Angels announce 2014 season schedule

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Angels announce 2014 season schedule

The Angels today announced their Schedule for the 214 regular season, which kicks off at Angel Stadium on March 31 against division rival Seattle.

The Angels begin the 2014 campaign with a brief three-game homestand (March 31-April 2) against the Mariners before embarking on their first road trip to Houston (April 4-7) and Seattle (April 8-9). 2014 marks the 10th time the Angels and Mariners have squared off to open a season and first since 2006.

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Post on Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:46 pm by kane

March 13, 2014

The first two seasons of Mike Trout's career were nearly without precedent, but he's keeping perspective and staying focused on his game. (USA TODAY Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tempe Diablo Stadium, the spring home of the Angels, is one of the oldest in the Cactus League. At 7:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, one of its youngest occupants is working out on a scrap of Astroturf just outside the staff entrance, right by the parking lot. Mike Trout, the best all-around player in baseball, is exercising with a piece of equipment that resembles a stretchy ladder, while stadium workers pass to and fro, a few feet away.

It is part of his spring training routine, which now includes not only workouts and drills and batting practice, but also at least one interview each day with a major media outlet, often more than one. When Trout arrived in Phoenix for spring training, having offhandedly tweeted about his flight, 200 people showed up to greet him at the airport. President Obama used him as a simile for a farm bill, randomly enough. He was unanimous voted Rookie of the Year in 2012, and he finished second to Miguel Cabrera in MVP voting in 2012 and 2013, with a very strong case for the top spot both times. He's also Vegas's MVP favorite for 2014, currently going at 5 to 1.

Trout, just 22 years old, is talking with the Angels about a contract extension reportedly worth around $150 million -- an enormous amount of money that's nevertheless much less than he'd probably be worth on the open market -- yet he spent the offseason living at home with his parents in the small, economically depressed town of Millville, N.J.

The hype surrounding him is both well-founded and overwhelming. Though he's unflaggingly polite, you get the sense that even Trout is getting a little weary of talking about Mike Trout.

No one is tired of watching Trout play, though. "At this point," says pitcher C.J. Wilson, "I just keep trying to tell people, other than some sort of Kryptonian thing going on, look for it every day. Cause I don't know what he's gonna do -- I've seen him do so many things."

* * *

Trout's old-timey nickname -- "The Millville Meteor" -- came about in the most modern way possible. It was coined by a user in the Something Awful forums who goes by Weed Mouse, then planted on Wikipedia by another forum user (Weed Mouse says he is not sure who), where it caught on with various media outlets and became legitimized. It was intended to both mock the ridiculously premature comparisons Trout was getting to the "Commerce Comet" (Mickey Mantle) while simultaneously serving as an homage to classic baseball nicknames, the kind that have lost ground recently to diminutives like "A-Rod" and "HanRam."

Millville is an unlikely home for a baseball star. It's a football town first and foremost, and the weather and limited schedule prevented many MLB scouts from seeing Trout as much as they might have in another part of the country, which probably is one reason why he was only the 25th pick in the 2009 draft. His father Jeff was drafted by the Twins in the fifth round of the 1983 draft, spent four years in the minors and then returned home, where he taught history at Millville Senior High School. Located in a lonely part of South Jersey, it's a factory town whose factories -- glass factories, in this iteration of the familiar story -- shut down years ago. It's not saying much to say that Trout is the best thing that's happened to Millville in a long time.

Trout is unfailingly humble -- the word almost inevitably comes up when teammates discuss him -- but even he can't think of too many things he needs to work on or improve this season. "I'm just trying to keep to the same routine," he says, "not trying to do to much. Nothing specific. Though, you know, there's always things you can work on -- defensively, getting more reads off the bat and getting your jumps, and on the bases, getting your first step."

The book on Trout used to be that his one weak spot was hitting the inside pitch, but unfortunately for opposing pitchers, that's no longer something he feels is much of an issue: "I feel comfortable now. I'm not worried about it too much," he says. "I'm just going to let myself react up there. I'm not going to think about it, it'll just happen."

Catcher Chris Ianetta says he's thought over the years about about how he would try to get Trout out, were he on the opposing team: "There's really not much you can do. I mean, he can do everything at the plate, there's no apparent holes. You've just got to hope he mis-hits it or chases a bad pitch."

