angels don’t do anything major before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They’re too dangerously close to the threshold at which teams get taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball — something the Angels’ brass doesn’t seem willing to take on — and it’s hard to really be sellers, per se, when Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are on your payroll. But these next couple of weeks could have a big impact on this topic, which brings me to the next storyline …

The next 20 games.

Thirteen of them are against the A’s and Rangers, two teams that are a combined 30 games over .500 and two teams ahead of the Angels in the AL West. This is a stretch that can have them looking towards 2014 or maybe — just maybe — eyeing a playoff spot this fall. In total, 26 of the Angels’ 69 remaining games will come against Oakland and Texas. That’s a lot. Almost 40 percent.

Pujols and The Foot.

At what point does Pujols finally relent and have surgery on the plantar fasciitis that’s been ailing his left foot — and his entire game — all season? He’s determined to play through it all year, and if the Angels stay somewhat relevant, I have every reason to believe he will. If they fall out of it, though, perhaps he shuts it down. Still, 500 homers is only 10 away. And Pujols is adamant about not missing time.

Hamilton and The Numbers.

He hasn’t hit any better than .237 in any month this season, and he has a .224/.283/.413 line for the season. His OPS (.696) is tied for 122nd in the Majors, with Brian Dozier, and his FanGraphs-calculated WAR (0.8) is fourth among Angels position players. To finish with 30 homers, he needs to average a home run every 4.3 games (assuming he doesn’t miss any time). He was able to do that in 2012 (3.4) and 2010 (4.2). To reach triple-digit RBIs, he needs to drive in a run every 1.13 games. The closest he got to that rate was last year, at 1.16. If Hamilton averages four at-bats per game the rest of the way — it’ll likely be lower than that, given walks and inevitable time off — that totals 276. If he gets 110 hits in that span, that’s a .399 batting average. And that would put his average on the season at .302. Amazing to think he even has a remote chance to get to 300-30-100.

Trout’s MVP chances.

Chris Davis (.315/.392/.717) and Miguel Cabrera (.365/.458/.674) are having absurd seasons, making Mike Trout only a fringe candidate for the AL MVP. But don’t sleep on him. He’s at .322/.399/.565 through 92 games. Through 92 games last year (a year he should’ve been the MVP), he was at .340/.402/.592. Not too far off. And if Davis and Cabrera slip, Trout may find himself in the conversation once again. (Sidenote: Trout’s strikeout and walk rates have actually improved from last year, a sign he’s only improving as a hitter. He struck out 21.8 percent of the time and walked 10.5 percent of the time last year. This year, he’s striking out 16.4 percent of the time and walking 11 percent of the time.)

Jered Weaver’s stock.

Somewhat lost amid the struggles of Pujols and Hamilton is that Weaver hasn’t really been, well, Weaver. He missed more than seven weeks with a broken left elbow, struggled upon coming back, went on a very good three-start stretch — two runs in 20 2/3 innings — and then gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Mariners to close out the ceremonial first half. He’s now 3-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts this season, with a fastball velocity that continues to decline (90.1 in 2010, 89.2 in 2011, 88.0 in 2012, 86.8 in 2013). Weaver will make $54 million from 2014-16, and the Angels don’t figure to get a better starting pitcher during that time. A strong second half would ease a lot of concerns.

Advanced planning?

If the Angels do fall out of it, it’ll be interesting to see how they look ahead to 2014 and beyond. This is not a roster you can really rebuild with. This is a roster you can only continue to add pieces to in hopes of winning a championship. And if the Angels don’t make the playoffs, I expect them to try to contend again in 2014. But come August and September, if they’re far back, how do they start planning for next year? Does Garrett Richards go back to the rotation (perhaps bumping Joe Blanton or Tommy Hanson)? Does Hank Conger become the everyday catcher? (Since June 12, he’s had the exact amount of games — 17 — and at-bats — 47 — as Chris Iannetta.)

And what’s the fallout from owner Arte Moreno for missing the playoffs a fourth consecutive year, and after back-to-back December blockbusters?

We may have to wait until the offseason for that one.

Alden

Pujols, on seeing his ex-teammates: ‘It’s weird.”

IMG_3021In case you hadn’t heard, the Cardinals are here. You know, that team Albert Pujols played a really long time for (11 years) and did a lot of things for (two World Series, three MVPs) and then left departed somewhat bitterly (eventually taking a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Angels).

