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Monday, April 30, 2012

Jorge Cantu Exercises His Option, Becomes Free Agent

Per Bill Shaikin, Jorge Cantu has exercised his contractual option and is a free agent.

Related: Mark Saxon asks if there is any relief help in the minors for the Angels.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto isn't going to find any All-Star relievers sitting in their living rooms waiting for the phone to ring or dangled by teams in the trade market this early, but he might have some solutions closer at hand. David Pauley, signed to a minor-league deal in March, has some major-league experience, a 2.57 ERA and 1.36 WHIP at Triple-A.

A bolder move would be to recall the team's best pitching prospect, Garrett Richards, insert him into the major-league rotation and hope that Jerome Williams could give you a reliable seventh- or eighth-inning option. Richards is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA at Salt Lake and arguably out-pitched Williams in spring training.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Waiting For 100 Losses: Indians 4, Angels 0

Some random observations: The rest of my comments probably aren't fit for print.

Nice win yesterday, but one win per week will get you 100+ losses.


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Meanwhile, The Dodgers Keep On Winning: Dodgers 3, Nationals 2

Andre Ethier's two-run dinger in the first off Ross Detweiler was almost enough to win the game, but that particular honor fell to Juan Uribe's infield single in the fourth. Kershaw made it interesting by surrendering a home run to Adam LaRoche, not the ex-Dodger. (Even after all these years, it's funny how I keep confusing him with Andy). It's good to see them win, and win, and win, but I just can't believe they're quite this good.

ESPN BoxDodgers recap

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Can Mike Trout Pitch? Indians 3, Angels 2

It's not the infuriating loss — the Angels haven't won this week. Weaver didn't pitch that well, leaving after only six, having a hard time with the strike zone and throwing a ton of pitches frequently. Once the bullpen entered the game early, that was pretty much the ballgame, Takahashi giving up the tying runs in the seventh, and David Carpenter merely being the guy who took the loss because frankly the Angels had run out of other scapegoats.

The top of the lineup was full of zeros on the H and BB column, as seems to be the case generally, and so the news that the team had released Bobby Abreu and called up Mike Trout amounted to something of a shock. For all the world, I was quite certain that the team would send down Peter Bourjos (who has defensive value, but like pretty much everyone, is horrible offensively), optioning him while he still has them for Trout, if that happened at all. Abreu seems to have no offensive or defensive value, so the team managed to make the right call in that dimension. Yet, I can't help but think it's way too much to hope that Trout can help spark a broken offense, far too much to place on the shoulders of a man not even yet of legal drinking age. And the team's main problem — the bullpen — remains beyond his capacity to aid.

This is as early as I have ever called it, but I think the season is over. The Angels have cratered, and while they may recover some of this deficit (presently nine games out), it is unlikely they will get all of it. I have not done a proper study of teams this far out in the division race, but I would wager that the vast, vast majority of them so bludgeoned this early do not make it back.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Death, Taxes, And Angels Losses: Rays 3, Angels 2

Things now get so bad that the players are starting to needle Mike Scioscia, and in particular, reporter favorite Torii Hunter:
"You have to dig deep," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "We can't get down in the first two innings and say, 'Here we go again.' We have to fight a little harder. I don't think we believe we're trying that hard. We're just going through the motions. We have to do what we're capable of doing. That's everybody; not just the players."

Hunter's remark seemed to be a veiled criticism of Scioscia for not having Maicer Izturis bunt after Hunter and Vernon Wells opened the second with singles. Izturis flied to left. Erick Aybar reached on catcher's interference to load the bases, but Chris Iannetta struck out and Bobby Abreu grounded out.

Asked if the game could have changed with some early execution, Hunter said, "You mean if we bunted in the second? What can we do? All we do is play the game."

