You might remember, from back at the beginning of the NFL season, when we previewed each team by having a writer we liked write about their favorite team.
Well, we're less than a week away from the start of baseball — spring training is here! — so it's time to do the same thing in the baseball world. Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim. Your author is Rev Halofan.
The Reverend Halofan blogs daily about the Angels at SB-Nation's Halos Heaven and is the host of KarmaBall, a live Fantasy-Baseball call-in webcast at Karma Air on Sunday nights at 7 p.m. Pacific. His words are after the jump.
THE 2007 LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF PUNK ROCK
It was tough to be a punk rocker (Angels fan) in the 70s and early 80s. Journey and Styx (The A's and Dodgers) dominated California's music (pro baseball) scene. My teenage alienation manifested in that Iggy Pop album (Don Baylor poster), while a short haircut (Angels cap) set me apart in a land of blow-dried surfer mullets and puka shell necklaces (Billy-Ball, Fernandomania).
There were moments of satisfaction along the way. The excitement surrounding 3rd Generation punk bands (the mid 80s Angels) like Sonic Youth (Reggie Jackson) and the Replacements (Rod Carew) seemed to vindicate my taste (fandom). One band (Angels team), Husker Du (the 1986 squad), signed with a major label (was one strike away from going to the world series), but in the scheme of things, insubstantial pop acts (juiced cheaters) Cyndi Lauper and Madonna (Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire) held the national attention. Everything I liked and lived for was shared by a few lonely souls (fans) whose favorite bands (players) never saw the light of day in the entertainment (sports) media.
When Nirvana (Tim Salmon) went gold (won Rookie of the Year) in 1992 (in 1993), it seemed that things would finally get better, but by the time Cobain (the Angels) offed himself (lost a one game playoff for the division title) in 1994 (in 1995), something in every true punk (true Angels fan) died too. It seemed as if the hopeless past had cemented itself as a fact of life.
Then it got even worse! Punk was on the radio (Angel games were on national TV), but it was different, all these new bands (the new-look Angels) were corporate tools (were owned by Disney) with a sanitized look and a safe sound (with periwinkle striped uniforms and an ugly wing-logo). Most punks (Angel fans) never gave up, we just carried our disenchantment as a bigger and bigger chip on our collective shoulder.
But vindication arrived surprisingly swift after the turn of the century. There was a surge of interest in punk (the franchise), the music (the team) was suddenly everywhere, not really a specific band (star player) per se, but on soundtracks (the 2002 World Series) and commercials (back to back division titles in '04 and '05). Punk (the Angels) had become ubiquitous overnight after almost 30 years (over 40 seasons) of ambivalence and uncertainty.
So how do the Angels look for 2007?
Deal with it. Dimwitted Choakland mouthpiece Rob Neyer has two years of bad city name jokes to crack before Lew Wolff of Fremont sells the Athletics' naming to the highest bidder. Every punk can spot a poseur. The joke is on you, Rob, as the allegedly confusing team name yielded a superior local television deal to that of the Dodgers. Every smug cackle about the team name is a $15 million per year slap at the Chavez Ravine Landgrabbers of Brooklyn.
Best owner in sports.
The genius of general manager Bill Stoneman is visible in the mid-season extensions he signed with John Lackey (last April for $17 mil for 06-08 with a $9 mil club option on '09) and Kelvim Escobar (in May, $28 mil for '07-'09). It allowed for him to overpay for reliever Justin Speier ($18 million for '07-'10). 35% of the innings that will be pitched by the staff for the next three years will be by these three top tier arms locked in at $24 million a season. That will be pennies in 2009.
Sadly, Stoneman's great pitching assessments are confounded by a vet'ruhn outfielder manlust that started with, well, even before Steve "Frosty" Finley there was that inexplicable 2001 Ron Gant move at the trade deadline. The Stoned Man's offseason crush this year was a tease who won't give back the ring. Until Gary Matthew Juicer grows three extra appendages and two internal organs at some point in his 5 year, $50 million contract, we are stuck with him in "Of Anaheim." Oh well, like the Circle Jerks song says, Gary, live fast die young...
In this era of sabermetric magic, Mike Scioscia is still tithing to the church of the RBI and voting the straight Sac-Bunt ticket. But there is hope: Mike is younger than Alan Trammell and Orel Hershiser. Maybe he will learn to formulate an effective lineup before his Cooperstown induction ceremony.
He might have bought a house in Newport Beach during the offseason, but he is still the Texas Sex Pistol: Don't want a Cy Young but he knows how to get it.
Allow me to cherry-pick a stat: Adjusted ERA+: 121 (7th in the A.L. in 2006). Is his recent back strain a concern? Nah, blame it on overtime with his sleazy collection of hoochie MySpace Friends.
When Joe Strummer was 24, he wrote and recorded the debut Clash album. Ervin turned 24 on January 10.
The PECOTA-killer is back. Management is babying him for the first few weeks of the season but if that vaunted super-stat cannot figure him out, what makes you think the league's hitters can?
At February's fan-fest I waited in line to have my picture taken with Big Bart. He was no bigger than the average fat baseball fan screaming at him for being too fat.
Joe Saunders / Dustin Moseley
Either would be the 5th Starter on 10 Major League Teams. In fact, the #4 Starter on 5 other teams.
A picture of Johnny Ramone on stage always looks the same. You can't ever tell if it was a concert shot from 1975, 1985 or 1995. Every pitch to Vlad Guerrero is like that. You can't ever tell if it would have been ball 1 or a wild pitch. It is already in the gap, at the wall.
Howie Kendrick / Casey Kotchman
Sentimental Angel fans still get wistful over the departures of Adam Kennedy and Darin Erstad. That's a punch line.
After all the Jeff Mathis hype, we got an OBP machine in the midst of batting coach Mickey Hatcher's hack-tastic offense. Sleeper fantasy pick if your league favors OPS instead of AVG.
When my choices for more batting are Orlando Cabrera, Shea Hillenbrand, Robb Quinlan and Jose Molina, I bold the name of G.A. out of the need to maintain a shred of credibility.
The defense cannot possibly be worse than it was in 2006. Another plus: After detailed inspections around baseball, my girlfriend maintains that Maicer Izturis has the nicest melon-shaped ass in the major leagues.
Youngest player to reach 100 career saves. The best part is to lurk on the opposing team's game thread and read them piss and moan about how he gloats after finishing off his opponent.
You won't notice him because he will shut down your team in the 8th so quickly the Bud Light commercials will seem back to back.
Justin Speier / Darren Oliver / Hector Carrasco / Your Mom
She could pitch 40 innings this season amid this group and get a ring.
An unreported triumph of the Moreno regime is a castrating of ticket-scalping opportunist season-seat holders. ClearChannel, Nintendo and The Gap, 'scuse me, Texas, Seattle and "Of Fremont" are never going to have this problem. Bad fans with ten and twelve season seats who go to less than half the games make a killing selling weekend tickets to the casual bandwagon Angels fan. The amateur capitalists are slowly being denuded of their surplus chairs by Moreno Family Baseball at renewal time. If someone is going to make money off of the casual fan, it is going to be the real capitalist, who knows to keep tickets cheap so that snacks and souvenirs (and the occasional division title) keep the kids coming back for more.
If the top four starters miss less than 60 games total between them and Vlad Guerrero plays 140 or more games... this team takes the division title. A bevy of 3-2 duels will make it a teeth-grinding season, but it will be a winning campaign with a visit to the dentist in November.
Did I make it through a whole Angels preview without mentioning Brandon Wood, Nick Adenhart, Kendry Morales or Chone Figgins? Resist the feeling that you've been cheated.