What few, small holes there are tend to close quickly, too. "The thing that I'm really impressed with," says Wilson, "is if he does what a lot of hitters do, which is every once in a while swings a little too hard or maybe chases a pitch or something, he knows immediately, and then he makes a correction right away."

It's now nearly impossible to find a significant flaw in Trout's game. He hits for power: 30 home runs in 2012, 27 in 2013. He gets on base, with a .399 on base percentage in 2012 and a whopping .432 last season. He has good speed, particularly for a guy his size -- 6'-foot-2" and around 230 lbs. -- with 82 stolen bases over the last two years. With broad shoulders, a thick neck and short hair, he looks like a football player or perhaps a Marine, but he can motor and then some. He's hit .326 and .323 and put up a sky-high OPS+ of 168 and 179. And of course, as you'll recall from The Great MVP Battles, he has led the league in WAR two years running.

Trout says he really cares about just one thing, though: "I look at runs, the amount of runs. There's always talk about home runs, RBIs, that's always good stuff, but I like runs. Scoring runs. That's the big thing."

Runs literally are everything, of course, when it comes to winning games, but an individual player's "runs scored" are a very imprecise measure of his ability, since they're so dependent on his teammates, on context and on events beyond his control. Trout scored 129 times in 2012, when the Angels won 89 games, but only 109 times last season -- despite being on base significantly more often -- when the Angels won 78 games and didn't hit as well as a team overall.

As for advanced stats, "I looked into it a little bit," Trout says, but "nothing too crazy." He did a little research online about WAR, but didn't get very far. "What it means, Wins Above Replacement -- that's about all I got out of it." Of course, while Trout may not love WAR, WAR certainly loves him.

* * *

It used to be received baseball wisdom that players are at their peak roughly from 28 to 32 years old, but more recent research has shown that for most, it's really more like 25 to 29. That harsh reality probably contributed to the frustration Albert Pujols' showed recently, when a reporter imprudently asked him if he's motivated to match Trout's numbers this season. You can see where Pujols is coming from. He's one of the greatest players of his generation -- a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame even if he retired tomorrow -- but still, he's 34, well past that peak range of years, which Trout hasn't even started yet.

In fact, precisely what gets people so excited about Mike Trout is not just that his first two seasons in the majors were so great, although they definitely were, but that they were even more remarkable considering his young age. As put it:

Using B-Ref's WAR model, Trout's 20.8 WAR through his age-21 season is the highest for any position player in history, outdoing Mel Ott's 17.9 and Ty Cobb's 15.7. His 10.9 was a record for a 20-year-old, while his 9.2 as a 21-year-old trailed only Rogers Hornsby's 9.9-WAR 1917 season among players of that age.

It is still too early to compare Trout to Ty Cobb or Mel Ott, let alone that other over-the-top connection that tends to shadow him, Mantle. As Wilson says, "You don't want to put a ceiling on guys when they're just 22, no matter how good they are." Nevertheless, there's no getting around the fact that Trout's first seasons have been downright historic. That also means he's under an awful lot of pressure for his age. But Trout is, by all appearances, handling it well.

"To be where he's at, at his age, there's not a lot that can prepare you for that," says Wilson. But Trout "has a good outlook and a good attitude Every at-bat, you feel he's ready for that at-bat. He's not mad about his last at-bat, even if he got out. Even if he's 0-for-his-last-6, he's not upset about that, he's focused on what he's about to do. And that's a huge thing in baseball, because there's so many things that make it difficult to do that. As soon as you have a little hitting streak, people are trying to compare you to Joe DiMaggio, you know what I mean? You go 30-30, people are trying to say, 'Oh, 40-40.' It's crazy."

Or, as manager Mike Scioscia puts it: "Mike has perspective. He manages himself." And keeping perspective where Mike Trout is concerned is no small achievement. Even for Mike Trout.


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Post on Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:08 pm by kane

Albert Pujols hits 500th home run: Why Mark McGwire saw it coming 13 years ago
By Tim Brown 4 hours ago Yahoo Sports

Just more than 13 years ago, Albert Pujols hadn't hit a big-league home run. He hadn't had a big-league hit.