I don't for a moment think bunting there would have been a wise choice, but it's the old-school choice, so if you're Scioscia, that's a real dagger. The fact is this team's offense has utterly shut down. It's perhaps not too surprising considering the organizational chaos they launched with the well-received and very tardy news that on-base percentage was, at last, no longer a stranger in the Angels' arsenal. Unfortunately, they've got a closet full of DHs, a shortstop with a hacktastic bat who looks backwards to the old Angels platonic ideal of clutch two-out hitting (if he was ever good at that — career .268 with two outs), and two first basemen with one of them pretending to play third or the outfield once in a while. Trumbo's continued absence yields the biggest head-scratchers all year, especially considering the Angels pretty much have consigned him to the bench lately, while he's outhitting everyone else.

Helen: Is Trumbo sick?
Me: The working theory seems to be that Scioscia hates the number 44.

Seriously, Abreu got a leadoff double — supplanting the hapless Aybar in the leadoff spot — and then nothing the rest of the night. The team's desperation is not quite so deep, however, that they feel obliged to call up Mike Trout, who is tearing up AAA presently, hitting a torrid .419/.483/.689 as of publication time for that Times story (presumably, this morning). In a sense, I get that, because if Albert Pujols isn't going to do anything for you, is it fair to throw that failing on Trout? On the other hand, if they wait another couple weeks, the team, already down 8.5 games, could be well into double digits by mid-May.

Update 4/26: A vital question:

Q: Who’s more useless to their team right now: Pujols or Aquaman?

Oof. Rough times for El Hombre right now.


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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vernon Wells Part II: Rays 5, Angels 0

How many more games does Albert Pujols get before Angels fans start taking his name as a epithet, in the same way they quickly turned on Vernon Wells? If anything, it'll be worse: in a ten year deal full of this inept 0-for-y, every day will seem like eternity, especially if Scioscia can't help himself and must needs leave The Artist Formerly Known As Pujols in at the three or four hole.

But this wasn't entirely his doing, as the top four Angels in the lineup were 3-for-15, a terrible showing under any circumstance. The Angels end the days 7.5 games back of the Rangers, and April isn't even over. David Price may have been at the top of his game, but Ervin Santana gave up more home runs in one game than any Angels player has hit all year.

Update: Per a tweeted suggestion last night by David Williamson (@StolenMonkey86 on Twitter), Albert Pujols: .232/.284/.333. Mariners collectively: .233/.284/.353. Embarrassing.


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Monday, April 23, 2012

Some Linkies

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Win! A Real Series Win! Angels 6, Orioles 3

Only the score was a repeat, as the Angels made it look like they might repeat some of their earlier offensive ineptness by scoring not at all in the first four frames. But the Angels finally got to Jake Arrieta, chasing him after only one out with a death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts singles barrage that started with a Torii Hunter leadoff single; he reached second on a failed pickoff toss, and made it to third on a wild pitch.

So, the Angels finally found a pitcher having a bad day, and capitalized in a big way, so go, them. Albert Pujols contribution to the proceedings was a walk and a run scored; he came close to a home run, again, on a foul ball near the left field pole, but it, too, succumbed to its foulness.

Jered Weaver gave up a two-run shot to Matt Wieters in the top of the fifth, and a single run in the seventh on Adam Jones' triple and a scoring groundout by Wieters again. But otherwise he was pretty damned solid, going the distance and sparing the Angels the use of Scott Downs again, finishing the night on an economical 114 pitches.

First series win all year. I still want the first 12 games back, though.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Philip Humber Tosses 21st Perfecto In ML History Against Seattle

Congratulations to the White Sox.

Update: ESPN video postgame interview. Cool.

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A Win That Feels Like A Win: Angels 6, Orioles 3

I will get my negativity out of the way early tonight, and limit it to the second inning Albert Pujols at bat in which he flied out to the warning track, only to find this thing we call the marine layer. You think the geography has conspired to kill Prince Albert? I have seen him hit batting practice balls against the far wall of the away bullpen when he still sported Redbird colors at Dodger Stadium. Time and subtlety has eroded him, and the Angels are the poorer for it, despite their signing of the Great Man.

That said, so many things went right that it scarcely seems sporting to speak of anything else. The Angels got off to a 2-0 lead in the first on a combination of back-to-back doubles by Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo, and they never looked back. In fact, if anything, Trumbo's exit in the eighth inning felt like a cheap shot by Mike Scioscia; he had been playing left field with some credibility, actually retiring J.J. Hardy in the fifth with a bit of effort.