Oh, so you knew already.

Well, it’s today. In a few hours. And a lot of media showed up to Angel Stadium to ask Pujols about it. Below are the highlights (for more info, here’s my story on the unavoidable storyline and Jen Langosch’s, on how the Cardinals have moved on so well) …

On his initial thoughts of facing the Cardinals: “Really exciting. I was able to hang around with my little brother, Yadier [Molina], yesterday and a couple of the guys. You can’t forget the success that you’ve had with those guys over the last 11 years there in St. Louis. To be able to win it in 2011 and have an opportunity to talk to them in the offseason, that’s something pretty special. That’s something that nobody can take away, how those fans in St. Louis treated me and everybody in the community, through my foundation. To have the success that I had there, that’s something nobody can take away from me.”

On seeing the Cardinals on the other side: “I was telling Yadier yesterday, it’s weird. These are three days that I won’t be able to root for them, because any time that I have an opportunity and I watch, I root for them. Some of them are my good friends. … I stay in touch with a lot of those guys. I faced those guys for 11 years in intrasquad in Spring Training, and now it’s just going to be a little bit more competition. They’re going to do their preparation to try to beat us today, and I’m going to do my preparation to try to beat them. I think it’s going to be a fun three-game series here.”

On what he regrets from his time in St. Louis: “To tell you the truth, I don’t really want to open those doors. I think we need to talk about our organization. I’m an Angel now, we’re playing really good over the last week or so, and I think my main focus is that, to think about what I can try to do today to help this ballclub win and not to open those doors of what happened two years ago. Because that’s over. There’s nothing I can do to flip the page and go back. I just need to move forward. They moved forward and I moved forward. I’m excited. Arte Moreno made a big commitment to bring me here to hopefully the success that I had there, to bring it to the city of Anaheim. And that’s my goal over the next nine years, including this year.”

On whether it gives him a competitive edge to see his old teammates: “They’re having a great season, we’re playing great, and it’s going to be a great week. But I’m just going to go out there, have fun, do what I have to do and play this game. I’m blessed to be able to play this game and I think God every day for the opportunity he gave me. But just because I have friends on the other side, that doesn’t add an extra chip on my shoulder to try to go out ther enad play the game, because you shouldn’t have that. You shouldn’t ever have that chip on your shoulder. You should play this game the right way because you love it, because you are blessed to have this opportunity to play, and that’s how I look at it every day.”

On the Angels honoring Stan Musial (by having his grandson throw the first pitch, wearing a patch on their BP jerseys and playing a video tribute): “I’m really excited. Stan was my buddy. I wish I would’ve had more of an opportunity to talk to him. .. .When he walked into that clubhouse, it was like the light was so bright. Everybody would stop what they’re doing.”

On the reaction from St. Louis natives when he visited the city in the offseason: “I think I ran into like 30,000 fans this offseason, and they were praising me, blessing me, and I was telling them the same thing. I was thankful for the support during my career there. My home is still there during the offseason, my foundation is still there, and I’ll be there until they kick me out.”

On whether he expected a bad reception in St. Louis: “Never in my mind that came through, because I knew what kind of fans St. Louis has. They’re true fans, they’re legit, and they respect what I did. Never in my mind. I walk in there in the offseason, I go all over. I’m not going to hide anywhere. I work out there. Nothing has changed. I know they were probably disappointed, but they have to learn to move on and they moved on without me and I’m here, to have hopefully the next 8 ½ years and bring as many championships as I can to this city.”

On the Cardinals doing well and the Angels struggling: “Trust me, it could be the opposite. They could be where we are, if you look records-wise and numbers-wise. This is more than just a game, you know. At the end of the day, it’s about my relationship with God and knowing that I’m in a good place. I told you guys, when I made my decision two years ago, I don’t have to look to the right or the left. I just need to look forward and know that I have peace with where God has put me. … I’m blessed to be able to play this game, and I was blessed to be in St. Louis for 15 years, now I’m here, and my goal is to try to continue to have the success that I’ve had there. There’s nothing I can do.”