A 13th-round draft pick, 402nd overall, he'd spent a summer in the minor leagues, 133 games worth. He'd had a spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe he'd go to Triple-A. Maybe, just maybe, though it nagged some at their core beliefs about the game, that 13th-rounders don't play one summer of pro ball and win a big-league job, Pujols would break camp with manager Tony La Russa and the Cardinals.

Mark McGwire, then 37, had one season left in him. He watched Pujols in February, watched him closer in March, and when he heard Pujols might be sent out, as he recalled it Tuesday, he went straight to La Russa.

"That might be one of the worst mistakes of your career," he said he told his manager.

Now, whether McGwire had that sort of organizational pull, even that McGwire at that time, is open to conjecture. (Bobby Bonilla did suffer a hamstring injury at about the same time.) But that's how he remembers it, and standing Tuesday afternoon in a hallway at Dodger Stadium at about the time Pujols hit the 499th home run of his career, McGwire was just as passionate about the 21-year-old who refused to be average.

Albert Pujols is the 26th player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs. (AP)
"It wasn't that hard to see," McGwire said. "One player like this is born every 25 to 30 years."

He spread his arms and raised his eyebrows, as if still making his case to have Albert Pujols open the season as the Cardinals' left fielder, right fielder, third baseman, whatever came.

"It wasn't hard to see at all," McGwire said. "And it's exactly what he's done."

An hour later, Pujols hit No. 500.

Twenty-six men, including Pujols, have hit 500 home runs. All kinds of men. All kinds of eras. Some, it's what they did, why they went to work; they hit home runs. Others, the home runs seemed a consequence of the rest of their game. The home runs came with the daily pursuit of the perfect swing, the reliable glove, the secondary lead, the big jump. But, maybe, mostly, the perfect swing.

And so 13 years and 20 days after his first major-league game, 13 years and 16 days since his first home run (at Bank One Ballpark in Arizona, against Armando Reynoso), Pujols approached the batter's box at Nationals Park. Mike Trout was at first base. Four-ninety-nine had come four innings earlier, at the end of two weeks that had seen Pujols' power swing re-engage and Nos. 493 through 499 result.

For those weeks, and the couple months before that, Pujols had avoided the conversation of the coming 500, a number that once opened the door to the Hall of Fame, that separated the great from the legends. And so it was not at all surprising to have Pujols approach and pass the milestone at a good pace, and with a certain distance. He is proud of these numbers, of the consistency they represent, and the championships that came with them. It is not, however, his preference to sit in awe of them. There are other milestones coming. More, there are games to prepare for and play, and still those championships to chase, and the man honors the process of getting them like few to play the game.

The pitcher Tuesday night in Washington was young right-hander Taylor Jordan, in the 13th start of his career. He trailed in the game, 4-2. Trout was a pest, and Jordan threw to first several times. He threw a first pitch strike to Pujols, then threw a ball, then Pujols just missed a fastball, and the moment seemed it would only end a single way.

Pujols salutes the crowd after his 500th home run. (AP)
Pujols stiff-armed his half-swing warm-ups. He settled into his legs thickly, as if taking root in the batter's box. He pointed his chin at Jordan, ran his tongue over his lips. A dense and shiny chain dangled from his neck. Jordan threw a fastball, middle away.

The Rawlings ball with the "P" on it, "P" for Pujols, so baseball officials could track this No. 500, howled over Jordan's head, arced as it carried over the outfield and landed in the bleachers. The Los Angeles Angels teammates, coaches charged up the stairs to the field, where they greeted Pujols at the plate en masse. Pujols granted their high-fives, and in an utterly Pujols move, was the first to return to the dugout. Before he did, he lifted his helmet to an appreciative crowd, and then even returned for a curtain call.

At 34, Pujols had joined the other 25. Behind them for now, but the journey is not done, and still the names ring out: Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Griffey, Robinson, Jackson, Williams.

For a decade, more, Pujols was with the best we'd ever seen, and here he is again. One player like this, McGwire had said so long ago, every 25 or 30 years.

"The home runs are just part of the player he is," said McGwire, who later became Pujols' hitting coach in St. Louis. "I saw it in 2001 and when I got back in 2010 and I still see it now. Nothing surprised me."


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