The big score of the game was on Howie Kendrick's bases-clearing double in the sixth thanks to another error against the O's by Adam Jones (throwing) that allowed the team its margin of victory. Baltimore came back on a Nathan Reimold two-run shot in the top of the seventh that made it a game again, but no more, and so it stayed to the end, thanks to Angels closer Jordan Walden. For some reason, previous wins felt tenuous and slippery; this one was much more substantial to me. I can't put a finger on why, but I really think this is the start of the season for the Halos.

ESPN BoxMLB recap

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Friday, April 20, 2012

A's Claim Rich Thompson

Mike DiGiovanna tweeted that the A's have claimed Rich Thompson as he passed through waivers following his DFA off the 40-man roster.

Update: Distantly related: the Mariners have signed ex-Angels OF Chris Pettit to a minor league deal, per Jerry Crasnick. He was released by the Dodgers at the end of spring training.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another Day, Another Series Lost: A's 4, Angels 2

Another game, another series lost. Wake me when they've won one.


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Angels Announce 4-Year/$35M Deal With Erick Aybar

Per Mike DiGiovanna of the Times, the Angels have concluded a 4-year, $35M deal with Erick Aybar that (with his current one-year contract) effectively gives him a 5-year, $40M deal that will take him through the 2016 season.

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Infinite Series: A's 6, Angels 0

I watched this game through my fingers, the ex-Angel Bartolo Colon mowing down men who mostly weren't teammates from his former stint with the team. It is April 18, and the Halos have yet to win a single series, 12 games into the year. This is beyond pathetic.


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hobson's Choice: A's 5, Angels 3

This game was a microcosm of what's been wrong with the Angels pitching, and to some degree, reflected by Mike Scioscia's call to pull Dan Haren in the seventh. With the rotation scuffling, the call to the bullpen might have been justified had the bullpen been doing better of late. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and Kevin Jepsen did what he has been so infamous for, blowing the game wide open in the eighth. You can't DFA the whole Angels bullpen, yet it seems like it's a good idea if something better comes along.

Pleasant surprise: Vernon Wells homering in the ninth, a solo shot that didn't affect the game thanks to the Jepsen crater. Aybar and Kendrick in the 1-2 holes were both 0-fers, while Kendry Morales proved he can hit (yay) but can't run (boo), trying to leg out a double from a single. His feet are still quite slow (Ken Arneson on Twitter wrote that he's "as slow as a Molina"). Ouch.

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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Why The Mariners Might Get Sold

Another great Maury Brown piece in Baseball Prospectus about the possibility — perhaps inevitability — of the Mariners being sold. Brown says that there's not even a publicly mooted rumor of the team being on the block, and yet —
If you were to profile a club that was a prime candidate to be sold, however, the Mariners would be right there at the top of the list, very much looking the part of a club for sale. They are perfectly positioned. They have owners that seem to be in need of selling. And they’re sitting within a near-perfect atmosphere to be unloaded in the wake of the Dodgers sale. The Mariners may not be on the market at this time, but you’d be hard pressed to find a team more suited for it.
The current majority owner, Hiroshi Yamauchi, is old (84), needs the cash (Nintendo is off considerably from its peak), and has no interest in attending games anymore. The local minority owner, Microsoft shareholder Chris Larson, is in a Moores-style divorce, and has likewise seen his net value decline along with Microsoft. The valuation of the team comes as a shock, but then the Dodgers set a benchmark for shock franchise pricing (he thinks a valuation of $750M, arrived at by Larson's estranged wife's attorney, "is well within reach"). Much more there, of course, and the whole thing is worth a read.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Coda On Jim Tracy's Career By Chris Jaffe

I kept missing this, but a pretty good piece by Chris Jaffe about Jim Tracy's career renaissance and re-collapse. Excerpt:
The [Rockies in Tracy's second year are] going backward, not forward, with him. You can all but hear the “Told ya soes” coming from Pittsburgh. Not only are the Rockies stalling from year to year, but also within years. In 2010, the team was in the pennant race until late, but it then dropped 13 of its last 14 games. Last year, they were better, losing only 11 of their last 14. For that matter, in his final season in Pittsburgh his team was 2-12 at the end. Tracy's teams weren’t normally bad in the past, but that’s a pretty impressive trio of season-ending performance over his last four years on the job.