On stepping into the box with Molina squatting behind him: “I can’t read the future, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I’m human. I can tell you one thing, I’m going to do my routine. I’m probably going to hit the umpire and I’m going to hit him on the shin [with the tip of his bat]. Hopefully he tells me not to do it and maybe we can start a fight [jokingly, of course, a la Brandon Phillips].”

Alden

Game 40: Royals-Angels …

Royals (19-17)

KCRJarrod Dyson, CF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Alex Gordon, LF
Billy Butler, DH
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Lorenzo Cain, RF
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Salvador Perez, C
Elliot Johnson, 2B

SP: RH Wade Davis (2-3, 5.86 ERA)

Angels (15-24)

laaErick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Josh Hamilton, RF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF

SP: RH Barry Enright (0-1, 11.37)

  • There was thought Ryan Madson could join the Angels before the end of the week, after making his second and final rehab appearance for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday or Thursday. That is no longer the case. The Angels prefer to slow down his rehab and have him pitch at Triple-A Salt Lake before being activated. This isn’t really a setback, though. Madson continues to feel good, having just the normal soreness pitchers go through, but he’d been going very aggressive in hopes of coming back as soon as possible — throwing off a mound with intensity every other day — and the Angels feel it’d be best if they slowed him down and ease him into the Majors. “I respect that,” Madson said. I’d expect Madson to start pitching in Triple-A by the end of the week. How long will he be there? Mike Scioscia said: “If everything goes the way we anticipate, not very long at all.” Madson threw out “a couple weeks.” Scioscia, when told that, said: “I don’t know if it’s going to take a couple weeks. It might or it might not. We want to make sure that he’s ready to go and his rehab sticks when it goes.”
  • Earlier today, Angels owner Arte Moreno publicly backed Scioscia, saying there’s “zero” chance he’ll be dismissed. Sciosica’s reaction: “Arte has always been very supportive. Arte knows how hard I take the non-performance of this team and how we need to get there. It hits me as hard  as it hits Arte and it hits Jerry [Dipoto], and I know Arte realizes that. We’re going to take this challenge and hopefully start moving forward and getting the wins that we need to get ourselves in the position we want to. That’s the bottom line is winning, and we’re going to work towards that.”
  • Some other injury notes: Jered Weaver (broken left elbow) came out of his Tuesday bullpen session feeling fine and is still scheduled to throw an 80-pitch, up-and-down ‘pen (meaning 20 pitches, sit down, 20 pitches, sit down, and so on) on Friday. The next step after that would be a rehab assignment. … Sean Burnett (left forearm tightness) is expected to throw his first bullpen session on Thursday. … Peter  Bourjos (left hamstring strain) has been riding the elliptical, playing catch, doing some aquatic exercises and getting in some lunges, but there’s still no date for when he can run on the field. … Kevin Jepsen (strained lat) was scheduled to throw his third bullpen session today. … Still no timetable for when Tommy Hanson (restricted list) will be back, but he has been throwing.

Alden

Moreno on Scioscia: ‘Mike has zero problems’

Well, there you have it.

FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi caught Arte Moreno at the Owners Meetings in New York and asked him about Mike Scioscia‘s oft-speculated-upon status as manager of the Angels. Moreno’s response: “Mike has zero problems, OK? This is his 14th year. Mike goes beyond what he does on the field. He’s a good person. He’s a good person in the community, a very good baseball guy. You don’t have to ask me. You just ask other managers, other baseball people.”

As for the job status of general manager Jerry Dipoto, Moreno told FOXSports.com: “We have had zero discussions on anything other than who is going to be healthy enough to play. Jerry’s been here a year and a half. There are a lot of underlying things we need to fix and adjust in the organization.”

What does all this mean?

Well, not much, really. Scioscia is under contract through 2018, as Morosi pointed out, and there’s no way his boss would ever go on record to say his job status is in jeopardy in the first place. If nothing else, though, it at least quells the outside speculation of whether or not he’ll be retained. And that can only help a manager do his job.

The big question is still what Moreno does, if anything, if the Angels fall short of the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Right now, regardless of the Angels’ 15-24 record, it’s mid-May, there’s a whole lot of season left and it doesn’t seem very prudent to make a big staff change. As Albert Pujols pointed out, it’s on the players to perform up to their reputations.

“Right now,” Moreno told the site, “in Mike’s job, I have no questions about Mike.”

 – Alden 
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