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And Now For The Rest Of The Schedule: Brewers 5, Dodgers 4

Chad Billingsley allowed a couple runs in this game, which led to a rather amusing string of faux invective aimed, not at Bills, but at the critics who imagine he has to be perfect to have any value at all. My contribution to the #ChadBillingsleyFacts hashtag may or may not win any prizes (or indictments) for attempted humor, but the point is well-made that if your starter leaves the bump with better than a quality start, you shouldn't be complaining too much.

That goes double for an offensively able team like the Brewers. Right now, they're about mid-pack in the NL at 4.30 runs/game, but the Dodgers' appearance on that list ahead of them is a small sample size aberration. The Dodgers got a couple runs each off Yovani Gallardo and K-Rod, who seems less likely to whiff batters he faces and more to give up home runs — as he did to Andre Ethier.

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, as Javy Guerra came in to give up the losing runs to pinch-hitter George Kottaras on a walkoff double for the Brew Crew. Should Mattingly have left in Kenley Jansen for the ninth? I have no idea but would likely vote against. It's a long season, and overusing one guy is a recipe for catastrophe in August.

Get 'em tomorrow, paraphrasing @skinnyswag9, AKA Dee Gordon.

ESPN BoxDodgers recap

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Low Comedy: MLB Overrules Official Scorer, Charges Delmon Young With An Error

The animated GIF is not to be missed.

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Getting Better All The Time: Angels 6, A's 0

Having missed Saturday's clobbering of the Yankees, it seems like I'm only catching the Angels whenever they collapse in front of the opposition. Last night's full-on storming offense — started with Kendrys Morales' three-run homer in the first — felt like a kind of homecoming for a team that has been both literally and figuratively out for a while. Jered Weaver wasn't dominating as you might expect him to be facing a team not expected to be in the top half of offense, but he held them scoreless on five hits while only walking one; and none of them got past second base while he was on the mound.

In fact, the closest the A's got to scoring was in the ninth, when twice Angels infielders botched what should have been game-ending plays; Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar made successive errors on grounders by Cliff Pennington and Kila Ka'aihue. LaTroy Hawkins bumbled through one more batter, walking Eric Sogard, but finally got Jemile Weeks to strike out on a high fastball.

Outside of his first, Brandon McCarthy actually pitched fairly well, save for plunking Peter Bourjos in the second. You do have to wonder why Bob Melvin stuck with McCarthy in the eighth after giving up a leadoff double to Albert Pujols with Morales, who had homered earlier, up next; but I don't question gifts. The Halos got a couple more runs off Andrew Carignan, someone I had not heard of but who looked like a linebacker converted to the mound, and pitched about as well, too. A fine game for the Angels, who needed one after their really bad start.

ESPN boxAngels recap

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Monday, April 16, 2012

An Excellent Start: Dodgers 5, Padres 4

I have thus far resisted talking much about the Dodgers, of whom I expected little this year, but their 9-1 start after today makes that impossible. You can insert homilies about it being early and all, but Jon sounds the right note that neither the Pirates nor the Padres are going to play .100 ball all year long. We rightly need to celebrate this achievement, even if it is short-lived.

Despite what turned out to be a locally bad outing for Clayton Kershaw — his three walks surrendered in the sixth doomed his chances of getting a win — he nonetheless wasn't terrible. The game's highlight surely had to be the 2-5-6-3 triple play turned in by a quick-thinking A.J. Ellis. Dee Gordon, in the middle of that, later hit a two-out walkoff single to end the game. It may not last, but it's fun while it's going.

As a sidebar, here's a 2007 piece by Colby Cosh on the topic of Jackie Robinson:

On conventional offence alone, he would be a credible Hall of Fame candidate -- but he created his runs while playing mostly at the key defensive position of second base, and he probably won as many games without swinging the bat as any non-pitcher who ever played. His baserunning feats are the best-known part of his game. Teammate and Brooklyn hero Johnny Podres tells a story of Robinson reaching first base, announcing to Cub pitcher Sad Sam Jones "I'm stealing second, Sam," breaking with the next pitch, and immediately doing the same thing at third and home, shattering Jones' nerves so badly with his soft-spoken threats that the hurler concluded the sequence with a wild pitch. It's the kind of tale that gets told often by old ballplayers, and it may not be literally true, but it is universally agreed that Robinson's basestealing exploits had a crippling effect on the opposition. He was also a superb bunter, and despite the early knocks on his unpolished defence -- the Dodgers played him at first for a year before switching him to the pivot -- his fielding statistics have held up to analysis at four different positions, and he was clearly in a near-elite class with the glove at second.

ESPN BoxDodgers recap

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fail: Yankees 11, Angels 5

It seems to me that Albert Pujols is picking up a retirement check, and not much else. Whoopee, a single and an RBI. Yay.

Jerome Williams was a nice story last year, and just another fifth starter this year. He didn't get out of the third. Takahashi and Carpenter continued last years' story of bad (or at the very least, inconsistent) bullpen pitching.


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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Angels Continue Weak Early Showing: Yankees 5, Angels 0

I just about don't have anything to say about his craptacular game, except that I do wonder when the Angels will awaken from their torpor. No, this can't go on forever, but it doesn't bode well for the rest of the year.

It really pains me to see them struggle like this, especially with all the money sunk into the team. Hiroki Kuroda did very well in this game, eight innings of shutout ball, and I have to wonder what the Dodgers could possibly have been thinking when they let him walk.

In related news, the Angels designated Rich Thompson for assignment and called up Brad Mills.

ESPN boxAngels recap

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Dodgers Sale Approved

The Dodgers sale is finally approved, despite MLB's efforts to procedurally invalidate the sale agreement terms with a "Hail Mary" maneuver. More details later.

Levity: Judge Gross (and known Phillies fan) intimated he might insert language preventing the Dodgers from signing Cole Hamels.

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ESPN Closing Page 2

I miss a lot -- and I'll have plenty to say about today's craptastic loss by the Angels later -- but I wanted to mention in passing that ESPN is closing Page 2. I wasn't much of a visitor, but some of my favorite writing early in this blog's history came from there, in particular the retrospective discovery of Eric Neel's essay about being an Angels fan prior to 2002. From the Deadspin article, it seems like Page 2 has steadily diminished in quantity and perhaps quality since those days; it will relaunch next week as "ESPN Playbook". So long, guys, if it is indeed that.

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Scott Downs Will Need No DL Time

At least, that's the party line now. In case you were wondering, it looked like this.

Mike DiGiovanna has more, including the not-too-surprising news that the Angels are continuing their search for bullpen help.

“There are 30 teams, and I bet all of them are not particularly satisfied with the depth of their bullpen,” Dipoto said. “The next team that utters the words, ‘We have a perfect bullpen,’ will be the first.”

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Early, So The Games Don't Mean Anything (Not): Twins 10, Angels 9

As Mike DiGiovanna reminds us, the last time the Angels blew a six-run lead and lost was in a May 14, 1994 game against Seattle. The 2012 campaign is not starting terribly well. Of course, starts count for nothing; even though the Angels started 4-2 in '94, they finished in the division cellar at 47-68 in a year where no one went to the postseason thanks to a strike year.

Kendrick, Pujols, and Hunter all went 0-fer, which is depressing enough; but when your team leader on RBIs is Peter Bourjos, usually skulking around at the bottom of the lineup or thereabouts, something is going terribly wrong with your offense, nine runs or no. One bad outing by the bullpen sank the Angels, with Rich Thompson and Kevin Jepsen blowing up, somewhat predictably. Too many things going wrong at once.

I heard the other day that the Angels are offering season ticket holders special deals on suites, which has been happening a lot lately. If they keep playing like this, marquee player or not, there'll be a lot more empty seats. The Twins are a beatable team. The Angels should be playing better.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Times Files Brief With Bankruptcy Court Over Dodger Stadium Land Use

The Los Angeles Times has filed an objection with the bankruptcy court in the Dodgers case, asking the court to make public the conditions governing land use around Dodger Stadium.


Stuff I Felt Like Mentioning On The Day After The Dodgers' Home Opening

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Opening Day, Finally: Angels 5, Royals 0

So finally Opening Day, and a game worthy of it, unlike the epic 16-inning marathon in Cleveland that the home team ultimately lost 7-4, a game that included a blown save in the ninth to rub salt into that team's wounds. 2012 doesn't look like it will be kind to the Tribe.

The same can't be said of the Angels, who most definitely reloaded in the offseason. That did not, of course, mean the Halos' spring was without doubt. Jered Weaver's 5.40 ERA wasn't exactly confidence-inspiring, and even though the clock resets on the bus back to Anaheim, it's still somewhat unnerving as a fan to watch him struggle, even despite the dry, hot Arizona air.

Judging by today's effort, I needn't have worried. He surrendered two hits twice, but nobody ever even reached third base. In fact, perhaps the scariest thing you could say about the game was the two errors by "third baseman" Mark Trumbo, and both times Weaver bailed him out. Both resulted in a new baserunner:

Such misadventures aside, the game was remarkably well-pitched by both starters, though I do wonder how many more shutouts through five innings we'll see this year. Mike DiGiovanna tweeted during the game that this happened 50 times last year, and starting the season in exactly the same way is surely a bad omen. It was also, of course, against relatively infrequently seen lefty junkballer Bruce Chen, so there is that.

All the scoring hit like a tsunami in the eighth, when Kendrys Morales stroked a one-out single to get things rolling. That brought in pinch runner Alexi Amarista, and two batters later, the Angels managed to load the bases on Chris Ianetta's single. That it was not an RBI single did not escape the crowd, and not a few boos went in Dino Ebel's direction as a consequence.

Angel fans got what they were hoping for in the next at-bat, for Peter Bourjos tapped a 40-foot infield single off reliever to short; such was Betancourt's haste to get to the ball and Bourjos' speed that the former had no time to make the play. Erick Aybar, who hitherto had seen a grand total of nine pitches in three at-bats, managed to make this one count, clearing the bases in what seemed to me a generously scored triple. The out attempt, wild and offline, was made at the plate, upon which Aybar continued motoring to third. It was an unpleasant day for Royals reliever Aaron Crow, who previously has schooled the Angels.

Torii Hunter drove in the last run of the game with a single against the inning's second reliever, Greg Holland. The top of the Angels lineup definitely performed below expectations on opening day, garnering a mere 3-15; but that beat the Royals, whom Weaver and Scott Downs skunked (0-16). In all, a fine game to start the season.

Finally, a few comments on food, as I am wont to do this time of year:

ESPN BoxAngels recap

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Friday, April 06, 2012

MLB Concern Over Lack Of Details In Guggenheim Dodgers Bid May Derail Team Sale

Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated writes that MLB is concerned the Magic/Kasten/Guggenheim consortium is taking its time in getting information to the league offices in a timely manner.
Several individual owners have joined baseball officials in questioning why the Guggenheim group, led by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson, has not filed a more detailed Purchase and Sale Agreement more than a week after the group was selected from among three finalists by Frank McCourt, the outgoing owner who is selling the club through U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The group was expected to file a Purchase and Sale Agreement with MLB earlier this week, but postponed the filing for two days before submitting a short form agreement that lacked what MLB regards as most of the necessary details. Of particular interest to MLB is a breakdown of where the money is coming from to cover the $2.15 billion sale price and what role McCourt has in the ownership, control and profit-sharing of the Dodger Stadium parking lots.

Until MLB knows and reviews those details, according to sources, concern mounts about how the deal is financed and especially if McCourt stands to continue to profit from Dodger-related operations under the new ownership.

Previously, we have heard that McCourt may retain ownership but not control of the parking lots. My suspicion is more along the lines of something I missed a week or two ago from Ross Newhan (h/t MSTI), namely that the other owners are getting itchy about the possibility of a public company owning a share (and particularly, a majority share) of a baseball team. The idea that the Dodgers might be subject to SEC reporting requirements can't sit well with the other owners, who only too well know that the principle reason for wanting McCourt out was not so much that he was a bad and spendthrift owner as the fact that he lifted the curtain on the inner workings of the Dodgers.

Related: Bill Shaikin reports that the sale agreement forbids the new owners to make comments disparaging to the McCourts. This scumbag cannot go away fast enough.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Slow Death Of Cable: 3.58M Projected To Drop Cable/Satellite In 2012

At PaidContent, more ominous sounds of the paid TV market creaking before she hits the sea floor (once more, all emboldening is mine):
According to the Convergence Consulting report, “The Battle for the North American Couch Potato: Bundling, TV, Internet,Telephone, Wireless,” 2.65 million American multichannel subscribers cut their cords between 2008-2011 and switched to over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) to get their video programming. The report says that only 112,000 cable, satellite and telco TV service subscriptions were added in the U.S. last year — less than a third of the 380,000 added subscriptions that Leichtman Research Group reported last month while auditing only the top multi-channel programming services.

Regardless of whose number you use, the news isn’t great for the cable and satellite business, which from 2000-2009 added an average of around 2 million subscribers a year. Convergence Consulting believes migration of consumers to over-the-top services to is blame for this sudden drop-off and says the trend will only accelerate further in 2012. In fact, the firm projects the number of folks ditching their cable or satellite service in 2012 for OTT services to reach nearly 3.58 million.

There is an argument that Fox and the other RSNs will simply eat the losses if all their contracts go sour, but I find this difficult to believe. It is the same argument that said the Titanic couldn't go down because it had so many watertight compartments. Such a view fails to consider massive and systemic breaches. That's what this projects.


Police Pull Guns On Torii Hunter In His Own Home

First seen, of course, on Twitter (via @toriihunter48's feed and as retweeted by @mollyknight), but neatly summarized on Hardball Talk: Torii Hunter's alarm went off, which precipitated a police call, which meant the cops came and drew their weapons at him. He had to go upstairs and get his ID to prove he lived in Newport Coast. Man...

Update: Torii clarified that the cops did not have their guns trained on him. So there is that.

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More On RSN Contract Valuations

The Wall Street Journal did us all a very nice public service by coming up with some numbers I have wanted to see for some time, and that is, revenue per cable subscriber. In the interests of providing this data past whatever expiration date exists on that story, I here reproduce a table therein:

TeamNetwork2011 Subscribers
YankeesYES Network12.0$2.80
RangersFox Sports Southwest8.1$2.66
MetsSportsNet New York7.4$2.38
AngelsFox Sports West7.1$2.66
DodgersPrime Ticket5.8$2.33
Red SoxNew England Sports Network4.1$3.35
PhilliesComcast SportsNet Philadelpha3.1$3.03

The surprises, of course, are that the Dodgers have less market penetration than the Angels. (The lower per-capita price is a direct function of their current TV deal.) Regarding the Dodgers' next contract, the article makes this unbelievable bit of speculation (as usual, emboldening is all mine):

Analysts say a Dodgers network could command a monthly fee of about $3.50 per home beginning in 2014 and reach a market that could stretch as far east as Las Vegas and north to San Luis Obispo.

That could translate into nearly $300 million in revenue annually before the network sells a single ad spot. Another bonus: Proceeds from regional sports networks aren't subject to baseball's revenue-sharing rules, which seek to maintain competitive balance among the MLB's 30 teams.

I say that's unbelievable because of the news from BGR (nee Boy Genius Report) that one million US adults discontinued cable TV service in 2011, representing more than a third of the estimated 2.65 million who have done so since 2008. The trend of cable-cutting is accelerating, but these ridiculous deals presume that the costs of RSN contracts will continue to be amortized over a larger customer base. That seems implausible if satellite and cable TV viewers continue to conclude those services aren't worth the money.

Update: Deadspin, whom I find myself with increasing respect for these days (they have been on the side of the angels in both the Michael Vick and Penn State stories), has a fantastic piece about this very subject that echoes my feelings about the situation, and provides additional clarification:

We're now learning that that cable providers are tired of RSNs' bullshit and perfectly willing to yank telecasts. Non-fans—against their will—subsidize telecasts for fans. Consider the MSG-Time Warner standoff in winter (and what's going on in San Diego now). According to reports (because none of this is transparent), Madison Square Garden wanted Time Warner customers to pay a 53 percent increase on its $4.65-a-month fee. That's $7.11 a month—or $85.32 a year, from every Time Warner subscriber in New York—for the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils. Time Warner naturally balked, and might have held out longer if not for Jeremy Lin. In San Diego, Fox Sports San Diego is reportedly seeking a 400 percent fee increase from Time Warner Cable. Time Warner wisely has said no.

MLB could also face competition from First Row Sports or some other outlaw streaming enterprise. The pirate feeds don't cut out nearly as much as they used to, and, so far, the feds haven't been able to sue them out of existence.

As for a customer revolt: One gets progressively likelier, as cable prices climb while the economy lags and the market develops viable alternatives. One doesn't need cable anymore to fall under a screen's spell. There's Netflix and Hulu, video games are better than ever, and there's all kinds of other stuff to watch on the internet. Why should someone who buys cable just for the occasional movie write the Knicks such a big check? As the bills get bigger and bigger, people will check out. As for FCC intervention—forcing à la carte cable, or some such thing—it's not likely, but it's not impossible.

Read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Drinking The Kool-Aid On TV Contract Valuations

It is the received wisdom about market bubbles that you know you are in one when all the bears vanish; the apocryphal story is that family scion Joe Kennedy knew Black Tuesday was in the offing when the cab drivers were giving him stock tips. With that in mind, I pass on a Yahoo Sports article from the normally astute Jeff Passan, who unapologetically writes (emphasis mine):
Baseball is changing, evolving into a massively moneyed game in which a group spends $2.15 billion for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Or the Cincinnati Reds, the team with the smallest television market in MLB, guarantees Joey Votto $251.5 million for the next 12 years. Or Matt Cain, he of the career 69-73 record, nets the biggest deal ever for a right-handed pitcher with $127.5 million over six seasons.

The economy stopped growing. Baseball’s never did. And it won’t anytime soon.

Wait a minute. The Reds' TV deal is currently among the worst in the business at $10M/year through 2016, barely enough to pay for a free agent reliever and the signing bonus for a first-round draft pick. The Josh Bethel article above says the Reds have the smallest TV market in MLB, but some of the highest viewership, with 7.2% of the audience watching on average. Ratings from the first half of 2011 showed the team with a 7.82 share representing 71,800 households. That's about two-thirds the Dodgers' figure from 2009, when the team was drawing well. Assuming the same insane figure of $750/household*year I calculated for the Dodgers floated deal, and rounding up to 100,000 viewers, that amounts to $75M/year — or a more than seven times increase. (If you just use the numbers directly, it's only $54M/year.) But ... really? It's hard for me to imagine those viewers are worth as much as (say) Angels or Dodgers viewers. A large piece of this is a function of what Fox can sell advertisements for. Teams with proven track records will get better deals. And at the moment, the Reds have spent a long time not winning.

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Giants Extend Matt Cain Through 2017 On $127.5M Deal, Richest Ever For A RHP

ESPN reports that the Giants have extended RHP starter Matt Cain through 2017 on a $127.5M deal, including a full no-trade clause. $112.5M of the money is guaranteed, including a $5M signing bonus, a $75.M buyout for the 2018 season, and a player vesting option for $21M for that year as well. It's the richest deal in history for a right-handed pitcher. (Hat tip: Babes Love Baseball on Twitter).

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